To Ensure an On-Time Departure …

1 06 2009

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By Stewart Mandel
Copyright 2009

One afternoon last fall, I was sitting at an airport gate waiting for yet-another delayed flight to somewhere when a portly, out-of-breath woman came running up to the Continental counter and handed her boarding pass to a surprised-looking female agent.

“I’m sorry,” the agent said in her most comforting voice possible. “That flight just left. Let me see if I can get you on the next one.”

The woman looked at the agent like she’d just had her purse stolen.

“No!” she shouted. “It’s not my fault our flight in was delayed. You’re going to put me on this one!”

“Ma’am, there’s nothing I can do,” said the agent. “The flight’s already left the gate.”

“But I can see the plane right there!” the woman retorted, pointing out the window at a 747 heading in the opposite direction of the terminal. By now her loud, shrill voice was eliciting turned heads from three gates away. I sunk further into my chair and gnashed my teeth.

As a frequent traveler myself, I know too well the frustration and agony of cancellations, missed flights and re-bookings. Air travel is becoming more insufferable by the year.

But still … this woman seriously believed that the plane was going to turn back around and pick her up? Sadly, our nation’s airports are teeming with dimwits like this every day.

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Misery, Thy Name is Verizon

26 05 2009

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By Stewart Mandel
Copyright 2009

For as long as I can remember, “the DMV” (Department of Motor Vehicles) has been our nation’s most commonly referenced standard for misery, annoyance and stupefying incompetence. Nearly everyone has a driver’s license, which means nearly everyone has shared the same experience of waiting in three-hour lines only to be told by an indifferent civil servant behind a window that there’s something wrong with their paperwork.

“Ugh,” your friend says of sitting through an interminably bad movie. “That was worse than a trip to the DMV.”

“My mother-in-law is staying with us this weekend,” your co-worker complains. “I’d rather be stuck in line at the DMV.”

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to update our cultural lexicon. Something has managed to surpass the DMV on the spectrum of mind-numbing nuisances, and that something is the Verizon Store.
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I Wanna Rock

18 05 2009

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By Stewart Mandel
Copyright 2009

Of all the technological advancements our society has wrought this decade — Blackberries, IPods, Facebook, the Snuggie — one in particular deserves our highest praise for its inventors’ vision, genius and downright awesomeness.

I’m speaking of the video game Rock Band.

While lab scientists, marketing gurus and ad execs wring their hands every day trying to figure out our country’s ever-changing consumer tastes, the makers of Rock Band (not to mention its ubiquitous cousin, Guitar Hero) simply tapped in to one of the most universal desires of any suburban-bred American.

We all really want to be rock stars.
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Bartender: Another Sprite, Please

11 05 2009

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By Stewart Mandel
Copyright 2009

As a white, heterosexual, college-educated male, you would think I have no idea what it’s like to be part of a frowned-upon minority. You would be wrong.

I know what it’s like to endure puzzled looks and subtle digs from people who can’t comprehend my chosen lifestyle. I constantly find myself in awkward social situations where I’m forced to hide, or make excuses for, my dubious identity.

I’ll just come out and say it: I’m a non-drinker.
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Ice Your Crotch with Frozen Okra

19 04 2009

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By Stewart Mandel
Copyright 2009

The diagnosis was short but no less startling.

“One of your testicles is smaller than the other,” my doctor informed me one autumn afternoon.

As I would soon learn, testicular asymmetry is by no means a life-threatening condition, but it does present a risk of future complications such as sterility, sexual dysfunction and a deep-seated inferiority complex.

The doctor assured me my condition could be easily repaired with a “minor” surgical procedure.

“It’s no big deal,” he said. “You have it done on Monday; you’re back at work by Wednesday.”

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Finally, Exercise That Ends in a Nap

11 04 2009

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By Stewart Mandel
Copyright 2009

There has only been one time in my life when I truly thought I might die.

It was a hot, July day and I was trapped inside a small, un-air conditioned room on the 12th floor of a Manhattan building. There were about eight of us there, and a strange woman was delivering instructions to us from the front of the room, forcing us to crouch our bodies to the floor and hold them there for inordinate amounts of time.

Mind you, she was talking to us with a calming, somewhat sensual voice, and there was tranquil music playing in the background. Still, I’d never felt so physically drained in my entire life, so fearful I might faint at any moment.

It was my first yoga class.

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