I've never met Bill Maher, the host of Real Time on HBO, but I think we have one thing in common: We're both a bit cranky. On his show (returning August 25), there's a segment entitled "New Rules," in which Maher squares off about things he doesn't like and imposes rules to correct them.
Mr. Maher, please consider this week's column a tribute to you, as I'm about to rip you off shamelessly. I have some new rules of my own.
New Rule: Sidewalks are made for walking. If you want to gather around a group of your friends to chat and hangout, go to a bar or go to your house but don't stand there in the middle of a public sidewalk jabbering like you're at some kind of cocktail party. Don't expect me to walk out into the street so as to not interrupt your little gathering and dimwit conversation. All of you in attendance need to move your asses aside so I can get by.
New Rule: If you're in a wheelchair begging for money, you can't be talking on a cell phone. There's this guy on Ludlow Avenue who parks his wheelchair, usually outside of Keller's IGA, with a sign saying he's a crippled veteran and needs money.
I don't have a problem with that at all. What I do have a problem with is his asking for money while talking on his cell phone. If I'm giving you money, I want it to go toward food, shelter or health care, not your wireless bill.
New Rule: Panhandlers need to be nicer. I don't mind somebody approaching me on the street and asking for money. If I have some spare change, I'll gladly help out. But don't ask me if I can give just a little more. Don't tell me the exact dollar amount you're looking for, and don't look at my wallet if I'm inclined to give you a buck and say, "Hey, I see you have more than that." This actually happened to me once; and while I'm sorry you're down on your luck, I'm not going to give all my hard earned money to you. Take some of that change I give you, buy a newspaper and look through the help-wanted ads.
New Rule: If you don't smoke, don't sit in the smoking section of a restaurant or bar. Give me a break. We smokers already feel like second-class citizens and don't need you looking down your nose at us when we're smoking in a bar or in the section allotted to us in a restaurant. If I get one more dirty look, I'll blow that smoke right in your face only because I can't blow it up your ass.
New Rule: Just cut my hair and shut up already. Hey Ms. Hair Stylist: You want to get a bigger tip? If so, don't ask how I am, don't ask about my family and don't ask where I'm going on vacation this year. I know you're not really interested in my life, and I'm not interested in making small talk with you. Just do your job and get it done quickly. P.S. Don't try to sell me any hair products either.
New Rule: No more Indian restaurants on Ludlow Avenue. Don't get me wrong, I like Indian food, but you know it's taken over when you order a cheese sandwich at the Proud Rooster and they even ask you, on a scale of one to 10, how spicy you want it.
New Rule: The rest of us on the bus can't help it if you have a big ass. In my world, it's not all right for your big rear end to take up two seats on the bus, especially when it's crowded. I do expect you to tuck your flab in to let me have a seat. Next time walk to where you want to go. Maybe you'll lose a few pounds.
New Rule: Your adorable little child isn't adorable to me. If I'm having lunch or dinner at a restaurant and your child is screaming and yelling, drinking from the catsup bottle or running to my table staring at me, I'm not exactly enjoying your kid. If you can't control your out of control brat, stay at home or order carryout.
New Rule: Checkout lanes are checkout lanes — not a place to hear your bullshit. If I'm behind you in the grocery or drug store, I expect you to pay for your purchase and move on. I'm not interested in hearing you chatter with the checkout girl about your new puppy, your grandchild, how Fran is doing or your stupid love life. You're pissing me off. Get together with the cashier later for coffee, but move it along so I can pay for my stuff and get the hell out.
And finally. . .
New Rule: Sit down and eat. Don't get a carryout from a restaurant and then proceed to walk down the sidewalk eating your burger, hot dog or your curly fries. I'm sick and tired of almost slipping and falling down on tomatoes, onions, cheese or anything else that has fallen out of your sandwich or carryout bag. Take a load off and stuff your face while sitting on a bench or, better yet, eat inside the damn restaurant.
Got any rules you would like to see in place that would make your life better? E-mail them to me at [email protected] and we'll try to get them on the ballot.
Larry Gross' book, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Stories, is in bookstores now and can be ordered through Amazon.com along with a new Amazon Short "Charlie Gets Ready for Work."