Sepia

Misophonia

After all these years, I have an explanation for why I absolutely can’t stand listening to someone eat an apple.


It’s misophonia — and apparently the loathing of hearing someone eat an apple is one of the most common expressions of the syndrome.


Not all crunching sounds drive me up a wall. There’s just something about the crunch and rasp of an apple being eaten that that makes me want to run away, scream, etcetera. With every bite, I have a corresponding flinch and grimace. Or at least I used to — I’ve gotten much better about keeping the distress on the inside and not showing it.


In any event, apparently I’m one of the last people on the planet to have encountered this concept… There’re GAZILLIONS of articles on the Web on the subject.


For example: https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-46193709


Fortunately, I have it at a mild level. There are people who fly into a rage when they are forced to hear certain sounds. The pain is just that severe.


Apples are definitely my bête noire, but are by no means the only thing that gets on my nerves. I hate being stuck in a roomful of people eating too. Especially if it’s a confined conference room or other otherwise quiet space — there’s nothing to mask or drown out all the slurping and chomping and gulping and rustling of wrappers and everything else that goes along with it.


I just about always skip lunch when I’m working; I’m often onsite at a corporate office and I typically just keep on working during a lunch break during a day-long meeting. If the people I am meeting with go somewhere else to eat, I’m happy. If they bring the food back to the room I’m in, I am, um, on edge.


The sound of a bunch of people who went out and brought lunch back and are smacking and slurping and chewing through it drives me up a wall. I sit there with a blank half-smile on my face, evidently without a care in the world… but if I can find an excuse to go run an errand or go to another room and “check messages” or something, I do. I don’t mind eating in a restaurant where there’s enough background noise that I’m not forced to listen to every munch, crunch, slobber and slurp. It’s not bad when it’s just me and Carole either. What makes the Conference Room Lunch Break Torture so horrible is that there’s absolutely nothing to drown it out; conference rooms are quiet places and so for the half hour or so it takes to get people fed you basically hear nothing BUT


SLURRRRRRP

CHOMP CHOMP

CRUNNNNCH

SLURRRRRRRP

rustle rustle of sandwich wrapper

lather rinse repeat


Again… I can control my outward reaction. I don’t sit there shaking with rage or anything. But inside, behind the cool, relaxed exterior, there’s a Jay that’s going “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.” 🙂


 


Sepia

Changes in Latitude


I enjoy travel. I mean, I’d pretty much have to, or it wouldn’t make much sense for me to work as a trainer who travels all over the USA two thirds (if not more) of each year, right?


But even though I take pleasure in memories of places I’ve been, I spend as least as much time fantasizing about places I haven’t been, and feeling inferior because of the relatively pedestrian accomplishments I have on that front.


I’ve been just about everywhere in the USA. All fifty states. I can stand in front of a departures board at a major airport and count on one hand the domestic airports on the list that I haven’t been to.


But…


I’ve never been to the Southern Hemisphere — I know several people who’ve been to Australia and/or New Zealand.


I’ve never been to east or southeast Asia — I know people who go to Japan and Singapore and places like that for work all the time.


I haven’t been to Antarctica or to the Arctic. One friend of mine from work has done both — visiting Barrow, AK one year and Antarctica another year.


I’ve never been to Israel or anywhere else bordering the Mediterranean. Some friends have done the standard Holy Land tours and others have done the Barcelona-to-Rome Mediterranean cruise thing. My sister, who served in the US Army in Germany, got to do a bona-fide Aegean vacation at one point, even.


Certainly, I’ve gotten around more than some, but again, only to pretty easy-to-get-to places. Curacao, the Bahamas (for 8 hours), Jamaica (for 8 hours), and the Cayman Islands (ditto). England (London only), France (Paris and Normandy), Germany (Rostock to Berlin), and some other Baltic countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Russia, and Sweden). Maritime Canada. Southern Ontario and Quebec. Tijuana and Cozumel in Mexico. Nothing that required 12 hours on a plane. Nothing that required packing winter clothing for a July vacation.


So… this coming year, unless something happens to change our plans dramatically, we’re going to, um, Wyoming and South Dakota.


We thought about doing Ireland/Scotland or Switzerland/southern Germany/etcetera, but when the smoke had cleared, I had reservations in hand for June flights to and from Rapid City, so I guess it’s pretty much decided. My family did a big driving vacation around the Black Hills and Yellowstone when I was in high school, but Carole’s never seen that area, and for some reason, the thought of renting an RV and driving around appealed to us enough to go ahead and confirm the trip.


This whole thing came up, for me, this morning in the shower when I absent-mindedly found myself wondering which was further north, Porvoo, Finland or Juneau, Alaska — and which, therefore, would represent my northernmost point. (I remembered later that I actually made it to Fraser, BC and Skagway, AK on that Alaska trip, both of which are further north than Juneau.) The answer turned out to be Porvoo.


Furthest north: Porvoo, Finland (60.3932° N, 25.6653° E)


Furthest south: Jan Thiel Beach, Curacao (12.0802° N, 68.8780° W)


Furthest east: St Petersburg, Russia (59.9343° N, 30.3351° E)


Furthest west: Koloa, Hawaii (21.9067° N, 159.4692° W)


I take casual note of the fact that Koloa and St Petersburg are more than 180 degrees of longitude apart going west from St Petersburg, so I’ve spanned a bit over half the Earth’s circumference.


Sigh. So many places to go, so little time. And money. And sanity. Maybe one year I’ll make it to Switzerland and Scotland and Australia and New Zealand and Ouagadougou.


 

Sepia

Sadfishing


I learned a new term today: “sadfishing“. To quote Urban Dictionary, sadfishing is “The practice of writing about one’s unhappiness or emotional problems on social media, especially in a vague way, in order to attract attention and sympathetic response.”


In other words, posting a lot of moody, sad pictures, woe-is-me out of context messages, and so forth, but never actually coming right out and saying “PAY ATTENTION TO ME”.


Sadfishing is hitting the news all over the place lately, and a lot of the media coverage is focusing on the “when you sadfish, you’re giving bullies ammunition, so don’t” aspect. When celebrities are seen “sadfishing”, they’re trying to get attention and impressions; when a kid in the ninth grade does it, it’s probably more of a genuine cry for help from someone in emotional turmoil, but that doesn’t mean that the class asshole is going to be Mister Sensitive and treat it that way.


As an admitted attention-seeker, I can certainly understand where the urge to sadfish might come from. You want the attention, but you don’t want to be seen wanting attention. And I’ll grant that if social media had been a thing when I was in high school and college, I’d probably have sadfished with the best of them. Was I depressed all the time? Yes. Did I want sympathy and attention? You bet.


But I’m not a teenager now (I’m 52) and I’d really rather not be seen as acting like one. And that’s why I’ve tried to avoid posting much of anything on Facebook and Twitter for some time now; I know how mawkish and pathetic I tend to get and it’s better not to post anything at all given how messed up my brain typically is.


However, as some of you have noticed, from time to time I post woe-is-me blog entries where I apologize for everything under the sun and all but do a “GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD I WON’T BE POSTING ANY MORE” thing. If that comes across as excessively over-the-top attention-seeking behavior, I’m sorry. It probably is. I kind of wish I could take back those blog entries and just disappear.


Is it sadfishing when you explicitly say “Boy, I’m depressed and I’m sorry for how badly I’ve behaved over the years?” I’d argue that it’s not — you have to be trying to be subtle and acting like you’re not trying to be noticed.


Is it, on the other hand, pathetic to moan and groan overtly about how awful you are in blog entry after blog entry?


Well, yeah.


Newsflash: I’m pathetic.

Sepia

How You Know You've Spent Way Too Many Nights In Hotels

I’ve been in this job since May of 1998. A job that requires a lot of travel — usually a couple of flights to get to some distant city in the USA on Sunday or Monday and a couple of flights to get back home that Friday or Saturday. And in between — a lot of hotel stays. My employer has, for a long time, had a ‘preferred’ relationship with the extended Hilton chain of hotels — Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and so on — which means we get a better rate if we stay there, which of course keeps my employer happy.


You stay in Hilton properties sixty nights in a year, they give you “Diamond” status and you get the occasional upgrade and so on … but you also get increased points for your stays, and points translate into free rooms at a later date, which get to use, which makes me happy and makes Carole even happier. We once stayed in a Hilton a couple of blocks from the Arc de Triomphe in downtown Paris — six nights — for free. It would have been something like $800 a night had we been paying.


But today I found out what happens if you stay in Hilton properties 1,000 nights (and you manage to earn Diamond level status for ten or more years) …






I got a nice little welcome kit in the mail today, certifying me as Lifetime Diamond, meaning that I’ll always have Diamond status even if I don’t actually stay enough nights in a given year to earn that status. The kit included a luggage tag, of which one can never have too many; a metal membership card instead of a cheap plastic one; a little note telling me how awesome I am; and a pair of free Bose Soundsport earbuds. I’ll probably wind up just giving those to Carole because if I take them along with me on trips I’ll just wind up losing them.


Still, even though I guess it’s kind of nice to be all Mr. Lifetime Diamond and that, it’s also a little sobering to realize just how many nights away from home I’ve had over the years. A thousand nights over 22 years (and occasionally nights in other chains as well, which obviously don’t count toward my Hilton total) is really a hell of a lot.


So hey. I’m Mr. Lifetime Diamond.


Woo!


(Parenthetically, this kit — and the status it bestowed — arrived three days before I’m coincidentally scheduled to roll over the odometer and become a million mile flier on United. That’s nothing compared to the poor bastards who fly every day or who fly to Japan or Europe each week, but it’s a lot for people who do what I do.)

Sepia

Pumpkin Spice Spam


Pumpkin Spice Spam was a thing — for about four hours on September 23, 2019.


Then it was sold out, gone, possibly never to reappear on the national scene.


Hormel made Pumpkin Spice Spam available in two-packs from their own website — with a limit on one two-pack per customer — but also sold it through the Walmart.com website, with no limit on how much you could buy. Until, of course, it sold out. If I understand correctly, Hormel’s own site sold out within four hours or so of the 8 am EDT launch time, and Walmart made it a few hours longer before they, too, had none left to sell.


Because I’m a complete idiot, I of course had the launch hour and date programmed into my calendar; I’d even set up a Facebook event so others could ‘attend’ and get a reminder when the stuff went on sale.


I sitting on a plane waiting to take off (heading through Chicago to Nebraska) when the launch time came but was able to get my official sold-by-Hormel two-pack purchased before we left the runway. It wasn’t easy to get my order in; when eight a.m. came and I launched the site from my smartphone, the site crashed, and crashed, and crashed, and crashed some more. I knew this meant that demand for the stuff was going absolutely through the roof. But it finally came up and let me get my credit card information entered just seconds before we took off. Yay!


I hit the Walmart site once I got to Chicago and was in cell reception again … and was super-excited to find that they hadn’t put any kind of limit at all on how many packs you could buy.


As Carole has often quoted me as saying, “if a thing’s worth doing it’s worth overdoing.”


So I purchased five more two-can packs, for a total of six packs and twelve cans, figuring that would last me long enough for me to get sick of it.


I know you’re asking, “Jay, why the hell did you want some in the first place?”


The answer is simple: “just for the sheer gormless pointlessness of the whole thing. And also because I kind of like grilled Spam. But mostly just to be stupid.”


Fact is, I’d read reviews prior to launch from various foodie website saying that Pumpkin Spice Spam didn’t actually suck and would probably go well with breakfast. And that it wasn’t actually pumpkin-y at all, instead having a mild nutmeg-and-cinnamon taste. So why not try some while I could?


The stuff came while I was in Nebraska and Carole Ieft it all waiting for me on the entryway table. Upon arriving home I greeted the Spam with glad cries and entertained myself by making a little tower of the two-packs (and taking a photo) before squirreling them safely away.


We waited until Saturday to try the stuff. I opened a can, sliced it neatly into six equal slices, and cooked it in a grill pan with a little canola oil.



Carole, bless her heart, didn’t refuse outright to try some. And she didn’t think it was awful or anything. But, let’s let these photos tell the tale:






Despite her dour look, she said she didn’t actually dislike it, but it wasn’t anything she saw a reason to camp out for. So to speak.


Me? I pretty much liked it. I think it might even have been better if the nutmeg-and-cinnamon flavor had been a little stronger. It certainly wasn’t overwhelmingly spiced or cloyingly flavored.






Long story short — it wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it would be, but was much less awful than I feared it could be. Hormel clearly tried to do a good job here and wasn’t just mailing it in or going for humor value alone. If it was available annually I’m sure I’d keep buying it. As it is, I have no doubt that I’ll make my way through the remaining eleven cans in due course.

Sepia

My Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

I apologize to the world.


Yes, I know that statement sounds really stupid. But hear me out.


I know that I often rub people the wrong way. I can be thick as a brick and not realize when others find my presence or my behavior grating. I have often been so needy and so focused on attention-seeking behavior that I’ve taken situations that should have been about others and tried to make them all about me, me, me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve interacted in a social setting or work setting with others only to come home and realize what a total jackass I had been.


For most of my life, I’ve been the guy you don’t invite to the party. The guy who causes you to abruptly change the subject of conversation when he walks into the room.


I get it: I’m annoying.


I wish I’d had this epiphany sooner. But it wasn’t until I spent quite a few sessions with a therapist back in 2012-2013 that I realized how in need of getting myself under control I really was. I’ve worked very hard on anger management and self-awareness and focusing more on the needs of others.


I don’t think I do a very good job in this regard, but at least I’m trying.


I’m not an alcoholic; I hardly ever drink these days. I’ve never done illegal drugs. I don’t have a gambling problem — in fact, I don’t even buy scratch-off tickets, let alone taking trips to Vegas. From time to time I overeat, but never gotten to the point of having stacks of empty donut boxes next to my bed, and in any event, I’ve lost 50 pounds this year (yay). I sometime spend money on stupid things I don’t need in the vain hope that they’ll cheer me up, but I don’t compulsively buy things with no rhyme or reason. And so on.


So when I say I’ve spent plenty of time reading materials from twelve-step programs, you might go “why?”


I grew up in a family where my father basically treated his kids like resented houseguests who’d overstayed their welcome. He literally never had a kind word for any of us. It’s pretty obvious to me now that my father should never have had kids, but like a lot of people, he didn’t figure that out until it was too late.


Dad had some very strange ideas about proper child-raising; he constantly reminded me not to take pride in things like having above-average intelligence, because I’d done nothing to achieve it — it was something I’d been born with and hence I had no right to feel special about it. He went to great pains NOT to compliment me or praise me for scoring highly on gifted-and-talented tests and assessments because he didn’t want me going around bragging.


I wound up pathetically desperate for attention. I’d act out in hyperactive ways in elementary school and, surprise surprise, had absolutely zero friends. Never did homework, either, all the way through high school. There was no incentive to do well in school; Dad wouldn’t have treated me any better if I had. I ate lunch at a table by myself all through middle school and most of high school, absurdly lonely but having no idea how to make friends or get positive attention.


I wised up a little bit, socially, by the time I finished high school and managed to become a class clown of sorts. But that didn’t translate into anything worthwhile; I never had a girlfriend, never went on a date. (It’s not like Dad would have let me have the car to take a girl out on a date, anyway.)


I somehow got into college and kept right on being an infuriating ass. I was the poster guy for “does not, can not, LEARN”.


And so it goes. I wound up in a career where “being paid attention to” is at the center of everything: I’m a corporate trainer, and from what I understand, apparently a reasonably competent one, in that I’ve managed to keep my current job for 21 years and counting. I get to run my mouth and be the focus of attention ALL DAY LONG.


<sarcasm>Woo-hoo! Score!</sarcasm>


(How did I ever get married? I was desperate and the woman who became my wife was equally desperate. We were both people who left a trail of pissed-off acquaintances wherever we went. We were perfect for each other. How we’ve lasted 22 years is anyone’s guess.)


I’m addicted to attention.


Yes, I know how sad it is that I work out my daddy issues by trying to get people to look at me, listen to me, notice me.


I know it’s not going to change anything in any substantial way; no matter how much me-me-me I do, it’s not going to bring my father back from the grave and get him to say “I respect you, son” or “Good job, son.”


I don’t think there’s a 12-step group out there for “attention whores” (pardon the expression). But if there was, I imagine I’d be there week after week going “Hi, my name’s Jay, and I’m an attention whore.”


As you probably know, one of the core concepts of a twelve-step program is taking an inventory of oneself and one’s flaws and then working to overcome them. Another core concept is making amends. I’ve been working pretty hard for the past seven years on the first part there — to the point that I think I’ve come to annoy those people who can’t entirely avoid interacting with me with endless talk of exactly how awful I am, and in what specific ways my awfulness expresses itself.


It’s the second part that’s so hard to do: the amends.


When you’ve driven people crazy your whole life through aggravating, maddening “acting out”, it’s not exactly easy to contact someone and go “hey, I’m really, really sorry for being such an asshole that time”.


Especially when the act of reaching out is itself an attempt to get attention.



The best, most effective “amends” I can think to make is to basically just disappear, as much as I can, as much as my still-needy ego will let me.


I used to do a lot of social media — now my Facebook account is completely devoid of content, to the extent that I don’t even have a profile photo. I still tweet a little bit now and then, but usually think better of it a day or two later and scurry around deleting everything.



Most of the time these days I just want to be invisible, to go unnoticed, to just completely drop off the radar. If I didn’t want to follow a few organizations and pages on Twitter and Facebook, I’d delete the accounts for good and save you all my presence. That said, from time to time I deactivate both accounts for a few weeks or months; no one ever notices me gone. I only maintain the furrs.org blog itself because once in a while it’s vaguely enjoyable to do a bit of writing; I’m well aware that you can count the number of people who read this crap on the fingers of one hand (but I thank those of you who do).


And at the end of the day, I’m well aware that the act of writing and posting this long-winded garbage is itself a cry for attention. But I’m only really writing it so I can pin it to my Twitter and Facebook profiles in case someone does wonder where I’ve gone. I doubt anyone will come looking for me, and as a result read this, but if they do, well… I apologize to them too.

Sepia

Wafflemania




I don’t do Facebook much — that’s why I tend to be ignorant of news like “oh, alligators ate my left leg a month ago” until everyone else on the planet, up to and including the pool guys in cities a thousand miles north of the alligator line, knows the story.


But I do find a few things about Facebook’s content amusing. One is the Employees-of-Waffle-House closed group I somehow got added to. Every day is a soap opera like you would not believe.


People get into actual flamewars over whose manager is right about the order in which waffles and biscuits are supposed to be called to the cooks. And whether it’s even acceptable to make pancakes using waffle batter:


“OUR NAME IS NOT ‘PANCAKE HOUSE’. WE DO NOT MAKE PANCAKES!!!”


vs


“Hell, if it keeps the three year old who wants a pancake happy, we’ll cook him a damn pancake.”


Cue 900 follow-up messages taking every conceivable side of the issue. Including whether the aliens at Area 51 are somehow manipulating American waffle production for their own purposes.


It kind of makes you wonder what other closed employee-only groups there are out there — is there a group for American park rangers to bitch about things like the bear in the hat and necktie who keeps stealing picnic baskets? Or a group for Starbucks employees to bitch about the customers who complain because their latte is precisely two degrees too hot, with graphic descriptions of the tortures the baristas would like to subject said customers to? Or a group for pool guys to vent about all the alligators they’re finding in pools lately and how it’s not due to global warming, but rather, due to changes in pool chemical formulation?


Alligators, man. What are you going to do?

Sepia

September 13, 1997


Carole and I tied the knot on a sultry North Carolina afternoon just shy of 22 years ago — September 13, 1997.


That date was picked because:



  • it was the night of a full moon and we thought that was romantic in some strange way

  • it was a week before my 30th birthday and I was semi-determined to be married before the odometer turned over


One could make a case that having an outdoor wedding at 5:30 pm on a Saturday in September was asking for trouble — if I recall correctly, the temperature was in the high 80s and in any event, the moon wasn’t even visible from the patio next to the carp pond at the Sarah P Duke Gardens. By the time we were all legal and everything, all our guests were pretty hot and uncomfortable from standing around, and perhaps as a result, we wound up with a lot of uneaten food at the reception; no one seemed to have much appetite.


On a positive note, though, Carole’s grandfather did not fall into the carp pond in mid-ceremony, though there were certainly enough people in the audience who fully expected him to do so. He’d crept around to the back side of the carp pond, slippery rocks and all, with his camera, intent on getting some shots from that side — only to wind up windmilling his arms trying to maintain his balance. Carole and I could have stripped naked mid-ceremony and danced the lambada and I don’t think anyone would have noticed; Grandfather Odum had upstaged us.


In any event, I suspect that if people had been in a betting mood, there would have been some money put down on “it’ll last a year. Maybe.” You’ve probably all been to weddings where you just had the sense that the marriage was doomed before it started, that both the bride and the groom would, in short order, be spending their evenings at various dive bars irritably tossing back shots and griping about what a jackass their ex was.


Somehow we’ve made it through. I have no idea how. I’m a jackass. Carole’s a jackass. We’re both jackasses. I guess we deserve each other.


We never had kids — this is kind of a sore subject with Carole, who hates hearing me moon on about how I wish we could’ve. But anyone who knows us knows what terrible parents we would have been. We’re just one eyestalk each shy of basically being mutants, and no kid needs to grow up with that much crazy in their life.


Things have, somehow, worked out.

Sepia

The onset of darkness


The morning after the New England 3-Day, I find myself feeling tired, depressed, and kind of pathetic. I worked my tuchus off all weekend and now it’s over and I have nothing to look forward to for a very long time.


This year has been kind of about


work

work

work

Trip to NC over Memorial Day Weekend

work

work

work

Trip to NYC to see “Hamilton” and “Wicked”

work

work

work

Walk Twin Cities 3-Day

work

work

work

Crew New England 3-Day


but now the foreseeable future for a long way out is:


work

work

work

work

work

work

work


No vacations planned, no special events to look forward to, just a long Vermont winter and the onset of my usual I’m-so-pathetic-and-everyone-hates-me blues.


Major depression is a real illness and mine happens to be drug-resistant and very hard to treat.


Past experience has shown me that the smartest thing to do, when my depression starts to get bad, is to simply delete/deactivate my social media accounts. No one ever notices my absence, no one ever reaches out to say “hey, you’ve disappeared, how are you??” And that’s perfectly understandable. People are busy and have their own lives, and no one would put me on their list of top ten (or twenty, or fifty) friends.


And pulling a vanishing act has one major thing to recommend it — if I don’t even have a social media presence, I can’t use it to do pathetic, lonely things on those days when my depression is really out of control. And that means “fewer things to regret doing later.”


So if I do kinda drop off the surface of the Earth here in a few days or weeks, it won’t be because I’ve cried “goodbye cruel world” and jumped into a pond.


It’ll be because it’s the easiest way to avoid embarrassing myself worse.