Sunday, January 2, 2011 | Categories: Michael's Essays |
In this week's essay Michael tells us about the things that irk him and his reasons for boycotting them in this new year.
I've always liked the story of Captain Charles C. Boycott of County Mayo, Ireland. Not the man himself, of course, for he was a thug and a poltroon.
Ever willing to suck up to the Oppressor, Captain Boycott went around the county in 1880 evicting poor tenants from the dirt hovels the English let them call homes.
Charles Parnell, the great fighter for Irish Independence, took up the cause of the tenants, telling them that instead of violence against Boycott , they should ostracize him.
It worked. Local businessmen stopped trading with him, the Post Office refused to deliver his mail, tenants wouldn't work his fields. Boycott went into the language as one of the most effective weapons in the arsenal of consumerism.
It's quite simple. If you don't like something, or you feel ill-treated, you and your friends simply boycott the person, service or product. You may not win, but you will feel a helluva lot better than if you had done nothing.
So on this second day of a brand new year, a handful of, not resolutions exactly, but things and people I hope to shun in the coming twelve months. I'm sure you have your own list.
1)People at dinner parties who insist on talking about their newest titanium appendage. Having to listen to someone talk about their bionic rebirth with new hips and or knees is the equivalent of scratching fingernails on a black board - titanium fingernails or not.
2)Things in packages that can only be opened with heavy machinery. Every now and then, I have to buy a new pocket knife, to replace the one seized by the Mrs. Grundys at the airport. The last time I bought a small knife, the only way I could remove it from the packager was by cutting it with, yes, another knife. Everything now from batteries to baby toys is so packaged in hard plastic as to defy easy access.
3)The parent/teacher night interview. This is the worst day in the school calendar. You run around the halls, school map in hand like a mad fool for a skimpy five minutes with the science teacher who by 9 o'clock can hardly remember his own name let alone your son's. After 20 minutes, I feel like Jack Lemmon in the Out of Towners. Instead, a mid-term phone call or an arranged visit can be much more effective.
4) Chopsticks. I was shocked to read that some 57 billion pairs of chopsticks are thrown away each year. When you consider it takes 3.8 million trees from more than a million square meters to make them, you realize that's a heck of a lot of wood.
Of course boycotting chopsticks may be easier in my case since I don't know how to use them in the first place - but the principle stands.
5)Any institution whose voicemail offer more than three telephone options. The banks and credit card companies are the worst, with six or seven options and sub-options. I would extend this option to any institution which tells me how important my call is to them.
6)People who interrupt you while you're reading. "Hi whatcha doing, reading?" "No I've got my head down in this book because my neck's in spasm and I can't move."
7)Any interview with any sports celebrity on any subject at any time, especially before and after "The Big Game".
8) Restaurants that play loud music. This one is difficult. For some reason people who run restaurants can't conceive of a race of human who like to eat without cheesy music in the background. Almost every restaurant has music. If you ask the to turn it down, they look at you with dismay. It's part of the modern neurosis that say we cannot abide silence of any kind. We must always have some kind of noise intruding into our lives for however briefly.
9) Book stores which hire sales personnel who don't know anything about books. "Hi. Do you have a copy of War and Peace?" Warren Pease? What did he write." Might as well be selling fishing tackle.
10) And finally I'm going to boycott making lists. Like this one. The perils of not completing the resolutions listed are built in. Failure to carry out every listed task means more baggage added to the guilt machine. I can't risk it.
Happy New Year.