Negative Capability

Setting the World on Fire

Negative Capability

Setting the World on Fire

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How to Cope with Assholes

Like any other nascent zine publisher, I feel almost defined by my anger. This isn’t because I am generally an angry person (I am), but it is for one simple reason. Every other emotion I feel is subject to my own doubts: am I really in love? is there anything to be afraid of? do I really enjoy this, or do I think I enjoy it because I am supposed to? When I am angry at something or someone, I feel it so purely that it amazes me. I feel righteous, which I would imagine true religious believers feel when quoting some stupid book, like the Bible. This is my Bible, and I believe it because I don’t have to rely on ANYONE to tell me whether or not it’s true. I am the most honest person I know and this is exactly how I see things.

Most people, I think, are never really sure about anything. The only thing I ever feel sure about is my rightness when I am angry about something, so I never doubt it. Because there are so many things in this world that make me angry I have found almost as many ways to cope. Since I hate whiners almost as much as I hate Bill Gates, I don’t want to become one. So rather than just vent my spleen about injustice and suffering and other things I can’t change, I will let you know what you can do to keep your blood pressure down, and maybe have a laugh or two.

A few weeks ago I went to the supermarket around the corner from my apartment. While I was waiting to cross the street, there was traffic blocking most of the intersection. The far right lane (near where I was standing) was not full of cars, because that’s where people are supposed to park. On the other side of the intersection, in the parking lane, were a bunch of pigeons enjoying a snack in the street. This guy in a van, who was not in the mood to wait, and probably emotionally disturbed, decided to pull into the parking lane, kill some pigeons, and get a few feet further ahead in traffic. He stepped on the gas and spun the tires for a second before lurching around the traffic. He sped up as he approached the pigeons, I know because I got that feeling you get when you sense something is about to go wrong. He ran one pigeon over completely and knocked another one about twenty feet in front of him. The pigeon hit the ground with a thud and died in front of me as the van pulled back into traffic. Wherever you are, dude, I hope your wife is gang raped, your daughters get AIDS and your sons die sucking dick for a living. [This one sentence got me more grief than almost anything else I ever wrote, but come on, it's hyperbole.]

Needless to say, both my wife and I were very upset since it is not often that you get to see people being cruel to animals just for the hell of it. I see flattened animals from time to time, but I assume that it was either an accident, or the fault of the animal for not getting out of the way, but now I am not so sure. Just the other day I saw this story on the local news about this snooty building in a ritzy part of town that was having trouble with pigeon shit on the ROOF of their building. Rather than just live with the shit, or put up a fake owl (that works more often than you might think) this building decided to put out a whole bunch of poisoned food. So a bunch of pigeons, maybe the shitters and maybe not, all ingest this poison, and litter the roof of this building with their corpses. Other pigeons fell to the ground, to hit people or cars or anything else they may happen upon. Others just landed on the ground and struggled for hours until the poison killed them. They even had a videotape the building made of the pigeons dying, like some animal snuff film.

Rather than agonize about it (there was nothing I could have done because their poison program was done for the time being), I decided that I should try to be nice to pigeons, to make up for my asshole fellow humans. Behind my apartment are a few trees and a courtyard where many pigeons go to relax. For some reason I decided that I wanted to call them chickens (because I can’t make a pigeon cooing noise, but I can make a chicken noise, boka boka boka) and I wanted to give them a place where they could hang out. So I put any extra food out on my window sills, and they come and enjoy it. Because I am nice to them, every night I find one or two of them asleep, standing on one foot, outside the bathroom or the window in the living room. It makes me feel better to give them some food and a safe place to crash, so I do it. I could care less that the windowsills are all covered in birdshit. The homeless shit in the street, and no one poisons them. Dogs shit in the street and no one poisons them.

Most cabbies in New York drive like total assholes. They cut you off, they run lights, they speed, they drive recklessly, they don’t have any change, they are rude, they smell, they have wacky religions AND feel the need to share, they don’t take direction, the A/C doesn’t work in the summer and the heat doesn’t work in the winter. They enter intersections when they know they can’t make it all the way across, then, when the light changes, they just sit there and cause even worse traffic because of their stupidity. And most of the time when they are driving this badly they don’t even have passengers. There was even a time, on my very own street, where traffic was backed up at the intersection and the cars were not moving at all. This cabbie decided to DRIVE UP ON THE SIDEWALK, go around the traffic, then re-enter at the intersection. It was one of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen. The first thing I do is tip them the least amount possible, with no apologies. If any of them ever gives me a hard time, I write down their hack number and report them. My wife was in a cab once and the driver was smoking, but holding the cigarette down low where he thought she couldn’t see. Cigarette smoke gives her migraines, and we have been to the emergency room because they hurt so much. So before you go thinking we’re pussies, ask yourself if you ever had a headache that hurt so bad you had to go to the ER at four in the morning and get morphine so you didn’t kill yourself. If you have had a migraine, you understand, and if you don’t understand, guess what I wish on you?

She told the guy to put it out, but he refused. She took down his number and demanded that he stop. When he asked for the fare, she told him to fuck off and hopped in another cab. Many times I have stuck my hand out for a cab and some guy from the far side of the street has cut people off and skidded in front of me to pick me up. If the guy is that much of an asshole before I even get in the cab, there is no way I want to do business with him. What I do to make myself feel better is laugh out loud every time a cabbie is robbed or killed. I know, it may sound heartless, but they suck, and they deserve to die. Thinning the herd, you might say. It’s not like some other poor schmuck isn’t dying to get behind the wheel of the dead cabbie’s taxi. If you drive a cab, obey the law, be nice to people, and stop fucking up traffic. And if you know what I am talking about, don’t ever feel bad if you hear about a cabbie getting shot in head for $20, trust me, that guy deserved it. They all do.

Every time you sign up for a subscription to a magazine, or change your address, or order something from a catalog, or sign up with AOL and even sometimes when you just buy something with a credit card, your name is sold to some junk-mailing asshole. I hate getting junk mail [I don’t have to threaten you, do I?]. But I have found a few ways to get even. And I have found ways to cope. Every time I sign up for something new, I make sure that the company knows that I don’t want junk mail. My AOL account is set up so that my name isn’t sold to junk mailers (keyword: Marketing Prefs). My credit cards know not to even include some offer for a calculator or protection in case my cards are stolen. Every issue of Movieline comes in a plastic bag with some offer to renew my subscription. Here’s what I do to them and every other asshole that sends me an offer I want to refuse. I take all the mail they sent, plus whatever crap is lying around the house (used rubbers, rat shit, gum, those insert cards from other magazines) and I stuff it all into the prepaid reply envelope and send the junk mail right back. It always makes me feel better.

When I have to spend five minutes pulling paperboard inserts or subscription cards out of a magazine (especially if I got that magazine by subscription), I fill them in with made up names and mail them back, so the assholes have to PAY to get junk mail from me. Sometimes, when I feel more motivated or more pissed off, I find the company’s 800 number. Most of them have one just to order subscriptions, and they are answered by an answering service. I used to work for a few answering services, so I know how it works. Every time they get a call on the 800 number, they have to pay the phone company and the answering service. Sure it might be a dime, but to me, it’s worth it. What I do is set up my fax software to keep on calling, make it try 99 times to get through. Then I make up a page that says FUCK YOU in big bold letters. Then I fax it to their 800 number. Sure, there is no fax on the other end, just some poor bastard taking subscription requests. I keep on faxing and faxing, wasting their time and money. Sometimes they realize that they are being faxed, so they patch me through to a fax machine, just to put an end to the call. As soon as they do that, they finally get my message. At that point I usually say it’s enough, but sometimes I just change the fax to a 10 page FUCK YOU and keep trying it. It always makes me feel better.

I used to write for a magazine about greeting cards. Sure, it sounds exciting, but it wasn’t. We had no money and to be honest, the magazine’s design was pretty weak. Then again, we were writing for an audience comprised of independent greeting card stores, not the most discerning group in the world. Once we got this really nasty letter from someone telling us that the magazine was the worst piece of shit that they ever read, that our writers were brain-dead assholes (there was only one writer—me) and that every month their whole office would sit around and laugh at how bad the publication was. Of course the pussies didn’t sign it, but they made one fatal mistake. They used the office postage machine.

It took me about an hour to get in touch with the postal authorities. I made up a story about how the letter was actually very threatening and the author meant the company, and me personally, grievous harm. That was all it took to find out who the owner of the meter was. Then I checked our subscription list, found the culprit, and solved the mystery. Sure enough, these assholes were getting the magazine for FREE, even though most people had to pay. I immediately cut them off from the list. Then I got their 800 number from information, their name and address from a listing in an industry directory, and their home addresses from information. After that, every single time I was by a newsstand I would take out the subscription cards from gay porno, bizarre religious or soap opera magazines and anything else that struck my fancy and sign these assholes up. I would get them Jesus plates from the Sunday paper, Precious Moments sculptures from TV Guide and Star Trek chess sets from Penthouse. I would fax them all night long at their 800 number, not only to tie it up, but to make them pay for my fun. I called them from time to time just to make sure they were getting all my stuff, and they were. I really wanted to tell them why I was doing it, but I never did. And I never will. I want them to know that they have made me their enemy, and I never forget an asshole.

Here’s a simple solution to people calling you at home to sell you something. Buy an air horn, you know, like the kind inbred jarheads use to juice things up at a football game, and keep it near the phone. As soon as you realize what they’re calling about, pick up the air horn and blast it into the phone. I used to try to sell subscriptions for a newspaper over the phone, and when I realized how hated I was by everyone that I called (it took about five days), I quit the job. If only more people would follow my example, the world would be a better place. There are other jobs, so save your letters of complaint. I am defending myself from an onslaught of assholes who have no regard for my privacy.

There are a lot of magazines I hate. Whenever they piss me off, I mutilate the cover in some way and put it in the back of the stack on the newsstand. Most people won’t buy damaged goods, so it ends up being sent back to the publisher for a refund. That makes me feel better. The same thing goes for books you don’t like, like romance novels. Tear the cover, or better yet, move all the copies so no one can find them. Or, if you want, put some other really awful book in front of the pile, so no one knows what books are behind it. Works like a charm.

I am in the middle of a long running feud with the assholes who work in my building. For those of you not living in New York City, you may not understand this. Here in the city, almost every restaurant delivers. Most of them suck. Unfortunately, you can’t tell which ones suck and which ones are good unless you try them. What they do to get into your life is slip a delivery menu under your door. If they have a delivery order for a neighbor on a different floor, the delivery asshole will slip menus under everyone in the building’s door. Sometimes when a new restaurant opens, they need to get the word out, and I understand that. The nice ones will put a stack in the lobby, and I always take a new menu when I see it in the lobby.

The assholes will slip a dozen under your door in the same week, even if you know the food sucks. I have discussed this with the doormen a number of times, because I hate having shit stuck under my door (I know it’s a minor quibble, but hey, I am trying to get it all out now, okay?). I have asked them not to let strangers into the building to distribute menus, and they don’t care. They don’t listen. It still goes on. So here’s how I pay everyone back for pissing me off. I order food for the doormen from some of these shitholes, making sure that it is pricey and gross. This works to embarrass the doorman, piss off the restaurant, and make me feel better. Also, from time to time, I will go around to all the apartments and take the menus out from in front of their doors and rip them all up. Then I throw the scraps into the stairwell, where the doorman has to pick them all up. Now they know how I feel, being annoyed by menus. Most buildings in New York have a sign that says “No Menus” for a reason. I have a doorman, and that cocksucker is supposed to protect me from strangers. Instead, he lets in any asshole with a bag of menus, not even worrying that it could be a burglar or a rapist or worse.

In the winter there are many old bitches who like to trot around town draped in some dead animals. If they were eskimos, and had done the killing themselves, that would be one thing. But most of these bitches have manicures that indicate to me that they are incapable of doing any kind of work. I can’t be bothered throwing blood or paint on them. Instead, I scare the fuck out of them. If I am standing near some woman in a fur, I will ask her in a very friendly voice how many blowjobs the coat cost her. Or, I will say, “That’s a nice fur,” then pause for a second for them to feel all full of themselves, then say, “how’d you get the blood out?” If I am in a hurry, I just yell, “How much for a blowjob, honey?” since as far as I am concerned, only whores and animals wear fur.

Sometimes I see people get upset over some tragedy that they see on television, and I swear, most of the time when I see tragedy, I laugh. My formula is comedy = tragedy + time, which is also the name of one of my cover tapes. This means that the further you are from the tragedy, in time or in distance, the easier it is to laugh at. For example, when I heard about the TWA Flight 800 disaster, most people I know were shocked and really upset. Why? I mean, if you knew somebody on the plane, that’s one thing, but I didn’t know any of them. So I made myself feel better about the whole thing. This method will work for any major disaster. First of all, the flight was to France, so maybe half the passengers are French, who conspired with Nazis to kill Jews. They deserve to die. The other half is Americans who can afford to go to France, which I cannot do. Also, I said to myself: I can account for all of those American passengers as well. Ten of them are people who cut me in line for the movies. Another twenty wore too much cologne and had pissed me off in enclosed spaces. Fifteen of these dead cocksuckers on the plane double parked in front of my car, leaving me trapped when I had somewhere to go. Thirty of them have been in line in front of me at the supermarket, have used expired coupons (or wasted my time trying), couldn’t figure out how the little card swipe works, tried to use a bad credit card, forgot their PIN, decided that some merchandise was too expensive and made all of us wait while the magical “key” was summoned from the manager, and so on. The rest of them have talked while I was at the movies, smoked in the no-smoking area, cheated on their taxes, date-raped someone in college, put their pet to sleep before it was necessary or maybe just voted for an asshole like George Bush.

I am sure that they each did something awful, petty or selfish to someone who didn’t deserve it, at some time, and when they did, that someone wished them dead. What caused that disaster, in my mind, was the collective ill will that those passengers earned in their lives. You say one victim was an innocent five-year-old girl? I am sure that little bitch had veal for dinner one night. That veal suffered a lot more than her, and that veal didn’t have to. She did. Fuck her. Besides, that girl would’ve broken some guy’s heart, been bitchy to another woman, spread some disease or gotten drunk and run over a dog. A greater tragedy was prevented by knocking that plane out of the sky, if you ask me.

Are you still crying over Princess Diana? Guess what? She had the best life anyone could ever imagine, and it STILL WAS NOT ENOUGH. All the money, power and fame in the world, and she is still whining about paparazzi. You know what? She was as much a part of the problem as anyone else. Wear a baseball cap, no makeup and regular clothes, and I am sure no one will give a shit. Just the other day I saw Sigourney Weaver in a spa downtown, wearing sweats and a cap. It took me a minute to recognize her, and I am a fan. The woman is very hot, very tall, and about to release a new movie, and no one else even noticed.

If you really want to avoid being chased, just stop, let them take your picture, and move on. I always figured if I was ever unlucky enough to get famous and some jerkoff stuck a camera in my face, I would give them the finger and say “FUCK YOU!” over and over, making any footage or photos of me totally unusable. Or, if that doesn’t work, hire some decent security and hide behind them. There are a million ways to avoid being harassed, if that’s really what you want. I think that isn’t what these people want, in fact, I think they love the attention. I am willing to bet cash money that 90% of the members of the Screen Actors Guild are dying for someone to take their picture, and will even make up stories just to get publicity.

If you really and truly cannot cope, follow J.D. Salinger’s example, find a house somewhere cold and/or deserted and ignore the world. Eventually, the press will leave you alone just like I have to do right now.

Web Bonus Info

This story is the one that generated the most e-mail, most of it incredibly negative. The people that got most upset about this piece probably saw it out of context when it was reprinted on a site called the New Colonist. They asked me if they could use my piece because they were looking for first-person tales and opinion pieces about city living and they decided to rename it, “Coping with Assholes, New York City style” which I thought was pretty stupid, but that’s what happens when you let other people use your work. They also added a bunch of sub-headings like, “Coping with Cabs” which were pretty superfluous, but again, what can you do?

I also would like to clarify that I really don't think people should shoot cabbies, or anyone else for that matter. It's hyperbole, it's not meant as incitement to violence. I am a pacifist and would only resort to violence in self-defense, luckily for you. I also no longer send junk mail back to people that send it to me, I just call them and tell them to take me off their mailing list. I realized it's not very green to waste resources just to get momentary revenge. I recycle the paper and catalogs and signed up for the registry to avoid junk mail. That's a milder but more reasonable approach.

This piece was the first article that I labeled “A Public Service” and the reason I do that is pretty specific. Initially I did it ironically because my ranting about how much I hate people isn’t doing much for the public except maybe making them feel bad. After this issue was published I worked for a company that designed and published porno magazines for exactly one day. During my brief stint there, I noticed that each issue of hardcore porn always had one bizarre, totally anachronistic piece. In Oriental Dolls magazine, there would be a two-page story about St. John’s Wort and Big Butt magazine had a piece about gardening. I didn’t understand why they did it, so I asked. They told me that in order to be declared pornographic by the government, a publication had to have “no artistic merit, appeal only to prurient interests and have no redeeming social value.” The pieces were called “evergreen” because they could be used over and over, in any magazine, for any reason. If there was ever an obscenity charge filed for selling the magazine, the publishers could defend it by pointing to that one article that didn’t have nudity and legitimately say that there was redeeming social value. I figured that if I always put in something that had redeeming social value, I could never be accused to peddling smut. After all, I taught my readers how to cope with assholes, which improved the quality of their lives immeasurably.
I could easily have gone back and taken out the offending words but that wouldn't really leave much else to enjoy, right? Anyway, whenever I do something that my family thinks is across the line, I get a stern, "Joshua!" My mother and grandmothers would go further, admonishing me as, "Joshua David!" I saw this commercial where the main character has the same name and is admonished in the same way and just imagine my grandmother reading this essay and then reading in the video below.

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