People are sensitive animals and it doesn’t take much to bring a knee-jerk, often irrational, response when things happen that we consider out-of-the-norm. Newton’s Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite thing that happens to stuff. The measure of control we have over our reactions will separate us into three categories, which I’ll rank from best to worst:
1. Wise Souls - Slow to react and willing to think things through so as to get the best, most righteous outcome from a situation.
2. Average People - The category most of us fall into. Quick to spit the first thought out of our mouths, regardless of how hurtful and inaccurate it is.
3. Liquored Up Howler Monkeys
No one wants to be number three, but I’m seen them. It’s always been that way, but the internet has changed things. It’s given everybody a platform and that’s not necessarily a good thing. The first two stories in this episode deal with the new age of communication, while the last one will tackle a touchy one that calls back to the Days of Good Ol’. So settle in for the next twenty minutes or so because I’m Michael Blackston and you’re about to get my thoughts on some things that have crossed the path of my Funny, Messy Life.
Like most people I know, I’ve become a slave to something that didn’t exist when I was growing up, but is now arguably the biggest influence in the lives of anybody who has access to a computer or smartphone. I’m talking about Social Media. I’m talking about the need to “check my alerts” and see how many “likes” I got for posting the hairball my cat coughed up. Social media has penetrated not just into what we see, but how we react to almost everything. Now, don’t get me wrong - I LOVE social media. I just think we need to be careful with it and to make my point, I’d like to tell you all about how ...
Facebook Killed Toilet Paper
I know people who blame social media, and especially Facebook, for everything that’s wrong with the world. It’s as if they believe the universe was morally perfect until the internet swept in and “tweeting” became something people did more than birds. But social media allows people like me to practice a craft that wasn’t available before. I get to write stuff and send it out to as many people as will read it. I get to record my thoughts and send my voice around the world in a podcast to as many as will listen. And I think both of those people appreciate my insights.
I do have to concede, however, that the influence of Facebook hasn’t been without its problems for me. No, I don’t blame it for break ups and divorces. People will use any tool that’s handy to do stupid stuff that gets them in trouble. It’s not the fault of a soul-lacking computer application that some folks frantically re-post articles from The Onion or the Babylon Bee because they didn’t bother to check and make sure it wasn’t a spoof. And don’t shake your finger at Facebook just because you’re going to hell for not sharing a meme that’s proof of your love for Jesus.
Unfortunately, even I’m not immune to letting things I see on social get to me needlessly. There’s something right now that haunts me and I believe it directly points to Facebook as the source.
I’m afraid of toilet paper.
Whoa, there, now! I didn’t say I wouldn’t use it, but still. Laugh if you want to, but consider this the next time you’re sitting there with your pants down.
There just might be spiders in that roll of cushiony softness you intend to use during the closing ceremonies.
I happened to have come to that part of the festivities and was ready to take the final measures, if you will, complete with fireworks where the Mexican team had gotten the best of me, if you know what I mean. The toilet roll at this place was not fixed to the holder, but free standing on a shelf beside me. As I went to take it up and put it to its rightful duty, (ha ha ... duty), I realized that if I was gonna pick it up, I’d be putting my fingers into the dark cardboard tube without caution. I remembered a photo I’d seen on my news feed and pulled my hand back as if I were playing that slappy-hands game we used to play with our friends.
The photo I’d seen on Facebook? A Black Widow spider hiding under the top fold of a roll of toilet paper.
I cautiously picked up the loose roll from the shelf and examined the hollow tube, then carefully unrolled the amount I needed like I was about to trip a mine.
I was perfectly in my right mind to be so careful. Had I not, I could have wound up on an emergency room table with a big, swollen spider bite on … my … you get the picture.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to perform that delicate procedure, or any procedure involving unrolling a tube of paper without expecting a jump-scare from some angry killer beast. In fact, Merry Christmas to my peeps. You can expect your gifts wrapped in a plastic Walmart bag. I’m normally not the excitable sort when it comes to this type of thing, opting for logic over fantasy. But I see this as a reasonable threat along with several other possible situations a person could find themselves in when the horror becomes very, very real. Try these on for size and see if you don’t end up checking things out a little more carefully.
Scorpions in your pillowcase – I figured I’d start with my number one phobia to get it out of the way. Once I thought there might be spiders in my toilet paper, the next step seemed to be to consider that there might be scorpions in my pillowcase. I like to fold my arm and rest my hand under my head at night, placing said hand inside the pillowcase. Now I’ll imagine that as soon as I do there will be a series of stings that’ll send me through the roof and little cries of laughter from the evil little things.
Chiggers in your underwear drawer – If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of dealing with an infestation of chiggers, then you know the misery the invisible little demons can bring. If you’ve ever had them in the vicinity if your unmentionables, you know it’s itchy and excruciating. People think you’ve been places and done things you couldn’t tell your preacher about. You feel like a human lottery scratch off ticket. Every time I’ve gotten them, it seems like they've gone straight for that area of my body and so I have to figure they’re attracted to my underpants somehow. What would be stopping them from finding their own Eden in my underwear drawer? Who’s to say they haven’t found it already?
Jehovah’s Witnesses hiding in your car – That feeling you get when you hear the bell and open the front door without checking to see if it might be Jehovah’s Witnesses, then finding out that it is, in fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses, is made ten times more horrible when you think they might have found a way into your car in the middle of the night. I’ve recently heard reports of them upping their game and approaching people at gas pumps. It’s only natural to assume that the next evolution in their strategy is to infiltrate your car. You’ll get in tomorrow morning, start your engine, put on your seatbelt, adjust your mirror, and SMACK! You’re staring down the latest issue of The Watchtower before you can say, “Go away, my unmentionable parts are itching and I can't scratch them because of the scorpion stings on my fingers!”
Miley Cyrus under your bed – If you think you hear something strange going on under there, something that sounds like a wrecking ball accompanied by, strangely enough, a decent singing voice, it could be Miley Cyrus. She’s probably naked and sticking her tongue out like some even more deranged version of Gene Simmons. If you look, you’ll never be able to un-see it, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. There haven’t been any certified sightings of naked Miley Cyrus riding a wrecking ball under beds, but I wouldn’t take any chances. I’ll add that she seems to have toned down, so the chances of finding her under your bed are at best, minimal. But still ...
Soccer on your TV – This would do me in. I’ve changed the channel from time to time and seen glimpses of it, but thank The Lord, I was able to pass by quickly enough for it to do no harm. It’s okay if you like soccer. I respect that. I live close to Atlanta and the United have set the town ablaze with excitement. But I like snakes. If I found a snake in my toilet paper roll, I’d likely name it "Slippy" and put it on my head. For me, soccer is one of those things I simply cannot abide. Forgive me if you disagree. It’s just that I would rather sit in my car wearing chigger infested underwear with scorpions coming out of the seat covers, wearing a snake hat and unrolling a tube of spider filled toilet paper while listening to Jehovah’s Witnesses as naked Miley Cyrus riding a wrecking ball came barreling toward me, than to watch soccer.
I’m paranoid, thanks to Facebook and that dang spider. Whoever posted that photo, hear this … I’m sufficiently perturbed.
I hope when you go to the bathroom tonight, you hear something go bump. And I hope you think of that spider as you unroll what should have been soft, cottony bliss. I can’t tell you how much I wish to know you put on socks that slugs have made squishy little homes in and how I would cheer to know that every time you see a rerun of Hannah Montana, your eyes involuntarily cut to the darkness under your bed.
I’m not vindictive, naturally, and I don’t blame social media for everything that’s wrong with the world. People’s choices are the problem. So I suppose that in the end, I’ve got no choice but to blame mankind for killing toilet paper.
I wonder what's next. Maybe someone will post a photo of a kitten and everything will get back to normal.
While I don’t agree that social media is at the root of all the world’s problems, that doesn’t mean I don’t think it has some blame to take for the negative way we behave. There was a time when, if I had a beef with someone, - say a restaurant that served me bad beef - I would have charged to the front desk and asked to see the manager. But now it’s easier to just blast them in a quick tweet. We hide behind our screens and that anonymity has given us false bravery. It used to be “liquid courage” that provoked people to publicly act like what my good friend Melvin from Alabama calls, MOW-RONS. Now it’s “Screen Guts” that make us say whatever comes to mind without either a filter, nor any sense of what consequences are gonna bite us in the butts for it. That’s why I urge us all - please for the love of all that is pure and holy -
Think Before You Post
The “Post” or “Send” feature is a dangerous thing that should be handled with caution. We ought to fear it the way we used to fear THE BUTTON they told us the president had his finger on. We thought we were always one “Ahh-CHOO!” away from World War Three. We should be that concerned about the post and send options. The decision to send out our every thought to the world, is something that ought to be thunk and re-thunk, then placed on the back burner for a couple of days, prayed over, reviewed by an “accountability partner”, then re-thunk again. Yes, grammar Nazis, I meant “thunk”, although it’s not a real word in your world. In my world there are unicorns that lay sparkly magic eggs and people have often “thunk” things. President Donald Trump and his Twitter account are a really good example. In fact, stick around to the end of the episode because I think I’ll compose him a letter about it.
I'm not without blame, either. The decision to post without using some sort of filter between my head and fingers has happened a few times and especially late at night when there aren’t that many people online and it’s safe and I’m jitter-emotional because I forgot to ask for those five cups of coffee I just drank in decaf form. And I’ve seen a few posts from other people that seem to scream from between the lines, “I didn’t think this through before I hit send!”
Part of me is saddened by this element of our culture and part of me dances a little leprechaun jig in the middle of the kitchen table, complete with a green top hat and black shoes with big ol’ buckles, at the notion that I’m not the only one. I feel self-righteous when I’m in the saddened-by-it zone, often shaking my head under my top hat, which makes the four leaf clover sticking out from the band wave somberly from side to side, and doing that “tsk, tsk” sound with my mouth. It’s in those times that I feel sorry for friends and relatives I see who obviously need prayer and intercession from the Lord after such a post.
But then someone mentions something I don’t particularly agree with and because there’s been a perfect storm of irritants - an athlete from my favorite team has been benched because he stole a moped and then got a DUI on said moped on his way to a dog fight while in possession of illegal imported Tupperware ... or maybe we’ve just run out of Lucky Charms - I lose all control and erupt in a rant my mother could not possibly be proud of. After all, half a game is waaaay too harsh a punishment for the moped thing, in my opinion.
An example of an un-thunk post might be something along the lines of:
“How stupid is the NCAA? Footballer McAwesomesauce stole that moped to get to the dogfight because he was trying to win money to send home to his mom. He wouldn’t be having to provide illegal Tupperware for her if they’d give her something to hold the crack pipe she carved out of soap at the prison she’s in for burning those orphans’ plush toys. Idiots! A player from Southern Cal got caught trying to sell origami shaped like private parts to a cop and he only had to sit out the National Anthem. Stupid NCAA! May the fleas of a thousand camels infest their toilet seats!”
Now, I could avoid an embarrassing post like that if I made sure to always have a fresh box of delicious toasted cereal with marshmallows shaped like stuff in the cupboard. But I can also make sure I don’t speak those innermost areas of my mind in a public forum by thinking it through first. There’re times when I do wish a flea infestation on the NCAA. I can’t stand a lot of the nonsense that comes out of the NCAA. But it’s not their fault players often get involved in the sordid and dark world of illegal Tupperware and pornigami. And they have rules in place to punish those law breakers that have to be followed.
Unfortunately, unfiltered posts aren’t the only cesspools of smelly goo that fill the noses of our social media. There are trends that show up as well, causing no end to the agony.
At the risk of being the post police, I have to say I get tired of things that show up over and over again. I’m not talking about something going viral; the posts people share so that others can enjoy a piece about a cause that needs support or a new recipe for making cheese cake out of old shipping pallets. What I’m talking about are cutesy-pootsy things that get real old real fast. There was once a stick figure named Bob and everybody made their own “Be like Bob” post. I had nothing against “Bob”. It was cutesy-pootsy and I see why people thought it was adorable and wanted to get in on the action. But when something like that becomes popular, all of a sudden there’s one every other feed that comes across your timeline. It’s not to insult anyone that this particular post fad is in my cross hairs. A bunch of my friends participated and I know why. It gives their voice a little something different. And as I mentioned, I liked the first couple of them ... the first couple.
“Look. It’s a stick man with something clever written beside it. Hahahaha. What a neat little meme. His name is Bob and he is a clever stick man.”
I scroll down to the next post.
“Ah, I see there’s a need to remember to bring in our pets tonight as it will be quite cold.”
I click “like” on the cold pets post because I don’t want pets to be cold either and scroll down to the next one.
“Oh! It’s another Bob the stick man post. Wow, Bob’s popular. This one’s from my cousin. Bob is a funny, funny stick man and apparently has much to say.”
I keep scrolling.
“Hey now! My aunt has posted that I’ll be turning my back on Jesus and thus dooming my soul to hell if I don’t type “Amen” and share this delightful picture of what could either be a hooded figure in the clouds or a funky shaped cloud.” (I do not type “Amen” nor do I share it because I know that a Facebook post doesn’t carry the power of salvation and eternity and I have so very much I could say from a certain soapbox about that kind of thing, but I scroll again.)
“Holy underpants, it’s Bob the stick man again! Okay, Bob. That’s enough now. I need kindling and your little stick body is starting to look like firewood.”
“GAAAAHHHH - BOB! I WILL NOT BE LIKE YOU! I WILL KILL YOU, BOB! I WILL KILL YOU!”
It’s not Bob’s fault and it’s not the fault of the people who give him a voice. Everyone wants to be seen and heard and there’s nothing wrong with that.
My only plea is that we, as a culture, make good decisions when it comes times to post. Many, MANY times, things that we’d like to be seen should not be seen and things that we’d like to be heard should not be heard. All it takes is thinking it through first and maybe asking your grandma or someone that looks like they might have some sense if they approve before you hit the send option. That way people who also have no filter function from their mind to their reflexes might not throw bowls of cereal against the wall when Bob has gone too far.
I do hope those yellow moons and purple horseshoes will come unstuck from the sheet rock.
Not only do people want to have their voices heard, they want affirmation that they’ve done a good job. Remember when you were a child and you got praised for something you did well? That never goes away. Maybe it’s because I’m used to audience applause and therefore prefer a face-to-face encounter that the following story about one of our gift giving traditions rubbed a couple of people the wrong way when I first posted it. Let’s see how you handle it when I tell you ...
Why I Hate Thank You Notes
*The following is intended to make you laugh and possibly to help you see my point, but mostly to make you laugh, so let's be adults about this. If you disagree and want to give me what fer, send your correspondence to: MJ Blackston - 987 Your Upper Lip Lane - Fannywave, USA
You may proceed ...
When my wife and I got married, we did a lot of things right with the wedding and all the normal accompanying ceremonies that surrounded it, i.e., showers, inclusion of both families in the planning and preparation, barn raising, Total Eclipse Of The Heart flashmob, etc. We also apparently did some things wrong. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing about the way we did it because we thought it was beautiful and after 20-plus years, somehow I think it stuck.
One of the things we did wrong was in the area of “Thank you” notes. Both of us, while raised knowing good manners and basic etiquette, lack education as what’s “proper” when it comes to things that are expected from high society folk like queens and presidents and hoity-toity great aunts you never talk to.
As it happened, we forgot to send out “Thank you” notes after the wedding and bridal shower. It had escaped both of us that we were supposed to. What now seems to be something even new-born babies and poo-throwing primates know, somehow slipped our notice. Our thinking was that our verbal, eye-to-eye, lips-to-ears, sincere “Thank you” to each and every person while actually attending these events should have been enough to satisfy the understanding that we were, in reality, thankful for the thoughts and gifts. It was news to us that the universal rule regarding appreciation plunged beyond the little white baby’s breath flowers that smell like someone peed themselves and the lace doilies, into the realm of righteous and un-moving ritual.
It wasn’t until several weeks later that we found out we had awakened the - (gasp) disdain - of a distant family member over not having sent a 3 x 5 printed card bought from a retail store, that said something to the effect of, “I know we said thank you before - at the shower - face to face - with a physical hug and tears in our eyes - but, because we have nothing better to do than figure out where to put eight toasters, three non-matching dish sets, and a velvet Elvis painting, we’ll send you this piece of paper to say, THANK YA AGAIN!”. We found out we were expected to send “Thank you” notes. And we were informed that it had come to the attention of some people that we had failed at this basic duty and would undoubtedly end up in divorce and/or with ugly children.
Since that incident, we’ve taken a solid stance on the issue, feeling that change is in order. I believe a special note of thanks sent to document your appreciation is truly warranted at times. And the more I think on it, I do see the beauty in it and have no problem if anyone wants to do it. It’s nice and it gives the gifter a memento. But to be expected to do so just because it’s always been that way and to be angry with me if I don’t, even after my thanks have personally been delivered from the mountaintop of my presence with you, makes you a bit of a bossy-pants.
And I don’t care for bossy. That’s why I started my own business; I’m the boss of me and sometimes I even get tired of hearing me boss myself.
As I’ve taken an introspective tour of this subject while looking at photos of my two gorgeous children and spitting mental raspberries at anyone who said our marriage wouldn’t last, I’ve realized what a terrible world we would live in if we were expected to send “Thank you” notes to punctuate our appreciation after every technical reason to. I know the world is terrible now, but think about it.
What if you had to send a “Thank you” note after every hair cut? It might read:
“Here’s a little note of thanks to let you know I feel … like in respect to cutting bangs, you have the sweetest ninja skills.” That might be from the perspective of a woman. From a man’s perspective to his barber, “Thanks again for shaving me; that wasn’t in the plan. But since you didn’t slice a vein, I’m quite the happy man!”
Maybe you should make nice by sending the trash guy a note every single week after he dumps your garbage into the big truck that comes by at 3 in the morning.
“Congratulations! Once again, you’ve cleared my household rank. I thank you, sir, for without thee, my kitchen sho would stank.”
Don’t ask why I’m making them rhyme.
This would be an annoying one to have to send:
“How lovely and serene I felt as I sat for three days in your office waiting to change the address on my driver’s license. Please be sure to relay my gratitude to the State for insisting that aside from my current license and proof of new address, I also bring along my marriage license, birth certificate, a photo of the doctor who delivered me, the tooth of a dragon, the peg leg of an old pirate, and one eye. Without you, I never would have remembered where I’d put those things.”
Whew! So, it doesn't have to rhyme.
It could get very difficult to put into practice if “Thank you” notes were expected to spew forth at every single pleasant interaction. Should we keep them in our cars and at the ready, folded into paper airplanes, so we can glide them out the window toward people who are merciful enough to let us merge into traffic in front of them? Does my head nod in your direction and the throwing up of a short hand wave not say enough about how thankful I am of your graciousness?
“Dear Doctor, This is just a little note of thanks to tell you how much I appreciate you cleaning up the bloody stump that was my foot before I accidentally put it in a running wood chipper. It reminds me of how grateful I was the time you dressed my eye socket when I accidentally poked it with a stick I was about to put in a wood chipper. You are the beez kneez. I look forward to my upcoming appointment when you’ll put that little glove on one of your fingers and root around up there.”
There are so many scenarios that I could go on all day and never make a dent. What irritated me so about the distant aunt that got upset about us not sending a “Thank you” note was that it was family. And not only that, but she gossiped about it instead of coming it to me personally. Strangers are one thing, but if family expected it every time they did something nice, it would be relentless. Those are the people you see most often.
“Dear Grandma, thanks for the chicken pot pie. You should know that although we love your cooking, we don’t expect you to go to so much trouble. After all, you’re in your 90’s. Let us help out with the cooking and you rest. By the way, do you think there’s a chance we might see a chocolate pie or peach cobbler in the near future?”
“Hey, Uncle Bernard! Thanks for asking me to pull your finger the other day. I was COMPLETELY caught off guard. You really got some volume happening down there. You should be proud. You should also probably check your pants.”
I know it’s all about etiquette. I know that back in the day, people were taught the “finer” things like how to walk with books on your head, that elbows somehow make a table dirty, and that a person’s actual verbal “Thank you” is just not good enough, by thunder in tarnation dad-gummit. But recently, as we all sat around the dinner table at my grandma’s house, my family made the decision to put an end to feeling obligated to buy birthday cards for the adults. So, if a simple “happy birthday” is enough to state my appreciation for the day you popped out and said, Howdy-doo, why is it necessary to send a small card after the fact that says precisely the same message I gave you to your face at the time the gesture on your part was made?
I guess I’m just not sophisticated enough to understand these things. I suppose logic has no place in reality. Just know that if I look you in the eye, shake your hand or offer a hug, and say the words, “Thank you so much for the gift, the thought, your company, the advice I didn’t ask for, etc.,” then I actually mean it.
If that offends you, I’m sorry. Let me know and if you give me your address, maybe I’ll consider sending you an “I’m sorry” note to back it up.
Nah, I’ll just throw one of my eight toasters at your house.
There’s a part of me that feels like I’m gonna get some negative feedback over that last one. Probably because when I posted this article in a previous blog, I got some negative feedback from a few people who either didn’t read the disclaimer at the beginning or had no funny bone. If you’re insulted, I’ll remind you to note the disclaimer at the beginning of the story and initiate the button in your head marked “Sense Of Humor”. That’s a button it’s always okay to push. And I actually do send Thank You notes now, just so I don’t offend anyone.
I invite you to stick around for the following special letter to our POTUS.
A letter to President Donald Trump
Dear Sir POTUS,
I feel the need to write this letter in the hopes that perhaps we as a country can take strides toward a better tomorrow; to Make America Great Again, as you say.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there’s not much you do or say that doesn’t get scrutinized by the entire country - nay - the entire WORLD, and that makes it very important that you carefully craft every tiny thing that comes out of that combed-over head of yours.
I believe that as a country and a united front, we as citizens, should support the office of the President and do our parts to help maintian the awesome sweetness of #Merica.
In that light, I shall endeavor to make a few suggestions that you might put into action in order to get the support of those who would normally chastise you for having the audacity to take a breath. I’m talking about Hollywood, the news media, and hipsters who wear skinny jeans and say filthy words like “Organic”.
1. Stay off the Twitters. For that matter, social media is not your friend in any form. The responsibilities of the President of the United States are such that you have to make important, often unpopular decisions and say unpopular things. When you offer those things for every single humanoid with eyes and opposable thumbs to see and hear, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. And lets face it, you ain’t the best at figuring out the right stuff to say out loud. There are places for diplomacy and social media, sir, is one of those places.
2. If you MUST Tweet or Gram Instantly or Chat in a Snap, you should employ an Accountability Partner. The government pays extravagant amounts for the smallest items anyway. According to the guy from Taxi in the first Independence Day movie, hammers and toilet seats come at a premium in your world. So why not have a wise sage tag along at your every move? Someone like Franklin Graham, Dr. Phil or Nicholas Cage. You need to hand over the Book of Secrets to him anyway, so they can make the third National Treasure.
3. Make a bill that relieves Americans from being expected to write Thank You notes.
I feel like these three items would help your approval ratings, especially the Thank You notes thing. I appreciate your consideration of these suggestions and look forward to their emplementation. And I invite you to subscribe to the Funny Messy Life podcast. In fact, a bill making it a law that everyone subscribe at www.funnymessy.com would make just as much sense as a law that fines people who can’t afford health insurance, wouldn’t it? Anyhoo ... thanks again.
#MakeMerica Great Again
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