How to Complain Like a Pro

As a consumer, student, employee, and citizen, we all get a little screwed sometimes.

An important measure of any institution–be it a business, school, or whatever–is how they try to rectify a mishap or misdeed. In spite of that truism, the cold reality is that your reaction to getting screwed is the critical catalyst that determines how your complaint will be heard and processed. It is up to you.

Complain the wrong way, and you can look like a fool who gets nothing but high blood pressure and a wasted afternoon. I once complained the wrong way (let’s just say my temper got the best of me and I hulked out over a voicemail to a doctor’s office), and got a lovely letter inviting me to never come back to their office ever again. As if I was going to anyway. Shitkickers.

But if you play the complaint game the right way, not only do you stand to receive satisfaction over your complaint, but you can legitimately gauge the integrity of the institution against which you’re railing. Take an ugly situation and turn it into your moment of haughty, glorious victory.

This is a brief masterclass on the art of complaining. Read and follow the instructions below to learn how to badass your way into getting satisfaction from a complaint.

#1. Ask Yourself If You Have a Legitimate, Reasonable Complaint

Before you even turn to the keyboard or phone, you need to slow your roll and examine your situation thoughtfully. Are you actually in the right? Is your gripe reasonable given the circumstances? And is it worth your precious time and energy to get the complaint train chugging down the tracks?

Continue reading “How to Complain Like a Pro”

Chardee MacDennis Rules: A Playable Version of the Game

Brought to you by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia…and Boss Hog.

UPDATE, May, 2020: In honor of the glorious quarantine, I have uploaded new and improved versions of the rules and cards. Enjoy!

If you’re reading this, you probably are familiar with the notorious cure for boredom that was conceived by the assholes from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

That’s right, it’s Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games!

And I have (very painfully) put together a set of rules and cards for a version that is actually playable. Yes, that’s right, playable! Obviously the original Sunny version of Chardee MacDennis would certainly result in serious injury, jail time, and probably death. So I went a-hunting around the interwebs and pretty much every homegrown variant I saw online (when I decided to make a set for my husband for Christmas) was oddly focused around men having to do things to each others’ butts and balls …unpleasant things.

I don’t do frat boy.

So I developed a version of Chardee MacDennis that stayed as true to the original game as possible, but in our actual reality. My husband and I have play-tested this once and it worked beautifully. When we moved, my husband was adamant that we keep the “Chardee” set and bring it with us. Glad he did.

Disclaimer
This is an alcoholic drinking game. This is a dangerous game and should never be played by anyone for any reason. The drinking demands and various stunts are all potentially very dangerous, and other elements of the game are destructive, insulting, and degrading. HauntedCoconut.com takes no responsibility for harm to person or property.
Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol leads to impaired judgement and can lead to death. Always drink responsibly, never drive after drinking, and do not play this game. Look out for your family and friends and cease the game immediately if anyone is in distress or does not want to play.  Seek medical attention immediately as needed for you and your cohorts. If you do play Chardee MacDennis, someone could very easily get hurt and things will be broken. People will cry. Reputations will be ruined. Just don’t play this game. If you do, you accept responsibility for all harm, consequences, damages, and injury–physical, mental, and social. Don’t play this game.

Did you read that full disclaimer? Good. You should. Now that we’ve established you should never play this game, here is how one might hypothetically go about doing so.

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The Crap You Need to Store in Your Game Box

First, you will need to gather a number of items. Here is a list of non-perishable items that I keep in a specially designed shoebox for this game:

Continue reading “Chardee MacDennis Rules: A Playable Version of the Game”

The Final Word: Bran Stark Has Always Been the True Villain of Game of Thrones

Our watch is ended. The eighth season of Game of Thrones, which at times seemed to have been penned by Benioff & Weiss as a sort of Westerosi Mad Lib, has aired and we now know who wins…the equivalent of the Iron Throne.

Brandon Stark.

Bran the Broken.
Bran the Staring.
Bran the Evil.

I’ve been saying it publicly since January, 2017 (and privately since the autumn before)–Bran is a super villain who was overlooked because he was physically broken. Perhaps it’s because I was raised by a very loud, very tough wheelchair-bound mother that I did not ever underestimate Brandon Stark.

From the moment he set out to find the Three-Eyed Raven, everything about that boy’s quest was entirely self-serving, and at the peril and sacrifice of his family, friends, servants, and bystanders. And now we understand why he cut a path through the northern woods: The boy who was cheated out of being a knight decided that the alternative of sitting the throne was acceptable. No matter the cost.

Bran the Broken.
Bran the Breaker.

Granted, show runners Benioff & Weiss did not openly acknowledge Bran’s villainy. They scripted him as just this really interesting, keen totem from a noble family. He won’t father children or spend his days whoring. He won’t wed. He won’t ride dragons. He won’t scream and rant. And his mobile throne is made of wood, so he probably won’t play much with fire. He is merely a quiet, creepy, seemingly harmless man in a wheelchair who stares and sometimes goes comatose for a little while.

B&W may even believe in their talentless hearts that this was a happy ending of sorts. But they are wrong. Without realizing it, they have served up a Westerosi tragedy with a very ominous ending.

The Tale of Bran the Broken

Once upon a time, there was a boy with a darkness in his heart who lived in a keep far north in the icy wilderness. He has disturbing dreams about a mysterious three-eyed raven and was filled with a sense of purpose to follow that bird. His trusted friends, Jojen and Meera Reed appear unprompted to guide him north to find the Thraven, bringing along servant Hodor for assistance.

During their expedition, it is a curious thing that none of the predatory and lethal White Walkers cross their paths, as if they are shielded from afar. All others who tread north of the wall can scarcely avoid the monsters. Nevertheless, Bran and his crew wend their way north, dodging the attention of any family or friends, wishing to remain completely secretive. Along the way, Jojen Reed is killed by a zombie ambush while Meera and Hodor get Bran to his goal tree. Then servant Hodor is commanded to hold the door to allow the newly minted Three-Eyed Branven to escape.

Upon returning to his childhood home, Winterfell, Bran the Broken dismisses weary and mourning servant Meera without any thanks, sending her back to her home, never to be heard from again.

Meera and Bran - HauntedCoconut.com

Sitting in front of a warm fire, the Three-Eyed Branven declares himself no longer human, and speaks to no one unless pushed to do so. Even when he does speak, he withholds valuable information. He doesn’t raise the alarm when an ice dragon begins melting the wall. He doesn’t suggest that a nimble little assassin be positioned to take out the Night King. He doesn’t tell the women and children to stay out of the crypt when fighting a necromancer. He doesn’t intercede to save Varys or Theon. And he sits by knowing full well that Daenarys will burn King’s Landing to ash, innocents and all.

Curiously, he does speak up only to spread word of Aegon Targaryen, knowing that it will cleave the fragile alliances, and that Sansa will fan the flames. He sows discord at precisely the right moments to bring about his envisioned fate: To rule the [six] kingdoms.

Arya in the Ashes, Game of Thrones Season 8 - HauntedCoconut.com.jpg

In the ashes of the fallen city, as the newly formed council convenes to choose a new leader, Bran whispers into a few minds that he is the perfect choice, even though clever leaders of Westeros should be rightfully weary of an omnipotent man with limitless control over time and thought–that such a gift is too powerful to wield over a kingdom. And come to think of it, how did he get that gift and why? Who wanted him to have that power? The clouds of doubt begin to roll through their minds. Never mind, whispers a voice in their heads. His story is so interesting. He should be king.

Just as he taunted Joffrey that sparing Ned Stark’s head would make him as weak as a woman. Just as he whispered “burn them all” to two different Targaryens, father and daughter. Historically important people making unlikely judgment calls at critical junctures for the kingdom. All a means to an end.

While his Small Council will debate matters and rebuild “the wheel”, Brandon will rest in front of his royal fire, staring into the flames. Only then will he go back in time and send green dreams to Jojen Reed to begin the quest.

Bran the Bootstrap Paradox.
Bran the Broken.

Brandon has always known he would rule, because Bran the Broken made sure that he would. Now he has exiled his best rival to the vast northern wilderness and positioned his loyal sister in the north. The Starks now have tentacles reaching from far north to south, and even to the west.

Brandon Stark has become one of the monsters from Old Nan’s stories. Maybe he craves power and reach. Maybe he is being used by the Children to exact revenge on mankind. Maybe after all he is the blue-eyed giant named Macumber.

All we know is that Benioff and Weiss scripted his ascent to power as a noble and diplomatic compromise, without any acknowledgement that the lords and ladies were bowing to a creature who considers himself no longer human.

Bran the Broken.
Bran the Monster.

Bran - HauntedCoconut.com


Theory
Epilogue

If I am correct in my suppositions, there is a bit more to the story that I can easily envision for the books:

Bran the Broken is King of Westeros, and slowly the Old Gods reawaken. The Sept of Balor has been burned and the reputation of The Seven among the people of the land is tarnished due to reports of Sparrow abuses. Some still quietly and discreetly worship The Seven, but from north to south spreads a fervor for the gods of old. Come the spring, the people of Westeros notice saplings sprout from the ground that hadn’t been seen in ages. The Heart Trees are regrowing, this time in lands where they had never been previously seen. The eyes of the Old Gods are upon all of Westeros and beyond, perhaps only blind to a small assassin who has sailed beyond the reach of the roots. In the north, the Children gather and grow and decide how next to act.

Political Correctness: Reflections on Being an Asshole

Political correctness is the poison-tipped sword pointed at the armor of the average American asshole, for the asshole is on a great, noble quest, larger than that of humor, cruelty, or domination. Assholes stand behind a great bulwark of free speech in order to assert their basic human rights. And in the name of freedom, they cast their gaze upon the hurt and horrified sword wielders, and dub them “snowflakes”.  These great knights of vulgarity are righteous in their endeavor to preserve traditions and fortify the American spirit against the delicate.

It is a lovely fairytale. We have heard similar tales from local citizens at a nearby bar, from our grandfathers and uncles at holiday dinners, and from asshole celebrities, like Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh. I am therefore a bit sad to present the argument that their tale is mere fantasy invented by assholes, for assholes, to protect them from consequence and remorse.

I.

One cannot ever be certain which words, gestures, outfits, or social media posts may be offensive, for offense is entirely the domain of those who perceive it. This is a frustrating truth, especially to those of us who write and crack jokes now and then. Satire may be taken as truth. Parody may be viewed as propaganda. Shenanigans may be seen as insults. This, friends, is the risk we take in the delicate art of communication. If only wishing made it so that I could control the reaction of every eardrum and eyeball so that what I find humorous was laughed at, and that the absurd was recognized universally.

The fault does not lie with the offended, though. Delicate sensibilities can arise from grief, fear, anger, and being shit upon throughout one’s entire life. Just as the asshole cannot control the domain of perceived insults, the offended cannot control the filter through which they digest words and deeds. This is the consequence of so many disparate roads of experience intersecting, criss-crossing, and getting tangled like a knot of spaghetti.

Since neither the asshole nor the snowflake has control, the ongoing saga of enduring each other’s company must be done with a series of deliberate choices, and a fair acceptance of consequences for those choices.

II.

When the common asshole ventures to make a joke or commit an act that he senses may be reviled by snowflakes, a calculation must be made: What is the price he is willing to pay for the expression?

Even the most impudent assholes will typically never don blackface for Halloween, for example. For even if the asshole himself is not offended, and he intends no malice in the act, he, at the very least, recognizes that society has established mores against the practice for the last fifty years. The price for doing so would be extreme: The asshole may be violently attacked, may attract the attention of local news, and may lose his job, friends, and any shred of social standing he had left. Ostracism is the bare minimum price for such a crude act.

This is an extreme example, of course. The difficulty for the average asshole can be in calculating the cost of acts or words for which mores are still being formed, or remain unclear.

Returning to the Halloween scenario, an asshole may dress in caricature form as a Native American or a Mexican. The taboo exists, but not quite to the extent that complete ostracism is the cost. The nature of such an offense is still evolving, and so the rules and consequences are shifting even from year to year. It is understandable that the moving goalposts of offense are confusing and frustrating to assholes, but these shifts must be added to the risk-reward calculation for wearing such a costume. The thinking asshole might consider that such a costume is a high-risk proposition. Not only might people be more vocal in their offense than in prior decades, there could be personal consequences for the asshole.

Not every situation is so grievous for the asshole, however. Sometimes the calculation is more nuanced. For example, when I consume a surfeit of wine at Thanksgiving and become an asshole, I must make the calculation: If I tell my mother’s favorite story using a mocking voice in order to provoke laughter from others at the dinner table, I may make her cry. Or I may provoke her to do the same against me or someone else I love. Or she may take away my wineglass. I have to accept these consequences for my actions instead of dubbing her a snowflake who needs to “get over it” or alter her sensitivity and perception.

III.

Many an asshole believes that he should not be vulnerable to such consequences because of the rights of free speech provided by the United States Constitution. The link between the First Amendment and protection from political correctness is engineered to fortify the asshole’s position of righteousness and patriotism. Except that this is an unfortunate misunderstanding, or deliberate perversion of the First Amendment’s powers.

The scope of the First Amendment merely affords protection against government persecution and prosecution.

The list of consequences for the average asshole entirely outside of the scope of the First Amendment includes (but is not limited to): Social shunning, withdrawal of political support or paid sponsors, termination of employment or work opportunities, and protests.

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American Monster: Get to Know Andrew Jackson

“His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee…And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

Donald Trump really idolizes Andrew Jackson. His portrait hangs in the Oval Office, and the POTUS has verbal diarrhea, apparently, just at the mention of our seventh president. So maybe we should get to know him and understand what Donald Trump really sees in the “people’s president”.

Solider Boy

Jackson grew up dirt-poor and poorly educated in the Carolinas, and was a tween during the American Revolution. Inspired by his older brother’s grizzly death, his mother made him join the local militia at the age of 13. He was almost immediately captured, and was held as a prisoner of war. Though his military incarceration was quite brief, he nearly died of small pox. Shortly afterward, he lost his remaining brother and mother to disease, for which he always blamed the British. This Anglo grudge led him to a life of military service and a deep, festering sense of vengeance.

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Donald Trump Comparison!:
A young, wealthy, athletic Trump graduated college and avoided compulsory military service in the Vietnam War because of a dubious diagnosis of having “bone spurs”. Consequently, he has never served in the military. And he once had this to say: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Lawyer, Slave Owner, Cotton Mogul, and Stain on the Soul of Humanity

As an orphan, Jackson was still really poorly educated until he fled his hometown to study law informally in modern-day Tennessee. And it turns out Tennessee, as-was, had a boatload of hookers and gambling opportunities. So that was great for him.

He passed the bar and had friends pull a few strings to get him a gig as a government prosecutor. At age 21 he bought his first slave, which was probably his way of feeling really awesome about himself. By age 39 he was even wealthy enough to buy his own cotton plantation, the Hermitage, with nine slaves working the fields. Of course, this number went up quite a bit under Jackson’s management. Eventually, hundreds of slaves would be incarcerated at the Hermitage. Some historians think he was a relatively “kind” slave owner because he “let” the slaves bear babies and only whipped them when they really deserved it. But hell naw, the man ran a cotton plantation his entire life.

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Continue reading “American Monster: Get to Know Andrew Jackson”