You Need These?

My professional life reached a new low recently. As you may know from some of my earlier posts, I work in a bookstore. For some reason, bookstores attract the…what’s the opposite of the “cream” in cream of the crop? Well, what ever that is, it’s walking among the rest of the perfectly normal book-lovers.

This particular notch in my Olympian punishment belt was earned on the most recent Sanctimonious Saturday, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s named this thanks to the following conversation.

“Are you open on Easter?”

“Yeah, regular store hours.”

“Oh my. Well, I won’t be shopping here anymore.”

Now read that, like, a dozen more times.

My day already had an odd vibe, I had helped a woman with translucent pajama pants and flowery thong before 10am, and I was curious to see what the rest of the day would bring. Luckily, around noon, a very unique person returned to my store.

He had been in the previous evening, and asked for an ambulance to be called because he suspected that he was having a heart-attack. As he and a manager waited for an ambulance to arrive, he explained that this heart attack was probably caused by his earlier use of meth, cocaine, ecstasy, anti-depressants, and a few other medications. The ambulance eventually arrived, and he was carted off.

Now he was back, less than 24 hours later, and looking to make amends.

“Thanks for calling the ambulance, I feel much better today,” He told the cashier, who happened to be the same cashier from the previous night.

“Oh!” She said, surprised by the unusual resurrection before her. “I’m glad.”

The man then proceeded to take a seat in the cafe of the store, and begin reading some magazines. After some time had passed, I was grabbing some dirty dishes at the table next to the man. There were some unused napkins at the table, and as I was clearing them, he reached for them as well.

“Oh, did you need these?” I asked.

His outreached hand then began moving strangely, like he was trying to work out a cramp in every muscle in his hands and arm, and he made a peculiar face. A face that my wife, when I recreated for her later, described as, “very upsetting.”

It was at this time I noticed the large amount of opened pornography underneath his table and put the pieces together. Needless to say, this made me more than a little angry at the man. Realizing that my current emotional state would not lead to a good resolution in this matter, I called for a fellow manager to assist.

“Hey, our friend from yesterday just had an…episode.” The words oozed out of my mouth like sick, thick blood.

The other manager arrived quickly, we began questioning the man about his intentions with our store. At this point, a woman from a nearby table revealed that she was a nurse at a local homeless shelter and believed that she may have helped the man in the past. I, seeing that the situation was under control, went outside and said every swear word I know in alphabetical order.

Oh, I forgot to mention one thing: he had a bunch of nail polish jars on the table. They didn’t come into play, but I just thought it was weird.

The f-ing End

 

 

On my ill-ness

My nose runs and my throat tickles,

My brain swims and my eye trickles.

 

I don’t feel well and I don’t think good.

I want to write a post, but don’t think I could.

 

I started a story, then had to quit,

my knees shaking as I try not to –

 

Flit to another idea.

 

I need to sleep, I need some Zzz’s.

I submit this poem, now if you please…

 

– Forgive the slant rhyme,

Poor meter,

Bad structure –

 

Turn of the light as you leave.

Booze Your Own Adventure: Chapter 3

You turn to your friends, “What should I do?” With the wisdom of cheap alcohol flowing through their veins, a resounding cry for a confrontation rises up. You keep a cooler head, though.

“We had fun together, I just want to say hi.”

You get up and walk over to your ex’s table, feeling a little nervous. How would your attempt at fence mending be taken? Is it even worth the effort?

“Hey.”

“Oh, hi.”

“I, uhh… just wanted to say that, I know things were bad at the end, but I guess I just wanted you to know that I hope we can… bury the hatchet or something.

Your ex is visibly stunned, likely expecting a major confrontation or emotional plea.

“Yeah, yeah that’d be cool.”

“Great, well, see ya around.”

You walk back to your table and your friends all lean in, demanding to know what happened. You tell the story and their faces are overcome with a mixture of the disappointment of witnessing a disaster avoided and acknowledgement of the higher road.

“Alright, well that’s something to celebrate,” your friend enthusiastically says, “Shots!”

You feel good about your fence mending, and don’t want to end the party just yet. At the same time, you’ve had a couple of drinks already and don’t want to get carried away.

 

Babies on a Plane

I took my young daughter on a plane recently, and I was surprised by a few things. The first was the airline’s treatment of my child. When getting my ticket, I had to list her as an, “Infant in Arms,” which makes me think of a baby military.  This process included writing her name, and birth date, and NOTHING ELSE! I didn’t need to provide a birth certificate, any sort of hospital records, nothing. Nothing at all. I could have brought, literally (and I mean literally) any baby on that plane. I’m trying to figure out if there is a way to make money from this, but so far all my ideas involve me being a truly terrible person.

The next thing is that when we left the hospital with our little bundle, we were required to have a car seat. They wouldn’t let us leave with the baby (in a car) without one.  Planes, on the other hand, you can (again, literally) hold the baby in your arms. Car going 65mph 2 feet off the ground? That baby is gonna need a special, rear-facing seat with a five-point harness, only to be used in the back seat of the car. Plane going 500mph at 30,000 feet? NBD, you can just hold it, or something. Heck, even your drink has a special spot on the tray so it doesn’t slide around.

One thing you cannot hold during landing or take-off, on the other hand, is a laptop. In fact, your laptop needs to be stowed, in a bag, either under your seat or in the overhead bin.

“Uh, excuse me sir?”

“Yes?”

“I’m afraid you’ll need to stow your laptop before take-off”

“Oh, this isn’t a 5lb laptop, it’s my 25lb child.”

“I’m so sorry to bother you, I thought you were holding something important, like a computer.”

I was also surprised that people didn’t hiss and boo as I walked through the airplane. I was fully expecting that, at some point during the flight, for someone to turn around and say something awful to my child and I like,

“Stupid baby, why does your stupid baby make so much stupid noise?! I’m trying to watch 13 Going on 30 on my iPhone for the millionth time and your stupid baby is really taking me out of the movie!”

Or

“Your damn diaper baby keeps crying! Why is your diaper baby so damn annoying. I didn’t bring any headphones on this plane because I want to annoy the person next to me with bland conversation and I can’t do that with your friggin’ diaper baby crying!”

I even spent time coming up with responses. All of them level headed, and on-point.

“FYOU, YOU STUPID JERK!”

And

“OH YEAH?! Spits on face.”

Luckily, I didn’t need to bust out any of these. To the contrary, a few people on flights helped entertain my baby by waving, clapping, and making funny faces. These people helped remind me that, in the mountain of shit that is modern air-travel, a few people are not garbage. Thank you, fellow humans. Thank you.

Internet Museum

In 8th grade typing class, where I learned nothing (srsly, I type like I have ninja turtle hands) we had a favorite way to pester the teacher. A new website had just come to our attention and we loved bringing it up on our computers. The only real deterrent the teacher had was telling us that she could watch what we were doing on our computers from hers. That only made things worse.

This was the website.

This was one of the first internet memes, and has a somewhat interesting story. Read about it here.

This brought me to an interesting thought: why isn’t there an internet museum? Well, a .43 second Google search revealed over 1,200,000 results, with one being good. It’s here.

The online internet museum is great. Just like a real museum, you learn enough to go, “huh, I didn’t know that,” but don’t really leave any smarter. It did make me wonder about something else, though.

Eventually, human consciousness will be overtaken by artificial intelligence. This isn’t science-fiction; acting unit Keanu Reeves is already capable of displaying over 4 human-like emotions. When this happens, I like to think that robo-anthropologists (robothropologists?) will explore the early internet the way we explore early civilizations. What will they think? What will they find?

Surely, some websites will no longer be accessible, leaving holes in the available knowledge. We encounter the same problem, though. When this happens, we hypothesize in order to see a complete culture. Our future robot-overlords may need to do the same thing with images like this. What will they process when they find this image everywhere, but seemingly no b0eginning? Will they make the same error we do and assume that it must be some sort of meaningful icon, and not just internet-fap-assery? Maybe, they won’t have the need to fill in these knowledge gaps, and just understand that it was, and then wasn’t.

I wonder about what our internet culture will make us look like. Don’t worry, this isn’t a, “back in my day, we…” rant. No, I greatly enjoy our democratized humor, where cat photos and funny grammar reign supreme. I mean genuinely, what are the important internet artifacts? What would you hope that Skynet finds as it combs through the digital wasteland of a post-human earth?

 

Booze Your Own Adventure: Chapter 2

Last week’s choices were to meet up with your friends, or stay in and work. Like the Choose Your Own Adventure series, once choice can lead you down a very different path than the other. This week, I’ll give both options (because I wrote them, and liked them both) but here on out, I’ll only post the chapter that wins.

You Chose: Stay in and work on your presentation

“Sorry, I have a really big presentation tomorrow. Gotta pass tonight. Next time?” As you hit Send on your phone, you feel your heart drop a little.

Many years later, while reading the holo-news in your driverless car, you come across a startling story about your former friend. “… was hit by an automated garbage truck while leaving Zorbaks Liquor. Authorities have ruled out foul-play, but say alcohol was involved.”

You haven’t seen your friend in years, but you had heard rumors from mutual acquaintances of an alcohol problem. Your friend always did love a party, but near the end of your friendship seemed to no longer care about finding pretenses to drink and instead drank for the sake of drinking.

As you wonder if it would seem odd for you to attend the funeral, or if there would even be one, you think back to the last words you said to this person. “Next time?” rings in your ears the way only the silence between a question and an answer that will never come can.

After achieving massive success with your company and eventually going on to run the entire organization, you had always looked back at that day as a turning point. Before, it was the day you became someone in your field, the day you finally came into your own professionally. Now, you look at it as the day you turned your back on a friend truly in need.

THE END

You Chose: Meet Your Friends for a Drink

“Alright just one” you send back to your friend. “I’ve got everything I need ready. Why not have a little fun?” you think to yourself.

You change out of the sweatpants and t-shirt you had been wearing, shower, and put on your favorite shirt. As you check yourself in the mirror, you stop and say, “Remember, you have a big day tomorrow. Be good!” Your friend has a way of convincing you to have more fun than a person typically should in a single sitting, but you’ve got a good feeling, and commit yourself to having a fun evening.

Traffic was light as you head downtown and you make good time. After finding a nearby parking spot, you head inside your favorite bar.

“Over here!” Your friend is turned around and waving to you enthusiastically from a table. Several of your other friends are there and you sit down at one of the last remaining spots.

“What did I miss?” You ask.

“A couple of cheap-ass shots.”

“Is it still going on?”

“Nah, it was just for an hour.”

You turn around to order a drink with the server and notice, in a booth across the bar, your ex. You two had been together for three years, and in one horrible month, it all fell apart. You were left with an apartment you couldn’t afford, a cat you didn’t want, and a broken heart.

Five tough weeks later and you’re finally feeling comfortable in your single life. That is, until chance encounter has it all slamming back again. The fights, the differences, all the anger. But good stuff too. You two were really happy together. Most of the time, anyway.

You want to talk to this person, to say all that was left unsaid.

 

 

Do I Still Pay Full Price, Then?

My first job was cooking at Perkins. It was pretty terrible. I was 16 and worked way longer and later than the law allowed. I worked with people who frequently did drugs…at work. But there was one thing we always did: prepare the food.

“No crap, Einstein. That’s sort of implied with your title, cook, huh?”

We’ll there’s where you’re wrong. I recently had a run-in with some food that required an additional step before eating. The Wife, Baby, and I were at Bubba Gump Shrimp (yeah, we fancy) and I ordered… the shrimp plate? … something like that. Anyway, I like shrimp, but don’t eat it much.

Our food arrives, and I begin eating. If you’re a frequent eater of sea-bugs, you probably can see where this is going. After a few minutes, the Wife mentions the basket in the center of the table for shells.

“What shells?” I reply.

“The shrimp. They have shells on them. You’re supposed to take the shells off first.”

silence

“Have you been eating the shells?”

“Yeah.”

“Didn’t you think that was weird?”

“I thought they were crunchy.”

“They have feet on them.”

“Yeah, so do cows and chickens. I eat a lot of things with feet. Pig’s feet are delicacies in a lot of places.”

And this brings me to my complaint; why was I supposed to take part in the preparation of my food? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I pay the cook to make the meal. If I order a cheeseburger, and I’m brought an un-cut bun, a cooked patty, and a plate of toppings, my response would be, “What in the f- is this?” However, everyone turns and drools when a plate of fajitas sizzles its was across a Mexican restaurant. Why can I, in the same restaurant, order a salad as a meal or get the salad bar and do all the f-ing work myself?

I like cooking. The Wife and I are pretty good at it, too. That doesn’t mean that we go to Fridays thinking, “We’re gonna show these little s-o-b’s how to make some wanton tacos, damnit!” No, I want the cook to cook, and I want my only obligation to be opening my mouth, jamming it with fried f-ing cheese, and getting the squirts 20 minutes after I get home.

Perchance, to Dream: Chapter 1

The bright lights of the waiting room glared off of the glossy magazine page, making Hayne curse under his breath. It was an old issue of National Geographic and this particular article was saying something about bees.

Or buzzing.

The bees weren’t buzzing right and they kept dying off.

Or they were getting sick.

The buzzing was probably just his head, the bees were on the page. That sounded right. Either way, Hayne had been reading the same paragraph for almost 30 minutes.

Hayne looked at his watch. The camera in it followed his eyes, calculated the distance, and projected the information just above the screen. 32 minutes, actually.

“Hayne?”

“Yep.”

“Right this way, sir.”

Hayne got up, and his ears began ringing slightly. He followed the nurse down an unpleasantly white hallway and was directed into a doctor’s office. Another copy of the National Geographic was in the office, but this one had crayon drawings all over it. Hayne thought that it was a nice touch, since the dull crayon was the least glaring thing in the office.

“Alright, just a minute and Dr. Lethe will be here,” the nurse said, closing the door behind her.

Hayne looked around the office. There were numerous posters about healthy sleeping habits. One claimed that going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day could increase your IQ by 50 points. The picture showed a young man with a frizzy grey wig on in a tasteless impersonation of Einstein.

“Hello!” The doctor said, slightly too loud for Hayne’s headache, and sat down at the desk. “So what brings you to Somnolence? ”

“Well, I haven’t been sleeping well. I don’t dream. I just go to sleep, and when I wake up, it feels like 5 minutes have passed, but I’ve been asleep all night.”

“I see,” he turned and a screen lit up on his desk. “How do you know you were asleep?”

“What?”

“If you were asleep, you weren’t conscious. How would you know you were sleeping?”

“I’m not sure I know how to answer that.”

Lethe wrote something down on his screen, making a slight, “hmm.”

“Tell me about your last dream.”

“Well, I’m not sure I remember the last time I had one.”

“Are you dreaming now?”

“…no.” Hayne said, really drawing out the O.

“Am I a dream?” He enunciated each word sharply. “Let me ask you this: the nurse, was she a robot or human?”

“Uh, I guess, human?”

“But you’re not certain?”

“I suppose not.”

Lethe turned to his screen again with another, “hmm.”

“One more question: how many am I holding?” He was holding his hand out, slightly cupped.

“I…are you…” Hayne opened and closed his mouth a few times as he mentally scrolled through all the words he knew to see if any of them would help.

Lethe snatched his hand back. “Very interesting. We’ll need to keep you overnight for observation. Are you free tonight?”

“Uh, sure. Tonight works fine. Do you…uh, do you have any idea what’s going on?”

“None whatsoever. The nurse will provide you with the information you need.” With that, Dr. Lethe stood, pivoted on his heel, and walked out of the room.

 

Bro Skater

I began skateboarding in 9th grade. One of my brothers bought me my first real board, and we would skate at the nearby elementary school parking lot. We had the Tony Hawk: Pro Skater demo that came free with a large, any-topping, Pizza Hut pizza, and fancied ourselves real f-ing thrashers.

One day, while rippin’ shiz up at Edison Elementary, my brother gets a great idea,

“Ok, I’m gonna get going on the swing, you toss me my board, I’ll jump off, and land. Easy.”

“Wait, throw you your board in the air?”

“No, while I’m swinging. It’ll be just like jumping off swings as a kid”

“…ok.”

My brother seemed convinced that this was a great idea. At this point, I could’ve said a few different things, all pointing to how this was a dumb idea, and likely to cause some form of injury. After all, there were a lot of moving parts (literally) to this plan: my brother on the swing, my questionable aim with a skateboard, him being able to catch a skateboard on a swing, and his timing of the jump. I’m the younger brother, though and caution isn’t our M.O. as a general rule.

So we put the plan into motion. He gets on the swing and builds up speed.

Actually, let me pause him there and set the scene a little better. I say elementary school swing set, but erase the image you have right now of a modern elementary school play-ground. Take out the rubber padding on the ground, spread down some nice gravel, raise the top bar of the up to 10 feet, and give the swings some metal chains with just a touch of rust. There we go.

Okay, he’s maxing out, head popping up over the top rail, and gives me the signal to throw him the board. I toss the board to him as he’s reaching the bottom of the downward swing and he snatches it out of the air. He swings up, and jumps off.

He jumps off at the very top of his arc.

Do you remember jumping off of swings? It was a fun physics lesson. Imagine the swing chain straight up and down. That’s the 90 degree point. For maximum distance, a kid should jump off at 45 degrees. Since he jumped off at the 0 degree point, he had no forward momentum or vertical momentum. This wasn’t great for him.

I watched as my brother rotated forward, and spread his arms into a swan dive, and hit the ground. He hit it hard. I saw him bounce off of the gravel.

It was a while before my brother could breathe without feeling pain in his ribs, but the memory of seeing the house across the street in the space between my brother and the ground as he bounced tickles my ribs to this day.

 

Finale

I may be the only person that feels sad when they think about the series finale of Wings. Well, I suppose the actors probably felt sad. I dunno. Anyway, as a kid, I felt like I was watching people leave on the last day of camp. I couldn’t tell you what happened, or even any of the character’s names, but I remember that feeling so vividly. To this day, I dislike the ends of sitcoms. Not even just the finales, I typically stop watching when the story arc is on it’s downward swing.

I think it’s because I become invested in the characters, as any fan of a show does, and don’t want to end the relationship with them. A good TV show gets you to understand these characters like you know them in real life. They have motives, they have dreams, plans futures, failings, flaws.

And we get to talk about them.

Constantly.

And not even feel bad about it!

Unlike real life, though, I don’t need to watch the finale. Ross will always be chasing Rachael. Fonzie never gets on that motorcycle. Mel Gibson never guest stars on the Simpsons. I can stay where I want to stay, see the story I want to see, and never reach an ending.

This may sound unhealthy. You may be thinking, “Well that’s life, buddy. Things end. Get over it.” That’s the thing; things in life do end. There’s often nothing we can do about it but watch something we had grown to love come to an end while a clip-show wrap-up runs through our head in slow-mo to Time of Your Life or whatever kids are crying about these days. We just have to go through it.

I know that the bitter makes the sweet, and you need to see a story through, but life throws enough endings at us as it is. For me, Bob Hope will always be dreaming.