Saturday, January 20, 2007

You Conceited Arrogant Bastard-Jerk of a Pootfah, You Braggart, You...

I know you've cut yourself before,
swallowed countless pills and more
but look inside these bloodstained doors
to see my life is worse than yours.

Why do humans brag?

I was wondering why we, as supposedly the most advanced specie on this planet, have this deep-seated urge to brag to each other the exciting and interesting (sic) facets of our life. These stories, much as they are entertaining, can become quite boring once the novelty wears off.

In book sales, book clubs and even the most hallowed libraries, we could hear people muttering about the latest books they've bought: books written by this so-and-so author. Asked what they understood from the book, they'd blush in embarrassment and just simply say the book was so deep for their understanding, which, to them, makes it all the more valuable. I mean, what is the use of a book if you cannot understand it at all? That is, of course, aside from self-defense, miscellaneous paperweight, surface, part of a costume, props or an impressive collection of smart clean (and unused) hardbound tomes.

These days, it seems that it does not matter what you know but who you know. A lot of people have resorted to name dropping, claiming to have had rubbed elbows, sexual contact or a small plate of peanuts with this best friend of the cousin of a sexy star. In all their nonsense talk, it would appear that the name of the sexy star, who happens to be a complete stranger to them, has a greater effect than that of their best friend or cousin, who practically know them for years or so.

I, too, would not claim immunity to this. I do regret to say that I have probably made one of the biggest mistakes in my life.

Allow me to elaborate. I was waiting for an interview at a certain building in a certain commercial district when I happened to nod my head and doze lightly. I could have hardly afforded such sleepiness during a job interview so I descended to the ground floor to search for coffee. Just coffee. Just something with caffeine that would wake me up enough.

I found two coffee shops, which, to my utter shock and horror, sold coffee at prices more than a hundred bucks each. In my defense, it is quite different just hearing of these things and actually experiencing an equivalent of a highway robbery right in front of the counter. Worse, the "coffee" I bought did almost nothing to wake me up. For comparison, my instant coffee, which costs less than twenty bucks a pack, keeps me awake for at least four hours while this... "special" coffee gave me under two hours before my eyelids involuntarily dropped down. Oh yeah, it did taste just a little better than my regular coffee and left an interesting raspberry aftertaste I could smell on my breath up to half an hour later: an experience as enjoyable as paying for it is not.

If this coffee they sell in "chic" shops really just taste like coffee and doesn't actually have caffeine, then I suppose I should no longer be wondering how people can spend their entire day inside one and still get enough sleep at night.

Interestingly, though, a lot of people do loiter around these shops for hours on end, purchasing nothing more than a really, really small cup of coffee barely enough to drown a hamster in. I am more than aware that these people aren't really there for the coffee or the other stuff the shop offers, like blueberry cheesecake or strawberry shortcake, no. They're there simply because they want to be seen there. How pathetic is that? In my ardent desire not to be associated with these people, I hurriedly left the shop, drank my coffee bottoms-up and headed for the elevator.

The job interview lasted for an hour, giving me enough free time to get the hell out of the commercial district and catch a bus home before finally dozing off into a shallow slumber. I would be first to confess that I had inadvertently volunteered too much information partly, to impress the interviewer, but mostly to bag the job. Let's not go into that, though; I am never too keen to discuss to other people my shortcomings, at least, those that I already am aware of.

Lastly, though, I have noticed another form of bragging, which, at first glance, does not seem to be bragging at all. How many times have we heard of people "bemoaning" to each other how tormented their life is? It usually begins with one person saying, "My life sucks. I just blah-blah, so-and-so."

Not to be outdone, the other will respond, "You think your life sucks? See, I'm this-and-that. Such-and-such happened."

A third person could very well pipe in, "That's nothing. See here, I used to be dum-dee-dum but then tra-la-la and so you see, I live a pathetic life."

Do these kind of people amuse you? Do they enjoy showing the world how pitiful their circumstances are? Are they competing for sympathy? (I do think the supplies of sympathy worldwide has become alarmingly limited) I don't think so.

What I do think is that, viewed from another angle, they are bragging. They're not having a contest just to see whose life sucks the most. They're also trying to outdo to each other that, not only did they experience those stuff but they also survived it. It's like swapping war stories and determining who survived the worst war.

I believe, though, that I have already observed a bit too much, so I'm gonna stop here. 'coz you see, I've already had to put up with a lot in my life. It's really pathetic, dealing with all those people; my life sucks, right? Eh what? You had a bad day? That's nothing; see here...

Alright, alright. I'm stopping here. Really.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It is Time

The descent of the grains of sand,
the sweep of a shadowed hand,
and the silent clacking of a clock
goes tick-tock, tick-tock.

Of all spells available to the modern-day magic users, perhaps the most tempting to use would be those that alter or control time. Strange it is, however, that no magic has ever been powerful enough to fully control the progression of time.

Time is, indeed, a very powerful force and harnessing it is quite risky, to say the least. It has weathered rock cliffs, eroded mountain slopes, built and destroyed empires, dug valleys and even corroded monuments that were supposed to withstand the passing of time. True, its actions may be as slow and feeble as an aged hermit but this old man has lived far longer than us. If, as they say, experience is the best teacher, then this hermit has the cunning sagacity and shrewd wisdom of an old man who has lived since the beginning of, well, time.

This recent holiday season, I have received a several e-Books from a close friend, including a copy of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. A very scary non-fiction, its first few chapters, dealing with the forces within the universe, makes for a very scary read. More than ever, it has highlighted to me the fact that time is not a force to be trifled with. With events like volcanic eruptions, continental drift, asteroid bombardment, global ice age and the desertification of Africa, the Earth seems more than willing to subject itself under the influence of time. Even the sun or our very own galaxy dare not defy it.

Time can be likened to fire, in that it can be wild, unruly and dangerous. However, just like fire, time too, can be a most useful resource and several civilizations have taken to "paying for your time". Hardware designers are employed to fashion processors that can execute more instructions within the same amount of time than older versions. I suppose nothing could articulate it better than a quote from a dearly beloved professor, Evangel P. Quiwa, regarding the tradeoff between time and space in computer algorithms: "It is better to waste space than to waste time. Memory space can always be recovered but time wasted is time lost."

It is no trivial matter, then, to lie in wait for something. I am not one of those people who vehemently abhor the minutest of waiting and can't seem to be able to stand still for a minute or five. Neither am I one of those people who will intentionally arrive more than an hour late. I am but a simple person with a uniquely simple mind... Oh, scratch that; the last one was quite irrelevant, methinks.

In my life, I have met a lot of people whom the Fates, the Earth Mother and a certain ka-blam! somewhere in my hypothalamus have declared vital for me to meet. Setting a rendezvous is, almost always, a dreaded task for me. Far more often than not, I manage to end up being on time while the other parties I so eagerly anticipate meeting turn up an hour late, if at all.

Around year 1995, being caught in a traffic jam was a perfectly good excuse for being late. Not too many people had cars back then. Nowadays, it is perfectly ridiculous to say you were late because of the traffic. It has become a common fact of life here that much more people now own, not only cars, but also several other vehicles like SUV's, CRV's and a whole plethora of other terms I do not fancy taking an interest in. It, therefore, goes that the most pathetic excuse ever conceivable was, "Sorry I'm late. Traffic was a killer."

Still, however, in my not-so-humble opinion, perhaps that last line was more palatable to my ears than the one I'm usually getting: "Oh, I'm sorry. I overslept/just woke up." Disturbingly, it seemed to happen a lot more often in the most recent parts of my life that I couldn’t help but wonder, "Is this Karma? Is this devised by a cosmic judicial system to punish me for past misdeeds?" What does irk me is that it could very well be my penance; I must admit I have quite a lot of misdeeds when I was still young, impulsive and foolish.

I once met an individual who ranted to me how he waited for his mom for more than an hour. He was livid with rage that he refused to speak to her for a few days. More than anything, he relates, time is of great importance to me. It does come as a surprise then when, one day we were supposed to meet, he turned up just over two hours late.

There is also another person I am supposed to meet around dinnertime in a fairly uncharted area for me. I also ended up waiting two hours and a half in a dimly-lighted sidewalk, with nowhere to sit down on, rain beginning to pour by sheets and the constant danger that lurk in the unknown shadows.

Another person supposed to be present for my birthday had me waiting three-quarters of an hour before calling to say he couldn't make it. Quite angry, more with myself than with the other guy, I just heaved a sigh and went home alone.

Strangely enough, I noticed that all these preposterously impolite acts I have beheld were only committed by males. Never mind their sexuality because they're all varied on their tastes except that all of these people had penises. I might be wrong but as far as I can recall, never was there a female who made me wait for long hours, stood me up or, worst of all, made me wait before calling to inform me I was stood up.

In a lot of classic literature I have encountered, the books always seemed to imply that women, by protocol, arrive at a much later hour than men. "The Queen is never late," they say. "Everyone is simply too early," they say. "Don't point out how late a woman is." Even in the modern world, we see lines like: "Ginger, have you no idea about being fashionably late?" or "If you set a date, we'll be ready an hour late. We simply cannot rush doing our hair/nails/makeup."

What happened? Have the times changed so much that men, figuratively, donned women's skirts, held their feathered fans, wore their tiaras, bumped with their crinolines and, heaven forbid, spent half an hour painting their lips?!? (I must admit that even I use lip balm just so my lips wouldn't look too dry) Now that I muse it over, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised.

With the rise of the term "metrosexual", almost every pedestrian male has turned into a creature whose vanity could very well rival that of a woman. Touching another man's hair is considered sacrilege. Oily faces are a no-no. Unstyled hair is a forbidden thing to wear. What's to say that men now are not too eager to be waited upon?

Does this mean that, with the change in the world today, men are less likely to perceive the value of time than the other half of the population? Is this the reason why, "I'll bide my time," sounds perfect coming from old hags or sassy bitches and sounds completely pathetic from a respectable hermit or an insensitive jerk? Is this why women are more adept at casting hexes and curses than us, biological males?

I should like to think not, mostly because I'd want to exempt myself from this generalization. However, it is severely disheartening and socially discouraging to set another rendezvous. Already, I have wasted at least 24 hours of my life on just waiting.

Do me a favor; meet me not more than 15 minutes late.

Lastly, if you are my destined soulmate, please, oh, please, don't make me wait my entire life. Else, I'd give up on you from time to time. Who knows? Only time can tell.