by RIP RENSE
LTSEWH. . .
(Dec. 15, 2004)
Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters with
Humanity, or LTSEWH for, uh, short. Names have been included when possible and appropriate
in the full interests of humiliation.
LTSEWH # 1: STUPID PET TRICK
I looked up the number of "Katy's Pet
Depot" in the phone book, because: I do not like to be charged by "directory
assistance;" do not like listening to their recordings ("what city and
state?") which are obviously delivered by someone receiving regular Prozac enemas;
and do not like being given incorrect numbers, even though I enjoy meeting new people.
So I looked under "K."
That was my first mistake. No
listing! Yes, dear readers, "Katy's Pet Depot" does exist. I know this because I
stop there several times a week on afternoon constitutionals to entertain the various cats
up for adoption, and exchange ribald stories with the parakeets.
So I switched to the the Yellow Pages, and
there, for reasons best known to science and Homeland Security, it was: "Katy's Pet
Depot." I phoned.
"Barbara's Pet Depot," said a male
"Uh. . .Barbara's Pet Depot? I thought
this was Katy's Pet Depot."
I had immediate visions of wild competition among Pet
Depots everywhere, with turf wars and discount chihuahuas. Maybe Barbara had elbowed Katy
There followed friendly and
protracted explanation by the unnamed male of how Barbara and Katy used to have the same
Pet Depot, or something, and that shared the same number, or something, but now they've
split, or something, and Katy is still listed as Barbara, or something, and they used to
be Siamese twins and had the same barber and enjoyed reruns of "I Love
Lucy". . .
"Would you like the number for Katy's Pet
Depot?" said the friendly male voice, at last.
"Oh, sure, please," I said. "I
was just beginning to doubt such a thing possible."
He gave it to me. I wrote it down. Then he
"By the way, Katy's Pet Depot is now Casey's
Pet Depot. Katy just sold it."
LTSEWH #2: DRIVEN CRAZY
I woke up exhausted after a night of some of
the worst dreams of my life. I mean, they wouldn't put this stuff in Freddy Krueger
movies. My liver must have really been duking it out with my spleen, or something. Never
eat peanut butter before sleeping.
So I decided to forego my semi-daily vigorous
six-mile stomp, which is just a glorified excuse to have a transportingly delicious iced
green tea in Westwood. I couldn't forego the tea, though, so I got in the car.
Now, understand that Westwood is
about two miles from my home. When I walk, it takes me twenty to twenty-five minutes,
depending on how friendly the traffic lights are. Driving takes five.
Or it should.
Without boring out-of-towners with the
particulars of my route, suffice to say that the main artery (Wilshire) was clogged, so I
ducked down to a lesser vein (illegally traversing the Veterans Administration Hospital
grounds in the process), which was also clogged with vehicular plaque. I ducked down to
yet a third vena traffica, only to find. . .another dead duck.
I swore, which triggered a series of chemical
secretions that microscopically increased clogging in my own arteries.
Now, anyone in his or her right mind would have
simply given up and gone home. Anyone who regularly reads this column knows that I
Like a panicked rat in a maze, I
tried an end-run around the choked left-turn lane of Third Coagulated
Artery---intending a U-turn farther south, then a right (you know that game)---but that
didn't work, so I laboriously right-turned my way back to the choked left turn lane,
tragically assuming my spot, tenth in a line of ten. I sat through no more than three
lights to complete the turn.
All told, turning left at this intersection had
taken ten minutes.
At long, absurd, miserable, putrified last I
reached a street that would take me straight to my coveted, glorious green tea, and with a
thrill to rival Columbus's when he spotted Puerto Rico, or whatever it was, I saw Westwood
dead ahead. Dead being the operative term here.
Right lanes were gummed up with cars
stuck behind parallel parkers, and every crosswalk was full of sauntering lunchtime
humanity, making right turns as accessible as Howard Hughes. There was no "right
away" in rightaway.
By the time I reached Westwood, paid $2.50 to
park, it had taken me 35 minutes to travel two miles.
Had I been walking, I'd have beaten myself
Beat myself? Might as well.
LTSEWH # 2: TEAD OFF
Understand that the following is not the worst
thing that has ever happened to me. That would have been when I was accepted into
There I was, in Westwood, ordering my
long-anticipated green tea, which is always a "half-and-half" (half sweet, half
plain) with boba (tapioca "pearls") and a touch of soy milk. (It ain't bad,
folks!) They know me very well in this place, and my order.
"The usual?" said the chipper UCLA
coed behind the counter.
"Oh, you remember? Yes, please."
I mulled repeating the order to
Chipper, just to be safe, but I wanted her to have the satisfaction of remembering
"the usual," as she was obviously taking pride in her work.
"Half and half, right?" she said.
"Right! Good memory."
Well. . .Um. . .But she didn't add the other
parts of the "usual." So just to be safe, I figured I'd better remind her.
"And with just a little soy milk,
"Oh! You want soy milk, too?"
Ah, she had forgotten. Good thing I mentioned
it. Soy milk takes the edge off the tea, you see---very crucial. Well, I figured I might
as well go whole-hog:
"Right. It's a half-and-half, just as you
remembered, but also with a touch of soy milk, and a little boba?"
"Oh! You want boba,
Ah, she'd forgotten that, too. No problem. Good
thing I'd mentioned it. A moment later. . .
"Here you are, sir!"
I took my prized, coveted, 35-minutes-in-the-
goddamn-car-sweated-over transportingly delicious green tea with soymilk and boba
out the door, took a sip, and. . .
All plain. No sweet. She'd added the soy milk
and boba as prompted, but had forgotten the half-and-half part---the one bit of info she
had remembered in the first place.
At least she was chipper.
LTSEWH # 4: LIGHT COMMENT
I was in a rare benign frame of mind, intending
harm toward no bird, bee, flower, or even human. Just strolling along near the Santa
Monica Pier one late and splendid afternoon.
The sun was playing reflection games
with the ocean, sand and sky; the delicious sea-spray-infused air luminscent with golden
sparkly stuff. Sea gulls floated beatifically on lazy updrafts, funky old beachside
apartment buildings sat easily, comfortably, baring not the least hint that their rents
were affordable mostly to lawyers and citizens of Brunei. The sounds of the day were like
music, a light impressionism made of a chirping child chasing pigeons, a burst of laughter
from a nearby bar, hints of oom-pahs from a distant merry-go-round, the grindy
whoosh of a skateboard, the sounds you assign to people too far away to hear.
I felt nothing if not relief to be, at the
moment, freed from constant displays of viciousness, stupidity, misunderstanding, mayhem,
jealousy, avarice. Which is to say, televison.
And then. . .
"Excuse me! Do you have a light?"
She was young---twenties?
thirties?---seated on a low brick wall about twenty yards away. The sun was behind her, so
I couldn't make out detail, but she appeared to be nicely turned out: slacks, P-coat,
medium length auburn hair. I think she was smiling.
Did I have a light? Hmm. Well, yes, I did. We all did! I considered pointing to the sun,
saying "We all have light. We are light. Let there be light!" But I didn't want
to frighten her, so I smiled, shook my head, and continued walking.
And then. . .
"You're f---ing disgusting! Is that the
way you f---ing talk to people who ask you for a f---ing LIGHT?"
Uh. . .huh?
"You f---ing ASSHOLE!"
Oh, yes, I got it. I should have known.
How could I have been so naïve? Advance word had been given out prior to my
appearance: Rense is coming, and he's in a good mood--- take immediate action.
Right. Good thing, too, or I might have been so badly deluded by the serenity of the day
that it could have warped my outlook, long-term, driving me even to feel charity toward
Well, I am not one to let comments slide
without response. It's only polite, after all. I could have addressed the creature thusly:
"What manner of deranged, grunting, slavering troglodyte are you?" or "Long
line at the methadone window?" or just "Menstruating?" But I settled for my
first impulse, still colored by the delicacy of the afternoon:
"I'm sorry for you."
And, actually, I was.
LTSEWH # 5: CHA-CHA CHANGE
I needed change for a parking meter. I walked
to the order window of a place called "Cha-Cha Chicken" in Santa Monica. You can
guess what happened next.
"Hi," I said. "I just need
change for a buck for the parking meter. Can you help me out?"
The fellow on the other side
of the window looked at me with big eyes and said in English not quite too broken to
understand that I needed to "buy something" in order to get change.
"But I'm not hungry," I smiled.
"I don't want any 'Cha-Cha Chicken.' I don't even know how to dance."
The big eyes began to look uneasy. Perhaps my
English was too unbroken for him.
"Look, I shouldn't have to buy something.
That's wrong. You shouldn't do that to people. It's bad public relations."
He looked at another guy
standing near him, and now four big eyes stared back at me nervously.
"It's inhospitable of you," I said
evenly. "It is not in the interests of promoting peace on earth, good will towards
I then realized that Guy No. 2 was carefully
reaching for something out of view. I suspected that it was not a leg, wing, or breast.
Yes, that's correct, he had concluded that I
might be a robber. They hadn't the faintest idea what I was talking about, or why I stood
there, continuing to yap away.
I turned chicken and cha-cha'ed away.
LTSEWH # 6: CELLED OUT
He was fat, he was middle-aged, he had a cell
phone, he was in a movie theater. Bad combination!
It was just before the show.
"I'M HERE AT THE MOVIE THEATER. YEAH. I'M
SITTING IN THE THEATER RIGHT NOW. THE SHOW'S STARTING IN A FEW MINUTES. I DON'T KNOW. .
.YEAH, YOU COULD DO THAT. . .I'M AT THE THEATER."
He was as audible as those deafening
THX sound trailers. The audience was listening. He continued carrying on about
the particulars of his current location.
I couldn't help myself. I had been dozing a
little, elbow on arm of the chair, face propped up on hand. I did not change position.
"I'M SO GLAD!" I boomed. "THANK
YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. IF YOU HAD NOT ANNOUNCED IT LOUDLY ENOUGH FOR
EVERYONE IN THE THEATER TO HEAR, I WOULD NEVER HAVE GUESSED YOU WERE JUST A FEW FEET AWAY.
IT'S QUITE A RELIEF TO KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. PLEASE ANNOUNCE MORE ABOUT YOURSELF VERY SOON.
He said nothing. What a blessing.
For more LTSEWH's, watch this space.
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