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        Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters
With Humanity, or LTSEWH, just to create a ridiculously unpronouncable acronym. All names have been included whenever possible in order to ensure fullest humiliation, though in some cases the more hapless have been spared out of compassion.
          LTSEWH # 1: Carpet Capers
          My cat, Winky, has a criminal brain. No, really. It wasn’t Dr. Frankenstein’s fault. He was given a criminal brain without his knowledge before he put the cat together.
          Winky’s first act as a kitten was to bite me. He asks for food no more than 23 hours per day, wakes me out of any sleep that is particularly pleasurable, beats up his sister all the time, and enjoys throwing up on the white carpet whenever possible. He also use it as toilet paper, but that’s another story.
          This is about the carpet, though, not Winky, or really, it is about the arguably sentient creature I attempted to employ to clean the carpet.
          There I was. . .
          Thumbing through the yellow pages, which was color-appropriate considering the various stains and blotches I was seeking to remove. I quickly came upon a place called “Green Carpet Cleaning.” For a moment I wondered why they only cleaned green carpets, then got the “enviro” angle. Al Gore would be proud! I would have gone with our last company, Bobcat Carpet Cleaning, but my female accomplice’s parents’ wedding rings disappeared from our locked home around the time of their last visit.
          Presently, somone called “Jonathan” sort of half-heartedly told me over the phone that he could not guarantee stain removal, and furnished a half-assed description of the chemicals he uses (whoops---I guess “Green” was just a nice name), adding that he charged $35 a room. Hey, that was half-cheap! I hired him.
          At about 7 a.m. on the morning Green Carpet was supposed to turn mine white again, the phone rang with “Jonathan,” who informed me with a half-sincere apology that he was um, cancelling. Being insane, and a glutton for punishment, and not wishing to pay $350 (as another fine rug-washer quoted me), I rescheduled.
          “But you’re not going to cancel on me again, are you?”
          “No!” said Jonathan flatly.
          If you, the ever-perceptive reader, somehow suspects that he did not keep our new date, well, you are a very, very shrewd and canny person, indeed!
          “Uh. . .” said Jonathan, on the next scheduled appointment a week later, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t realize when I scheduled this that it was Presidents’ Day.”
          There is outrageousness, and there is absurdity. I filed this in the latter category. We were talking about cat puke stains, after all, not open-heart surgery. Besides, I'm a patriot, and I joined him in saluting our greatest leaders.
          “Yeah, yeah, that’s all right,” I lied. “Let’s set it up for tomorrow morning at 9, then, okay?”
          “Okay. Thank you for your patience.”
          My patience? I was touched. So civil of him to acknowledge such a thing! Sigh. Gee, everybody’s allowed to screw up once, right? Or twice.
          Or. . .three times?
          On the following Tuesday morning at 9, which I don't believe was Presidents' Day or Groundhog Day or National Gorilla Suit Day, no one named Jonathan came to clean my carpet. At 9:05, no one with any name at all came to clean my carpet. At 9:15, 9:20, 9:30, many more people did not come to clean my carpet. No one even called to explain why no one came to clean my carpet. At 9:45, I phoned the no one named Jonathan. It went just like this:
          “Hello, this is Jonathan.”
          “This is Rense.”
          “Uh. . .Are you on uh. . .(street name)?”
          “We’re running a little bit late. We’ll be there later.”
          “I need an exact time.”
          “You need an exact time?”
          “Is that unreasonable?”
          (Pause, thinking.)
          “Well, no. . .it isn’t. . .unreasonable. . .”
          Another pause. Apparently, my request had offended him!
          “Look,” I said. “Just forget it. Cancel.”
          This is what eons of evolution have produced, ladies and gentlemen. A specimen of man who does not, will not, cannot keep his word---even when an outsized monetary reward awaits for easy menial labor---and what’s more, who does not care about or recognize his own irresponsibility, or the inconvenience he has caused people who own cats with criminal brains. Jonathans, of course, are everywhere in this, the alleged 21st century. The apparent mutant legacy, I suspect, of "everyone is special" education curricula of the '70's and 80's.
          Now, sometimes I overlook things in the interests of forgiveness---really. More often, I overlook things in the interests of not upsetting myself. But as I said, three times? I mean---four? And without so much as a grunted half-apology? And getting testy about being asked for the dreadful imposition of giving me an exact time when he might show up?
          I frequently hear the voice of my good friend, Paul Corkery, in my head. Says Paul, “Sometimes all you can do is give somebody a bad afternoon.” Or in this case, morning. I phoned Green Carpet back. I was feeling a little green, myself.
          “This is Jonathan.”
          Underwhelming information!
          “Hello. I’m just wondering what goes through your head that you so inconvenience people, without---“
          I’m not pulling your leg, pulling a fast one, pulling a rabbit out of a hat. This is what the boy said, just about word-for-word.
          “Huh? I’m beating up on YOU? You know, I’m a journalist, Jonathan, and I’m going to write about your company and how you do business.”
          At this point, there was nothing left to do but call on the powers of evil, summon the forces of darkness, tap the demon wrath that lives in all of us, especially Republicans. I easily channeled the voice of Beelzebub.
          I will here spare the reader---and my reputation---the exact nature of my pronouncement, which was of such volume as to probably be unrecordable without distortion, even by digital equipment. I will admit that I explained how I had been sick in bed with a very bad cold---true---and had gotten up just to wait for Jonathan. I further admit likening Jonathan to the unwanted processed results of last night’s dinner (several times), then invited him to leave this earth at his earliest convenience and shoot pool with Satan.
          I capped it off by lowering my voice to normal levels and adopting the genial tone of, oh, Alex Trebek:
          “Did you enjoy that, Johnny boy? Now you get out and clean them carpets good, now! Bye!”
          I heard him saying “You’re the sick one,” as I hung up.
          Never should have gotten that cat.
          LTSEWH # 2: Alley Oops
          “Can we take a short-cut up this alley?” asked my redoubtable female advisor, as we walked.
          My instincts said no, as it is an alley behind a medical building (where she as headed for an appointment), with lots of patients and delivery vans in and out. But it was completely empty, it was early morning, and it would save time, so. . .
          How could I have known that the alley was actually a portal to another dimension, a channel to Purgatory, a wormhole regularly traversed by demons, trogladytes, hellhounds?
          Half-way down, two white vans exploded out of nowhere---like something out of Harry Potter---at high speed, oblivious to the fact that our 170 and 120 pounds of flesh and bone, respectively, might not benefit from contact with their thousands of pounds of steel and sheet metal.
          The first one buzzed us and missed by two feet, despite there being plenty of room. My jaw dropped in amazement.
          “Hey,” I yelled. “Watch it!”
          The shaved headed driver, a young fellow of Neanderthal bulk, responded not unexpectedly with a shouted invitation for me to have intimate carnal knowledge of myself.
          Then I saw my redoubtable female advisor (RFA) trip over a speed bump, which would have put her squarely in the path of exploding van number two had she not righted herself. Zoom-zoom, went the van, zipping by again no more than two feet away, paying no attention to pedestrians. I commented:
          “Goddamn jerks!”
          Eloquent? Admittedly, no. Accurate? Admirable for its understatement!
          It was at that point that the Mini-Cooper backed out of a parking space directly at RFA.
          “Hey, man! Watch it!”
          I know, such a pronouncement had proved so effective the first time. . .Luckily, the Mini-Cooper driver’s mini-brain reacted just in mini-time to avoid bumping my RFA.
          Three near collisions in about twenty seconds. I’d had enough.
          “Why don’t you look behind you when you are backing out! Jesus!”
          Because I know that Jesus really wasn't driving, and really doesn’t pay attention, I opted instead to lecture the general vicinity, the walls, the white line, the sky, birdies making nests in soot-choked parking structure gaps. What else could I do?
          “What in hell is wrong with everybody! F--- all humans! F--- them all!”
          Wait a second---I take it back. Jesus---or perhaps some other Divine Controller, seeing as the Man From Galilee's bones have just been discovered---was listening, for he/she/it promptly dispatched a lovely blonde woman in a Volvo to stop her car, stick her head out the window, turn it around like Linda Blair, and respond to my pronouncement:
          “I HOPE YOU DIE!” she yelled.
          This is Santa Monica, people. Only the finest in entertainment, at all times.
          Now, I had done nothing to this woman. I had not forgotten her birthday, neglected her sexual needs, divorced her, seen or even noticed her presence. My denunciation of humanity was generalized, but apparently, not generalized enough for her taste. Or perhaps she was actually, unbeknownst to me, Ambassador of All People. I mean, I could understand her attack had she been, say, one of my old editors or a former girlfriend, or any combination thereof.
          But no, this was a stranger---a person who merely disapproved of my disapproval of my RFA having nearly being run down three times in a row by uncaring, unthinking, bipeds with as much respect for others as Rottweilers. Maybe, I thought, I had intruded on Volvo Blonde’s morning New Age post-yoga epiphany, or had interrupted her concentration during a Sandra Tsing Loh commentary on KPPC. Sandra talks awfully fast, after all.
          “Rest assured,” I yelled back, “that I will someday.”
          “I KNOW YOU WILL!” she spat.
          “Yes, and so will you, madam, and in your case, I hope it happens today."
          Hey, probably saved two minutes by cutting down that alley.
           LTSEWH # 3: Sore at Pharmacy
          I’m not Connie Chung. Which is to say, I do not have it written into my contract that if I have a cold sore on my lip, I don’t have to go to work. (She did, while “working” as a TeeVee Newsmannequin in L.A.) No, I have to face the world, write and edit The Rip Post, complete with hideous bubbly bloody eruption taking up about a square half-inch below my lip.
          And I had the Krakatoa of cold sores. Krakatoa, south of java-hole. I mean, this was such an outbreak, you were waiting for lava. Steam hiss, at least. Tens of thousands of trees would be flattened if this thing blew. All I could think of was Kramer’s line from Seinfeld after he smokes too many cigars: “Look away---I’m hideous!” I would have scared the blind hermit in "Bride of Frankenstein." Herpes. . .no goooooood.
          So I asked my eye doctor for some prescription medication to kill the thing before somebody got hurt. Over-the-counter remedies were like throwing eggs at a tank. Oh, eye doctor? Yes, I had gone to see him about a sty (breaking out all over, am I!), and asked if he could prescribe Zovirax for cold sores. No problem!
          Love that phrase. Nothing more foretells doom.
          Went to a CVS Pharmacy, formerly Sav-On (who ever would have thought one could be nostalgic for the stupid name of a chain drug store?) I'm pretty sure that CVS stands for “Chicken---t Vacuous Suckheads," but don't hold me to it.
          There I was. . .
          Standing at the appointed waiting spot (I could recognize it by the painted footprints on the floor), and watching some ditzy blonde rifling repeatedly through her purse, talking loudly to anyone who would listen about: her friend’s baby, her car accident, her lost keys, her lost credit card, you name it. I steadfastly avoided eye-contact with the poor woman, who seemed to be awaiting a prescription.
          After about ten minutes, she happened to mention to me that she had already been helped. Uhhhh-yup! I forced a smile and hailed a young pharmacist assistant, gave my prescription, and was told it would be “about a half-hour.”
          Just enough time to edify myself with the Enquirer, the Star, and the Weekly World News at the front counter. Jesus Found in Oprah’s Ear!
          I returned to the pharmacy. Apparently, all my fears about inspiring fear and revulsion were unfounded. Here at the "pick up prescription" counter, I inspired nothing whatsoever. I stood, and stood, and stood, and also did a little standing, and occasionally, I stood. The pharmacist yacked with his two assistants, and yucked it up, and swapped fun stories, and they occasionally glanced over at me, but did not respond. Was I so disgusting, so festering in appearance that they feared coming near me? After fully five minutes, I waved.
          “Did you need some help, sir?” said one of the assistants.
          LTSEWH # 4: Sore at Pharmacy, part two
          My cold sore and I watched the assistant stare at the Baghdad blast below my lip as I explained that my prescription was supposed to be ready.
          “Oh,” she said, sounding as if she had just learned the word, "prescription," and hailing the pharmacist, who---
          Brought me a bottle of Zovirax pills.
          “Uh, excuse me,” I said. “I wanted the ointment. Can you give me the ointment, please?"
          “No. That would be against the law,” said the pharmacist, a middle-aged fellow named Alan Wong.
          “Mm-hm. Well, I’ll tell you what. You give me the ointment and I’ll go home and phone the police and have you arrested. How’s that?”
          He stared, uncomprehending, perhaps suspecting an imminent need to notify Homeland Security.
          “Just kidding!" I said. "Why is it against the law?”
          “I’d have to call your doctor to get the prescription changed.”
          “Jesus Christ! Okay, would you be kind enough to phone the doctor?”
          He was. He asked me to come back in the morning. I gritted my teeth, which caused my cold sore to crack and fizz and leak noxious gases, and said I would.
          The next day. . .
          I stood in the CVS Pharmacy footprints once more, this time for ten---I counted ‘em---ten minutes. There was no one else in line, no one else awaiting service. Periodically, Pharmacist Wong and his various assistants glanced at me, but said nothing. Not so much as a “Hi, your cold sore is even more magnificent today!"
          At last, Wong approached. Not so much as a “good morning,” “how are you,” “what’s happenin’, baby?” or “whuzzup?”
          “Here you are,” he said pleasantly, handing me a box containing a tube of Zovirax ointment.
          “Thank you," I said. "By the way, how much is it?”
          Hey, I have $150 to throw around on winos, tennis shoes, DVD's I never watch, cat food, but I don’t have it for a tube of goo that I know for a fact costs the equivalent of seven bucks in France.
          “A hundred and fifty dollars? Damn---no wonder people can’t afford to see doctors. Don’t you have anything smaller?”
          Yes, fans, I am among the millions of U.S. citizens who do not have health insurance. I don’t have $8000 a year to throw around, except on such medical necessities as um, food. (Please donate to The Rip Post at earliest convenience.)
          Pharmacist Wong allowed that there is indeed a smaller tube---why didn’t he get me that in the first place?---then he set about looking for one. There followed a discussion with other pharmacists on hand as to the whereabouts of said smaller tube of Zovirax. After another ten minutes, Wong informed me that they didn’t have one, but one could be had at “another one of our stores”---and then he asked if I could return the next day.
         Hell, by then the cold sore would be gone. Or it might have leveled most of West L.A..
          “Listen,” I said. “I shouldn’t have to go through this. This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t have to come back tomorrow. I shouldn’t have had to come back today. Now tell me what you are going to do to help me."
          To his credit, Wong promptly phoned a couple of other stores and located a “small” tube of Zovirax at a CVS (Chunky Vomit Sputum) in Brentwood, home of the O.J. murders. I thanked him, and asked the price.
          “One hundred twenty-five dollars,” he said.
          “What? You know what? Forget it. Just forget it.”
          Hell, I rather like frightening people, anyway.
          For more LTSEWH's, watch this space.

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