I gave my type to the guy and explained the situation.
Phone Service Guy (PSG): What kind of symbol is it?
Me: A small plus sign and the number one.
PSG: I'm afraid I don't understand.
Me: A plus sign ... like a little "t."
PSG: It's a "t" and a one?
Me: No. A plus sign and a one.
PSG: A plus sign?
Me: Like one plus one. A plus sign.
PSG: Are you using the calculator?
Me: (Now I'm pissed.) Am I using the calculator? No. No I am not using the calculator. Does anyone use the calculator on their phone? It's worthless. Are you familiar with a calculator, though?
PSG: Yes, Sir. I am. I am trying to help.
Me: Okay. Picture the calculator in your mind. Say you want to add two and three. That button you would press to add them? That's the plus sign.
PSG: Okay, Sir. That's a plus sign and the number one?
PSG: Is it red?
Me: No. It's white. Would red be bad?
PSG: I just need to know the color.
Me: Okay. Why don't you tell me what the different colors mean for this symbol.
PSG: I am trying to find out what the symbol means. I think it is related to the 3G network. Can you get on the Web?
Me: Should I just try Facebook?
PSG: No! Just Google something?
Me: (At this point I did try Facebook. I had it running in the background, which is weird because I never do that. I exited, and it took care of the plus sign. I was so irritated by this guy, however, that I decided to keep the call going to amuse myself.) Can I Google Facebook?
PSG: Please just Google something.
Me: Not Facebook?
PSG: No, Sir. Not Facebook. Just Google something.
Me: This is a lot of pressure.
PSG: I'm trying to see if you have a 3G signal.
Me: Okay. I'll Google. I always wanted to learn about black magic. Learn about black magic. [I then started to spell L-e-a... I got to "B."] Shoot. I messed up. Want me to try again?
PSG: No, Sir. You were on Google?
PSG: So your phone has a 3G signal.
Me: Oh! On my phone! I was using my computer. I thought you wanted me to maybe look up what the symbol was on my computer. I did that. Nothing came up.
PSG (Now he's getting a bit exasperated with me.): No, Sir. I need to see if you have a 3G signal.
Me: On my phone?
PSG: Yes, Sir. You called about your phone.
Me: Yes. My computer is working.
PSG: Sir, can you Google on your phone?
Me: I've never tried.
PSG: Can you try?
Me: Yes. Can I Google Facebook on there?
PSG: Yes, Sir. Just try to access Google.
Me: What should I look up?
PSG: Do you have Google on your phone, Sir?
Me: Not yet. I want to have a game plan. If I can bring it up, I want to know what to look for so I'm not thinking of something. Your time is valuable.
PSG: I'm helping you, Sir.
Me: Thank you.
PSG: You're welcome. Do you have Google?
Me: On my computer ...
PSG: Do you have it on your phone?
Me: No. Should I look up the symbol?
PSG: Just try to access it on your phone?
Me: Trying to type 'learning about black magic' took too long.
PSG: Okay, Sir. Just get Google.
PSG: You have it?
Me: No. I was just agreeing with what you were saying.
Me: Okay, it's looking for Google.
PSG: Searching for it? Your phone is searching for it?
Me: Well, I'm looking for it on the phone screen.
PSG: Do you know how to Google on your phone?
Me: I assure you I know how to do it.
PSG: Can you do it then so I can see if this is a 3G issue, Sir?
Me: Maybe it's my calculator ...
PSG: We already determined it is not that, Sir.
Me: Right. Right. Google. Got it. It's up.
PSG: On your phone?
Me: On my phone.
PSG: Not your computer?
Me: I have it on there, too. Should I shut that off?
PSG: No. So you have 3G.
Me: I don't have a 3D phone.
PSG: 3G, Sir. It's a-
Me: Oh, God! You know what this is?
PSG: What, Sir?
Me: It's not a plus one symbol. It's a little 't' and a one.
Me: Do you know what that means?
PSG: Is it a 't' or a plus symbol?
Me: A 't.' Positive. Do you know what it means?
PSG: No, Sir. It's not for 3G. I don't-
Me: Well, no worries. A plus one would've been bad. A little 't' and a one is okay dokie by me, artichokey.
PSG: Happy to help, Sir.
And so our dance ended. Well, actually he gave me a website for the phone company and said a survey would be coming my way. I think that guy is going to go home and get thoroughly drunk on Mickey's.
I've been to many post offices in my life in various locales. Eureka, California's 5 and H branch seems to get a lot of idiots. I'm not talking about the general idiots who ask questions about international delivery. I'm talking about the ones who come to the window with a shirt folded in their hands who tell the clerk they have to send it to Minnesota and then act surprised when they are told they have to put it in a box or envelope. Not only are they surprised. They are sometimes offended, and then will say something like, "But I don't know the address." Yes, I've seen that happen.
So this lady tried key after key. Not a single one was working for her. "They all say 'post office,'" she muttered to herself. Great. I feared that any minute she would ask me which key was the proper one needed to open her box. She was something like 68 years old. Keys get confusing.
Instead of engaging me in conversation, she stepped to the side to hold her key ring up to the light. Perhaps that would help her identify the proper key. Perhaps she was looking for divine inspiration. Either way, I leaped at the chance to get to my box.
I opened it and, leaving my keys dangling from the lock, started to take out my mail. Then I heard her gasp.
She was standing right next to me staring at my keychain.
"That offends me," she said.
The "that" she was referring to was my Pussy Wagon keychain. If you don't know what the Pussy Wagon is, watch the first Kill Bill movie. Apparently she couldn't work her DVD player any better than she could a lock, as she didn't know what the hell it meant.
"It's from a movie," I said, taking my keys from my box.
"I don't care what it's from. It offends me."
I didn't care that I had a keychain that offended a woman who couldn't figure out how to open her post office box. It was on the very bottom of the list of things I give a crap about. I made a mental note that if she were in a life-threatening situation and my keychain was the only thing that could safe her, I would refrain from doing so, lest I offend her. Instead of telling her this and engaging in a conversation that would only leave me wanting to put her through a window, I walked away. Well, let me rephrase that. I started to walk away.
My box is close to the door. Just a couple of steps away from it, really. Before I could go more than two steps, she said, "Did you not hear me?"
Deep breath. Deep, calming breath. "I heard you. I chose to ignore you and not make you feel bad for not knowing how to use your keys." I turned again.
She started to talk again. My God! I just got off work. Did not have a good day. Had a lot of stuff to do at home. And now this lady wanted to give me commentary on my keychain? Just how far up her ass was her head? Did she want me to unleash Hell on her? Would she not be satisified until I somehow acknowledged her offended nature and placated her with words signifying that not only was I repentant, but would also do my utmost best to rid the world of Quentin Tarantino-inspired keychains? Is that what she wanted?
"I think-" she started to say.
I couldn't listen to it anymore. I couldn't hazard a guess as to what was passing through that mind of her's. I didn't want to hear it, either. There wasn't anything she could possibly say that would be of interest to me. Not a single word.
In a quiet, calm, low voice, I asked, "What makes you believe I give a fuck about what you think?"
That, as noted by the look on her face, offended her more than the keychain.
I left the post office as she started to sputter some kind of ill-conceived response.
I don't know what it is about that place, but it attracts the strangest people. Half the time I'm in there I think someone is playing a prank on me because there is no way these people could be real. They seem to be operating in a reality that is somehow on a different level than the one I inhabit. They don't understand things like postage, envelopes or etiquette.
I've always believed that more easily one is offended, the less intelligent they happen to be. I can't prove it. It's not science. But I do think there is something to it. If a simple keychain offends you, I doubt you're working on a cure for cancer or being consulted for the next NASA mission. Instead, you're probably writing nonsensical letters to the editor of the Times-Standard (you know what I mean if you read those things) and doing your best to make sure Hot Topic in the Bayshore Mall goes out of business like that den of sin known as Borders.
There are plenty of things to get offended about in the world. The fact that pro golfers make more than teachers. That the Tea Party Parrots almost drove this country to default. Or even the idea that child molesting priests can be shuffled around without any fear of criminal prosecution. Those are tangible things to be offended over. It makes sense to be offended by those things. By a keychain, though? You don't have a lot of room to be offended by it if you can't even figure out how to use the things attached to it, can you?
I had just gone through Federal jury duty not five months ago -- almost to the day -- back in May. (I served 5/10-5/13. I received this new questionnaire on 9/14/11. Read about the original experience here. It is a fascinating tale.) I sat on the jury. I came to a verdict. I was told I'd be excused for the next year. Prior to that we were told they they hardly ever had trials in Humboldt. I've been here about twenty years and now I was being asked for twice ... within five months.
Remember, folks, this is the government that made you "safer" after 9/11. The same government that seems to know what you should be allowed to watch in your movie theatres and in your pornography. This little "gaff" had me wondering if the Tea Party Parrots had already taken over the dog and pony show. How could they get this so wrong? Was there not a database that showed who served when, and wasn't it cross-referenced? I know I'm on government databases somewhere. You can't write an article about firebombing churches and not come to its attention. So how the hell did this happen?
In the next few days I will take a few moments out of my busy schedule and fill out the questionnaire ... and include a long letter as to why I shouldn't be serving again. (I'm tempted to print out my original column on the experience and send it with the paperwork, but I sense trouble brewing that way.)
It would be funny if it wasn't so frustrating. I have to waste my time. Tax payer money had to be wasted. And for what? Something a simple database check could've taken care with no fuss, no muss, and not a drip of candle wax. Our government at work, folks. If only you did your job so well ...
I find it oddly disturbing that more people I know think 12/21/12 will be the end of the world then think humans are causing some climate changes. It makes sense if you think about it, though. Fake planets, ancient calendars and "solar tsunamis" are things nobody can do anything about. Climate change, if caused by man, can be controlled by man. It's always easier to worry about things you can't do anything about because then you're off the hook. If you worry about something you can control, then you have to take actions to control it or you look like some kind of an idiot. People will always choose to look foolish believing in things they can't prove as opposed to things they can. It goes hand in hand with taking zero responsibility for your actions.
The 12/21/12 phenomenon is much like all the other end-of-the-world scenarios that have come before it, and in some ways very different. This one combines "science" (there's a planet coming into our solar system which will disrupt everything) with prophecy (the Mayan calendar ends). Granted, none of this actually holds up under scrutiny. This mysterious planet, Nibiru, was supposed to be visible to the naked eye two years ago. Nobody has seen it yet with a telescope let alone their peepers. And, of course, our calendar ends, as well. 12/31/11. It also taps into a bit of the "savage" scenario. Since we are an "advanced" culture, any cultures before ours couldn't possibly know things about astronomy and whatnot, but this Mayan culture seemed to have magical powers and advanced science, so they must have been right. It all makes for Hollywood movies and interesting press, but is little more than science fiction that far too many people are taking as science fact.
We've had our end-of-the-world problems last year with some people claiming the date was given in the Bible. People quit their jobs, slashed their kids' throats, and took to the road to let people know the end was nigh. It wasn't. Jobs stayed lost. Throats stayed slashed. Motorhomes remained painted with poorly written predictions. And then there was Y2K. You know, all the computers were going to crash, stop lights wouldn't work, and gold would be the only currency worth anything. That was another bit of prophecial dysfunction, as disappointing as whiskey dick. The only thing that came true was that gold got hoarded and those who sold bulk seeds made a killing.
But all of that is ancient history, forgotten, as we forget so many other things, when something newer and bigger comes along. The idea of the Earth cracking in half and lava bursting up through our living rooms during So You Think You Can Dance? has such cool special effects built right in that you can't help but swoon. Couple all that with some earthquakes that got a lot of coverage, leading many to believe there is more activity than normal, and the scientists theorizing that solar flares will peak (in 2013, but that's no small matter), and you get a television-ready special event movie that wil prove to be disappointing and then forgotten. A new scenario will, of course, take its place (a virus? a black hole bomb? the Tea Party Parrots getting the White House?), and a new round of fear and exploitation will occur.
All of this would be fine if people didn't act on these made-up threats. They do act on them, though, and they do so negatively. Do I care if some moron jumps out his window because he thinks the end of the world is ten minutes away? Only if I happen to be walking underneath him at the time. I do, however, care, when parents end up killing their kids. I do care when a group of believers sends nerve gas through a subway hoping to pre-empt the end of the world. People who believe insane shit like the end of the world (each and every time it's supposed to happen) do insane shit. They are capable of doing insane shit. (It should be noted, however, that much with the way people live their lives, many people who claim to believe 12/21/21 is the end of the world are doing very little to actually prepare for that. It goes to show how beliefs are important ... until you actually have to do something about it.) If you know someone who believes this sort of thing -- or any other such nonsense -- you should question their sanity. (Maybe not to their faces. They are nuts, and if they believe in fake planets, they can just as easily believe you are an alien and stab you in the throat.)
Lunatics -- is there anything they aren't capable of doing?
She looks, to use an overused word, radiant. Black dress. Cut low. Cleavage. Cut deep. A hint of eye shadow. Lips look natural. Hair perfect. Dark. He knows that under that dress on each thigh is a tattoo. The left one is a water dragon. The right one is an ice dragon. He knows because he's seen those thighs. He's been between them many times.
He looks as he normally does. Shirt with two buttons open. Jacket that looks like he slept in it. Hair is unkempt. His khakis creased in a road map pattern. He hasn't shaved in seven days? He's lost count.
The food is secondary. Pasta for both. His has clams. She's not into seafood or veal. Both make her gag. Neither has eaten much, but they've both been through two glasses of wine.
"What are you thinking?" she asks.
He smiles at her. She knows what he's thinking. It's the same thing he's always thinking. What he says, however, is, "Why do we go through this dance every damn time?"
Now it's her turn to smile. "It's fun."
"You and me ... we have different definitions of that word."
"It's still fun."
"Are you wearing anything under that dress?" he asks.
"Do I ever?"
He shakes his head ever so slightly. He appreciates her nude form, but he appreciates her clothed form even more. It leaves more to the imagination. He's seen her sans clothes dozens of times. He can trace her body in his mind, as he has committed it to memory. But nothing gets him more excited than picturing her without panties under that dress. Well, that and the way she moans.
"Where are we going to go?" she asks.
"Anywhere your boyfriend isn't."
She rolls her eyes. "Right now I'd say he's stuffing dollar bills into the panties of some beggar stripper in Vegas. Typical male bonding before the night of a wedding."
"Do you think he'd be doing that knowing what you and I are going to be doing later?"
"Yeah. I do."
"Sinful," he says. "He's left a woman as marvelous like you home alone to fend off the wolves."
"For the last time," she says. "This is it. We're done after tonight."
He leans forward. "What? What do you mean 'this is it'? When the fuck did you get a conscious?"
"It's not that. He and I are moving. He got a job offer in Sac, and I'm going to go-"
"No. Bullshit. This does not end this way." His finger jabs at the table with every word. Now he notices the people looking at them.
"Let's not make a scene."
"Then don't make fucking declarations like that."
He is silent for a moment. Then, "What we have is good."
"No. What you have is good. What I have is a problem explaining why it hurts to walk for two days and why I can't fuck him."
"I do more damage than I should."
She agrees with that.
"But you like it," he says.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't."
"Should we go?" he asks.
"You have someone lined up?"
He nods. "That I do. Craig's List is filled with young ladies looking to get kinky for only $100 an hour. I've assured Barbie -- not her real name, I'm sure -- that it would only be an hour, and that the level of kink was nothing out of the ordinary."
She laughs. "And did she believe that?"
"She says she's eighteen. Her picture says twenty. Either way, she's about as smart as a fourteen-year-old, so I would say she believes it."
"Will she have security?"
He shakes his head. "She told me, without prompting, that she operates solo. She wanted me to know all the money goes to her for her 'education.'"
"Oh, she's in school?"
"Yeah, she's a college student, and I still have my medical license. Let's go. I'll call her from the parking lot."
They take their individual cars to his place, at which point she gets in his car, her dress riding up her thigh. "Where are we meeting her?"
"Parking lot of Target," he says.
"And then to the cabin?"
He puts the car in drive. "Where else do you think we'd go for this?"
They pick her up. She sits in the pack of the Prius. She is quick to tell them she's only done "it" with girls "like two or three times."
"That's not an issue," he tells Barbie. "You don't have to do a damn thing but watch."
"Yes," the woman in the passenger seat says. "We fuck. You watch. We like to get rough sometimes, so don't be surprised by that."
"Okay," Barbie says. This was not the kink she was expecting.
"You know what that makes this?" the driver asks.
"No," she responds.
"The easiest hundred you ever made."
As they make their way through the hills, they engage in the usual small talk. It doesn't take long for the man and woman to figure out that Barbie is not a college student. Nor is she much of a conversationalist. All attempts at anything other than the basics are met with silence or mumbled answers. He starts to suspect she's on pills of some sort. His partner doesn't care.
"Can I smoke?" she asks.
"No," the driver answers sternly. "The car already smells like your shitty perfume. I don't need the odor of Camel Lights adding to it."
"Hey," Barbie says, hurt, "it's expensive perfume."
"Still smells like shit," he tells her.
They get to the cabin. It is the only one in sight. He has left a light on inside as well as the porch light on. "This is it," he says, getting out of the car. "Casa de Depravity for the next hour. You get to watch me do this lovely lady in all the places God forbid, and all you have to do is keep your pretty little mouth shut."
They take her to the bedroom and point to the chair in the corner where she is to sit. "No talking," he reminds her. "No masturbating. No texting. No updating your Facebook status. You watch this like you are watching your favorite show, got it?"
Barbie nods and settles into the seat. For the next half an hour she does nothing but watch. She doesn't say a word. Not when he pulls her hair. Not when he takes her from behind and she screams. Not when he chokes her or punches her in the stomach. Barbie is thankful for the fact that it is the other woman that is on the bed and not her. The man was right. This was the easiest hundred she ever made.
At minute forty-two, everything changes. The woman, who is underneath the man, makes eye contact with Barbie. "You like ... this?" she pants. The man is thrusting into her hard. Sweat is dripping from his face. He bends his head down and starts to bite her nipple. The woman screams, and Barbie lets out a single word. "Damn."
The action on the bed stops. They both look at her. The mood interrupted. "What the hell?" he says.
Barbie points to the woman. "Her nipple is bleeding."
The woman pushes the man off her and marches over to Barbie. Three quick slaps land on her face. Then her throat is grabbed. The woman's face is close to her's. Too close. "You were told to keep your damn mouth shut. College girl not know what that means?"
Barbie was afraid to say anything. Wasn't even sure she could.
"Answer her," the man tells her, "or I'll take out your teeth."
"I know ... what it ... means," she gasps.
The woman pushes her back into the chair. "Strip," she says. "Get up and strip."
"I want to go home."
The man walks over. He calmly says, "We paid you for an hour. We have fifteen minutes left. What's the worse that can happen?"
Forty-five minutes later they are in the car heading back to Target. Barbie is in the back seat. Silent. Tears are drying on her face. She is holding her left hand. It is wrapped in a towel loaded with ice packs.
"I'd drop you off at the ER, but they have cameras," he tells her as he takes the car onto the highway.
"I can drive ... I hope," she says.
The woman looks back at her. "The bruises will heal. The bite marks will go away. That small patch of hair will grow back. But you'll want to get that hand looked at. I heard at least two of them break."
"You'll both be going to jail," Barbie tells them. Again, she proves she's not the brightest.
"Do you have someone lined up?" she asks him again.
He seems to register the question. The restaurant is still packed. "What?"
She sighs. "Jesus. Are you even listening? Do you have someone lined up? You know, for our usual."
"Oh," he says. "I did. She backed out at the last moment." He shrugs. "Something about studying for finals." He is lying. She didn't back out, but he's not going to pick her up.
"What the hell is wrong with you? You're acting weird."
He smiles at her. "I was just lost in thought. Picturing what life would be like without you, I guess."
She signals for a waiter. "I don't think I can do this if we don't have someone watching. You know how I feel about that."
"Do you and your boyfriend have an audience?"
"No, but he's not beating the shit out of me, either."
"And you're asking what's wrong with me."
The waiter gives them the check. He gives the young man his American Express card and watches him walk away. "I'm sure it will be fun without some young whore keeping silent in the corner."
"I doubt it. This is a horrible last date."
He is erect now. "Oh, I'm sure I can figure out a way to spice it up." He is thinking of the hacksaw in the shed next to the shack. He'll tie her up, blindfold her, and then get to work on her leg. Two inches above the knee.
"And how do you plan on doing that?" she asks.
He pictures heating up a fork on the stove and then shoving it in her mouth. "I don't know," he says with a playful smile. "Leave the shades up for the deer to watch? They won't say a word."
The waiter returns the card and they leave the restaurant. She gets into his Prius. "I'm still not into this idea," she says.
"How about we make tonight just about us then? No hooker watching. One last romantic evening ... our final one together. What do you say?" He starts the car and looks at her.
"It sounds boring," she tells him. "If I wanted boring, I'd wait for Lyle to come home and get on top of
"I promise I won't bore you," he says, patting her thigh. "I promise this will be a night to remember."
He pulls out of the parking lot and starts heading toward the cabin.
"Okay. Deal. But no rough stuff. It feels weird without someone watching."
He smiles, but she can't see it in the dark. "Don't worry. We'll make do. I promise."
Enter the idiot.
My daughter and I were trying to make our way through the aisles when we encountered her. Actually, we were only held up by her and her words. The man blocking our aisle was the one held up. He and his partner. The man who was being questioned by the woman had a large cooling unit of some sort on a hand cart, and this woman was blocking his path. This woman was in her forties and had a teen daughter in tow.
"Can I ask you a question?" she asked the man.
"Sure. What is it?" he countered.
This is where things went weird, and my daughter and I got front row seats to it because we were trapped in this aisle.
"Well," she said angrily, "if you put that down for a minute I'll ask you."
"He can't put that down," his partner said.
"I can't put it down," the other man, who was obviously struggling with the weight of the object, added.
"Why not?" she asked.
The man with the handcart said, "I don't work here, you know."
She immediately smiled. "Oh, I am so sorry. Everyone says I'm rude."
"You are," I said, but she ignored me.
"I didn't mean it," she continued.
"No worries," he said, moving past her.
She was not ending this, though. She turned on the partner. "Can I ask you?"
"I don't work here, either." It was obvious to me that the men had come to buy some of the fixtures. I think it would be damn obvious to anyone ... except this self-described rude lady.
She didn't care that he didn't work at Borders. She wanted to be heard. And heard she would be. "How long has this been going on? What is this?"
Now I was just sticking around to hear this. It was fascinating. There were signs everywhere saying what it was. They were yellow and black. Huge. They used words like "closing" and phrases like "going out of business." It wasn't the fucking Da Vinci Code.
"It's been going on about a month or so," the man said. "It's a going out of business sale."
"When did this happen?" she pressed.
"I don't know the exact date. It was all over the news."
"Why is this happening?" she asked.
The man rolled his eyes. "I don't know. A lot of people said it was the Internet, but I don't think so."
The woman then said, and I am not kidding. "No. It's not that. I know what it is. Do you want to know what it is?"
Okay. Think about this for a second. A woman who made it obvious she had no idea Borders was going out of business, had no idea how long the proceedings had been going on, and had no idea that a blatant going out of business sale was a going out of business sale suddenly knew the answer as to why the store was going out of business. If it were me being asked, I would have taken that opportunity to shut the woman down and make a quick exit before any of her stupid rubbed off on me. Not so for the man she stopped. He actually asked her what she thought!
I left at that point, telling my daughter that if I ever acted like that woman she had every right to push me out of a moving vehicle. I was not going to stick around to listen to what I now determined to be Dumb and Dumber discussing the state of Borders. Even I have my tolerance levels when it comes to amusing stupidity.
In a perfect world, a just world, the willfully ignorant would be made to suffer the outcome of their actions. They wouldn't be placated. They wouldn't be given anything other than a passing glance and perhaps a shove out of the way. As I walked away from her, I couldn't help but think, perhaps wrongly, that she was probably part of the Tea Party Parrots. Cocksure of nothing. Positive that their views, based on God-knows-what, were right no matter what evidence spoke to the contrary. It was wrong of me to think that, but the mindset of that woman is what drives a lot of those Tea Party Parrots. I've witnessed it firsthand. I've seen it in their signs ("Government out of my Medicare"). So proud of their ignorance. So sure of their stupidity.
So if there is anything to remember on this day that many in the media are calling a "Day of Remembrance," it's that there are a lot of dumb asses out there and no amount of tragedy in the world is ever going to get them to open their eyes.