Friday, November 30, 2012

Cell Phones in Public

The other day we stopped by the Exit 9 Wine & Liquor in Clifton Park. I don’t know much about wine stores or what to buy so it was an interesting experience for me. At the check-out register while paying, I noticed a young woman at the next register swiping her Credit Card on a few bottles of wine she’d bought. While completing the transaction she remained on her cell phone, holding it under her ear and engaging in what I thought was a conversation the rest of us shouldn've been forced to listen to. It was a boyfriend from the sounds of it, and they were having a tiff of some sort.

Although the nature of the conversation was itself annoying, seeing that this woman couldn’t wait to get into her car to make this phone call was even more annoying. Who does this? Who has a full-blown phone conversation while conducting business in a public setting? I thought it was very rude and rather disrespectful to the cashier completing the purchase. Staying on your cell phone like that is kind of saying that the cashier is insignificant and doesn’t deserve your basic respect while in his/her store.

Maybe I’m wrong I thought. So when the cell-phone woman went off I asked the cashier if that kind of thing was seen as rude by the workers. Without hesitation the cashier said they all hated it, and how it happened all the time. Terrible, I thought.

If I’m ever on the phone with someone and I hear them doing business of this sort on the other end, for instance saying, “Hold on.” Then, “Can I get a foot-long turkey--” I just hang up. I hate holding on for that and I feel slimy being part of it happening to the person who has to serve this cell-phone fool.

There was a time when I actually stood up for the cell-phone user. I was at the old Borders on Wolf Rd. I was upstairs reading a book and a woman came through on her cell phone. She had a friend or family member on the line and was running through book titles, trying to get the purchase right. An elderly couple sitting a few feet from me and reading a book they weren’t going to buy scolded the woman for being rude. The woman apologized and ran off embarrassed.

I said to the couple, “This isn’t a library. She was trying to buy a book.” In my opinion she had the right-of-way on that one. And two months later that Borders closed down. Maybe too many people treating the place like a library and not a retailer.

Brian Huba

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Staying the Course

On Friday night we hit the Clifton Park Regal to see LINCOLN starring Daniel Day Lewis. The movie was amazing, the kind of flick you can discuss for hours. The story focused on Lincoln’s struggle to win the Civil War AND end slavery. Lincoln had ample opportunity to quell the bloodiest mess in US history if he left slavery alone, but Abe would hear none of it. He wanted both, because some wins are more important than other wins.

His cabinet told him the votes for the 13th amendment (end to slavery) did not exist and he risked everything by insisting on no war AND no slavery. But he did not relent, even though it complicated his personal life and risked his political legacy. He would not take the easy way out. In the end, he won both, and history remembers him as one of the nation’s most important presidents. He stayed the course and that made all the difference.

Lincoln’s battle has stayed with me all weekend. It was with me as I watched an undersized high school football team from Hoosick Falls claim the Class C NYS Title on Saturday. All week I'd heard the "cabinet” of football experts guaranteeing that Hoosick Falls had no chance against a bigger, better opponent in Hornell. Hornell hadn’t lost a game since ’08, 51&0 in that stretch, the longest streak in NYS. They were the three-time Class B Champions, and would surely cake walk to a fourth title in the lower Class C. Be happy you made it, Hoosick Falls, with your pint-sized offensive line and town population of three thousand. Why fight? Why stay the course? You have no chance.

Long story short, the Panthers came to play, and Hornell did not, choosing to believe their history would be enough this past Saturday in Syracuse. You can measure a person’s height/weight, for HF that was real short/real light, but you can’t measure a person’s determination to get 'er done. Not only did Hoosick Falls beat Hornell, that red-clad squad with their names stenciled on their backs, they CRUSHED them. The Red Raiders were left black and blue, win streak and championship run, finished. And in the end, a group of country kids who were ready to sacrifice everything to claim victory brought the first-ever state crown home. And, in my opinion, it’s one of the greatest championship stories I’ve ever heard. These kids stayed the course, they ignored popular opinion, and didn’t quit until every opponent was downed. In the end: 13&0.

Finally I thought of Hoosick Falls’ Head Coach, Ron Jones, a man who has obviously spent the better part of his adult life on a high school sideline. Coach Jones is now peppered with gray hair and a look that says he’s seen it all. He's done nothing but win at Hoosick Falls, an improbable feat perhaps, considering where and what Hoosick Falls is. And, despite all that winning, claiming a state crown was probably too much to hope for as a Panther, certainly a long shot against the mighty Red Raiders from Hornell. Maybe, along the way, Jones could’ve taken his laundry list of accolades to a bigger, richer school, and won a championship already, maybe a few, but he stayed the course. And today I’m willing to bet he wouldn’t trade this single championship for anything else in the world, because some wins are more important than other wins. I bet he's happy he didn’t take the easy way out. All those hours of film study I’m certain he’s burned, all those August doubles, all those heartbreaks along the way, were worth having this moment. I’ll bet.

In today’s America, where everyone wants to go from college to the corner office, Ron Jones, like Lincoln, is everything that is right about work ethic. There is no glory in taking the easy way out. There is no glory in winning by three when you’re favored by fifteen. Glory is staying the course. Then one day, after the long journey (because nothing worth doing is devoid of the long journey) you bring an outsized army to an unwinnable fight and stomp out the naysayers. Why? Because you’ve been waiting your whole life to fight this fight.

Nobody’s inspired by a 22 year old driving a Mercedes. Nobody’s inspired by “Dream Teams” in sports. It’s in the hardest times when character is built. It’s the willingness to dig deeper and fight longer that result in the greatest payout. Staying the course is the only way to win the most meaningful fights. One need not look further than Abraham Lincoln or Coach Ron Jones on that. For Coach Jones, like Lincoln, belongs to the ages now.

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Brian Huba

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I'm Ready to Run

The first time I promised myself I was going to run the Troy Turkey Trot, I was twenty years old. I had a job I liked and was even interested in a girl at that job. My roommate Bill was the bouncer at Michael’s on Madison Ave., and the night before Thanksgiving, I saw that girl walk in when I was there with him. I remember she looked brighter than everyone else coming through the crowd, I remember that. I was wearing this new denim jacket I thought was so cool. Life? Figured out at twenty. One week later, I lost that job and any shot at that girl. With no income, back went the cool denim jacket to Macy’s. Nope, I had some things to work on still. I wasn’t ready to run yet.

The next few years were lost to the simple fact that the night before Thanksgiving meant everyone from high school was home for the weekend, so party hardy. It meant going out all night. I might’ve said I was going to run that Turkey Trot, might’ve even said it while standing at the bar at the Bayou or the Big House, eyes all a glaze, but I never actually meant it. I knew I wouldn’t be ready to run; it simply wasn’t a priority at that time. Still not ready.

Fast Forward and I’m twenty-five. In September when graduate school started, I announced I’d be running in November, come hell or high water I’d be at that Turkey Trot. I was on a treadmill three times a week. I was ready to take that race. I even made a crazy prediction of victory, which was laughed at by Tony who managed the St. Rose gym. A few days before the Thanksgiving Break, I realized I had messed up the first part of a whole-semester assignment, and instead of ripping up Downtown Troy my Thanksgiving Day was spent in front of a computer getting my mess ups corrected so I could submit the second part of that assignment by term’s end. Nope. No race for me. Man, I thought I was ready.

So many times we think we’re ready for the big job, the big house, the big race, but the truth is we’re not there yet. There’s still work to be done, mistakes to iron out. It can be frustrating when you set a goal and fall short. When you think you’re in a bigger, better place than you actually are. That can be hard. And many times it’s hard to see the bigger picture. But when it all works out, you understand why it was the way it was, and wouldn't trade it for the world. That year I was twenty-five. Still not ready to run.

Thanksgiving Weekend two years later: My ten-year reunion. Wow, had it already been a decade since I graduated high school? It was a weekend spent swapping stories of successes and marriages and just-born babies and living in Atlanta, and everything else my classmates were up to at 27 and 28 years old. Again, I felt pretty good. I had earned an AA, a BA, and just recently a MS, working my first “real” job, even living with a woman. We had a dog. Yep, I had it all figured out. No need to run that Turkey Trot. Who did I have to prove anything to? Then life threw another, wholly-unexpected curve. By June, the job was gone, the girl a month later, and the next three months after that, nightly nightmares about the dog I’d left behind. Enter the dark time.

Five years later, the girl is back and the dog is watching me write this. In fact, she has two little sisters now. Three spoiled dogs. The three months I went without that woman and that dog were the worst. But life has so many curve balls, and fate gave me a second chance with her to iron out my mistakes. Thank you, fate. Within hours of reconciliation, my life went right back to good. Literally: Hours. Now we’re married, the apartment is a house, and talk of making a family is in full swing. So often, when I look back, I can’t believe I was able to make this work out right. How did I get so lucky? All those times in my past were actually the building blocks of my present, whether I knew it or not.

So the other night--when the call came from rather-athletic cousins on my wife’s side--asking if I wanted to run the Turkey Trot with them/against them, I didn’t hesitate before saying, “sign me up.” Yep, I think I’m ready to run. Change that: I know I’m ready. And my wife, with her parents, will watch us run, and cheer, and this is the way it was always meant to be. This is what all those past failures were building towards. I’m so glad this year will be my first. I couldn’t think of a better way to make my Turkey Trot premiere, running with people I love, running alongside family, not alone.

And I promise, if I see that victory tape still unbroken when I round for home, I’m going to hit that last piece with every ounce of energy I have. (For the record, if I finish in the top 1,000 it will be a miracle.) Why? I’ve been waiting my whole life to run this race. And I’ll have a full tank still because I know who’ll be waiting on the other side of that finish line. And the knowing, there could be no greater motivator. The knowing it's going to be all right in the end. See, I've already won. And . . .

I’m ready to run.

Brian Huba

PS: In case you're wondering, I finished 360th place out of 5700 runners. I had a time of 22:52. I was beaten by 307 men and 52 women. Added on 11.25.12

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Crabby Secretary

Is there anything more annoying than the crabby secretary? Why do so many women in this position insist on projecting this personality? I know, I know, you’re actually the most important person in the office, all things go through you, blah, blah. Yeah OK, and the guy who plays keyboards, he’s the most important piece in Paul McCartney’s band. I understand and respect the role of the admin. assistant in an office, and, at my workplace, I have been blessed with two of the greatest secretaries ever, but so many times when I am out and about, I am forced to deal with the self-important secretary. Ma am, with all due respect, I’m here for the product five feet behind you, not to tiptoe around this cranky, I-hate-my-life character you’re playing. Just tell the guy I’m here to see him.

Case & point: Yesterday during the day I wasn’t feeling very well: chest pains, numbness, scary stuff. I called my doctor’s office, and he agreed to see me right after work. What a guy, my doctor. When I showed up at the office I had to first deal with the crabby secretary who interrogated me about my visit. And the whole time she wouldn’t even look at me, and kept snapping at me and cutting me off as I tried explaining that I called and was given the green light to come in. Then she does the thing where she puts her finger in your face to silence you so she can take a phone call, and then was super rude to the caller.

When I finally finished my story, she says, “Ten dollars.” Just that, "Ten dollars." Um, OK, and thanks for caring. I gave her my CC/Debit card and she looked at it like it was diseased. Then she takes several minutes to scan it, slaps the receipt on the counter for me to sign, then snatches it back. She never even looked at me once. Wow. It was awful. Lady, I’m not here for you and your orthopedic sneakers and Nalgene bottle. I think I might be having a heart attack (of course I'm not). Have you seen me in a cut-off t-shirt? But I thought I was, and the least you can do is look at me when speaking. Many secretaries are amazing. Maybe she's amazing, and was just having a bad day, but come on, treat me like a human. I'm at a doctor's office and I'm nervous. In this ecomony, everyone is a dime a dozen. We need to work extra to treat people with respect.

The doctor himself was amazing, a brilliant man. I love my doctor. He gave a complete exam and assured me that I wasn’t dying. Thank God for my doctor. It was the greatest doctor’s visit I ever had, and left there feeling like a million dollars. If you're wondering: I did not bad mouth his office help. Of course not, and I'm sure he will not read this. But the dealing with the secretary was terrible, just terrible, and if I was my doctor, and found out that any customers were being treated like numbers on a chart, let’s just say: Someone wouldn’t be getting flowers on April 24th.

Brian Huba

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Footnote in History

In twenty years, Mitt Romney old and all-the-way grey in the hair now, will walk through his huge summer home on the coast, sit down in that big, comfortable chair by the picture window that looks out on the Atlantic Ocean, and turn on the TV, a big job, something real thin in the faraway future, I’m sure.

He’ll use his futuristic remote control to pull up that same old recording he’s watched a million times. He’ll remember that far-ago night in Denver as he watches for the millionth time. And that first Presidential Debate will play on his super-thin TV, and he’ll smile wide from the night he kicked a President’s butt on the International Stage.

He’ll smile wide watching that old debate for the millionth time. And wouldn’t you smile wide if your brightest moment played out in front of 70 million people?

Brian Huba

Friday, November 2, 2012

This Guy's the Worst: Part II

When I was at the NYG’s-Cowboys game last December, there was a Cowboy fan in front, drinking like a fool, celebrating with a dance, gang symbols thrown, the baggy jersey with the big towel over the shoulder, begging for mob justice. A fan behind summed it best: "This guy's the worst," which got me thinking. So I made a list of guys that always make me say, “This guy's the worst.” Read original list here: This is my second list of the guys that make me say, "This guy's the worst."

Guy Who Stands Outside the Bathroom: Have you ever been at work, using the bathroom, and you hear the knob jingle as a co-worker is trying to get in while you’re finishing up? In this case, the understood etiquette is that the person who can’t get in walks away or hits another b-room, right? But this guy instead stands right outside the door, so when you emerge, you have to basically bump chests with him on your way out. If you are a guy who stands outside the bathroom at work and waits, stop ASAP. That guy is the worst.

Guy Who Does Family Things During NFL Sunday: Let me get this straight, you claim to be a diehard NY Jets Fan, or even worse, a diehard Buffalo Bills fan, but during the game, you’re at Gould Orchards with the family? What? You mean you’re following your favorite football team on your I-Phone? I’m sorry, if you are not in front of a TV to watch every single game your favorite team plays, you are not a top-notch fan. You can go to Gould Orchards or the haunted hayride during the Yankees game, of course, because baseball is a snooze fest. But this is the NFL, man. You will not see me at Home Depot this Sunday buying lawn bags during the Giants vs. Steelers game. Count on that.

Guy Who Drives a Subaru: I don't know why this guy bothers me so much. I guess Guy Who Drives a Subaru is just a little too Burlington and box of granola.

Guy Who Does Fantasy Football: I don't know anything about FF, I will admit that, but it is so annoying recapping the weekend's games with this guy because all he ever talks about is how many points Chris Johnson got him or how many points the Eagles Defense cost him, etc. It's just a weird way to root on Sundays, I suppose. For me, the NFL is wanting my favorite team to win, and talking about that on Monday. Not being upset because you're now in third place in your pretend league because of the St. Louis Rams Special Teams.

City Guy: I think we can all agree that NYC is the best place on the Planet, and if you live in NYC, it's pretty awesome. But we all know that guy who references "the City" in almost every social situation. You know, City Guy. You could be talking about anything from sports to favorite TV shows, and this guy will somehow work how he lives in "the City" into the conversation. City Guy is kind of a cousin of the all-time worst guy, Topper Guy. You know Topper, he tops every single story you tell. City Guy is sort of that guy in a lot of ways.

Guy Who Wears Graphic Tees: You’re 37 years old, and you’re wearing a t-shirt that says, “Let the Haters keep on Hating” with a graphic fist punching through a graphic brick? What else are you going to tell me: You’re one of those guys with a tribal-band tattoo around your bicep? This is almost as bad as the 37 year old who wears Hollister or American Eagle sweatshirts. Men, if you’re older than 30 just wear regular clothes that don’t say Hollister in huge letters or have whole story lines depicted on the front in graphic illustration. Regular, plain clothing. You’re a grown man for God’s sake.

Guy Who Puts Inflatables on his Front Yard: Tis the Season. This guy must have no idea how cheesy the inflatable ghost or inflatable Santa Claus looks on his front lawn or he’d take it down today. The thing I hate about the inflatable ghost and/or Santa is how it deflates every day and lays on the lawn like a garbage bag, and every day he has to go outside and blow it back up, only for it to deflate again. It looks cheap, and terrible, and tacky, guy, sorry.

Guy Who Wears Flip Flops at the Office: I can tolerate a man wearing flip flops during the summer in social situations. I never would be caught dead in flip flops. But I’m not going to hate on that guy. But come on, I know it’s Friday, but must you flop around the workplace in beach-ready flip flops? This is a business setting and I can’t imagine anyone is going to take seriously a grown man dressed like he’s in a Beach Boys video. Top that off with a pair of jeans, Hollister sweatshirt, and graphic tee underneath, and you’re ready to be the laughing stock of your office.

And now the worst

Guy Who Complains on Facebook about Hurricane Sandy Missing Cap Reg: I’m so sorry you had to stop off after work on Monday and pick up batteries for nothing. Yeah, you should really be venting about that on your dumb Facebook Page. How could the Albany Weathermen have been SO wrong and put you SO far out? Why are you made to suffer like this? What a waste of twelve dollars. It’s the worst. Oh wait: Have you seen pictures of Queens and New Jersey since Sandy? Do you realize people in the prime of their lives are dead and gone? Do you realize people lost their homes, their cars, their pets, everything! Your unnecessary CVS batteries aside, you should be thanking God these weathermen were cartoonishly off point about Sandy’s trek, stunningly off the mark, really. We got away with murder on this one, Cap Reg, and for that, I am thankful.

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Brian Huba