#14: Carving a Turkey

#14: Carving a Turkey

It’s Thanksgiving at your girlfriend’s, and you’ve been asked to carve the turkey. This is a big deal. You don’t want to screw it up, and you won’t. Sure, you’ve never carved a turkey, but you’ve watched your Old Man do it for years. And it can’t be that hard if the fat kid at the supermarket deli can do it. That guy didn’t even finish high school and he carves a bird just fine. More importantly, this manly request means you’ve been accepted into your girlfriend’s family. You thought you blew it at her cousin’s wedding when you threw up doing “The Grapevine.” Now Mr. Hendricks (or Todd– you can call him Todd now) is handing you the big fork and carving knife and all has been forgiven. When they say grace, you know what you’re thankful for: friends, family, and this new opportunity to prove yourself.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! All hands to battle stations! The Death Star’s shield generators are still operational, and Admiral Ackbar’s shouting, “It’s a trap!” You’ve never carved a turkey, and everyone except your girlfriend knows it! You’re being set up to fail!

There’s a reason your Old Man’s never let you carve the family turkey: it’s a professional’s job with the smallest mistake bringing dire consequences upon Thanksgiving Dinner. You’re not just cutting into a bird to provide sustenance for hungry family members; you’re also working with a priceless hunk of marble you must carve into a statue of perfect protein. One wrong slice, and you render the seven hours of prepping, basting, and roasting worthless. The kid at the deli knew this, and that’s why he started at potato salad.

Here’s the shocking truth: your girlfriend’s stepdad Todd didn’t ask you to carve the turkey as an olive branch into his family. He did it to expunge the benefit of the doubt about you still held by your girlfriend’s mother. Todd’s dealt with punks like you when he was a military cop in the army, and he’ll be damned if you think you can puke on a dance floor and have him forget about it. Todd may be a new addition to this family, but he’s been there a hell of a lot longer than you have. He’s only giving you this honor because he knows you’ll blow it and be forever erased from future family gatherings.

And don’t think because your girlfriend’s mother pities you that she’s on your side. Ha! She didn’t slave away in a hot kitchen all day just so you could stand at the head of her table and piss on her Mona Lisa. She’s sticking up for you on the behalf of her daughter, but all that will change if your first cut is horizontal. Even your girlfriend knows botching this is a deal breaker. No girl marries a man who can’t carve a turkey.

This could be the biggest moment of your entire life… so you should get out of it. Stay on the side of courtesy and decline the request on grounds of your upbringing. Claim it’s a job for the “Man of the House” and respectfully defer to Todd (at least Todd will respect your Old Man for putting some sense in your head). It may seem like a sign of weakness to back down from an obvious challenge, but steering clear of danger is a sign of obvious strength. And who knows, if you hold your liquor better and complement Todd’s gun rack enough, maybe you’ll make it to next year’s Thanksgiving. With a year of prep time, you’ll be all set for carving a turkey. And for that, you should be thankful.

#13: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

#13: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Last night you bought your favorite cereal and set your alarm for a 7am nostalgia attack. It’s Thanksgiving morning, and you’re doing this “old school.” Time to flip on your local NBC affiliate and let your adult cynicism melt away. Here comes Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! This is going to be epic!

Huh… Those balloons seem a lot smaller than you remember. Yeah, they’re still big, but they used to be HUGE. And who the hell is that? Is that Phineas or Ferb? Kids are watching a show with these characters? What happened to the classics? Like this one coming down the street. It’s… it’s… Underdog? Wow, that’s kind of lame, too, the more you really think about it. A Superman-like dog that shines shoes as a secret identity? They should have just made a balloon of a shoe-shining dog.

Oh well, here comes a high school marching band. The Today host commentators say the band traveled all the way from Oregon! These kids can really play–oh, they’re cutting away from the talented high schoolers playing their hearts out to some up-and-coming singer… who’s lip-syncing her way through a song she didn’t write. She’s even phoning in her waves to the freezing audience in the stands. After twenty seconds of lip-synced autotune, it’s back to hearing the mindless banter of the Today hosts. For being professional talkers, they sure are boring. Now it’s time for a commercial break from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where you get to watch ads about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day sales.

And…the parade’s back on. Here comes a giant cornucopia float. That’s kind of cool. Something totally normal and Thanksgiving-themed. But wait, there’s someone riding inside it… it’s one of the actors of NBC’s Go On who isn’t Matthew Perry. Suddenly you realize you’re watching a real-time ad for NBC’s fall lineup. You’ve been had by the Peacock and there’s nothing you can do about it. Oh, and now you get to hear an interview between the Today hosts and that dude from Grimm. Which host gets to ask him what his favorite Thanksgiving side dish is? The answer may surprise you–or it may not, because you don’t care at all.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade hasn’t changed, but you have. Gone are the days where the shameless promotion of Broadway musicals went over your tiny, mop-topped head. You can’t watch the pre-recorded musical numbers now without thinking of the actors and hoping they have health insurance. But it’s still a tradition to watch, and luckily with the advent of DVRs, you can fast forward through the boring commercials so you can get to the more interesting commercial that is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Or if you don’t have the time to watch it all, just wake up late, catch the very end, and let your nostalgia remain less tarnished by reality. You once believed in Santa Claus, but with tempered expectations, you can still believe in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

#12: Black Friday

#12: Black Friday

Your belly is pleasantly full from gravied meat and mashed potatoes. You sit at your family’s dining room table–the one you used to hide under as a kid–and look around the room at the generations of family members surrounding you. Now your nieces and nephews are the ones hiding under the table. Ah, the circle of life. As you take that last bite of pumpkin pie and push the plate away in mock surrender, you are completely and utterly content. This is Happiness. Could Thanksgiving get any better? YES! How about unbelievable shopping deals on Black Friday? These low, low prices only happen once a year, and you don’t want to miss out!

Or, another way to look at it, you should want to miss out. It’s Black Friday, now a notorious day that brings out the worst in society. Black Friday is the yearly manifestation of the chilling themes from Lord of the Flies: loss of innocence, dehumanization of relationships, the nature of evil–you can experience all of these by visiting a Walmart the day after Thanksgiving. They call it “Black Friday” because it’s the day many businesses “go in the black,” but the name also refers to the color your soul turns when you fight someone for a microwave. Trampling over people in order to get coveted store merchandise, played to hilarious effect by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad in the Christmas classic Jingle All the Way, now is commonplace in the real world. People have died over a toaster. You might really want that 40” HDTV for $198, but are you willing to kill for it? Ask yourself that, ‘cause others are and will. Those people are your competition.

And there are a lot of those people. You’re not the only one with the idea to camp out at 2am in front of the Best Buy. Hundreds of others have the same idea. Instead of sleeping in a warm bed, you’ll be circling a full parking lot, cursing yourself for not having gotten there at midnight. Then you’ll wait in line behind a guy who openly admits he’s going to re-sell the discounted items on eBay for a huge profit. He’s not buying an iPad for his little daughter. This is Daddy’s big payday. Then the doors will open, and like a herd of frightened cattle, the trampling will begin.

It’s ironic Black Friday falls the day after Thanksgiving, a day where everyone gives thanks for the blessings they already have. When that clock turns midnight, America goes from content to covetous. Put that precious Friday to better use. Honestly, when you’re on your deathbed, do you think you’re going to look back and remember the time you saved thirty dollars on a sweater? No. But you might remember that time you spent a day playing touch football with your cousin. Admittedly, you will save money on Black Friday, but you will also lose a day of your life. If you still want to get some fantastic prices without having to endure Black Friday, there’s this great thing–it’s called The Internet. The Internet has great deals all the time, and you can still keep your spleen intact.

#11: Farmers Market

#11: Farmers Market

Preservatives, pesticides, artificial colors and flavors? No way. You’re sick of “The Man” getting his hands in your fruits and vegetables. What happened to food just being food? You want your produce the way your grandparents bought it: from the farmers (or at least the dreadlocked middleman who brings them to your local farmers market). You’re going back to nature the way The Creator intended. It’s time to take your health back.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason it’s called a “Farmers Market.” You live in a big city, far away from anything even remotely resembling a farm. So, just like a Civil War reenactor, your desire to relive the past is going to come at both a social and financial price.

For starters, you’ll notice the fruits at the Farmers Market are a lot smaller than their genetically enhanced brethren, and in a truly dramatic twist of irony, they cost a heck of a lot more. Yes, it would appear the inclusion of chemicals somehow makes produce cheaper and bigger, but you’re willing to overlook it because you’re out there interacting with the real people. Real, real people. Like, homeless people. Yeah, that hip bohemian you were sampling peach slices with is actually just a homeless guy, which does totally make sense, since there are all these free samples and derelicts do blend in pretty well with the Farmers Market’s nonconformist clientele.

Luckily, you’re not alone with the Urban Outfitted/clandestine transients of the streets, because this place is crawling with like-minded business professionals. They, too, are looking to rise up and overthrow their supermarket overlords in the name of the organic produce revoluti-OHHHHH MY GOD! You just had your foot run over by a stroller! That’s what happens when you literally stop to smell the fresh cut roses in front of a rich, suburban, power mom. With romantic notions of farm life being replaced by the throbbing in your toes, you’ll purchase a week’s supply of produce to avoid having to come back, knowing full well that there’s no way you’ll ever eat it all before it goes bad. Who really eats an apple a day who’s not already a horse? No one.

While you should be eating better by buying locally sourced produce, remember this is still a business, and farmers still need to make money. Go into this knowing you will get overcharged for a ridiculously small amount of goods, and that’s just going to be the way it is. And like that fourteen dollar pineapple in your NPR tote bag, develop a thick skin to prepare yourself for dealing with the Farmers Market crowd. Now with that, a hearty hats off to you for making the effort to live healthier, but just be sure your new diet doesn’t poison your bank account.

#10: Your Birthday

#10: Your Birthday

Happy Birthday! You survived another year! These last twelve months have been pretty crazy, right? You had some low points when [insert conflict at job] happened, and then [insert friend’s name] started [insert unacceptable friendship behavior], but you got through it all and are better for it. Now it’s your birthday. This day is all about you. It will be the best day of your life.

But it probably won’t. To everyone else on Planet Earth, it’s just another Wednesday. When you order your morning coffee, you’ll have to tell the barista it’s your birthday, and you might get a forced, “Happy Birthday” back, but that’s only because she wants a tip. She doesn’t care. She had to open the store at 4am that morning, and she’s got a paper due tomorrow. It’s your birthday? Big whoop.

That barista doesn’t know you, but your coworkers do. They’ll surely do something big for this special day of yours, right? Nope. There won’t be balloons and streamers and a bugler announcing your presence as you enter the office. This is still a Wednesday, and they all have work to do. You’ll try to shoehorn in a mention of your birthday into a conversation, like, “Sorry I’m a little late. It’s my birthday today,” and your deskmate will offhandedly say, “Oh, happy birthday,” as he finishes a spreadsheet. If you’re lucky, Sheila from HR will overhear this conversation and send out the intern to quickly get some cupcakes. An hour later, you’ll have an unceremonious dirge rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung to you in the break room by employees that would rather be working (which is saying something). They could all take you out to lunch, but don’t count on it. That big project has to get done by the end of the day, so everyone’s eating at their desks. You’ll treat yourself to a higher end quick service restaurant for lunch, sit alone, and run through the regrets of the past year in your mind.

Whatever. That’s work. They’re not your friends. What you’re really looking forward to is your big birthday party at that swanky new bar in town. It’s on the weekend, so you know the turnout will be huge… if it wasn’t for the all the rain. And more people would definitely come… if the big game wasn’t tonight. But who cares? It’s your birthday, and you’re drunk, and you’re getting laid tonight! All this free alcohol lets you say whatever you want, so you’re going to talk to every pretty girl in the bar. And then you’re going to scare them all away with your cavalier, free spirit. Maybe if you didn’t take that last shot with your roommate you’d still be acting like Don Draper, but you’ve slipped out of “The Zone” into “Sloppy Drunk,” and you ain’t coming back from that.

For your birthday, you don’t need attention or a big blowout celebration. Just be happy for what you do have: people in your life that care about you. They might not buy you a cake, but there are more important things than cream cheese frosting. And hey, you’ll probably get a good amount of Facebook wall posts. Appreciate that Desiree from high school who you haven’t talked to for years took five seconds out of her day to type “Happy Birthday!” That’s pretty cool. Your birthday is just another day.  Enjoy each one, especially the other 364 of the year.

#9: Car Dealership Service Department

#9: Car Dealership Service Department

The “change oil” light in your car lights up. You don’t know much about cars, but you are literate enough to know what that light means. Entire businesses focus on just oil changes, but you can’t trust those guys. They don’t know you, and they don’t know your car. To them, you’re just another dollar sign walking through the door. The only people who truly understand you and all the subtle nuances of your 2003 Honda Civic are the people who sold  you the car: the dealership. You have a relationship with them founded on trust from signing those papers. Sure, when you bought the car, they tried to upsell you on things you didn’t need, but that was the sales department. That’s what they do. Today, you’re going to the service department. It’s completely different. The service department helps loyal customers like you by fixing car problems honestly and quickly. They’d be even faster, but it’s hard to work quickly with all their frequent bible study breaks.

Are you serious? The service department may be the shiftiest part of the whole dealership.  These “Service Advisors” may go by a different name, but they’re still salesman. A lot of times, they get paid on commission. Commission! The people in charge of deciding what work your car needs get paid more if you pay more. Do you think maybe some of them might suggest you pay for some unnecessary work? And you don’t know anything about cars, so you have to believe them (face it, you’re not going to read that car manual). You only wanted an oil change, but did you know your car needs its tires rotated? Yeah, you should do that every 1,000 miles. You didn’t know that? And you really should turn the rotors. Not wanting to look like a fool, you confidently nod to Barry the Service Advisor, “I was thinking of turning the rotors. It’s good you brought that up.” Remember: no matter how much Barry smiles or how many family pictures he has on his desk, Barry is not on your side. By the time it’s all over, you’re paying for new brake pads, a camshaft replacement, and five other services you don’t understand. Oh, and that oil change you wanted. You see the four figure bill and ask if Barry can give you a discount. Without blinking, Barry gives you 15% off.  Imagine how much they’re overcharging if Barry doesn’t even have to “talk to his manager” for 15% off.

It’s hard to find honest mechanics. That’s never going to change. Like doctors, they have skills you need, and some will abuse that power. If you don’t have a friend that “knows a guy,” do some research before taking your car in. Read that dusty car manual in your glove compartment and see how often you have to do standard maintenance. Salesman have more trouble upselling people who know what they’re talking about. With a little knowledge, you might just escape the service department with enough money to buy a sandwich.

#8: A Lakers Game

#8: A Lakers Game

The LA Lakers: one of the most storied franchises in sports history. You came to the Big City, and you want to watch this sports institution, Hollywood-style. What better way than watching a Lakers game live, right in front of your eyes? Better put your sunglasses on, kid, because this isn’t tip-off: this is showtime.

Sunglasses? They’re in your car. You forgot them in frustration after paying $40 to park four blocks from Staples Center. Oh well, at least your $60 tickets will get you some residual court swagger since you’ll be sitting so close… if you were in another arena in some other city, that might be true. C’mon, this is LA. Tinseltown. $60 will get you seats in the second deck in front of some D-list stars from the CW and some cholos wearing giant Shaq jerseys. These cholos are big fans of Los Lakers, but they’re even bigger fans of putting fools in their place, so don’t stand up too much and under no circumstances tell them to be quiet (especially in your broken, tenth grade Spanish). Since the Raiders left town, Los Lakers are all these guys got, and they’ll defend them to the death for some reason or another.

At least you and this pretty Cal State Northridge girl sitting next to you might end up on the “Kiss Cam”–that is, if you two were elderly or even remotely famous. This might be a good time to grab a $6 hot dog and $5 soda, since those prices seem trivial compared to the cost of an official, Lakers-sanctioned piece of merchandise sold at the kiosks. Sit back, fill your stomach, and enjoy the game. This is all going to be over too soon, and you’ll need your strength for the fourth quarter.

The bad news: if the Lakers lose, there could be a fight after the fourth quarter. The good news: there is no good news. This is LA; there could be a fight if the Lakers win after the fourth quarter. Just be cool. Don’t make too much eye contact, and talk about Magic Johnson (respectfully), like you know him. It’s going to be a long walk to the parking lot, and just like dreams in Hollywood, ANYTHING could happen.

Lakers games are fun, depending on which city they’re playing in and how much you’re willing to spend to enjoy it. In LA, either pay to sit closer like a La-La Land starlet, or drop $20 and sit in the nosebleeds. The nosebleed section may be packed full of troubled teens from a nonprofit, but you’ll still have a great view of the center court big screen. And just remember that this can be a tough town and everything is expensive. Eat before you arrive, take public transit to the arena, and think about leaving early to avoid confrontation. Sure, Kobe would be disappointed if you rode a bus and left early, but he’d totally respect you for knowing how to stay out of jail.

#7: Personal Trainer

#7: Personal Trainer

That standard gym membership isn’t getting you in shape fast enough. You try to work out when you can, but your life is so busy these days, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym. Between a full time job, hanging out with friends, and time spent on your [insert hobby or passion], you barely have time for twenty minutes on the elliptical three days a week. What you really need is that extra push to get you fit. You can get those rock hard abs you’ve always wanted; you just need a little motivation. And what could be a better motivator than a personal trainer? Once you have one of those, your flabby cocoon will melt away, revealing that sexy butterfly you were always meant to be.

Before you swipe your credit card for the thousands of dollars it will cost for Mason to spot you on free weights, remember that you’re still the same doughy, busy, unmotivated person you were yesterday. Having a personal trainer isn’t going to change any of that. It won’t free up your schedule to make it easier to work out. It’s actually going to make your days more crowded. And yes, you’ll learn some tips on how to work out, but the gym doesn’t get magically better when you’re paying for private lessons. You’re now spending hundreds of dollars more for using the same equipment. Did you really have to pay someone to tell you, “Run three miles on the treadmill”? Plus, unless you dramatically change your diet and work out almost every day, it’s going to take months (read: lots more expensive personal training sessions) to reach your svelte, ideal self.

Save your money. Watch some fitness videos on YouTube. Clear up your schedule to allow you the time you need to work out. If you hire a personal trainer, quite possibly the only weight you will lose will be in your wallet.

#6: The College Party

#6: The College Party

You made it to all three of your 8am European History lectures this week, finished that Psych term paper, and got in a shouting match with your roommate over your “magical,” disappearing laundry quarters. So far, higher education isn’t nearly as exciting as Van Wilder led you to believe, but you know that’s all going to change at Saturday night’s college party. Between all the booze and all the babes, you just hope your hilarious graphic t-shirt stays on long enough to prove to everyone you are the funniest guy in Ackerman Hall.

Before you polish off roomie’s can of Axe body spray and pre-sell tonight’s movie rights, it’s time to remember that you’re kind of a loser. Sure, your intramural basketball team is sitting at 8-2 and no one on your floor has a better collection of films featuring SNL alums, but that only confirms the fact you’re not Mötley Crüe. You might think you’re Mötley Crüe. You’re not Mötley Crüe. While this party promises the opportunities of a lifetime, for you, the “lifetime” is closer to a Lifetime movie where you’re going to learn more about yourself than how to take a body shot off a topless blonde. Face it: no one outside of your dorm knows you, that hot girl from Econ is taken (honestly, you think you’re the only one who thinks she’s hot?), and your red plastic Jungle Juice cup is going to get more use in an “Aladdin’s hat” impression than as a beverage vessel. The best thing you can hope for is the cops showing up with a Minor In Possession threat so you’ll be motivated to escape up and over the back fence and earn a nickname like “Spiderman.”

You might assume you’ll hook up with someone from the party. Don’t. More than likely, your glassy eyes and slurred speech will not make a lady you just met want to jump in bed with you. The best way to go home with someone is to bring that someone with you in the first place. But don’t even expect her to shower you with sex. Think of the night as your “coming out” party to the social circles of the female coeds. If things don’t work out with your date, at least all the other girls at the party know that you can be trusted enough to bring a female to a party unharmed. Women think you may not be a creep, and that right there is a win. And if you can’t bring someone, bring something that screams “you.” Grab a twelve-pack of quality brews, wear your dancing shoes, or bring that bronze bear you swiped from the Dean’s office. Showing up with items like these are going to be a lot more useful in improving your campus social status than those three (c’mon, three?!) condoms burning a hole in your North Face pocket.

#5: Cab Ride

#5: Cab Ride

Ahhh, the Big City. You have things to take care of, but you don’t have time to navigate these “foreign” American streets with a cumbersome rented automobile. You’re a jetsetter, baby! This city’s alive, and its bloodstream is pulsating with the yellow and checkered hue of hired transport. So raise your hand and hail a cab… you made it, hot shot.

Thinking back, you know what else you forgot to pack besides your toothpaste and headphones? Your notes from that Russian 101 class you took eleven years ago in college. This cab driver doesn’t speak English, and you know what? He doesn’t care. Yes, you could argue this business strategy doesn’t make any sense, but the meter’s been running since you opened the door, and this guy’s dueling scar says he doesn’t like to get stiffed on fares. Here’s a travel tip that you won’t find on Priceline: just because a cab driver recognizes the name of your destination doesn’t mean he actually knows how to get there. Pending on his level of broken English, you might hear, “Okay, what streets I take?”

At this point, you’re thinking about hopping out of the cab, but remember the dueling scar and find another solution. Your smart phone! It has a map! Find the location and give him the coordinates. This is exactly why you can survive in this fast-paced, urban jungle: you think outside the box and can adapt to anything that comes your way. With the coordinates agreed upon and turn-by-turn navigation emitting from your smartphone, you are starting to literally go places… just like the cab’s meter that has continued to run this entire time.

Next time you head to the Big City, get an idea of where you’re going before hailing a cab. Understanding the layout of a city may seem better suited for someone who gets paid to traverse that city, but it’s easier than spending eight dollars while you figure out how to say “sorry” in Russian.