Wednesday, January 31, 2007

#442 Fried Yolks

We often make the mistake of talking about “authentic” Mexican food. As if there was one cuisine for an entire country. Not so. That’s like insisting that Washington State chefs know how to cook grits or New Yorkers know how to make salsa picante. Regional cuisine is the order of the day. Like this: As far as we could tell, no one in all of Cabo San Lucas knew what it meant when we said over-medium eggs. Whether we ordered eggs benedict or just fried eggs, at no time did the eggs come back less than 90 percent runny. There are two types of fried eggs in Cabo—runny, and even runnier. The even runnier eggs feature un-gelled white matter as well. Mmm mmm. The closest cuisine comes to raw snot. At one point, I actually saw a McDonalds in Cabo. It was strange how the pictorial representation of Ronaldo McDonald looked just a hint more Mexican than his American counterpart. Like they had somehow merged his cartoon visage with Speedy Gonzales, with a little bit of Yosemite Sam thrown in for color. In any event, I was tempted to go in one morning and try a Huevos McMuffin. But the thought of a tepid, heat-lamped, runny egg engaged my hurl centers. Maybe it was my residual tequila sensitized stomach. And it was hard to send the eggs back cause waiters sucked. Cabo is quite modern in many respects, with power toilets and all, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that just about every restaurant we went to the waiters had PDAs instead of paper tablets. As far as I could tell, no waiter in all of Cabo exercised the time-honored tradition of actually memorizing the order and then delivering it to the appropriate recipient. In fact, about the only time we saw the waiter was when he—inevitably he—took our order. He would tap his stylus against the screen of his PDA and a little while later some other person would bring the food from the kitchen. The PDA must have had a seating chart for every table because the dish was always delivered perfectly. But the deliverer would deposit the plates and disappear quicker than a mouse on meth. If something was wrong with the order, we had no one to complain to. And since they don’t bring water, there were never any refill opportunities to complain either. When we finished our meal, as is, another guy we’d never seen would buss our table. The next time we saw the waiter he was handing us the bill. It all seemed rather rude. Especially since 40 feet distant, out on the street, all kinds of hawkers were bending over backwards offering us the finest service on a variety of trips, meals, and drink specials—if we’d only sit through a timeshare presentation. Come to think of it, the free breakfast we had in the one timeshare presentation we went to was the only time our eggs were cooked perfectly. Of course, they’d been gelling in the buffet chafing dish for an hour. Funny, I’m still not sure how we got yolked into that salespitch.
America ya gotta love it.

#441 Future Schmuck

One of the cool things about Mexico is how hard people work. Stereotypes aside, every single Mexican I saw on my trip was working his buttoxio off. And all for 8 dollars a day. One of the guys trying to sell us timeshares was from Canada. He bragged about how much labor they could get for how cheap. It’s cool he said, this is a number one resort. We have a 24 hour staff and look at what we’ve built. It’s amazing what you can achieve when the minimum wage is 8 dollars a day. He was right. It was an impressive resort. Incredible inlaid stone and tile work. The kind of touches that can’t be mass-produced. That require many man hours of hard labor. And you could see they took pride in their work too. “What do you think?” the guy asked, after about the fifth time he bragged about all the luxury acquired for so little money. “Umm,” I said, “If you want to, can’t you pay more than minimum?” He just gave me a blank look. The timeshare paradigm is interesting. And it’s no wonder they assault you from every corner the minute you get off the airplane. A timeshare makes you a co-owner of a hotel. In exchange for the equivalent of the same amount of money you would pay for a week’s stay in the hotel, at this year’s prices, times 20, you can stay at the timeshare one week a year for the rest of your life. The only catch is you have to pay it up front. Or arrange financing with them at 14% interest and pay it off in 5 years. The sooner you pay the cash the bigger the discount. If I buy today they’re willing to shave the $26000 price down to $20000. As a development tool for capital it’s amazing. If you were building a hotel wouldn’t you like a lot of capital up front from people who are guaranteed to stay at your place for the next 20 years? Hmm. A health club discounts its rates if you pay an annual fee up front. They can afford to because most people who join health clubs only go for the first two months. Same way with timeshares. In the long run people don’t come every year. Not that they’d want to, because there’s bigger issues, the quality of construction and the future building in the area. The resort where we stayed once had a great view. Then the same owners built a resort next door. Cutting off who knows how many views from the poor schmuck time-share owners they sold the old hotel to. The old hotel also showed some serious signs of wear. The grounds were kept up well, but the underlying construction was beginning to show signs of slapdash no hand-tiled gingerbread could hide. Peeling plaster, bubbles in the outside face. Areas where the building appeared to be splitting apart. Walls actually crumbling in the salty sea air. And this hotel had only been around 7 years. By the time the rest of my life is expired my timeshare will have decomposed like a dead cow in the Baja desert. Nothing decomposes a cash cow quicker than taking the cash up front.
America ya gotta love it.

#440 Flushing Meadows

When I was visiting Mexico, I got to sample some of the many cross-cultural experiences we so often lack. There’s nothing like going to a foreign country to give you perspective on your own culture. Take toilet paper for instance. Plumbing and paper are things that are distinctive from one society from another. That and the electrical plugs. In Mexico the standard, when there appears to be a standard, is to have the plugholes aligned top and bottom—what to us looks side ways. The holes that are rotated 90 degrees from what we’re used to. I struggled in many a dark corner trying to plug something in until I remembered they have things catawampus. Or perhaps it’s us that’s catawampus. Mexico is, after all, part of the 95% of the world that calls soccer football so who am I to judge? They also have a problem with flushing toilet paper. Most of their sewer and plumbing systems can’t handle the clogging engendered by flushing every little piece of toilet tissue for everything. So it’s not unusual to walk by a female restroom and detect a faint odor. At first I thought it was a rat problem or perhaps an overly zealous cleaning woman with an ammonia fetish, but no. It’s just that they encourage the fair gender to wad up and deposit their number one wipe-age in a trashcan that always sets right next to the toilet. The hotel I was staying in was completely on the modern end of the plumbing spectrum. They had those new-fangled suction power toilets. The ones that scare the holy peewads out of you because they sound like someone suddenly fired up a 747 turbine right next to your delicate parts. You want to make sure you’re standing up when you flush or the suction could render you more neuter-y than you absolutely desire. On their typically hot semi-tropical days, many a Mexican fire department has had to extract a stupid gringo from an ill-flushed toilet. Imagine holding your hand on the end of a canister vacuum cleaner nozzle. Now magnify that by a hundred. I don’t know about you but there’s something pretty disconcerting about sitting quietly on the throne and accidentally pushing a button and having a huge suction surge loudly rip the skin off your derriere. The toilet is emptied completely and quickly so don’t be dropping in any car keys. Or gerbils. I suppose if one were of a hydraulic and engineering turn of mind, that one could arrange the fleshy parts of one’s body in such a way as to effect a perfect seal. If one were to suffer from the stove up malady so often experienced by travelers, one might be tempted to try a non-drug related alternative remedy. Once the seal on the seat is complete, constipation could then be forcibly relieved with the simple push of a button. Kind of a reverse bidet. The Oreck Orifice attachment. Or instead of an enema, an out-ema. Viva la differance!
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

#439 Foreign Hand

To me one of the coolest things about visiting foreign countries is seeing how they go about the ordinary business of commerce—specifically sales. In the United States, we have for the most part refined sales to a fairly genteel art. But no-call lists and telemarketers aside, the most difficult part of the sales process is the opening. People who work in retail outlets do a smaller version of the opening. When you work retail, be it clothing or cars, you get the privilege of having the client come to you. If Joe Blow walks into a men’s store, even though he says he’s just browsing, he has at least made the initial buying decision to walk through the door. After that, the salesman just has to persuade him to stay long enough to advance the buying process to the next level—which product, not if-the-product-at-all. In Mexico, they do the “opening” 24/8—every second of every minute of every hour of every day and twice on Sundays. Hey Sir, I got something to show you. Hey Sir, what are you doing to today? Would you like to take a trip? Hey Sir, I have a free coupon for breakfast. Etc. The free coupon gambit seems to work pretty well. Imagine a particularly aggressive telemarketer combined with Valpak. It starts the minute you hit the airport. You land on your plane. You walk across the tarmac to your terminal. After you get through customs, you’re struggling with repacking your suitcase, and being pushed from behind by the crowd, and you stagger into this area of what looks like official booths and desks. It’s a big room and you see other tourists at other booths. A guy with an official-looking nametag dangling from his neck bounces up and in a thick accent asks where you are staying. More customs? You tell him the name of your hotel and he says come this way. You follow him and he starts to tell you about the free ride he can give you to town and some free coupons for fishing trips and tequila and breakfast and starts to tell you how next time you can stay at his resort which is—and on and on. Suddenly you realize this is one of those timeshare people the pilot warned you about, in the group of timeshare folks you are supposed to ignore and run through. You were expecting a gauntlet of salespeople, standing in opposing lines, getting ready to paddle you with flashy brochures. No, they have a room of their own and the whole airport seems to be designed specifically for selling timeshares to resorts in Mexico. And you, the tired and beleaguered tourist, find that the first task at hand, your first cross-cultural challenge in this warm and foreign place, is to negotiate a maze of aggressive, primitive, and raw salespeople who are throwing out more opening hooks than a fleet of longline fishing boats. Finally you get out of the building. Only to be greeted by a herd of shouting taxi drivers. Loudly encouraging you to pick one of them. Ready to take you for a ride.
America, ya gotta love it.

#438 Flight of Duty

I took a vacation recently. I was a little surprised by some of the requirements nine-eleven and such like has imposed upon the casual traveler. And how ineffective they are. When you get right down to it the best defense of the friendly American way of life is the friendly American way of life. Most people want to be like us, not destroy us. We’re like one of those blithe, sunny-dispositioned people that go through life with a hand out and a ready smile and that everyone wants to know, even when they’re walking down a dark street late at night in a foreign country. Which I did a lot recently. Contrast that with the snarly defensive derriere-hole that’s always surly, always annoying, and always argumentative—the loud belligerent drunk that everyone at the bar wants to take a poke at. And the toughs on the street want to trade testosterone with. Those are the idiots that the beta males want to secretly sabotage as well. Anyhow, it’s important these days, when you are traveling on US airlines, to take no liquid container larger than three ounces. Any liquid or gel bottle you take has to be in a one-quart ziplock bag and handed directly to the inspector or left in plain sight in your carryon baggage. I traveled from the US to Mexico and back. I was inspected on both ends. I have to say that comparing the two methods of search, Mexico is lot safer place to be these days. The thoroughness with which they inspected my stuff on my way TO Mexico leaves little doubt in my mind that there’s any fear of terrorists getting OUT of our country for a nice vacation in Cabo San Lucas. However, terrorists coming back from Cabo—if they only employ the simple expedient of bribing a Mexican duty free clerk who is used to making eight dollars a day some unheard of wealth like, say, a hundred dollars—can receive his plastic explosive gel in a nice bubblewrap and ziptie-sealed convenient package. I was searched four times in Mexico. When you first arrive, they have this table with a button. You press it and if the light comes up green you get stopped and searched. If it comes up red you get to go. I got the green to stop. A random lotto type protection system. Anybody can get it at any time—no profiling. The older couple from Sheboygan runs the same chance as the disaffected fertilizer truck driver from the Aryan nation of Idaho. When I headed back to the states out of the Mexican airport, my baggage was hand searched at ticket check-in. My carryon baggage went through one of the two scanners in Cabo and was again hand searched at the gate. Which was right before I got on my airplane. Which I did right after I received my duty free make-up gel from the surprisingly happy and smiley duty free shop clerk. How can someone be that happy making 8 dollars a day waiting on grumpy, surly, pushy, people?
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

#437 Flo-Man

I was watching a football game recently. In the advertising business, they talk about demographics and target audiences. So I’m always interested to see what kind of commercials they mount up for the attack on the folks supposedly watching their shows. The first part of the game it seemed like every commercial break was for Lipitor. Then the next set of commercials featured the fantastically named Flo-Max. I like Flo-Max. It’s got one of those names from the fifties like speedy and shine-brite. Those names from early Madison Avenue that not only described the product, but described what it does. Like when all the laundry products had the word “clean,” in them, preferably spelled “kleen.” They wanted things to sound like what they did but it was cooler to spell it different. Bright was spelled brite, clean was spelled kleen, and laxative was abbreviated to lax. Like L.A. International airport. Hmm. I always wondered what “lax” was that people would want to “ex” it. For years I thought lax was a scientific word for poop. Stove up? Use Ex-lax. Kind of like an ex-wife. Ex-lax helps you get divorced from some serious, um, stuff. Anyhow. Interesting that two old guy drugs were the focus of so much commercial pitchery in the early football game. I guess the message was, if you’ve been on your keester for the last 20 years watching other men play a strenuous sport, chances are you need these products; Lipitor, even though it can cause acute liver failure, muscle aches, and death is much preferable to sitting in a barcolounger with no muscle tone and high cholesterol. God forbid that you should actually exercise and diet. Whose gonna consume four different flavors of Doritos in four different quarters? Sloth ain’t easy. And that other drug they were pitching—the one which addresses not just your fat jeans but your fat genes. The one that treats both sources of cholesterol. As if a drug knows the difference. Cholesterol is cholesterol. Not a very good commercial I guess, cause I can’t remember the drug’s name. But I do remember Flo-Max. That, my friends, has got to be a prostate drug. Cause if there’s one thing aging men in barcoloungers all have it’s restricted flow of fluids. And regardless of beer intake, it’s beer byproduct output that adds a sense of urgency to the fourth quarter. And with a full set of timeouts, a two minute warning, and any number of incomplete passes, first down measurements, and runs out of bounds, the last few minutes can get urgent indeed. Oddly, it was in the second half that the commercials changed. Lead off by a whole spate of commercials for Hummers and other methods of stimulation in the truck department. Boys and their trucks. It could only mean one thing. Madison Avenue knew that the last part of football games is viewed almost exclusively by the young. Papa and his Lipitor are snoring. And the young buck wants a Hummer.
America, ya gotta love it.

#436 Bolus

I hold in my hand a small pillow. It’s roughly symmetrical. Shaped like the wad of food your mouth prepares just before it swallows. Which, if I remember all the way back to high school biology, is called a bolus. This bolus-shaped object I’m now contemplating perhaps contains the avian flu. Perhaps it just contains the fetid air of Detroit. It’s hard to tell. For this thing is an airbag of the type currently used in packaging. These little plasticized puffs have made great inroads into the packing peanuts monopoly as far as shipping aids. In fact, packing peanuts are on the way to excelsior extinction if they don’t come up with some new and catchy marketing thing to tantalize the buying eyes of shipping managers across the country. Let’s see: At Xmas time you could have packing chestnuts. Sometimes you just need cushion along the side of the carton. So maybe some kind of hanging nuts. Yeah, line the walls of the box somehow and call them packing wal-nuts. Or how about something saucy and sexy like packing brazil nuts—you could have Charo as a spokesmodel saying “cushy cushy.” Or how about those little Styrofoam spheres? Drop the nuts and just call them just packing peas. They need to do something because shipping air is so much cheaper than shipping Styrofoam. The packing pillows I’ve seen have come in various sizes. The one I’m currently holding is about the size of a doll pillow. This pillow came in a chain of pillows. All fused together but perforated on the edges so you could only use what you need. Kind of jumbo bubble wrap. The manufacturers name is “Sealed air,” (I’m assuming no marine mammal was involved) and their product name is Fill Air. I went to their website and determined that they actually sell machines so the shipper can fill his own air on site. Sealed Air doesn’t waste a lot of money even shipping air to other shipping departments. Good, shipping shipping materials seems so redundant. Shipping Fill Air pillows across the country would get mighty bulky, if not heavy, and since many of the carriers charge by dimension as well as weight, well, even air can be costly. But the question remains. Whose air and where? Was this box I opened, whose item was nestled in these many bags of air, packed in Detroit or was it packed where they made the damn thing, China? And if it was produced in China from whence came the air? Were they downwind of the avian flu poultry factory? Or perhaps next to the toxic waste dump? Maybe the airpackers were next to the Union Carbide plant over in Vietnam. Or connected to Osama’s biological warfare lab. The point is, I could be holding in my hand a toxic pillow of environmental disaster. A blown-up bolus of bad air, a lofty lozenge of lethality, a personal puff of poison. It’s bad enough China exports everything else. Do they have to pack and ship their air pollution too?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

#435 Buffet Wanderings

I went to a party and they called the meal a buffet. I guess because everybody had to grab a plate and serve themselves. But the word buffet didn’t really describe the meal. Buffet to me conjures up mass quantities of food in lots of flavorless variety. Boundless, with a huge assortment, sumptuous looking bowls of steaming savory offerings, but with the same unsatisfying aspect that paradoxically impels you to eat more, even when you’re enjoying it less. Buffet food always seem to conspicuously lack that special nugget of whatever that tells the satisfaction section of your brain that yeah that was good, now lets stop before we puke. But food is funny that way. So much depends on flavor. The other day I got this box of cookies as a gift. They were called Pirouline Waferrolls. You know the type, thin cookies rolled into a spiral. Delicate light flavor. Kind of a little like an old-fashioned waffle cone but without the ice cream. Not, basically, like these cookies at all. First off they were tubes. Just straight tubes. They’d make a great dissolvable straw. Al Pacino could have used them in one of his movies to sniff coke. Not layer after layer of spiral, tantalizing the taste buds with alternate layers of cookie and void. A tube. Secondly, the description on the box hinted at the lack of satisfaction yet to come. The label said Chocolate Flavour Lined Waferrolls. And underneath that, “delicate toasted wafer cookies lined with fine dark chocolate flavour.” Flavour, by the way, was spelled in the English way, with a “U”, as in, we’re going to disappoint you with these cookies. The manufacturer had a Dutch name, DeBeukelaer, but the cookies appeared to be made in Minnesota. DeBeukelaer is a Dutch word that means “You’re covered in hives.” Or possibly, “don’t judge a book by is cover.” Yeah. Debeukelaer. In this case, it would have been a good idea. How do you line something with flavor? Is lining something with chocolate flavor kind of like electroplating something with gold? Under a certain thickness you say gold plated, or gold lined, or gold filled. Which reminds me, why when the gold is layered on the outside of the base metal is it called gold filled? If they are going to all the trouble of lining something with chocolate flavor, why not have a smidgen of chocolate itself? I read the ingredients thoroughly and they don’t seem to be worried about causing a chocolate allergy reaction in anyone. The ingredients said “this product contains wheat, milk, soy, peanuts and gluten and was manufactured in a facility that also produces products that contain peanuts and treenuts. I love that phrase, peanuts and treenuts. Sounds like a children’s cartoon. It’s the Peanuts and Treenuts show! We get into all kinds of fun hyjinx giving people allergic reactions. And our special weapon is a flavor-lined cookie tube that we call the debeukelaer. Debeukelaer! Gesundheit!
Caution, this buffet contains gluten.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

#434 Beep

There are times in life when the words or labels seem woefully inappropriate. Like when companies use chat rooms instead of live phone reps to close contracts. Somehow the idea of using the word chat in connection with sign-your-life-away events seems wrong. Chats are light, airy, and non-committal; discussion is serious. To equate a chat with a vow is like confusing puppy love with marriage. Or take the word beep. We hear it every day now. Used to be we heard it only in Roadrunner cartoons. But with the advent of the home answering machine and the need for all of us to tell others to leave us a message, the word beep has dashed into the forefront of our lives. Hi, I’m Joe Carbuncle. I can’t answer the phone right now, please leave a message at the beep. Suddenly we’re all sound effects experts. Beep. Beep for gosh sakes. It’s not a serious word. It’s a cartoon sound effect. Please leave a message at the beep. I expect to hear a vroom vroom and a screeching noise as the roadrunner takes off down the desert road. Our language hasn’t been so soiled since we started honking the horns of our cars. Say, “honking my horn” three times slowly and meaningfully and tell me if you don’t feel a little foolish. I called an undertaker’s the other day. Excuse me, a mortuary service facility. The answering machine said, “We’re busy with other clients right now, please leave a number at the beep.” They said beep. I have a suggestion. Just so we don’t think that morticians are less than earnest in their endeavor to render dead people presentable and serious looking. How about the word tone? I was similarly amazed the other day by a product I saw. I was at a hotel and there were various products in the bathroom that the hotel had set out in small sizes, so you had just enough to use but not enough to go to the trouble of stealing. It was a fairly nice hotel so it goes to show minor larceny cuts across the economic spectrum. It was also nice enough that the products were not your ordinary relabeled and rebottled Costco creams and emollients but an actual name brand—Neutrogena. A good product, long known for its attention to natural ingredients, carefully formulated to protect your skin and hair and not cause allergenic reactions resulting in unsightly carbuncles. All well and good. I am happy to apply Neutrogena shampoo and conditioner and hand lotion. But the product I’m holding in my hand, that somehow managed to make it into my luggage unused, is a little odd. It’s a Neutrogena shower cap. I just took it out of the box and for the life of me it looks completely ordinary. I can’t see anything Neutrogena-specific about it. Which disturbs me somehow. If the cap is the same as all others, is the lotion a generic notion as well? My faith in corporate honesty just got crushed like someone dropped a ten-ton weight off a cliff on it. Beep beep.
America, ya gotta love it.

#433 Budget Boil

I spent too much over the holidays again. It’s as if my pent up budget carbuncle finally comes to a head this time of year and needs its annual Christmas lancing. Some people would call me a skinflint. I like to think of myself as thrifty. Thrift is not much prized in our consumer instant gratification culture. But thrift is what made it possible for me to own a home, drive a decent low gas mileage car and generally upset profligate spenders with my holier-than-thou I can get by fine without eating out every day and night like my contemporaries attitude. Truth is, I simply couldn’t afford such indulgences and a house too. So you make choices. About the time I sprouted my first youngin’ I learned that life is about compromises, sometimes compromises you don’t really want to make at the time. But when you do, you survive and when you survive you learn what you are capable of. I got this little fortune in a cookie the other day. I don’t know about you, but I love windows into my future provided by dessert items—especially cheap mass-manufactured dessert items. Adding the factor of a jillion-in-one randomness to the fortune equation makes the “it must be fate” aspect stand out that much more. In any event, the fortune said, “The education of the will is the object of our existence.” Unexpectedly Taoist for a fortune cookie. I usually look for a more Confucian approach with Szechwan cuisine. Still, amazing insight for a dessert. I mean I expect awe from a flambĂ©, heavenly pleasure from a devils food cake, legal ramifications from an E coli infected torte. But philosophy from a fortune cookie? My favorite fortune cookie saying ever is on my desk at work. It says, “You will have an unexpected surprise today.” Well not any more. If I expect it, it’s not a surprise and if you tell me about it I’ll expect it so it won’t be unexpected and it won’t be a surprise. Who writes these things? One second it’s the secret of life, the next it’s a counter-redundant mishmash. I’m going back to the education of the will thing. That’s right on. Because that’s what life is. We start out as selfish and willful. Forget all that original sin original innocence stuff. Babies want what they want and they want it now. Feed me, give me fluids. Change the thing you forced me to poop into. Then they get older and it’s I want, I want, I want. Then it’s “are we there yet?” and “I’m tired” and various fits of crankiness. Then, slowly but surely, with patience, understanding, and judicious use of threats, bribery, and punishment you inculcate in them the notion that you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need. Then they dive into the consummate self-centered selfishness of teenagehood. If they come out the other side, maybe they’ll realize that life is about compromises, thriftiness, self-restraint and ultimately, spending like a lanced carbuncle at Christmas.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

#432 ‘Breviate

One of the odd things I find comforting about life is finding examples of people who mean well. Like when I talked about the people who capitalize Xmas. Obviously, they’re trying to show some kind of respect for the holiday, or perhaps the message, but they’re not completely hung up on having the Christ in it. Or maybe they don’t think about it at all, maybe they’re all worn out from sending a million Xmas cards and the abbreviation is the only thing standing between them and acute writer’s cramp. That must be it. The cramp thing, because these same people don’t use the abbreviation X-tian when talking about a Christian. And they don’t say Jesus X instead of Jesus Christ. And a good thing too because X-tian sounds like one of the X-men. And who knows what mutant talent he has. Maybe the secret power of persuasion. Able to talk old ladies out of their last catfood budget. Maybe televangelists are X-tians. And Jesus X¾That sounds too much like a Muslim sort of Jesus. One of the other things I find oddly comforting is the consistency of people. Some folks you can always depend on to do certain things. They hold on to a pattern, no matter how bad or self-destructive. Like some people who live on the river floodplains. Every rainy fall, we hear of some river flooding. And yet season after season the news reports talk about people having to evacuate their homes along rivers. Do these people just have an over abundance of hope? That the rain will stop? That maybe their upstream neighbor will fork over for a dike or redirect the channel? Maybe they just can’t sell. I think I can help. Maybe these people are the same people that invest in the penny stocks from those internet spammers. But hey, remember, there’s lots more investors where you came from. Put out your own internet spam. Hi, I’m Jimmy Swaggert I know you want to jump on this one. Invest now, rare opportunity, on beautiful riverfront property. All the amenities, especially running water.
These are the same people who must buy the inexpensive memory foam mattress. Tempur-pedic would have us belief that not all foam is alike. You know what? I believe them. I mean my experience with packing peanuts alone is enough to put the matter to rest. I don’t know if you’ve had experience with packing peanuts lately but the whole process has come a long way. Technologically. Still, some of the peanuts just don’t spring back after use. They get limp and are no good for anything. Kind of like a memory foam mattress with Alzheimers. Not as foamy as it used to be. I call it X-foam.
America, ya gotta love it.

#431 Baby Peeve

I was talking to my friend Bobby the other day and he was going on about what he said was his pet peeve. I said if you’re going to have a pet, a peeve is the perfect thing to have. I mean, think about it. They’re pretty easy to feed and water. Feeding a peeve is as simple as dwelling on some feeling of indignity for a while. And watering a peeve, well, peeves are kind of like pet plants. They grow and grow with just a little constant attention. Walking the peeve? No problem, peeves love to trotted out in front of all and sundry. And you don’t have to worry about carrying those little bags around after them either, if some joker tells you your peeve is full of you know, that’s just a good excuse to deck him. Nobody, but nobody, messes with me when I’m airing out my peeve. I do have one pretty serious pet peeve though, people who make lame excuses. An excuse shouldn’t be lame. I mean with today’s vast array or verbal resources, all excuses ought to be walking healthy on all fours like a full-blown peeve. My kids used the internet to supply verbiage for countless papers in high school. And I once had someone send me a Dear John letter that came from a template she acquired on the internet. All she had to do was punch in a couple of personal identifiers and voila, out spitted a document full of calculated vitriol. Had some good lines in it too, about like the emotionless bag of leather I called my heart. If I hadn’t been as incapable of feelings as the letter described I might have been upset. As it was, I figured my name isn’t John, so what the hell. My favorite excuse of the 21st century is “I have to stop talking now, my batteries are getting low.” The cellphone is the great conversation ender. Sometimes involuntarily, but sometimes completely voluntarily and better yet, voluntary without fear of guilt or condemnation. I’ve gotten so good at the “my phone is beeping I’m running out of batteries” excuse that I’ve actually done it a couple of times accidentally on my work phone. The downside, of course, is you have to be really sure the conversation is over. You don’t want to forget and have to call the hangup-ee right back and tell her you need to pick up something at the old house or anything. Speaking of excuses, a woman at the airport the other day didn’t have any excuse at all. Seems she put her baby through the luggage scanner by mistake. Airport security caught it when the saw the x-ray image of an infant. Oops. The lady was understandably flustered, the infant was okay. But if you’ve ever had a baby in Osh Kosh overalls with all those metal buttons, you’ll understand why the lady subconsciously opted for the drive through. Still, asking the security guards to check while the baby was in there to see if the kid had swallowed her missing car keys was a little much. Letting babies suck on car keys is one of my pet peeves.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

#430 Bag it

This is the season to reflect on the positive things in life. As we face the promise of the beginning of the new year, here’s one thing I’m happy to still see around: Sugar bags. Every time I get scared by changes in technology, by things like new computers requiring a gig of ram just to make sure there’s enough room for the operating system to move; things like people driving by my house being able to use my internet, that’s when I turn to the sugar bag. That hallowed institution of packaging that still, after all these years, is just paper and glue. Every time I unfold the top of a five-pound sugar bag and don’t quite break the seal of the primitive dollop of glue right, or find that the glue person has got a little too zealous and fused the whole thing unbreakably shut, and then I accidentally rip the paper so the sugar pours funny and messily for the duration of the bag, I thank goodness that some things don’t change. I bet they don’t even call their glue person an adhesive technician—I bet they still call him a gluer, or a glueman. Oh, I’ve learned a few things about sugar bags over the years. Like I don’t have to wait for the duration of the bag to correct that initial opening rippage. After a couple of cups I can trim the upper edge. And I should do it as quickly as possible because a rip in a sugar bag is like a run in a nylon. It keeps going and going as the sugar level in the bag decreases. And that means a mess. Although I don’t cry over spilt milk I do get nettled by spilt milk that hits a dusting of spilled sugar on my counter. Usually I don’t notice it till I take my coffee cup to a different location, leave it there for a minute, then pick it up to the viscous ripping of releasing stickiness. You say why, Funny Guy, don’t you transfer the sugar to another container? There are lots of glass jars and sealed pottery and crock creations available. Not to mention a whole bevy of attractive organizing accouterments from your friendly local Tupperware representative. Or a trip through any supermarket will reward you with a host of options that Rubbermaid has knocked off from Tupperware. Tupperware doesn’t make hardware and they view Rubbermaid as the original software pirates. I wonder, when you have a bevy of offerings is it more or less than a host of offerings? At what number does host kick in? Over a hundred? I mean, if a host of angels are singing on high around some shepherds in the field would it have been more or less impressive to have a bevy of angels? Speaking of which: I still find it oddly comforting that people go to the trouble of capitalizing the X in Xmas. I mean, here they are shortening a fairly hallowed name in an, if not blasphemous, at least mildly disrespectful manner, and yet they still go to the trouble of capitalizing the contraction. Like capitalizing nicknames. Like Bubba, or Bud. Or Sugar.
America, ya gotta love it.