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Life on the March

It’s March and March means St. Patrick’s Day parades and bagpipe bands. It takes a special type of person to march with a bagpipe band. Marching down the street in worsted wool isn’t as easy as bands make it look. Having been a member of a pipe band, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Many hours of practice went into what you’re hearing on the street. We practiced together for months with drummers on practice pads and pipers on practice chanters before we picked up the instruments. We also practiced at home. We also spent a lot of time on marching. It’s surprisingly difficult for a group of people to walk on the same foot at the same time while playing an instrument.

The bagpipes are difficult to learn and have a high failure rate. You spend at least the first year on a practice chanter until you can play basic tunes correctly from memory. The huge time investment is a big turn-off and the memorization can be tough. Then, there’s the monetary investment. A set of pipes made of composite material that sounds good costs about $700. A top of the line wooden set is in the $10,000 price range.

Drummers don’t get off light either. The drums are often provided by the band, but they can be a bit awkward to carry, especially the bass drum. Imagine a wind whipping across you while you have a 3-foot diameter drum attached to the front of you. The drum becomes a sail and playing correctly and marching in proper time becomes a challenge.

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Even Bubba celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. He wears his green year-round

Given what the band has been through to get to the parade, your cheers and support mean the world. When I marched with the band, I didn’t pay for a single drink. Many parades partner with local bars that allow the bands to eat and/or drink for free. The friendly spirit of St. Patrick also brings out the generosity in parade goers.

The outfits are pretty cool, too. The kilt gave me Catholic school flashbacks, but the cool accessories made it for me. We wore a sporran was which is sort of like a fanny pack only much cooler and was a handy place to carry stuff. Then there were the kilt hose, which were basically knee socks with a fancy popcorn top and inside the top of our right kilt hose we carried a sgian dugh (pronounced skin-doo) which is a small knife.

The accessories we wore were rooted in the Scottish and Irish traditions of wearing kilts into battle. Just like the fief and drum corps that marched with the armies of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, pipe and drum corps marched with the armies of Scotland and Ireland. The sporran was used on the battlefield the same way we used ours on the parade route; as a handy thing to carry our stuff. I imagine what was in our sporrans was very different from what was found in that of a piper or drummer marching with an army. The sgian dubh was carried by pipers and drummers in battle as a means of defending themselves should they need to beat a hasty retreat. I too found comfort in knowing that I was armed when we marched in parades in dicey neighborhoods, especially Newark.

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My mother waiting for a parade to start.

Nobody really seems to care much about our accessories. Everyone was obsessed with what was or wasn’t being worn under the men’s kilts. As a woman I avoided this. For some reason people don’t feel as comfortable asking what’s under a woman’s kilt. That or no one got brave or drunk enough to risk the kick in the nuts that I assure you would result from asking me that and God help you if you try to lift my kilt. I will cut you. I’m carrying a knife after all.

If I had a dollar for every time I overheard the under the kilt question I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this right now. I’d be on my own private island in the Maldives lying in the sun without a care in the world. There’s a tradition in Scotland and Ireland of wearing nothing under the kilt called going regimental. However, if it’s freakin’ March in New Jersey I can assure you that the men with the band are wearing underwear. Hell, they’d be wearing long-johns if they could. It’s so cold that if they weren’t wearing underwear you’d know it because they wouldn’t be able to play. Their balls would retreat whence they came and take refuge in their chest cavity impacting their lung capacity. Can we please talk about how rude it is to ask what’s under the kilts? When did that become appropriate? You wouldn’t walk up to some random guy you don’t know and ask him if he’s going commando under his pants, would you? Mind your business!

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One of many drinks I was driven to by kilt hoes.

Speaking of annoying things can we talk about kilt hoes? No, not the fancy socks we wear. I mean the chicks who try to hang all over the guys in the band because seeing a man in a kilt brings out their inner hoe. I’ll admit there’s something attractive about a man in a kilt. That’s why I’m dating a bagpiper. I’ve talked about it in my act (click here). However when a man in a kilt is standing with his arm around a lady in the same kilt, it generally means HE’S TAKEN! GO AWAY! It’s rude to throw yourself at another woman’s man especially when that woman is STANDING RIGHT THERE WATCHING YOU DO IT!!! Go till a garden because you’re a hoe. Also, I’m not standing under his arm for a pointless PDA. I’m huddled there for warmth because we all just froze our asses off marching down the street for your entertainment. If you’d like to express your appreciation, please follow these very simple rules.

1) No, we don’t want to get a free drink for you so don’t ask. We’re not risking getting kicked out of the bar. Go find someone else to pay for your buzz.

2) No, you cannot take a picture with my boyfriend unless you’d like me to be in it. If you don’t like that, go take a picture with someone else, then take a long walk off a short pier.

3) No, you cannot hang all over my boyfriend if we agree to take a picture with you. Keep your filthy hoe hands to yourself. If you put your arms around his neck, I’ll wring yours. However, if you’d like to hug me, that’s okay. I’m about the hug life, not the thug life.

4) No, I will not take a picture of you hanging all over my boyfriend. Seriously don’t even ask. I will cut you. Again, I’m carrying a knife.

Look, kilt hoes, there’s more than one pipe band and loads of guys wearing kilts. I’m sure at least one of them is single. GO AWAY!

Crowd love is great, but be respectful when you express it, try to keep the drinking within reason, and please don’t drink and drive. I will cut you. Again, I’m carrying a knife.

The Comedy Life

In a rare twist of fate, I had 2 shows booked in one weekend. Friday night at Take 5 Gourmet in Robbinsville, NJ and Saturday night the Coins for Colleen Fundraiser.

Friday night at Take 5 almost became the show that never was. I spent most of the day in bed with a migraine. However I rallied in the late afternoon and when show time arrived, I daresay I even passed for a functional adult. We had another epic show. The audience turned out and they were turn’t up as the kids say nowadays. I hosted and newcomer Harrison Brown, a very funny teenager led off followed by Tom Mongelli, Jonny Smallwood, Doug Max, James Camacho, Peter Brown, Steve Schwartz, and Joey Novick who came very close to causing me to nose my beverage. Kurt Zimmerman headlined and was off the chain as usual. I’m definitely looking forward to next month.

Saturday night was the Coins for Colleen fundraiser and it was really something special. It was a packed house of 300 people my largest audience to date and my fellow hosts of the Robbinsville Trainwreck (previous shows can be found here) Kurt Zimmerman and Tim Eli came out to help. In addition to all the laughing because we killed it, there was also dinner, dancing, drinks, a 50-50, a basket auction, and a crap ton of fun. What made this show special to me was looking at Colleen, a damn nice lady who’s sick with colon cancer, and seeing her laughing. It reminded me why I started doing this in the first place and it made all the hours of writing, rehearsing, and arguments with myself over phrasing all worth it. I also donated my hair in Colleen’s honor so that it can give hope to others who are battling cancer.

So folks, my weekend was chock full of jokes. In fact even my video camera got in on the act and rendered almost all of my footage unusable to anyone who doesn’t want to watch a video that looks like my world before I put in my contacts. Even my video camera is funny! However I did manage to salvage a little bit in the form of exactly one joke from Take 5 on Friday and it’s brand new. You can watch it here.

 

A letter to John Q. Public

Dear John Q. Public,

I can’t help but notice how rude you are to customer service people. I get it. You want what you want and you want it now and that person isn’t giving you what you want, but perhaps I can persuade you to treat others a bit more gently. First of all, you’re not entitled. You have to work for and earn everything you get just like everybody else. I’m sorry your mommy told you that you’re a special little snowflake but really you’re just like every other snowflake and this world is a blizzard. Second, that person on the phone or behind the counter that you’re treating like dirt is a human being, not the embodiment of whatever business or entity you’re currently pissed off with. I would also point out that he/she is not in fact dirt. He/she is a person with a job to do just like you and me.

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Think about how you would feel if someone came to your place of employment or dwelling and treated you that way. Would you like it? Of course not! If you asked that person on the phone or behind the counter, I’m sure he/she would tell you that he/she really doesn’t want to hear your abuse. I know because I’ve been the person both on the phone and behind the counter. Also spoiler alert! I don’t care what the customer service person did or said to you. You are an adult and you are responsible for your own actions. As such you have the capacity to act appropriately regardless of how others may act toward you. I suggest you use it. Screaming, yelling, ranting, raving, or verbally abusing someone is not an appropriate way to act. However don’t do it so you can get on some moral high horse and think you’re better than someone else. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Otherwise I may tell you where to go and what to do with the moral high horse you rode in on.

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Have you ever heard the saying that you catch more flies with honey than you do with piss? Guess what! It’s true! People respond much better to someone speaking to them in a calm, kind, and rational manner than they do to someone who’s carrying on like a petulant child. If you were nicer to people you’d probably get what you want a lot more often and the people who have to deal with you would have a much better day. See? Everybody wins!

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You may not believe this, but that person on the phone or behind that counter really does want to help you. No, I’m serious he/she really does, but there’s a caveat to this. All companies have rules and guidelines that they’re required to follow for a variety of reasons. Some have to do with corporate policy while others are in place due to State or Federal regulations that must be followed. So that person on the phone or behind the counter really isn’t giving you a hard time just because he/she wants to ruin your day. He/she would love to give you what you want and let you happily go about the rest of your day, but he/she isn’t able to do that because he/she has to follow the rules. Do you see him/her asking you to put your job on the line for him/her? I don’t think so. So why on earth do you think it’s fair for you to expect someone else to do the same for you? Now do you see how ridiculous you sound?

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Oh and please, go ahead and demand to talk to a supervisor. I dare you. I’ve been on the other end of that phone call, too. You’re going to get the same information repeated back to you by someone with a different voice and enough experience to be firm while still putting you at ease and making you understand that we really are trying to help.

Despite what you might think, no customer service job is easy and not only because of asshats like you. They also typically don’t pay well, they’re stressful, the benefits if they even offer them suck, and it sucks to smile while someone gives you a hard time. The job sucks so much that people call out constantly so there’s a pretty good chance that the person you’re mistreating was called in on his/her only day off for the week because one of his/her coworkers didn’t feel like showing up to work. He/she is probably overworked and taken for granted and needs your abuse like he/she needs a hole in his/her head.

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Next time you find yourself losing your cool in a customer service situation, stop and take a deep breath. You’re not a victim. Nobody is out to get you and the sole motivation of the person behind the counter or on the phone is to help you, not to ruin your day. You’re not entitled and poor planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on someone else’s. Think about two golden rules. First, do unto others as you’d have done to you. If you wouldn’t want to be mistreated, don’t mistreat someone else. The second golden rule: don’t be a dick. Giving a customer service person a hard time is a total dick move. It costs you nothing to be a decent person. Try it out! You might like it!

Signed,

Everyone who’s ever worked in customer service