The Rip Post                                Riposte Archive


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(Oct 18, 2006)

          Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters with Humanity, or LTSEWH, for um, short. They are intended as a chronicle of the decline in civility and efficiency, patience and deference, written with just the slightest implication of humor, in this, the alleged 21st century. Names have been included whenever possible to ensure fullest humiliation, and sometimes omitted out of deep compassion.
          LTSEWH # 1: AUDI DOODY
          Obviously, teleportation technology has been mastered. This is why, when I look both ways before backing up---just as I was instructed in high school driver’s education---and then look both ways again, and then back out. . .
          A car appears behind me, on my bumper, beamed there. Transported by Tralfamadorans. Vonnegut knew. I feel more like Dwayne Hoover all the time. The universe is a big construct created just to toy with me. One day I will start punching out the robots to see the cogs and springs spill out their ears, and laugh my ass off.
          On this day, though, I settled for verbally prodding the humanoid a little.
          I mean, I had backed oh-so-carefully out of my home driveway, repeatedly checking the street in both directions. Clear as the Montana sky. Empty as Bush’s head. It was Sunday morning, the day practically glowing with renewed molecules and color, as was my brain. I am reborn each dawn, you see, with a tiny, fragile hope that I will not be subjected to the brutish behavior of Barnyard-Americans. It must be genetic program, because it’s sure not logic.
          And there he was. Zip-zam, in my rear view mirror. No closer than an inmate in the shower when you bend down to pick up the soap. Brand new silver Audi. Could only have been materialized through a wormhole from Arcturus. I proceeded to accelerate, but the driver could not wait.
          He. . .honked.
          I fully endorse use of the horn under most circumstances. The horn is a remarkable device in that it can convey so many complex ideas without using language: “Go faster.” “Why are you sitting there when the light has turned red, you cell-phone-yacking jackass?” “Please don’t end my life me with your Lincoln Navigator.” “I believe this parking space is mine, and if you wish to dispute it, I will remove the gun from my glove compartment and argue with you.” “You are welcome to view my naked hindquarters at your earliest convenience, and to display affection thereupon.” “I celebrate life!”
          But as I rot, I mean, age, I have less and less interest in territorial and priority disputes. Defer, defer, defer, that’s my motto. I chant “path of least resistance” over and over in my head, and perhaps will one day find myself pacing the same stretch of sidewalk ten hours a day, saying it aloud. In between searching the trash for discarded duck-and-goat-cheese pizza. But for now, I am what passes for “sane.” Heh.
          So I just stopped. My eyes met Audi Lout’s in the rear-view. I waved him around. My eyes said, “You are so much more important than I am, and must have more important matters to attend, so please, go around me.” Well, actually, my eyes said something different, but I had sunglasses on, so he couldn’t tell.
          I think it took Audi Doody a moment to figure out that I was not going to move, because he honked again. I waved him around again. With a violent, masculine thrust, he pulled up next to me, stopping in blur of expensive silver. I adjudged him to be of recent Mesopotamian descent, as was his ancient, doddering daddy in the passenger seat.
          “Go ahead,” I said calmly. “If you are in such a hurry, please go ahead.”
          Audi Lout demonstrated that he grasped American culture thoroughly with his response:
          “F---K YOUUUUUU!”
          That was it. The universe pranked me. Fragile flame of hope flickered to finality. He drove on. I hung my head out the window, much as a happy dog does, and returned his comment. Just in case he was hard of hearing, I also conveyed it in sign-language. He did not respond, which I figured was because he didn’t want to upset his old dad too much. So I took full advantage of the situation, and, after pulling up behind him a block later, suggested that Lout avail himself of a one-way airline ticket back to the country of his origin.
          Or, more accurately, planet.
          LTSEWH # 2: OPERA BUFF(OON)
          Now, the Marx Brothers made movies called “A Day at the Races” and “A Night at the Opera,” and obviously the guy next to me had gotten them all mixed up.
          Up went his binoculars. Down went his binoculars. Up went his---no, down, no up. . .Down went his binoculars. He reminded me of the old Kenner “Drinking Bird” that you could set on the side of your childhood glass of milk, and watch it “magically” go up and down, seeming to drink with you.
          This would have been fine and dandy had he been conversing between watching the horses. Problem was, he was not conversing, and there were no horse races. He was watching Verdi’s opera, “Don Carlo,” at the Music Center.
          Me, I was watching him watch Verdi’s opera, “Don Carlo,” at the Music Center. My eyes read the supertitles uncomprehendingly, because my brain was full of “what the hell does he think this is, a f---ing football game?” and “does he have an extremely large nervous twitch?”
          Had he been a novice opera-goer, it might have been understandable to some extent, had there been lots of revelers or swordplay or gods walking across rainbow bridges or something. But he was a full-blown buff (I heard him talk about many operas he’d seen) and this was later Verdi, with a good many scenes in which all the action takes place near the uvula.
          Yes, tenors and sopranos were standing perfectly still, singing their stuffing out, and Binocular Boy was zooming his specs up, down, up, down, up, down, up-down-up, down-up-down. Literally once every three or four seconds. (I counted.)
          I cupped the side of my face. Somebody needs to invent “opera blinders,” so as to screen out the opera buffoons beside you. Opera glasses should never be given to opera asses.
          I’ll bet the guy doesn’t know Groucho from Chico, anyhow.
          LTSEWH # 3: SHE-MAIL
          I was having a little e-mail exchange with a longtime friend.
          Translation: the friendship was in imminent danger.
          E-mail should never be confused with friendship. And friendship should never be confused with e-mail. People write things in e-mail they would never speak to one another, or write in a letter. And unless one inserts those little smiley-thingies, or the monolithic “LOL” every other word, all e-mail appears as playful as the Declaration of Independence.
          “See any good movies?” I queried my long-time friend, who shall be here known as Ouliotta Hemoglobin.
          Ouliotta replied that she had seen this and that, and offered a couple of comments about them along the way. Four or five flicks, total.
          I responded that I had seen one, intended to see another, heard good things about yet another, but that I had no plans to see “Brokeback Mountain” because “I don’t need a movie to inform me that gay people can love one another.”
          Ouliotta, who is a kneejerk, borderline hysterical defender of anything gay, or even slightly happy, decided that I had somehow slandered all homo-bi-quadra-sexual humans.
          “Rip, when you send e-mail, don’t proselytize,” she wrote.
          Proselytize, last I checked, means to preach in the interests of converting someone to your point of view. I will award any reader who can convince me that my sentence about “Brokeback Mountain” was proselytizing, a brand new complimentary “Springtime in Lompoc” calendar. Postage included.
          “Ouliotta,” I wrote back, “do not EVER instruct me how I may write e-mail to you. Who the hell do you think you are?”
          Suffice to say that things did not improve from there. Ms. Hemoglobin admits her flaws and faults every bit as readily and often as George W. Bush.
          She mail e-mail no more.
          LTSEWH # 4: F----IN’ IDIOT
          He was behind me. The devil. El diablo estaba aca! To borrow Hugo Chavez’s U.N. speech. Y tambien, El diablo tenía un teléfono de la célula.
          That’s cell phone, gringos.
          “Yeah,” el diablo said, no louder than Adolf Hitler to an audience of 10,000, without a microphone, “We’re going to do fourteen episodes! Telly Savalas!”
          And on and on about his pending hotshot Hollywood deals. El diablo, I should add, was from Australia, so he had one of those accents that is like the sharp corner of a table that you hit your head on. He was in his early ‘40’s, or late ‘30’s, but not late enough for my taste. He had no trouble getting enough food, and had the close-shaved post-butch-haircut look, black sunglasses, black shirt, black jeans, black heart.
          We stood at a corner, waiting for the jolly green walking man to appear. El diablo was five feet away, shouting as if to create an echo in the Grand Canyon. The light changed. I crossed the street in flamingo strides, hoping to leave el diablo, who took quick little pig-steps, well behind. But being the devil, he managed to hang close, still yapping into his cell phone about “forrdeen episodes” and Telly Savalas.
          “What the hell,” I said to my female superior. “Doesn’t that a-----e know that Telly Savalas is dead?”
          “He’s not saying ‘Telly Savalas,’” she cautioned. “He’s saying ‘telenovelas.’”
          “What, is he making Mexican soap operas?”
          “No, that’s what they call series TV now, or something.”
          We moved about thirty feet in front of him, but there was no carrying on any conversation, no chance for benign enjoyment of the glorious grimy sidewalk or magnificent billboards for upcoming slasher/chainsaw murder films for Hallowe’en. I was subjected only to the business dealings of el diablo and his telenovelas. I turned around.
          “Please,” I said. “Speak louder. I wish to hear you more clearly.”
          He paused.
          “What did you say?”
          “I can’t hear your conversation clearly enough. Please speak louder.”
          He did.
          “F--- YOU! You got a problem with this? You f---in’ idiot! You’re a f----in’ idiot! (Then, into phone.) I can’t believe it! This arsehole is givin’ me s--- for talkin’ on a cell phone! F--- YOU! F--- YOU! You’re a f---in’ idiot.”
          Because he had verbally saluted me with that most treasured of old-fashioned, practically patriotic American declarations, I returned the favor. He was suddenly beside me (still on his cell phone.)“I’m doin’ my business, you f---in’ idiot!”
          “Yes. I know. I can hear you. Everybody can hear you. You’re making me listen to you doing your business.”
          He was in the testosterone trigger zone, his reptile brain trying to figure out if he should take a swing at me or not. He walked past, (still talking on his cell phone) then turned around, walking backwards! Who says Australians are eccentric?
          “F---- YOU! You’re a f---in’ idiot! Don’t you ever do any business?”
          “I don’t own a cell phone.”
          “Oh, what are you, some kind of f---in’ crusader against cell phones?”
          I considered the question. A realization startled me like a Britney Spears ringtone.
          “Yes,” I said. “I am.”
          “F--- YOU! You’re a f---in’ idiot! I can’t believe this arsehole is busting my balls because I’m on a cell phone! You f----in’ idiot!”
          I was very tired of the scene. I was very tired of him. I was very tired of life. Or what passes for it in this, the f---in’ idiotic 21st century.
          “Yes, that’s right. I’m a f---in’ idiot.”
          “Yeah, you’re a f---in’ idiot!”
          Fortunately for me, I got to turn right, and el diablo kept going straight, still turning around to call me a---you guessed it---“f---in’ idiot” a couple more times.
          Never once---not once---stopping his big Hollywood telenovela cell phone conversation.
          I smelled the sulphur long after he was gone.
          LTSEWH # 5: SHE-MAIL II
          I was having another little e-mail exchange with a longtime friend.
          Translation: the friendship was in imminent danger.
          I mentioned that I was having a bad week, and this is why I had been somewhat incommunicado. Friend, who shall here be known as Avant Gert, responded sympathetically, which I took to mean, in part, “what happened?”
          I explained how, while exploring the idea of returning to school, a college department head had treated me with all the interest one bestows on used tissue. My note began like this: “I left myself open for b-----t. I was talking to. . .”
          Now, most people in their right minds---no, let me phrase that, as most people are not in their right minds. Let’s just make it “most people.” Most people would read my e-mail as the simple conveyance of information; the beginning of an anecdeote.
          Avant Gert did not. Somehow, the convolutions and synapses in her head---a head I have been acquainted with, and a very good friend to, for nearly 25 years---read my sentence as. . .pertaining to her! She thought the “I left myself open for b-----t” somehow pertained to her sympathetic e-mail.
          Ask me how. Go ahead. Ask me, and I’ll tell you this: I can no more answer this question than Dick Cheney can resist taking a lollipop from a crippled child.
          She sent an e-mail denouncing me, sneering at my desire to get a teaching credential (“why, so you can feel superior to your students?”), calling me “boiling with anger” (I just simmer, really), and on and on.
          Yes, dear readers, you know me. Because I know from past experience that she sometimes gets into a snit for no fathomable reason, I stayed patient. I tried again to explain that she had simply misread the e-mail, and asked her to re-read it in order to see that it referred to a school administrator, not her. But this just put me deeper into e-mail quicksand, getting sucked under. The more I explained, the more she bitched and sniped. After a couple of days of this madness, I had enough and told her that she had screwed up, and that it wasn’t the first time she had misread an e-mail, and had gotten irrational.
          She wrote, “I am thinking of ending this communication.”
          I considered falling on my knees, flagellating myself with cactus, rolling in broken glass as I begged her, “please, please---not that---anything but that!”
          Instead I ended the communication.
          To use the term loosely.
          (She mail e-mail no more.)
          For more LTSEWH's, watch this space. And watch this website for the big LTSEWH book, coming sooner than you like.

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