Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From My Uncle

My uncle recently tried his hand at film making. Now when any one asks me, "Seen any good movies lately?" I can answer, "Yes. Go see what I posted on the blog."

Overbooked This Weekend

I have this running joke about how I love Mondays because they are such a relaxing break after the weekend.

I constantly get over-scheduled on the weekends. Most of the time when I point this out, I usually make some sort of comment about the risks of marrying a Type A person. I did marry a Type A person and she does schedule a lot of stuff during the weekends, but this weekend is pretty much my fault.

Friday night, the Mrs. and I are attending a screening of Iron Man. My local comic book shop rents out movie theaters and puts quite a nice little shindig on opening nights.

On Saturday... whoo.

First of all, there is the CAPE, the comic and pop culture expo here in Dallas. Normally, I go to these things to spend lots of money, but this year, I am going to pass out business cards and network a little. I have some creative projects I would be interested in pursuing, and this is as good a place as any to get the ball rolling.

There is also a lecture on zero-energy construction that day. The Mrs. and I are really enthralled with the idea of building our own house someday, just to show people the right way to do it. If only there were the time to attend.

Finally, there is the Kentucky Derby that night. And we are invited to an infamous Kentucky Derby party we've heard about for years.

What will probably happen is CAPE during the day, and the Derby party in the evening. Unfortunately, the zero energy construction lecture will probably fall by the wayside. So sad.

And just to show that the weekend is full, the Mrs. and I are going to an Organ Recital on Sunday evening with our family members. Organ music can be very pretty and soothing sometimes.

Can't wait for Monday, when I can finally get some rest.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gifted vs. Nerd

Whenever you hear about a homogeneous group of some sort, I can guarantee you that people in that group find ways to distinguish themselves from each other. I can always make my former-minister father laugh when a news story about Evangelical Christians comes on and I quip, "Because all Christians always agree on everything all the time." Having stood witness to the inner workings of church government most of his life, Dad finds this statement funny.

This theory works for pretty much every group I can think of. Only people outside of New York lump Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens under the label "New Yorkers." People who refer to Southerners as one big happy group of similar people have never been to a Clemson/Georgia game.

Divisions exist everywhere. Only recently, I discovered the huge academic rift and deep-seated rivalry between anthropologists and archaeologists. Which is surprising, but makes sense the more you think about the superstars in each field - anthropologists have Louis Leaky while the archaeologists have Indiana Jones. (I learned this from, of all places, the Lost podcast.)

I guess my group could be called "smart people." And, like all people in this group, I have this area of distinction where I like split hairs - gifted people vs. nerds. I have been in both camps at various times in my life, and have come to the conclusion that I dislike the gifted as much as I love the nerd.

Gifted people are just that - people with gifts. Which is to say, everyone on the planet. You can fail math but still be a gifted musician. You can be intensely socially awkward, but be a really gifted Java programmer. You can even be gifted in shoving a large number popcorn kernels up your nose. Ultimately it doesn't matter as long as you call yourself gifted.

The issue I have with gifted people is the gifted person attitude that comes from being overpraised. I understand all too well the way gifted children run to the sanctuary of academics or books to escape the whole thirteen-to-seventeen year mosh pit we call the educational system, but I also know that the sanctuary can instill a sense of overconfidence that doesn't fly in the real world. It is one thing to be smart, but that is not enough to get by in life. Just because you can do advanced math in your head, if you don't couple that with a disciplined work ethic, you might as well be flickin' boogers.

One of the worst people I ever worked with was a Mensa member. This person did nothing but brag about the aforementioned Mensa membership. Brag and insult the "stupid" and "incompetent" co-workers that plagued the workplace. This person never did any real work, got "sick" right before deadlines, and often blamed everyone else when projects failed. "I did not get the proper amount of support," was a popular excuse. So was, "If you people could get your act together, I wouldn't be in this situation."

I think of this person when I think of people calling themselves "gifted." You may have all the brains in the world, but if you don't do anything with them except sit back and complain, you are less than worthless.

Nerds are another matter. Nerds are defined by their unconditional love, passion, and dedication to a subject. There are Band Nerds, Math Nerds, and Photography Nerds. Someone can achieve total nerd status in a subject by simply doing an amount of work considered outside of the norm. You may like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but you aren't a Buffy Nerd unless you have memorized large chunks of each episode, read all of the comics, and dress up as one of the characters on Halloween.

Nerds love unconditionally and without shame. When presented a problem, even a management problem (for example, how can we import full software functionality within the prescribed six-week deadline with severe resource allocations thanks to the fact that our lead developer, Bryson, is getting married in Jamacia), nerds attack it with intense delight ("I know! All night pizza-and-coding parties!") that just don't occur to the non-nerd.

The ideal is, of course, to have someone who is both a gifted person and a nerd. It is a rare and wonderful thing for someone to be both passionate for a subject and possessing natural gifts and insights about the subject. However, if only one option is available, give me the nerds any day of the week.

Obligatory Summer Movie Preview Post

Because I have a blog, and because I like movies, I feel obligated to join the masses in saying what movies look good and what movies don't. I'm dividing the movies into various categories which are showing me

You Had Me At Teaser Trailer

Iron Man - I already have my ticket.

Standard Operating Procedure - I found out about two weeks after it happened that this played at the AFI Film Festival in Dallas. I am still steamed about this. Errol Morris needs to get as much of the world's money as possible. He does good things with it, like make movies.

Batman Begins Again... er... Batman: The Dark Knight
- My problem with Christopher Nolan is that he thinks he is a genius when he is merely very clever. His art films are overly smug and pretentious. However, when he just sets out to do a big dumb summer blockbuster action film, he knocks it out of the park.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - You had me at the first announcement of the first press release. Sorry. I am a sucker.

Wall*E - You had me at "untitled Pixar 2008 project." Sorry. I am a sucker.

You Need Positive Word-of-Mouth to Get Me to Go to the Theater

Red Belt - I like the fact that Mamet keeps jumping around genres but remaining essentially Mamet.

Tropic Thunder - I am of the opinion that I don't need to like Ben Stiller because he loves himself enough for both of us. And while this sort of humor normally bothers me, Robert Downey Jr.'s blackface character managed to make me laugh.

Hancock - The teaser trailer left me totally cold. The 'American Idol' preview left me with an impression that this one might actually have a story instead of a series of action-oriented set pieces. Plus, I like the whole idea of equating super heroes with cantankerous sports figures.

Hamlet 2
- I normally don't like films that are loved at Sundance, but this has potential.

You Are One with Netflix

Hellboy 2 - I liked Hellboy, but really hated Pan's Labyrinth. This seems like it will be more of the latter and less of the former.

Get Smart - I don't watch movies based on old television shows. Its a principle thing. (And no, Batman doesn't count because it is based on the comics. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

The Spirit - When I saw Sin City, about halfway through the movie, I said to myself, "This is just like the comics. I forgot how much I hate the comics."

Wanted - I really liked Night Watch and sort of tolerated most of Day Watch. But, seriously, this looks like a string of action set pieces with little-to-no story connecting them.

Only if Someone Offers Me Beer

Baby Mama - Seriously people, if you hire Tina Fey as an actress, you also need to hire her to do a script rewrite. Poor word-of-mouth killed this one for me.

Pineapple Express - Read the screenplay thanks to the power of the internet. Not my thing.

Hulk - I am still smarting from the first Hulk movie. Man, that Super Bowl trailer for the first Hulk movie was AWESOME, when Hulk was all THUMPA-DA THUMPA-DA THUMPA-DA and he grabbed the tank by the little tank snout and went WHISSSHEEEE WHOSSSSHHEEEE and spun it around and threw it in the air and the tank was like, "Whoooooaaaaaa! I'm flying, Jack!" Ok, THAT was awesome. I wanted to see the Hulk movie so bad. And then... I saw it. It is what it is, but it was not what I was wanting or expecting. And this is terrible, but when I saw the trailer for this film, all I could think of was, "The Hulk and the Abomination have such huge bodies and such tiny heads."

X-Files - Chris Carter used up my three-strikes-and-you're-out policy almost a decade ago.

The Happening - As much as I love your first initial, M. Night, The Village was strike three.

Speed Racer - As much as I like Wes Anderson, I do not like the trend of "Art Direction and Set Design equals story" that seems to have sprung up in his wake. Oh, and that scene in The Matrix where Trinity says, "I knew you were The One because I love you." Yeah... THAT was Strike One. Guess how your next two movies held up.

Sisterhood of the Mama Traveling Sex in the Mia Pants City Part 2! - I am not the target audience for this.

The Love Guru - No.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Six Things Best Left Unsaid

If you read the comments of my last post, you will see that Tera tagged me with this blog meme thing where I'm supposed to tell six unspectacular things about myself. I don't do stuff like this, but Tera has been nice about commenting on the blog and appreciative of the comments I made on her blog, so why not?

Here are the rules:
1. link the person who tagged you.
2. mention the rules in your blog…
3. tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
4. tag 6 following bloggers by linking them. leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged

1. I am terrible with names. It is very difficult for me to remember someone's name when they tell it to me. Ironically, I am very good with the secret nicknames I give people, because "Mr. Mullet," "ABBA Love Child," and "Flunkybutt" are much easier for me to remember.

2. I took one year of German and switched to Latin (for two years) because I wanted to take a foreign language where I didn't have to actually speak the language in front of other people. I compulsively translate college mottoes from Latin whenever I see them.

3. I have a personal scale of "how much I've had to drink" based on stupid things I do. I know I've reached my limit when I start doing my Fat Albert impersonation, and I know I've had way too much when I want to karaoke (I am particularly fond of the song "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison). I know I am near an alcohol coma when I try to sing karaoke Ace of Base in my Fat Albert voice ("I saw the sign, hey hey hey!"). Once my mother told me she would like to get me drunk because that is the only time I really open up and talk.

4. I wouldn't really use the term afraid, but I am... uneasy about visiting the dentist. I am also... uneasy about visiting the barber. Something about sharp or pointy things near my head irritates me, I guess. I also got anxious/nervous and accidentally bit my dentist during my last visit and think she is secretly harboring a grudge against me.

5. When losing a game of chess, I have been known to yell "Earthquake!" and shake the board so all of the pieces get repositioned or fall over. I have also secretly wanted the Franklin Mint's Civil War Chess Set ever since I was a kid.

6. I love breaking chain letters and chain blog things just to see if anything bad really happens.

So does this mean Amazon owns my identity now?

As many of you know, I have a blog where I ridicule DVDs based solely on their title and/or cover art.

Today's entry is a head-scratching little film called Who's your monkey?

Every once in awhile when I set up the Amazon link, I take a moment or two to read the reviews of the DVD in question - basically to gauge if I will get hate comments or not.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I saw a five star review for Who's your monkey? Having only seen the cover art and title, I can understand four stars, but five? Really?

Here's the review (click for larger image).

The most disturbing thing about the review was not the is-this-the-director's-mom-or-what vibe, but the fact that Amazon.com seems to have trademarked her Real Name. (click for larger image)

Does anyone know what this means? I did a quick Google search for "Amazon Real Name TM" and found this blog post from 2005. The blog entry doesn't really say anything more than, "Dude, Amazon is strange and kind of scary for TMing everyone's Real Name." Which is a healthy and good attitude to have about these things.

Unfortuantely, I do not have a Healthy and Good AttitudeTM about these things. I have decided to follow Amazon's example and just start trademarking Anything I Want to TrademarkTM.


M. Robert TurnageTM
Real NameTM

This blog postTM copyright M. Robert TurnageTM. All rights reserved. Unlawful reposting of any and all content in this blog post will result in M. Robert TurnageTM pressing his red button, which in turn will Release the WeaselsTM.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How to Out Geeks in Corporate America

In my career, I am slowly moving from corporate IT departments to corporate project management departments. I PMed a small project last year and am the vice-PM (or as I call it, the "official toady to the PM") on my current project.

I don't like writing about work - all those ideas are going to be in an often-talked-about-but-never-actually-built "Professional Blog." The whole idea of the Professional Blog is to establish a stronger "professional" web presence just in case prospective employers decide to Google me and find my penchant for calling challenging co-workers, "festering boogerheads."

But that is neither here nor there. I want to write about how I keep outing geeks on the job.

In IT, it doesn't matter if you are a geek or not. Like the state of Texas, everyone assumes if you are here by choice, you ain't quite right. Because we're all not quite right, we make this silent agreement - I will tolerate your foibles if you will tolerate mine. IT people tolerate such quirks as poor grooming habits, anger management issues, or claims of psychic abilities. Basically the mantra in IT is, "If you do your job and do it well, we don't care about anything else."

Management is a little different. Management cares about appearances, non-quirky personalities, and the thread count of your tie. So much about management focuses on the appearance of success, so quirky little eccentricities are considered suspicious signposts that you might be a failure.

I can't help but be my geeky self, and sometimes I accidentally out other management people as geeks. The most recent example happened during a meeting where we were discussing a drop in first quarter profits. After the announcement, I said in a deep resounding voice, "Elf shot the food."

Only the geeks laughed.

And I assume only the truly geeky will laugh at this blog post.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Greasy Cheese

Over on the Spout Podcast, they issued a challenge to listeners:

Try to pitch a film with as many independent film clich├ęs in it as possible.

You can hear some of the Spout folks' ideas here. They asked for some movie pitches and would read them on the next show.

I sent an idea, but in case it doesn't get read on the next show, I shall post it here.

Greasy Cheese

On a lonely back road... in the middle of flat Middle America... is Greasy Cheese.

Greasy Cheese is an old all-nite roadside diner, its only employees are the slightly anti-Semitic, yet lovable, owner/fry cook and the sassy, wisdom-dispensing transsexual waitress.

Rick and Carol are a young couple on the run, with only their beat up old car and a trunk full of stolen money to keep them company. Their car breaks down less than a mile from Greasy Cheese and barely limps into the parking lot before giving up the ghost. It will be a day before the tow truck can get to them, leaving the young couple stranded for 24 hours at the diner.

Enter Sheriff McBiff, the corrupt cop that really stole the money and who Rick and Carol double-crossed. McBiff is hot on the couple's trail, and will stop at nothing to get his money back, even if that means performing a one-man armed siege of an all-night diner.

During the course of a 24-hour period, a fry cook will learn the error of his ways, a corrupt sheriff's mysterious past will come back to haunt him, and a young couple on the rocks will find new love.

At turns suspenseful, hilarious, and heartwarming, Greasy Cheese is the full meal deal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Not to brag, but I'm totally bragging here...

Here is what the Mrs. and I will be attending in late April/early May.

Cinematic Titanic LIVE
On April 26th, the Cinematic Titanic crowd (i.e. the old MST3K people) are all headed to Dallas for the USA FILM FESTIVAL for a MST3K panel (also featuring Kevin Murphy) followed by a Cinematic Titanic live riff of a new movie (well not a NEW movie, but new to CT, and a secret for now).

Mystery Science Theater 3000 at 20: Panel Discussion
Saturday, April 26, 5:00pm

Cinematic Titanic Live Riffing
Saturday, April 26, 7:00pm

Angelika Film Center
5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas


And on May 2nd, my comic book store, Keith's Comics, is having this nice little gathering.

Iron Man Movie Night. May 2, 2008
Starts 5:30 PM ( Movie at 7:00 )

The new Studio Movie Grill Central Expressway ( I-75 ) and Royal
The north east corner behind McDonald's

It's super huge! Our Iron Man Movie Night is finally here! Tickets go on sale Wednesday April 9th. Tickets are $12.00 ( tax included ). The usual crazyness will happen except this time in addition to "goodie bags" and door prizes we will have three amazing guests.

Fat Momma from the Stan Lee TV show on Sci Fi Network "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" will be at our showing along with one of the artist from a recent issue of Fat Momma's comic, Bobby Blakey!

She will be set up in the lobby at 5 PM and then come into our room for an exclusive engagement around 6 PM. Bring dough 'cause Fat Momma has her own comic and signed autographed pictures to sell.

But wait... there's more... Iron Man artist Brian Denham will be at our show autographing his work and chatting with you! We will have plenty of his Iron Man graphic novel Iron Man: Hypervelocity for you to purchase and have Brian autograph. Bring some coin for Brian too... he will have awesome Iron Man prints for you to buy at the show.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Recasting the Princess Bride

Spout.com is a great place for movie people to distract themselves while at the office.

Spout has this group called The Recasting Couch.

The idea behind this is that some movie is going to be remade, who would you cast as what? They post a film a week and everyone tries to entertain each other with creative and off the wall ideas.

This week's film is The Princess Bride. I know for a lot of people, recasting this movie is sacrilege. But I did it anyway.

Here is my entry in the contest:

Quentin Tarantino's Princess Bride

Ryan Gosling ... Westley

Uma Thurman ... Buttercup / The Princess Bride

Antonio Banderas ... Inigo Montoya

Warren Beatty ... Prince Humperdinck

Sonny Chiba ... Count Tyrone Rugen

John Travolta ... Vizzini

Danny Trejo ... Fezzik

Jake Lloyd ... The Grandson

Sam Elliott ... The Grandfather / Narrator

Samual L. Jackson ... The Impressive Clergyman

Josh Brolin ... The Albino

Bruce Willis ... Miracle Max

Rose McGowan ... Valerie

Pam Grier ... The Queen

Angie Dickenson ... The Ancient Booer

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Guys are Clueless

So my brother sent me this article about how guys can't read signals from women. His email said, "I am curious to see what kind of commentary or memoir is inspired from this recent study."

The premise behind the article is that guys can't really tell when a woman is interested in them. They just don't get flirting. Guys sometimes think the woman is way interested when the woman is just being friendly, but guys also have a hard time picking up on the "come hither" signals.

I am not sure that I could add anything insightful to the article except to say, "That's about right." Being single was not easy or fun for me, and I do not intend to be single ever again. Most of my time being single was spent misinterpreting friendliness as interest and disregarding actual interest as mere friendliness. Plus, I get socially awkward around really attractive women. Usually, if I'm around a really attractive woman, I let my wife do the talking while I hang back, smile, nod, and try to look smart.

The more I think about the article, the more I think about situations where I've tried to be be smooth, suave, and intelligent, but what comes out of my mouth is a borderline-insulting mess.

With that in mind, here is a list for all of the attractive women in the universe to give you an idea what a conversation with me might be like:

Eleven Intending to Be Totally Nice, But Coming Out Socially Awkward Things I Would Probably Say to a Really Attractive Woman if the Opportunity Presented Itself

1. Tina Fey

"I bet guys try to show you how funny they are all the time. Have you heard this one - Why did the chicken cross the road? Haha. No seriously. Wait- Don't go!"

2. Jessica Hagy

"Your blog is totally awesome , but it would be really cool if you started doing some intense mathematical proofs on it, just, you know, for fun."

3. Joan Cusack

"Ok, that speech you did at the end of 'Adams Family Values' it one of the best things I've ever seen EVER! Do it now! No, wait- wait- I'll get you started. Mal-i-bu Barbie!"

4. Veronica Belmont

"Hey, remember me? You put LOL in response my post on that bulletin board that one time. Yeah... that was awesome. Did you know your smile is a perfect trapezoid? I've always thought trapezoids were the best geometric shape. I mean, parallelograms are sooooo boring!"

5. Carrie Fisher

"You know, if you could somehow be smooched with Olivia Newton-John and be sent back to 1977 and if somehow I was an adult then, we could probably get married. I'm just sayin'."

6. Shania Twain

"I actually bought one of your albums. And this one time, I listened to it all the way through. Then I sold it. Um.. accidentally. Accidentally sold it... on eBay."

7. Natalie Portman

"I bet it creeps you out when guys tell you how hot you were when you were twelve, huh?"

8. Olivia Newton-John

"You know, if you could somehow be smooched with Carrie Fisher and be sent back to 1977 and if somehow I was an adult then, we could probably get married. I'm just sayin'."

9. Michelle Pfeiffer/Halle Berry/Julie Newmar/Eartha Kitt

"So do you ever just, like, you know, put on your old Catwoman costume and paraded around your house... just for fun?"

(Note: I would also probably say something along these lines if i ever spoke to Ruby Rocket.)

10. Sarah Vowell

"Yeah, I'm street. But I digz the public radio. Yo, I be down with them NPR homies of mine. I'm a donatin' fiend, yo! My donatin' math equation is schizzle to the zizzle power."

11. My Sweet, Long Suffering Wife

"So I made this Top Eleven list on my blog and you came in at Number Eleven. But it was one of those lists where the order didn't mean anything. And by 'didn't mean anything' I mean that Number Eleven was the best. I mean - you are the best. Yeah... I'm probably not going to blog about attractive women again any time soon."

Guess the Movie fom the Quote - updated with answers

My friend Sherri put ten quotes from ten of her favorite movies on her blog and asked readers to guess them. I knew two and figured out five more by cheating. (I googled the quotes.)

I still had fun trying to guess. So now I'll try to make some more fun by putting twelve quotes on this space and hope people can guess the movie.

1. You love her madly, don't you, schmuck?

This came from one of my most cherished films, Little Shop of Horrors.

2. Alas, the home environment has made Blubber suicidal.

From the movie Amelie. Blubber was the name of her suicidal pet fish.

3. I came into this game for the action, the excitement. Go anywhere, travel light, get in, get out, wherever there's trouble, a man alone.

An air conditioner repair man describes his job in Terry Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil. I often say stuff like this about my job, when really all I do is type.

4. This is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again.

There are a lot of really good lines in Ghost World.

5. You shouldn't keep souvenirs of a killing. You shouldn't have been that sentimental.

Probably my favorite movie of all time, Vertigo.

6. The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous.

Another one of my favorite movies, Sullivan's Travels.

7. How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?

Yet another great film, Double Indemnity.

8. Son, you got a panty on your head.

The most popular film on this list, Raising Arizona.

9. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint.

I can always watch Amadeus and feel better about not being a brilliant artist.

10. I don't wanna hurt anybody. I don't enjoy hurting anybody. I don't like guns, or bombs, or electric chairs. But sometimes people just won't listen.

One of the rare sequels that is better than the first film, Addams Family Values.

11. Why? Was l so unattractive, so distant, so forbidding or something?

It is the way this line is delivered, rather than the line itself, that makes The Philadelphia Story so interesting.

12. Listen pal, you can't just waltz in here, use my toaster and spout universal truths without qualification!

Hal Hartley is one of my favorite living directors, and Surviving Desire is a good place to go to hear some of his great dialog.

One of THOSE People

Cyber D's nice little rant inspired this post.

There are promises to yourself you keep. And then there are promises you make to yourself that you amend.

My first job out of college was as a video store manager. Anyone who works retail for three consecutive Christmases will say the same thing, "I have never served in the military, but I do know what it means to be surrounded by hostiles." When I left the retail industry, I made a promise to myself that I would not become one of THOSE people.

And by that I mean people who abuse people in the service industry. People who yell or demean or go out of their way to make servants know they are servants. There is this kind of cruelty and arrogance from people with power and money towards the helpless that I have a hard time accepting. I know you are busy, and I know you didn't get a chance to go shopping for your kid until one day before Christmas, but we are out of "The Princess Bride" and calling a sixteen-year-old sales associate a "stupid bitch" and making her cry doesn't magically make one appear.

That was before I became a business traveler.

Timing is very important to a business traveler. In the world of connecting flights and lost luggage, you need to make sure everything not only works, but that it works in the right order at the right time. If you have been on the road for any period of time, you have learned the hard way that a missed flight means sleeping in the airport, and those seats are not comfortable.

For the better part of last year, my week was like this:

Sunday - traveling. It is amazing how a single three-hour flight takes six-to-eight-hours when you include packing, hotel check-in, car rental, security, and flight delays.

Monday through Thursday - Ten-to-twelve hour workdays. Thursday night is a three-hour flight home.

Friday - Sleep in. Paperwork and assorted catch-up work at home.

Saturday - Day of Rest. Somewhere in there a dry cleaners run.

Then it starts all over again.

The mere act of traveling from one place to another is stressful enough, but if this level of stress is part of your routine, you get cranky. You learn to cherish your system and schedule. And you get angry when your schedule is disrupted. If you miss the Thursday night flight and instead fly out on Friday, you have effectively lost your weekend. And if you leave the office at 4pm to catch a 7pm flight and there are two wrecks and you get to the rental car place late, the last thing you want to do is bicker with the dude checking your car in.

For the longest time, I used this car rental company that rhymes with "shifty". I wasn't super-duper happy with their service, but they didn't make a name for their award winning service; they made a name for their low low prices. I was a member of their super-elite frequent rentaholics club and this one associate, Michelle, would upgrade me to Ford Mustangs because she thought my old driver's license picture was funny.

The downside is that Michelle was the only person in that whole office who knew how to work the computer system. If she wasn't the employee that checked me out, inevitably there would be problems when the other attendant checked me in.

So there I was, running late and coasting on fumes when my non-Mustang rolled into the rental car parking lot. The guy checked my car and looked at the gas gauge.

"You're going to have to go fill up this car with gas before you turn it in."

"No way. I prepaid for a tank."

"Not according to this," he said, tapping on his little hand held receipt-spitting device.

"No no no. I'm Platinum-Frequent-WhooSeeWhatsit!" I produce - nay, I whip out - my Platinum-Frequent-WhooSeeWhatsit card and show him my number. I even point out that three of the sixteen-digit account numbers are '007' which I think it kind of cool. "It says on my Platinum-Frequent-Whooseewhatsit profile that I always prepay for a tank of gas. Its on my profile."

"Well, it isn't coming up here." He points to the device again. "At $11.50 a gallon, that will be an extra $172.50. There's a gas station down the road." And he waved in the general direction of South, which did not reassure me or calm me down at all.

"Charge it. I need to catch a plane and I can afford it."

"That's a lot of money."


The look on his face told me right then and there that I had become one of THOSE people. I knew the look of resentment and bitterness because, back in the day, I gave that look all the time.

"Here's your receipt."

"Look, I didn't mean to yell. If I miss this plane, I spend the night in the airport."


I don't like yelling at people, and I totally understand that, from this guy's perspective, he was trying to be helpful and trying to do the right thing by saving his customer almost $200. I also realize that the situation wasn't his fault. The company has a really crappy computer system, the employees aren't properly trained on it, and the customer web service isn't properly connected to the check-in computers which in turn aren't properly connected to the little hand-held receipt thingie.

But I also understand that this guy was standing between me, my weekend with my wife, and quite possibly an alcoholic beverage or two. And that is a bad place to be.

So here is my amendment - be nice whenever possible to people in the service industry, but recognize that "nice" is a nice to have. It is not necessary to get the job done.

And remember to be extra special nice to hair stylists because they put sharp cutting-type objects right up against your head.