Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What's My Niche?

I mentioned yesterday that I was having trouble coming up with something to write about here. I could follow the example of some of your blogs, but that would be boring, wouldn't it. Not that your blogs are boring, they're not, but if I write the same kind of stuff, it would be just one more blog...with the same kind of stuff.

You guys (the ones I read and you know who you are), write about serious stuff on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes your posts are serious, sometimes sarcastic. Sometimes your tone is outraged, sometimes fatalistic, sometimes completely snarky. You guys do that well. Probably better than I would. So, I'm not gonna do that. (Note: I fully expect to see some story show up later today that makes me post something serious and completely contradict everything I've said so far. So be it. Its my blog and I reserve the right to be consistently inconsistent).

So what am I getting at? In the past, I've frequently told friends or relatives about something that annoyed me and their reactions have taken the following forms:

-"That's really what you waste time worrying about?"
-"So, that's the biggest worry in your life right now?"
and my personal fave,

Yeah folks, that's right. I like overreacting to really petty inconsequential crap. And since I've got a blog, I can react to it with gusto. Damn, this blogging sure opens up the pipelines for spreading inanity. So, here goes with a couple of really stupid things that bug me.

Stupid things that bug me #1:

I like browsing through sites like Fark and Link Burglar. I've noticed that, quite often, I'll be linked to a story and I can't figure out where the hell the story took place. Seeing a banner that says it's from The Lodi News only narrows it down a little bit. Mapquest will find Lodi in ten different states. Sometimes you'll find a clue in the story itself or sometimes there are some local ads that give you the location, but sometimes there's nothing.

This annoys me. The news organizations putting up these websites should realize that the internet goes everywhere, not just to Moe's NewsStand down on the corner of Elm St. and Podunk Ave.

Note: I'm even more annoyed that I went to Fark and tried to find some links to post as examples and every freaking story I looked at, clearly identified their location. This is the equivalent of telling a really funny story and when the crickets start chirping, you finish things off by saying "I guess you had to be there."

Stupid Things that Bug Me #2:

Once upon a time, when you paid for your purchase in a store, the Standard Operating Procedure was to hand you your change and stuff the receipt into your bag. At some point during the last 15-20 years this perfectly good system was altered. Now, invariably, the cashier places the paper bills in your hand, places the receipt on top of the cash and then drops the coins on top of the receipt. Why does this annoy me? Follow along children.

In the old system, there were a number of ways to stow my change while still holding the shopping bags without causing weird contortions. You could grip the cash between two fingers and let the coins slide into your pocket and then stash the cash in your wallet. An alternate version was that you could slide the change into your other hand, stow the cash in your wallet and then put the cash into your wallet. You could do all of this without putting down your shopping bags.

Now, you have to use your non-change-holding hand to pull the receipt out of the pile. You have to decide where to put it while putting away your change. If you didn't want a receipt at all, you might just leave it on the counter, but somehow, that feels rude. If you do want the receipt, you probably do want it in your wallet, but not mixed in among the bills. You still need to double handle it. And you have to do all of this while the customers behind you are waiting for you to get the fuck out of their way.

My younger brother is an operations manager for a large chain of supermarkets. A couple of years ago, I asked him to rectify this situation, at least in his stores. He reacted with utter, complete silence...and a blank stare.

And since I'm such a helpful guy, I'm going to post the first comment.


Shawn Powers said...

You're not alone on #1. That annoys the crap out of me. For some reason, I need to know exactly where the longest fart was recorded. It seems of dire importance that I know the state in which the two snouted pig was born. (Yes, silly example, but I admit it really does bother me)

The change thing? I just don't understand the process. It's the worst at the drive thru. Jut your arm out the window, wind blowing (it is winter...), window levels drastically different -- and then try to balance bills, receipt, and jinglies all on you hand. I've switched to using a debit card for most purchases, possibly due to the insane change process.

And now I feel like I should stare blankly at both of us.

Tania said...

*stares blankly at computer screen*

Nathan said...

My work here is done.

Anonymous said...

Nathan - to respond to your first question (what to blog about/what your niche is) it might be helpful to ask another question first.

Why do you blog? There was a blog meme going around about that last year - I answered it here. It might be worth resurrecting the question, dusting it off, and updating my answer...

It seems to me if you can answer the why question, you're a long way toward nailing the what question as well.

When I think of the things you write about... I enjoy your sense of humor, your logical/illogical leaps, and your observations about your city and your profession. Blogging about interesting things in your life can often be more compelling than blogging about news or current events - it's more immediate and engaging.

Posting fiction pieces can also be a good blog focus.. just don't leave us hanging. ;)

MWT said...

As a cashier on the weekends, I always put the coins in the customer's hand first, before handing over the bills. I hate when cashiers put the coins on top. They slide off and land all over the place, never to be seen again.

And that location thing annoys me too. Good journalism means covering all the basics of who/what/when/where, yes?

As for blog niches - ehh. Overrated. Just talk about whatever you feel like. ;)

Nathan said...

To respond in reverse order:

Jeri, I swear I'm not gonna leave you hanging. I've been looking around trying to figure out how to arrange the book blog the way I want it. I'd like to get that layout thing done before having to reformat all the content, so I've been holding off. I swear. New chapters soon. (I also can't tell you how happy it makes me that someone wants more.)

As to my niche, I was kind of answering the question in my post. I'm sure I'll have occasion to be serious there, but I'll certainly be taking a more scatter-shot attitude about things. I'd like to be entertaining because that gets entertaining comments. That's most of the fun as far as I'm concerned.

And with that all in mind, remember, I'm less than 3 weeks old. I don't have to know what I want to be when I grow up!

PPffbbbfffttt! (Yeah I spelled it right.)

Oh, and one other thing? I've never met anyone else who gave a shit about how you got handed your change. I love you guys!

Janiece said...

*1,000 yard blank stare*

Nathan said...

Somebody call the am-bru-lance. Janiece done walked inta her shovel.

Jeff Hentosz said...

Dude, your "petty gripes" are effusive benedictions compared to some of the crap I get in a fuzz about. I can get so bent-out-of-shape over nothing, my wife has a cute little thing she does where she reaches over, pretend-swabs my arm, and gives me a pretend hit of rhinoceros sedative that she calls a "chill shot." So cute.

For no rational reason that I can put into words, I hate it that no one counts back my change anymore. There have been times (like one cashier blabbing to another about how close the end of the shift is, all through our transaction) when it's all I can do not to whip out the lip curl and demand the change be counted back -- starting from the total and counting up to the amount tendered. You know. The hard way.

Of course, I never do. I'm apparently much happier waging these epic battles in the cobwebby corners of my withered soul.

Looking forward to your next peeves post, though. Here's a preview of my comment: sales and customer service people who presume to call me by my first name. Gaaah!

Nathan said...

No Jeff, don't think you can trick me into revealing any of my other trivial peevishness here. There's days and days of Blogger-fodder in there and I'm savin' 'em.