Jonesing For The GRRR!?

In case you're jonesing for the GRRR!, I've put together a few items that make up the very essence of the column that I wrote for so many years.

If you want to get a copy of my book, click here to Get The GRRR! Book

Over the years, the Grrr! column has observed how the "me, me, me" culture of Hollywood, sports and politics has influenced popular American culture in negative ways.

Ranging from the starlets who set bad examples for our kids, reality show contestants whose 15 minutes are long up but still manage to show up on morning television as "correspondents," to the steroids-using, overpaid professional athletes, to the average office morons who talk too loudly on their speakerphones and the cell-phone idiots who search for a new ringtone on commuter buses and trains, these observations over the years have inspired their very own lexicon of terms.

"Oblivions" are people so oblivious to their surroundings that they are rude and inconsiderate but never know it.

Other terms in The Grrr! Lexicon include "Left Lane Vigilantes," "Polignorants" and "ImporTants."

Whether you're in the mall, driving in your car, on the job or sitting at home screaming at your television because some news network or newspaper "of record" is rooting for the insurgents to defeat our men and women in the War on Terror — or some sportscaster has used the term "bling" several times during an interview with a superstar wide receiver, there's just so much to GRRR! about every day.

Hopefully the Grrr! column helped you vent in an amusing, yet bitingly accurate way. Take it or leave it, it's up to you.

Hollywood Insanity

You know what America needs? America needs celebrities to solve all of our country's problems.

We need them to tell us whom to vote for and what to vote for. We need them to tell us all about the world's poverty and how guilty we should feel about that. We need them to whine about how tired they are of getting their picture taken by the big, bad paparazzi, especially when they lunch at The Ivy, one of those places known for lingering paparazzi.

Even my grandmother knows to avoid The Ivy on bad hair days! And she's dead.

We need celebrities to share with us "little people" the traumas of their poor, poor lives. Thank goodness for these tragic public figures, because without them and their publicists we morons would never know about alcoholism, cocaine addiction, sex addiction, sex abuse, bulimia, divorce, anorexia, plastic surgery, postpartum depression, religious cults and most importantly — we wouldn't know just how dumb we are.

Gee, thanks Hollywood.

To think that so many of us envy your giant paydays, your free clothes, free cars, free first-class transportation, giant mansions, expensive automobiles, summer homes in the south of France and gated poolyards.

Gee, if we knew just how awful it must be to be you, we might actually begin to care about more important things, rather than what Suri or Shiloh means in several ancient languages.

Thanks to Hollywood and MTV, our sons and daughters are learning about sex as soon as they can find the channels. Twelve-year-old girls are walking through malls wearing thong underwear under low-cut velour sweatsuits that read "Juicy" across their under-aged behinds, and they're busy experimenting French kissing with their best same-sex friends because hey, children's book author Madonna made out with formerly hot neophyte Britney Spears on the MTV Music Awards once.

Speaking of Britney, well, that would be too easy.

Where would we be without Paris Hilton, whose rise to fame coincided with the release of her amateur porn video? Lindsay anyone?

Please. It will be a good day when these starlets stop dominating web searches unless they do something truly great.

Popcorn Eaters At The Movies

Whoever thought popcorn would be good movie theater fare obviously never sat in a dark room full of Oblivions munching on popcorn as if they were dying of some rare disease, and the only cure lies at the bottom of their popcorn bucket.

SHOOMP, in goes the hand — SHOOMP, out comes the hand and makes a beeline directly to the mouth — MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH — BREATHE — MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH.

The sound of people relentlessly chomping on their popcorn with bits flying out of their mouths, holding their breath while chewing so that they have to exhale simultaneously as they chew is enough to drive me up the wall.

I want to scream everytime I go to the movies, and of course, these Popcorn Oblivions always sit directly behind me so that I can hear ever bite, every breath, every reach, every salivation and every lick of the buttery popcorn off their greasy fingers.


Cell Phone Idiots

You know what I think is a great idea? I'll tell you. I think everybody with a new cell phone should scroll through their ringtones to pick the one that suits them best — on the commuter train or bus in the morning.

I think they should wait until most people are catching flies or reading newspapers, when there's relative silence so they can concentrate on Bach, Beethoven or the Pussycat Dolls without interruption, and they should do it at the utmost volume their little Motorola can muster.

Once they've found a ringtone, I'd recommend that said idiot call his or her friends and talk as loudly as possible, because everyone knows cell phone technology is so primitive one has to yell for the person at the other end of the call to hear them.

When the bus or the train goes underground through a tunnel, this same idiot should repeat HELLO? HELLO? and look dumbfounded at their phone, trying to decipher whether or not they have any signal bars, and then murmur to themselves how pathetic cell phone service is.

Left Lane Vigilantes

No, I do not condone weaving in and out of traffic like maniacs or speeding at dangerous levels while on your way to the shore for a long weekend, but for crying out loud, get your slow-moving vehicle out of the left lane.

The left lane is for passing. It is not there so you Self-Righteons can set the pace for the traffic behind you. It is not your job to drive 55 mph in the left lane, forcing people to pass on the right, even if the speed limit is 55 mph.

Thanks for your concern, but the people driving over the speed limit will take their own chances with the ticket.

Left Lane Vigilantism is dangerous, it is not a public service. Now that we are clear on that, don't forget to move over, and honk if you're happy. And while we're on the subject of driving, to all of you speeders who slam on your brakes when you see a cop sitting on the side of the road with his radar gun hanging out the window, you're already too late.

No need to screech 100 feet.

The Grocery Store

Only in an Oblivion-filled existence like ours, where people are so oblivious to everything around them that their needs are the only things that matter, can going to the grocery store for milk turn into a teeth Grrrrinding experience.

All of the empty parking spots are usually blocked by empty shopping carts that people are too lazy to bring to the cart corral. Oh, I know, it's not YOUR job! Oh, I know, you've got a baby in the car seat and it has never occurred to you to bring your baby with you and actually carry her to your car. OK, no big deal. Used to it.

Of course, the people blocking the cereal aisle with their carts parked sideways catching up on the last five years are actually next-door neighbors who avoid each other -- except when they're in the grocery store. Do us all a favor, just hate each other to their faces. It'll save us the time of having to maneuver our carts around you morons. And note, 40 cans of dog food do not count as one item in the express lane.

Finally, please, whip out the checkbook before all of your stuff is bagged. There's nothing worse than watching $300 worth of groceries bagged, carted and ready to go, and seeing the Oblivion rummaging through the overstuffed purse.

"I know my checkbook's in here somewhere!"

I don't know about you, but it seems I'm surrounded by idiots every day.

One day I stopped for gasoline in New Jersey, one of the few states that still requires you to get your gas pumped by an employee of the gas station, rather than self-serve like most states in this great nation.

While I understand the need for jobs and the need of some consumers who cannot or are simply unwilling to pump their own gas, I am Grrr'd by the fact that I have to wait for someone to come over and do something for me that I can easily do for myself.

But to make matters more Grrr'ing, the Sunoco station I stopped at on the New Jersey Turnpike was sorely under-staffed, with just one pump working at each row.

We were at least 10 cars deep in the line, and of course before I could back out and find another station, there were five cars piled behind me, so I grinded my teeth and tried to make the best of it.

What idiot manager do you think came up with the scenario of having just one pump open in every row? I know. Must be the proverbial I.M. Oblivion who plagues me everywhere I go.

Thirty-five minutes later, my tank was filled. Thirty-five minutes for gas! GRRR!

And people wonder why the title of my book is "Celebrities Are Ruining Our Country and Other Reasons Why We're All in Trouble."

Automated 'Courtesy' Calls

When I got home I had a call on my voicemail -- computer generated, of course.

You ever get those calls from your bank or credit card's promotion machine?

"Please hold for an important message from your credit card company," or "Please hold for an exciting offer from your cable company." The disturbing thing about this technology is that the machine can't determine if anyone is actually on the line.

So when a real person from the company calling you finally gets around to picking up the phone on his end, he says "hello, hello," not knowing he's actually talking to your voicemail.

So, instead of figuring it out on his own when no one responds (apparently common sense is rare), he'll just sit on the line in silence, as if to catch you sneezing or something. "Ah ha, Mr. Straka, I knew you were there. I heard you breathing!"

Yeah, 'cause I've got nothing better to do than play cat and mouse with the telemarketer. So here I am, listening to some guy tapping away at his keyboard on my voicemail, wondering who it is that called.

Jeff Gordon vs. Tony Stewart

I'm sure there's some history between these two NASCAR greats that I am not privy to, but boarding a plane with my brand-spanking-new Jeff Gordon hat atop my head in Orlando Monday, returning from covering the Daytona 500 (see more below), I end up sitting with a couple decked out in Home Depot Tony Stewart gear.

Talk about scoffing. The woman in the couple laughed and rolled her eyes, and gave her male companion the eye.

I wondered for a second if I was about to be beaten up by a 20-something married couple on a Continental Airlines flight to New York for wearing the wrong "colors," so to speak.

What is this, East Coast vs. West Coast? Am I the Crips and they the Bloods?

While I knew why I got the reaction from the Tony Stewart-loving couple, I wasn't about to explain that I was also in possession of a purple Crown Royal shirt from Jamie McMurray, a Mark Martin hat and a T-shirt for my daughter Maxine from Daytona International Speedway.

I couldn't care less whose hat I'm wearing. I just liked the hat. It's not my fault Tony Stewart gear is a walking advertisement for Home Depot, and quite frankly, I'm not too fond of orange.

While I'm on the subject, my 5-year-old nephew is a huge Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, and while I can understand his choice, I'm reluctant to buy a 5-year-old a number 8 T-shirt emblazoned with the Budweiser logo.

DAYTONA 500 2007

I’m sitting next to crew chief Larry Clark in the No. 26 Crown Royal pit. I’m not with the crew this time around on my NASCAR assignment. I’m with the boss.

It’s a bit overwhelming, to say the least.

Video: See Highlights of Coverage at Daytona 500

And they’re off. It’s loud as the field zooms by the pit.

Every member of the 43 teams watches anxiously as their drivers speed by ... 198 laps to go and Jamie McMurray, our host, is right in the middle of the pack. Pole position David Gilliland in the No. 38 M&M car still maintains the lead, with Tony Stewart hot on his tail.

Just a few weeks ago I was on the field at the Super Bowl, interviewing Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri as he celebrated his fourth ring, and moments later Jeff Saturday, coach Tony Dungy and then Peyton Manning.

To say that I have an extraordinary job would be an understatement. Next week: the Oscars.

Right now, a spin-out by Boris Said provides an early pit opportunity for the field, and the Crown Royal team jumps into action. Here comes McMurray. Fuel, tires, an official inspector jumps onto the track to make sure all of it is regulation, and he’s off in 20 seconds.

Luigi from Disney Pixar’s “Cars” has nothing on these guys.

After several crashes, McMurray’s strong showing looks even better. And then, the final wreck in the 196th lap of the 49th annual Daytona 500 proves too much for the Crown Royal driver.

He’s out.

Before the race, McMurray was calm.

“It’s a normal weekend … when you race every weekend it’s just another day,” he said, no doubt calming his nerves for what — for any driver in this race — could be the biggest race of his life.

NASCAR fans know that this weekend was anything but normal.

In the end, McMurray was in good company. NASCAR greats and race leaders Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch — as well as last year’s winner, Jimmy Johnson — were all wrecked out of contention, as Saturday’s Busch series winner Kevin Harvick inched out a victory over crowd sentimental favorite Mark Martin.

I gasped with the rest of the crowd when Clint Bowyer’s car flipped and slid across the finish line on its roof, setting on its tires in a fiery crash. Bowyer was all right, but it was a sight to see live and in the flesh.

I watched the replay on one of the pit crew’s monitors, and it was even more spectacular in high definition — albeit in slow motion.

All in all, a historic race, but next year, the 50th anniversary of “America’s Race,” will be one giant block party in Daytona. Even bigger than the 250,000 fans here this weekend, and that’s nothing to Grrr! about.

GRRR! Book

Since the GRRR! COLUMN is out of print, you can relive some of your favorite GRRRing moments by getting The GRRR! Book. I hope you like it.

Get The GRRR! Book