The Rip Post                                                                                              


riposte2.jpg (10253 bytes)

Nov. 12, 2008

         Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters
with Humanity, or LTSEWH, for um, short. They are intended as a chronicle of the decline in civility, efficiency, and deference, written with just the slightest implication of humor, in this, the alleged 21st century. Names are included when possible to protest the incompetent, and sometimes omitted when it is in the columnist's interest! (Please note: LTSEWH is now a book, with wonderful illustrations!  And now our Christmas sale! LTSEWH and the Lingo Czar's "BAD WORDS"---two for just $29.99! LOL or yer money back! (Really.) Order here.)

          LTSEWH #1 Tea Nazi
          There I was. . .
          Inside of “Evergreen,” a new green tea place in Santa Monica. I have long missed my old hangout, the wonderful Green Tea Terrace in Westwood (R.I.P.), and my heart leaped at the sight of a potential replacement. Life without green tea lattes is punishing.
          I grabbed a flyer which informed that it was Evergreen’s “grand opening,” and that I could get one free drink with a purchase. My old tea Jones ached. Matcha latte? You betcha.
          As my wife and I ordered, I noticed that we were the only people aside from the two employees on hand who were participating in the big “grand opening.” Hmm. Then we noticed that the free matcha lattes (powdered green tea drinks) were made with various flavors added: caramel, vanilla, coconut, possibly tutti-frutti.
          “We’d like the free drink without the added flavor, please,” I said. Why taint the deliciousness of the magnificent tea?
          The pleasant young Korean girl behind the counter looked startled, wide-eyed.
          “We can’t do that,” she said in a sort of hushed tone.
          “What? No, I don’t think you understand. We’d like you to leave the extra flavor out of the drink. That’s all.”
          “Sorry. We can’t do that.”
          I checked my watch. Well, I would have checked it if I’d had one. And I’d have found that it was still running forwards.
          “Wait a second. This is a ‘grand opening,’ and you are offering a free drink with purchase. But you are telling me that if I want my free drink with less---repeat, less---ingredients, that I have to pay for it?”
          Really, what does one do in this kind of situation? Who do you call? The green tea police? The American Civil Liber-tea Union? Keith Olbermann? T. Boone Pickens?
          “Is that your manager?” I asked, pointing to the young fellow behind her, making drinks.
          She nodded nervously.
          “Would you ask him?”
          Although it was obvious that Manager had heard the entire exchange, she repeated it all to him, sotto voce. He never turned around, but nodded slightly.
          “Okay, we can do that,” said Counter Lady.
          I spoke to Manager:
          “Thank you. You realize that it costs you less money to make the drink without the extra flavoring.”
          He nodded again slightly, smiling.
          “Oh, by the way, miss, I’d like the drinks made with soy milk, please.”
          “That’s fifty cents extra,’ said Counter Girl.
          Somehow, I think Evergreen is not so aptly named.

          LTSEWH # 2: Parky Pooper
          If I ran a newspaper---and God knows if there was any justice in the world, I would---I’d launch a major investigation into parking revenues: how they are spent, who decides the amounts, how insane the signs and regulations are, how cunning the parking cops can be, etc.
          And then I would begin a lengthy, if not endless, editorial campaign calling for the abolition of two-thirds of all parking laws, city revenue be damned. It’s mostly all misspent, anyhow. (Evidence: still no citywide light rail!)
          I mean, we’ve all seen telephone poles practically hidden by four or five parking signs telling you to park before 8 a.m. and after 12 a.m., permit owners excepted, and to not park if you are over six-feet tall and wear white tennis shoes, and to park if you can whistle “The Star Spangled Banner” backwards while parallel parking. . .
          And we all know the row of 45-minute parking meters, except for the very last one with the sign colored the same as the rest---the only difference being a “1” instead of a “4” in “45.” And recently arrived is the newest fascist scam---meterless spaces, where you can pay with a credit card (and be charged the full price of the space, no matter how long you are planning to stay in it.)
          Yes, we’ve seen people issued tickets after parking carefully, popping lots of money into a meter, but failing to notice that their rear bumper was protruding a foot into a red-painted curb. We’ve seen people drop a quarter into a meter, see it register “FAIL,” then return moments later to find a ticket written anyhow. (Ever try formally challenging a ticket? Your time is better spent watching snails mate.)
          And aren’t parking cops a wonder? All trained so well to ignore your often perfectly justifiable complaints, and to smile, and say “Have a nice day” as they steal $30 or $40 out of your paycheck because you are a miserable, rotten parking criminal. It’s pretty tough to rile them up.
          Tough, but not impossible!
          There I was. . .
          Driving endlessly around several local blocks near Arizona Street in West Los Angeles, looking for a space near my bank. Muttering to myself, “Why didn’t I f---ing walk?” Okay, it wasn’t “endlessly.” It was just fifteen large, expansive, glorious minutes of whatever is left of my allotted time in this mode of existence. I mean it: fifteen minutes. You see, it was Wednesday, meaning that you couldn’t park between 2 and 5 p.m. on one side of this-or-that street, in order that a great, roaring “street cleaner” could come along and spread filth and diesel exhaust all over the place.
          At last, there it was, wide open, gaping, akimbo as Pamela Anderson---on a block of Arizona with four five other cars situated with spectacular legality. I zipped in, and walked away.
          Well, I didn’t just walk away. Knowing this was L.A., I took a careful scan of the block as far as I could see, just to be safe.
          Nope. No parking signs. No hay nada. Home free.
          I returned about fifteen minutes later, of course, to find one of our fine parking enforcers. . .writing me a ticket. A fifty-five-dollar ticket. Granted, fifty-five bucks won’t buy you much anymore, but still. . .
          “Excuse me,” I said, quick-stepping to the car. “Why are you writing a ticket?”
          The “cop” was perhaps 35, imposingly built, shaved head, clad in those official short pants that make them all look like leftovers from The Village People.
          He ignored me, at least partly because he had more interesting pursuits at hand---or in hand. His cell phone. Yes, he was laughing, having a very engrossing conversation with another human, which was surprising to me, because I figured that parking cops have no human friends. I figure they consort largely with the minions of hell, and retire nightly to rituals involving eating snakes and small children.
          “Okay, doood,” spoke the “cop” into his phone, walking away from me, back turned, toward his little white Nazi Parking Vehicle. I spoke again:
          “Hey! Why did you write me a ticket?”
          Sorry to interrupt your fun phone conversation being carried out on city time, dooood. . .
          “Listen, doood, I gotta go right now. I’ll call you back in a minute,” said this devoted public servant, who then turned to me. I repeated my statement about the ticket a third time. I just might make it my chief hobby one day. I’ll walk around, saying, “Hey! Why did you write me a ticket?” Okay, first I’ll wait to become homeless and schizophrenic.
          “Where are the signs?” I asked. “There are no signs!” I pointed up and down the street---noticing, though, that the cars previously parked there were all gone except one (ticket flapping on its windshield.)
          Parking Nazi smiled casually, as his rehearsed answer cut through the gentle autumn air like bird crap hitting pavement.
          “Do you think,” he said, “that because there is noooo sign right here that the street cleaners skip this part of the street?”
          I was baffled. Had parking regulations become invisible? Must one now intuit them? Are we all supposed to psychically link with the Parking Wizard and just know where on the Yellow Brick Road we are allowed to leave our vehicles?
I peered down the street. Far, far down the street. All the way to the other end of the long block, a block that was divided into several long parking segments by wide driveways. And. . .oh, there behind a tree, was one parking sign! A good 100 yards away.
          “But---but---there is no sign here, or even in mid-block!” I said. “How am I to conclude that parking is not allowed here? That sign is hidden from view from this point, and at least 100 yards away.” (I checked later and found no other stretch in the vicinity with only one sign on one block; most had at least three.)
          Parking Nazi’s lips remained curled into that patronizing little I’ve-heard-it-all- before smile, and he repeated: “Do you think that because there is noooo sign right here that the street cleaners skip this part of the street?”
          My honest answer (“Yes, of course I would”) never left my mouth. Visions of fifty-five U.S. dollars danced in my head, and instead, out came this sentence.
          “I see. So I have to come out of a bank after ten minutes and find one of you a------s writing me a ticket.”
          Oh, my! What happened to his training? His Teflon? His nothing-they-can-say-bothers-me? This guy went scarlet---I mean flaming---and the curly smile disappeared into grim animal tension.
          “Hey, sir! I’m not using bad language with YOU! I don’t like it!”
          No. You’re just coming around to your little parking trap to steal my money, and making a patronizing little speech, as you obviously do on this same spot every single week.
I spoke my next sentence with slightly more excitement than I might use for, oh, reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for a kindergarten class.
          “I don’t give f--- if you like it or not.”
          Folks, his face wrenched with suppressed rage. His mouth turned involuntarily into a twitching half-frown. I mean really---twitching. And his body jerked with adrenalin. Every ounce of this dork wanted to physically attack me, but to do so would cost him his job. I had him. It was grand.
          This, by the way, is what passes for “fun” in Los Angeles.
          I walked to back my car, tossing one more delicate sentiment at him, over my shoulder. What’s that? You’re surprised at me, dear reader? Then let me remind:
          I have written this before, and will write it again: I think that all verbal (repeat: verbal) abuse heaped upon unforgiving parking enforcers in Los Angeles is absolutely justified. Anyone who would take this job is a jerk. I don’t care how hard the economy is. It is a job that does nothing---nothing---but cause extreme unhappiness and inconvenience, usually to nice, if not innocent, people. It appeals to pipsqueak authoritarians. The fines are insane. Yes, yes, I also delight in seeing giant SUV’s in red zones getting towed away---but 99 times out of a hundred, they get away with it, because the “enforcers” are busy ticketing some poor old lady who arrived back at her meter three minutes late. Sorry, ma'am, the ticket is already written. There's nothing I can do. It's in the system.
          This is a stupid job staffed mostly by stupid people, and most deserve all the stupid (verbal) abuse they get. Yes, some of them might pet their dogs, and maybe even forgive a ticket, but I've never heard of the latter. That’s my policy, and I make no apologies. Sometimes all you can do is give somebody a bad afternoon.
          Other than that, of course, they’re fine.

           LTSEWH # 3: Acid Trip
          Now, I have enormous regard for doctors. Some of them are even slightly less contemptible than parking cops. But I’ll spare you the diatribe. . .
          I went to a fancy-dancy Beverly Hills internist because I finally managed to get insurance, after paying out of pocket during five years of hellish struggle with what is laughingly called a “pre-ulcer condition.” This, I think, is sort of like the term, “previously owned.” Both don’t quite tell the truth. The only difference I can see between a “pre-ulcer” and an “ulcer” is that doctors make more money when you have an ulcer. The pain is the same.
          I had some high hopes, foolish me, that Dr. Hills (I am omitting her real name, because I might have to see her again) would live up to her vaunted reputation as genuinely trying to get at the cause of the problem, and solve it. That she “really listens” and even (gasp) answers e-mail. (That really is astonishing.)
          There was, after all, nothing I wanted more than to know why I have chronic acid reflux, why I wake up at 3 a.m. feeling like I’ve been punched in the stomach, and if I will ever again be able to eat something other than beans and French toast. Delicious as they are. Urp. Yes, here was someone who would not doctor-by-numbers---you know, glance at me, briefly probe my orifices, then schedule thousands of dollars’ worth of tests that determine nothing. This was someone who would hmmm and hmmm and really try to help fix the trouble.
          So I was on my best behavior as I was ushered into see a “nurse practitioner.” Huh? I spent about fifteen or twenty minutes with Practitioner, which I think means someone practicing to be a nurse. I told her I had very bad chronic acid, along with what other doctors had long ago diagnosed as a “pre-ulcer.” Practitioner, an attractive person with a Swedish accent, recommended that I “get some pets” to ease stress.
          “I have pets,” I said. “You don’t know my cats. They hate one another. One of them throws up all the time, and wipes his ass on the carpet. The other one stays under blankets for days. On Saturdays they get drunk and smoke cigars and hire hookers.”
          Okay, I omitted the last line, because she was already a little uneasy, and I didn’t want to unduly frighten her. So Practitioner---call her Tish---took my vital signs, and blah-blah’d me about what not to eat, etc. Everything I already knew very well and had already been doing for years.
          Now that was a constructive experience!
          Then Tish left and Dr. Hills came in. She was very pleasant, middle-aged, and actually chuckled at one of my stupid quips. We had a nice long visit. At least, on some planets, where alien beings have four or five brains and process information faster than flies on speed, it would have been long. Here on Earth, it was perhaps three minutes.
          “The next time I see you,” she said with a touch of ceremony, “will be when I give you your colonoscopy and endoscopy.”
          “Lucky you!” I said.
          She laughed.
          And she was right. I did see her for all of about 30 seconds before drifting into “twilight sleep” anesthesia, which is where you are unconscious but still responsive to commands. I hope they did not ask me to sing. As I came to, I heard the anesthesiologist and another tech gabbing about banks swallowing each other up. Ah-ha, I thought, my eyes still closed, I will endeavor to impress them with how impervious I was to their anesthesia, how sharp and indefatigable are my powers of reason---and wit! I spoke:
          “There was an old lady,” I said, eyes still shut, “who swallowed a fly. And I don’t know why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die.”
          A pithy and amusing comment on the economic scene! A droll, if somewhat eccentric, rejoinder to their conversation! Ah, but it went right over their heads. Another doped-up babbler. . .
          I went home feeling a number of twinges in spots where they had cut out bits of my stomach for biopsies. Lovely feeling! Two weeks later, Tish phoned me (and you thought it would have been the doctor, you silly person!) and left a message. You know, the personal touch. All the biopsies were negative, she said, thank goodness. And the big news. . .
          “You have acid reflux."
          Yowzah! Now tell me something I didn't tell you when I first came here. Snort.
And the big advice:
Keep taking the medication you are already taking.”
I thought about calling back and asking her who was buried in Grant's Tomb, but I'd had enough fun for one day.
          That was it. Not even interesting enough
to merit a call from Dr. Hills. But to her credit, the doc did answer an e-mail. I asked a bunch of questions---why, they were the very same questions I had hoped she might answer when I first went to her office! Things like: what is causing this, will it ever clear up, will I ever eat chocolate again, why is it so painful, will I ever be able to drink green tea again, and so on. She essentially wrote back to say that yes, the condition will heal, and that if I had more questions, to. . .
          You guessed it.
          Schedule an appointment.
          The snake eats itself!

          LTSEWH # 4: Yes Eye Can
          So you see, I needed glasses. Or I needed glasses, so I see. Well, I didn’t need glasses---it’s just that with insurance, I could suddenly afford an eye exam, and my old glasses were so scratched that I have been viewing the world through a couple rows of chicken-wire. Now here’s the weird thing:
          One evening, for “fun,” I donned my old gold wire-rims from college---a weaker prescription than what I have been wearing---and zounds! I could see better! In fact, I could see fine. A little too fine. I've changed since college. . .
          Naturally, I told this to the Ophthalmologist. Naturally, he would say, “Oh, great,” and promptly write a prescription for my old college eyes. Okay, of course not---he would first put me through lots of tests and rigmarole and ask me which square looked less fuzzy when they both looked identical, in order to make money---and then he would write a prescription for my old college eyes.
          Still, I took my old wire-rims in to show him, and explained how they were perfect, and he explained that myopia can actually improve with age (that compensates for the rest of my body) and then he. . .
          Wrote an entirely new prescription. Hmm. . .
          Follow me, now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when I saw another eye doctor, out of pocket, just a few years back. He also wrote an entirely new prescription, which I dutifully wore for a week, despite the fact that it felt like I was wearing a somewhat thinner version of coke bottle lenses worn by this nice kid in my high school Spanish class.
          “You’ll need time to adjust,” that doctor told me, as I stumbled around, kicking the sidewalk with one foot, taking Advil for a new-prescription headache. Though I kept insisting that the prescription was wrong, he merely told me that it “will take time to adjust.”
          In the end, I adjusted by ordering him to check the lenses, which, of course, turned out to be the wrong prescription.
          So when the new Dr.---call him Dr. Insurance, because I might have to see him again---wrote a new prescription, and when his “aide” told me that I might need “some time to adjust to it,” I was not ophthalmologically optimistic.
          There I was. . .
          In the reception area, having my new glasses fitted and adjusted by Aide. Now, maybe I don’t yet live in the post-gender world, and call me a sexist pig if you have to, but Aide was possessed with a pair of mammary glands that, managed differently, would be worth one hell of a lot of money. I would not comment about this at all except that said glands were fully---and I do mean fully---half exposed when Aide bent over.
          Which she did at length as she fitted my glasses, saying these preposterous words:
          “Now look right between my eyes.”
          Folks, I’m male and all the ugliness that implies. When one is confronted with massive, voluptuous, fleshy, pallid bazooms---mere inches away from one’s face---and is told to not look at them, but instead fix one’s gaze between the eyes of the owner of said bazooms, well. . .
          Absurdity, thy name is libido.
          I mean, was this some little sadistic tease? Nah! What a thing to think about a nice young woman!
          And then came her big “adjustment speech” and how she had to go through her “hell period” of three months---three months!---before getting accustomed to her new prescription. Constant headaches, dizziness, nausea. (No wonder she tortures her male clients.)
          Well, I got home, feeling that the world was indeed flat, and farther a way than it actually was (like “objects that appear in mirror”), and knowing that I would not go through three minutes of “hell period,” let alone three months. So I e-mailed and asked if I could just please have my old college prescription.
          Dr. Insurance said that before doing such a thing, he wanted to retest me---which he did a day later. Then he said he wanted to retest the restest---really---early in the morning, when my eyes were fresh.
          I have given up. This is insane. Ya can’t see good, ya go to a doc, he checks yer peepers, he gives ya specs, and ya see good. I’m out a couple hundred bucks, but you know, my stomach hurts. Luckily, I have a back-up pair of my present prescription, minus the chicken-wire.
          It’s just that at night, I see two big white moons.
          Which will always remind me of Aide.

                                   © 2008 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.

                                             BACK TO PAGE ONE



© 2008 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.