Latest 3 Things

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

3 Gifts I Don't Want

I’m impossible to shop for. No, seriously, I am. As the season of giving also marks the season, whether intended or not, of receiving I am reminded of just how truly challenging it has become in the intervening years for friends, family and loved ones to come up with gift ideas for me at this time of year. I’m by no measure a simple man, and the simple pleasures which I do actually have are intangible to the point of not really being helpful in determining possible presents (neither country bars nor evenings in them are readily wrap-able). My taste in tangible objects runs on the pricey side, though not particularly fancy. I see no more value in a pair of shoes, wallet or tie just because it was designed by someone in Italy or France - but, if you can turn my cell phone from a simple voice communications device to a miniature computer with nearly limitless functionality, you can probably name your price (you got that, Steve Jobs?). Nonetheless, the special people in my life are undaunted by my finicky nature and the retail marketplace, eager to mark the economic upswing with the holiday season, is coming on strong with a veritable buffet of gift options. And with that in mind, and in the interests of avoiding that awkward post gift-opening moment, here are 3 Things I Don’t Want For Christmas (nor any occasion for that matter):

1. Clothes Hoarse. There is a time in most men's lives when you really should avoid buying us anything to wear, and that time is from age 30 to age 50. Here’s why: most of us, after three decades of living and at least a decade and a half of dressing ourselves, have figured out (a) what we should be wearing, (b) what we like to wear and (c) what we look good in. Unfortunately, most of us have also been similarly unsuccessfully in impressing any of this knowledge upon the folks that know us best. I love my family to death, but they haven’t successfully picked out an item of clothing for me in ten years, and when they do attempt to break that streak without including a receipt, well they might as well be burning the money they spent. Unlike women, a man cannot reliably out-cute his clothes, no matter how attractive he otherwise might be. An attractive woman can wear a dirty blanket with a rope belt and still be cute - but even Brad Pitt in a cheap suit, ill-fitting pants or a novelty oversized t-shirt looks like a complete asshole. And I couldn’t be further from Brad Pitt if he were permanently stationed on the dark side of the moon (don’t worry ladies, he’s not going anywhere - just a little hyperbole). On the off chance you’ve gotten to know the man in your life well enough to at least know where he shops for clothing, the best garment gift you can give is an associated gift card. Because unless you know a grown man who’s still wearing skateboarding shoes as evening-wear, the only thing you give when you’re giving clothes is Goodwill donation.

2. Inspired. As a writer and at least well-intentioned reader, I certainly do appreciate the gift of a good book. What’s more, based on principle alone, a book is the one gift I am guaranteed not to throw away - no matter how horrible, poorly selected or otherwise ill-considered the title is. However, giving a religious, inspirational or spiritual self-help book is either (a) a thinly veiled attempt at proselytizing based on your belief that I’m a heathen and destined for eternal damnation of some variety, or (b) the result of your determination that I am in significant mental, emotional or spiritual distress. Both are about as welcome as a kick to the groin, and will inspire me to want to smack you with something pointy. Honestly, this is like giving someone a gym membership and trying to explain it’s not because you think they’re fat. Listen, I recognize that it’s part of the religious process to go out and recruit, er, “share” your faith - but you have no doubt learned by now that you can’t convert us all, and you can just go ahead and safely account for me amongst the “already damned/doomed” crowd. As a corollary to this, I wouldn’t be in on the Tea Party if we were in Wonderland and I was personally invited by Alice. So, please also spare me anything written by anyone who regularly appears on Fox News - I get all I can handle from The Daily Show. The only thing you can make me do to lose all respect for you as an intellectual any more quickly than giving me a Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin book would be to show up to my house dressed as a Nazi. If you’re looking for book ideas, steer clear of all of the above and anything recommended by Oprah, and look up the Pulitzer people - they have a solid idea of what we all should be reading.

3. Seriously. I’m not quite sure when giving games and toys to people over the age of twelve went out of style, but there are 364 days each year when I wake up worrying about very serious things, like work, my professional obligations, the health and welfare of my family, etc. But one day a year, I want to wake up to nothing but fun and joy. And though any delusions I held about a fat, old man shooting down my chimney with a bag full of toys are long since gone - the thought that there will be toys under the tree with my name on them (even if I had to buy them myself) gets me bouncing out of bed like I did when I was seven years old. So, here’s a heads up for all the serious people you know, who have serious jobs, lives and lots of serious things to think about (present company included). The very last thing we want to think about on Christmas is any of that. I don’t want a business card holder, a law degree frame or a really nice pen to sign stuff with. I don’t want anything that has to do with the law, pharmacies and especially not Stanford. I don’t want a reminder that I’ve kicked through thirty five Christmases already, and that I might not have as many left. If the first thought in your mind when you look at it isn’t “that will be fun!”, put it back on the shelf and move on.

* * *

Christmas gifts are about both showing and telling; showing someone that you care, and telling them what, how and that you think about them. It’s important to remember both when you’re out there picking presents. Too often I hear the words: “I have no idea what to get for him/her” when that seems like as good of a reason not to get someone anything at all as any. Shopping for Christmas gifts isn’t an occasion to realize that you don’t know a loved one well enough - it’s an opportunity to actually get to know them well enough to buy them something that isn’t generic, affected or horrible. And if that sounds like way too much trouble, you’re probably better off just giving money. In the end and contrary to what you may have been told, what you give is as important as that you give - because no one’s wishing for “good intentions” on Christmas morning, and the best thing you can give anyone is really knowing who they are.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

3 Thanks

In this season of thankfulness, most of us are mindful to remember the people and things that are closest to us. We take time to appreciate our family, our friends and our loved ones and usually do it with a hearty meal, a heaping helping of embarrassing stories from our past, and a healthy dose of football. And so it’s gone for me for as long as I can remember. But this year, I want to give thanks where I’ve long forgotten to do so. This year, I want to be thankful for things that I might otherwise take for granted, whose simple and almost unassuming presence in my life makes it infinitely better, easier or more fun. This year, it’s going to be about gratitude in non-obvious places for non-obvious reasons; an exercise in thanking the hard way. And so with all due deference to my family, my girlfriend, David and the Hawk, here are 3 other thank you’s:

1. You-Google-Eee. I remember logging onto Google for the first time. Back then I had no idea how much that simple little query box would change my life. In the intervening decade, however, it has become as indispensable as my computer itself. It is my white and yellow pages, my primary legal research tool, and the greatest stalking tool since binoculars and the windowless cargo van. But what it is has become most useful for is the instantaneous exposure of stupid people. I remember as a young man, when I would hear the inane ramblings of some uninformed mouth-breathing moron, and think to myself, I wish I had the time to go to the library, look up what he's talking about, and shove that proof directly down his ignorant throat. Or in my wildest imagination, I could have a magical information oracle that I could carry around in my pocket, and when one of these proselytizing fools spoke up, I could type in what they’re attempting to talk about, and in a fraction of a second have the real facts available to expose them as the idiots they are. Google is the Kryptonite I use to slay the red-state, tea party, Fox News retards who think that being told something “by a buddy of theirs”, “by the guy on TV”, or in an e-mail forwarded from a friend of a friend is actual information. A huge Thanksgiving thanks goes out to Larry Page and Sergey Brin for creating the greatest weapon against stupidity since the printing press - at least until we can start euthanizing people with fully functional brains but just too lazy to use them.

2. Everyone Loves Recess... but no one seems to love Recession. I have to say, however, that while I take no joy in the unemployment, financial ruin or familial hardship endured by so many Americans during the recent Recession, I am grateful for it nonetheless. There are certain things that ought to be nearly ubiquitous amongst us if our society is to be considered the overwhelming success that most of us believe it to be: being able to keep properly clothed, well-fed and at least marginally educated, to name a few. However, a 7 MPG, Cadillac SUV with chrome spinner rims, a 5,000 square foot house and more consumer electronics than your local Best Buy are not amongst them. Especially if you’re making $50,000 a year (or less) and supporting a family of four. How we went through the decade of excess, the “me” decade and still didn’t have enough stuff is beyond me, but way-too-easy credit made some of those least able to do so, into our most egregious consumers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about having nice/cool things (those who know me can tell you), but getting them takes work, saving and sacrifice - three concepts about as foreign to modern middle America as respect for the service academies in South Bend. And though it’s awful that it took a near economic collapse for us to realize that luxury isn’t in the Bill of Rights, I’m thankful to see a few less trailer park Ferraris these days.

3. Gone Country. Though I suspect that every generation goes through this, modern day night life is about as appealing to me as going back through puberty. I don’t get the scene, the music, and especially not the prices. I mean, why I would spend a thousand dollars on a bottle of vodka just so I can sit with strangers on a couch (that is washed less often than a taxicab back seat )and watch half-dressed skanks (who I don’t even know) drink it for me just escapes me. Dance clubs where no one dances, “ultra” lounges where everyone is ultra-uptight and guys showing more chest than girls make about as much sense to me as a quantum physics lecture in Farsi. It’s enough to make me give up on going out altogether, but for the one safe haven where the vast majority of this nonsense seems to have failed to penetrate: the country bar. Despite the seismic shifts of popular nighttime entertainment, the modern day “honky tonk” remains much the same as it’s always been: wooden dance floors, mechanical bulls and cheap longneck bottles of beer. I am eternally thankful for this haven from a douchebaggery epidemic so pervasive that it seems almost inescapable at times - and especially at night, when it seems to get ever so much worse. Though it may not be the “coolest” of places, it is consistent and in a world where everything that occurs after sunset seems to be changing for the worst, I’ll thankfully take all the un-changing un-cool I can get.

* * *

Every day, I see "thank you"s becoming more and more scarce. This simple token kindness (which was furiously beaten into me during the whole of my adolescence) seems to have been replaced with indignance and indifference, or the forced manners of an insincere service provider. Thanksgiving has become the sole repository for gratitude rather than a celebration of the thanks we should have been giving all year long. It’s a shame we have to be reminded of anything so basic as gratitude, when it’s likely that hundreds of things are done for each of us each day, without which those days would be impossible if not only impassible. So this year, have a great Thanksgiving, and take the occasion to let the folks closest to you know how much you appreciate them and all the other great things in your life - but don’t forget, a genuine thank you goes just as well with any old meal as it does with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

3 Superheroes We Were

As it has often been said, youth is indeed wasted on the young. Despite my protestations to the contrary, I know that I’m still a relatively young man - but just when I’m starting to feel particularly youthful I see a few college kids and realize: man, that was a long time ago. There’s no doubt that I believe that the youngest generation may show less promise and hope for the future than any that has preceded it (including the ones that endured plagues) - but that doesn’t mean they are powerless. In fact, as I look back on my own youth, I had no idea what powers or even superpowers I had ... until I lost them. Now, as a regular human going through life with the pedestrian limitations of the rest of the folks populating the 35-54 demographic (boy, does it suck to write that), I find myself not missing the social awkwardness, the hormone-fueled single-mindedness, or the utter lack of impulse control, but missing desperately my relative indestructibility, youthful exuberance, and other powers. So, as we prepare for yet another season of superhero movies and fantasies about flying wizards, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on 3 superpowers we all had - back when were young:

1. Walk It Off. I remember a time when injuries were a nuisance - an unwanted break in the action - which might force me to miss a few minutes of a hotly contested pick-up game, a recess chase or a practice. I remember the boundless optimism I took for granted with which I knew that I’d heal and I’d be back. I remember when after taking a nasty spill, I’d get up and walk it off. And all of those memories seem like a long, long time ago - like in-“Sepia”-tones long time ago. These days, if I stub a toe I’m feeling it a week later, and a real injury is likely going to last through the better part of the year. Now the first thing I think of when someone says “rehab” isn’t the Betty Ford Clinic or the pool party at the Hard Rock Casino, it’s spending humble mornings with a physical therapist lifting colored weights and rolling myself around on hard foam logs. My collection of athletic equipment, which used to consist of gloves, pads, straps and cleats, now has more braces and wraps than anything else. It’s a like a little neoprene shrine to my mid-30’s. Looking back, I’m pretty sure if I had been patient enough, I could have actually watched my body heal (Wolverine-style) in a matter of minutes right before my eyes. Nowadays, the only thing “super” about my healing ability is how fast it appears to have abandoned me.

2. Time Travel. Just like Deana Carter, I still remember when 30 was old. When life seemed long. No matter how hard I wished for it, time seemed to trickle along with all the velocity of a Palm Springs track meet. If memory serves, I’m pretty sure I was sixteen for about four years. School years (which were, in reality, only from late September to early June) seemed to last forever, and summers seem to stretch far beyond their allotted three months. Despite spending much of my youth despising my ability to stretch these days and months into years - there always seemed like plenty of time to do anything; to do everything. No venture or adventure was ever abandoned because of a lack of time to do it. Being “tired” was something I could always just will myself out of, or completely obliterate with a short nap. In short, time was both my friend and my enemy. I’m certain that my fevered desire to grow up as quickly as possible (due to an extraordinarily awkward youth) prevented me from truly enjoying the power to slow time to a crawl. But as my days, weeks, months and years (!!) begin to fly by like so much highway landscaping, I find myself wishing for even a vastly diminished version of it - if only to make the football, barbecue and weather of the fall last just a little bit longer. And though a younger me would kill me for saying it, I’d even be happy to let the intolerably hot, kids-out-of-school, and only-baseball-to-watch summer keep flying right by.

3. Guts of Steel. I’m fairly certain that, should circumstances have every really required it, that my teenage digestive system could have successfully processed a standard-sized bicycle (or similar mechanical device). When I think back on what I considered to be a “meal” back then, it’s a wonder that I wasn’t simply absorbed back into the earth on any number of times where I laid down in some open field. I dumped all manner of junk down my throat, with little if any regard for nutritional value of any sort. And I found it nearly impossible to gain weight. Yes, seriously. I tested the extremes of my ability to tolerate both heat and cold, and distinctly recall letting my ego decide how spicy I ordered my food. This power allowed me an almost carefree experience at any meal or eating establishment, and is all but gone today. Lately I make most of my food choices based on the amount of time in the gym I’ll need to spend working off whatever delicious morsel I’m considering. And when it comes to spicy foods, my GI tract demands that I take into careful account the risk-reward of telling the chinese food cook that where I’d like my Kung Pao chicken the 1-10 hot-scale (i.e. 10 will incite a full-on GI rebellion, and even a 7 will likely result in tears sooner or later). It’s not that I’m not grateful to finally be considering just exactly what I’m eating these days - I just miss the time when antacid was just something in funny commercials.

* * *

Of course as the universe takes away, it also gives, and with the loss of many of the superpowers of our youth comes a wisdom, confidence and presence that I wouldn’t trade to have all those powers back. With the diminishment of our physical abilities comes the savvy to use the ones we retain to even greater resource. There is greater joy in becoming a “wily, old veteran” than my old “rookie” self could have ever imagined. Looking back on these powerful days is, however, a reminder that as we sit and watch our youngest generation slip into an ever more comprehensive and unbelievable self-delusion, apathy, and ignorance, we are not simply dimming our previously bright future, but we may be wasting our most powerful resource - and eliminating all hope of finding the heroes we’ll need, super or otherwise.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

3 Military Myths Busted

Veterans Day is a second-tier holiday for most folks. Outside of a few parades, some military tributes on TV and an outside chance at a day off, it ranks alongside Columbus Day, Arbor Day and MLK Day as either an “Oh, is that today?” holiday or a “Federal employees are off for what?” holiday. But it is a reminder, eight years after I walked off a base for the last time, that I gave ten years to the Navy, and got more back in return than I ever could have hoped for. If it weren’t for the Navy, the Naval Academy, the submarine service and the tireless efforts of countless mentors along the way, I would never be where I am today, never have gotten as far as I have gone. Along that leadership gauntlet, and in that professional crucible, I became the man I am today. But after a decade, I took a look around and realized that things had changed. The way the rest of society looks at its warrior class has shifted, and is rife with misconception, misunderstanding and simple misinformation. So, as my own tribute to my veteran brethren, here are 3 things you need to know about the modern military:

1. Perks Up. There was a time when joining the military meant inuring to the benefit of countless government perqs; including top-notch comprehensive health care, high-quality housing, and financial support of post-secondary education. That time was the 1960’s - and just like everything else from that era, it’s mostly gone. Military health care is performed with no malpractice recourse for its recipients - and like any other consequence-free environment, the product suffers as a result. Imagine what kind of car repair you’d get if you didn’t have to pay for it (nor did anyone else), and the only thing you could do if they irreparably damaged your car was to ask the same people to try and fix it again (or just get really mad). The housing, which was new in the 60’s (and hasn’t been updated since), is now just north of the “Projects”, with that similar warm, institutional feel. And the educational benefits which were more than adequate to cover even pricey institutions back in the day, are now barely enough to cover the price of community college. I’m not sure where or when people got the idea that the “G. I. Bill” is some magical plan that covers all a veteran’s or service member’s educational expenses no matter where you want to go - but that’s more of a fantasy than the Notre Dame leprechaun riding a unicorn down a yellow brick road after winning a decent bowl game. The good news is that the next time you tell one of us how good we have/had it with all of our government “benefits”, you won’t have to wonder why we’re looking at you like you crapped on our front lawn.

2. Army of Four. Okay, listen, this isn’t rocket science, and it is something every citizen ought to have at least a rudimentary understanding of. There are four major military services and they are not all parts of the “Army”. It’s the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. With the exception of the Navy and Marines, we don’t share bases (i.e. not every military installation is a place you can find all of the above), and outside of the horrible pay scale the services have very little in common. There are different ranks, different jobs, and completely different languages to refer to many of the same things. It’s your freedom we’re out there defending, after all - the least you could do is know the basics of how we’re doing it. While we’re talking about it, there are also three major service academies: The U.S. Military Academy at West Point (Army), The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis (Navy/Marines) and The U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs (Air Force). We are not affiliated, and there is only one of each (I was once asked if I knew about the Naval Academy in Oklahoma - yes, seriously). We are rival schools, so we’re not keen on being confused with one another. And finally, the services are huge. As of June, there were over 1.4 million active duty service members. What does this number mean to you? It means that the likelihood that we’ll know personally, the one person that you know who served in the same service as we did, is about the same as you hitting the lottery on your next trip to the Gas N‘ Sip - so maybe you can wipe that disappointed look off your face, and just be thankful that both of us were willing to go out and do what we did.

3. Stupid Is As Stupid Doesn’t. No matter what you’ve seen in the movies, read on the internet or heard from your friends, the military is not a repository for the leftovers after universities, community colleges and trade schools have taken their pick. I know what you’re thinking - no one out there really thinks that do they? Yes, they do. John Kerry thinks it - and more importantly, the extensive staff of articulate, educated and intelligent speechwriters and strategists thought it, too. Take it from someone who went to military school - even when it comes to the folks on those storied campuses, most people think we’re there because we couldn’t get into the Harvards, Yales and Princetons. And while it may be true that there isn’t a whole lot of “old money” (or new money for that matter) in the service - I can assure that there is no shortage of intelligence. There are just as many reasons for joining as there are people that join, but precious few include being a “last resort” or “an alternative to jail.” Those days are long gone. The military is not a federal reform school for miscreants or group therapy for people with anger management issues. I personally know dozens of men and women who worked hard, did their homework, made an effort to be smart and still ended up in the desert in Iraq - fighting for their country, and the freedom for someone to be stupid enough to say that kind of nonsense out loud.

* * *

More so that most other things you can choose to do when you’re 18, the military is less something you’ve done and more something that you are. And while every society since the dawn of man has had its warrior-class, the similarity between them mostly ends there. In some nations, the fighting force is revered and held up as kings, in others, they are servants and peasantry. The one thing they do have in common, however, is that you can’t really know what it’s like unless you’ve done it yourself. One of the greatest things about the American military is that we live among you - both during and after our service. Take this opportunity, not to say thank you, not to tie a ribbon around anything, and not to simply attend a parade. No, take this opportunity to get to know the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that you already see everyday - you might be surprised what you find, you might be even more surprised at what you don’t.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

3 Please Stop Sayings

One of the most glorious things about modern pop culture is the speed with which it generates new ideas and abandons old ones. Pop doesn’t last long because it’s not supposed to, and as a result, it is a genre of content populated by things that burn quickly and bright, suffusing our everyday life - welcome or not - and then running off as briskly as they arrive. This pleasing cycle of brain candy is just the sort of thing that keeps the brains of the ADD generations satiated and fuels the information appetite of a society spoiled by the endless flow of the information superhighway. There are, from time to time, stubborn bits of cultural flotsam that cling to the shore despite the raging river - things that have long overstayed their welcome, for which discernible value can be derived and whose very survival defies any notion of cultural gentility that one might even begin to have. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the cliches, quips and sayings which make up our linguistic lexicon. Sayings bolt in and out of popular use and often signpost our cultural eras (e.g. “groovy”, “bitchin’”, “the bomb”, etc.) but those that don’t bolt out remind us of all the bad parts of what we were five minutes ago and are about as welcome as a turd in the swimming pool. So in the interests of getting back to the future, here are 3 sayings that people need to stop... well, you know:

1. What it Isn’t. There has always been something to say when there’s nothing to say. But never has that something been as inane and mind-numbing as “it is what it is.” Even worse than the valueless assertion of this tautology is the smug look on its usual offeror’s face as though they offered some timeless bit of wisdom which will unlock the mystery of your current consternation. This is less of a conclusion than the finale of the Sopranos. Oh, is it what it is? Wow, thanks Steven Hawking - now that you’ve cleared that up, I won’t have to worry about singularities, quarks and white matter, because it’s all clear to me now. I’m also now able to finally connect the dots and understand that it isn’t what it isn’t, it was what it was, and it will be what it will be. Honestly, I’d rather you just shrug your shoulders and do your best Chewbacca impression than offer up this kind of intellectual masturbation. I don’t know how this phrase came into common use, and I don’t know who started it - but if I ever find out, I’ll take them out into the street and slap them with a garden rake. Repeatedly. If this phrase ever pops into your head, and you’re thinking about uttering it, do us all a favor and go with what you’re really supposed to say when you have no idea: “I don’t know.”

2. A Hard Day’s Trite. I recognize that there’s no spectacularly cool way to preface a conclusion in a conversation. Unless you’re giving a speech (i.e. at a lectern) you can’t say “in conclusion” without sounding like a dick, and unless you’re a lawyer, if you even write “in light of the foregoing” people will immediately want to kick you in the face. But if I hear one more person tell me what’s going to happen “at the end of the day”, I just might end theirs early. What’s worse, I hear this particular mindless preface offered up when someone is about to disregard everything someone else has just said, in lieu of their own vastly oversimplified conclusion. E.g. (following a detailed statistical explanation of a sports matchup) - “Well sure, but at the end of the day, the team that scores more points is going to win.” I’ve gotten less infuriating responses when trying to make a point to a group of tweens. I’d rather be told to shut up in the middle of what I’m saying than have someone wipe away the whole of it by offering up this drivel. The only thing that’s certain to happen “at the end of the day” is the peace I’ll get from not having to hear anyone utter this crap. If you’re thinking of punctuating a conversation with a personal deduction that you’ve derived from things you’ve learned from television, forwarded e-mails or your bong-fueled amateur philosophy discussions - do us all a favor and keep it to yourself, at least until the end of the day.

3. Apocalypse How. I know it’s difficult to come up with something to say when someone is having a bad day, has had an untimely tragedy, or is just in the midst of an unlucky stretch, but offering up an unlikely worse-case scenarios with the preface of “it could be worse” is about as palliative as just smacking them and telling them to “snap out of it.” I’m not quite sure how this particularly ineffective method of giving someone perspective came to be widely used - but using extra negativity to combat negative feelings seems like the psychological equivalent of fighting fire with a flamethrower, yelling at someone with anger management issues, or taking an alcoholic to a bar to talk things over. Even more baffling are the improbable examples offered up by these amateur psychoanalysts when trying to offer a comforting outlook. I’ve actually heard someone try to comfort a friend over the sickness of a loved one, by opining that “could be worse, they could have died”; someone try to make a friend feel better about a pay-cut/demotion by offering “could be worse, you could be unemployed”; and someone try to help a friend cope with an abusive living situation by by offering “could be worse, you could be homeless.” Really, wow, thanks Nostradamus, I was trying to think of how things could be better, and why they’re not - but I appreciate you directing me right back to the worst possible thing. If this is your idea of help, you’re better off keeping quiet and sending a card instead.

* * *

With the amount of dialogue required of most of us in a day, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves leaning on the intellectual ease that cliches offer us. After all, coming up with something to say to people whom we don’t take that much interest in can sometimes seem like a mammoth imposition. Unfortunately, this malaise often sneaks its way into our other interactions - you know, the ones we really do care about? Cliches and sayings come into existence for a reason, because they express something ubiquitous - but in their commonality they also become affected, impersonal and sterile. Our heads are filled with literally thousands of them - because they are all around us, and we can’t help that they pop up. But before you use one, especially one of the above, remember, at the end of the day, it is what it is, and it could be worse, you could not be able to talk at all. Come to think of it, that might not be so bad after all.