Monday, November 21, 2005

Illegible Signatures

I've kept silent about this my whole life, but I think today is the day to blow the whistle on this bullshit. Why do people draw a lazy loop that vaguely resembles the first letter of their name, follow it with a wavy line, and call it their signature? That's just a load of crap.

Would I be wrong to say that the primary purpose of a signature is to be legible? So that someone else can see it and say: "Yup - that's Fred Johnson."Granted there are secondary attributes to a good signature, like being written in a distinctive hand and being asthetically pleasing - but do either of those things come before the need to be deciphered?

I make the one - ONE exception, where a person has some sort of job where they have to sign their name eighty times a day. Then okay, you can do the lazy squiggle. But even then, you'd want two signatures in your arsenal - a work signature and a formal signature.

I have this pet theory that the less legible your signature is, or the less it bears any resemblence to your actual name, the more of an asshole you probably are. Do you think Mother Teresa, when she had to sign something, just did some jerky, zig-zaggy pen motions and then whipped off a straight line like Dennis Miller at the end of a weekend update? Of course not! When St. Teresa signed off on something, I think you'd be treated to some beautiful cursive. I mean, the meaningless-loop-and-wavy-line guy clearly don't care about the person who has to look at the signature. Which is, after all, the whole purpose of writing a signature. A signature gets written for the express purpose of some other person looking at it at some point in the future. It has no other purpose.

Behold, the signatures on the declaration of independence.

Now those are some signatures! Not one asshole in the bunch. Not only are they legible, individually distinctive and nice to look at, but there's lot of little artistic flourishes. How about all those underlining designs? I never even noticed the one under John Hancock. It looks like he's bored in 4th period bio lab.

But we've sunk far since the declaration of independence. Nowadays any old squiggle, wavy line, or formless scratching is an acceptable signature. And here's the big question. If society no longer requires that your signature look anything like your name or be legible at all, why even make a halfhearted attempt at legibility? Why settle for an exaggerated loop followed by a line? Why not pull a Prince and sign something compeltely goofy as your signature? Why not just draw a penis? This could be my new signature:

At least that would be legible, distinctive, and it doesn't insult you with any lack of effort or sloppiness.

So that's really the honorable choice. Write your signatures so we can read them, or at least make a credible effort drawing some genitalia. I'd prefer the former. Look to the Declaration of Independence for guidance. This wasn't just a statement of principles and ideals, it was a guide to signing your own name and not looking the jackass. We can all learn from that.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Everything Should Be Open, All the Time

Businesses shouldn't close. Stores, banks, restaurants, supermarkets, the utility companies, government offices, the whole caboodle. Always open. Sundays? Open. 3 am? Open. Martin Luther King Day? Open.

That is the future. It's going to happen eventually - how could it not? I'm only arguing that it should happen now. I am tired of not being able to do some transaction at the bank because it's the wrong day of the week. I'm tired of not being able to get a decent meal because it's the wrong time of day. I'm tired of not being able to get customer service help over the phone because I've missed the office hours in central standard time.

Why is it that the places you need most urgently to be open right now, say your doctor's office - or the water company, or customer service for your PC, or the DMV, why are they the places most likely to be closed? You want some disgusting Del Taco at any time of day, no problem. But something you might actually need urgently? Come back between 8am and 4.

8am and 4? 8am and 4???? That's messed up.

One time I had a UPS pacakge that was sitting in the UPS warehouse that I had absolutely no way of picking up. UPS's hours coincided exactly with my work hours. They opened when I went to work. They closed when I got off. They were closed on the weekends. I had no way of getting this package. I argued with them. I pleaded. I tried to arrange some kind of under-the-table pickup, offering a nice gratuity. No deal. The day before it was returned to sender I ditched work to get it. I can't tell you if UPS has changed its warehouse hours since then, seeing as how I won't give them a dime of business for the rest of my life.

Society needs to take a big step back and reconsider its priorities. Now I've lived in New York City and Las Vegas, two cities noted for having a 24 hour culture. And if you can't get what you need in Vegas during off hours, what hope is there for everyone else? We're all screwed. The system as it stands just doesn't make any sense. Let's say we have errands to do at the DMV, or the post office, or a dozen different places. What's going to be the day we have free to do these chores? Sunday, right? What's the one day these stores are going to be closed? Yep, sunday.

So let's go briefly through the ostensible reasons why things close and explain why they don't hold up.

First of all, you've got this obsolete, holy Sabbath day mentality that just doesn't belong in our society anymore. If you think Sunday is holy, that's great. Good for you. You take the day off. But everyone else should get back to work. In the casino business here, it's common to hear people say "Today is my Monday" or "Tomorrow's my friday." Now that's the way it should be.

Think of the advantages. Overcrowded schools? What if I said I could give any school 40% additional capacity without adding one extra chair? It's called Saturday and Sunday. How about double capacity? Two words: swing shift. Get those kids to school in prime time.

So much of the way American society is time-oriented is based on some obsolete system. Kids getting the summers off to work the fields. Sunday liquor laws. It's time to shake off this notion that Sunday is America's day off. Let's see, what are the other objections...

Ah yes, money. It's not feasible to keep things open all night. Well, it's all a question of scale. Go into any 24 hour business and look around. Do they have a full crew working the Carls' Jr. at 3am? Of course not. It's two, maybe three guys. You don't need your full staff. For many of these stores, the only variable costs you have to worry about when staying open all night are the hourly wage of the one clerk and the power bill. A minimum stream of after-hours business is more than enough to make it worthwhile. And what about giving your customers the peace of mind of knowing that you're there 24/7, 365 days a year? That's worth something. That gets you respect and loyalty from your customer base.

If you feel, like I do, that nothing should ever be closed, then you definitely don't want to go to Europe. I was in England a few years ago and I couldn't believe it. Does no one in England get hungry after 8 pm? Restaurants there have "seatings". You can go for lunch or dinner, but they're closed in between. WTF? And I couldn't believe the sheer number of holidays over there. Every fifth day is a bank holiday or St. Ignacious day or something, and then everything closes. No wonder their economy is in the toilet.

Look, in the world of the future, everything's always open. How many movies have you seen about the future where the protagonist goes somewhere on urgent business, and his destination is closed? None! Nothing is closed in the future! That's what so great about it! We should just get started and do it now! I want to be able to turn to my grandkids and say "You know, when I was a boy, that place used to be closed." And they'll have no idea what I'm talking about. Anyone with me?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Black Licorice

Hoo boy, black licorice sucks. It's not just kinda-bad, it's not just mildly bad. It actually has a hostile taste. It's a flavor that has you groping for an emergency beverage. It's foul.

Now if I licked a car tire, that would be foul too. But here's the difference. The car tire isn't in the candy aisle. There are things that taste worse than black licorice I grant you, but there's nothing that exceeds black licorice in the disparity between promised taste and actual taste. Nobody thinks a handful of mouse droppings is going to taste any good. But if we bagged them and put them next to the Snickers and called them Mouseychews then I think you'd be setting unrealistic expectations.

See, that's how I feel every day when I'm in a store and see something like "Good n' Plenty" on the shelf. I want to shake somebody by the shoulders and say "They're selling mouse droppings as candy!" See, the marketers of licorice are brazen. They could try to call it health food or new age food if they wanted - that stuff is expected to suck. But they call it candy. Candy!

Maybe that label dates back to the age when there just wasn't a lot of candy. Was there candy in pilgrim era America? What did they have? Taffy? Sugar cubes? I'm guessing it was back in the colonial era, or the frontier era, or the robber baron era (I don’t know, I get my eras confused) when someone took a long swig of licorice-flavored, hallucinogenic absinthe and said: “You know, maybe it’s just the wormwood talking – but I think this would make a great candy!” And then he fell over and died. And so licorice was born.

Well, okay, that’s not true. I just looked up the history of licorice and it comes from the boiled roots of the licorice plant. For hundreds of years many cultures have used it medicinally. Whoop-dee doo.

To those of you who have given licorice as a gift, or offer it to guests, or give it to children on Halloween: how dare you. What the hell is wrong with you. Even if you've somehow managed to acquire the taste for yourself, what possibly makes you think it's okay to offer it to others? Are you trying to ruin a child's Halloween? To see licorice in the candy aisle is insult enough. To actually expect someone to eat it on your whim is disgusting. You should be forced to drink glasses of Clamato until you swear to keep your licorice to yourself.

P.S. Not a big fan of the carob chocolate either.

And you know, since this isn't a long entry, let me throw in my two cents about those milk mustache ads. (now in what, their fifteenth year?) Do they realize that the mustaches in these ads are grotesque and obscene and bear no resemblence at all to a genuine milk mustache? Do they not know that milk mustaches are unflattering and borderline repulsive to have to look at, particularly when the ad makes it appear you've been drinking heavy cream out of a bucket? Would you make a Hersheys ad showing a smiling person with chocolate smeared around the sides of their mouth? No, that would be disgusting. So why does milk get a free pass?