Festivus for the Rest of Us

Who says that we Jews can’t enjoy all of the various holidays celebrated by everyone around us. Even though it’s been a little while since we were warmed by the glow of our Chanukah menorahs, there are still opportunities to join with everyone as we commemorate each holiday in our own way. (And do you already know where you’re going for Chinese food this weekend?)

In that vein, how could any holiday season be complete without a mention of Festivus, which falls each year on December 23? Therefore I wanted to dedicate one blog entry to this occasion and stage a formal Airing of the Grievances. In keeping with the non-denominational nature of this holiday, these are all general complaints—able to be enjoyed and related to by all of our Jewish and non-Jewish friends and neighbors.

  • At formal ground breaking ceremonies, I think it looks ridiculous when the politicians and dignitaries put on fake hard hats. At that point, why not just pretend to drive the backhoe?
  • Unless you are a professional basketball player, no male should wear a tank top. Ever.
  • Wait staff: Don’t introduce yourself. I don’t care what your name is and I won’t remember it anyway. Even if I did, I would never have occasion to use your name. (“When you see Brad, could you tell him we need more water?” Yeah, I don’t think so.) I promise you I’ll smile and tip 20-25% no matter what.
  • Also wait staff: Stop asking if there are any food allergies that “Chef” needs to be aware of. We’ve lived this long—I promise you we’ll manage the menu just fine. Or we’ll ask.
  • I have always hated the term “rising” before a class year. When did that start? Just say “incoming” like the entire world has always done.
  • Why do we still think it’s cute and adorable when kids go up to the bar at events and order a Shirley Temple? How is that different than stepping out back for a candy cigarette?
  • Cell phone outgoing voice mail messages: “At the tone, record your message. When you’re finished hang up or press 1 for more options.” I think we got the hang of it by now—can I have my 30 seconds back? (And has anyone ever pressed 1? What other options could there be?)
  • It’s bad enough when our TV show gets interrupted by one of those Emergency Broadcast System messages, but have you noticed that the graphics look like an 80s-era VCR screen? This doesn’t exactly inspire confidence if this were the real thing.
  • HOV lanes. Get rid of all of them. No one has ever made a decision to bring a friend along to work just to use that dedicated lane. (“Hey Bill, would you like to commute together even though we work at different jobs and our offices are 37 miles apart?”) They’re great for parents and kids I suppose. Otherwise, it’s a total waste of a perfectly good lane that we could all be using.
  • Every post game sports press conference. You have the coach or athlete sitting in front of a branded background with a branded beverage, saying the same insipid sentences every time. “We all worked as a team, but just couldn’t come up with enough [goals, baskets, runs]” or “This was a great team effort, I’m really proud of everyone.”
  • People who hold their phones vertically while recording a video.
  • People who recline their plane seats. Don’t ever recline your seat. Period.
  • Couples who say “we’re pregnant.” Um, no, but I bet one of you is.
  • Website pages that lure you into clicking a link and then shift the page at the very last second so you click on the advertisement instead. Also news websites that autoload a video when you click on a story and start playing at full volume when you weren’t expecting it.

Ok, I feel better already. Wishing everyone a grievance-free year of good health and happiness.

Cantor Matt Axelrod has served Congregation Beth Israel of Scotch Plains, NJ since 1990. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and a national officer of the Cantors Assembly. Cantor Axelrod is the author of Surviving Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah: The Ultimate Insider's Guide, and Your Guide to the Jewish Holidays: From Shofar to Seder.

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