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LTSEWH (again)
Feb. 25, 2010         
          After the wild acclaim for last week's LTSEWH, it seemed only right to have an encore. . .
           Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters With Humanity, or LTSEWH, just to come up with a really stupid, ungainly, impossible-to-pronounce acronym. Names are included when possible in order to fully humiliate the guilty.


          LTSEWH # 1: CD Place
          I went to the bank to close a CD. What could possibly be interesting about that, you understandably wonder? What could possibly be difficult? Problematic? Trying? The CD was mine, the money in it was mine, I had been banking at Bank of America for 150 years, and I still look a little bit like my old driver’s license photo.
          But. . .no.
          I waited in line, which apparently is now a suspicious activity. Wherever you wait in line these days, it seems, you are assailed by “customer service” people who ask you why you are waiting in line. Soon there will be "customer service" people to ask "customer service" people to ask why you are waiting in line. I mean, is “line monitor” a new career?
          There I was. . .
          When the “customer service” person came by to ask why I was there. I considered saying, eyes wide, “I’m not going to tell you!” But I suspect this would have prompted a call to the Line Police Chief. So I politely explained myself, and by golly, she diligently scribbled down the information about my CD so as to “start the process.”
          Process. That should have tipped me off.
          About ten minutes later, Line Monitor---a rather plump, smiley woman who spoke with some sort of Mesopotamian accent---returned.
          “Sir, did you open your-r-r CD in another-r-r state?”
          “Another state? No. I opened it in California. I live here.”
          Away she went again. Did I open my CD in another state? Yes, the state of incredulity, after seeing the return of less than one percent. I watched Line Monitor conferring with other perfumey bank ladies behind bullet-proof plexiglass, and they periodically glanced nervously in my direction. Really. I figured I would soon be on a “no fly” list.
          After another ten or fifteen minutes, I was told that I needed to see one of their customer interface specialists, or personal banking intercourse consultants, or whatever they call the young doofuses in bad suits and three-day stubbles sitting in the little glass offices. She added:
          “I’m sorry, sir, but they are all at lunch right now. Can you come back?”
          “About 45 minutes.”
          “No. I can’t come back. You know, this is my CD. This is my money. I want to close the CD. I want my money. There should be no problem, and no delay.”
          Unreasonable bastard, aren’t I!
          Away went Line Lady again, and after a few minutes, I was directed to a regular customer service window---a customary customer service window (couldn't resist)---where a chirpy young woman stared with some consternation into her computer screen for a couple minutes, then went away to speak with some of the same perfumey ladies that Line Monitor had spoken with, glancing up at me suspiciously now and then. Finally returning to speak these words:
          “Mr. Rense, did you open this CD in another state?”
          Nice how they all talk to one another at Bank of America.
          “No," I smiled. "As I’ve already explained, I opened it in Los Angeles, which I think is still in California. What is going on?”
          “Was your CD originally with another bank?”
          “Oh. Yes, it was. That bank went under, and was absorbed by BofA about two years ago. My statements have since come from BofA.”
          “And what was the name of that bank?”
          “Gee, I have no idea. I don’t remember.”
          That did it. I was certifiable. Only an insane man would forget the name of his bank that had gone under two years before, where his money was no longer located. So Chirpy Clerky went away and chirped with perfumey supervisors, and Line Lady, and then came back and chirped this:
          “You’ll have to speak with one of our personal account representatives.”
          The snake eats itself!
          “Well, you know, I was already told this. They’re all at lunch. I was waiting to speak to one of them, but was instead told to speak to you. And now you’re sending me back to where I started.”
          And then she uttered what has become the Great American All-Purpose Statement for Dealing with People Who Need Help:
          “I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything more.”
          As I’ve said in past columns, I come from a time when Things Sort Of Worked. I am not used to the 21st century. I don’t like it here. I like pens and paper and books and handshakes and “Yes, sir, we’ll have this in just a few moments for you.” Sigh. Gone with the wind. Gone with the newspaper. Gone with the Beatles.
          Line Lady again asked me to come back “a little later,” but I stared into her nervous eyes and said, “No, I'll wait.” She nodded and directed me to the waiting area---a few cushy chairs parked in front of a flat-screen TV showing some horrible infomercial. Which is redundant. She might as well have pointed me toward a used cat box.
          “No. I'll wait out here,” I said, and proceeded to pace slowly back and forth, back and forth, the length of the bank, as employees kept eyes on me. I did this for 30 full minutes. Thirty minutes of my life on earth. Thirty minutes when I might have been petting kitty-cats, or writing soliloquies, or having my life put in danger by women on cell phones in giant black SUV’s. At last came the legendary “personal banking representative,” or “financial interface team leader,” or “customer relations support therapist,” back from lunch, but. . .
          It turned out there were two people ahead of me! Yes, two people who had already been waiting in the carpeted, cushy-chaired, infomercialed Waiting Purgatory! Waiting for their coveted audience with Personal Bank Boy. I want you all to know that I did not take Line Lady over my knee and spank her, for not telling me this. I just continued. . .pacing.
          By the time I was at long last escorted in to see Personal Bank Boy and his three-day stubble, I had waited about 70 minutes. And if you think that PBB asked me if I had opened my CD in another state, you are very prescient.
          “I have explained over and over that I opened the CD in California. Now what in hell is the problem here, if you’ll forgive my language?”
          The problem, it turned out, was that the dead bank where I had opened the CD had. . .opened the CD in another state. And BofA had no record of my CD.
          Well, what’s a little life savings, anyway?
          “But,” said PBB, “I’m sure there will be no problem.” Really. He said that. I believe this statement to be the most egregious, wildly false and otherwise absurd assertion made today by any human anywhere anytime.
          Anyhow, Stubble hunted and pecked on his computer keyboard, and hemmed and hawed aloud, and wrote many things on pieces of paper, and swiveled in his chair, and sat and waited and stared at his screen, and wrote more things on paper, and sat and waited and stared at his screen, and said, “I apologize for the wait” with a straight face, and after about fifteen more minutes. . .
          Gave me a check.
          It is not an overstatement here to say that I am lucky that Bank of America did not just lose the money outright. And that I walked out of there without handcuffs.

          LTSEWH # 2: Old and In the Way
          This is a true story. I realize that this implies that the other incidents related here aren’t true (they are, and I have witnesses!), but this one is so amazing that I feel compelled to underscore its veracity.
          In Renseland, you can’t even go to the bank. Right. You can’t even go to the bank to make a routine little deposit without encountering some downright operatically grotesque example of the puniest human behavior, L.A. style.
          I mean, I should have learned a lesson from the preceding LTSEWH alone, and closed my BofA account, but to be fair, the following was not the bank’s fault. It was the fault of two people who fornicated perhaps 20, 25 years ago.
          There I was. . .
          In the parking lot, walking toward the ATM machines at the rear of the bank. The lot was full of cars, and there were a few people lined up at the ATMs. It was high noon. Police interrogation sunlight. I was wearing a sweatsuit and baseball cap so as to look like lousy robbery material, because I am. Never occurred to me that this also made me look like a robber, but then, most bank robbers these days work behind the counter, and wear nice suits, and have three-day stubbles.
          Ahead, I spotted my old friend, Franco, outside the bank. Italian guy, former restaurateur. I looked to my right, and behind, as is my habit, before stepping into the marked crosswalk leading from the parking kiosk to the bank. No cars. I smiled at Franco, waiting for him to see me. It would be good to chat, as he is a very fine fellow. I took four steps into the marked crosswalk.
          If I were a cat, I would have sprung three feet into the air, claws extended, fur puffed in all directions. Instead, I threw up my arms defensively, wheeled around, fully expecting to be run over.
         By a car rushing by in a blur of red.
         Now, let me refresh the reader’s memory here:
          I was in a marked crosswalk in a bank parking lot. I had looked before   crossing.
          Allow me to refresh the reader’s knowledge of traffic law:
          Pedestrians have the right-of-way, even if they are not in crosswalks. If they are in crosswalks, they are as right as quadratic equations.
          Ah, but I forget that I am in the 21st century, a time overrun with snot-nosed overgrown feral children trained by media and popular culture to believe that they are stars of their own private movies, that they are “winners” and certainly any old guy in a sweat suit has to be a “loser.” That they are important and have urgent things to do at all times and should not be delayed by old farts with white beards who are on the way out.
          The driver, in short, had honked at me because I was in the way. Because I was not moving quickly enough to satisfy his or her pleasure. And not only had he or she honked at me, but he or she next whipped around me so fast that my toes retracted.
          But not so fast that I didn’t react. Completely out of instinctive defense, much as one might lash out ridiculously at a grizzly up on its hind legs, I kicked. Now, I’ve been doing Tai Chi for years, and it seems that my kicking muscles have evolved without my realizing it. Or maybe it was just fear-triggered adrenalin. But I kicked, and to my amazement put a healthy sized dent into the little car’s side. A nice little car, shiny and expensive, the brand name of which shall remain unnamed here.
          And then I just stood there, amazed, seething, waiting to see what the driver would do. I didn't care. I mean, why had this happened? Why had I been nearly run over, frightened, and forced into a defensive act of violence, as I went innocuously about innocuous errands? I didn’t give a rat’s ass whether the driver was Shaquille O’Neal, or even more frightening, Ellen DeGeneres. It was safe to say that my frame of mind was not conducive to picking daisies. And out of the car emerged. . .
            A princess. A well-dressed, trim little female who could have been 20, could have been 29, with tight slacks and requisite cleavage-revealing sweater and little diamond necklace that glinted in the sun. She was actually sputtering. You don’t often get to see people sputter. And then came this shrill little yell:
          “Why did you kick my car!”
          I swear. This is what she said.
          In retrospect, I could see how it had all shaped up. Princess was in a hurry to her manicurist, or her pedicurist, or her young stud boyfriend for a noon quickie, or to pick up a girlfriend for lunch at this restaurant I read about, or just because she was important, and this. . .this. . .old loser. . .had dared to walk in a crosswalk and delay her as much as two---or even three---seconds! So she had honked to get Loser out of her way, and then had tried to blow by him, never mind that this was a parking lot, and unseen pedestrians were walking between other parked cars toward the bank. They were probably Losers, too.
          I graciously answered her question.
          “Because you nearly ran me over, and honked at me to get out of your way!”
          And this---oh, I know you’ll never believe it, but I have to write it, anyhow---is what she really, really, really said. And did I mention really? Really!
          “But I didn’t HIT you!”
          I confess that at this point, reason deserted me. I should have said, “I see. So if you had hit me, and I was lying here with a compound fracture of both legs, in a pool of blood, it would have been okay for me to have kicked your car. Except I wouldn’t have been able to.”
          But as I said, reason deserted me, which is another way of saying that I got a wee bit miffed. I began repeating an expression, rather loudly, which is meant to convey this idea: “I hereby render you unimportant in my life.” The marvelous thing about this expression is that it conveys this idea in only two words! I repeated this four or five times, as I walked away toward the ATM.
          And folks, I swear to the Devil, to whom this fine little American citizen is certainly beholden, this was her exact response:
          “At least somebody WANTS to!”
          LTSEWH # 3: Red tales in the Sunset
          Let me ask you something:
          Does a red light mean something I no longer understand? Does it perhaps mean, “Stop, but only if you really have to?” Or “Slow down a little?” or “Stopping is for chumps?”
          I was cruising down Sunset toward the San Diego Freeway around 7 p.m., doing about 35 around a curve, with a lot of other traffic. I suppose there was a gap of perhaps four car lengths in front of me. Such a gap is considered absolutely outrageous by most L.A. drivers, who have no understanding of what it is like to be the eighth car in a high-speed nine-car collision (as I once was.) You leave a gap of two car lengths in L.A., and people rush in like cats crowding a food dish, giving you a “What planet are you from?” glare.
          Now, follow this, please.
          I approached a T-intersection, where there is a traffic light. It was green for me, red for the many cars stopped on my right. It never occurred to me that someone might have disagreed with the judgment of the traffic signal.
          A large, expensive car shaped like a hunchbacked penis simply rolled through the red light---from the center lane! Correct. There was a right turn lane, and a center lane for turning left. When, that is, the light was green. So the hunchbacked penis not only rolled through the red light to make a right turn, but he did it from the left turn lane---with the intention of turning directly in front of the car on its right, legally and patiently waiting to make a right turn.
          Just like they do in, oh, Sri Lanka.
          I honked. I figured it was either that, or land in the hospital for an indeterminate amount of time. I prefer my hospital stays to be of fixed length, due to pre-planned events, such as surgery. Speaking of which, I would love to see the driver of the hunchbacked penis subjected to castration and lobotomy. Which, more than likely, would amount to the same thing.
          He stopped. I veered slightly to the left to avoid his jutting front end, and as sure as right foot follows left and Oprah Winfrey follows chocolate cake, he honked at me. I caught a glimpse of a cool dude at the wheel, perhaps in his early 30’s. And then, of course, as L.A. driving etiquette dictates, he finished his illegal turn in front of other cars and roared by me, honking and giving me the finger.
          You know, when I was a boy, I used to wonder, rather rhapsodically, what my life might be like when I was all grown up, like my father, who was then in his fifties.
          What a fucking letdown.

          LTSEWH # 4: Valentine’s Day Massacre
          He wanted ice cream cake, he had a coupon, and he was mad. Why he was mad, I didn’t yet know. In fact, I didn’t yet know that he wanted ice cream cake, and had a coupon. All I knew was that he emerged from the Marble Slab Creamery in Marina del Rey on Valentine’s Day afternoon, as my wife and a family friend sat peacefully enjoying a couple of scoops in cups.
          The guy was about 35, balding, burly, and dressed like most Americans. Jeans, stupid T-shirt with stupid words on it, stupid baseball cap with stupid words on it. And as I said, as with most Americans, he was angry. But instead of translating the anger into ulcers or airplanes into the sides of buildings, he exited the Marble Slab Creamery and proceeded to, with the full force of his strength, repeatedly slam the glass door into the frame---the wrong way---until it jammed and stuck, locking the terrified employees inside. Then he stomped away. You could almost hear the adrenalin coursing through his hulking body.
          “Hey, man, take it easy!” yelled a guy at a nearby table, sitting with his wife and two little girls. “I’ve got kids here!”
          The hulk turned around and bellowed out a “FUCK YOU” that was easily loud enough to have been heard throughout the entire shopping center parking lot. Annnnnnd, the affronted father---also in his mid-30’s---decided not to take this sitting down. Testosterone Vs. Testosterone, and all that. He rose, followed The Hulk a short distance, then got in his face, about six inches away, and spoke quietly. I could not hear his words, but somebody said something like, “Just touch me. Go ahead.” Then somebody knocked somebody’s dumbass baseball cap off, and The Hulk walked away into the parking lot, followed by Young Dad---
          And Young Mom!
          Yes, Young Mom had simply abandoned her two little girls, both cute as kittens, and had run after her husband, yelling “YOU PRICK!” at The Hulk. She was about six-feet-two, and very fit, so I figured The Hulk was in trouble.
          I got up and walked over to the girls, a very foolish act, and said:
          “It’s okay, guys, don’t worry. Your mom and dad will be right back. It’s just a crazy guy, that’s all.”
          The little kids stared out toward the parking lot, confused, wide-eyed, and frightened. I figured on being brought up on charges of attempted kidnapping, or at least to be beaten up by Mom and Dad on return for bothering their children. So I sat back down at our table and kept an eye on the kiddies from a distance.
          Eventually, the parents returned, the Marble Slab employees managed to get their door opened, and a security guard said he was going to follow up on The Hulk, as he had left behind a Hulk phone number with a Slab employee.
          The problem? Seems The Hulk had a coupon for a discount ice cream cake. Seems the photo of the ice cream cake on the coupon did not match the one they tried to sell him in the store. So he had gone berserk.
          I advised my companions that we should leave, in case The Hulk came back with a gun, to wipe out all in the vicinity.
          This is how you have to think in modern America on Valentine’s Day.
          For more LTSEWH’s, watch this space.

cdavis writes:

"Some of you have asked why I continue to write the Less Than Satisfying
Encounters With Humanity column after so many years. "

Screw 'em. This is my favorite comic-relief feature on Internet, TV, radio,
print, or in any other outlet of human expression. I haven't lived in Los
Angeles for years and apparently I still need the therapy.

When I type '' into my Internet-browser's URL window I always hope
to see that unique acronym and am somewhat disappointed to see opera or
classical music references which I, alas, do not comprehend.

Susanne writes:

My dear man,

You have won yourself a new fan.

I've seen your comments on Facebook, but having read your column and
nearly spit out my morning coffee several times, I have become a bona
fide admirer.

Thank you for your observations, keen and biting wit, and pithy turns
of phrase.

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