Friday, April 29, 2011

Finding the Michael Scott in All of Us

Yes, I cried. Yes, I felt like a friend of mine was yanked out of my life and an important part of me was ripped out of my innards. Yes, I was elated for him to have ridden off into the fictional sunset into a life of fictional happiness; the one he had always dreamt about. The one with a wife and the promises of children. Yes, Michael Scott was veritable to me on a deeper level than just a television character.

I saw Michael Scott in a different perspective then most may have seen him. You might have seen him as a quirky, fun loving, goofy, asinine character on a television sitcom. When I really looked into his character though I found something in him that struck an esoteric nerve. He was zany and came off as a selfish, conceited imbecile because he was longing for happiness. He was often crass because he had internal anguishes of not having found true love and was simply acting out his hurts in a different avenue of expression. The creators turned him into a symbolic character that some people could relate to, whether it be at their current point in life or in a time gone by.

‘The Office’ is the only show I have watched every episode of week in and week out since ‘Seinfeld.’ With ‘Seinfeld’ I missed the first few years and never really felt drawn to a specific character. With Michael Scott I have experienced for the first time a friendship and dare I say love for a television character. The feelings are not reciprocated, and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter who or what it is, as long as it touches you on an emotionally profound level, it’s worth pouring something into.

For 7 years I watched this character yearn and suffer in an often subtle, fictionalized morphing. After all he was a mid 40 something American male who craved to be liked and longed for a family of his own. Who among us doesn’t want to be liked? Who doesn't want family to share life with?

He was teetering on the edge of tragic figure status in that he knew he was running out of time. Running out of time to play ball with his kids. Running out of time to grow old with his grand kids. He was a white collar employee with a seemingly good salary and stellar health.  Yet this man was lost and lonely. It was somewhere around season 4 that it struck me that we were watching perhaps the most tragic figure in television history, masked under the guise of ridiculous humor.

The fact that his character was able to make me laugh like none other I’ve ever watched, in the midst of his search for his own personal holy grail was television genius. I always found myself rooting for him to finally find what he was looking for. But I never missed a chance to laugh at his expense either.

The 7 years I spent having the privilege of getting to know Michael Scott (Yes, I just typed that) were transcendent in my own personal life too. After a long, lonely night of gambling I would often pop in an episode of ‘The Office’ and bond with a character that was desolate in his own way.

I got to know Michael Scott in a time where I was far from where I am now. Much like him, I wasn’t sure of myself or where my life was going. As was he, I was painfully dumped a few times in my years of getting to know Michael. Through years of illness and confusion, I too wondered whether I was ever going to meet that special person and play ball with my child.

 As crazy as it sounds, I believe Michael Scott helped me through some of the most trying times in my life. In times where I wasn’t even close to my own family or God, I turned to that character to laugh and be touched. Sometimes just being able to say "At least I'm not Michael Scott", was enough to pacify me.

When it boils down to it, Michael Scott was just a television character. He doesn’t exist; he isn’t real and he isn’t in Boulder, Colorado right now having his culmination of a life hoped for with his fiance.

So how then, tonight, in his last episode did this fictional character’s contentment actually touch me as I sat silent on my couch? In my life I have learned the things I appreciate most are those moments you feel warmth in your soul without a word coming out of your mouth. He didn't need to exist.

I cried tonight watching this fictionalized character ‘die off.’ I didn’t feel dumb about crying or as if I was losing perspective. I found myself legitimately moved by the fact I am going to miss that goofy clown. You can earnestly miss old homes, vacation spots, or sports stadiums that have since been torn down. Why not a television character?

After some selfish tears of sorrow I found myself once again merry realizing Michael was happy. I was moved by this creation because it epitomizes so much of what we all strive for. At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy.

In that way, the spirit of Michael Scott will live on in all of us who truly grew to love him. And his spirit is all we have left of him now. I suppose it's all we ever had.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Day At The Too Fast, Fast Food Place.

I know, I know. I shouldn't even be eating it. But this is not meant to be a 'Come to Jesus' moment. This is a rant about the all too hasty abruptness of a fast food drive thru. Wait a minute, isn't that the nature of the basis of your decision to go thru a drive thru? No. My reason for drive thru's is that I don't have to answer to anyone when my shoes don't match or my boxers are indeed my pants for the moment. Sure, I would like for my artery clogging food to be given to me in a timely fashion. But lately, in the past year I have noticed a difference in the M.O. of fast food drive thru's. They are too fast. Even Superman needs a second to regroup.

What do I mean? Well if you don't know then you are eating right, so kudos. Because if you have had any experience with drive thru's lately you will have noticed the following, no matter which one you go to: These people are trained to send both unspoken and spoken vibes about how fast they want you in and out of their line.

You pull up to the drive thru already knowing you shouldn't be there. Your stomach is begging you to turn around but your soul is desperate for an insta-fix. So you pull up to the public address system and before you can even come to a full stop, an automated voice asks you if you want the most obscure item on the menu for 30 cents less then it usually is. The voice comes across as friendly, in real time, and focused on your needs, but really its a pimply faced high schooler in Beverly Hills California, who recorded it during one of his 2,4 hour shifts back around St.Patrick's day.

So you tell this voice "No thanks," only to get to the real person. Then the aforementioned real person comes into your life telling you to go ahead with your order. They don't even tell you to wait until you're ready anymore. If I'm not ready I feel guilty and apologize that I'm not ready. Why am I apologizing? Because I'm trained to worry about the voice inside the box more then about ordering what will make me happy.

So I apologize. From the time you apologize a running clock in your head is counting down. You know that apology is only good for about 15 to 20 seconds. If you are still contemplative after that, you owe the box another apology, lest you offend it. Honestly I had a friend make me leave the drive thru a few months ago because when the girl asked how I was doing, I said "Sub-par." The Giants had just been eliminated from the playoff race and I was indeed "sub par." He thought I offended her and didn't trust our food would be safe in her hands. I can't even be myself to the drive thru lady? We worry more about offending the drive thru guy then offending our spouses.

Anyways, you sit there worried trying to decide what you want, and all this time there is another,more tangible and less paranoid "clock" that has begun. Now if you are leery of big brother, do not read the following few lines. I'm going to delve into the little known underbelly of the fast food world. A fact that since we all have discovered that their fast food is literally killing us, they have now put at the top of the list of things they don't want you to know about. One that will change your drive thru life forever.

What is the "clock", you ask? The clock is just that. It's a clock. It begins running the second you pull up to the speaker. Fast food eateries chart the time it takes you to first come up upon their den of intestinal dismay to the time you drive off flustered, fumbling your loose change, and wondering why your straw only has half the wrapper on it.

They have quotas to meet. Not on the quality of the food per say, but on the speediness of getting you in and out faster than you can say "give me the real beef."

A computer system takes tabs on the times of every drive thru, and regional fast food joints are compared and judged by 'corporate' based on the data. Managers put pressure on their minimum wage workers to 'get em' in and get em' out', because their job performance reviews depend on it. Isn't it comforting to know that your on the clock as you go thru a drive thru like you are the general manager of a pro sports team? "Why did I pick Ryan Leaf this early?" "Why did I draft Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan?" "Why did I order the 10 piece nuggets when the 6 piece would have sufficed?" America has demanded this. I remember when I used to say " This fast food is too slow,"as a naive youngster........ It's my fault. I created this monster.

How do I know this? Well I cant name names, but insert the scrambled faced girl here whose name is protected and is shaking as she speaks into the camera. That's how I know. But I don't really know. Because she didn't really "know." And you don't know either. Don't say I didn't warn you.

So now you know your simply a time piece to them. Just sand in a glass. But we are still only at the ordering stage. So after a third apology, we order.

"Ya can I get a number two please, but not before you tell me who number two works for?" "I'm sorry sir, did you want a number 12 you said?" " Close. I do need an even number, you are right. But your 10 numbers off." " OK sir so that's a number 10 with a Hi-C then. Drive up for your total." " No, not a number 10,that's the number I hear gave Chris Farley his baker's dozen heart attack in that one week. I need a number 2 and that reminds me, why aren't your toilets cleaned more often during rush hour as they are during down hours?" "Sir, can you drive up?" "Can you Super size me??" "I'm not familiar with that term,.. or that movie sir. Drive up."

You pull up to the first window. The first window is where you come across the most miserable worker there. And you can't blame her. She is the girl in the box, who doesn't see any of her other co-workers and has to touch dirty money and dirty hands all day. She is as happy to see your penny's as your large intestine is to see your chicken carcass's,err,nuggets.

So your total was $9.81 and you give her a 10 and say "I have change." So you start counting your loose change from the median "things" holder. You start with the quarters, then realize you have enough nickels and penny's and can save the quarters for laundry,which could come sooner then later if you don't count your change fast enough and your Hi-c lid is somehow "accidentally" loose around one inconspicuous edge. (I know circle's don't have edges, but bear with me)

So you count out your nickel's and penny's and your sweating your famished head off. Why? Because you look up somewhere around the fifty cent mark and realize the following: The first window girl has her hand out the window, although her head is looking the opposite way, presumably at her texting machine. But by now the second window has opened. And there is a head leering out of it like a giraffe at a zoo. You realize your food must be ready at the window ahead. How blessed are you that a fresh batch of nuggets must have just came out of the oven? But, How do you know your food must be ready? Because the "giraffe's" hand is now outside the window with a bag in it. Wait, is this guy really dangling my food and my Hi-C out of window two while I struggle at window one? You bet your bottom feeding dollar menu he is.

So you give the uninterested, yet aggravated first window girl the change and she gives you your dollar bill back. You tell her you don't need a receipt. They always get offended when you say you don't need the receipt. I'm not sure why but I'm sure it has to do with George Orwell's "clock," in some way. So then you try to put your dollar back in your wallet, which is now on the seat beside you, as you pull up to window number two to get your meal;which has now had enough fresh air to make an arborist jealous.

Before you know it, your at window two and your dollar is just not nestled to your liking in your wallet. So instead of grabbing your food and beverage, you tend to the wallet. Now this incenses the pimply faced high school football star; Only he doesn't say it, he vibes it. The crass fast food worker vibe is the harshest. You should have seen how unspokingly angry the kid got the other day when I asked him to skim some of the cool whip off the top of my milkshake because it was overflowing....Anyways, So you begin to feel unhealthy disdain for this high school senior. It's not his fault the clock is running, you tell yourself. Give him a break,grab the food. But then you smile as you remind yourself its not your fault either, and you continue putting your dollar in your wallet.

By now he has pulled your all to quickly made and delivered food back into his booth, as if to try to scare you into thinking he may have the power to just tell you, "No food for you." Your dollar is half in and half out of your wallet due to unceremoniously folding under the pressure of the drive thru; but you know you can't go back to the wallet a second time. You just can't. So you finally are ready to receive your bag of food. It will all be worth it when you're eating you're tasty nuggets and your parch squelching Hi-C.

The boy gives you your food and you ask if their are napkins in the bag. He says yes. You say, "Notice I used napkins in the plural tense." He hands you some napkins. Then he closes his window in such a way, as if you were the drunken neighbor who sat on the porch all nite talking to your friends in an unruly tone, and keeping his kids awake.

You drive off and head home to eat. The "clock" has stopped at forty two seconds above the quota median. You just cost some manager her bonus, and your license plate number is plastered to a bulletin board in their back room on post office poster paper. But at least you got your food. You remember as your driving off you forgot the straw, so you go to throw it in reverse but its too late. The clock has already gotten the next victim. The giraffe has moved on to the next car.

You go home to eat frazzled. You're sure you must have a straw laying around from a time they put 2 in your bag when you only ordered one drink...It's time to eat now. Put the all to fast fast food experience behind you for a few minutes.And, oh, ..Enjoy your fish-fillet and iced tea.