Post-Pandemic Productivity Tips

The good news is that the pandemic is winding down. The bad news, people are going to expect a lot more from you again. Here are some simple tips to help you put the capital P’s back into Post-Pandemic Productivity.

1. Make lists. Need to get dressed? Put it on the list. Otherwise you’re likely to walk out the door in your underwear. Need to walk out the door? Put it on the list. Need gas? You got it, put it on the list. Put everything on the list, even minor stuff, like saying hello to your spouse. Trust me, if it’s not on the list, you won’t do it. Writing things down makes you accountable to a small piece of paper, so don’t rush through this whole list-making thing. Take all morning if you have to. When you’ve finished your list, have lunch. That should already be on your list, and if not, start over. If it is on your list, you now get the satisfaction of crossing something off it. After lunch, spend a few hours breaking down your master list into smaller lists. Then have dinner.

2. Wake up earlier. There are only so many hours in a day– 24 to be exact– and it takes 10,000 of them to be world-class in anything. So what are you snoozing for? 10,000 is mostly a random number from a guy who, in his whole life, has never spent more than an hour on his hair. But 10,000 is a good number because it’s round and easy to remember, just like 10,000 steps a day for good health. This is also a random number, but it sounds better than 8425 steps a day. If somebody told you you need to take 8425 steps a day, you wouldn’t even try. But 10,000! For Good Health! That’s so convincing, it’s sexy! So get up earlier, take a few steps, and get to work on your lists.

3. Multi-task, one task at a time. This is a very advanced concept, but if you’ve been getting up earlier and making lists, you’re ready for it. Science has proven, or someone once said, or maybe I saw it on the internet, that the mind can only focus on one thing at a time. So do one thing at a time, but do it as fast as you can, so you jump to another thing within seconds. Even if you haven’t finished the first thing, feel free to jump. You can jump right back whenever you like. Employers expect you to do this all the time, so you might as well start practicing because it’s gonna take around 10,000 hours to get really good at it.

4. Delegate. Need to pick up the kids from school? If it’s on your list, you do. But do YOU have to do it? EVERY day? Can you organize a carpool? What about Uber? Uber is a perfectly safe way for kids to travel these days. It’s not like they’re getting in the car with strangers. They’re Uber drivers. With first names. I see kids jump into Ubers all the time after school and they manage to show up to school the next day, so delegate, delegate, delegate! Lyft acceptable also. That way you can keep multi-tasking for another hour, and your kids learn important social skills, like how to earn 5-star ratings from ride-share drivers.

5. Wear headphones. Nothing will take the “P” out of post-pandemic productivity like other people. Always there. Always wanting something, even if it’s just a moment of real human connection. Truly productive people know there’s no time for that. They embrace that reality by shutting down real human connection before it even starts. Believe me, once you start giving people what they really want, they’re going to want more. It’s human nature. So say hello to your spouse because it’s on your list, but have your headphones on when you do it so you don’t get pulled into some time-sapping conversation about what’s for dinner. Some people can sap an hour’s worth of time over that. Believe me, I know. That’s fine if you want to be world-class in the field of dinner possibilities. Otherwise that’s an hour you need to be more productive making lists and multi-tasking. So plug in those headphones and turn up the volume so people know you aren’t to be disturbed.

Post-pandemic life will be an adjustment, but these simple tips will help ease back into the life you missed so much this last year.

Car Buying

I’m trying to sell a car. If I sell it, it will be the fifth car I’ve sold which is a pretty good sales record for someone who knows nothing about cars. Sales in general are shady business and car sales are the shadiest. I don’t mean any disrespect to car salespeople, including my brother if he’s reading this, but car sales just make most people uncomfortable.

Even when you’ve done your research, there’s always that nagging sense that you were had, that you paid too much, that should have played harder ball. Imagine if every purchase were as difficult. Credit card debt would be cut in half.

Let’s say you see a nice cashmere sweater at the store. The price tag reads $150.00.
“Just this?” the saleslady asks.
“Yes,” you say.
“What a beautiful sweater,” she says.
“Yes.”
“That will be $400.00.”
“What?” you say, louder than you expect. “The price tag says $150.00.”
“That doesn’t include Seller Preparation and Additional Dealer Mark-Up,” she says.
“That’s ridiculous,” you say and demand to see the manager.

The manager comes out, all smiles and handshakes, and agrees to take off the Seller Preparation. “But I can’t do anything about the Additional Dealer Mark-Up,” he says. “It’s a very popular sweater.”

You thank him, feeling semi-victorious as he disappears back into his office, and the saleslady continues. “Would you like shrink-proofing on this sweater?” she says. “I recommend it to preserve your investment.”
“No thanks”
“What about fabric sealant? Protect your investment from accidents and stains.”
“No.”
“Sweater theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in this city. Cashmere sweaters are at the top of the list. If your sweater is stolen, our tracking system can help you and the police locate your sweater within hours. Without it, your sweater could be across the border before you know it’s missing.”
“No.”
“How would you like to pay for this?” she asks.
“Credit,” you say, pulling out your card.
“Would you like insurance with that? Insurance will pay off the credit card company for the cost of your sweater if you die,” she says.
“No,” you say, reminding yourself to drive carefully.
“Let’s look at your warranty options.”
“I just want to buy the sweater.”

The saleslady persists. “An extended warranty will cover costs if any part of the sweater breaks down under normal usage.”
“Like if my new niece spits up on it?”
“That’s not covered,” she says.
“Like if I spill a glass of wine on it,” you say.
“That’s not covered either.”
“What is covered?”
“All costs if any part of the sweater breaks down under normal usage,” she says.
“Give me an example.”
“If the sweater falls apart when you’re wearing it, for example.”
“Does that happen a lot?” you ask.
“With an extended warranty, all your costs would be covered.”
“Can’t I just return it?” 
“How about an alarm?” she says.

This is probably when you’d walk out of the sweater store but buying a car is different. You stay. Why? Because you’ve already invested three hours into the purchasing process. You’re broken down. Your defenses are weakened. All you want to do is end the process. This is how torture works too.

I suppose my success in selling four cars (soon five, I hope) comes from a more straightforward approach. No hard sell, no add-ons, no pressure. I have a bottom price in mind and I’m looking for the seller who agrees.

It’s like a joke my boyfriend tells. He doesn’t remember if he heard on television or saw it on the internet, so I don’t know whose it is, but it goes something like this:
A guy tells his friend, “I just sold a million dollar dog.”
His friend says, “How do you know it was worth a million dollars?”
The guys says, “Because I traded it for two $500,000.00 cats.”

That’s the true essence of a good sale. You get what you want on both ends.

Valentine’s Day Musings

Another Valentine’s Day is behind us and men everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. I got tulips from Gelson’s and chocolates from Hawaii. All in all, a lovely day.

Traditionally, that’s the kind of holiday Valentine’s Day is supposed to be: flowers or candy and a card, just like we learned in elementary school. All this pressure to buy diamond pendants and custom-made teddy bears is new, and also unfortunate because it says the value of your expression is measured by the value of your gift, which is not what St. Valentine had in mind.

Not that anyone really knows what St. Valentine had in mind or even which St. Valentine we’re talking about, as it appears there were three of them and all of them were martyred. What kind of message that sends about love is a little disconcerting, but apparently the jewelry industry is all over it.

I told my fiancé a week before Valentine’s Day not to get me jewelry. That’s the kind of thing women do these days: tell the men in our lives what to get us, what not to get us, the maximum to spend on the things they get us, and where to go to get them.

It must take a lot of the fun out of it for men, if feeling pressured to buy something is considered fun, but someone has to help them. I am not the only one who thinks so. One floral website even gives suggestions on “creative messages for your floral enclosure cards.”

They include:

     Today’s a special day for sending all my love your way!

     With you, it’s Valentine’s Day 365 days a year.

     Couldn’t wait another day to say I Love You! (for flowers delivered on February 13th)

Just remember, the above creative messages are not for everyone, especially teachers. Teachers, you may be surprised to learn, receive more Valentine’s Day cards than anyone, followed by children, then mothers, and then wives. Regular old sweethearts are way down at the bottom of the list, after postmen and hairdressers. It’s an odd order, really, since Valentine’s Day is all about sweethearts and wives. Still, it’s a numbers game and you never get more cards than when you’re in elementary school, whether you’re teaching it or attending it.

The Valentine’s Day Party is the highlight of the February elementary school calendar. I remember bits and pieces of those parties: the handmade paper bag mailboxes (a school art project from the previous week), the punch and cookie rations, and lots and lots of Valentine’s Day cards.

The parties are completely innocent, but still it’s strange. Why is a holiday with ties to the Roman festival of fertility celebrated in grade school? Valentine’s Day isn’t a day for friends or teachers, or even parents. It’s a day for lovers, sweethearts, husbands and wives. It celebrates romantic love. Power Rangers and SpongeBob SquarePants may veil the message, but the message is the same: Can I get into your squarepants?

You hear a lot about how kids are oversexed these days and who’s to blame. The entertainment industry takes the easy rap, followed by the disintegration of the family unit, and now the internet with its billion pages of internet porn. But I say we’ve missed the boat. I point the finger at elementary school teachers and those smutty Valentine’s Day parties they throw. Is it any surprise kids are having sex in middle school? They’ve been primed for it since grade school. Even if the parties are nothing more than cards, cookies and punch, they push the notion of romantic love on children.

There’s an old wives tale about marriage and Valentine’s Day. It says if a woman sees a robin fly overhead on Valentine’s Day, it means she’ll marry a sailor. If she sees a sparrow, she’ll marry a poor man and be happy. And if she sees a goldfinch, she’ll marry a millionaire. That means you shouldn’t go outside on Valentine’s Day until you know your birds.

So that’s what grade school teachers can do on Valentine’s Day. Have some punch and cookies, skip the Valentine sentiments and give a lesson on birds. If you’re going to play this adult game of love, you better know what you’re looking for.

Year of the Ox

Bye-bye 2020. Bye-bye Year of the Rat. 2021 is Year of the Ox.

Year of the Ox refers to year 4719 of the Chinese calendar; a solar/lunar system that repeats every 60 years instead of running off into infinity the way most Westerners do. Used mainly by Asian party planners and fortune-tellers to portend auspicious events, every year of the Chinese calendar is marked with one of 12 animals. The twelve animals are the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog, and the Pig.

Why these animals and not the majestic Elephant or the courageous Lion? It’s hard to say. One myth surrounding the selection of the animals goes like this: the Jade Emperor (Taoist ruler of heaven) threw a party and invited all the animals of creation to come. Only 12 showed up. The ones who showed got to be in the calendar.

That’s the problem with myths: they leave a lot of unanswered questions. For example, when did the Jade Emperor send out his invitations? Did he use enough postage? Sometimes invitations take extra, especially if they’re irregularly sized. Exactly how many animals RSVP’d? If only a few, maybe some invitations got lost in the mail.

Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense. Why would you miss a Jade Emperor party? That’s like getting invited to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party and saying, “Gee, I don’t know. I kind of want to stay home and watch the new episode of SVU.”

It’s obvious the Jade Emperor was disappointed. That’s why he stuck it to all the animals that didn’t come by excluding them from his calendar. I mean, there he is, dressed in his finest silk party robe, expecting the cuddly Giant Panda, the elegant Giraffe, and the jet-setting Cheetah. And who walks through the door? The Rat, the Rooster and the Dog. I’ve had parties like that, and frankly, it makes you not want to have parties anymore.

I bet the Dragon only stayed five minutes once he saw the crowd. He probably called the Unicorn on his way home to find out what happened. It probably went something like this:

Dragon:    “Where were you?”
Unicorn:   “What do you mean?”
Dragon:    “The Emperor’s party.”
Unicorn:   “That was tonight? I thought it was next week. How was it?”
Dragon:    “Lame. But at least I’m in the calendar.”
Unicorn:   “Who else is in the calendar?”
Dragon:    “The Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog, and The Pig.”
Unicorn:   “Man, Dragon. You are desperate. I won’t even work with animals who can’t fly.”

I don’t celebrate the Chinese New Year, which begins February 12th this year, but I do celebrate the Gregorian one, which begins every year on January 1st.

One year I threw a New Year’s Eve party and invited everyone I knew, which was about 42 people. Out of the 36 people who RSVP’d, 28 said they were coming and only 10 showed up. I’m no Jade Emperor but I was plenty disappointed. I even considered sticking it to the people who didn’t show by making a calendar using only the people who did, but I would have been two months short. Instead I decided to stick it to everyone by not having any more parties.

The Year of the Ox isn’t a year for parties anyway. It’s a year for hard work, for plowing through, for wearing masks and keeping your distance. If you’re tired of that, get in line. At least, the rat is gone.

Ode to Holiday Shoppers

The holiday shopping season isn’t quite the same during the pandemic. Sure, it’s fun to have packages arrive at the door daily, but it lacks some of the magic that happens when we interact with strangers. Here’s a short essay I wrote a long while back about that.

If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably already feeling overwhelmed by the holidays. There are cookies to be burned, relatives to avoid, presents to re-gift. If nothing else, you’re behind on your shopping. How could you not be? Some stores opened at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. Eager consumers packed their coolers with leftover turkey sandwiches and lined up in tents the night before. Apparently shopping, something you can do 365 days a year, has taken on the status of a Star Wars release? Next year, they’ll be lining up costume.

Look, there’s Santa, and Mrs. Claus. “Who are you? Rudolph?” a newscaster will ask a lanky young man dressed in brown fur with antlers on his head.

“Dasher. I’m Dasher,” he’ll say. It will make the 11:00 Local News.

Behind him, a short young woman in a brown leotard and fishnet stockings will volunteer, “I’m Vixen.”

The newscaster will wrap it up for the moment, but be back with an update at the end of the broadcast. Meanwhile, Dasher and Vixen, who’ve never met, will get to talking. There’s not much else to do in line.

“I was going to come as Linus,” Dasher will tell her, “just so I’d have a blanket, but I didn’t want to roll in dirt and then have to stand here all night.”

“That’s my favorite Christmas cartoon,” Vixen will say, “then the Grinch, and I always cry at the end of Frosty.”

“Me too,” Dasher will think, but keep to himself. “Nice boots,” he’ll say instead.

Without them, she’s 5’1″, she’ll admit. “I should have worn flats,” she’ll decide at 2.

Dawn will come (does dawn come at 4 a.m.?). Dawn or not, the doors will open. Dasher will think about asking Vixen for her number, then change his mind. Who needs a new girlfriend just before the holidays? They’ll say goodbye as the crowd surges toward the opening doors. And that will be end of it.

Except it’s Christmas and magic happens. Inside the store, Dasher’s list of electronics he planned to buy for himself will not seem so important anymore and he wander the aisles aimlessly for an hour. He’ll end up in small appliances and stare at a $15 foot bath for 30 minutes before he decides to purchase it. In line, a re-released CD of holiday tunes by Engelbert Humperdinck will catch his eye. He’ll purchase both items, then wait at the exit for Vixen.

“Merry Christmas,” he’ll say as he hands her the foot bath. They’ll go get some pancakes and exchange numbers.

“I have a boyfriend,” she’ll tell him, “but he doesn’t get me.”

The morning paper will report, “Holiday Shoppers Line Up Again.”

Shitholes

Back in January 2018, President Trump asked members of the House and Senate,  “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?”

This is a short satirical essay I wrote back then in response to that comment.

Do not send me comments. It’s satire.

_____________

It’s about time this whole shithole thing is out in the open because everybody everywhere is tired of pretending everything is so great. Sure, things weren’t so bad in 1985 when WrestleMania debuted at Madison Square Garden, but that was a long time ago and it’s been all downhill since then. That’s because all anybody does is think of themselves. The media and celebrities don’t help either. Social science is a complicated thing, but one thing is for sure: shitholes are everywhere.

California – Of all the shithole places in the world, California is the shitholiest. I know because I live there. Whatever the weather, it’s total crap, and don’t even ask me about the sunsets. All yellow and orange and purple like a bunch of Teletubbies exploded in the sky and I wouldn’t mind if they did. California is crowded too and full of people from other shitholes like the Midwest, and the South and the East Coast. If you like people, you might find the whole diversity thing interesting, but I don’t because all any of them ever do is get in my way, especially when I’m driving to the gym, trying to get there before all the yoga mommies stake out their territory in Exercise Room A.

Since the beginning of time, everybody’s always been going west, looking for less of a shithole than the place they just left, and when they find it, they immediately start spreading themselves out and shooting dirty looks to the first newcomer or out-of-shape middle-aged lady who rolls out her mat too close to theirs. Well, you can stop coming west, young men and women, and all you old farts too. It’s a shithole out here, and expensive also, and when you get here and find out, don’t blame me. I tried to warn you, and where west are you going to go from here? Into the Pacific Ocean?

Pacific Ocean – This ocean is a shithole and I mean literally. People pee in it all the time. I can tell because they’ll be laughing and playing in it, jumping up and down in the waves on the shore, and then all of a sudden they’ll stop and stand real still. That’s when they’re peeing. I know because I’ve done it myself. It’s practically impossible to pee when you’re jumping up and down. I’m sure there’s some stupid biological explanation for that, like the body can only do one thing at a time, but whatever the reason, it’s better to stand still and relax, which isn’t easy to do when a big wave is about to slam you into the sand.

You may not know this if you went to some shithole public school like I did, but pacific means “peaceful.” Some European explorer named this ocean that even though he didn’t come close to California, probably because he could tell it was shithole from his binoculars. The Pacific Ocean has more islands than any other ocean, but most of them are shithole islands. I’ve only been to Hawaii, but if that’s any indicator, then you can trust me on this. I know a lot of people love Hawaii, but when I went it rained, and any place that calls itself paradise is hiding something. Too bad this shithole ocean doesn’t have some magic underground city like Atlantis.

Atlantis – Is this shithole even real? Isn’t it more likely that this place just dropped off the edge of Spain and sunk? That’s why every continent is a shithole, I don’t even need to pick one. They’re all shifty and I don’t trust a one of them. Since the beginning of time all these things do is whatever the hell they want and who cares if you just built a mansion on the coast or a city on an island. I had a boyfriend once who did whatever the hell he wanted and I said, Goodbye, Charlie. He got confused when I said that because his name was Rick, but he already had one foot out the door anyway.

I don’t know why everybody always has to make up some fantasy story about what happened in 1862 or where they’re went on a Saturday evening. It’s like the whole history of the world, and dinosaurs too. Do you really believe that whole story about a comet smashing into earth and choking the skies of sunlight and oxygen, taking out all the dinosaurs? Probably what really happened is they all decided this was a shithole planet and starved themselves to death or got the hell out of here on the next comet to go extraterrestrially west to some other planet like the moon.

The Moon – Shithole planet. According to the internet, the name of moon is, get this, the moon. That’s because the internet is a shithole of information. Oh sure, the internet goes into some ridiculous explanation about how “moon” is a name just like Bertha is a name, but I don’t trust anything I read on the internet, especially regarding facts. Whatever it’s called, what did we ever find there? Nothing but rocks and dust and dirt, and we spent billions of dollars to prove it. Hell, we even planted a flag so we could say this shithole belongs to us. I wouldn’t fly to that piece of crap planet if they paid me even if space travel is the thing of the future and there’s plenty of room for my yoga mat there.


The Milky Way – Do I even have to say it? I’m not going anywhere until I can get the hell out of this shithole galaxy and go to Norway.

 

3 Easy Ways to Stay Motivated

Staying motivated is harder than ever these days, mostly because nothing seems worth doing anymore. By that, I mean, everything seems worth doing until you actually do it and see it for what it’s worth. If that makes no sense, don’t worry. Neither does anything else these days. That’s why staying motivated is harder than ever.

In the olden days, think before the wheel, staying motivated was no piece of cake either. In fact, in the whole history of time, man has done very little he wasn’t forced to do. Be it the search for food, exercising, or taking out the trash, man has found little reason to act unless a woman is nagging him to do it. For the record, women would be just as happy putting up their feet versus making dinner for a family of five. If it were completely up to us, we’d eat a lot more grilled cheese sandwiches too, which can easily pass for dinner because they require a pan for cooking and are served hot.

To that end, here are three easy steps to stay motivated.

1. Spend more time online. The vast and easily hackable web is full of at-your-fingertips motivation with blog posts like, “500 Easy Ways to Prepare Quinoa and Look Sexy Doing it” and “How to Clean Out your Closet like a Kardashian and Build Your Gluteus Maximus at the Same Time.” No time to stay in shape. No problem. Blog pictures abound of motivated people doing every kind of exercise from lifting weights while sitting in the dentist chair to doing butt squeezes while ordering fast food. Go ahead, subscribe. And keep searching. You will always learn something sitting at your computer and that will motivate you to sit there and learn more.

2. Choose your friends wisely. I don’t mean the people you invite to your birthday party if anybody still does that anymore. I mean the people you friend on social media. Remember, more is always better because when it comes to feeling motivated, numbers matter. Being motivated to do things requires encouragement and lots of likes and thumbs up, and who do you think is going to give you those? People you actually know? No. People you actually know are always measuring what they have to do based upon what other people they know are doing. That’s why people you know aren’t that encouraging. If you do something, then we all have to do something or risk looking bad. But on social media, all you have to do is appear to be doing something, and let’s be real, being on social media is doing something. So be on it, friend, and friend everybody.

3. Take a stand. Staying motivated is hard when you just squishy-squash your way through life which is how most people live. It’s not a fault. It’s an actual proven survival method. So squishy-squash your way through life, for sure, but take a stand everywhere else, like in online comments. What you say is important, and the more emphatic and hard-lined you can be, the better. When you take a strong stand online, you will naturally be motivated to defend that stand with words, MANY OF THEM IN CAPS SO PEOPLE HEAR YOU AND KNOW YOU’RE SERIOUS AND MOTIVATED. And don’t forget exclamation points! They! Are! Very! Motivating!!!