An Open Letter to the Oblivions ... Grrr!

Dear Mr. and Ms. Oblivion: I am writing to ask for your referral.

You see, I've been wanting to get my name on "The List." I know it's supposed to be a secret, but I really don't want to have to wait in line with all the suckers at the grocery store who don't realize that with the proper membership, the checkout clerk will take full carts in the express lane. Or, when confronted with traffic, I can ride the shoulder a few miles until my exit.

Better still, I can phone it in on the job that I got through a family member who was sucker enough to work his or her butt off, and then squander someone else's opportunity by spending my days throwing a stress ball against the wall in my posh office — and making big bucks while I'm at it.

Rest assured, I know the rules of "The List," so I promise to keep it a secret and will not refer any new members until I earn my Oblivion Pin, which I am aspiring to with as little effort as humanly possible. Sincerely, Mike Straka.

PS: I'll see you at the movies this weekend. I'll be the guy with the screaming baby (she's usually really quiet — don't know what happened there. I guess the loud sound scared her — go figure). If there's more than one of us with screaming babies, I'll be the one sitting with excellent posture so the person behind me has an obstructed view, and I'll be munching on my popcorn as if I were dying of a rare disease and the cure was hidden in one of those little hard unpopped corns at the bottom of the bucket.

How to Spot an Oblivion ... Grrr!

On the road, they're deputized as Left Lane Vigilantes by Attorney General John Ashcroft, and they diligently set the pace for all those who dare drive more than the posted speed limit. At restaurants they let their kids run rampant under the misguided perception that everybody finds their little monsters as cute as they do — and they don't tip well. They can't spend more than 10 minutes without putting the cell phone to an ear and can't seem to grasp the fact that cell phone technology is so advanced these days they no longer need to yell for the person on the other end to hear them. And oh, it's never their fault. Never. See, you probably spotted several already today.

'American Idol' ... Grrr!

William Hung has a record deal. Grrr!

Howard Stern ... Grrr!

We can go back and forth forever about who likes Howard Stern (search) and who doesn't. Even I think he's OK, and that's after being on the receiving end of one of Mr. Stern's tirades after "Stuttering" John Melendez made me an unwitting accomplice in one of his sketches.

It was in the early '90s when John became a cast member in the New York production of "Tony N' Tina's Wedding," (search) where I was co-starring as little "Johnny Nunzio." John asked me to go on the Stern show and give Howard my honest opinion about his acting ability — which incidentally I thought was very good. However, what John neglected to inform me was that he told Howard that I was upset that a "non-actor" was now in the cast, and Howard was looking for me to bash John on the air. After Howard and Robin Quivers introduced me, they asked me about John, and I said he was a pretty good actor. In the background Stern's producer Gary said that I changed my story — well, if I knew I was supposed to have a story I could have played along.  Howard then hung up on me, and continued to bash me to his millions of listeners about how I was some opportunist actor and would go nowhere in my career.

While the incident embarrassed and humiliated me, I wasn't upset with Howard Stern. It's what he does. I know it. You know it. And the FCC knows it. After 20 years of being No. 1 on the radio — people are all of a sudden shocked that he's been a naughty boy? Please! What Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake did at the Super Bowl was an assault on a family affair and should have been admonished. What Howard does is provide millions of people with something to laugh about and millions more with something to Grrr! about. Don't make him the poster child for the First Amendment. If you don't like him, you have the freedom to change the tuner. Grrr!

In the end, Howard should be on satellite radio anyway. He's made enough money so he's got nothing to lose (unless his ex-wife had Mrs. Lionel Ritchie's divorce lawyer, that is), and it will give him the opportunity to see how many fans he really has.

Store Owners Are Oblivions Too ... Grrr!

From tech support to retail to restaurants, consumers are confronted day in and day out with rude, under-trained people who frankly just don't give a damn. So what do we do about bad service? Blame the company. Don't take it out on the underpaid clerk. Take your spending money to the Internet or some other establishment where they value your money and your loyalty. Grrr! to the people who refuse to share the wealth with the people who represent them in the stores. Sure, there are plenty of people working in the service industry to Grrr! over, but it's the company that hires lazy people in the first place. Grrr!

Hot and Hungry Is a Lethal Combination ... Grrr!

I don't know about you, but when I'm hot and hungry at the same time, I become a madman. My wife calls me Malachai from "Children of the Corn" (search) at those moments. Those are the times when I start calling out the Oblivions. I mean, usually I just observe them. But hot and hungry? Watch out.

Now for your Grrrs

Kasey K. from Bellevue, Neb., Grrrs: I live in dorms, and there’s nothing worse in the whole world than when I’m dead asleep and the guy in the room next to me decides that I want to wake up and listen to the ridiculously loud bass music (can we call rap that?) coming out of his room almost every day.

Brenda F. Grrrs: My Grrr! involves a person I sit next to at work. She listens and comments to all my conversations, whether I am talking on the telephone or to a person standing at my desk. The conversation is not with her, but she insists on having a comment or question about what was discussed. Now, I am a fairly easygoing person and don't want to stir things up, but it really Grrr's me that she is so OBLIVIOUS.

David F. Grrrs: I'd like to have a private conversation in a back alley with the person who came up with the idea of using the car's horn for the security system. I hate this person most when I am backing out of a parking space at the grocery store and a horn goes off and I have to do a double-take to make sure I am not on the verge of backing over someone.

Mike "The Big Mick" Sullivan on split infinitives (see last column): It ain't so, Mike. You darn well know what they mean by promising "to not read" your column any more, split infinitive or no. What you are doing here is elevating style over substance. I taught English for nine years.  You should know, as well as I do, that language is constantly changing and modern communication, especially e-mail, accelerates that change. The split infinitive rule is as much of a dinosaur, linguistically speaking, as the "don't end a sentence in a preposition" rule.  Maneuvering the sentence around to avoid such minor infractions, based, more often than not on old Latin rules, is, at best, more of a pain than it is worth in terms of communicating, and, at worst, leaves the sentence sounding stilted.

Face it, written communication is going to be forced to reflect changes in speech patterns, and modern mass communication is going to drive changes in speech at an ever accelerating pace.  Modern rules of grammar should follow the principles for etiquette laid down by Ms. Manners:  "The objective is to make people feel comfortable in a social setting."  I draw the line at Ebonics, but some flexibility is going to come in English Grammatical Rules whether we like it or not.  Stick with demanding some basics like subject-verb agreement or proper tense.

— Note on The Big Mick: I've been corresponding with Mr. Sullivan via email long before I started the Grrr! column. His eloquent and constructive criticism of my work on the web and on TV has helped me become a better writer and reporter. Thanks Mike — Straka.

Mike Miller in Birmingham, Ala., writes:  How about all those people who take you so seriously that they have to write you hate mail? That grrrrrr's me, but it really cracks me up, too.  First, they take the time to read your column. If they hate you so much, don't they have something better to do? Then, they obviously can't recognize light-hearted humor when they see it. How sad to go through life without a sense of humo!  I read your column because it's fun.  While I read it, I don't get mad. I smile. Hey, complainers: lighten up!

Neil Mazuranic, U.S. Army, Fort Benning, Ga., Grrrs: How about people merging into traffic on the freeways who don't seem to understand that the little red and white triangle sign that says "yield" actually means they have to yield and not the other guy who just so happens to already be on the interstate? How many times a day do I see a guy doing 70 mph down an entrance ramp, and then have the nerve to stare me down because I'm not immediately moving out of the way for the most important guy on the freeway?

"HoneyBunny" writes in from the deep South: Last weekend I committed the southern women's worst breach of protocol.  I was rude to someone, and it felt great.  I have you to thank for that.  I was in line at Home Depot buying paint (had been in this line for 15 minutes).  When I started unloading my cart, a women cut in line.  She began to ask the cashier prices on various pieces of lumber.  After about the 6th piece of wood that the cashier had to look up, I spoke up.  The women said she was sure that I would not mind.  I told her that in fact I did mind.  That she was a member of the Oblivions.  She had no idea what I was talking about. The point of this letter is, if she was rude enough to cut in line and continue to hold up the line, then it was my mission to call her on her rude behavior. I don't make a habit of this, but sometimes you just have to let people know that they make you go GRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Matthew in Atlanta sends a Grrr! to James in the Midwest (last column): I regularly speak to my wife three to four times a day. Why?  Because I like her...I know it’s crazy, but I actually LIKE my wife…Pretty simple. Hearing from her about what our children are doing or what she has going on helps make my day be a little more enjoyable. And to be honest, if I am going to take a break during the work day I would much rather spend a couple of minutes talking to my wife than hear some jackass colleague named James lament about how he doesn’t have a girl in his life.

And to complete his education, the “I’m leaving work, see you in a bit” call is so my wife can time dinner. That call ensures that she has just enough time to get things prepared so the food is piping hot the moment I walk through the door. Then we all sit down as a family and enjoy dinner together.

Lt. Col. Allen Naugle writes: Your March 15 column was a hoot! It tickled my memory of something I saw in Reader’s Digest some years ago. A small girl asked her mother, as they were traveling down the street, “Mommy, are you ever the idiot?” That probably hits closer to home than most would ever admit…In any event, I had to ask a ‘benign’ question…are you ever the oblivion? (LOL!!)"

— Lt. Col: Sure I've been an Oblivion. But knowing you are an Oblivion immediately negates that fact. True Oblivions are oblivious to their Oblivion status!

Jennifer M. has an office Grrr!: This is to the guy who occupies the cubicle on the other side of me. Why do you feel that the whole floor has to hear your telephone conversations? Use a normal speaking voice and try to respect people around you who are working. Why do you call someone on speaker phone if they're just a few cubicles down? And then they answer, and you can hear a big echo and both sides of the conversations. Please put your cell phone on a quieter ring, or preferably the vibrate setting. Here's the final complaint: quit tapping and pounding on your desk all the time! It makes my desk shake too!"

And you think I have anger issues?

Tim "The Bad Grammar" Guy writes: I know my grammar is really bad. As a writer I can see it being a pet peeve for you. I am not even close to being a writer never have and probably never will. See I grew up on the streets not in a nice two parent home. My college degree is from the school of hard knocks. I earned my degree. I probably worked  harder for it than your own degree (you write like you have one). I cannot write but in a dark alley I am the professor not you. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. My pet peeve is these spoiled college degree people think they are better. I am not saying you are doing that but I have had this attitude shown to me by many a college Grad. So I did not go to college or even get a high school diploma, I have a GED from when I served in the Navy. When chaos breaks out people like you will be running for help from people like me. I can take more pain and torture than you ever could stand. How do I know I was tortured by street gangs. Have you had a finger cut off just for the fun of it? I really doubt it, I on the other hand have and really get ticked off by the spoiled brats of our society crying about grammar it is a non issue to me. We have parents killing their children and you are off crying about grammar. Please figure out what is really worth crying about. Grammar is a non issue to me I live the mean streets not the posh estate living. Oh I only completed eighth grade, so I know my writing is poor. To me though writing is not a serious topic or area I choose to improve in. I fight to survive everyday. I know I will never retire and work hard all my life that is what has been dealt and I would not change a thing. In a terrorist attack I have double your survival rating I know what happens in those dark alleys I lived there.

— Hey Tim. When you say "on the other hand," do you mean the hand with only four fingers? I'm not trying to be a wise guy, just curious. As far as my survival skills and work ethic go, you don't know anything about me.

Thanks for all of your Grrrs. Please keep them coming. Incidentally, I'm doing a "FOX Magazine" feature on a singer/actress named Melissa Errico (search) that will air on March 28. Melissa is a beautiful woman with incredible talent. Check out her new CD "Blue Like That." (search) Sorry guys, she's married to tennis player/commentator Patrick McEnroe.

Until next week, Grrrrrrrrrr!

Read previous Strakalogue Grrr! columns

Mike Straka is the Director of Operations and Special Projects for, and contributes as a features reporter and producer on "FOX Magazine" (Sundays 11 p.m. on FNC) — a producer on "Sunday Best" (Sundays 9 p.m. on FNC) — and a columnist on As an actor, Straka appeared in the film "Analyze This," co-starred in the Off-Broadway hit "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," and has done several television commercials, soap operas and promotions.

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