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LTSEWH's of mass destruction. . .

by Rip Rense

        Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters With Humanity, or LTSEWH, for um, short. Only the names have been changed or omitted to protect the inchoate. (Note: conversations are approximated from memory.)
        I realize that the awful hemorrhoids elected officials acquire, sitting in those giant leather chairs, make their jobs extra tough. So I forgive L.A. transit officials for not grasping the concept of the "ticket to ride."
        There I was, about to step on to the shiny new "Red Line" subway downtown, headed for Hollywood. Imagine: I had opted to actually take a subway to save time otherwise spent in the car---in Los Angeles! That's what the subways are for, right? Never mind that they have done nothing to de- coagulate the freeways! Never mind that they are ridden mostly by people who can't afford cars in the first place! I was going to singlehandedly prove that the Metro Rail is not a $300-million-per-mile debacle!
        I went to buy a ticket.
        No ticket-taker.
        No kiosk.
        No directions on how to buy a ticket.
        I swiveled my head. . .
        Ah, there they were---four or five ticket machines, each with about thirty people lined up. Damn, I thought, efficiency conquers humanity again! Oh, well. . .I stood in line.
        Then I stood in line some more.
        I also stood in line.
        And after I finished standing in line for a while, I stood in line.
        It seems the machines had gotten fed up with giving change, and were haughtily flashing "EXACT CHANGE ONLY" signs. It seems that few persons in line had exact change, and that those who did were having trouble figuring out what sort of ticket to order. The idiots---it wasn't any harder than doing your own taxes.
        At last, I stepped on to the train, and. . .
        No one took my ticket.
        Nary a conductor, human or humanoid, to be found. Hey, I could have ridden for free! Well, not quite. Turns out the Hemmorhoid Boys had decided to put undercover oper- atives on the trains to catch anyone who doesn't bother to buy a ticket from the petulant machines.

        Imagine the sweat and toil that went into this plan. They probably had to lay in a couple of extra tubes of Prep H to come up with it.
        Somehow, I think monkeys punching coupons would be more efficient.
        By the time I got to Hollywood, I could have driven there and back.
        Usually, one's greatest fear in going to the opera is a soprano the size of Utah, assaying the part of an ingenue or waif. (A hefty assay.) The proverbial operatic fat lady.
        Mine, as it turned out, was in the audience---or rather, about five of them. Rotund Russian hens, cloudy with perfume, weighted down with junk jewelry, seated right behind me. I found them charming enough until the opera began---featuring, coincidentally, two very rotund. . .Russian divas! Relatives? This caused much clucking behind me. Perhaps, I thought, they would lay Faberge eggs. . .
        Soon I was back in the USSR. Strange dipthongs sputtered from fore and aft, from stage and audience. It was "Russian Ark," come to life. The ladies chuckled and cooed, exclaimed and sighed. What were they doing, play-by-play?
        Midway through act two, as far as my patience was concerned, the fat lady sang.
        "Hey! Listen! Do. . .not. . .TALK! Stop! No more!" I said, turning around and making direct eye contact with hen # 1.
        She screwed up her face and bugged her eyes out at me,  in return. For a second, I thought she was going to produce a Faberge.
        I have, for future engagements, learned the Russian for "Putin is a transvestite."
       LTSEWH # 3: AOL HELL
        Call him "Dick."
        I waded through the slimy morass of AOL "menu options" to emerge on a sandy, shady AOL bank where the promise of live human AOL help awaited. In the form of "Dick."
        I politely explained to Dick how AOL "throws me off line" up to 30 or 40 times per day, how e-mail often does not function at all (or sends multiple copies), and how---
        "Some of your complaints are justified and some of your complaints aren't justified," said Dick.
        Seems I was not going to be allowed to finish my explanation. Seems I was in the Court of AOL, Judge Dick presiding.
        "What do you mean, 'justified' or 'unjustified?' What is this, a philosophy lesson?"
        Dick was undeterred by poisoned verbiage. He had been trained. Customers can be testy. . .
        "Now," he said, in a tone a tad condescending for kindergarteners, "what I'm going to explain to you is. . ."
        Dick began lots of his sentences that way, and with "What I'm going to talk about is. . ." And Dick began a lot of sentences. He carried on and on, as per his training, about how much storage space was available on my computer, and about telephone lines, about my modum, my sputum, and possibly the location of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. All interspersed with "What I'm going to explain now is."
        "Excuse me," I said, "Can we just get to solving the problem? I really don't need all of this stuff explained to me. I've been through it before. It's not the problem."
        "This is all part of dealing with your needs as an AOL customer," said Dick (or something like that), who proudly continued reciting memorized patter. Perhaps a supervisor was standing nearby, assessing him, with a nice bucket of fresh fish at the ready.
        Eventually, somewhere between five minutes and a tortoise lifespan, Dick asked me to remove lots of things from my "start-up menu."
        I refused.
        "Dick, this is not the problem. I've had all these things in my start-up menu for years, when there was no problem, and---"
        "Still, I'm going to ask you to remove them---"
        "Dick, I'm not going to do that."
        At this point, the asinine crossed over into the delicious realm of the absurd. Dick invoked "AOL Difficult Customer Speech # 12." That fish must have smelled pretty good.
        "I can tell," he said, "that you're a nice guy."
        Wrong on both counts.
        "In fact," added Dick, "I'll bet you're very successful and accomplished at what you do."
        I considered agreeing with him, and telling him I was a professional chicken-sexer, but I figured he might compliment me further.
        "Look, can we just skip the speeches and deal with the problem here?" I said.
        There followed more back-and-forth, culminating with Dick doing something absolutely remarkable--- something I have never encountered when dealing with customer service at any company, anywhere, anytime.
        He gave me an order.
        "Take those things out of your start-up menu!"
        "Don't give me a command, Dick. Don't tell me what to do. Look, I can't deal with you anymore. I want to deal with a supervisor."
        "I AM a supervisor!"
        Dick had suddenly become inflexible. So to speak.
        I again demanded to speak to someone else, and to make a long story longer, Dick put me on hold twice, finally announcing that he would let me speak to a "customer review board." It was clear to me that the bucket of fresh fish had been removed, even though he had done all his tricks, and he was taking it out on me.
        "Get off the line, ass----," I said, "and give me someone else. Now."
        Instead, he asked  if I wanted to speak to a "customer review board" or "another tekkie." Then he said my language was "inappropriate."
        He was so right. What was I thinking? My language was very inappropriate.

         I promptly made up for it with a string of far more potent descriptors, and hung up.
        LTSEWH, addendum: SCENT-SORY ASSAULT
        I've always had an acute sense of smell. What can I say? I was born in the year of the snake. I can smell a flower shop a block away, and detect coming rain by scent. So for a while, I thought a recent change in the olfactory ambience was just me. Then a friend wrote, asking,
        "Have you noticed that people are no longer chagrined about unleashing noxious emissions in crowds?"
        He was right. If nether eructations were visible, one might think we all live in London. The USA is a veritable carmi-nation. I have stood in lines at post offices, banks, markets, in concerts and churches---only to be nearly suffo- cated.
        I want to blame general rudeness and lack of consideration brought about by myriad stresses; the breakdown of civilized manners in general. . .
        But mostly I blame corn---specifically, the highly methane-inducing "high fructose corn sweetener," which you find injected into almost all prepared food. Have you read about the corn industry lately? It's one of the biggest corporate swine at the international trough---butting aside the sugar industry almost entirely.
        I smell a cornspiracy.

     For more LTSEWH's, watch this space.

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