Sunday, April 30, 2006

Name Disapproval Update

The Name Disapprover was left speechless on meeting a little boy named 'Pioneer'. What can you say? Perhaps it's not so bad, the Name Disapprover thinks. Maybe the boy's last name is even worse, something like Fairybottom, in which case 'Pioneer' seems mild. In any case, he shrugs, when he grows up he can always change it to Peter or Paul.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Colonel

Never let a day go by without killing something.

The Colonel picks up his gun, and aims his sights at the dove perched up on the telephone wire, and yet, he does not shoot. He's merely adjusting the scope. Nearby, his big black dog roams around the deck, drooling. There''ll be ducks to fetch this weekend.

Someone is always messing with the Colonel. It might be the local government, which wants him to use those blue and green recycle bins. It might be the county, which forces him to fence his dog. It might be the feds, who demand all sorts of taxes and in return fund everything he hates - like health care for needy children,or worker safety, or public roads - those meddling bureaucrats. On his gate there's a sign that warns you - 'dangerous animal'.

He's got no use for roads. That's why he's got a truck, and children are always getting sick, and workers had better look out for themselves. He's got no use for anyone or anything. He's got guns.

One of these days those bumbling fools will realize he was right all along. In the meantime, it's every man for himself. His wife is even meaner than the dog. She's been known to run the neighbors off the road, just because they dare to walk there. A real man wouldn't jump out of the way.

Day after day, the two of them go off to work, and night after night, they come home. No one has ever yet seen them outside of their yard. Inside the house, the curtains stay closed. Nobody knows what goes on in there. No smoke comes out of the chimney in winter - don't they ever get cold? No windows are ever open in summer - don't they ever get hot? Next door there's a deserted old house. Whatever happened to those folks?

Inside the bunker it's quiet. Nobody ever visits. They've got no family or friends. The organization prefers that they remain available, and unattached. You never know when the need will arise, and when it does, they must be prepared. At a moment's notice, the Colonel will jump into action, and save the world. Or at least, he'll get to kill something.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The One Eyed Jack

If you are standing, or sitting, very still, preferably in a place where you are trapped and cannot leave, waiting in line perhaps, or waiting for a plane, or just waiting for something somewhere you wouldn't usually be, and you are not looking around, and you are not suspecting that anything will happen, and you only want to go away from wherever it is you are, and do anything other than whatever it is you are doing, and you sigh, very deeply, and feel sorry for yourself, he will come.

At first it will seem a welcome diversion. He is not too creepy at first. He is probably blonde, and everyone knows that blondes are less likely to be creepy. Somehow people sense these things. He may even have a mustache, but it's so faint you don't even notice it. Later you wonder if it was really there. His voice is soft, and he has a tricky smile. You think it's a smile. Later you wonder if it really was.

The topic of conversation is familiar. All about the waiting. He, too, was waiting for something somewhere he wouldn't usually be, and sighing and feeling sorry for himself, but misery loves company. He might even say that out loud. Before you know it, you have moved along to topics more of interest to him, such as himself, his life, his likes, dislikes, pet peeves and secret pleasures. Already you know too much about him. Already you wish you had done something other than whatever it was you did that made him think he could sidle up next to you and monopolize your attention and get in your face and start yammering away about all sorts of idiotic notions you had no idea real people actually had.

Such as. He has seen unidentified flying objects. He was in the Air Force stationed in Greece and therefore he knows some things he's not at liberty to divulge, and yet divulge he does. Unceasingly. There are secret weapons systems designed to suck the intestines out of cattle. He has seen too much. Republicans cause cancer, but you knew that, didn't you? Custodians of secret wisdom have passed down for generations the fact that Pope Urbane the Eleventh was yes indeed a woman. Ancient Babylonians invented jell-o. He is letting you in on things. He sizes you up to see if you can be trusted. You understand you are now not at liberty to divulge. Dire consequences. That sort of thing. He has seen even more than too much.

Time will lose its meaning. Eternity is something of which you now have first-hand knowledge. The weather may change and day turn into night, but nothing will ever erase the memory of the one eyed Jack, and the lifetime you spent being near him.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Twin Hater

The Twin Hater has any number of phobias and allergies, all of which combine to make every day an adventure. She cannot walk down certain streets. She cannot ride on certain busses. She had better not cross the street from north to south until she has already crossed from west to east. If a man in a crowd has a brown hat, she had better go back the other way. If a woman is holding a child by the hand, she had better not look at the child. Anyone who has been in a coffee shop that day cannot be reasoned with. Anyone with tan boots on is just asking for an appointment with trouble.

Certain numbers cannot be seen or heard, or even written down. Eighty-eight is bad enough, but eighty-seven is just as bad, and only eighty-nine can bring relief. Most numbers involving an eight had better be avoided. A phone number containing an eight cannot be called. An address with same cannot be approached. She will wait at a bakery as long as it takes until a reasonable ticket number is available.

On the left hand side of the street, bad things are likely to happen. On the right hand side of the street, it's certainly sensible to take precautions. Last year several pedestrians were injured in the crosswalk. Fewer were injured when jaywalking. She knows which way is what.

The entire day must begin without events. The first half hour is crucial. The water is just so. The lather, again, just so. The hot tea not too hot. The weather not too cold. The stairway must be clear of any other people. She will wait her turn. The sidewalk can be damp, but there should be no puddles. She should not encounter more than two red lights in a row, but since she can control her pace to some extent, this usually doesn't happen. The tunnel should be noisy and polluted. A bus should roar through each direction. There can be no twins.

There can never be twins. Twins of any kind, but especially identical twins. Especially identical twins wearing the same outfit. Especially old lady identical twins wearing the same plaid outfits and newly coiffed hair. Any kind of twin is enough to ruin the day, but those twins, oh, those horrible twins. On seeing such twins, even if it's just a photo in a magazine ad, she must go home. She cannot work. She cannot shop. She must go home as quickly and directly as possible, and spend the rest of the day hiding under the sheets.

She can never go on vacation. There might be twins.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Fat Bearded Know-It-All

He may not be fat, and he may not have a beard, but he sure does know it all. There is at least one of these in every group in every division in every high tech company, and probably in all other industries as well. The fat bearded know-it-all may not be in charge; in fact, he usually isn't. He may not be the highest paid, and he may not be the most respected, but he is usually the most listened to.

The most listened to, that is, in terms of absolute time. The fat bearded know-it-all typically dominates every discussion. If he doesn't begin it, he ends it, because it's quote orthogonal. If he doesn't end it, he continues it, to make sure his contribution is at least above eighty percent. If that doesn't resolve anything, he takes it "offline", and if he doesn't take it offline, he follows up with a raft of emails. The meeting is never allowed to "rat-hole", unless he is the rat, and it is his hole.

He is the first to arrive at the meeting. He is early, so he can take the best seat in the room - the "man seat". He has a host of biting comments prepared and marshalled for every occasion.

The fat bearded know-it-all has solutions before there are problems. He answers every question before it is posed. He anticipates and forestalls all objections. Did you know, he is a chess master, a tour de force cyclist, a video game master who by the way knows the words to every song by Steely Dan. Nothing escapes his attention. He is the man who would want to be king if it were possible in this day and age.

Let no one else have a say in the matter, and let the matter be closed. If he has done it, it is done. Perceived flaws in his work are merely flaws in your perception. That bug in the software? Purely by design. That question you asked is just the kind of question he never wants to hear again, from anyone. He makes it clear, for the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but all of it belongs to the fat, to the bearded, to the one who knows it all.

The Closeness Resistor

You may approach, but not too close. The Closeness Resistor has a force field around him at all times. He will literally jump in the air if you attempt to cross it, and then his hair will fling about in a wild attempt to cover his face so you can't discern his shock. Someone has broken into the circle.

The Closeness Resistor has, on one or two occasions in the distant past, allowed another to get near him, and has even permitted a touch, albeit just a fingertip, on the shoulder, for a moment. The Resistor pulls away, even takes a step back, when any other contact is threatened.

He cannot wait in line at the drug store - the people are too consolidated there. The supermarket is often accessible, as long as he has a big shopping cart which he can wedge between himself and the next in line. Many other places are simply forbidden; a stadium, for example, or a disco. There are a great number of problems associated with being the Closeness Resistor, technical difficulties, matters of strategy.

Fortunately, he lives in the modern world, where most everyone drives alone in their personal car, where the suburbs provide ample parking, where the huge generic stores are laid out in wide open hallways. It helps when walls and floors are white; this increases the sense of space if not the actuality.

He can eat exclusively on drive-thru, if me must. He can lock his doors and never open them. He can work at home from the comfort of his lazy-boy chair. He has no troubles talking with anyone. The telephone is very handy for that. He does not mind meeting people either, as long as he does not have to shake their hand. He will keep his distance, and maintain it, permanently.

At night, when he lays down to sleep, he rests assured knowing that for now, there is no danger that anyone will approach and attempt to touch him.