Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: June and July 2016

Here is the June/July 2016 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets during the past two months:
Other bits of nonsense:
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016

February 2016

January 2016
December 2015
New Year's Edition

November 2015
October 2015
Halloween Edition

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Where Are You From?" The Fear Of Being Called On At A Comedy Club

Every now and then I'll feel an itch to perform stand-up comedy. I've never told jokes on a stage. I've told jokes in conversation. I've told jokes on Twitter. I've told jokes on this blog. But I've never told jokes into a microphone.

The itch resurfaced earlier today, as I walked to a local comedy club to check out a showcase of up-and-coming comics. My mind started to wander. I envisioned myself on the bill of a comedy show, waiting by the side of a stage, as the host introduces me. "Our next comedian performs all over the Internet. You've seen him on Blogger, you've seen him on Twitter, you've seen him on iTunes. Please give it up for Shane!"

I'd hop onto the stage, he'd hand me the microphone, and I would kill it. Well, I wouldn't fantasize myself bombing in my stand-up debut. No, I'd have a room filled with strangers, in addition to the 10 friends and relatives I pressured to come, eating out of the palm of my hand. I would tell them joke after joke after joke, and they would laugh and laugh and laugh. For five minutes straight. It would be the five greatest minutes of my life. And probably the five greatest minutes of their lives, too. 

Afterward, they would approach me -- all of them, one by one -- congratulate me on my set, and give me big hugs. Then, as I'm sipping on a virgin pina colada, an executive from a TV network would track me down: "I came here to scout another comic, but I was blown away by what I saw from you. Please tell me you'll sign this talent holding deal right now."

That's what it would be like if I were to perform stand-up. It would be exciting. It would be fun. It would be awesome. So what's holding me back?

My mind refocused, I arrived at the club, and was seated right by the stage. And then the itch went away. I remembered what is holding me back: fear.

Not fear of standing on a stage, in front of an audience. I have some experience in public speaking -- not in a comedy club, but I have made presentations at the office, and speeches at weddings. I'm comfortable with it. 

What I do fear is sitting near a stage, in front of a lineup of comedians. Because chances are very good that at least one of them will try to talk with me. That scares the heck out of me, and in some strange, unexplainable way has discouraged me from becoming a comedian myself.

The idea of being called on makes me very anxious. I trace it back to the seventh grade, when I was a nominee at an award ceremony for students at my middle school. This was a very important ceremony; It was the Oscars of middle school award shows in suburban New York. A nomination alone meant your academic career would take off.

Anyway, I was half-asleep by the time my category came up. Even middle school award shows can drag on for hours. When the winner was announced, I thought I heard the presenter call my name, but I wasn't quite sure. I asked a friend seated next to me, "Did he just call my name?" He answered, a little too eagerly, "He sure did! Get up there and get your award!" I still had my doubts, but I decided I should go on stage and ask the presenter himself. He told me that, no, my name had not been called. (The winner was not in attendance, but the presenter accepted on his behalf.) I walked back to my seat, my head hanging in shame, as my fellow classmates and their families laughed at me. 

Ever since then, I've been afraid of any situation in which I might be called on.

So I was on edge as I sat by the stage, waiting for the show to begin. My only hope for the show was to be ignored. I just wanted each comedian to not engage me in conversation, or make eye contact with me, or look in my general direction, or do anything else that would result in the audience laughing at me. In return, I would behave myself and cackle at every joke, regardless of how funny it is. I'd smile my fake smile I normally reserve for co-workers when I enter the office every morning.

I was so uptight that I could barely drink the $8 sparkling water I'd ordered. I paid $8 for a sparkling water, at a show for up-and-coming comics. How much is sparkling water at a Louis C.K. concert? $150? 

There I was, with a pricey bottle of sparkling water trembling in my hands, as the host took the stage to start the show. He told a couple of warm-up jokes, and then it happened...he locked eyes with me. Oh, no. Please ignore....

"Where are you from?"

Not even two minutes into his set, and he called on me. I cursed to myself. A million thoughts raced through my head, but mainly I wondered, What answer could I give that a) won't enable him to tease me, and b) will put an end to this exchange as quickly as possible? Upper West Side? Upper East Side? Morningside Heights? Midtown? Murray Hill? East Village? West Village? Greenwich Village? Gramercy Park? Central Park? Chelsea? SoHo? NoHo? Financial District? Flatiron District?

After I silently ran through all of the neighborhoods in Manhattan, and the other four boroughs, I finally answered, vaguely, New York. By that point, thankfully, he lost all interest in what I had to say and transitioned into his next bit. I made a mental note: Before I sign a lease on my next apartment, I need to look up the neighborhood on YouTube to make sure no comedians have good material on it.

Over the course of the night, five more comedians called on me -- half of the lineup. It was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to happen. They pried and pried and pried, digging for more information they could use against me. They asked for my age, my race, my occupation, my relationship status, my thoughts on certain parts of the male and female anatomies. It was a Tinder conversation come to life. 

Also, one comic danced in front of me, pulling up his shirt and jiggling his hairy stomach inches away from my face. It was a Tinder photo come to life.

The audience loved it. They laughed and laughed and laughed. At me. It was seventh grade all over again.

As I walked back home, with my head hanging in shame, I revisited my fantasy of performing stand-up comedy. I was still killing it. The crowd was still laughing, not at me, but with me. 

In the crowd were the comedians I had just seen, sitting together at a table. I didn't ask them where they lived, or whether they were married, or anything about the male or female anatomies. I didn't tease any of them.

They did have to pay $8 each for sparkling water.

Friday, July 15, 2016

I've Moved On: More On My Canadian Airport Problems

A quick update on my last blog post: Canada still owes me a donut. But it's fine. I've moved on.

Though I am incredulous that the airline ran out of donuts -- donuts it ordered specifically to feed its passengers for a flight that had been delayed for several hours. This is an airline that can calculate the altitude of a flight, the number of miles remaining until the flight reaches its destination, and the arrival time down to the exact minute -- and display all of this information on a tiny screen on the back of a chair on a plane. And yet, somehow, it is unable to calculate the number of crullers it needs to keep a pack of hungry travelers happy.

But as I said, I've moved on.

I do have two more airport stories from that weekend that I'd like to share with you -- two more cases of customer service that I found to be curious:

* What you read in my last blog post was actually my second attempt to leave Canada. I missed the flight I'd originally booked. The airline refused to print my ticket because I arrived at the airport one hour before departure time -- two hours later than it recommends for an international flight.

I was aware of and understood the airline's policy, but allow me to make a few points in my favor: I'd checked in online the day before; I was carrying only a backpack; and I was pretty confident in my ability to quickly pass through security and reach the gate in time. I'm the Usain Bolt of running to an airport gate when a flight is about to take off. And Usain usually isn't carrying his sneakers and belt in his hand when he's racing.

I'm not saying I would have definitely made my flight. All I'm saying is that I would've liked to have had the opportunity.

The airline wouldn't budge, though. So I asked it what my options were. There's a seat available for a flight this Friday, I was told. Now, let me explain that this conversation was taking place on a Sunday. Rather than print my ticket for a flight that I'd paid $122 for, and see if maybe I could get on its plane, the airline had a better suggestion: Why not stick around for five more days? Why end your vacation when you can take another vacation? Eat Canadian bacon, drink maple syrup, watch episodes of Degrassi, and come back at the end of the week.

Obviously, I passed and sought out other options with other carriers. Later, I filed a complaint online, but the airline stood by its decision to not print the ticket. It then sent me a customer satisfaction survey -- in a foreign language. I was not satisfied.

* After turning down the Friday flight, I scrambled from one airline counter to the next with much anxiety, hoping I could buy a new ticket to New York -- one that could be printed.

I approached a Canadian carrier that had a couple of scheduled flights to New York for later that evening. I saw only one line, for baggage drop-off. I didn't see a line for purchasing tickets. "Where can I buy tickets?" I asked.

"We don't sell tickets here," was the response. "You have to call our customer support line to make a reservation."

I was concerned. I couldn't call the airline because I was in a foreign country and had my iPhone in airplane mode. Plus, I was pressed for time, and I was already at the airport, and I was standing right in front of the airline. Why couldn't I receive support in person?

I can't figure the logic behind an airline choosing not to sell tickets at its own counter at an airport. I wanted a ticket. I wanted to give it business. I didn't stop by the counter to loiter while using the free WiFi. This wasn't Best Buy.

Eventually, I booked a flight with another airline, using the free WiFi, and the events of the last blog post followed.

And since then, I've moved on.