Thursday, October 8, 2009

Targeted Marketing Gone Too Far

Targeted advertising freaks me out. I google one thing out of curiosity, or update my Facebook profile, and I get super specific ads popping up on my sidebars for weeks (P90X, Online Education Degrees, ShamWows...) "They" know too much, and to make matters worse, I don't even know who "they" are. It's creepy.

I am thankful that I know that it happens, although I'm not particularly clear on the how part. In an online group that I am a member of, a young mom once posted that she was furious that her very young daughter's favorite educational website was displaying "adult" themed advertisments. Other moms posted advice ranging from "Call and complain!" to "Call a Lawyer!" No one had the heart to mention that she should talk to her husband about viewing porn on the computer. I sure didn't. I hope she was let down gently, whatever route she chose to take.

However, this week, targeted marketing has gone too far. It was bad enough when Ladies' Home Journal showed up in my mailbox, but now... tampons? Really? It's even creepier that I just recently got my monthly visitor back (the one and only greatest thing about pregnancy and extended breastfeeding, other than a happy little baby, of course). HOW did "they" know this? Tooooooo much information! Sure, maybe it's just a crazy coincidence that this is the time that a Playtex sample box showed up in my mailbox, but that doesn't make for a very good blog post. I maintain that it's super creepy.

The creepiest part was the literature that came in the packet. There was a postage-paid card to send in for a chance to win a $250 Visa Gift card. I was reading the fine print (I'm a freak), when this sentence popped out at me- "We will contact you within a few months to see how you enjoyed your Playtex tampons." What?!?! There are several verbs I could think of to associate with tampons, but enjoy? What kind of freak enjoys a tampon? Who are these people? And how did they get my address?

Yep, targeted marketing freaks me out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Move Over "Biggest Loser"

Meet Erin, diet guru and founder of The New World Diet.

I personally used this diet to lose the last of my stubborn baby weight, and now I want to offer this tested system to you for the low price of $19.99. But wait- order now, and I'll slash $19.99 off that payment! That's right! But you must act within the next 3 minutes!

Here is the rundown of my patented system, which combines science and pop culture to get you results you never dreamed of. First, you need to catch Swine Flu. Kiss a pig, lick a Mexican, play in a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese- do whatever it takes! This is the "jump start" portion of my system, and will kick your weight loss into high gear. Once you see the immediate results, you will be encouraged and motivated enough to enter into phase 2 of my system: Have someone in your household lose his or her job. It can be you, your significant other, your child (please obey applicable child labor laws) or even a very close roommate. What matters here is that in this economy, a new job will not soon be found, and it will take weeks to get an unemployment check in the mail. By the time money starts to flow in again, you will have been unable to afford food for weeks! No temptation for you, my friend! (It is very important to follow my program in this exact order, since you need to be in a healthy state prior to contracting Swine Flu, and have health insurance just in case.

With my system, H1NE1can get results! So don't wait, pick up the phone and call today, before it gets disconnected!!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Kind of Kid

It's so rare lately that I get inspired, that I thought this deserved a mention.

Not long ago, I was substitute teaching. I must have been doing something right, because the science teacher pulled me out in the hall and asked me if I was comfortable supervising my kids with lasers. It might sound easy enough, until I add that I was subbing again for special ed that day, and the kids had been fighting the whole day. The teacher, obviously torn between her initial assessment of my competence and the look of fear in my eye, decided to leave me in charge of my group, but also to add one "regular" kid.

I went back in the classroom playing it cool, while secretly being nervous as hell. I was scared about being in charge of ornery special needs kids with lasers, but I was even more afraid of which student she would add to our group. There were lots of jock type boys and pretty girls in the class, and this was middle school. How was one of these kids going to react to being grabbed out of his or her group and thrown in with the social outcasts? What if they made fun of my kids? Ornery or not, I had grown attached to these kiddos. Although it would be completely unprofessional, if need be, I could smack a 6th grader down.

The teacher chose one of her weekly leaders to be in the group. I sized him up as he walked over, looking for any negative signs. In spite of his shaggy hair, frail frame, and general preteen awkwardness, I got nothing. He walked over confidently and sat down at the table. He poured and measured, following directions exactly. He didn't stop there, though. He intervened in the constant badgering between my kids, interjecting at exactly the right moments to show them how "cool" the experiments were. He made sure that everyone, physical disability or not, got a turn to hold the laser (the teacher told me that only the leader could hold it, but screw her. The kids were thrilled by it, and I'm not on her school's payroll anyway). He helped draw diagrams and explain light waves, he mediated, and he made sure no one was left out. I think the best part was that he didn't look up once to see who was watching him. Kids can be awesome. I had no doubt that this kid was going to make this world a better place. His parents had obviously done an incredible job, and I couldn't help but fast-forward a few years and hope that this was exactly what my little boy would turn into, even in those clumsy not-quite-a-teenager years.

Thank you, anonymous family, for renewing my hope in mankind.

Monday, January 26, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Due Date- repost for Katie :)

'Twas the night before due date, and I laid awake dreamless
not a creature was stirring, except for the fetus;
The hospital bag was laid by the front door with care
In hopes that the baby soon would be there.

The baby was nestled all snug in the womb
As I frantically struggled to finish his room
And I in my mu-mu, and BF, full of crap,
Had just settled down for a short useless nap,

When I felt a kick so strong on my bladder
I sprang from the bed to take care of the matter.
Away to the bathroom I flew like a flash,
Sat down on the toilet and heard quite a splash.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But part of my mucus plug, both yellow and clear.
And then I saw him! So fat and so hairy,
I knew that it must be... The Labor Fairy!

More rapid than eagles his contractions they came,
And he grunted, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now weight gain! Now stretch marks! Now cravings and swelling!
On Cankles! On Nausea! On uncontrollable yelling!"
"To L&D! To the doctor on call!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

And then, in a twinkling, I heard my reaction
to the squeezing and cramping of each contraction.
As I drew in my breath, and waited for more,
In came The Labor Fairy, straight through my door.

He had a swollen face and a giant round belly,
That shook on its own, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right crabby old elf,
Yet I cheered when I saw him, in spite of myself.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work-
And that's when it all stopped! No way, what a jerk!

And giving me the finger in front of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his car. He had pulled off his caper.
I knew in that instant that this was false labor!

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I'm Overqualified, So Shut the Hell Up

"If you made it here tonight, you are lucky," the man in the center of the room said. "Just think of all the people out there right now without a job, and remember what you have."

I cast a sideways glance around the room full of grownups in penguin apparel, wondering what was so wonderful about being forty years old and showing up to work in a vest and a bow tie, preparing to pass shrimp and grits to a room full of unappreciative morons for eleven bucks an hour. One of my old friends had called me out of the blue earlier in the afternoon, and asked if there was any way I was free to tend bar for him in a few hours. "Yes," I said, instantly knowing better. After all, I have a child to support, and I am closing on a new house this week (God willing). I asked for the details, and found out that the pay was $14 an hour and I would have to wear a white button up shirt. I knew the button up was a bad sign, seeing as how I have sworn off any and all jobs that require wearing a bow tie or a polo. A white button up means they are going to slap a bow tie on you when you walk through the door, and wearing a bow tie means- without fail- that you are someone's bitch. It was too late, though- I had already accepted the assignment.

Fast forward to the speech. I had shown up to this event as a freelancer, so I really didn't have a clue what was going on. After this touchy-feely moment of wonderfulness was over, and I had thanked my lucky stars, I was directed to my bar. I was to tend bar with an older gentleman- we'll call him Wayne. I walked behind the bar and introduced myself, and asked all the appropriate questions. "What's your name? Who do you work for? How long have you been bartending?" Blah blah blah, bartender comradity, us against them, blah blah blah.

Wayne answers my questions, and mentions that he is good at wine and beer. To those of you who don't bartend, if this were a wine bar, that would mean something. Wine is a very difficult subject if you delve into its complexities. This was not that kind of event. There were about 5 beers and 4 varietals of cheap wine. So already, I'm confused. Then, THEN, he tells me that if someone asks for a "specialty drink," he will ask me what to do. He mentions that he doesn't know what is in a whiskey sour, and stares at me questioningly. At this point, I think he's being a condescending asshole. Because of his age and demeanor, I think he's obviously been doing this a while, and thinks that the young(er) girl with big boobs couldn't possibly know what she's doing behind a bar. "I'll show him," I thought. I've been doing this for years, and I'm very, very good at what I do.

Only Wayne didn't stop staring. It turns out he wasn't kidding. We are standing there behind the bar, staring each other down, when he finally says, "It's gin, right? In a whiskey sour?" I still think he's kidding, and keep staring at him until he looks like he's nervous. "It's WHISKEY and SOUR," I hear myself say, "and if you want to get fancy, you can add a splash of Sprite." Oh.My.Lord. This will NOT be a good night.

To make a long story short, after the whiskey sour incident, Wayne (a) could not find the white zinfandel, because it was not in fact white, (b) whined that it had been almost 4 hours and he hadn't had a break (I've often bartended 12 hour shifts without breaks- shut up), (c) hadn't been offered dinner, and (d) (aka my final straw) told a woman I would have to make her drink because "Erin does the specialty drinks." What had she ordered? Tequila, straight up. That means a shot of tequila, not chilled. Just tequila poured in a glass.

I put up with all of this, bartending in circles around him while he whined about money. If I heard one more thing about a tip jar from him, I swear I would have broken a wine glass and beat him over the head with it. He was JUST like the stapler guy from "Office Space," but I didn't have anyone in earshot to appreciate the humor. That just made it awful instead of funny.

I made it through, though, like a champ. It is always nice to get out of the house and earn a little income. At the end of the night, while we were breaking everything down, I saw a friend that I had worked with a year and a half ago. I was fairly deep in conversation with him when a lady in an awful outfit who must have been somewhat in charge of the event walked up with a totally condescending smile, and said, "We have some trash over there to put up," as she batted her eyelashes pointedly at us. Ok- first off, lady, I am not on your clock, so take 'our' effing trash out yourself. I am not some 18 year old pothead who needs constant supervision- I am a grown ass woman who should probably be running the people who run the people who run you.

Oh, and the conversation we were having? The last time I saw my friend, he had just found out he had cancer. I hadn't seen him since, so I asked him about the cancer. He was telling me that he thought it was spreading, but, as a server, he had no health insurance so no one would do thorough tests on him. He told me that he had spend every last cent of his savings account trying to get treatment, and insurance companies literally laughed at him when he called them asking if there was any way for him to get any kind of coverage (not to get on a political soapbox, but this is one of my main reasons for voting for Obama. EVERYONE should be entitled to health care). So this guy lives day after day, wondering if cancer is eating through his entire body, and not being able to do a damn thing about it. I was trying to tell him every social agency that I knew of for him to call, when we were so pointedly interrupted about the trash. I bet she would feel like a total asshole if she knew what we were talking about, but in her eyes, it was just two kids in bow ties, goofing off on her clock. Whatever.

As much as I like getting out of the house, and as much as I like bartending now that I don't have to do it for a living, this crap isn't worth it. No more bow ties for me.