Hump Day: Self-help guru advice is great, but it’s OK to trust your instincts

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

Whenever I’m feeling tired – usually just before a long weekend – I count down the minutes until everyone goes into vacation mode and I can relax. I’ll often crash on the sofa, go through the PVR to watch all those shows I missed or check out Netflix.

On long weekends, tuning out is obligatory. I take the time to relax and don’t feel one bit guilty about it.

But I’ve gotten into this habit of trying to do what everyone says you’re supposed to do – like being in a perpetual state of utopian relaxation at 5 p.m. every day after work. Then, it’s off to the gym to work out for an hour followed by eating a light supper of only organic vegetables farmed by monks, an hour of meditation to completely turn off my mind and then eight solid hours of deep sleep.

Well, that fantasy certainly doesn’t reflect my reality. Weekly, I seem to buy fresh vegetables with every good intention of tossing them into a beautiful, crunchy and delicious salad that will set off fireworks in my mouth and cure me from every illness that I have now and know it, have now and don’t know it, or may get in the future.

What usually happens is that the lettuce and cauliflower I take home gets stored in the refrigerator’s crisper drawers with plans to use them right away or the next day. In fact, there should be another name for those drawers: hide-them-from-Brian drawers. Nearly without failure, I discover the now-rotten and gelatinous lettuce and cauliflower when I’m cleaning out the refrigerator on garbage day.

I really need to stop storing stuff in those drawers. They’re right up there with the deep freezer in the basement. There’s stuff in there that’s so old that, well, I don’t even want to say it publicly. I can assure you, anything in there will not be eaten at this point. You know the meat you have in the freezer is old when the photo on the label is a brontosaurus.

Instead of feeling guilty, at some point a person just has to accept that they’re not living the world’s ideal of how things should be. Maybe I should stop reading so much. It seems like every second business article online is advice on how to be perfect at this or that. By all accounts, I pretty much fail at being perfect at anything – and I’m sure everyone reading this is the same way.

Should I stop feeling guilty about not taking a billion weeks off for vacation every year? Should I stop wanting to scream every time someone posts the inevitable cliché Facebook photo of their feet on a beach while they’re on vacation? By the way, feet are gross. Pass it on. Seeing your feet isn’t a good tourism ad for wherever you are. Put some socks on, however, and then maybe I’ll look at the brochure.

Eight hours of sleep every night? Seriously? If I get six it’s only because I’m either deathly ill or have been up for five days straight relaxing on a beach in the Caribbean taking photos of my feet to post on Facebook. This is what happens when you’re scared to miss something and are addicted to the 24-hour news and social media cycle. I’m not saying it’s healthy, but it’s the way things are. Maybe I need to parachute into some jungle somewhere and disconnect. You know, just me and the monkeys pointing at each other’s gross feet.

Some days, I want to stand up and yell, “Look, I may not be doing everything perfectly, but it is what it is and I’m fine with it.” It’s exhausting to continuously think that you’re doing things wrong because you aren’t ticking off all the boxes on the Perfect Life Checklist.

No, I didn’t have $10 million in my retirement savings account by the time I was 12. I guess I’ll be eating cat food for Christmas when I’m 65. No, I’m not sleeping 20 hours every night. I guess that means I’ll drop dead in a meeting from exhaustion at some point. And no, I’m not applying organic deodorant every morning that’s scented with the tears of butterflies from the rainforest. Just smelling my actual toxic deodorant likely gives me a little bit of brain damage every morning.

There’s nothing wrong with striving for an ideal just as long as that ideal is one that you truly want and can live with rather than one that some self-help guru thinks you should have. We’re not as dumb as we think we are sometimes.

Hump Day: Pasty-white teens and others get moving with Pokémon Go

Hump Day 2 croppedHump day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the past two weeks, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people walking or cycling around the streets staring at their smartphone screens – more than usual, that is.

If so, welcome to the world of ‍Pok‍é‍mon Go, a new video game that’s taken the world by storm. I won’t get much into the game’s details, but it’s based on finding various figures and ‘capturing’ them. The more you find and capture, the better you’re doing and the farther you’ll progress in the game. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt except that players are collecting computer-generated figures. What makes this different from other video games is that players actually have to physically move around in order to find them.

Even in little ol’ Moncton here, I’ve seen the phenomenon explode from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in just a couple of weeks. I became aware of the game through the news media and a few online posts from friends – mostly people wondering what the heck it was – and then I actually saw someone playing the game at Costco of all places. While everyone else was looking for the best deals on a barrel of mayonnaise, one woman was walking all over the store while staring at her screen. I thought she was just checking her email at first, but it became clear after the 10th time I saw her walk by me that she was on a mission – a ‍Pok‍é‍mon Go mission! I positioned myself where I could be a bit nosy and glance at her screen to see if she was playing – and yup! She was.

You may know someone who’s already addicted. But at least they’re moving around, eh? I live across from a park and have seen dozens of people playing so far – either by walking down the street, walking through the park or driving by on their bicycles. While mostly harmless, it’s only a matter of time before a cyclist gets into a bad accident because of it – or a distracted driver who’s playing runs over someone trying to cross the street.

I’m not a naysayer, though, because it seems to be getting people moving like crazy! I’ve seen a number of pasty-white teenagers walking around the park already. ‘What’s that thing in the sky, Mom?’ some pale teenager dressed in black with messy hair would ask. ‘It’s the sun, dear. You haven’t seen it since you started playing video games in the basement five years ago.’‘Ooooh, Mom. It’s so warm on my face!’

Pokémon GoThe game is a pretty ingenious concept – and for all the distracted walking, cycling and driving it will cause, it has already caused a lot of people to start exercising like they never have before. One Facebook friend noted that he’s already walked a lot more since starting to play the game. Even animal shelters are getting into the act, suggesting that as long as you’re out there playing the game, you might as well be walking their dogs while you’re at it. Meanwhile, media report that two men fell off a cliff in San Diego while playing and one obsessed guy continued playing even after getting stabbed on the street!

When I was a kid, Santa Claus brought us the highest of newfangled video games at the time: Pong. Basically, it was glorified tennis. You just sent the electronic ball across the screen and your opponent tried to stop it by moving a paddle. If they missed, you scored.

We played a lot of Pong – and I was terrible at it. The games never lasted long before I would quit in disgust. I really never got into video games after that – unless online Solitaire counts, which I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.

Over the years, the stereotypical video gamer has become someone who lives in the basement, rarely communicates with others and who only eats when their parents throw leftover scraps down to them after dinner. But are things changing?

Maybe the new gamer is someone who’s fit as a fiddle because they’re walking or cycling everywhere in search of ‍Pok‍é‍mon Go treasures. Maybe the new gamer has zero per cent body fat and abs you can grate cheese on.

Or maybe the new video gamer is lying in the hospital with broken bones after crashing their bicycle, stepping off a curb into the path of an oncoming car, getting stabbed and not seeking immediate medical help due to their obsession – or falling off a cliff after not being careful about where they were walking.

Hmmm. I think I’ll stick with Pong. Hard on the ego… but less deadly.

Hump Day: We have ways of making you talk – such as clipping our fingernails

HHump Day 2 croppedump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

The other day, I was watching a local television newscast when I saw a journalist reporting live with her sunglasses propped up on top of her head. Had I done that in journalism school, I would have probably had the glasses slapped off my head by the professor for being unprofessional – and deservedly so.

We all have pet ‍peeves. That’s one of mine – people who push their sunglasses (or regular glasses) to rest on top of their head when they’re not using them.

Yes, I know it’s a strange annoyance, but pet ‍peeves don’t always have to be based in logic. I have no idea why the habit drives me crazy. It doesn’t hurt anyone.

On the surface, it certainly seems practical – but every time I see someone doing it, I just want to yank the glasses off their head, throw them to the ground and stomp on them.

And don’t even get me started about people who blow their noses while seated at a meal. Really? Must we? You can’t get up and go off to a corner and do this?

blowing noseI’m not normally queasy, but it just completely grosses me out when someone blows their nose at the table – and what about that bizarre, seemingly prehistoric need to check the contents of the tissue right in front of everyone afterwards? Shoot me now! Can I take this meal to go?

Maybe I should, in fact, start wearing my sunglasses on top of my head so that I can yank them down in front of my eyes to hide my crying in disgust. And to those who plunk down the used tissue on the table for everyone to stare at for the rest of the meal: as the old saying goes, there’s a special place in Hades for people like you.

And there are other dining-room table faux-pas I see quite often. Older men seem to think nothing of grooming themselves right then and there. They reach into their pocket, yank out nail clippers and then that awful click-clickety-click sound starts as they begin trimming their fingernails right at the table. Seriously? Were you raised by wolves?

Never mind waterboarding or electric shock torture, if I ever get caught by terrorists and they’re looking for state secrets, all they’d have to do is gather half a dozen of them around me as I’m tied to a chair and then start that infernal click-clickety-click noise of clipping their fingernails. I’ll tell them everything they want to know. I’ll even invent stuff to make it sound extra juicy. I’d rather listen to long fingernails on a chalkboard any day of the week over that!

One thing that used to drive my father insane was the sound of someone continuing to drink through a straw even after most of the liquid was gone from the glass. That slurping sound would always cause a loud and very negative rebuke from him – although I’m not sure how anyone could avoid making the sound once you got to the bottom of the drink. Even two seconds of that noise was enough to drive him around the bend.

I don’t listen to that much commercial radio anymore, but why do some advertisers think it’s OK to use the sound of sirens or horns in their ads? All it does is cause confusion to those listening in their cars. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started looking around for a fire truck, police car or ambulance after hearing a siren sound effect in a radio ad. Stop!

Another pet ‍peeve? People who embed sign-offs in their email messages, i.e. every single email they send has ‘Have nice day!’ in it, regardless of the subject matter.

Sometimes, ‘Have nice day!’ is just not appropriate for an email you send. In fact, it can lead to really embarrassing exchanges, like the time someone sent me condolences after my father passed away and forgot to delete the ‘Have nice day!’ wording which is normally embedded in all their messages. I nearly punched the computer screen. I deleted the message. Forgive me if having a ‘nice day’ wasn’t at the top of my priority list right then.

Someone else I know can’t stand crunchy stuff (i.e. sprinkles or something similar) in his ice cream. He’ll throw it out before he eats it, even though the crunchy stuff and ice cream eaten separately are fine. It’s a texture thing, I guess.

Pet ‍peeves are funny things. On the surface, harmless. At their worst, the cause of state secrets being spilled to terrorists. Click-clickety-click. ‘Here! Just take the country’s nuclear codes and stop!’