Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wokie, Talkie

As I approached the tag agency, I should have seen the signs. Renewing your tag is a fairly routine if not mundane task. But being that I also work in the public sector, I’m aware that certain employees can (how shall I put it) unfairly assume that everyone knows the ins and outs of their 9 to 5. So I spent an extra five minutes in the car to prep for an encounter with someone bearing all the warmth and sympathy of Nick Burns. I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Approaching the door, I remembered that they didn’t accept credit cards. Strike one. Scratch that, they take Discover. Really? Does anybody carry Discover? But my saving grace was the mental note I made last year that most tag agencies have an ATM. Which make them slightly less dirty than gas stations in my book, but I digress.

The minute I stepped in the door, Hawkeye shot a beckoning look at me from the gap in the 70s era wood paneling and the ripped and curling tax notices circa the Great Depression. If the state hadn’t prioritized the upkeep of their lobbies, then the same was probably true of their employees’ salaries. Strike two. My insurance verification in hand, Hawkeye thrust her hand out to me in “gimme” fashion. Another step in and I realized she was cradling the phone between ear and shoulder, so what was initially perceived to be enthusiasm was revealed to be impatience. A customer? Not another one of these…

She wagged her hand at me like a phone-bound mother petitioning her toddler for the dangerous toy he had no business handling. I quickly motioned toward the ATM, not wanting to audibly disturb what was clearly a matter of life and death.

“Nah wah,” she mumbled.
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
“ZZzzzzzznot WOR-KIN.” I had never witnessed a lazier display of the English language. Or a more efficient display of laziness for that matter.
“Ok, I guess I’ll go find a working AT—“ I hadn’t even finished talking before she waved me off and resumed what I’m sure was an enlightening discourse on the judiciary loopholes her boyfriend continues to slip through.

Not wanting to waste any more of my 30 minute lunch, I decided to head next door to the culinary delight that is Hot Wok. Admittedly, it is one of my favorite lunch spots, but I had been on a several month hiatus for no particular reason. One foot in the door and I was greeted with the aromas of duck sauce and peanut oil, which was preferable to the cigarettes and despair I had endured earlier.

“Long time no see.”
“I know, it’s been a while.”
“You want Chicken Mixed Vegetable?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll go with the regular.”
“With 2 cokes?”
“Yup, just like always.”
“That’ll be $5.70”
*3 minutes later*
“Here you go, come back see us more often.”
“You bet your sweet leeks I will.”

It was that moment that made me reconsider my stance on immigration policy. I realized that I would much rather suffer hours of Engrish and failed attempts at subject-verb agreement than have to deal with Susan B. Apathy. How is it that someone from another country can come to the states and be so industrious and happy with minimal job security, while some U.S.-borns brandish their slothfulness like it was secured in the Bill of Rights? Like it’s as American as apple pie? I can just hear our forefathers now… Life, liberty and the pursuit of… not a damn thing, man. I propose that Congress consider an emigration policy. The particulars I haven’t ironed out yet, but it would operate on a type of rewards system. If you work hard, you get to stay in the country. If not, hello Jakarta.

Mam, I realize that the first thing to touch you and your afterbirth was U.S. soil, and you have accordingly developed an inflated sense of worth. But it appears that your affinity for naught but spider solitaire will serve you best in the Republic of Chad. Yeah, they’re in need of someone to swat flies off of the eyeballs of children and based on your work history, and we’re being flexible here with our definition of work, you’d be a perfect fit. Your citizenship is considered to be on probation, so let’s put on a good face and act like we’re happy to be here! Not doing so will result in further sequestering in new and exciting locales, all of which will strain your definition of “bathroom facilities.”

Friday, April 25, 2008

Breath Cancer Awareness

I now know that God hates me. This theological certainty was made manifest when I had to endure a 45 minute car ride with the 2008 winner of the Miss Worst Breath in the Cosmos pageant. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call her Halle. Halle Tosis. And ladies and gentlemen, it was bad. I’m not talking about your basic run of the mill self-consciousness due to post-lunch breath. This brand of stank had its origins in the gut, which raised an eyebrow as to the true business end of a colonoscopy. And unfortunately, Halle’s degree of rankosity was matched only by her penchant for chattiness.

Equally horrifying was the fact that she was (or appeared to be) completely oblivious to my mortal peril. Completely unaware of a mouth so dirty that even Orbits couldn’t clean it up. I’m talking about breath that could contaminate formaldehyde. No, this was an evil that refused to be exorcised despite the aid of a young priest and an old priest. I had half a mind to send her unclean self to New York in the slim hopes that she would touch the pope’s garment.

The seemingly endless drive threw me into a state of paranoia. I continually glanced at the side view mirrors, half expecting to see a train of black SUVs that would whisk us away to some abandoned warehouse. After subsequent hours of waterboarding and ruinous questioning, they would still fail to see that I was unintentionally trafficking WMDs. Biological warfare notwithstanding, somehow I think we were more inclined to tip off the Ghost Hunters. And maybe it was just the way she looked at me, but I’m pretty sure she’s housing the Smoky Monster from LOST.

Despite the limited oxygen supply, I clearly surmised that this abomination was not something that the human body would just let happen. An olfactory fuss of this magnitude had to be actively pursued to create such a visceral revulsion in all five senses. So I present to you a proposed To-Do list for a day in the life of an ass-mouth:

  • Wake up. Why waste your morning BM? Make a turd smoothie.
  • Go to hair appointment. Get a perm. You hate it, so shave it off, set it on fire and consume the evidence.
  • Turn compost pile. Keep hands germ free by using your mouth.
  • Have a mid morning snack of Feces Pieces.
  • Clean up local swamp by skimming pollutants off the surface with open mouth.
  • Make out with Courtney Love.
  • Indulge in your favorite chewy snack, zombie fetuses.
  • Alleviate troublesome allergies with several breathing treatments of donkey farts.
  • Return the favor by licking your pug’s open wounds.
  • Head to Hunan’s for your favorite lunch, the pu pu platter.
  • Avoid city fines by draining your stagnant backyard pond with a siphon.
  • Remove hair clogs from sink with teeth.
  • Tide yourself over with a gym sock sandwich.
  • Conserve water by cleaning out public ashtrays with saliva.
  • Celebrate Earth Day by consuming hot garbage from the dump.
  • Transform taxidermy field by disemboweling roadkill with innovative “balloon blowing” technique.
  • Get taste of Courtney Love out of your mouth with urinal cake.
  • Prepare romantic dinner of seared beef butthole with cheesy smegma risotto, sautéed toenails and stinkbugs, boiled quarters, and a refreshing pitcher of iced sweat.
  • Relax from a hard day’s work with a vodka and turpentine.
  • Brush teeth with pigeon droppings, rinse with baby spit-up, and gargle with dog piss before turning in for the night.

But all is not lost, Halle. The addition of a lisp, while initially horrifying, could only result in a lucrative paint-stripping enterprise. We’ll call it AerASSol Conglomerate. And I hear that the Alien movie franchise is always looking to increase the realism of their acidic spit. While I’m thinking about it, I’m going to submit your name to HGTV as a guest expert on antiquing furniture, since you have what many have come to call “The Anti-Midas Touch.” You also have a potentially bright future in the field of sandblasting. The erosive quality of your simple "Hello"s has enough pressure to carve text into headstones. And let's face it, that'd be an ironic albeit small consolation to the world for all those you've sent to an early grave.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Bunch of Moist, Yummy Caca

Every January, the American Dialect Society elects a Word of the Year. Most of the time, nominees have emerged out of pop culture and are thereby confirmed and inducted into the vernacular. Past winners include plutoed, truthiness, purple state, and metrosexual. If we as Americans are so eager to expand our vocabulary, I propose that we also trim the fat. There are parts of speech which, whether inherently deplorable or due to their frequent and vile employ, must be vetoed… excuse me, plutoed. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a wake-up call to the atrocities now ravaging the English language not to mention my eardrums.

1. “Unch” words

Lunch, munch, crunch, hunch, bunch, punch, brunch, scrunchy

Ladies, you just might get a punch to the face for every time I have to hear about you losing your scrunchie (or is it scrunchy?). Or if I have to hear you chewing your Crunch 'N Munch. You make me want to lose my lunch.

2. “My” words

Yummy, gummy, crumby, rummy, scummy, tummy, shimmy, mummy (sorry British kids)

Yummy in the tummy could be just about the worst thing you could ever say out loud.

3. “Double consonant, L” words

Supple, nipple, dapple, apple, bobble, bubble, kibble, nibble, goggle, giggle, juggle, jiggle, wiggle, diddle, piddle, waddle, muddle, noodle, puddle, doodle, griddle, drizzle, kettle, scuttle, whittle, trickle, knuckle, chuckle

Head over to Google (also painful to say), search for The Wiggles and this is what you'll see:

Could there be a more disgusting and fitting name for an all men, children's entertainment group? Yeah, The Fuggles.

4. Onomatopoeia

I blame comics, Adam West and Wham! Nothing bugs me more than having to figure out how to transcribe or explain some random noise to my mechanic. “No, it was more like a THWIPP-RIP-RIP-RIP… GESHUGA… Yeah, you’re right. Probably a fan belt.”

5. Words that insinuate something shadier than I intended

Moist. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

6. Caca

No explanation necessary.

7. Words that don’t exist but that people think are cute

Scrumptious, splendiferous, itty-bitty, cutesy-wootsy, teeny-weeny

Don't believe Merriam Webster's lies. Scrumptious and splendiferous are not legitimate words. Could anyone take you seriously if this verbal excrement were to exit your lips? I'm gonna say no. And I will plot your untimely departure from this world if you utter the superlatively putrid scrumdiddlyumptious while in my presence.

All of this linguistic hullabaloo finds its culmination in rancid word combos. For example, yummy cake, jazzy pie, and itty bitty giggles. Ok I'm through. I have to go throw up in my mouth to cover the taste of these unpalatable syllables.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wii Have a Problem

Not too long ago, I walked by a 6-year old that was texting in the movie theater. The objections were all but vomiting out of my mouth: Why do you have a cell phone? Why are you casually operating it in a movie theater? Where are your parents? Why aren't you watching Ratatouille? In that definitive moment, I realized how ridiculous we've become as a civilized people. I'd like to speak with Mr. & Mrs. Can't-Say-No and demand one remotely rational explanation for why a first grader needs a cell phone. Probably because her Sidekick's getting fixed. Could you do me and the rest of society a favor? Send her a text message that says, "Go outside."

Unfortunately this obsession with technology is not limited to our mobile devices. Perhaps you've read recent articles about the immanent possibility of retinal implants. That's right. In your eye. If the surgical procedure itself doesn't turn your stomach, consider the consequences… Sure the scientific advance of a bionic eye would be masked in philanthropy. Sight to the blind and all that. But we know where this is going. Ours is a society where necessity is not necessarily the mother of invention. Superfluous extravagance is. I'd like to thank Xhibit and the boys at GAS for reinforcing the notion that every tricked out Expedition needs no fewer than 23 LCD panels. And 5 of those are so your pets can watch Animal Planet. And here's how this would pan out: As if it isn't enough trouble trying to figure out if strangers at the convenience store are talking to me or to their Bluetooth device, now I have to worry about whether someone's watching the road or watching Oprah. It'll be called the iEye, and it'll also be able to stream all your mp3s directly to your inner ear. All it costs is your soul and a blood sacrifice to Steve Jobs.

Never in a million years did I think that Nintendo would revolutionize physical therapy for seniors. But it's true. In the wake of the Wii's success, an unforeseen result has been the high occurrence of Wii Sports tournaments at nursing homes. We'll call it wiihab. And apparently the geriatrics are lining up for a chance to flex their virtual bowling skills in a low-impact environment. Am I an awful person for wanting to witness this in person? You swing like my dead grandma! Oh wait… And no one needs more ribbing than Nintendo themselves. Let's go to the source: "Wii sounds like 'we', which emphasizes that the console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii." You're right. Apparently language doesn't matter, because Wii has no linguistic antecedent. It looks like it could be the plural form of something, but nothing comes to mind. Let's see… Alumnus, alumni. Cactus, cacti. Virus, virii. Radius, radii. Wus, wii? As in why is this word not pronounced like anything else? Nintendo, you also shoot yourself in the foot when it comes to marketing. You say that the Wii is for everyone. But imagine my reaction if two Japanese men showed up on my doorstep, saying "We would like to play." [awkward silence preceding the door slam]

Friday, April 18, 2008

Anita Fajita

Anyone who's worked in a retail environment can feel for those still under the man's pressure to upsell the customer. My sympathy notwithstanding, the barrage of questions made it increasingly difficult to conceal my growing impatience at the drive-thru. Here's how it went down:

"Hi, welcome to Rosa's. Take your time and order when ready."

"Thanks. I'll have the No. 9 and… a large Coke. And that'll be it.*"

"A beef fajita plate and a large Coke? May I interest you in some chips and salsa or chips and queso?"

"Nah, that's alright.**"

"How about some of our carrot cake, sopapillas or any of our other dessert items?"

"No thank you. That'll be all.***"

"Would you like some additional sauces to go with your beef fajita plate?"

"No, I think that's all that I want.†"

"Can I interest you in some extra flour tortillas for your fresh fajitas? They're fresh too."

"No. Nein. Nyet. Fin. Seacrest out.‡"

*First attempt at finality.
**Slightly amused at the standard proposal.
***Bewildered. Also functions as "Isn't it too early for dessert, b***h?"
†The dagger/cross. As in pause to pray or break into psalm before you make a scene. The thought enters my mind that ordering from the drive-thru may have been Christ's 15th Station of the Cross.
‡Double dagger. Two daggers exit my eyes in unappeasable wrath and fury, aimed at the relentlessly petitioning box. Rosa's would erupt into flames were I to tap into my inner Charlie McGee.
«»Guillemets. Another handy, infrequently-used punctuation mark, apropos of nothing.

The endless offer of more food and drink items sounds completely ridiculous in retrospect. Suppose I was a witless yes-man who caved to any commercial inquiry. Would her brazenness see no end, when my simple lunch order for one miraculously transformed into catering for an impromptu rehearsal dinner? You know ma'am, I came here prepared to just tide myself over until dinner. But now that you've asked, I feel like building up my fat reserves in case humans start hibernating tomorrow.

"Hey Jim, this is Erik. What are you doing right now?... Yeah, right now... You're gonna come over to my place for food, that's what you're gonna do… Yeah, I realize there's nothing on right now… I don't care if you just ate. Look, just… Quit being such a baby and get over here. I've invited the entire office… Yes, Dwight will be here, but you don't have to talk to him… Why? Because I… felt like entertaining all my coworkers… all of a sudden… over the weekend… Look, here's the deal. I went through the drive-thru at Rosa's, and this girl had an affable tone and demeanor… She sounded as if I would crush her hopes and dreams if I said no to the tapas… I don't know, I think they're like taquitos but flatter… No, you're thinking of flautas. Those are fried, but taquitos aren't… They are not the same, douchenozzle... Why are you being such a twat over free food?... You know what, I'll remember this, you ungrateful asshat. Don't even think about calling next time you want to watch GameDay in HD."

The source of my tension here simply lies in an inability to be a jerk. You just can't say, "I DON'T WANT ANYTHING MORE THAN I TELL YOU, SO DON'T ASK!!!" I know it's just her job. And in her defense, how many brainless buffoons does she have to endure each day, who gaze aimlessly at the menu as if it will magically make up their minds for them sometime before the weather turns? But that doesn't make my experience any preferable to being someone's personal doormat. I'm the guy who welcomes the vacuum salesman into my home and apologizes for not having enough dirt on the carpet for his demo. I'll let the telemarketer assault me with her decision tree of prearranged responses, even throwing in an occasional "Oh really?" or "That's interesting." It's my way of letting them know their 9 to 5 isn't completely pointless. And I'd like to think that some bit of kindness plays its part in abating what could be a seething, ready-to-blow sociopath who hides beneath the veneer of a well-rehearsed shtick.