Monday, June 7, 2010

Is it just me?

My favorite Charles Manson quote (all right, my only Charles Manson quote) is this: “Is it hot in here, or am I just crazy?”

Yes, that’s just a joke. But have you ever been in a situation where you wonder if you’re the only one who’s aware of something, bothered by something? Is it just you, you might wonder. It happens to me. A lot.

Say you call a company about an account you have there, and a recording says, “In order to expedite your request, enter your account number now.” So you do that, then you wait. When you finally get a real person, the first thing that person says is, “What is your account number?” What? I just entered it. Isn’t that idiotic, or am I just crazy?

It seems to me that every magazine scent sample — the kind you scratch to sniff — is the same smell. Have you noticed that? “Lift here to experience … the smell.” I don’t need to; it’s the same as all the others.

Let’s say a friend of yours requires knee surgery. I’ll bet you right now that he didn’t hurt his knee, he didn’t break it or rupture it or smash it. You know what he did? He “blew out his knee.” Right? Isn’t that always the phrase? And it’s funny, that one, because you always blow out your knee, but just your knee. You don’t blow out your shoulder. Or your hip.

Of course, you’ll always use “one of the top surgeons in the country.” Am I crazy, or is almost every surgeon in the country — you know, the ones your relatives and friends use for their blown-out knees — said to be one of the top in the region?

This one’s equally irritating and predictable: Videographers zoom in extra tight anytime someone on camera is about to cry. I think they’re trained and certified in tear-zooming. Don’t zoom in, we take your camera away and give no severance pay. Zoom in and you go national. After all, what is grief for if not to be made public, with an extreme close-up.

While we’re on camera things, am I crazy, or has the once-revered National Geographic TV channel gone tacky? In the (good) old days, that brand, that name, meant class. Now it can be almost as low-class as any other cable show. Even the name has become Nat Geo. Say what? Yes, that’s how the promos go: Nat Geo.

Cell phones. Many, many times I’ve noticed cars with four businesspeople, all suited up and on their way to business doings, and each of them is on a cell phone. All four in the same car, wearing ties and talking … not to each other. Unless, of course, they’re calling each other.

Sometimes names make me shake my head, thinking I must be crazy. They simply strike me as beyond belief. I just heard a bird expert on national radio: Dr. Dove. You know who the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is? Dr. Hamburg. Where we used to live there was a dentist named Dr. Pepper, and tonight I saw a cook on TV — Mary Cleaver.

Tell me this: Am I crazy, or are those new-fangled envelopes a mess? I’m referring to the ones that say you MUST remove the side panels first. First the side panels, then at this perforation, then stand on your head and tear here. They take forever to open and the carbon-lined inside is ugly. I hate them.

Oh, am I the only one who’s noticed that every alarm in the house — carbon monoxide, smoke, whatever — is designed to work our last nerves? The batteries always go bad in the middle of the night. At first you hear a quick beep, but it’s so, so loud. And you deny that you heard it: Oh no, it was nothing, it won’t happen again BEEP. So you have to get out of bed — always on a night before some really important activity requiring extra lucidity and strength the next day — and you get a ladder from your neighbor’s garage and you try to stop The Beeping.

That means that you need to discover a way to get to the bad battery, hoping that you’re not deafened and knocked off the ladder while cursing. The alarms are all different, so there’s no point in trying to remember how to do it. I’ve always found it best simply to use a hammer and then replace the whole unit the following weekend.

I don’t know how Charlie Manson would do it.


Mike Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Greensboro and provides daily language tips on Twitter ( He can be reached at


Melissa said...

Somewhere between 'Nat Geo' and the carpooling professionals on cell phones, I started laughing and couldn't stop.


zantinker said...

to be brief, i lol'ed.

quick, zoom in, there might be a tear involved.

writermike said...

Great comments, guys. Thanks.