By Ben Fogler
Listening to podcasts
I’ve gotten super into podcasts recently, which is something I never expected would happen because I have this cool thing called “getting bored easily.” And let me tell you, podcasts are boring af. Who even thought of podcasts? They’re inherently uninteresting because a podcast is you listening to a very long conversation that you don’t get to take part in. It’s like that song from Dear Evan Hansen -- “Waving Through a Window,” except less sad and more tepid.
Personally, I’m usually not stimulated in any given situation unless at least two of my sensory organs are being tickled in the process. Podcasts fall into the category of only tickling one: my earholes. Luckily, there are a surplus of other activities that also only activate one of the five senses, so I can easily mix and match. Say I’m staring at a blank google doc while I desperately try to come up with a thesis to the essay on Macbeth that will count for 20% of my English grade. This activity only engages my eyes. What’s a boy to do? Well, to escape the boredom that will ultimately result in procrastination, I might listen to a podcast. Or when I’m eating a mediocre lunch (made myself an ungrilled cheese sandwich one too many times, I suppose), just my tongue is being stimulated. I could get some enjoyment out of this moment with, you guessed it, a podcast. Or, perchance, say I’ve found a termite infestation has sprung up betwixt my walls. I’m gonna have to fumigate, but then it’ll just be my nose that’s getting any action as I inhale the highly toxic chemicals necessary to kill the pests. Well, if I don’t want to drift off into oblivion (both in the sense of boredom and also the chemicals might kill me), I’m gonna need another organ tickle, so I’ll just be popping in my earbuds for a podcast. It really applies to every situation.
Podcasts make me feel very mature, very intellectual. I feel like I learn something from them, even the less educational ones, which are my favorite. One thing I didn’t realize before I got into them though -- podcasters are hellbent on “getting the bag,” so to speak. The amount of ads and sponsorships these guys will do, and half the time they don't even make an effort to naturally transition into an ad read. I was listening to the Sarah Silverman Podcast, and she was discussing the very real and often overlooked crisis in Iran with the corrupt and oppressive government, and then mid-sentence she switched to, “Struggling to find a Christmas present for your relatives? Uncommon Goods has a great collection of gifts this holiday season…”
So yeah, podcasts make me feel like an adult. I’ll leave this portion with but one final request for anyone who makes or produces podcasts: PLEASE SPEAK UP! I have you on full volume and I still can’t hear you. Does the microphone have a restraining order on you or something? Is that why it sounds like you recorded the podcast 500 yards or more away from it at all times? Would it kill you to stop mumbling? Anyway, moving on.
Blowing my nose
I can really blow my nose like nobody’s business. I blow like a foghorn. I feel very old when I blow my nose -- I had a cold this past week and I think I aged at least 50 years. Seriously, when I honk my nostrils? Major grandpa energy.
I love watching home renovation shows with my parents. There’s certain things that happen a lot in these shows, and it brings me so much joy every time. Like when they talk about their plans for redesigning a space, and they take a drawing of it and then erase the colors and put new stuff in. I love that! So satisfying!
Another thing I enjoy immensely is when they find something unexpected that happens to work out really well. Like, “We’ve just peeled back the revolting seventies carpet in the living room, and underneath we found some BEAUTIFUL hardwood floors!”
The really good parts, though, are when things don’t go to plan. “So we’ve just ripped out the wall, and we found a very essential water pipe. It’s right in the way of where we were going to put the new kitchen island. If we remove it, we’d have to redo the pipes not just in the house, but on the street and in several blocks surrounding the street and also the rest of the town and the county and the state, and that could potentially go over budget. It looks like we’re going to have to scrap the kitchen island, which is a problem because that island was supposed to tie the room together, especially the new tile backsplash, which is too much of an eyesore without the island backing it up. It was supposed to be a conversation piece, but now it’s a statement piece. And not a good statement, either. Something Kanye would say. (sigh) We’re gonna have to go back to the drawing board.”
They act like everything is the end of the world, which it kinda is because for some reason nothing in home renovation just works. As someone whose home was recently renovated, this is not played up for reality TV -- it is actually a nightmare. I could fill a whole article with my tales though (and I just might! Stay tuned!), so I’ll stay quiet for now. Also, I like to pretend that I’ve reluctantly signed an NDA (I didn’t have a choice, you see, they were holding my family hostage) and I’m forced to keep my mouth shut by certain powerful individuals because I know too much, but that in the shadows I am secretly planning an explosive tell-all bombshell docuseries about my experiences, Harry & Megan style.
Not Understanding New Trends
I’m at the stage that my now nearly 50-year-old parents are (they like to put “of a certain age” on our Christmas cards, but I prefer to be exact) where I just don’t understand new stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the occasional new song or viral Tik Tok sound (we cannot escape, we cannot come out and such), but I’m mostly stuck in the past. Somewhere around 2020-2021 I stopped being in touch with pop culture -- it goes too darn diddly dang fast for me! You kids are just so quick with your new “trends,” I can’t keep up. I’m not as spry as I once was!
I do wish that I wasn’t stuck in the past at the point that I got stuck. Some subconscious part of me still likes to hit the woah, for example, and I really wish it didn’t. It’s not cool, it’s not on-brand, and it definitely does not do me any favors with the ladies.
I have found a passion for self-help and improvement books, especially those geared towards middle-aged people who hate their jobs. I’m currently unemployed and in the spring of my youth, so I have no real need for these books, but I read them anyway. My reasoning for this is 1) there’s a high chance I will fall into the category of “middle-aged and unhappy with my career choices” at some point, so best to get a head start now, and 2) something about self-help is so alluring. The mystique of it all! I imagine myself sitting in a coffee shop, poring over The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck (for some reason this book seems to follow me through every Barnes & Noble), quietly absorbing all the teachings of Mark Manson. Others around me type busily on their MacBook Airs, but I haven’t succumbed to technology. Who is he? I’m a riddle.
I love writing emails (it says so in my bio!). Every day, I write on average three emails, and I always make sure my tone is formal, polite, kind, caring, benevolent, generous, and wise. I take great pleasure in communicating with “professional lingo,” a language I have picked up from hearing my parents on their zoom calls and looking over their shoulder as they draft and receive electronic messages of their own. There’s a certain structure to the emails one might write in the workplace:
One must always begin with a greeting and inquiry/statement regarding the wellbeing of the recipient. Even if the subject matter is urgent, it is imperative that after the “Hi (let’s say Janice) Janice,” the first sentence is something like “I hope you’ve been having a good weekend.”
This is shortly followed by your next sentence, which will subtly demonstrate that you could not give a damn how Janice’s weekend is going, and are also fully aware that the content of your email will not improve her weekend in the slightest. Matter of fact, if the reason you’re emailing Janice is urgent enough, her weekend will probably be ruined. But that’s no reason to be rude about it -- let her down easy! Start this line with, “I’m just reaching out to discuss…” or “I wanted to get your opinion on…” or “I’ve just been contacted with an exciting new opportunity that I would like to defer to you” (this last one is most often followed by “you have a chance to compete against 456 other players for 45.6 billion in a competition called The Squid Game! More details pending”).
Now comes the subject matter of the email. At this point, I always like to lay it on thick. I’ll write things such as, “I know you have a lot of experience in this field, and I was hoping you could provide some insight on this” The recipient is 100% more likely to respond if they feel valued. Also, I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and found I am 87% turbulent, which basically means I am a people-pleaser who will literally die if I think someone doesn’t like me, so I really like to skirt around the reason I “reached out to discuss” in the first place. I’ll be like “Hi, I am so so so sorry to disturb your peace and tranquility, I was wondering if you might possibly maybe consider aiding me in this matter…of course no worries if this is not possible, you are an evershining beam of sunlight and you should do what is best for you, not me. Please do not even consider this important, and actually just forget about it, I’ll handle it. Sorry for bothering you.” Something like that.
And finally, the closing. The sign-off is vital to the success of an email. I sometimes like to echo the sentiment at the beginning -- “Have a great weekend! Ben Fogler,” but mostly I just go with a simple, “Thanks, Ben Fogler.” I think short and sweet is the best way to go. Now, you may have noticed that some people include a quote after their sign-off -- to this I say, GENIUS! Most people do something inspiring, like, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” or “not all those who wander are lost,” but I think it’s better to do a quote that has no message. “Quoth the raven, ‘Caw Caw, Caw Caw!’” -Edgar Allen Poe. Or even better, a very ominous quote. “I’ll be back.” -Terminator. Or better yet, a silly quote! “Harry’s from Australia and I literally have no idea where that is.” -that one girl on Too Hot To Handle who also had a tattoo of some words on her back and she didn’t even know what language it was.
Writing a good email takes a lot of skill, expertise, and practice, and that is why I feel so very mature when I write them. Like, a full grown adult isn’t even as good as me. And a 20 year old could neverrrr. Look at me making these strides. Best watch out, soon enough I’ll be 50!