The Lost Art of Romance

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The knot in your throat. Like your tie is too tight and you’re struggling to breathe.

This is what you should be feeling when you truly romance a woman.  Yeah I get it, women like confident men who are fearless, and edgy. But what you assholes are forgetting (and what women are giving up on) is that once in a while they want to see that side of you that only they can bring out- the cheesy, unconditional, “only for you” side.  And sometimes unleashing that inner Romeo takes confidence, fearlessness, and edge. 

It should go without saying, but I will clarify that “romancing” and “sleeping with” are two totally separate goals, and should be treated as such.  I may cover the later in a future post, if I ever truly figure it out myself. 

When is the right time to be romantic?  This is ridiculous. Listen. You can’t just be romantic on her birthday and Valentines Day. Try something a little less obvious, like Tuesday.  Maybe you’ve both been hard at work, and your home life has you running in all directions.  Maybe have something prepared when she gets home from a busy day at the office.  And it doesn’t always have to be dinner, and sex should never be expected at the end- however, if you learn to be romantic, you’ll be surprised where things will lead.  Also, don’t get discouraged.  If she’s tired when she gets home and you’re feeling like she doesn’t appreciate your efforts, just let her unwind and relax.  Sometimes a romantic evening together starts with a little alone time.  Trust me, she’ll much more appreciate all you’ve done once she has had time to herself. 

Every woman is different and shouldn’t be treated as though she was formed from a cookie cutter, so it’s up to you to decide what “romancing” means in your own relationship.  But just to get you started, here’s a few things that I’ve done in past relationships that have set me apart from the other guys in her life. 

1)  Flowers at work.  Yes, flowers are often overplayed in the relationship arena, but sending a nice bouquet of stargazer lillies to her place of employment has never EVER failed me.  Here’s the catch- have them delivered on a random day without notice. This means not on her birthday, an anniversary, or a major holiday.  Maybe choose a time when you know she’s been stressed out about a major deadline. And please choose an appropriate flower for the occasion.  Red roses are okay for Valentines day, but the random delivery should be something playful and vibrant.  I’ve always found lillies to be perfect for this scenario.  They come in a variety of colors and designs, and they can be quite potent smelling- exciting the sense of smell to compliment the beauty will ensure you’re on her mind even when she’s not directly looking at the gift.  It will also draw more attention from her co-workers, and their constant questions will make her feel important, appreciated, and loved. 

2) Candles. Speaking of overplayed romantic evenings, candle light dinners have gotten a bad rap lately for being uninventive and portrayed in nearly every romantic movie ever.  Though, I find the problem isn’t with candles as much as their application.  It’s true, using long stemmed candles to light a poorly orchestrated dinner is out, but using a series of tealight candles to project a new and exciting environment can set the mood perfectly.  Allow me to explain.  I normally would only use this one at night, when she comes home after dusk from running errands or whatever it is women do at that hour.  Simply, set the mood. I like to line the hallways with tiny candles- have them on bookshelves, on counter tops, and coffee tables.  Flip wine glasses upside down and use them as pedistols to give your candles height and depth. Put on some of her favorite music, softly, and patiently wait for her with a bottle of her favorite wine. When she gets home, give her some time to unwind and be willing to discuss the day.  Try to keep stressful situations out of conversation, this should be a time to set all that aside and to concentrait on each other.  Geez, this sounds even too cheesy for me now that I’m writing it, but seriously, you can’t miss. 

3) The Heinz Ketchup Bottle.  Maybe one of the most romantic gifts I’ve done, and certainly the one with the most flair.  As I’m sure you’re aware, Heinz ketchup is said to have 57 varieties, in fact, it’s a huge marketing slogan for them- but I digress.  Take a glass Heinz ketchup bottle, empty it, and carefully rinse it out being sure to keep the label in tact on the bottle.  Next, cut 57 tiny squares out of red construction paper, roughly one inch by one inch.  On each square, write one reason why you love her.  Fold each square up and stick it in the bottle.  The idea is that each day she can remove a piece of paper from the bottle and unfold it.  Much like heinz’s 57 varieties, she’ll have 57 reasons to smile every day.  Don’t give me that look. Just do it, she’ll love it, I promise.

If you take nothing more from this, be sure to do something that takes thought, and a little bit of effort.  Be inventive with your ideas, and through your actions let her know that she’s not just another woman, but that she’s someone special to you.  Trust me, as all hints of romanticism fall by the way side, these small gestures are going to have a huge impact. 

The Complexities of Women

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Romance.  What. The. Hell.

As a teen, I would always pride myself on my relationships.  I was charming, romantic, and completely head over heels for those who I adored.  However, being such a Casanova wasn’t always my forte.  Prior to my first major relationship in high school, I had never really had much experience dating.  Sure, I would ask girls out, but a polite yet stern rejection was pretty standard, with the exception of one girl who bluntly told me “no” repeatedly.  (twelve years later and I think I’m finally starting to wear her down) After receiving a few jabs from my friends at my expense, I remember specifically telling them “You wait, I’m going to get a girl to go out with me and I’ll never be single again.” It was quite a claim coming from a nerdy stoner who had barely the gull to talk to females, let alone ask them on dates. Wouldn’t you know a few months later I tricked one in to saying yes and we dated for the next two years.

The following twelve years brought on many new relationships, all which would come and go, sometimes for a few months, and sometimes for the better part of a decade. In between each one, I was never single for more than two weeks. There was even a failed marriage in there somewhere. (sighs)  Now, here I am, single for the past six months, and losing my mind.  It’s been so long since I’ve played this whole “casual dating” game.  I’m not meant for this.  I was made for long-term relationships.

Eh, I wanted to write more but I’m getting angry, I’m going for a drink.

 

Defining Happiness

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As I was doing some spring cleaning today, I came across a letter from my ex-wife that she handed me just before boarding the plane on my way back to the States.  In so many words it stated her love for me, included an encouraging paragraph that helped motivate me to build a life for our future family, and was sealed with a promise of an endless future together. I kept this letter folded up in my wallet at all times and when I would feel lonely, burnt out from work, or depressed, I would find a quiet corner and read a few lines. It was a complete high for me, like a shot of adrenaline coursing through my body.  In an instant it would put me back on track, keep me focused, and remind me that I was fighting for something much greater than myself- love, happiness, and family.

Of course, this was all shattered when she met someone else, fell pregnant with his kid, and demanded a divorce.  Since then I’ve been on a personal crash course that has resulted in heavy drinking, lack of motivation, and the eternal search for something or someone that would once again fill that empty hole in my life.  What have I learned?

I’m not happy. I have been blessed with ample money to support myself, have had the liberty of purchasing gadgets and other things for myself, and pretty much go out whenever I like. Yet, it’s no surprise that these little pleasures don’t equate to happiness in my life.  I need to redefine the term “happiness”, realize it’s different for everyone, and figure out how to apply it to my own life.

When I thought back over the past thirty years to the moment when I was most happy, I was reminded of when I first moved to Gainesville, Georgia from Pittsburgh.  I was a trained chef but couldn’t find a job and was quickly running out of money, so I accepted a pizza delivery job with a small family owned pizza shop. The job was sufficient enough, but the people I worked with were great. I was able to pay my bills, but really didn’t have much to spend afterwards.  When I think back, it didn’t matter.  Yes, I had to monitor my spending closely, but the job wasn’t demanding and I had a lot of time for other things in my life.  It was a great work/life balance. It was at this point that I had met my future wife. Neither one of us had any money, but we had blast doing anything we could.  After roughly a year, I landed an executive chef position closer to Atlanta.  The job brought in much larger paychecks, I moved in with my then fiancee, and we were able to live comfortably on my pay alone. However, I was working twelve to sixteen hour days, and we saw each other much less.  I remember her making the comment that we were much happier when we had nothing. She couldn’t have been more right.

Fast forward to the past two years. I had a good job making good money. I worked my way up, increasing my salary and my responsibility, until I found myself once again putting in twelve to sixteen hour days to keep it all afloat.  It only took seven months for this all to unravel.  This proves to me that this work/life balance is one of the most important aspects of my life.  I quit my job and spent the next month unemployed.  It didn’t take long for me to be miserable with boredom, with the added stress now of managing my money closely with unstoppable bills and absolutely no income.  At this point it was also evident that I had pushed so many people out of my life because I didn’t have time for them, I only had time for work.  This was a very lonely process.

That being said, I feel this defines a good foundation for my personal happiness:

1) I need a strong work/life balance.

2) I need enough money to pay bills, but not so much in excess.

3) I need to make a better effort to include my friends and family in my life.

4) Not mentioned in this blog, but I find it very self-gratifying to help others.  This could mean family, friends, those less fortunate, animals, or church.  I should start volunteering somewhere.  An animal no-kill shelter comes to mind first because I am a sucker for animals.

Making a plan:  I have recently landed a job at a bank. I feel this will be a good balance in hours seeing that it’s based off of a forty hour work week. It is also closer in proximity to my family and friends, so it will aid in setting me in the right position to be present in their lives.  Financially I’ll be able to pay my bills, but I won’t have a lot of excess spending cash, so I’ll be forced to live simply- cutting out the complexities will be beneficial.

Happiness is such a tightrope that I’ve only had the opportunity to walk briefly in my life.  Instead of always looking to be bigger, better, and wealthier, maybe I should settle in with the simple things that make me who I am. It’s time to get my ass in gear.  I need to turn from “dreamer” to “do-er”.

On the Cusp of Greatness

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In many ways, my life has fallen apart.  I’m about to turn 30, jobless, loveless, and financially broke.  However, I seem to have this overwhelming feeling, as I have for much of my life, that I am on the cusp of great things.  It’s something I can not explain.  I consider myself someone who believes in a fated life, or destiny, or a master divine plan, or whatever have you; so this overwhelming feeling is something I can’t possibly ignore.

So, I’ve established for sure I am made for great things, yet my issue continues to be nailing down what it is I’m fated for.  Why am I here?

You know, I receive a lot of criticism for my thinking- mostly because I have a new thought, or concept, or revolutionary idea almost every day. My response to that is that I am completely a dreamer, and while this aspect of my life has always bothered me, I know in the back of my head that nearly every great idea has started as a dream. Where I fall short is implementing that dream, usually due to lack of money, or time, or motivation.  I need to find a career that allows me to dream big, and allows me to utilize other people’s money, time, and motivation.  …and this is where the dreaming comes in to play.

I don’t know if there’s a job out there that will actually fit my needs, and if there is, like most jobs you’re probably required to have a college degree. I, for one, do not have a college degree.  I am by most standards, an uneducated oaf.  and I dream some more.  Well if there’s no job out there for dreamers, then I must create a job because there has to be more out there like me.  So then I research creating a dreaming business.  I know, this all sounds ridiculous, but you can see how the snowball effect works here.

In my dreaming business, I may put together a small group of fellow dreamers and together we conceptualize an idea. From that idea we establish a business to cater towards that idea, and rather than selling the business, we sell the concept to people who will implement the idea.  You see, it’s very simple.  At that point, you can let your mind solve the worlds problems, or find a way to make someone’s life much easier.

I truly believe the world is running out of dreamers.  I feel as though our youth is discouraged from independent thought and rather encouraged to follow the herd.  One of these kids may be able to crack the code to time travel, but we’ll never know.  What if that kid who goes to law school because his father pushed him there has the answer to world hunger suppressed in his head?

It’s time we stopped pushing our kids in to corners and let them think freely on their own.  Encourage them to think of solutions to the worlds worst issues.  You may be surprised what they come up with.  Just typing this makes me want to interview a series of middle school kids answering how we can find a cure for cancer.  and it’s okay if they don’t know, or have it all figured out, because at least you’re sparking their thought process.  An inconceivable answer today may be the solution tomorrow.

On to my dreaming business, and you’re all employed.

Drunken Illusions of Grandeur

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I am a waste.  I mean a drunken waste.  I mean, drunk on the illusions of grandeur for the past 30 years.  As it was brought to my attention that in a few weeks I will be reaching the next milestone in my journey towards death, the big 30.  In some way I should be celebrating, seeing that I never expected to make it past age 25- considering my torrid love affairs with substance, alcohol, cigarette, and coffee abuse. So here I am, left to reflect on what I once thought was “living”.  Was it worth it?

You’re damn right it was.  I have been on this earth for nearly 30 years now and have had the opportunity to experience and accomplish more than most men my age- I just did it in an unconventional manner.  But don’t you see??  That’s just it! I don’t follow social norms, I never have!  Some call it being reckless.  Some say I’m irrational and unmotivated.  Well, stick this in your pipe and smoke it! In my moments of reflection, I began to remember all the events that led me here and the stories that resulted.

I’ve played basketball, baseball, volleyball, and football competitively – I’ve written numerous blogs, short stories, and poems – I went to Vegas once for free because my sister won a drunken Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament that resulted in us both being on ESPN. –  It also resulted in us getting sloppy on white russians with the band Foreigner (you kids may need to google that reference) –  I once created and operated a T-shirt company called Rentees T-shirt and Design with a few close friends that proved to be a successful venture. –  I went to culinary school – I sold real estate, and did it successfully – I became an executive chef, both in the U.S. and over seas – I randomly loaded up my car and moved to Georgia for two years. (I’m from Pittsburgh)  – I married a foreign girl – I randomly moved to South Africa and lived in a thatched roof hut on the beach in a small surfing community – I was an executive chef during the World Cup in South Africa – I have worked a lot of jobs, anything from food service to chemical production to selling online beauty products.   –  I can speak enough Italian, Spanish, and Afrikaans to be dangerous  –  I can greet a guest in over nine different recognized languages, including a few African tribal languages that use “clicks”  –  I learned to play the guitar, and was in a few bands growing up  –  I once talked a Mexican man on the Vegas strip in to selling me the shirt off his back…in Spanish  –  I am known to be charismatic, extremely romantic, and intelligent  –  I have begun to learn the art of Molecular Gastronomy  –  I have picketed in front of the White House on numerous occasions –  I have painted canvas using oils, acrylics, and watercolors well enough to hang on a wall.  haha –  I made my own wine, bottled it, and drank it over a series of years.  –  I have created special menu items that are now staples in restaurants past – I have laid on the grave of a Confederate soldier while drunk on brandy and tried to feel his pain  (I also tried this with golf great Bobby Jones, but my game never got better)  –  I bought a regal once  –  I hand-fed a cheetah  –  I rode an ostrich like a bull, got thrown off, climbed back on only to be thrown off again – I ate snails and drank wine till the early morning on the streets of Oudtshoorn.  I hung out, drank, and played bongo drums with the cast of Blue Crush (yeah I wasn’t too impressed either)  –  I have loved, and will continue to love unconditionally.

Of course there are more, some of which I can’t legally publicize.  And I’m not gloating, but in those moments when you feel you should be further in life than where you are, maybe we all should take a step back and see how far we’ve actually come.  I’ve got a lot more fight in me.  My expectations are high for these next 30 years.

A big “THANK YOU” to all of you who have motivated, supported, and humored me all these years- and to those who continue to instigate my antics.

The dumb things…

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One of the purposes I created this blog is to put all my random thoughts together in one place, and hope to establish some sort of consistency with my thinking.  As it should be, the Junkman’s Baby should be a random assortment of emotions and ideas, not only for my own benefit of seeing my thoughts in the written word, but also to give the readers a little insight to what’s floating around my brain (like you care).

In most cases these thoughts last a little over a second but leave a lasting impression.  Sometimes I don’t even consciously realize I’m even having these thoughts.  Lately, however, I’ve been trying to make it a point to stop and think about what my brain just developed- last night was one of those moments.

So, I’m at work, and for those who don’t know, lets just say I manage a fast food restaurant type thing, and I was running the register for a while as we started getting busy from the local high school football game letting out.  As family and friends poured in wearing their school spirit proudly embroidered on shirts, jackets, and hats, I noticed many of them had pins depicting pictures of their favorite player in the game (usually a family member, significant other, or close friend).  I had noticed a family come in, all wearing the same player’s pin; he was clearly a son, grandson, nephew, brother etc…  As an elder woman in the family came up to purchase a cup of coffee I began to think about how this woman is the proud grandmother of the kid on her pin- and immediately I thought about how lucky this kid is to still have his grandmother around and cheering him on.  I also knew that no matter the outcome of that game, or how he played, she’s going to tell him he did a great job.  Then in a millisecond, my thoughts went to how sad that same kid is going to be when she dies.  Not only did I picture him at her funeral, but I pictured him in the few weeks after, mentally struggling to wrap his head around the void she’ll inevitably leave behind.  I felt bad for that kid, I mean, he seemed nice enough from the pictures.  All this during a transaction for one cup of coffee.

Why? Why should I care about that kid or the old lady?  Why does it matter to me?  I’ll likely never see them again, or if I do, I won’t remember them.  And why, when interacting with this nice lady did I immediately think of her death.  Some may argue it’s because I’m still grieving over the loss of my own grandmother, a few months ago now, or that maybe as I get older, I am taking a closer look at my own mortality.  Perhaps.  But it was just a passing thought, it’s not like it ruined my night or anything.  Man, I hope that lady is okay.

The Incredible Molecular Egg

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Riding on the coat tails of last weeks “Progression of Apple” experiment, I decided to try something a little more involved; the Molecular Egg.  This egg looks, feels, and acts under the normal properties of a sunny side-up egg, but tastes completely of mango and vanilla.

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Molecular egg: Looks, feels, and acts like a normal egg, but tastes of mango and vanilla.

Here’s what I did:

Egg White

I took 1/2 cup of whole milk, added 2 grams of Agar-Agar, and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract to a pot and brought it up to 96 degrees Celsius.  Once up to temperature, I removed it from the heat and let it sit for five minutes to cool slightly.  I then promptly added the mixture to 2/3 cup of vanilla yogurt and poured a round disc on to a cool plate.  I then set the plate aside for at least 15 minutes while I prepared the yolk of the egg.

Egg Yolk

The yolk is comprised completely of fresh mangoes and should mimic a real egg yolk in consistency and appearance only.  To make it, I took 1 and 1/4 cups of freshly diced mango, placed it in a blender with 2 tablespoons of granulated white sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of Calcium Lacithin- then pulsed it until it was a smooth puree.

In a separate bowl I took 2 cups of cold water, added two grams of Sodium Alginate and mixed thoroughly with an immersion blender.

I then took a small round spoon, and scooped a spoonful of the mango mixture, placing it gently in to the Alginate bath.  I let it sit for 3-4 minutes, before scooping each sphere out of the Alginate bath and in to a fresh cold water bath to rinse off.

By now, your egg whites should be congealed, and set in to oval discs on your plate.  Gently add a mango sphere just off-set from the center of the whites.  This completes your egg.  When you pierce the yolk, it should bleed just like a normal sunny side-up egg.

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Bleeds just like a normal egg.

Diary of Molecular Gastronomy (Part One)

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After many years of thinking about it off and on, I finally decided to delve in to the world of Molecular Gastronomy.  For those who don’t know, molecular gastronomy is the break down and rebuilding of foods on a molecular level.  It’s sort of where chemistry and culinary arts overlap, and with my background in food, this seemed like the next logical step.  To start out I bought the right chemicals and equipment; a crude beginners kit with some added tools.  The kit included measuring spoons, pipettes, plastic tubing, a slotted spoon, and a few simple chemicals such as Agar-Agar, Sodium Alginate, Calcium Lactate, Soy Lecithin, and Xanthan Gum.

My beginner’s lab for Molecular Gastronomy.

To aid me in my learning process I also picked up a few important pieces of equipment such as a juice extractor, a precise digital scale, digital thermometer with detachable probe, and an immersion blender.  Here, I will document my first, and future experiments.

First, I picked a fruit.  I had a bag of granny smith apples that were wasting away, so I decided to sacrifice them in my quest to learn.  That being said, I made a Progression of Apple that included Apple Spaghetti, Apple Caviar, and a sweet apple foam.

“Progression of Apple” consisting of Apple Spaghetti, Apple Caviar, and sweet Apple Foam.

Apple Caviar:

I extracted 8 ounces of juice from the apples and mixed it with 1.8 grams of sodium alginate using my immersion blender.  Since apple juice tends to oxidize and turn brown, and the usual method of citric acid will react poorly with the alginate, I immediately heated the mixture to 96 degrees Celsius, and let cool.  While cooling, I mixed 4 cups of water with 2 grams of Calcium Lactate and let sit for ten minutes.   Once the apple and Alginate mixture was cool, I squeezed it in to an eye dropper and slowly let each drop individually fall in to the calcium bath where it sat for 3-5 minutes; stirring occasionally.  When finished dropping, I strained the, now apple spheres, in to a sieve and rinsed with cool water.  It is now ready for consumption, and should look like little balls

Next time I will add food coloring and see if I can alter the appearance.  All in all though, they turned out pretty good..

Apple Spaghetti:

To make the spaghetti, I first extracted 8 ounces of juice from the apples, placed it in a small pot, and added 1/3 cup of water and 2 grams of Agar-Agar.  Stirring constantly, I brought the mixture up to a boil and immediately removed it from the heat as to not burn the bottom.  I let this mixture cool to a safe handling temperature before piping it in to the syringe, and filling my plastic tubing.  To allow it to set, I placed each tube in an ice water bath for approx. 2-3 minutes and used the empty syringe to blow air through the tubes, thus forcing out the spaghetti-like apple strings.

Next time I will work with the mixture while it is still warm.  I will also add a tablespoon of brown sugar before heating, to add a sweeter punch.  I can also add a little bit of food coloring before placing it in the tubes to acquire different colored strands.

Apple Foam:

I extracted 2/3 cup of juice from the apples, added 2/3 cup of water, and 2 grams of Soy Lecitin.   I mixed this with an immersion blender until foam appeared on top, then let it sit for a minute to allow the juices to sink and settle at the bottom.

Next time I’ll try adding whole milk to a foam using a different base.

Silent Killer Claims Six

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BABY died first.  Followed by the rest of the family, one by one. The coroner counted six in total as the autopsies took days- allowing the assailant to loom about undetected and left officials scratching their heads.  The Greene family, completely destroyed in a matter of hours, never made it to church; the ceremony that was supposed to celebrate the baptism of Isaac, their newest addition. Their bodies were found later that day.

CARBON Monoxide poisoning, known as the silent killer, accounts for nearly 200-700 deaths every year in the United States.  Charles Greene, his wife Mary, and their four children are now part of that statistic.  Perhaps more upsetting to those they left behind is how easily this could have been prevented.  If Charles had only purchased the Carbon Monoxide detector his brother-in-law suggested, he and his family would still be alive.  $24 could have meant the difference between life or death- he could have saved his children.

The KN-COPP-B-LPM is an essential device to help warn you and your family of dangerous carbon monoxide levels in your home. This alarm measures the exposure to carbon monoxide over time; it is designed to sound at 85 decibels at 10 feet when it detects 70 ppm (parts per million) of CO for 60 to 240 minutes, 150 ppm for 10 to 50 minutes, or 400 ppm for 4 to 15 minutes. The easily visible digital display indicates the level of CO that the unit is sensing, and it updates the status every 15 seconds for timely and accurate readings. Its free-standing design allows for attachment to a wall or placement on a counter or nightstand for convenient and comprehensive protection. The KN-COPP-B-LPM also includes a slide-out battery door that provides immediate access to the power source as well as a battery safeguard that makes it difficult to close the cover without batteries installed. An LED lighting system on the unit signals power levels and sourcing: the green LED will flash once every 30 seconds to indicate the alarm is operating properly when power is present, and the red LED will pulse to indicate carbon monoxide has been detected until the device is reset or the CO threat is eliminated. This device has an expected 7-year lifespan and comes equipped with a five-year manufacturer’s limited warranty.

Don’t be a murderer, save your family now.  No one wants to bury a child.

Protect your family.  They’re counting on you.

Enter the age of entitlement

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You’re all a bunch of entitled pricks.  Yes, of course I know you’re 22 years old and think you’ve put in enough time in at your job to enjoy certain luxuries such as paid time off, and a custom schedule.  The truth of the matter is that you’re all bastards, whose parents never cared enough to teach you basic life skills.

How many times do I have to say it?  This is WORK. It’s WORK.  WORK!  Dubya Tee Eff!?  What do you mean you’re only working here because your father makes you?!  What do you mean you have to call off because you have soccer practice?!  What do you mean you have plans with your girlfriends so you won’t be able to make it to work?!

Why work for what’s handed to you?

Since when does social life take precedent over work??

When the parents enable it.  That’s when.  When mom and dad give their kids so much money that they don’t have to work. Because mom and dad never had a spine to say “NO”.

And here I am, spine in hand, and beating you with it, because you’re a lousy worker and a lousy human being.  I want to set you on fire, not metaphorically, but literally set you ablaze, you selfish, no good, self entitled ass-ram.

Go fuck yourself.

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