The Interview: Sony needs to thank North Korea

o-THE-INTERVIEW-TRAILER-facebookFirst, let it be said, I can certainly see why the North Korean regime would be upset by the movie “The Interview.”

To be at the centerpiece of a movie that proved to be so profoundly disappointing would upset me, too.

In fact, I’d dare say, the movie was so bad and so stupid on its surface that had the North Koreans kept their mouth shut about it, it would have died a slow and painful death at the box office — the kind of death North Korea’s Supreme Leader likely would have likely enjoyed.

Instead, by pulling off their idiotic hacker pranks and threatening us and our beings as Americans, North Korea put the movie at the center of attention for the past week. In doing so, it brought the movie enough attention that people, no doubt, felt like they HAD to see it, just to prove they were proud American citizens who will not allow censorship to dictate what they can or can’t see.

While I, too, am a proud American citizen, I am also a fan of both Seth Rogen and James Franco and that’s why, having just shelled out $5.99 to watch the movie online — Merry Christmas to me! — I came away so disappointed.

Let’s put it this way. I’m glad I spent the six bucks to watch online because had I shelled out the $20-plus I would have spent at a theater (I’d have popcorn, too, mind you) I’d have walked away feeling as though I just wasted my money.

The movie had a few chuckles and just one or two literal laugh-out-loud moments. In Rogen-Franco terms, that’s not good.

The Eminem scene, in fact, was the highlight of the film and that happened less than 15 minutes into the movie and had little or nothing to do with the overall plot of the film.

Everything after that was just a few light chuckles sprinkled amongst the mass disappointment.

I’ll give you this. Rogen and Franco had good chemistry. They always do. And Randall Park, the actor who portrays North Korea’s Supreme Leader, was good as he went from effervescent and outgoing to down-right bat-shit insane.

But it’s the story line that drives a movie and such chemistry only would make it that much better.

When the writing doesn’t work, the chemistry doesn’t matter.

Let’s put it this way, if you get an F in English class and an A in science, it’s still only a 2.0 grade point average, and that’s what “The Interview” proved to be.

Just average.

Only North Korea decided to make it a spectacle.

Sony should send the real Kim Jung-un a thank you letter for giving such a mundane film so much publicity.

And, maybe, a puppy.

 

 

My happiest Hanukkah (As told by the guy who had to look up the spelling of the word Hanukkah)

The family that gave me my happiest Hanukkah. (Photo blatantly stolen from their mother's Facebook page).

The family that gave me my happiest Hanukkah. (Photo blatantly stolen from their mother’s Facebook page).

For the better part of 30 years, I’ve shut down my emotions from Thanksgiving through New Years Day. The holidays are just not for me, so I prefer to put my nose to the grindstone and work my tail off, waking up and looking up only after I’ve finally signed a check with the previous year’s date attached.

Sometimes snow has fallen. Other times the ground is as bare and barren as the inside of my heart this time of year. Still, I am at ease, knowing it’s all over and life, as it was meant to be in the pathetic little world I know reside, can get back to normal.

There were a few years where the spirit was allowed to sneak in and take hold off my heart. Baby’s first Christmas, baby’s second Christmas, baby’s third Christmas. After the divorce, though, suddenly Christmas didn’t really mean anything to me anymore. Nor did a lot of things, if I can be frank.

Yes, there was the random present from this person and that special gift from that person that was so thought-out that it touched me, but I became very good at pushing such emotions aside. The holiday period as a whole was just too overwhelming for me. I wanted nothing to do with it.

As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t a spirit of giving from where I sat, but a view of everything that had been taken away from me over the decades of my life.

Some people dream of a White Christmas. I dream of making it through another Black Christmas, and it’s become something I’m very good at.

Hanukkah?

Now, that’s another story, and since the annual eight-day Festival of Lights is upon us, I felt the need to sit down and write my favorite Hanukkah memory.

Now I’m not Jewish by any means. I might be able to point out a Dreidel, but couldn’t give you the first rule on how to play it.

And, I always giggle at the fact that The Druidian King’s daughter is a “Druish princess” but that just shows my affection for Mel Brooks and his movie “Space Balls” and has nothing to do with any type of religious up-bringing.

But I do know Sandy Koufax is Jewish, thus I should get bonus points for that, at least.

As the 20th century came to a close, though, I had the fortunate circumstance to become close to a family that was half Jewish and celebrated both sides of the late-December holidays.

The mom was a mean scrabble player with an affection for Guinness, Irish Music, romances novels and dreams of exploring far-away places that had castles and fjords and lochs and the like. There was a time when perhaps she envisioned me as the knight that might take her there, but alas I hate horses and the spark was never fully ignited.

Her friendship, however, was of a blessed sacrament to me and when I truly needed someone to help me escape the recurring battle with some of the inner demons that were taking over my life again, she stepped up and pulled me away from that ledge.

But that was years after this particular Hanukkah, though both stories go a long way as to why I grew so fond of this particular family, yet remained so dumbfounded as to whatever it was they saw in me.

She had three children, two daughters and a son, all vastly different pieces of a unique puzzle that made such a special and loving family I had to admire and respect and grew to love with a true heart.

The laid-back, free-spirited nature of the offspring was like a breath of fresh air, every time I visited. The laughter and the inside jokes and the pun-telling stories would grow into the lore of my visits.

And, the middle child, it must be said is solely responsible for my mass-consumption of string cheese in the last 14 years since I walked into their lives and they welcomed me with open arms.

But, again, I digress. String cheese plays very little role in the Hanukkah feast and has nothing to do with this story.

As everybody knows — even the jealous types who are not Jewish — Hanukkah last for eight days and nights thus eight presents, one per night, are presented over the course of the holiday.

One of my best friends at the time, Cameron, and I were planning on attending a concert in Boston as soon as all the holiday foolishness was in the rear view mirror. That would be Jan. 1, 2001, for you calendar aficionados,  and somewhere it was mentioned by one of the kids how jealous they were that I got to go and they did not.

After talking it over with their mother, the two daughters were allowed to attend the concert with Cameron and I, but first they would have to earn it.

We mixed up the letters of the band on index cards and gave them to the girls as one of their presents. We might have even given them a time limit to complete the task of figuring out what the letters stood for. The memory is fuzzy, but the recollection of their excitement in figuring out the mystery was not.

R-A-K-D-S-L-E-I-N-A-E-D-A-E-B.

As their mom and I sat side-by-side watching the two girls work feverishly together to come up with a solution, I realized this was one of those special moments that families have together, that grab on to tightly to a spot in your heart and never let go.

They they were, kneeling on the floor, moving letters around, begging for hints and clues, desperately trying to figure it out until — EUREKA — the puzzle was solved and the jubilant celebration was on.

Thus, on New Year’s Day, 2001, Cameron, myself, and the girls traveled to Boston to watch see the Barenaked Ladies perform at was then the Fleet Center.

That was the 13th concert I ever attended and was actually the second time I had seen the Ladies perform their musical magic. Our seats weren’t the best, but none of our noses bled, either.

Since that night, I’ve been to 45 more concerts and seen a lot of great shows.

All these years later, though, that is one that stands out to me and means a lot to me not because of the quality of the performance — which by BNL standards was quite strong — but because of what it meant to the two young ladies who accompanied us that night, and what it meant to them.

For as long as I live, I know I’ll have one Hanukkah memory I’ll always cherish. That family is the reason why.

Even from afar, it’s been such a pleasure to watch them all grow up into such remarkable people, still finding their way into adulthood in their own free-spirited ways that makes each of them so unique and so special.

Their family has grown over the last 10 years, and I’m on the outskirts with just occasional forays of contact. This, perhaps, is one of them.

I hope their holidays are filled with joy and love and the laughter they deserve for each and from each other.

And I hope they hang on to the memory of that day as I do.

Two years later, our tears still have not been heard

The Angels of Newtown

The Angels of Newtown

“When there is no place safe and no safe place to put my head, When you can feel the world shake from the words that are said, And I’m, calling all Angels”

— Train

• • •

It was two years ago our world was changed forever.

That was the day a madman who had slipped through society’s collective crack walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and took away from us 26 lives in a display of violence so swift and so stunning that many of us were initially left speechless.

Those of us who wanted to speak, or found the strength to try, wouldn’t have been heard over the wails of mothers and fathers who had lost their children; 20 in all, a number that staggers me as much today as it did 24 months ago.

It was that day, two years ago to this very day,  our tears should have been all that were needed to stop the madness. Sadly, we have failed in this regard. Nothing has changed and, if it has, it is for the worse.

Look at the photo to the right. Look into the eyes of those angels amongst us … How can we live with ourselves, knowing we’ve let them down the way we have?

Gun sales skyrocketed after the Newtown tragedy, which means at the very top some very rich people got even richer because right-wing extremists exploited the aftermath by stirring up scare tactics and preaching about how the rights of gun-owners were about to be taken away and the constitution was going to be re-written.

That’s just one of the more disgusting things that have happened in the two years since gunshots exploded in the safe haven of a school house in a place that could literally be Your Town, America, insert your zip code here.

Sadly, the world has changed in two years and I fear it’s not for the better.

The divide in our country is the worst it has ever been in my lifetime and instead of trying to find answers, we scoff at each other with both disdain and disrespect.

From the aisles of our alleged leaders in Washington, D.C., to a once-burning town called Ferguson, Missouri, story after story cement our current discourse in a country on the verge of losing its collective mind.

Remember after 9/11 when, for a brief period time, we were all one? Remember when “Boston Strong” was a rally cry that rose up from one city and enveloped a country?

Today, our rally cries are “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breath” — and it has given the darker side of us the right to break into acts of lawlessness, further demonizing us as a culture and stealing away the true message that needs to be heard.

There are days when I feel like I can’t breath, too. I’m shocked at some of the things that happen in this world, yet I’m not shocked when the next school shooting happens.

In June, CNN did a story that reported there had been 74 school shootings Newtown. Can you imagine that? Seventy four times somebody carried a gun into a school and opened fire. Not even the memories of 20 dead 5 and 6 year old children could stop the monsters from coming forward.

Where is the collective out-rage? Where are the protests when our children are being killed in the places where they’re suppose to be safe?

Two years later, I still weep for Newtown, and those families whose lives were forever changed by a swift void that can never be refilled.

Their loss is something I can’t comprehend, not even if tried. It happened less than 20 miles from where I hang my hat, and I personally know people who had loved ones in the school that day. Thankfully, fate had different plans for their children and they were allowed to go come and be embraced by the loving arms of their families.

Twenty other children never had that chance. They bled out on a classroom floor as our world once again grew as dark as it had ever been, even though it was 9:30 in the morning.

I’ll never forget that day and how I felt as the tears streamed down my face as the story unfolded. It’s a feeling I still can’t let go of two years later and I think part of the reason why is because I know nothing has changed and our tears haven’t mattered.

Our losses and letdowns as a country is something I see and feel every day. I’ve lived it for the last 48 years and it’s now I see it spinning out of control and getting worse each time the sun sets and rises, showing the daily damage in a new light.

Where there was once love and innocence, there is now blood and betrayal.

Two years ago, we were given a chance to come together and be better as a collective mankind — and that chance alone cost us 20 children and six heroic adults, who were just trying to make the world a better place.

But we are not better.

We have failed.

And, for that, and the 26 angels we have let down, I still weep, brokenhearted and empty of all hope.

100 Broadway — The Building That Became A Part Of Me

4201005

John Bapst Memorial High School, 100 Broadway, Bangor, Maine. (Photo by Peter E. Zelz)

The image appeared before me on a computer, a Facebook post from a friend that simply said, “Bring back any memories?”

It was a photo of a stairwell, one that realistically could be in any building in America. Steps that lead up, steps that lead down. But if you had ever climbed those stairs on a daily basis, you knew better. If those stairs and that building was a part of your life, you know it was so much more. They weren’t just a set of stairs. They were a part of you.

The stairwell that brought back the latest flood of memories. (Photo courtesy of Dani O'Halloran's facebook page).

The stairwell that brought back the latest flood of memories. (Photo courtesy of Dani O’Halloran’s facebook page).

The stairs were located inside a place that embodied our coming off age. Some days, the climb to the top was effortless and exhilarating. Other days, the journey took forever, the dread of what was to come swallowing you whole with every step you took toward your destination.

We walked those stairs every day. We sprinted up and down those stairs for track and cross country practices until we literally puked.

We even held hands and fell in love while sitting on them, forcing foot traffic to the side of our own little world. And yet we also broke up, broke hearts and cried our eyes out sitting on those stairs, oblivious to the world around us as we just let the pain take hold of us as we sat there, certain for sure the sun would not rise the next day.

Like I said, they weren’t just stairs, not to us. There were our home, our friend, our safety zone, a place where we felt comfortable enough to sit, to laugh, to cry, to hold court and just be ourselves as day after day as we found out a little bit more about what was to come on this journey called life.

We grew up on those stairs and that’s why when Dani O’Halloran, my old friend who posted those photos, asked, “Bring back any memories?” they came in an unstoppable flood. In fact, it has taken me three days to process through those memories and finally find a prompt to sit down and write about them.

It was an image that made me smile and made me hurt, too. Pretty heavy stuff for a set of stairs.

The stairs in question physically reside at 100 Broadway in Bangor, Maine — better known as John Bapst Memorial High School, a private school of 450 students.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Bapst — as it is informally called — dates back to Sept. 10, 1928, when the local church Diocese opened a Catholic high school as a result of overcrowding at two of the other city’s schools. It was called John Bapst High School in those days and it stayed that way until the spring of 1980 when the church decided to cut ties with the school, leaving it for dead.

Fortunately for the many students who have traversed the school’s hallways since — and climbed those stairs day after day, month after month, year after year — a group of people who loved John Bapst stood up for what they believed in and kept the school alive.

That fall, without the church’s support or backing, John Bapst Memorial High School was born and 194 students walked into the building to keep the dream alive.

I am proud to say I was one of those students.

For a 14-year-old freshman, entering high school is daunting enough. To do it at John Bapst is a little more so for a couple of reasons. First, the school does not just draw from the city in which it sits, but also about six other local communities. Thus, when you went to high school, you were not doing so with all the students you had gone to middle school with and grown up alongside. To the contrary, there might be a handful of your friends there, but there were far more strangers walking the halls around you.

The great part about John Bapst — especially when it only had 194 students — was the school quickly became an extended family where you literally knew everybody by the time the school year was done.

But that first week, with all those strange faces, and all those new teachers, and all that homework, and the fact you were being force fed classes like “European History” — there was a pretty high scare factor for freshman.

And then there was the building and all those stairs.

The physical lay-out of John Bapst Memorial High School is immense. From a straight-on, front-side look at the building, which takes up almost a full city block just above downtown Bangor, it appears to be your basic four story building, with some sharp planning details that include three large arch-way doors center mass, and pillars high above the sidewalk that run the length of the facade.

Once inside, though, it’s an expansive bastion of hallways (and, of course, stairwells) that lead to so many unique nooks and crannies throughout the building. Just being able to explore that world was an education in itself.

But, yes, four floors is what the story that outside view would tell you.

What many people don’t realize, though, is if you walk through any of the middle doors, you are in the lobby to the John Bapst Auditorium — which takes up more than two stories in the heart of the building, and has a full balcony that runs from stage right, around to the front house, and all the way to stage left.

The John Bapst Auditorium. (Photo courtesy of Bangor Daily News)

The John Bapst Auditorium. (Photo courtesy of Bangor Daily News)

It was there, every morning, leading up to the 8 o’clock bell, that most of us would gather and wait for the start of another school day. We would plant ourselves at tables, or in chairs that lined the open floor, or even plop ourselves on the edge of the stage itself, waiting for that first bell.

Each wing of the school almost mirrored itself from classroom to classroom, from floor to floor, and the reason for this was because after the school opened as a co-ed facility, one half of the school was the boys’ side of the school while the other half was designated for the girls.

Never the two shall meet, right?

Well, legend has it, there were certainly ways for the two sides to meet up, including the auditorium and the library, which sat in the front of the building, on the second floor, tucked between classrooms as it wrapped itself behind the back wall of the balcony at the top of the auditorium.

As the school’s Wikipedia page explains, “The school operated for four decades as a gender-specific educational environment: the school was bifurcated by the auditorium, with the north wing for boys, the south wing for girls. Later, due to fire safety codes the rear parts of the auditorium were turned into the front hallways on the first and second stories which now connect the two wings of the original building.”

The third floor was all classrooms and, of course, it was those stairwells that took us up there.

In the middle of the building, though, was another unique marvel that few outside the Bapst family would know about. In the middle of the third floor were a set of three stairs that rose above the hall way and following a sharp 90-degree turn toward a perpendicular hallway led to three more stairs which led up to — if you will — a pair of “fourth-floor” science labs and a lecture room complete with risers that students would sit in to listen to that day’s lessons.

Have your flat floor classrooms with five rows of eight desks, public schools. This was John Bapst’s most-likely premiere classroom and I had the pleasure of taking both Earth Science and Chemistry in that room.

During my freshman and sophomore years at John Bapst, the northern side of the third floor was boarded off because the enrollment wasn’t enough to call for using the classrooms beyond that point, and it was deemed as a way to save heat.

In all of my years being associated with the school, though, those boards were the only blight I ever remember; though there was a crotchety old librarian who worked there for a few years, too.

But the fact that John Bapst rose above Broadway was just half the story. Yes, stairs can lead upwards, but they can also lead downward, too, and from the school’s main entrance one could traverse down one flight of stairs and be underground in an instance. It was there where the band room and art rooms were located, as well as other rooms that, for a time, included the school’s weight room and plenty of storage rooms.

Two floors below that — which is three stories below street level, mind you — was the gymnasium; a tiny band-box of a facility with padded pillars standing courtside like guards watching over the team’s athletic warriors.

This is where the Crusaders’ athletic teams are first formed.

The school never had its own home fields or facilities. They would use Garland Street Field, home of the Bangor High School Rams, to play football on Saturdays. They used various baseball fields and other facilities around the city for soccer and field hockey. And it’s basketball home was split between the 6,000-seat Bangor Auditorium, or the gymnasium at the Eastern Maine Community College, which became Eastern Maine Technical College, which became who knows what these days.

But that gym was as special to any Bapst athlete who wore the purple and white jersey because out of that tiny little cave rose the dreams of championships that were just as true and just as pure as any school that had everything it needed out in the back yard’s of their own campuses.

For me, it was while waiting for practices for those athletic events to begin that allowed me the time to explore the building at 100 Broadway, and I mean every single inch of it.

If I had married a super model, I wouldn’t have known her body as well as I did the physical exterior and interior of 100 Broadway.

From the boiler room — which we sought out once for proof that there was once a pool underneath the basketball court (there wasn’t) — to the upper expanses of every bathroom and classroom and teacher’s offices that filled the interior of the building, it was discovered.

We climbed up the rickety old ladders that led to the catwalk high above the stage, only to find countless names of others who had also made the journey before us. And just like them, we proudly signed our names and/or initials as those who previously discovered such a nook of unique paradise so few students and city residents ever knew would exist.

The entry way to the John Bapst Auditorium, where food was once stored because of the building's role as a Cold War fallout shelter.

The entry way to the John Bapst Auditorium, where food was once stored because of the building’s role as a Cold War fallout shelter. (Photo courtesy of Dani O’Halloran’s facebook page)

Perhaps my most famous adventure inside of John Bapst Memorial High School came during my sophomore year while waiting around for a basketball practice.

For whatever reason, we were in the main lobby area  that provided the entrance to the auditorium on show nights and during band concerts. It was a room that was certainly out of time, a beautiful entryway with cathedral-like ceilings and light fixtures that belonged in the 1940s more than the 1980s.

But tucked away inside the stairwells that led to the balcony seating area were two small doors, and on this day we were just curious enough to find out what was behind them.

There were three of us there and I don’t remember who it was that picked that locked and got the door open, but we got the job done. This was not a full-sized door mind you, but more like a small quarter door that led into a crawl space that you had to step down into. And, once inside, standing wasn’t allowed. There simply wasn’t enough room.

We unabashedly crawled into the darkness, having no clue as to what we might find. I don’t even remember how we lit the room, if there was a light we turned on, or if we went off to find a flash light before the journey, or if somebody had a lighter in their pocket.

But once we were able to see our surroundings, we found boxes upon boxes of crackers and canned food stacked neatly against the walls.

John Bapst didn’t have a kitchen to feed its students. We all brought our lunches from home every day, waiting for our 11 a.m. homeroom period so we could eat.

This was something else.

Suddenly history hit us like a right hook.

Throughout the building, signs listed John Bapst Memorial High School as a “Fallout Shelter” and they had been hanging on the walls for years. If Bangor, Maine, was going to be bombed, this is what the survivors who rushed to the building would live on, we realized.

The Cold War wasn’t officially over yet, so it gave us pause to realize the importance this building. Our school could literally play an important role in a day and age where we never truly knew if something could fall from the sky and change everything we know.

Little did we know come 2001, we would find out it could.

Before we left this little cubby hole, though, we discovered one more door and, of course, we had to know what was on the other side. Much to our surprise, once we opened the door, we were given an aerial view of the gymnasium where our practice would soon be starting.

The quizzical faces that looked up at us is an image I’ll never forget.

We scrambled out of the crawl space and quickly raced up the stairs and back into the auditorium, hearts beating faster and still surprised by our discovery. Who knew that little cubby hold existed and could be so important.

I have so many of those kinds of stories from the three years I spent in that building, from climbing those stairs, from exploring all ends of it; from learning the lessons in many of its classrooms and forgetting just as much after walking out of the doors.

The teachers there, especially the ones I had and especially enjoyed, are embedded into my head to this very day, and there are times I can still hear their advice rise up from somewhere within me, a reminder of where I came from and what I was taught.

But the stairwell in the picture brought forth more than just memories of the building.

A building is just a building. Mortar and bricks and drywall and wood, holding together a structure.

It’s the people who made John Bapst Memorial High School the special place it has always been, just as it had made John Bapst High before.

The friends I made there and the memories we procured in that building, where the stairwells led us to each and every moment, will never be forgotten; at least not by me.

I had the fortunate instance to spend an extra two years inside 100 Broadway, working as a coach and substitute teacher, getting to see how special a place it remained through a growing, older set of eyes, and from the students who also got to call that incredible building their home away from home.

I hope today’s students feel it is still as special a place as it was 30 years ago.

Friends who I have grown to love deeper over the decades to enemies who have I learned to forgive over the years, they are all a part of the flood of memories that came back when that image popped up in front of me on my computer screen.

Their smiles, their laughter, their tears, their fears. On those stairwells, inside that building, we were all in it together, and I like to think our time there has left us as a special distantly-related family who share the same feelings and emotions.

That building and those stairwells at 100 Broadway are a part of all of us.

That’s why one image of a stairwell can mean so much.

 

Thank you very much, I’ve figured out where we all went wrong

Earth-on-FireThe world is on fire. Don’t believe me? Look around you. Or just turn on the television.

Buildings burn and livelihoods are lost in Ferguson, Missouri, over an incident most of us couldn’t begin to understand unless we were one of two people who lived out that fateful moment.

Last night, in New York City, protestors were allowed to stop traffic at will on the West Side Highway, or shut down the Lincoln Tunnel, because a jury of their peers came up with a decision they didn’t like.

We still have terrorists planning to kill us, let’s not forget that. They just need to figure out a way to do it before Global Warming takes us all out in 2020. Or is it 2025? I’ve lost count because I’ve lost interest.

There’s no way out of this quandary either because our leaders have no interest in leading. Those down in Washington, D.C., those put there by us because we’re willing to accept their nonsense and do nothing, are as bad as the Crips and the Bloods. They stand on opposite sides of a line, hating each other simply because of what they’re supposed to believe.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s not forget we live in a world where a man with serious mental health issues is allowed to walk into an elementary school less than 20 miles from where I live and kill 26 innocent angels … and we as a country — No, we as a world, stand by and say, “We should do something.”

Only we do nothing.

Why should we? The latest episode of “Scandal” is on at 9 p.m.

I bitch and I moan this morning because I can. And I do so because my fingers are able to pound away at a keyboard, at better than 60 words a minute, venting with each key stroke.

Sure, I could walk up to my local convenience store, loot it and burn it down, because from what I’ve seen on television that’s allowed when your upset about something.

I was just there at that convenience store-slash-deli not more than an hour before this writing.

I stood at the register — a 24-ounce coffee cooling off next to a 33.8 ounce bottle of cold water that was warming up — as I waited for the cook to finish my morning egg and cheese sandwich.

A man walked up behind me with two coffees in his hands and set them down on the counter next to my stuff. I told the cashier to ring him out first since I was still waiting on the sandwich.

The gentleman didn’t even look my way. He paid his $4 and change, picked up his two coffees and walked out the door.

Not even a simple “Thank you” for allowing him to cash out first.

I don’t know where it came from, but I was livid. I felt it rise up inside me as I stood there, passing the Internal Anger Measure Counter of Disgruntled, shooting past the Boy I’m Angry and topping out at Oh My God, I’m Fucking Pissed.

Thank you. Two words. Common courtesy. Somebody did something nice for you — he saved you 45 seconds out of your day — and you can’t offer up eight letters that make up two simple yet important words.

Well I have two words for you sir, which will sink me even below your standard of human decency, but I don’t care.

Fuck you, stranger! How’s that?

And it only took me seven letters to sum up your act of mind-less, since you were too good to thank somebody for allowing you to get in front of them and pay first.

I wanted to run out that door and follow him. I wanted to confront him for his act of morale cowardice. Did his parents raise him to be stupid and rude, or was it something that he taught himself? I wanted to beat my hands on the hood of his car, screaming at him that his lack of civility should no longer be allowed in a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams.

That’s when it hit me. As much as I wanted to hit him, it was the obvious truth that hit me.

In the world of sports, when a team is struggling and failing, what is the cliche that the coach always falls back on?

“We need to get back to the fundamentals.”

Our world is failing. In a big way. If it’s halftime, we’re down five touchdowns, folks. Simply put, we’re screwed. We’re going to lose.

But if it is halftime, and if they can score five touchdowns in one half, then why can’t we?

We just need to get back to fundamentals.

Please. Thank you. Yes sir, no ma’am. Let’s just start by showing each other some respect.

We live in a world where we have created such a complicated mess that we are seeking an equally complicated answer to fix it all.

Why can’t we just simplify it? Why can’t we just show each other some manners, do the little things to show each other that we have the slightest respect for each other and what we’re all going through.

If another car lets you pull out in front of them, wave at them. If somebody is walking up behind you as you walk into the building, hold the door.

And if somebody lets you cut in front of them at a convenience store, why not just turn your head 45 degrees and offer up two words that can change both of your days and moods.

Please?

Thank you.