Tag Archives: snark

New York State Of Mind

I’ve always fancied myself the Carnac of human behavior and motivation.  I admit, I’ve been known to get flummoxed by habitual bad behavior (tantrums and bullying in the workplace, obliviousness of others in public, etc.) but by and large I find most behavior and/or language to be easily decipherable.  In truth even the bully at work is pretty simple; he fears being discovered, (it’s just difficult to remember that when the behavior takes on science fiction proportions.)  People grooming themselves in public or throwing their garbage at the feet of others, or talking at full volume (on the phone or at a baby) or polishing their nails on an airplane, aren’t evil they probably could have just greatly benefited from a firm swat on the behind at some point, as a gentle reminder that they are not in fact all alone in the universe.

I really do believe that there is very little we say or do that doesn’t speak to how we feel.  We may not know it at the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  Of course this isn’t to say that everyone in our realm can read our minds.  A future mother-in-law asking a bride if she can wear black to the wedding, might feel very overweight and not in fact be planning a stealth boycott of the nuptials.  But I assure you there was some feeling behind the query.

So here I sit with my Dr. Nick’s Academy certificate in peopleology and I feel my training/talents ebbing.  I find myself less adept at reading intent.  It’s not slang or inflection or even means of communication that has me floundering.  I can see through all that as if it were mere cement and I engaged my super-x-ray vision.  I am beginning to suspect that my kryptonite, if you will, is the proliferation of snark.  I am fluent in the Don Rickles wannabe variety of snark (for the motivation of this genre of snark see bullying above.)  But there is a subtler variety, one that might even be categorized as “whining.”  On the street, and in the media, I keep hearing these urban whines: People complaining about the livability of the city.  It is objectively bizarre to begin with (ahem, have you ever heard of the 1970s?! you think Disneyfied NYC is hard?) but it also is completely illogical.  Unless you are in a witness protection program, presumably you are free to leave.

I suspect that these grumblings and mumblings are not the noise coming out of a jilted resident on his way back to Indiana.  I have a feeling that what all these complaints really mean is “I thought it would be different, and before you can point out how I’m not where I thought I’d be in life, I’m gonna shoot the first shot.”  But as I mentioned, I’m not entirely sure.  What I do know is that there is something cloyingly adolescent about the negative Nancy natterings.  Snide remarks about paying huge amounts to live in a tiny box, have a certain; “I meant to do that” element to them.  (By the way, when did people decide that what they were paying for in urban housing was somehow related to square footage?)  Speechifying about the dirty tiles in the subway station is reminiscent of a teenager kicking the gravel at the Colosseum and complaining to his parents; ‘it’s really dusty here.”

Negativity is every bit as contagious as happiness.  It also feeds itself like a cruise ship passenger.  It doesn’t make someone hip to hate, it just makes them a bit toxic.  If it’s too loud, too crowded, too hot, too cold, too pricey, too smelly, toodaloo.  It’s a big world, surely there’s someplace for everyone.  If in fact, the grumblings, whining, pithy-esque condemnations are not geographically specific and just a new hipster affectation/slang; ack!  Please let it run a swift course.

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Cultural Critique


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Have A Nice Day

The third Monday of January has long been recognized as the most depressing day of the year.  This no doubt refers to it being a day that collectively, most people find to be depressing.  It should in no way mitigate the individuals’ own special personal days of bleakness.  But, it is said, that like New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving and the like, the third day of January is a shared celebration.  No silly hats, champagne or mini-marshmallows, this communal experience has more to do with hiding under the covers.  It is the day on which we presumably realize the extent of our December expenditures and the temporary nature of our resolutions.

Well the third Monday has come and gone, and it’s safe to say the gloom lingers.  If December is the month of “goodwill towards man,” January is the month of “get the hell out of my way.”  The general crankiness simply can not be ignored.  Ordinarily I chose to react to Scrooge McDuckery with thoughts of “oh that poor man must not be feeling well.”  I force myself to consider the health emergency that woman (screaming into her cell phone on the bus) must be having.  I am now running out of scenarios and patience.  Even dear Pollyanna would be exhausted at the end of January.  When the grumpy old man visiting my upstairs neighbor cursed at me in the elevator, I actually cried.  Even the sturdiest of us does not wither from an old man’s curse.  When the woman pawing through boxes of shoes as if looking for hidden treasure, pulled them all down upon me, I got a little sad.  When she told me to move because now the piles of boxes and crumpled me were in her way, I got a little angry.  And that must be how it starts.

The artificially induced good cheer of December is gone.  Bills have mounted, social events have dwindled, the news is filled with political sniping, and we did not succeed at quitting smoking and losing 20 pounds.  We start our day cranky, and then we are forced into a world with other cranky people.  Even in the virtual world, you can see a spike in snark,  I have not conducted an actual study, but observations would suggest that tweets and blog comments today are as dark as 5:00 on a January afternoon.  There you are, reading through a news site, interested in the (potentially) insightful comments made by other readers and BAM!: the equivalent of schoolyard taunting and/or graffiti appears.  Never insightful, rarely humorous, these remarks are the equivalent of a toddler’s tantrum.  “Look at me” they scream, “I am SO relevant.”  Of course these small minded snarks are always around, but during other months they don’t appear often on serious news sites.

It’s January.  I’m no groundhog, but I’m going to estimate we have at least two months left of winter.  Might I suggest we take a collected cleansing breath.  Let’s remind ourselves that it is January now but soon it won’t be.  The bills will get paid, one way or another.  Spring is always a better time to start a physical fitness regime.  And the best way to make the world seem a little cheerier is to be a little cheerier.  Smile at someone.  Hold a door open.  Let today be the day you do not stand in front of the subway door.  Ask the tourist if they need directions.  And remember, just because you have thought of a snarky comeback, doesn’t mean you have to say it out loud.  If Clarence the angel paid you a visit today, don’t you really want to see all the people in your past not having their feelings hurt?


Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Cultural Critique


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