Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the telephone

Land line rung this morning. We hardly ever use it any more except to have something to put down on forms in order to avoid giving out our cell numbers.

So the machine gets it. Another machine begins to talk to our machine. It explains that it has a wonderful opportunity for us, yadda yadda. It wants to sell us something wonderful, no doubt, and will, if we will only call it back at thus-and-such a number. Beep!

So... either there are companies out there dumb enough to think they can replace actual telemarketers with machines, and this will somehow WORK...

...or there are customers out there dumb enough to call back a RECORDING in order to buy some damn thing that isn't even specified in the call!

Neither option fills me with hope.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Esprit d'Escalier

I sat and licked my ice cream cone, and listened to the crazy old man talk about roaches.

We'd stopped by this ice cream cone stand, right? We'd heard they had great homemade ice cream. They did, too. It was delicious. But the elderly couple had stopped around the same time, and while his wife was getting ice cream, this old guy had decided I was his friend, and was going to tell me about his roach problem, apropos of nothing, whether I wanted to hear it or not.

I don't get it. When I strike up conversations with strangers, I can think of better things to talk about than vermin, filth, or genital warts. But for this old codger, there was nothing in the world more compelling than his roach problem. Mom raised me to be respectful to the elderly... no matter HOW full of shit they may be... and so Becca and I sat and ate our ice cream and listened to the old man rant and rave about roaches.

His wife came back with the ice cream, and immediately looked dismayed. She said nothing, but her facial expression said, "Oh, no. He's on about the roaches again, and he's trapped some poor bystander, and now this man and his wife think I'm married to an Alzheimer's case."

The old man developed a spooky glint in his eye. "But THEN," he said, "I realized where they was COMIN' from."

The woman said "Oh, dear, please, no--" She knew what was coming, and was already dying of embarrassment.

"They was comin' from the SHITTER!" he cried, fairly loudly, his voice filled with triumph. "Comin' out of the SHITTER, they was! Them roaches was gettin' in through the SHITTER!" His eyes durn near glowed with lunatic glee. I wasn't sure if he was pleased he'd outsmarted the roaches, or if he was just thrilled that he'd said the word "shitter" three times in less than three seconds. His wife shriveled behind him. Too late...

"That reminds me," I said. It was the first time I'd spoken since the old man had begun talking. "Are you familiar with the Japanese giant hornet?"

The old man stopped cold, and looked confused. I continued onward. "Big suckers. We're talking hornets the size of your thumb. They build nests the size of Volkswagens. Hostile, too. They kill about twenty Japanese folks each year -- if you get too close to the nest, they swarm you."

The old man sat there with a "durr?" look on his face. Plainly, this wasn't in his script. Feeling pleased with myself, I pressed onward. "What's even worse, their poison is corrosive. First they sting you, then they SPRAY you with the stuff. Not only does it burn your skin, but it's got a pheremone in it that tells all the OTHER wasps that you're an enemy, and should be stung to death immediately. They'll chase you for hundreds of yards once you got THAT shit on you."

The light of lunacy died in the old man's eyes, slowly replaced by the steady gleam of confused lucidity. "Um," he said, raising a hand, preparatory to speaking. I didn't want him to speak. I kept going.

"And if giant monster wasps who spray flesh-melting poison isn't bad enough," I said, "they're really bad for beekeepers. See, they attack beehives. I saw a video once, only three wasps, fighting THOUSANDS of bees, right there at the hive. The bees can't touch them. Their stings won't go through the wasps' shells. THREE WASPS just killed every single bee in the hive, bit 'em in half one at a time, then when they were all dead, crawled right in there and ate the queen and all the baby bees..."

"Um, now, hold on, just WAIT a minute!" said the old man, by now quite bumfuzzled. "What does THIS have to do with anything? I was talkin' about ROACHES!"

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said as sincerely as I could. "Did I mess up? I was under the impression we were having some sort of non-sequitur contest with the topic "insects." Did I not use enough profanity? I wasn't real clear on the rules..."

This story was true, all the way up until I began talking about the hornets. For that matter, the stuff about the hornets is true, too -- it just didn't occur to me to say anything about them at the time. I wish I had... "Esprit D'Escalier," means "Spirit of the staircase." It means "stuff you wish you'd said at the right time, but didn't think of until you were already on your way out."

I like that there's a word for that.

But to my dear wife and anyone who really cares about me: if, when I am old, I begin pouncing on complete strangers and begin talking to them about roaches or bowel movements or anything, just shoot me. Seriously. The part of me that is still lucid would thank you for it...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Evel Knievel

Ergh. Too wide. Try clicking it!
Evel Knievel - A History
Via: Motorcycle Insurance

Monday, July 5, 2010

Playground Slide

Once, years ago, at a county fair, I saw a big inflatable slide shaped like the Titanic. You know, the ship, the one that's famous largely for sinking? The one where hundreds of people met their icy watery doom?

Yeah, that's right. There was a playground slide shaped like it. It tilted at an angle, the bow already underwater, as if it were sinking into the fairgrounds. Children climbed up into it and slid down their decks, much like the screaming victims of the original disaster slid to their deaths as the mighty ship heaved and went under.

It creeped me out. It was like an inflatable bouncy castle shaped like the Twin Towers, complete with vinyl flames and a rubber airplane sticking out of one side.

I thought that Titanic Slide was the most disturbing children's attraction I would ever see on any playground.

I was wrong.

They'll Get You In Your Dreams

I had the strangest dream last night.

In the dream, someone was very angry with me, and was suing me. I found out about it when the process server served me the summons, and I went to go ask what the problem was.

My angry friend, whom I will call Joe Doe, because I don't remember his name in the dream and because he doesn't correspond to any real person I know, detailed the event in question. I don't remember exactly what it was, because it was a dream, you know. But I remember... that I had dreamed that I had DONE this thing, whatever it was.

"But ... it was a dream, Joe," I said. "You can't hold me accountable for something that happened in a DREAM!"

"The hell I can't!" he cried. "I've got a lawyer and I'm going to sue your ass off! You won't have a pot to piss in when I'm done with you!"

"How the hell are you going to sue me for something that happened in a DREAM?"

"Simple!" he cried, triumphantly. "I'm going to sue you in THIS dream! Dream event, dream court, dream judge, dream jury! Your ass is MINE!"

That was the point in the dream at which I realized I was dreaming. I ceased to be afraid. I have learned that things in dreams simply go away when you wake up, no consequences. If he wanted to sue me, peachy. At this point, to avoid boring the reader, I will fast forward to the lawsuit and trial. It had occurred to me simply to not show up, but I was curious as to what would happen, and one shouldn't ignore a legal summons, you know.

Luckily, I dreamed myself up an attorney, so I really didn't have much to do except sit there and watch the show while my dream lawyer did all the talking.

I do remember that I went so far as to wear shorts, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt (my usual casual attire), as I dislike suits, and what were they going to DO? It was a DREAM! So naturally, no one noticed, and the proceedings began on schedule.

My attorney called for dismissal of the case on the grounds that the whole thing had happened in a dream.

His attorney objected, stating that the events had happened, and that the dream state was irrelevant, and that his client was entitled to a settlement.

My attorney countered that the events had happened in a PREVIOUS dream, occurring the Thursday night before the CURRENT dream, and therefore any lawsuit TONIGHT was invalid.

His attorney countered that there was no statute of limitations on dreams.

The judge agreed with him. "Proceed," he said.

At this point, it became like a real court case... that is to say, non-dramatic, lots of yammering, and rather dull. I will spare you the details I remember, which isn't many, because I wasn't really paying attention. I was wondering exactly what I HAD dreamed on Thursday. Did I dream I did something to Joe Doe? Or was I dreaming, in THIS dream, that I had dreamed I had done something to Joe Doe during a dream I had last Thursday night? Had I actually had the dream in question at all? Or was I simply DREAMING that I had had a certain dream? It was dreadfully confusing. I do remember that at some point during the trial, Joe's attorney had vanished and Joe was making his arguments himself. My lawyer would object occasionally. Sometimes he'd be overruled, sometimes not.

Towards the end of the trial, though, Joe began having a problem with the judge's attitude. "Your honor, at the risk of causing contempt, I notice that you seem less than interested in the case at hand. Is there a problem?"

"What's the point?" said the judge. "First of all, the events in question happened in a dream. Secondly, this dream has been going on for a while. Sooner or later, the defendant is going to wake up, rendering these proceedings moot."

"Your HONOR!" shouted Joe, angrily. "First of all, you yourself have agreed to the validity of these proceedings! Secondly, if it is proven that the events occurred as I claim that they did, I am entitled to a settlement, by LAW!"

"Again, what's the point?" said the bored judge. "He's going to wake up long before you can make it to the bank and cash the check. And even if he doesn't, I am quite certain that your dream check will make no impact whatseover on his accounts and properties in the real world. Furthermore, I can see by the look on the defendant's face that he knows this, which completely renders any punishment element in these proceedings pointless. I move for a recess."

"OBJECTION, your honor!" Joe screamed in outrage. He paused, and then hit a thunderous realization! "Your honor, I MUST DEMAND THAT YOU RECUSE YOURSELF!"

The judge glanced up sharply, surprised. "What? On what grounds?"

"This is HIS DREAM, your honor!" cried Joe. "Therefore, as a resident of his dream, YOU ARE HIS CREATION, and therefore INHERENTLY BIASED TOWARDS THE DEFENDANT! You cannot possibly render any kind of fair verdict! I demand that you recuse yourself from this case!"

The judge grabbed the gavel angrily, pointed at Joe, and.... stopped cold. His features registered confusion. Joe actually had a point. WAS he unconsciously biased? The judge looked at me, nervously.

I didn't know what to tell him. I thought about objecting on the grounds that I wasn't sure if I'd dreamed I'd wronged Joe in some way, or that I had dreamed in THIS dream that I had wronged Joe, and therefore the incident in question was totally screwed up...

And then I woke up. I was not afraid, or anxious, but I sure was confused.

Plainly, I need to quit watching "Law And Order" reruns before I go to bed...