Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Service Not Included" and Other Words That Make Me Cringe This Week

I never thought it could happen, but I might actually be starting to warm up to five words that have placed countless chills in my heart over the course of the last year: "It is what it is."

I still think it's the easiest way to ruin an intelligent discussion, and I stand by all of the negative things I've written about it, but I recently discovered that it could be the perfect way to put a mind-numbing line of questioning out of its misery, too. For example:

"But what do you have against shopping?"

"Nothing. I just don't enjoy it."

"Why don't you enjoy it?"

"Does there have to be a specific reason? I just don't enjoy it."

"But why?"

"Look, it is what it is!"

Yes, I used it, and I reserve the right to do so again in the future if desperation hits. And even if it one day becomes a fixture in my personal lexicon, it's not like I don't have plenty of other dreadful words to carp about.

"Service not included" The bane of my existence in Tel Aviv, the tipping capital of the world. On my first day here, somebody warned me that if I walked out of any service establishment without leaving a little something behind (the standard is 12 percent), they'd follow me outside to admonish me/remind me of my unofficial obligation. Apparently, the custom extends outside of Tel Aviv. Yesterday during lunch at The Pisan Harbour in Akko, when the surly waiter handed me the bill (which was completely in Hebrew) and announced, "Service not included," just in case I couldn't understand the written words, I came dangerously close to asking, "What service?" He hadn't cracked a smile all hour, and he made me wait a good 30 minutes for my kebab main course. Instead I held my tongue and handed him 110 NIS for a 95 NIS bill. "Thank you," he sniffed as he walked away, still scowling. I guess service and a smile costs extra!

"What are you doing in Tel Aviv?" Not to be confused with "Are you here on holiday/for work?", due to the hint of incredulity and the dash of disdain with which the question is typically posed, as in "Why on earth, of all the cities on earth, would anyone chose to come here?" Among unfathomable, overused travel/expat inquiries, this one is rapidly approaching "Do you like Buenos Aires?" (previously frequently asked by porteños after they found out I'd been living in their city for years). I mean, come on. It's not like Tel Aviv is on the outskirts of Timbuktu. Considering that it's a major international city that has topped countless lists of the world's top travel destinations in recent years, what's the big mystery? So unless you're working in Customs, why not ask me how I like it?

"Can I pick your brain?" Every time I hear or read this, I have a horrifying vision of vultures descending on a live cranium. The other day when a good friend and a writer I respect and admire above all others became the third person in one week to used it on me, I had my most nightmarish visual image yet: her hosting a dinner party, walking around and offering her guests chunks of my brain on a plate with toothpicks sticking out of them. Yikes!

"Let's dance!" I don't know what's happened to me. I don't even really want to hear David Bowie sing it anymore. Anyone who knew me in the '90s, or attended one of People magazine's holiday parties back then, knows that I used to be the ultimate dancing queen. Nowadays it takes a village to get me on the dance floor. My friend Rodrigo was the first to point out my presumed aversion to the beat during one of our nights out at DJ Station in Bangkok. And the other evening at Evita in Tel Aviv, similar entreaties for me to get my boogie down fell on deaf ears -- mine.

I could take the easy way out and say that at 44, one should put away his boogies shoes for good, but what's age got to do with it? Yes, I hate nightclubs, but my biggest problem with them isn't the dance floor but the soundtrack. I refuse to move to this contemporary techno crap that they call music when I have perfectly vivid memories of another time and place (circa the 1990s in New York City) when dance divas like Kristine W., Joi Cardwell, Ultra Nate and Billie Ray Martin ruled the world underneath the strobelight, honey (to quote the title of one of my favorite jams from back in those days). David Guetta can't even begin to compete with David Morales!


"What are you looking for?" Now there are five words that should never be uttered outside of the lost and found. When I was a kid and used to go to the mall with my mother, whenever a salesperson approached her and asked "Can I help you?" (the retail equivalent of "What are you looking for?"), she'd roll her eyes and snarl, "Can I look?" I've inherited her disdain for pushy salespeople, which now extends to pushy guys on online dating sites who ask "What are you looking for?" before asking your name. (Translation: "I came here for sex, and unless you did, too, I'm not looking to waste any more time on you.") Can they make those places seem any more like virtual meat markets? I've taken to using "I'll know it when I find him?" because "Apparently, not you" didn't go over so well.

"T.K.O." T.K.O. T.K.O. So I'm not cringing, but I'm thoroughly perplexed. The late Teddy Pendergrass's 1980 classic "Love T.K.O." (covered enchantingly by Regina Belle in 1995) remains one of my all-time favorite seduction suites, even if I've never quite gotten it. Now Justin Timberlake's humdrum current single, simply "TKO" (no relation), has revived the question that's stumped me for decades: What the H.E.L.L. is a "T.K.O." -- and whom do I have to sleep with to score one, if it's actually something worth scoring (and I'm not convinced that it is)? Oh well, at least I still get to enjoy the song -- "Love T.K.O.," not "TKO"!


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