My Mean Boss ... Grrr!

As if being an overweight child isn't bad enough, a new study in this month's Pediatrics magazine shows that overweight children are subject to more bullying on the playground than normal-weight kids are.

Hello? We needed an expensive study to figure that out? I could have told you that. Next time make the check out to Mike Straka, S-T-R-A-K-A.

All fat kids should be required to take martial-arts lessons. Not only will it get them in better shape, but when some bully decides to pick on them, they can kick his butt all over the playground too.

I'm talking boys and girls. There's no rule anywhere that says catty girls shouldn't get their butts kicked by the girl they're picking on.

And NO, I don't condone kids fighting anywhere that there isn't a mat and a referee, but there comes a time when kids should be toughened up rather than coddled.

Wake up parents. Stop being complacent with your children. It's OK to demonstrate a little disappointment and offer encouragement, but don't be competitive with your children. You had your chance.

Nothing Grrrs me more than when I see some dad or mom espousing on how much better he or she did it at the children's ages. Stop living in the past and let your children live in their present.

If your kid is getting bullied because he's fat, short, skinny or tall, help him find something constructive in it.

It kind of reminds me of my first mean boss. He was a news director at CBS News Radio on West 57th Street, where I worked the overnight shift (1 a.m.-9 a.m.) as a desk assistant.

Whenever he walked into the newsroom, a chilly breeze would follow him into his office. Nobody was exempt from his wrath. From desk assistants to famous anchors, all persons were equally susceptible to a humiliating tongue-lashing.

But you know what? If I'm good in a newsroom, I have that man to thank.

If you didn't like being belittled, then you needed to know your job. You needed to know what was going on. You needed to react to breaking news like it was second nature. You needed to keep everybody abreast on developments with clarity. In short, he toughened me up.

I remember one instance chasing a breaking news story. I was making calls to a hospital where a story was developing, and since several media outlets were also calling the hospital, the person answering the phone told me they were not taking any more calls from media outlets and asked that we stop calling.

In a note I put out to the newsroom I wrote, "The hospital told me to take a hike."

My boss came bursting out of his office.

"Mike, Mike," he always repeated my name whenever he was about to yell. "What did they say?" he asked. I told him the hospital spokesperson said they weren't talking to the media anymore.

"Then that's what you write. I don't want any of your stylistic bull——," he screamed. I said that I understood, but I really thought he was just being a big jerk.

When I finally got it, some time after that incident, I completely understood. He wasn't yelling for the sake of yelling.

I sent that note out to the entire newsroom. Some anchor could have taken my note for what it said, and it could very well have made it on the air that "so and so hospital told us to take a hike," and it would have been wrong.

The point is, sometimes a little bullying goes a long way to help one's maturity, and there's always a lesson in it, even if it hurts. Stop whining and start learning.

Exceptions to Every Grrr!

In last week's "What Goes Through the Mind of an Oblivion," I wrote about the Oblivions who like to leave their shopping carts in parking spots for other people to move. It opened me up to e-mails from the polar opposites of the Oblivions, who might be even worse: The Self-Righteons.

These are people who are always so right they have to let you know about it over and over and over again. Yes, there are exceptions to every Grrr, and people who strap their babies in their car seats shouldn't leave them there alone so they can return the shopping cart to the corral. Yes, you are right. But you don't have to be so self-righteous about it.

Self-Righteons are akin to Left-Lane Vigilantes. "Isn't the speed limit set for all lanes, blah blah blah." Self-Righteons never smoked a cigarette in their lives — or they recently quit smoking — so everybody who still smokes is working "to kill themselves and all of us around them too." Self-Righteons will cross the street in front of a moving bus because "they have the right of way." We'll remember to put that on your gravestone, by the way.

Self-Righteons will judge you because you're reading a Playboy magazine. Never mind the fact that there's more nudity on the six o'clock news these days. They're against gay marriage but they'll line up for blocks to catch Nathan Lane (search) in "The Producers" (search) on Broadway. It's OK to entertain us, just don't try to be like us.

Self-Righteons condemn President Bush, but ask them if they voted and you get a blank stare. Or on the flip side — they're gung-ho America and proudly fly Old Glory from the antenna of their Japanese car! The same car that has numerous bumper stickers, back windshield banners, license plate frames and assorted other paraphernalia displaying where they went to college.

Unless there's a major in Driving, what the hell does college have to do with your car? And didn't you already pay tuition? Can you say free advertising? They'll moan about a car dealer's decal on their new auto but will immediately put up that "Alma-Mater" sticker. I love how Self-Righteons are selectively self-righteous.

Grrrs Gone Wild

In this post-Sept. 11 world, I've resigned myself to taking early flights — as early as they depart. Six a.m.? I'm on it. That's because I know security is a headache, and I don't really like dealing with crowds (who does?). But still, people will wait until the last minute to get to the airport, and then huff and puff and look at their watches and be rude to the ticket agents and security guards because they have to wait and "Don't you know my flight leaves in 10 minutes?"

Aaron in Austin, Texas, suggests people who are late arriving for their flights should immediately be bumped to the next available flight — "available" being the operative word. After watching several flights depart to their destinations, it's pretty guaranteed that the Airport Oblivions will get the message. Now I have a lot of Grrrs toward the airlines in general, not the least of which is sitting next to a person who paid a quarter of what you paid for the same flight, but that's a whole other column.

Now For Your Grrrs

Jim Rabb writes on Airplane Oblivions: Why is it that a fair majority of people who "need extra time or assistance" to board an aircraft are the first ones to stand and slow the line to get off the aircraft? I say that if you need the extra time to get on, it would be good manners to wait for the rest of us to deplane. Another travel observation: Why is it that some people decide to take a carry-on that they can not lift into the overhead? Again, manners (and logic) would seem to dictate that if you can not lift it, maybe you should check it. Thanks again for your insightful column.

Mario Williams Grrrs on Reality TV: When did it become law that when one appears in a reality-television show they are deemed a star? C'mon, these are your Average Joes (pun intended) just acting a fool because they have free rent and don’t have to work for a couple of months. I mean, give me a physical break! Am I a star because I appeared in this column? (If so, HI MOM!!) Grrrrrr!!!!

Donna N. in Milwaukee Grrrs: As the receptionist for a medium-sized organization, I have to give a big Grrr to people who call our office and ask "Who called me?" because they missed the call on their cell phone or our number showed up on their caller id. Unfortunately for these Oblivions, I have better things to do than personally ask each of the 100+ people here if they made the call.

Justin in Manhattan writes: I live in a highly overpriced apartment in Manhattan. My genius neighbor, who is a male flight attendant, leaves for weekend trips pretty regularly every Friday morning. This genius, without fail, every weekend forgets to dis-engage his alarm clock that goes off at 7:00 a.m. So, every Saturday and Sunday morning I get to listen to the blaring beeping of my neighbors alarm clock that seems to go on for hours before it turns off. It's not a subtle beep either, it's more like a fog horn. Grrrrr!

—Justin, I think even more Grrring is paying top dollar for an apartment with paper-thin walls.

Donnie from the Big Easy writes: To all of you who take the time to write and complain about the grrrr column: I don't have anyone leaning over my shoulder forcing me to click on this link. Do you? No one is forcing you to read this column or, more importantly, respond to it. If you don't like it, leave it to those of us who do. Keep it coming Mike!

Yeah, what he say!

Kirby D. Johnson writes: My Grrr! goes out to all those oblivions who are so important and whose time is so much more valuable than mine that they feel it's justified to jump the check out line when a new lane opens up. You know the ones I'm talking about... you're standing in a five- deep line when an adjacent lane is opened. Rather than letting those who've been standing in line for 10 minutes go to the front of the new lane, many an Oblivion feels no remorse in jumping to the front. And I recently had an Oblivion take it to a whole new level. I'm standing in a four-deep line, when the Oblivion at the end of the line recognizes a friend/neighbor at the front of the line and comes forward to chat with her. You guessed it.. a new lane opens up and she quickly jumps to be the first in the new line. The guy behind me asks, "Did you just see what I saw?" I simply replied "Oblivious." Thanks for listening and I love the column.

Margaret P. Grrrs: Working in a wholesale/retail building supply, I run into a lot of Oblivions — "what do you mean did I read the instructions before I used the product?" Yesterday, however, I had a classic Oblivion grrr that comes from the fact that oblivions + technology = disaster. Some moron tried to fax something to our main phone line. This is no big deal — people make mistakes — but this moron had the fax machine set to redial about 50 million times (OK, slight exaggeration, can you tell I'm irked?), and then obviously left the office. For over an hour, this clown's fax called every two minutes. The oblivion then must have returned and realized the fax didn't go, so redialed and left again! GRRRRRR! Thanks for letting me vent!

—Margaret, next time save yourself the Grrr! and simply transfer the incoming fax to your fax machine's number. Works for me. Sometimes it's easier to come up with a workaround than try to change an Oblivion.

Toni B. writes: My workday starts around 5:30 a.m. every morning and one of the first things I do when I get to work (Tuesdays) is read your column. I just finished reading all the GRRR's for today and I laughed so hard I have tears in my eyes. My favorite was from David in Albany, Ga.(last column), who was complaining about all the other COMPLAINERS and your answer to him. I'm still laughing! Thanks for your column.

James H. in Nashville, Tenn., writes: OK Mike, I'm a huge fan and I love your column — it's hilarious, but once in a while you're just plain wrong. What goes through the mind of the Oblivion is not all that semi-articulated jabber. It just white noise. Just plain old, simple, nothingness. Assuming they actually realized that the rest of us even exist is giving them way too much credit. As Aristotle said, "what's important is not the inside of people's heads, but what they're going to do next." Since the actions of an average Oblivion may often get the rest of us killed, let's spend a little more time trying to predict/avoid them.

Rich S. in Kansas City, Mo.: So, I go to the movies last weekend to see Kill Bill Vol. 2 with the guys. We sit through the usual "pre-show entertainment" commercials when one causes a collective Gggrrrrr from most of the theater. One of the last movie previews before the beginning of Kill Bill was for the upcoming Jennifer Lopez/Richard Gere romance flick "Shall We Dance." What Hollywood Oblivion decided that the target audience for a violent Quentin Tarantino flick would be the same as the fan base for a J Lo and Richard Gere dance film!?!? Hey, why not add some previews for the sequel to Steel Magnolias while you're at it? I'm sure the loyal Tarantino fans will flock to it in droves!!! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

Stupid Lit'l Dreamers

FOX News legal analyst Lis Wiehl (search) gets the Stupid Lit'l Dreamer mention this week, and not just because she's beautiful, talented and has an office down the hall from mine. She gets it mainly for being a single mother of two — and still found the time to put forth "Winning Every Time: How to Use the Skills of a Lawyer in the Trials of Your Life," (search) an inspirational book aimed at helping all of us other Lit'l Dreamers realize our goals.

"It's not to turn everyone into lawyers. We don't need more lawyers," Lis said recently at her book launch party. "It teaches you the tricks of what a trial lawyer knows and how to use it in your every day life, from consumer negotiations, workplace issues, dealing with your children and significant other, and advocating for your loved ones."

When I asked her how she balances her job as a lawyer and as a legal contributor with her even more important job as a mom, she said, "I know the balls that I'm juggling are going to fall on my feet, I just hope they don't squoosh my toes," she said. "I do my best, I fail miserably sometimes, but I try to keep my eyes on the theory of my case, which is to raise happy, healthy kids, like any working mom does." Good luck Lis.

The Cutting Room Floor

Sunday's "FOX Magazine" featured my flashback to the first annual TriBeCa Film Festival. When Robert De Niro calls, people show up. Watch it now.

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" & "Sunday Best." 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 and shows.

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