The Rip Post




        (June 25, 2003)

        Call them "Less Then Satisfying Encounters with Humanity," or LTSEWH for, um, short. Only some of the names are occasionally omitted to spare the particularly wretched from public humiliation.
        Out for an evening stroll on Santa Monica Boulevard, crossing a sidestreet, when a weathered white Toyota made a quick left in front of me, nearly taking off my toes. Okay, I exaggerate. Two more steps and he would have had my tootsies in his tires.
        Because he had allowed me a full five feet in which to retain possession of pedal digits, I didn't feel outright denunciation was merited. So I wrote him a warning ticket:
        "Careful, pal," I said into his opened window, as he passed by.
        That did it. Pal promptly stopped his car in the middle of the street, waiting for me. What the heck, I had nothing better to do than get into a fistfight with a cretin. As I walked past, he let me have it with both barrels.
        "Normally," he hissed petulantly, "I am!"
        "Well, good," I said. "Thank you."
        Guess he put me in my place.
        I phoned the box office of the Conga Room. A recording told me that I had reached the Conga Room, which was good, seeing as I had dialed the number of the Conga Room. The recording---a chipper woman's voice---also gave me lots of information about how to get to the Conga Room, and how to make reservations for dinner at the Conga Room, and admission prices for the Conga Room.
        It also told me that I could phone the box office of the Conga Room if I wished to buy tickets for the Conga Room. Sad to say, it did not tell me the box office phone number of the Conga Room. I went on-line and found said number, which turned out to be. . .the number I had just dialed.
        That's right---I was in a Conga line behind myself!
        Well, I really wanted to see Robert Hunter, the great, great songwriter and lyricist (known principally for his Grateful Dead canon), so I. . .drove to the Conga Room. This would have worked out nicely, if the Conga Room box office had been open, but, as a woman from a neighboring business told me, arching an eyebrow mysteriously, "There's NEVER anyone there until night."
        I didn't know what to make of her inflection and eyebrow---was the Conga Room operated by vampires?---so I drove home and phoned the Conga Room again. I had a plan, a scheme, a proposal so daring, so drastic, that I almost didn't try it: I left a message saying that I wanted to purchase tickets.
        Ladies and gentlemen, I swear this is true: someone from the Conga Room phoned me back! I think it was the chipper woman. The conversation went about like this:
       "You called about tickets?"
        "Yes, for Robert Hunter."
        "Right. I'd like tickets for Robert Hunter."
        "I'll have to get back to you."
        "Uh. . .But you are getting back to me. You've just phoned me."
        The phone made a rattling noise, as if she were hanging up. I spoke:
        "Yes. I'll have to get back to you."
        "Um. . .you'll have to get back to me? Uh. . .can you clear up a big mystery for me and tell me if there are any tickets for Robert Hunter available?"
        "Oh, yes."
        "Thank you."
        "You're welcome."
       In the end, I never went to the Conga Room to see Robert Hunter. I figured there were two possible explanations for the above events: 1) the Conga Room desperately wants to go out of business, or 2) I never spoke the secret password.
        By the way, here's what Hunter said about the Conga Room in his on-line journal:
        "The venue had apparently advertised the gig for 9 p.m. instead of the 8 o'clock showtime agreed upon, so half the audience, who came at the right time, had to wait an extra hour."
        I don't generally divert from personal experience in LTSEWH reports, but this is too good:
        A friend (call her Maybelle) stayed at the Hilton Hotel in downtown San Diego for a few days, during which time she was assailed by mysterious noises and lousy service. When kept awake one night by a faulty air conditioner, she was told she could change rooms "only if this is a problem we can't fix."
        Hey, that's hospitality!
        When Maybelle checked out, a perky little desk clerk showed all her teeth and sang out like she was trying out for "American Idol":
        "Did you find your stay with us to be satisfactory?"
        Give the clerk this: she had memorized her little line correctly, and could pronounce "satisfactory."
        Answered Maybelle, smiling:
        "Well, in all honestly, I would have to say I found my stay here to be less than satisfactory."
        "That's GREAT!" smiled the perky clerk.
        Training never said anything about listening. . .
        Well, people have died for more absurd reasons than parking spaces. (Think about that.)
        It was peaceful. It was deserted. It was the ultimate L.A. rarity---an empty sidestreet. No traffic. Not a moving car in sight. Just several hundred parked cars. (Well, the real L.A. rarity would be a car with no visible vehicles, parked or otherwise.)
        And then I saw it.
        A space.
        I blinked. The evening remained still. A crescent moon stuck to the sky like an errant eyelash. Cats barked. Dogs smoked cigars. Nothing unusual---except. . .an empty parking space! I yawned, pulling into a driveway for my three-point turn, in order to turn around and take the vacant space, which gaped like the Grand Canyon.
        I think the Creator of the Universe plays tricks on me, and produced this guy straight from the ethers. I never saw him turning left, right, coming from north, south, up or down. But there he was, materializing like Scotty had beamed him down. A college kid in a hot BMW or something, whipping a violent U-turn---in order to visit the Grand Canyon before I could.
        My mouth giving the canyon some competition.
        I smiled and waved at the fellow gently, as if to say, "My good man, I am sure you are a person of charity, good judgement, and high achievement, and therefore you will most certainly allow me the space which I am so obviously attempting to secure via a legal three-point turn, as opposed to the illegal and violent U-turn that you just executed."
        Not only did he ignore my genteel gesture, but College Kid began snarling and gnashing his teeth like Lon Chaney Jr. at the wrong time of the month. I was a good four car-lengths back (I believe that soon, everything will be measured in car-lengths), but I could hear him clearly. Shouting. Growling.
        Well, yes, I could see that he was right---there probably were two F---ING spaces. How good of him to point this out! He was so terribly upset that I felt a little bad, so I pulled slowly next to Chaney's car, smiled, and waved across the lap of my female accomplice.
        "It's okay. I understand. I'm not angry with you, my friend."
        Never assuage the Wolfman.
        And on and F---ING on. I spoke again:
        "Yes, I know. I wasn't mad at you. It's okay."
        Chaney was a well-dressed, well-groomed young person. Good that he had also been taught such wonderful manners. Anyone knows that when an old, courteous jerk tries to appease you, you simply shout obscenities in return---especially if the jerk is with a fine lady. So he shouted some F---ING more.
        Unfortunately, I didn't understand this etiquette, and in a moment, I simply out-Chaneyed him, in terms of profanity, threat, volume, and saliva. (I can do this very well, when need be.)
        Funny thing happened. Chaney started to get out of the car, as if to "get" me, but then just sat, staring ahead, doing nothing.
        Good that he respects his elders.
        Went to a pet store and explained very carefully that I was seeking "toothpaste-like food---you know, comes in a tube---for cats, that is full of vitamins and minerals." Clerk # 1 was very helpful, and said he would find someone who knows. Meanwhile, I found some toothpaste-like food---you know, comes in a tube---for cats, that is full of vitamins and minerals.
        "Now what are you looking for?" said Clerk # 2, a diminuitive fellow with close-set eyes.
       I repeated the explanation, and added that it is similar to Petromalt, a cat furball treatment.
        "You want Petromalt?"
        "No, no, it's like Petromalt. Comes in a tube, and. . .You know, I think this is probably it right here." I pointed out the stuff I had just located.
        "It's like toothpaste?" said Clerk # 2, not seeming to notice.
       I repeated the explanation, that I had probably found it, and thanked him.
        "It's like Petromalt?" he said.
        I then noticed Clerk # 1 lingering nearby, chuckling.
        Ladies and gentlemen, it dawned on me that Clerk # 2 was not merely inept. I took a good close look at him. Yes, he required at least three cards for a full house.
        I am completely in favor of hiring the developmentally disabled as often as possible, but preferably for jobs that they can actually perform.
        For more LTSEWH's, watch this space.

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