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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

3 Open Notes

I've often been a fan of the open letter. From famous open letters published in major newspapers, to my own great open letter story (Dear Mr. TB - An Open Letter to Andrew Speaker), from King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail to Google's Letter to the Net on Net Neutrality, the open letter has become the seminal method of bringing a personal message to the public. Far from just personal, however, they often concern matters of great social importance, and do so with an intimacy that is hard to locate in editorials, essays or other avenues of opinionated address. They also, however, are able deliver messages that are difficult or impossible to otherwise get across - due to either the inaccessibility of the addressee, or their unwillingness to pay attention to anything save public correspondence (or both). It is this second utility which I intend to employ, though not regarding matters of material public importance. And so in the interests of distinguishing these new messages from their more substantive, lengthy and weighty counterparts, I shall simply refer to them as "open notes". And rather then describe them at greater length, I'll just introduce them by way of example, my first three important open notes:

1. Dear Naked Asian Gym Guy, I understand that the men's locker room at a private gym is a place where one might reasonable expect some degree of nudity from time to time. After all, the business of getting from one's dirtied fitness get-up into ready-for-the-day professional attire, can be a messy and difficult one, and spending time ensuring that your naked ass isn't falling out can reasonably be considered wasteful. However, this same locker room is not an excuse to prance around naked amongst your peers, simply for whatever perverse and prurient enjoyment that you derive from it. The reason that there is a large stack of cleaned towels, is so that you can use one to wrap around you, yet another for drying off, and (if you're so inclined) even another for ancillary wiping, hand-drying, excess shaving cream removal, etc. Trying to accomplish all of this with a single towel is needlessly over-efficient (and also exposes me to far too much of your aforementioned naked ass). What's more, the reason that the showers each have curtains is so that no one is forced to watch you wash yourself while they innocently make their way in and out of the room. It's not a Turkish bath - it's a locker room shower. If you need help in operating the shower curtain, I'm certain one of the attendants can help you. Finally, when choosing a sink at which to accomplish your post-shower routine (including a visually harrowing whole-body lotion rub down), you should always observe the urinal-based principals of maximum separation, especially when you intend to conduct this routine without any covering on yourself whatsoever. Or in simpler terms, do not perform this sequence of nude horrors at the sink directly next to mine when there is no one else in the sink area! The bottom line is that, even in the locker room, the golden rule regarding intra-personal nudity applies: get nude unto others only as they get nude unto you*.

(* - Please note the ever-present nature of my 2-3 towels of coverage when considering how to apply this)

2. Dear Indifferent Parents, This may come as some surprise to you, but there is a reason that you don't see me trundling my own oversized and ill-considered brood around in public places, and it is not because I left them at home (though, don't let that deter you from doing the same). You see, consistent exposure to your children serves as a constant reminder for why I don't currently want any of my own - and as such, I have no such joyful progeny to parade about town. Additionally, it would appear that as a side-effect of the endless joy and bliss that I'm obviously missing out on as a function of not yet parenting, you have lost some key element of your sense of hearing. I only mention this because you seem almost impossibly oblivious to the ear-shattering noises, screams and mindless shouting that your children are emitting in otherwise quiet places. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about county fairs, amusement parks or children's activity centers (i.e. places I'd never be). No, no. I mean places like restaurants, travel centers, sidewalks, or anyplace else you might reasonably expect to find adults unaccompanied by minors. Additionally, you may be surprised to find out that, despite the look that you give me when it occurs, if your child runs into me, it is usually because they are running around untethered and unmonitored, and not because I'm walking about in some sort of barren fury, trying to beat up on anything small enough to require booster seating. I would only ask, that amidst the euphoric haze you're no doubt experiencing from parenthood, that you recall what it was like before you were so blessed - you know, when you had places to be and things to do, and appreciated a little polite consideration and relative peace and quiet in public. Or if that doesn't work, perhaps remember what corporal horrors your parents might have visited upon you had you behaved similarly. Because, as luck would have it, while the joy of parenthood is quite personal, the noise of it is quite universal.

3. Dear Teenagers, you are not important. Oh, you might be important someday. But you are not now. The reason I know this is because, believe it or not, I was once a teenager - and surrounded by other teenagers at that same time - and we were not important. We were important to one another, but on a grander scale (i.e. anything larger than our school district) we were pretty much useless. Somewhere along the way, whether due to overexposure to MTV, MySpace or the failed national movement towards universal self-importance as a function of building self-esteem, you appear to have lost sight of this relative lack of significance. Now, when I was a teenager, I was quite certain that adults didn't know much about what I was personally going through - but I was equally deferential about their world-at-large. Or in other words, I was just as stupid, I just knew it. For example, no one whom you don't already know, especially those adults in that fortunate circumstance, needs to know that you're (a) walking or driving by, (b) present in a building, or (c) what you think about, well, anything. Which means you can dispense with the reckless and noisy driving, the shouting and poorly-advised fashion choices and the public opining in general. I can say, without exception, that I've never met anyone under the age of 20 who has ever had anything to offer me in the way of intellectual insight, meaningful conversation, or thought leadership of any kind (this includes the time when I was under the age of 20). I know and understand you're in a big hurry to grow up, I'd just rather you do it a little more quietly. Trust me, just like we did, in fifteen years you'll look back at the photos, writings and other evidences of yourselves during this time and think to yourself: what the hell was I thinking? And then you'll understand exactly how I feel when I'm unable to ignore you.

* * *

I've often felt like the majority of people who bother to write letters to the editor, or similar such public complaints, were the same sort of angry old coots who were chasing us of their front yards with shotguns full of salt-rock when we were kids. And to that end, I'm not really sure when I unwittingly became Old Man Truitt, and how it came to pass that the word "whipper-snapper" actually passed through my mind. I'd like to think that my rapidly waning faith in humanity is not simply a function of early onset senility, but rather a rational and intellectual response to the egregious examples thereof which I am exposed to on an almost daily basis. What's more, I find a little hope in the idea that most people are simply unaware of the stupidity they're engaging in - and that by exposing the same to the harsh light of a little sensible criticism, I'll be able to do my part to slow this slow social decline into chaos and anarchy. Well, that and it's fun to laugh at idiots... even if only to save from crying. In the end, in this era of rapid communication, much like birthday cards and love letters, it's those who take the time to write who you know really care. And in that, the shotgun on my porch notwithstanding, no one cares about idiots, morons and assholes more than me.




Jen and Tonic said...

Oh.My.GOD! And with this article, I fall in love with Glenn Truitt the writer...again. All of this is excruciatingly true.

Women get naked, and lose their minds in locker rooms. They bend over to shave their legs and pull up their stockings all while bending over and exposing their na-na.

I have no comment for the parents and teenagers letters. You said it perfectly.

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