417. Communication Breakdown

Image result for phone imagesIt’s a healthier option to write about one’s anger than to blow it all over the deserving others, especially when they are on the other end of a Verizon or Century Link phone. This is a modern saga of catastrophic communication. It has a back story that goes back a month or more. “Please hold. For English, press one. For Spanish, press dos.” Cheesy background music for free.

Image result for phone imagesMy wife wanted new cell phones. Not certain why, but we had outlived our previous service contract and so the deal of the day seemed pretty decent. If we bought new phones, somehow or other the monthly bill would be lowered by $20. Why it was not already lowered was a rude question that I did not ask. I know that in our capitalist economy the goal is to shake as much money as you can from the captive audience. And I realize that the competition is not really so robust as to present a truly free market.  What you say?  Consider this factoid: in Honduras every teenager I came in contact with had a cell phone, a modern one. This poor country had cell towers all around, even in the mountainous areas. Their service was fine. Here’s the rat in the apple bin:  they are unbelievably poor people, second only to Haiti. So how do they afford this modern luxury?  Simple answer is that they pay according to their meager economy’s standards not according to what we have been led to believe is the cost of doing business. Let’s see, Google tells me that the minimum wage in Honduras runs between $175-350 per month. Yet unemployed and partially employed teens have phones. How’s that work? My bill with Verizon is $126 per month for two lines. In Honduras this sort of charge is not possible to sustain. Oh, taxes and higher wages and uh, utility surcharges and 911 upcharges and the greed charge have to be added in the U.S., I guess.

Image result for router box imagesBack home I got my shiny new phone from the nerdy sales guy at Verizon and away we went, sort of. The nightmare nuclear winter of communication began that same day as Dirk the sales guy got my wife’s attention about how to save even more. (Funny thing is we were spending and spending and spending. These savings were promissory syllables on the way to technology hell.) Dirk explained incompletely that these black wonder boxes could circumvent my land lines at home and in my office, thus reducing my overall phone costs. “It’s quite simple (wrong!!!). You simply plug in the box next to your phone and dial 77. We port the phone over and there you go.” We left the Verizon affiliate store with two wonder boxes and a vague idea of what to do.

Image result for no dial tone picturesThe phones were cool, no doubt. However, we noticed in a day or two that our home internet was no longer working. Then our home landline went dead. The wonder box was not working as promised. Naturally we called Verizon and walked through the directions again. Same result. I got a bit panicked thinking that my office line and internet were next. I called Verizon to cut the order on the business line. I was assured by my new buddy Matt at Century Link that we had averted the danger and avoided disaster, however there would be a $59 charge to undo the portage that never happened. “Well,” I said, “that’s on Verizon.”

Image result for tech nerd picturesI called Alex at the Verizon store. He talked abbreviated nerdspeak and assured me that he would get CenturyLink to void the charge. “No worries.” I had lost faith in Alex by now. He had not authority, nor did his manager. Someone else in the cyber army officer corps ported the magic numbers over ether net. These guys only sold phones and broken dreams. That’s it.

“Seven to ten days,” we were told, “that’s how long it takes to port over a number, sir.” The internet-less days ground on slowly, drip, drip, drip at glacier speed.Image result for glacier speed images

 

‘Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?’ Joni Mitchell sang long ago. Her new verse should go, ‘Port out your number, get yourself a dead dial tone.’ That was a month ago. Over that time I thought my phone was not ringing so much, but it was the holiday season and I didn’t mind really. I knew my office internet was running, therefore the phone line was working, right?

In this case I was mistaken. Though I called my voice mail to check for messages remotely, I never thought to call my actual phone number. If I had, I would have heard, “We’re sorry, but the person at this number has not set up a voice mail account yet. Goodbye.” I cannot calculate how many phone calls I did not receive nor the many voice mails that could not be left for me. I just get angry thinking about it.

Image result for blame pictures finger pointingOnce I heard this useless message, I called Century Link to see what was up with my voice mail. I spoke to a low level customer service person who assured me that my unclear issue would be resolved by close of business that day. I called my office the next morning. Same message. It was Saturday, Christmas Eve.  On Monday the 26th I called again; explained my problem to another customer service rep and received another less vigorous reassurance that it should be good to go by the next day. Okay. Tuesday I was in my office.  I received an authoritative call from Mike at Century Link assuring me that my vague problem would be completely solved by the next morning. This morning as it turns out. I called again and heard the same message. Now I was thoroughly angry.

I called Century Link and spoke to another person. I insisted on speaking to a supervisor. I was transferred to the finance department. “Would I like to make a payment on my bill?”  “Actually, no. I’d like to bill your company for wasting my time.” Finance lady put me back in the cue. By the time Dave or Corey or Danielle or Michelle or Josiah or Truly answered, I was breathing deeply and trying to find a balance between my rage and my salvation.  I told myself not to curse them or to use heavy sarcasm. I waited and listened to the bad piano riff loop over and over again. My morning phone call to Century Link lasted 30 minutes. But wait! There’s more.  I was told that I’d be getting a call back as soon as they had news for me. By 2:30 p.m. I called back and raised some heck. “Stop the nicey nice talk. Give me a supervisor now.” Hold, ten minutes.

Image result for smart woman pictures“This is Truly, blah blah blah.”

I recounted my tale of woe for the sixth time. Being a supervisor, she had a brain instead of a script to read to me. She reassured me that the problem was on Verizon’s side. My business phone number belonged to them and needed to be ported over to CenturyLink.  [Meanwhile I’d called Comcast to port my CenturyLink number over as soon as it was returned from Verizon. Phone and internet package for less for the moment, according to Alan at Comcast.]  She encouraged me to call Verizon and have them release my number. Then she’d personally call me back in an hour.

Image result for man drowning imagesI called Verizon and spent 25 minutes on hold while Ivy or Vicki or Jeanette worked on my issue.  I insisted on a supervisor to start. After a very long hold time my Verizon lady informed me that CenturyLink had to request the number back from Verizon.  She had a brain also and managed to tell me back my tale of woe convincingly. Finally, around 4 pm I got a call from Ryan who assured me he had been working on this problem nonstop since Monday, but Verizon would not answer their port department phones. (Really Ryan?) He promised to call me back in five minutes with the way forward. It took all I had not to scream “FIX IT!!!”

Mercifully, around 4:30 I got a three way call between Ryan at CL and Mo at Verizon. We had a brief chat; those two talked nerdspeak briefly; Mo hung up; and Ryan told me it was over. I’d been on the phone over 90 minutes on my day off, trying to undo the fix that I never wanted that I had cut off a month ago, not knowing I’d been cutting off the wrong Hydra head each time. I called my office on my cell and got my own voice mail prompt at long last. Hallelujah, hallelujah. I felt like a beached whale no longer.

Image result for pinocchio washed up on beach picturesMy take away lesson for future reference is to know what you cannot know before the guy who knows nothing at all tells you all he knows and you are paralyzed in not knowingness. And then call a supervisor.

 

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412. Unfriended Progenously

 

You have likely been unfriended before in the FB world, right?  It happens. You get busy with your own self absorption and fail to pour into one of your face book friends’ self absorption.  Maybe you don’t even realize that your 608 FB friend count is now 607. However, when it’s your own flesh and blood daughter, well, it’s pretty noticeable, and devastating. Yes, bloglings, my daughter unfriended me, and if you hang around I will tell you how in excruciating and humiliating detail.

By post 412 you must know that I am a joker, gadfly, comic, teaser, bear poker, a smoker, and a midnight toker. Okay, I’m getting carried away with Steve Miller’s song cycling in my hamster wheel of memorized songs. Wherever that hamster wheel stops, there’s a song to be sung. OOh, oooh, Sunshine Daydream by the Dead comes up on my shuffle. I’ll be right back. You don’t buy coffee; you merely rent it.

Anyway about a year ago, yes almost exactly at this time of pre-holidays, my lovely lawyer daughter sent out a FB post about employers being liable for their party goer guests if they served alcohol and their guests got in some smash up later. Liability is a big scary word to legalists. Now it was very well written and professional as a gold plated fountain pen. However, I failed to distinguish her professional FB account from her personal account when I  responded foolishly, thinking “She’ll get a laugh out of this response.”

I replied to her warning. It was a Friday as I recall… the last Friday for my already blemished dignity.

“Dear Ms. MCHammer,

I read your article with much interest. Now, I am self employed and work on the second floor of my building, up a flight of 15 steps. My legal question for you is this:  If I have a holiday party and get myself drunk, and then if I should fall down my stairs and injure myself, can I then sue myself? Can I be both plaintiff and respondent? How would that work? ”

My real name was attached.

Never hit send, bloggidos, unless you have thoroughly checked out your global liability. Of course, I hit send and chuckled about the anticipated funny response. My daughter is a funny girl, by the way. Oh, but it was not a funny reply I got.

Monday morning she was called in to her boss’s office. The company CEO was on the phone. They asked what the FB message was all about…. “And who, pray tell, is this guy?”

Horrified, she read the message for the first time under their glare, imagining the end of her brief career in law. “Uh, he’s my dad.” Gulp. Shamefully she looked down at her cute suede mauve shoes. They were comfortable and would be kind to her feet as security escorted her off the campus, she thought. Later on, these shoes would give her steps bouncy energy as she walked from interview to interview, hopelessly trying to escape this professional disaster.

Stunned, the two bosses waited for the other one to say something. Finally the big boss said, “It must have been hard for you in high school.”

She laughed out all the nervous energy that had been building up in her organs like steam.

“You have nooooo idea!”

It is a little known scientific fact that many people laugh spontaneously prior to their own executions. Apparently it helps them relax and die peacefully. It’s an autonomic reaction just before one voids his or her bowels.

“Jack, what do you want to do with the message?”

“I don’t know, Jim.” Pause. Smirk. ” Just leave it up. Hell, it is pretty funny. It’ll show we have a sense of humor here at Litigation Nation.”

My daughter sighed a deep sigh of relief. “Oh, thank you. I’m sorry. It will not happen again. I promise….”

“We know because you are going to unfriend him. Block him from any attachment to this company. Disenfranchise this clown. Cut him off….”

“Yes, sir. I will. I was adopted, by the way. We are nothing alike. I’ll bring in my birth certificate and take a DNA swab if you like.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

Later that day I got the upset word from my daughter. Man oh man!!  Have you ever felt like your body is melting away? My feet melted, then my legs, as my stomach dropped to a pig farm in China where, coincidentally, pig stomachs were being harvested on that very day.  Shame, like ice cold formaldehyde pumped through my vascular system, embalming me in that moment, naked in my sin, on display for all to mock in the Norwegian wedge of Antarctica. I felt like I’d killed her dog, which is the best dog ever. It hurt in a hollowed out way, not sharp local pain but all consuming galactic pain that burst out into deep space. I hate to hurt others, but hurting my daughter felt like instant lung cancer. Breathing suddenly hurt, as if shards of glass were in every breath.

Image result for arabian desert pictures

I was exiled. Sent into the desert of social media to wander aimlessly till the end of my useless, shame filled life. Only ghosts and specters, slivers of shattered humanity inhabit that wasteland. Unplugged and unfriended, they hide by day and watch distant fires by night, knowing they may never approach. Modern day millennial lepers. I’m the guy on the left in the picture below.

Never lose hope, my one-humped blog camels. Forgiveness may show up one day like rain in that arid wasteland you are wandering through. It did for me. As I painted my daughter’s house this past month, she asked me how she could ever thank me. I saw an opening and took a shot. “Refriend me on Facebook. That’s all I want. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

“That’s all? You know I’m resigning from Litigation Nation in two days, right?”

“Yes, I know. Please reinstate me. I will not be improper ever again.”

“Deal, Daddio.”

Suddenly my leper chrysalis fell away and a forgiven butterfly slipped out to float away on a breeze of mercy, never to fart in the wind again.

 

 

363.Love’s Longing Lost

I promised to post about Joel and Sheila the mule, Blogoiters, and I keep my promises when I remember them, if I remember them, by which I mean– if I don’t forget them. Long time followers of the blog already know that Joel is the consigliere of Coffee Nation, a job he reluctantly accepted after much cajoeling. He of the round tortoise shell glasses and the tweed jackets is a bit of a throwback to an earlier age. He still uses a fountain pen, for goodness sakes! Imagine an older, unflappable Gregory Peck outside with an older, flappable Jimmy Stewart inside. Let those two images overflap and gel. There you go. It’s Joel.

Last year or the year before, it does not matter for our purposes here and now, Joel went to a lawyers’ conference in Phoenix, conveniently planned for the dead of winter. It’s all business expensed, so why not go and accessorize? Joel planned a mule pack trip into and out of the Grand Canyon. It was as close to his own City Slickers experience as he could muster. You see, that movie is close to his heart. And let’s face it, most kids of the nineteen forties and fifties did not long to be accountants and attorneys and insurance salesmen. No, they wanted to be the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers or some other cowboy. And Joel being no exception was unexceptional in the Manly Hall of Fame until now.

As you might have already imagined, Joel was very excited to be out in the elements, roughing it, drinking bourbon out of a shared pint around a mesquite fire down, down, down at the Phantom Ranch. Wiping his mouth with the back of a dusty leather glove. Spitting just because he could and no one would report him to the bar. To Hell with the law and all its pretense!  He was breaking bad. Heck, even the mule ride advertising was tough, no nonsense stuff telling people how tall they had to be; how much they could weigh; couldn’t be afraid of heights or large animals; had to be fluent in English; whining or pouting would be met with hot lead. Unapologetic, politically incorrect, man talk. Why just reading it privately on his tablet at the coffee shop made itchy chest hair follicles erupt on his sternum. Testosterone molecules began to bark in packs like coyotes in his bloodstream. The wild called and he, Joel the mild mannered estate attorney, would answer it in a fully outfitted, hormonally charged echo. “Howwuuuulllll”

Off he went on his trek. I urged him to be safe on the mule and not to take any guff from anyone– man, woman, both, neither, undecided, polymorphic or otherwise. “The thing with mules,” I told Joel to reassure him before he left, “is they have to know you mean business, yet that you are compassionate and willing to bond with them. If a mule knows you love her, she will give her sure-footed life for you.” He was impressed with my animal husbandry background, which I had completely fabricated on the spot.

**********************************************************************

(Asterisks suggest time passing.)

Two weeks later I saw him again, refreshed and enlightened in ways that only a handful of Tibetan monks come to be. He was writing down his observations in his spirit journal with that fountain pen and eyes aglow. He gushed with the wonders of it all and told me that he owed his new ecstatic life to Sheila, his designated mule.  “We grew close. Just as you had suggested, I showed her a firm business hand on the one hand but a compassionate loving hand at the reigns on the other hand, and she responded like a crossbred dream.”

“That’s four hands in the sentence, Joel. You only have two, and Sheila has hooves, right? Count them with me.”

“Eh! You know what I mean! Don’t start playing with words.”

“That’s what I do. Remember?”

“You wouldn’t make it at Phantom Ranch with all your tomfoolery. Only real men go there.”

“I believe you, man. I sense it like steam pouring out of your new found confidence and mulishness. You have a flinty glint about you now, a rough edge. You could start a fire just by blinking fast.”

“Oh, that reminds me. Some colleagues followed my lead into the Grand Canyon.  We actually traded out our mules with them when we came back up to the rim. I introduced them to Sheila and shared with them your instructions on mule handling. They were very appreciative. In fact, later on as I was connecting flights in Charlotte, they sent me this picture of Sheila with the text, ‘I miss you’.” He showed me a sad looking mule on his phone. “Something tells me that I’ll be seeing this again at a bar meeting in the future.”

“Lovely story, Joel. I’m glad you had such a good time.”

*************************** (Not as much time has passed this time.)

Two days later I was waiting in line for my morning coffee when Joel came into the shop. I greeted him as usual, then added, “Hey, I got a call from Sheila yesterday.”

“Oh, did you?” he uttered with false sincerity at the back of his Jimmy Stewart throat.

“Oh yeah. She’s not doing so well.” I shook my head and looked down.

“What are her complaints?”

“Well, she told me that she’d been ridden hard and put away wet. She misses you, man. All that machismo you put down, she picked it all up. She thought you were the one who would both tame her and free her. Gave me an earful, lemme tell you.”

“Oh, REALLY? So what is your treatment plan?”

“It’s a tough case, Joel. It was a phone consult with a sexless pack animal tethered to a monotonous future without any hope.”

“I see. Very tough. So what did you tell her?”

“Well, in short I told her to follow another horse’s ass.”

“I giftwrapped that for you, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you baited the hook, teed up the golf ball, and shook up the Dr. Pepper.”

“Whatever.” guffaw, guffaw.

“Are you laughing, Joel?”

“I am not laughing at this because I don’t want to encourage you. (Pause.) You are going to put this in the blog, aren’t you?”

“It’s too late, Buddy. From your spilled mule milk I will make a rare rich cheese for posterity to enjoy at black tie charity fundraisers.”

With hands raised heavenward like a frustrated Atticus Finch, “Oh, Sheila! Forgive me!”

 

 

 

 

354. Mad Elf

       I avoid product and political endorsements. I don’t like advertising for clothing brands either by wearing logoized clothes. I abhor bumper stickers too.  On the other hand, if something or someone really sucks, I will comment appropriately. See post #305. Narcissus Maximus Trumpus or #258. Kim Young Fool, or my rant against big chain strip malls for deeper details, #194 Empty Space? This post, however, is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation. Rather, it is a first hand experience with an alcoholic beverage brewed in Hershey, Pennsylvania by Troeg’s Brewing Company. As the label proclaims it’s 11% alcohol, which is roughly double the average for beer.

We met innocently enough one night in the lounge at The Orchards restaurant. We sat at one of those high boy tables– me, my wife, and youngest daughter. Jess was chatting with the manager about a singing gig, so we were just checking out the atmosphere. A nice young waiter told me what beers were on tap. He pushed Mad Elf, “We’re selling it at two dollars a pint, just trying to get rid of it. It didn’t go over too well at $8 a glass.” Okay, I don’t mind helping a guy drink discounted beer.

I tried to follow the waiter’s words but kept getting hung up on Mad Elf. I thought he was saying My Delf,  May Shelf, or Maid Elf. Finally he just brought me one. I tasted this intriguing brew unlike any beer I’d ever sampled. Supposedly it’s made with honey and cherries, but so are cough drops. At first blush all I could think of was lower octane Robitussin, but as I ate some snacks and sipped at this brew, I fell under its spell. Whew! I’m not much of a drinker, so about 2/3’s of the way through my Mad Elf I began to feel like I was way up in the air on my bar stool and magically in charge of the universe. How would I get down? Being a responsible driver and citizen, I handed the car keys to my lovely, doe eyed wife.     “Don’t let me order another one of these, honey cheeks.” I don’t think she needed any more motivation than those words and the slack lipped mouth from which they emanated.

I remembered one of my young male clients referring to someone as a “Two Beer Queer” and wondered if I qualified as a one beer queer, and many other very forgettable thoughts. And what does that even mean?  The Mad Elf was on the loose in my brain like a rat in a dark kitchen’s dishwasher, chewing up hoses and making a mess. I felt many urges bubbling up in my amygdala.

 My inner James Brown was wrestling my inner Barry White for control of the wheel of my brain’s car or my car’s brain. Or somsing like that.  Whew, it was warm in that lounge. I looked around at the other odd groups. A couple behind my lovely bride seemed to be celebrating a big event, maybe an anniversary as they schmoozed all over each other. “Hey, get a room!” I didn’t yell, but I thought I did. I knew that I was not schmoozing; I was merely the photographer of this candid world. My camera was the now empty 20 ounce glass that once held my Mad Elf. At the bar were three folks who seemed unusually intimate with each other– two guys and one girl in the middle. They merrily drank more than they ate and seemed to be very familiar with one another and this dark lounge. I didn’t want to speculate on anything. Who am I to judge? Merely an elf gone mad. Here I sat between two beautiful ladies myself. Oh, take the speck from thine own eye…
Our waiter came by. “Another?” In stereo my wife and I nearly yelled, “No”. I ordered a Bud Light as a chaser. Whew. It was high and warm in there. I recalled times in college when I felt this way on purpose, walking along the main street in Blacksburg, Virginia wrapped in toilet paper like the Mummy after getting separated from my friend who was hosting me and my buddy Sammy. Wild Turkey was in that scenario as I recall. Sam found our way back to the dorm apartment where we crashed.
Cherry brandy was a hit in high school, I think. The cherry flavor was sailing along liquid memory highways in my brain’s closet or my closet’s brain. It was winter then, I was sixteen, as the liquid fire plunged down my throat and into oblivion we sailed. Somewhere it was clear and bright and good. Truly, youth is wasted on the young.  Dang!
Thank God for that anemic Bud Light. It seemed to suck the alcohol out of my brain like naloxone does with heroin. Who knew? Cheap weak beer can rescue you from tough thug beer that’s kicking you around like a new inmate in the Big House.
Oh yeah, there was that party we crashed with Jack and Alan and some tough guy punched me out to impress his girlfriend. That was fun. I didn’t feel much pain despite his best efforts to knock me out. I was under the influence of something stronger than insecure teen age jealous anger. I asked him if he was finished when he stepped back to see if I’d retaliate. I was smarter than that, even drunk. It was his scene and his boys were all around. I rode in on my buddies’ coattails…and rode out.
In the background Zepellin cranked,
Walkin’ in the park just the other day, Baby,
What do you, what do you think I saw?
Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said,
“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?”
And you know how it is;
I really don’t know what time it was, woh, oh,
So I asked them if I could stay awhile.
I didn’t notice but it had got very dark and I was really,
Really out of my mind.
Just then a policeman stepped up to me and asked us said,
“Please, hey, would we care to all get in line,
Get in line.”
Well you know, They asked us to stay for tea and have some fun,
Oh, oh, he said that his friends would all drop by, ooh.
We left in one piece and chuckled at how stupid the bully was. These things happen when elves are loosed on the unsuspecting public. Cheers, my blog mates.

265. Low octane blood sugar

Ever get that deflated state of mind and body when you haven’t eaten lunch and it’s 4 o’clock?  Your heart is thumping and your mind is jacked up about sumpthing or other and you wonder if you have a fever or a touch of mania. You feel Snoopid. Deep breathing and lots of water get drained off. You know better than to use caffeine.  Hooo baby! Bodily warning signals are going off all around, but you manage to postpone sitting down and eating. Finally you inhale a bowl of left over pasta with chicken and mushrooms without tasting a thing. A quart of water washes it down. Eyes closed as CNN anchors prattle on between commercials. “What these jihadists seem to want most is…” Mute. Darkness helps dissolve the inner staccato buzzing of flies playing soccer in a jar that is your brain. In an impossibly insective yet Hispanic falsetto, “Gooooooal!” My flies seem to be Guatemalan.

As late nutrition gets caught up with my blood sugar deficit, I wait. I recall pumping gas at the old Exxon station back in the early ’70s when leaded (yes, leaded) gas was 29 cents per gallon. Cars would hiss and clip clop into the station just off the D.C. beltway on mere fumes. “Ping-ping” went the sensor bell. “Filler up!” the customers would bark at us. Self serve was not common then. We’d get busy checking the fluids and washing the front and back windshields. Service was expected and sometimes demanded. Funny thing is that as gas prices increased, service disappeared. It became something only for the elite or was legislated to remain in New Jersey. Go figure:  the more a commodity costs, the less delivery service you get with it, unless you live in Jersey. So, the hangrier a person gets, the lower his/her expectations drop for service associated with meeting that need… thus no gas attendants and no wait staff in general. Remember when folks actually made careers out of selling clothing? Now it’s mostly point and shoot, self service unless you are at a high end haberdashery.

Let me consider this paradox. If true, then I should expect service at the most expensive restaurants to decline and eventually disappear. Thankfully that has not happened. Can you imagine make-your-own lobster bars and steak houses? And would you tip yourself for excellent self service? “My man, the calamari was superb!” “I know, Sir, for I am you.”

 Oh, that’s a cafeteria or a buffet. Doink!

So we are back to food and brain activity. I don’t really know much about either, just that the absence of the first leads to the absence of the second.

I did not plan it this way, but I was involved in an afternoon court case recently as a witness. Naturally I was anxious since attorneys tend to ask innocent sounding introductory questions that lead to bloody machete slaughter of little lambs a little later. In my case the thing to be slaughtered was my credibility for the presiding judge, no jury. As the afternoon wore on and my breakfast wore out, I began to sing to myself, “I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury. I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury…” I tried not to sway and smile like Stevie Wonder in the witness box. But let’s be honest: Stevie can testify.

 I wish I could have seen the thought bubbles above the other folks’ heads.

“Did I let the dog out at lunch?”

“This medication really constipates me.”

“Boom! That woman is a bitch!”

“Why did I run for judge? It’s more like sludge.”

“My spanx are cutting off my circulation and my bladder signals.”

“This guy seems to be singing that bass song to himself… ‘I’m all about the bass, ’bout the bass, no treble.'”

Well, there is really no reliable way to prove what others are thinking if they are thinking at all. The other attorney, for instance, introduced herself by saying, “I tend to ramble on, so if you don’t understand one of my questions, just ask me to repeat it.” Now that is thin competition, if you ask me. She was the equivalent of the other brand that loses to Bounty Tough Towelettes every time. Not the quicker picker upper, i.e., useless.

Uh, I mean, she’d be an okay vice president, I suppose, as long as the president is very healthy and well guarded. Just think Joe Biden in a skirt.

So, a hangry mind cycles on the questions being asked and evaluates each one over and over, as if chewing on words were as fulfilling as chewing on venison jerky. Not so, my bloggoiters. If you don’t feed your brain in a timely manner, it goes spanky on you, and I’m not sure that’s a word, but if it is, then it means something negative and shady.

The hearing ended in real time but continued in my sugar depleted brain. I recalled again and again what the smart attorney asked. I evaluated my performance over and over. I needed to get out of the cycle. I was obsessing like an OCD client worried about a shark attack in Nebraska. Unlikely. It was just my unquelled mind. I needed some fuel and time to process it.

Fortunately for the me and the world I found leftover pasta with chicken and mushrooms in the fridge. Bingo. Direct hit on Hangry’s Hanger without a hangover. I can see how tempting it might be for lawyers to drink their lunches and dinners. That rocket fuel of alcohol goes right to the brain without much delay. And the good times roll as surely as Mustang Sally without a subpoena. But no, I don’t go there, friends. Alcohol works like Ambien for me. I’ve been called a Two Beer Queer because I get sleepy after two good beers. And I am not ashamed of this label. In fact, I embrace my low tolerance for all forms of alcohol and LGBT causes. That is to say, I embrace the LGBT community and have a high tolerance for, no, I uh, have a strong endorsement for them. I just need a nap. However, if nominated for vice president, I will serve.

 

 

 

252. “Call the doctor or I’ll kill you!”

I tend to exaggerate, but my wife did say something like this to me this morning. You see  a month ago she’d written on a piece of gray cardstock that my doctor’s office had called me for a follow up appointment … because she does not want to be a widow at 58, especially since I have finally learned to dance with her and show some promise for retirement. I had faithfully used that reminder card as my bookmark for the past month. She bugged me a few times and I said that I would call the office to schedule, but here I am thirty days later, senseless and defenseless. She’s worried that I may have some hidden cancer that is eating me up, metastasizing as I am fantasizing about being younger and buffer than I am. I told you that I tend to exaggerate. Now keep in mind, my blogstas, this is the same woman who once told me to unloosen my belt and unthaw the frozen roast beef. To which I replied, “You want me to tighten the belt and refreeze the meat?” The current threat is ironic, I think.  It boils down to this paraphrase, ‘Prolong your life or I’ll end it now!’ In some strange way I think I still have to unthaw that meat and I am it, and I am scared.

So this  got me thinking about other ironic communications in my life. Years ago in Sunday School class our then single gun-toting cowboy Josh was famous for saying off the wall things that would occasionally make sense. His favorite color was/is camo. His favorite shoe?  Tony Lamas boots. Favorite truck?  Dodge Ram. I don’t recall the exact conversation, but Josh offered that the devil comes on like sheep in wolves’ clothing. He meant the opposite; however, he had such a history of twisted clauses and phrases that it was anyone’s guess which way he wanted it to roll. The imagery is weird either way, but I’d never heard of herbivores skinning out a carnivore for a new suit.

That is the beauty of irony; it’s completely opposite of your expectations. Shame on you for thinking that way! Incomplete communication is the heart of many trick questions. Here’s one that occurred to me. “Which one of the following months has 30 days in it– June, July or August?”  Well, they all have thirty days, but if you push and pull a bit, you can imply that the answer ought to be June alone. And that vague gap is what lawyers drive wedges into to end contracts or nullify agreements or just to be mean.
At the coffee shop this morning the Nation was meeting in earnest. Two games of chess were played satisfactorily. (I dominated.) However, Joel, the consigliere exchequer of the Nation, was making noises behind us, two tables thither. It’s cold this morning, which got me to bust out the Eddie Bauer down jacket, affectionately known as Mr. Fluffy. Joel has a bizarre attraction to my fluffy jacket like the old Charmin toilet paper commercials proclaimed, “It’s squeezably soft.”  He has heard me say that it’s $2.00 a squeeze if I’m in the jacket, and $1.00 a squeeze if I’m not.  Anyway, we bantered back and forth about his predilection and how it meets a primal mammalian need to suckle. I offered to clip a binky on my jacket for next week so that he could have the full experience. He declined saying it was too weird. To which I responded, “Why is it okay for lawyers to pinch and squeeze their customers, but when their customers want a piece of the action, it’s a no squeeze zone?”
Ah, the suckling irony of it all!
Earlier this week, Tuesday night to be exact, I worked until 8:30 p.m. and then checked my cell phone– three texts and three voicemails. I could quickly guess that Danny’s Garage meant my car was ready, so I began walking the two blocks to pick it up, hoping that the keys were under the mat as usual. Two texts were from my wife reminding me to pick up our daughter at 8:30. One voice mail was, I was sure, her attempt to confirm why I had not responded to either text message. I’d been fully engaged with clients since 2:00 pm without any break, that’s why. I hustled to pick up the car, then the daughter, and answered another voice mail with a live phone call. It was exhausting. Guess what? My wife was upset with me that I had not texted her back a simple “ok” to confirm that I’d received her three reminders. At 9 p.m. when I was finally eating supper, I did not have room in my brain to store her complaint. So I just stared at her like the substitute village idiot.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon. As I was leaving my office to pick up the dry cleaning and go by the bank, I noticed a reminder text from my bride to pick up our daughter after her work day. Though I already knew this and had it on my calendar, I panicked and fumbled with my phone. I quickly typed “k” to acknowledge her text and avoid future pain. But my phone would not let me send that. No, technology was using me not vice versa. I tried again as I was driving, which I think is a crime unless you have just picked up 30 pounds of dry cleaning.  I missed the k key and typed “LLL”. I was screwed. The phone tried to edit me and refused to send that also. Finally I typed blindly “PLO” and sent it by mistake.  Uh, what’s the deal here? I pondered how she would interpret this error… “Are you comparing me to a terrorist organization?”
Sure enough, an hour later she called to inquire about the PLO. I told her that’s how you spell “ok” when you are driving a five speed SUV and you are scared of your wife’s retribution. Okay, I guess sometimes the truth is the best policy. She chuckled and gave me three points for the effort. “You know you could have just waited till  you got home to safely text me.”
“I know, I know, but I needed to unloosen my belt and unthaw the meat before you kill me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

218. Enter title here

It’s Easter Monday. I am home on a beautiful sunny day with my wife, grand daughter and two of my three daughters. My oldest left yesterday for NYC.  I’ve had a walk, a game of chess, a round of groundhog hunting, some voluntary yard work, coffee and meals, and time for this entry. Now that is a well balanced day. It’s been since Christmas that I had a scheduled day off. Wow, what a difference taking two makes. See, I also took Good Friday off. I can feel my neurotransmitters mating and producing more and more of themselves even as I type. I’d feel like some sort of mental frotteur except they are a part of my own body. So what does that make me? Highly sensitive, I guess. Yes, that’s it.

Yesterday my wife and two older daughters and I sat out on our deck in the sunshine. Grace and I played chess and chattered on as we do very dramatically with each move, jibberish from Seinfeld or song lyrics or who knows what; things like “Who’s your Daddy now? Boom!” “Oh, you wanna be like that? Baboom on yo’ momma!”  Meanwhile my daughter Erin and my wife sat quietly with big hats and sunglasses on reading on the bench seat across from us. That’s when I uttered, “Can you find the introverts in this picture?” My wife is making me read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s all about the unbridled power and genius of bridled  introverts. Whoopee. I am a self-diagnosed ambivert, but I’d rather not talk about it right now. I hate being put in the middle of things.

I walked alone this morning. It was so quiet I swear that I heard the dew drying on the grass. I could hear individual bird wings as they flapped by. A lady at the park had two wiener dogs that would not fill half a five gallon bucket, but we don’t measure dogs by the gallon. [Could I get two gallons of wiener dogs? And a quart of Chihuahuas for my side?] We do measure liquids that way. My wife was getting her hair cut later in the day and bought some boutique special shampoo. I overheard her say it cost $33 per bottle, not gallon or quart. $33 per bottle. I’ve never bought a bottle of wine or liquor for that much money, but I suppose it has secret herbs and spices and precious metals all blended into the fine essence d’oro, which is 98% water. It does not matter. All is good. She’s beautiful and I’m happy. I learned a long time ago not to mention what things cost… not even wiener dogs, paired up in a bucket. Maybe they’re a thousand dollars to the right buyer. As my buddy Vince learned with his Great Dane, the initial purchase price is just the down payment on a dog. Same as an engagement ring in marriage.

The sun is setting. It’s cooling off. Rain is  expected tomorrow or Wednesday so the farmers are spreading manure lavishly on their big stinky fields. Big tanks of the stuff roll down my street drawn by young men in giant tractors, eating pizza bare handed out of the box. What a deal, to haul manure all day long. Like working for the government. I suppose it helps keep a guy single. If you are in deep poop to begin with, who needs to get married?

Gratitude vs. lassitude. Hmmmm. I get gratitude, thankfulness. Now lassitude is one of those dictionary.com tasks. I like definition # 2. “a condition of indolent indifference”. I think I’m feeling a mixture of the two states– grassitude, thankfully painless laziness.  Yeah, that works. Like having a staycation on a cruise ship in dry dock outside of Baltimore. It’s a good day, but I’m not going anywhere.  As the temperature sinks, the indifference stiffens a bit. A chill chases my indolence but not my gratitude. I may be experiencing “assitude”, which is a horse’s ass with an attitude.

My wife is already finding me part time jobs in my retirement, which is at least five years away. “You’ll be bored with the monotony,” she tells me. “You can’t wait to get rid of me,” I offer back. “True, but you can offset our health insurance costs while seeing the country.” She thinks I’m going to be a professional presenter.

“You can teach and tell stories. People like you.”

“One problem, dear.”

“What’s that?”

“I have no topic.”

“Think of one. You have five years.”

“But I am crippled by my ambivertism.”

“Shut up. Don’t give me your assitude.”

“Maybe that could be my topic: Ambiverted Assitudes in the Mental Health Setting.”

She’s a mind reader, I swear. She brought home the local newspaper for me. “Read the bank article.”

I began reading about the bank that holds most of my money. Seems they were just released from the state’s equivalent of the SEC’s watch list for shaky financial institutions, and I don’t mean that their tellers are part time belly dancers. No. If my bank were a person, it would not be allowed to fly. Sooooo, I just opened  a new business account with them because they did not charge me for that service, which the previous bank did, $20 per month for them to watch my money. I’m faced with this dilemma: pay money each month to my bank for no apparent reason, or stay with a bank that is being watched where I could lose all my money. Sheesh!  Neither offers interest or any special services, not even a gallon of free wiener dogs to start with.

This is why you shouldn’t take time off work. You find out all this stuff that you don’t really want to know. Frotteurs, ambiverts, overpriced shampoo, manure hauling, lassitude, and raw bank greed, which is redundant to manure hauling. If I’d just kept working I would not be all worried and worked up now. But the good news is that I can keep on working in my retirement, and if I’m lucky, right up to death.

 

190. walking backwards on calloused knuckles

It’s an odd experience to walk backwards. Sometimes you have to do this in biting cold wind because facing it could  freezezip your face off, leaving you with frostbite patches of dead skin and a fleshless nose. If you’ve ever caught a tender piece of your anatomy in a hard metal zipper yank, then you have a rough idea of being freezezipped.  So you turn around and carefully plod backwards on a windswept winter sidewalk or pathway. Sure it’s dangerous, but it’s a compromise against certain disaster.

According to a recent article on frostbite,

“Noses, fingers, toes and ears face the biggest risk. Those body parts have less blood flowing through them and a lot less mass than the body’s core. They’re also more likely to be exposed to the elements. Obviously, bundling up those tender parts is key.”  [Nancy Shute, Your Health, 1-6-14] Thank you, Nancy.

There are other versions of walking backwards. I blogged about retracing one’s steps in post 151. That involved careful re-examining an external reality for something tangible that was lost.  That is not what I have in mind today. What I’m after this time out is more like a near sighted man stumbling backwards in a psychological blizzard searching for something that is lost but intangible. Why?  I get a lot of these sad sagas in my counseling experiences. Men mostly who have lost the love that they took for granted just a month ago. Make no mistake:  these men suffer frostbite damage; it’s just that theirs is invisible…a chamber of their heart atrophies.

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Their controlling self-absorbed lives come unglued when she says, “Enough is enough”. These men start grasping at the ashes of their relationships, hoping to come up with something solid and salvageable instead of powdered soot. Then they get angry, feeling victimized. They push buttons that used to produce sure results. They intimidate, threaten and rage, but it’s too late; the horse is out of the barn, down the lane, and over the county line. They don’t realize that telling their soon-to-be ex-wife that she used to be really pretty when she weighed 50 pounds less is actually an insult. Or that they’d be there if she had terminal cancer. In their memories are oasis-like spots of joy and ecstasy and happiness where these guys focus their attention, believing that three good episodes prove a lovely pattern of behavior over seven or eleven or fifteen years. Not so much, knuckle walkers.

Meanwhile their hurt women are emotionally starved and aching for tenderness, compassion, acceptance, and yes, love. Not perfection or even exceptionality, no, just a modicum of decency and concern, respect and sharing life together. By the time the hurt woman actually leaves the relationship, she is so gut shot that no amount of counseling or medication or therapeutic retreats can sew up the holes in her guts and promote healing. When he desperately asks about counseling and medication, a cruise, a weekend getaway, she gets disgusted because she trumpeted these options for years into deaf ears. Now that he can miraculously hear, she’s gone deaf.  She actually gets enraged when he starts to get help, read books, join a therapy group or do individual counseling. In some ways it’s like telling a corpse how much you love her, and then cleaning the house, or doing the bills, or making dates for the two of you. It’s too freaking late, okay? Even Norman Bates would agree with this evaluation.

Still, these knuckle walkers stagger backwards, remembering how irresistible she was, how fetching, and her image dominates each empty moment. Her perfume, her manicured nails, the baby soft skin… all gone. Her laugh, the way she played with her hair, the killer smile. He resolves to be a new man, but it’s a blizzard of images and feelings swirling around his narrowly hooded view. He can’t see a horizon due to all the flurries. In some ways it’s like Jack London’s short story, “To Build a Fire”. Just when you think the reckless agonist has succeeded in saving himself with a survival fire, the snow above him melts and extinguishes it. TShhhhhh.  Death, ice cold spears of death, is moments away. But it’s not a single moment or incident that kills a relationship. It’s years of termite infestation, the slights and names, the absences, and the blatant superiority attitude. “Meet my needs and ignore yours.”

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There is, however, a moment of epiphany for the demeaned woman. She may come to consciousness watching a movie about a despicable, controlling person. Or it may be a visit to the large apes exhibit at the zoo where a silverback male puts on his dominance act…and the loose points of reference snap together in a razor sharp line of conclusion. “He’s a beast, an idiot, a hostage taker.” She begins the escape plan. Separates out the bills. Finds a way to squirrel away money. Contacts an attorney. All the while allowing Bonzo the Chimp to have his way, scooting about on his calloused knuckles. In fact, he may feel the loss of resistance and conclude that the little woman is finally wising up to comply with his program. Bonzo’s own arrogance is about to choke him silly.

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The breakthrough moment may be that Fourth of July when he flicks her sunglasses off her tense face and says, “Look at me!” The brilliant July sun blasts her shrinking pupils and frames his cocksure portrait with a radioactive glow. “Oh, I see so clearly now,” she thinks to herself. The moment burns onto her memory plates like x-rays. He knuckle walks backwards, beating his chest and thinking he has won another round in this little love war. He’ll send flowers or a special journey necklace later, the kind with tiny diamonds that get bigger as they flow down in an S shape. Later she will turn it upside down and say with a smirk, “The journey’s over, Bonzo.”

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He will turn his back on the icy truths that bite  him and stumble blindly backwards on calloused knuckles.