Dear Santa: Help me cope!

By THOMAS JENKINSAs a writer and columnist, I try my best to pick my topics wisely, shying away from the pointless whining we can all be prone to — especially during the holiday season — and concentrating on the positive aspects of everyday life.However, even the best of us sometimes give in to the nagging and perils of the world, and the soap box gets pulled out in preparation for a rant that might make the likes of an intoxicated Mel Gibson say, “Wow, that's pretty heavy!"So, without further ado, here is a list of things that are tap dancing on my last nerve as we head into the holiday season.Being a single dad that works some pretty crazy hours, my daughter and I eat out quite often. Possibly even too often, to be honest. However, there are certain pleasures that simply can't be ignored, much like a piping hot cup of chili from one of our favorite fast food restaurants.Unfortunately, the last five times we've tried to order the chili — and yes, I'm fully aware fast food chili can't hold a candle to a bowl of real Texas red, but you have to make do with what's available — we've been greeted by, “I'm sorry sir, but we're out of chili.” Out of chili? Seriously? Five times in a row?Maybe they just need larger pots, or maybe some employee running the drive-thru is hoarding all the chili for himself and his friends. Would that idea be considered paranoid? Am I being paranoid about the idea of being paranoid, and if so, what do you call that? Either way, something has to be done to address this problem. Maybe the chili fairy can help. Anyone have her number?Now, let's take a moment to talk about driving. As we all know, people are out and about quite a bit more during the holiday season, racing around to check friends and families off their Christmas lists. More motorists means more traffic congestion, and more traffic congestion means, well, more headaches.First and foremost, your blinker is not optional. Using it isn't something we do just to be nice. Sure, it's been about a million years since we all took our driving tests, but that's no excuse for not realizing it's not only required, it's a vital part of sharing the road. Help your fellow man — and woman — and use your turn signal.I blame this trend on airbags and other safety features on today's cars that have lessened the likelihood of being killed in a crash. People feel safe, and, therefore, have become careless. Let's get rid of the airbags and replace them with machetes angled toward the drivers' throats. Yes, it's a dark, maybe even Darwinian idea, but I guarantee people won't drive more than 3 mph and will signal when they turn. Or, maybe they won't, but those folks most likely won't last long enough to procreate, thereby improving the gene pool one vehicle accident at a time.Next on my list of things that are annoying is gas stations, or, more specifically, gas stations that have stalls that have to be pulled into. Anyone that has visited Murphy USA during the afternoon rush has seen the cars driving around and around the pumps, looking for an unoccupied pump, or at least a short line for a pump. It's maddening, with motorists jockeying for position like it were a 2 mph version of the Daytona 500.If that's not bad enough, apparently the folks who designed the Chevy Malibu thought it would be funny to make it one of the few cars with the gas cap on the passenger side. So, while other motorists simply have to wait for their turn, I have to do so after turning my car around backwards and jockeying for position in reverse.The looks I get as I wait in line range from dumbfounded to outward idiocy, as if I somehow like to go through the line backwards for the fun of it, or simply on a dare. Every once in a while I'll see another Chevy vehicle trying to wiggle its way into the process and I can't help but feel a sort of kinship with those poor folks. In the end, we usually end up doing the same thing: giving up and going to HEB for fuel.I suppose if I were going to ask for a Christmas gift this year it would be the patience to deal with these and other mind numbing annoyances with a smile and a wink. My mother always told me you get more flies with honey than vinegar, but who in the heck wants flies, anyway?Great, now I'm hungry for chili again.Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at