Don’t Call It A Recap…

Especially when recrap would be a much better way to sum up 2020.

And since it’s 2020 we’re talking about, I’m just going to talk about the last two months – really, the last month, outside of an early November mention. The whole year would run 20000 words, I’m sure.

Truth be told, I’m just going to bitch about a few things that broke down and then express a little post-holiday gratitude. This shouldn’t take long,

All in all, I’d summarize 2020 as a year in which if it didn’t break, it probably died.

Here’s a few things that gave it up in the last weeks of the year:

My laptop. As I geared up for NaNoWriMo in early November, my laptop started shitting its pants whenever it stepped off a high curb. I’d planned a non-fiction piece about job searching in my fifties. Fortunately, after a few hours of online tutorials, I was able to coax my laptop back to the land of the continent. That NaNo project, though…never did quite manage the download from brain to laptop. The Silver Fox stood by helpfully – virtually – while also acing his best friend duties by offering up the MacBooks he saw at Costco as a potential solution. I thought about it, even looked at one online in my most frustrated moment, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. The Costco offering was ~$800 and an Air model. In hindsight, that would have layered in what turned out to be unnecessary excuses for not tapping out a NaNo entry this year since the Air just doesn’t have the memory for writing like the Pro does.

New Pros run $1500-2400 and a used one is gettable for around $400. That’s what I did last time I replaced my laptop. I ended up with a refurbished model that was a year newer than my old one, so on balance I’m netting up two years of use…and counting.

After that brush with disaster, it looked like smooth sailing.

This being my life, that didn’t last long. The second and third weeks of December made week one of November look like a snowball next to their avalanche of misery.

Let’s see…

This is probably a clunky segue after my snow analogy, but it started to rain in the second week of December. Hardly a surprise in the PNDub, but I mean it rained. Like, people were walking around with expressions that said, “All that pandemic home improvement we did and we didn’t think to add pontoons?!?”

That type of rain.

I didn’t really notice it outside hearing things like “two inches in the last 36 hours” on the radio.

Until…I came home from running errands one day, took off my shoes, kicked up my feet to watch some Seinfeld for a couple hours and then – when I put my shoes and socks back on so I could go drive, my socks were wet. Flipping over my shoes, I was greeted with the thought, “How long ago did I get these?!?”

Walked the hell out of them, I did.

Off to NikeTown I went.

I was shocked by a couple of things:

First, my new shoes were only $130. I say “only” because that is about what I remember paying for my last few pairs – further reinforcing my suspicion that I haven’t had these last shoes that long. In reality, I recollect it being about 2 1/2 years, so they had more of a life than old Phil and his shareholders would like.

Second, the kid who helped me with my purchase was both unnecessarily tall and flirty. I’m not mad about that last part.

Next, as I rushed to get to the Festivus episode of Seinfeld before Christmas, my TV crapped out on me. It just started shutting off after an hour or two of play. I’d reboot it and it would come back…for a couple days. Then it just stopped powering on altogether. Haven’t been able to revive it yet using the same Internet U continuing education resources I did with my laptop. I might need to actually get someone on the horn to figure it out.

Then again, the other U – as in Universe – might be trying to tell me it’s all for naught. Last night, my final ride was a pick up at Video Only, a local electronics chainlet. While I waited in front for my passenger to emerge, I had prime seating for the TVs playing right inside the door.

Also, now I know that my car will hold a 65″ TV.

But in a fit of mixed messages, the guy wasn’t a tipper, which I’d interpret as the Universe steering me away from a new TV after putting me in front of Video Only’s temptations. And this is a rather significant sign since on top of having to figure out the logistics of getting a large object into a small space (merry Christmas, Diezel) this ride was from the far north end of town – literally, the Oregon border – to the far southeast quadrant of town…over 30 minutes, thanks to an accident on the crosstown. Yeah, by all means, feel free to drag your huge TV away from that scenario with no feeling of gratitude.

Let’s see…laptop, TV, sneakers…what else?

Oh!

Angela. This would be Pat the Patriot’s replacement from last February, who I don’t write about often because she doesn’t spend an average of a week in the shop each month like Pat did. Still, the other day – Christmas Eve – I got in the car to drive a bit and my low tire pressure alarm went off. Looking at the vehicle status screen on the onboard, I saw that the back passenger tire was the issue, but it was only a half PSI off of the next closest pressure level. I chalked that up to the morning being rather colder than the more recent days and planned to monitor it as I drove and fill it when I parked later. Sure enough, as the tire warmed up, the pressure crept up but still needed an eventual top off.

Undaunted, after eight rides, the Universe tossed me another grenade.

I pulled to a stop at a freeway exit and while I waited for the light to change, Angela made a sound I’ve not heard before. Let me tell you, I love the onboard computer, but the alarms are not subtle.

Everything is DEFCON 4.

“Hey, dummy…get gas!” makes the same sound as “Low Tire Pressure”. That’s also the same sound as the warning for low outside temperature…which is triggered at an unalarming and balmy 37 degrees.

However, the sound Angela made at that off ramp made me debate running away from the vehicle. On top of that, I was treated to my dash display and my onboard console display both changing screens to tell me my brake pads needed replacing.

It was rather a stimulation overflow.

Hell, with all that fuss, I’d have thought the wheels had come completely off the vehicle.

Nonetheless, I managed to both proChristinate getting gas and filling the low tire, so when I got in my car later that day – to go searching for wrapping paper, which was harder to find on Christmas Eve than crapping paper was in March – I was treated to a deafening cacophony of alarms that lasted about two blocks.

Sweet Jesus, Germans…calm the hell down.

But, as of Christmas morning, the only alarm still regularly greeting me is the brake pads warning. It is, however, pulling double duty. I hear it when I start the car and again when I switch it off…so, someone is looking out for my C.R.S. Hoorah?

Not for nothing, I check my mail midweek, generally. Last night, for whatever reason, I checked it when I came home.

Yeah…pretty sure that’s a ticket. The city is pretty good about screaming the purpose of its mailings if you pay attention. Sometimes it’s as easy as seeing the bold type that screams “City Arts Tax Statement” and others, it’s just knowing that the mailing address is the County Health Clinic just down the way. Not that I’ve ever gotten a letter from them…

The vagueness of this letter – only a “Response Requested Within Thirty Days” to guide me – made me think “request” was meant to trick me into opening it. Like I’m getting invited to the Mayor’s re-election party or something. And I do remember driving one night and seeing three strobe like flashes out of the corner of my eye. I looked at my dash and saw I was doing low 40s in a 35 MPH zone, but wrote it off as paranoia since I was also on an old state highway versus at an intersection where one usually sees red light cameras.

Heck, I don’t even know if Portland uses photo radar for ticketing. I can’t wait to find out when I open this sometime next July.

Now, just to make sure that you’re not all looking longingly at your own balconies or googling “macrame nooses” – that might just be a Portland thing – remember, I did get a pair of new sneakers out of the ordeal.

Plus, then there’s the actual good things that happened in the last few months, no wait…weeks, no…wait hours of the year. Optimistically, I’m choosing to accept these as net positives despite the fact that the Universe tends toward Lucy behaviors to my Charlie Brown existence.

For instance, when I checked my mail last week, I got a Christmas card from Little Buddy.

I know it’s hokey and completely against my typical on-brand bitterness, but just look at that grandpa playing Santa with his grand baby! It just made me tear up again!

Also mail related: when I checked my mail last night, I found that the City of Seattle had gotten its shit together and sent me some unclaimed money.

Mind you, Portland had theirs resolved weeks ago. Like pre-Thanksgiving. But on the upside, I was expecting $100 and got a check for $123, so…I’m not complaining. Hopefully that maybe-ticket isn’t too much more than that. Actually, if the maybe-ticket turns out to be a not-ticket, that check can go right into my New TV Fund!

The actual bummer here is that I don’t want a New TV Fund. I’d been hoping to have January bills squared away last week so I could maybe splurge on a Peloton-like bike for home. My 2021 non-fiction project is going to be a bit of a redux to my Fitfy blog theme. I figure that will nicely close the loop on my aging series of non-fiction: dating, working and fitness.

Anyway, I digress. Now we’re up to Christmas Day!

I’m not kidding when I – again, against my Early Onset Grumpiness brand – say that seeing my sister and her family of three for the first time this year had me feeling things. My attendance at family Christmas was (secretly) predicated upon the size of the gathering.

Our Thanksgiving had been four – mom, dad, youngest bro and I – from three households. State guidance was no more than six – pass! – from two households – fail! Those guidelines held for Christmas, too.

That said, Christmas was set to be that same group along with the welcome addition of my sister’s family from central Oregon and the unwelcome addition of Black Sheep Bro and his two teenaged sons, whom none of us have ever met.

From Texas.

If the pandemic weren’t a thing, I’d still have “put my foot down” level issues with this occurrence.

After screwing up my courage – not in an alcohol related way – I took my shot with the parents. It’s not that I begrudge them their parental – and grandparental feelings – which I will never experience first hand, but my shot was that Christmas should be a repeat of Thanksgiving.

I know. This is why people sometimes call me the Voice of Treason.

But I figured not saying anything would be the real problem. And I didn’t want the Christmas follow up conversations to be:

People: What did you get for Christmas?

Me: Dead Family. You?

So, I said it.

What I offered was to do a same day drive over and back to drop off and pick up gifts for my sister’s family…on the additional condition that we all *not* miss BSB for another Christmas. As expected, the results were like my favorite joke* and resulted in BSB being cordially disinvited but my sister still coming over.

That suited me fine enough. Although I was chagrined-ish to run into my brother in law and nephew in the drive when I arrived, on their way out to walk the dog. After exchanging greetings and getting a brief update, my brother in law says to me, “Are you going to wear your mask in the house?” I’d completely put it on out of habit before getting out of the car.

At least I’m consistent.

Now, what you should know about my family is that we are terrible Americans. At least as far as Christmas goes. We have a small family. I’d say our “core” census is seven: mom, dad, sis, brother in law, nephew, brother, me. Even adding in what I’d call the extended family – my uncle’s family in Texas and my 98 year old hermit of a grandfather – only adds five to that.

Then there’s BSB trying to add in his brood of three to our numbers now that the wife he basically left the family for has left him. Allegedly for something that comes with a cork in it. I shared a bedroom with the guy growing up, though, and I’d say the wine was a cure and not the cause my BSB would have us believe.

But that’s another blog.

The reason we are bad Americans at Christmas is that we draw names for our gift exchange versus just buying everyone gifts from everyone. However, the upside is that between breakfast and dinner, we only have to open ~7 gifts instead of four or five dozen, so there’s very little disruption to our holiday feeding frenzy.

On top of that, we make lists. Whoever draws our names basically has a cheat sheet. My youngest brother, as I gather – having not seen his list, even put down websites. That guy came to Thanksgiving prepared!

Me? I came to Thanksgiving oblivious. When I learned the routine for this year, I was stuck completely in “What the fuck do I want?!?” mode.

I vamped my way through my list of 3-5 things before coming up with something useful:

1) Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice

2) Skateboard

Here’s the explanation of those requests. Really, though, I hoped I didn’t get those items because I’m old and hips are expensive.

3) This Tee

And then my brain kicked into gear.

4) An InstaPot.

There had been an InstaPot at last year’s Christmas, but it was a White Elephant style exchange and it got stolen by mom. But I loved the Brady Bunch Inspired gift I brought home…

I present to you the real reason 2020 has been such a shit show!

Now, this year’s rules mandated that the gifts be given anonymously – which I missed, so my brother in law knew I was his Santa – so when I opened my gift, I didn’t know who to check for smirkage.

Because it’s me, and I didn’t just happen, I was completely open to my Santa being someone who knew I’d never buy myself an InstaPot and that I was disappointed to not walk with one last Christmas. Heck, I’d gone rogue and bought my nephew a gift card to a sporting goods store and debated putting it in a box with some rocks to weigh it down, so I couldn’t reasonably expect my Santa to not have had the same notion.

But, not knowing who to scrutinize for tells, I was left with opening up the outer box for verification.

Blammo!

Apparently, not only can you find one for $100 – that’s another rule – you can find one that connects to goddamn wifi and can be controlled from your smartphone. What an amazing time to be alive!

I finally found out that my Santa was my sister. When I told her I was worried my list was either entirely gibberish or over the price limit, she gave me a humblebrag about her ability to “find a deal”. Whether that meant she’s a legit Coupon Queen or threw me a bone and bought the only thing on my list that wasn’t snarky, despite having to bend a rule is unclear. I am pretty sure she honestly found a deal. She is good like that.

Now, I just gotta decide what to make and then screw up my courage to do it!

All in all, it’s a year that makes me think “I should have moved into a unit on a higher floor” whenever I stand on my balcony. Luckily, the year is nearly behind us, so I don’t think I will be worrying whether a four story drop would qualify as a landing I could walk away from or not.

Now, for all of you who waited patiently for the *, here’s my favorite joke of all time:

What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic?

Halfway.

Keep in mind, I heard this joke as a pre-teen on the friggin’ Muppet Show. That Fozzy Bear could bring a house down, I tell ya. But four decades later and I’m still carrying his torch!

Don’t Call It A Recap…

Wordsmithery 101

Y’all know I like my portmanteaus. It’s fun…jamming a couple words together for the visual equivalent of an onomatopoeia.

But it’s a numbers game. Volume of effort contributes to ones portmanteau vocabulary. Anyone who spends time around me – whenever that’s allowed – knows that there’s a strong likelihood they will either:

A) witness these efforts in real time

B) hear an occasional successful attempt, followed by me yelling “Boom, Chrisism!”

C) leave the situation not knowing if that will actually land a spot in my portmanteau lexicon or end up a forgotten, situational one-off.

Still, for the standersby I imagine it’s kind of like sex…I enjoy myself. I only hope anyone around me – for the portmanteau efforts – has at least a little fun.

The hazard here it that the success rate is probably closer to 1% than it is to 100%. I leave a wake of broken words.

Case in point, I just tried to mash up “couch” and “slouch”. The result was potentially a brain sprain…which you’d think should also have a portmanteau.

But the process doesn’t work great with alliterative words.

If you attempt to graft the first letters of one word onto the last letters of another, you’re going to end up with the first word, right?

Couching.

Slouching.

I tried Clouching, but that seemed kind of vague and evoked half-hearted kegels, for whatever reason.

I ended up just hyphenating it to couch-slouching, because I was bleeding from the ears.

So, better luck next time.

Wordsmithery 101

The Red Shirt Diaries: #25

Well, it’s been a minute since I’ve posted under this theme.

Maybe it’s been 100 years, maybe only 9 months. If I’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that time is excruciating relative.

Another interesting thing about 2020 has been how the mentally lethal distractions that inspired this theme – based off of the pre-credit scenes in the original Star Trek, where some extra in a red shirt always seemed to die after beaming down to a strange, new world – have shifted. Before the quarantimes, these mental deaths were always near misses with my own mortality.

Now?

I’m projecting.

Lunch with my parents?

People emerging from lockdown 1.0, unsure of how to navigate life in “the real world” again?

A friend’s small wedding?

Family gathering in Central Oregon for my nephew’s 21st?

Bubble Boy not texting back in a timely manner?

Yeah, they all died at one point or another in my neurotic mess of a brain.

It’s fascinating that my prochristination has me finally getting this out of draft on Thanksgiving Eve. After shaking my initial misgivings about meeting my parents for lunches on their trips into town, I still get a little heebaliscious when thinking about dinner at their house tomorrow.

I overcame my original disease with lunches after just admitting that with the Silver Fox in isolation with his ex-wife about 90 minutes south of Portland, my own isolation was poised to redefine the term lonely. Knowing that I was either at home or driving made me realize that my parents were likely the only people I would actually see intentionally and with any regularity during the lockdown.

Even though I was driving with Lyft ~20 hours a week, I felt like the table between us was buffer enough, since I was completely masked up while I drove people around. Still, it took a few months before we ventured back into hug territory.

Knowing that dinner tomorrow would be just my parents and youngest brother, I agreed to the pandemic indulgence. I still took this past week off from driving, on a doctor’s advice. Right now, I feel like the biggest risk to our meal is a nosey neighbor calling the cops to report our gathering. The Governor has set a 6 people or less from no more than 2 household rule on the day. We will be only 4, but from 3 households. Since the Guv has gone the shocking extra step of encouraging people to report their neighbors if they suspect a violation of these guidelines, I’m thinking maybe I should pick my brother up along the way.

And because my parents are like poster children for great parents, Tuesday evening I start getting texts about coming out tonight to have a special dinner and spend the night.

It’s quite a nostalgic pull from the days when I lived out of state and would fly in early for holidays. But this year, I just can’t get there. I’m missing the rationalization that would make me comfortable spending that much time in their home, potentially exposing them to my city germs.

Also, there’s Myrtle. She’s kind of a situation.

After getting her, I took the advice of friends and family with cats and left her for the night with extra food – with a healthy 50% bump just to be sure – and went to my parents’. Myrtle being Myrtle, I came home to cat puke everywhere – none “fresh” – and a starving cat.

Stupid animal.

The next phase was taking her out with me.

That was an exercise in animal cruelty. She screamed the entire trip out in her cat carrier. Once we arrived, she stayed under the bed the entire visit. Emerging, from what I can tell, only once for some water and to shit on my parents’ hallway carpet.

It’s not easy being her.

So, for many reasons, I demurred on the invite for tonight. Then I woke up with a sore throat today, because that’s just my neurotic brain having fun with me.

But having skipped my nephew’s birthday, dreading the following two weeks and filling my dreams with sole survivor scenarios where my nephew, younger brother and I were the last of our clan, I wanted to go to Thanksgiving dinner.

But now the dreams are back.

COVID has messed up my sleep schedule pretty good. I won’t mix my syzzurp sleep aid with alcohol, so if I drink I’ve resigned myself to bad sleep. But it’s been next level bad these past two weeks. I’ll stay up too late and then get woken up by Myrtle around 9, after logging 4-5 hours. Or, I’ll go to bed around 10 and wake up around 2, wide awake. On the days I can fall back to sleep, it’s usually not until 5 or 6 and then Myrt still wakes me up around 9.

It’s crap.

I think Myrtle just wants the bed. But still, I don’t want to be at my parents’ house with this crap going on and accidentally wake their dogs with my late night meanderings around the house – because then everyone is up.

But I know that part of my recent sleep problems are due to bad dreams. I just want them to remain bad dreams, I don’t need the reality my brain tries selling my unconscious self.

But overall – and I think this is something I need to acknowledge gratefully – no one close to me has died from COVID. Friends of Facebook friends is as close as its come to touching my life in reality. The back of my mind is screaming that I’m due, but I’m shushing it for all I’m worth.

No one got sick from my nephew’s birthday.

No one died after the wedding I dipped on.

There’s been plenty of non-COVID close calls because people forgot how to live after 1.0 ended, but again, nothing in my direct realm.

Then there’s Bubble Boy.

Just so I don’t bury the lead, he’s still alive.

Lil fucker got himself stabbed, though, so it’s not like he’s coming out of this unscathed.

No. I did not do the stabbing. Well, not the literal stabbing. <wink, wink>

Bubble Boy is someone I’ve hooked up with a few times over the years since I moved back to Portland. No, he is not a part of the Dating Into Oblivion blog theme or subsequent book – since we don’t date so much as we mate. He’s not interested in dating and he’s not boyfriend material if he were. But he’s a hot little nugget of a man, I’ll tell you that.

So when lockdown hit and he was up to meet, I decided – after the first three months – to go for it. It took me that long to rationalize a guy in his early 30s having the discipline to isolate or take reasonable precautions during a pandemic.

Sure enough, we start connecting a couple times a month versus our every month or two pre-lockdown rhythm. Then he goes quiet in August. After one missed assignation and a couple unreturned texts, I arrive expeditiously at the obvious conclusion.

Dead.

Then I spend a week re-isolating, assuming – irrationally, I know – that he is in hospital or dead from COVID and that I’ve been exposed, symptoms lacking be damned. Also 1000% not surprised that this might have been the case that my psyche is trying to make to me.

When he finally blips back onto the radar, my reaction to learning he’d been in hospital was “Naturally” and to mentally pat myself on the back. And to be relieved he survived.

After he misses a couple more text replies and another “date” with the explanation that he’d been back in hospital, I ask if he’s sure he should be making plans to meet.

Oh, yeah. I’m fine, my stitches just keep getting infected is all.

Oh, okaaaay.

But, c’mon. You just know that I had to demand an explanation after that overshare.

Stabbed.

“Oh, is that all?” – Me.  Really, it’s so not shocking I ended up alone.

Sure enough, desperate times did indeed breed desperate measures and he’d been mugged one night on his way home. I didn’t press for details, rather assuming it was from something acceptable like essential work.

Plus, I’m enough of a Portlander to know that we are a stabby lot.

You think I’m kidding.

Poorly, by the way. His attacker stabbed him in the collarbone. Of all the…I mean, I’ve never stabbed anyone, but I think I could do so without my blade bouncing off a collarbone, FFS. Although, admittedly on his 5’3″ self, I’d have to work to get down to gut level and avoid ribs and whatnot.

Ok, I’ve clearly put too much thought into that.

But that’s kind of the point of The Red Shirt Diaries – an overactive and macabre imagination.

To redeem myself, when we did successfully meet up post-stabbing and he interrupted the usual commotion involved in our involvement with a caution to be careful of his stitches, I replied by pushing his face deeper into the mattress with one hand, telling him this was his idea and smacking his ass with my other hand.

My little freaky-deaky f*ckbuddy seemed to rather enjoy that. But I also think he knows me well enough to know that I was, indeed, more careful of his stitches after that.

So…one more day to get through and then a couple weeks of what I know will be a neurotic red shirt-esque death watch and hopefully I can sail into the new year with a still-full compliment of friends and family, despite my relatively empty quarantine bubble.

But let’s face it, this being my life, you just have to know that I’d be the one to die of COVID in my circle. How I can’t get there with the people actually in my bubble probably goes back to being raised by great parents who taught me to be concerned for others…

The Red Shirt Diaries: #25

The Now Normal

Maybe this is just me and my pessimistic dark minded nature. But I heard someone talking about wearing masks yesterday and this notion just snapped into my mind.

Sure, it could easily have been the 1000th time I’ve overheard people discussing pandemic restrictions and referring to them as The New Normal. This time, though, instead of mentally nodding my head in approval of someone “getting it”, alarms went off in my mind.

I saw visions of people relaxing into “life as usual” routines from their pre-pandemic lives because they deigned to wear a mask and social distance. I saw COVID Circles – which I’m suddenly wondering why no one thought to nickname them COVID Covens or some derivative – carelessly growing in size.

All because I know how people get. As a lifelong observer of people, I’ve seen the behavior time and again. Once people accept a new reality or process as normal, they relax into it.

Think about a new relationship or the last procedural change you experienced at work…yeah, let’s go with those. Obviously, I have no current subject matter expertise in either the business or relationship arenas, but I’m kind of a know-it-all in both areas after 30+ years of experience in both…unless someone wants to tell me that people have changed their base behaviors lately.

For the better.

So, work-from-homers, how long did it take for you to change your dress code habits for work to the business mullet model once you went to WFH status? When you have a video call are you putting on a business appropriate top while keeping things casual below the belt?

And you daters and new cohabitors…how long into the shituation – er…relationshit…no, I can do this – relationship were you before the first glimpses of routine showed up? Or the first argument about taking the other for granted?

It’s just what people do. Maybe they embrace a change. Perhaps they resist it initially. But either way, once the newness wears off, we relax. Often in ways that are deleterious you the situation…at least, that’s my observation. And it’s not that every instance that relaxing into it is bad, sometimes there are organic improvements. Things can just get better once we overcome the resistance and start behaving with acceptance.

But in matters of public health and wellness, relying on hope that that is the outcome seems capricious.

A) the group is just too large to assume compliance, even if the anti-maskers stop fighting the yet-to-be-made national mandate. You know there will be dick-nosers out there walking around, flashing people. Not me, I am loving the cover my mask gives me for my aged nose hair shituation. If only it were winter and earmuffs were appropriate, I’d be in a state of follicular betrayal through migration heaven.

And, B) you know that natural post-acceptance relaxation is going to introduce selfishly negative variables like I listed above versus positive benefits through adherence.

For those reasons, I think people saying “The New Normal” should be corrected to say “The Now Normal”.

I think we’ll be wearing masks until next summer. That’s my conservative estimate. But I don’t think we’ll be wearing masks consistently five years from now. Sure, maybe we’ll see a positive shift in behaviors to where when people get the sniffles, they pop on a mask out of consideration of those around them.

Y’know, like people in Gina.

Given America these days, it seems more likely that entire COVID Covens will end up on trial for murdering one of their own because one of them had an allergy attack. I can see it now: The COVID Panic defense.

But if I have to include a potential positive, I’d say that if we can accept things as Now Normals, maybe that allows the American culture to grow into something more cohesive and less resistant to change. Sure, we’ll always have the overcorrecters that horde supplies and lock themselves away in hermit mode and dick nosers that only manage to comply in spirit on the periphery, but the majority of us will be in the center, working together for the greater good…like a good bell curve. Instead of America today where the country seems like a dodgeball field with no one in the center at all.

So, yeah…how about we shoot for that?

The Now Normal.

I dunno. Maybe everyone conscientiously wearing masks got there before me and kept the whole Now Normal notion to themselves…

The Now Normal

Of Course, *I’m* The Bastard

I own it, but don’t think I wear that label with pride. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know my triggers and how to avoid them.

It’s not all that hard. Try to behave like a decent human being, try to be considerate of others, have a bit of integrity…pretty low bar shit.

It’s that try business that both makes these criteria easy and challenging. And a bit forgiving at the same time.

I never said I wasn’t complex – but still, when there’s wiggle room, how hard does one have to try to remain on the wrong side of grumpy old Xtopher?

And if you’re going to put any effort into a relationship with me…how bad at effort do you have to be to end up remaining on that side of me?

Enter – or re-enter in this case – Black Sheep Brother. If you haven’t read about him, try looking for the black story, er, back story. Seriously, I just did and failed.

Long story short, Black Sheep Bro bailed on the family because he needed some time away. This was maybe 2005-ish. I was still with Sacha, so maybe it was even earlier…2002? I know it was – well, never mind. Short story is already long.

I told him at the time – as he was my best friend. Wow, it just occurred to me that this was pre-Silver Fox! Anyway, he told me he needed a break and I warned him to not just disappear, “Do it right”, I told him, “That way re-entry won’t be a bitch. Or impossible.”

Flash forward to now.

Now.

After I acceded to family pressure to reach out to him after he got married, moved to Shittatle and had a kid. Since we both lived in Seattle, reaching out was the obvious choice – just ask my mom and sister! Hehe.

So I did it. That was three hours of my life I’m not getting back. During that talk, he finally told me “the reason” he needed a break. I apostrophenated – Chrisism – that because the reason defied reason. He said he was disappointed that mom hadn’t been more supportive when he got his DUI.

“I expected more from you”, he said she said.

“But your DUI was years ago”, I said.

“No, the other one”, he replied.

I know I failed to hide my reaction to that, but his excuse still smelled like bullshit. “I think that’s a parent’s job to say stuff like that”, I tried.

It all ended with him showing me he had a full deck of victim cards, but at least I tried.

Flash forward to 2013-ish and he’s moved to Texas with his wife and now two kids. To be near his wife’s family.

In their state of bliss, they both take turns drunk dialing me to talk about how awesome they are. The wife trying to back channel a relationship for BSB and his family, for their kids.

Black Sheep Bro slurring out conditions the family must accept in order to be rewarded with the presence of him and his progeny. Your basic shit show. Now, he’s laying out conditions like “As long as I don’t have to be around That Man“, which genuinely confused me. Of course, I asked, got no clarification and eventually started guessing. For my effort, I was rewarded with a “He knows what’s he did” when I guessed he’d been referring to our father.

For the record, I think both of my parents are pretty damn awesome, so he’s partying alone in this Blame Game.

I also pointed out that last time he laid the blame for his abandoning the family at mom’s feet. I also told him that conditional returns were not something I was going to condone.

Apparently, he doesn’t need that kind of negativity in his life. I’m a real buzz kill, I know.

But since then, I’ve not heard boo from him or his wife, even though I’ve been privy to the goings on because mom and his wife are friends on the Facebook. I’ve also managed to deflect suggestions from the family that I reach out to BSB for his fiftieth. That suggestion arose from his wife’s accurately interpreted vaguebooking that his marriage was ending.

I considered myself fortunate to have been able to beg off that chore since I had an outdated number.

Until.

Present day…I get a text from my sis asking if I’d also received a friend request from BSB like her and our youngest brother.

I hadn’t actually. I chalked this up to our last conversation and noted my surprise that he’d not blacked it out. But I also was only manufacturing any offense I presented because over the years I’ve been friended and unfriended by both him and his wife multiple times and received vague attempts at reaching out from Facebook profiles with fake names and no pictures – all claiming to be Black Sheep Bro.

If I wanted to chat with faceless blank profiles, I’d spend my time on Grindr.

But of course, my friend request came in a day or two after everyone else’s. And goddamnit, I wrestled with it – even while entertaining myself that he’d cared enough about me to do something petty like ask for my friendship last.

Me being me, though, I found a way to be actually – and in my mind, rightfully – bothered. I was offended that after all the water under the bridge we’ve had, he just sends a friend request.

That’s all.

No nothing else.

I didn’t know what to do with that. For a while, I leaned toward just accepting it without comment. How passive-aggressive of me. Realistically, I rationalized, this will probably result in him de-friending me yet again, so why not?

But, then around midnight last night, I decided to demand an explanation.

Via Messenger, because two can play the Drunk Dial game – I’m just playing the 2020 version.

Really? Just showing up after all these years and all your vitriol with a “Hey, y’all!”?

You’re not Paula Deen, yo.

Why? Because your wife left you? Now we’re worthy of your attention?

Tell me why you aren’t sticking it where you and I both know I should tell you to. What’s changed? How have you *suddenly* grown? Because all I want when I see this is to groan…I feel bad for you. But not badly enough to sign up for the same BS behaviors you’ve delivered in the past.

And, y’know what? I genuinely felt that he owed me – us, as a family – some goddamned context. To just blithely send out friend requests on the Facebook without it left me vacillating between he felt entitled to our forgiveness and/or that he felt his actions weren’t in need of forgiveness.

Neither option carried any generous feelings with me.

I have to say, his response presented me with a third option that I’d not considered: that he didn’t know how to ask for forgiveness.

In retrospect, it was a fairly obvious option. But the rest of his response left me a little dubious that his rationale wasn’t entitlement all along.

And how would you have me reach out after all these years? I would follow the example you set…if there were one. Yeah I turned to a long lost family relationship in a time of personal adversity. But don’t recall asking you for shit. You’re still the sanctimonious prick aren’t you. And real angry about it apparently. You wanna tee off on someone else just for making an effort? Try a therapist or your ugly cat.

How cute.

Deflection.

Name calling.

Smells like a Trump supporter-level argument to me.

But, to clarify, he’s trying to equate my living in distant parts of the country with his actively departing the family after dropping a blame bomb on mom. Then dad. The reality there, which he’ll not acknowledge since it’s a fact – and we know how Trump Supporter Logic works with facts – is that I still called and took calls from the family. I still came home for holidays.

I was coming to terms with being gay. He was having a mental breakdown in the heart of a well-known river in Egypt.

I think there’s a big difference there.

And he wraps up his indictment argument by shaming me for kicking him while he’s making an effort.

Trying, if you will. And I won’t, as it turns out. If the level of effort he’s willing to put into this after almost two decades is to tap a button that says “Send Friend Request”, then that’s far too little and way too late. Here’s a parting gift for you, Black Sheep Bro, pardon me while I spray liberally.

It makes me sad. And I’m sure it will or could result in awkward family gatherings down the road. But I’ve traveled those roads before, so I know the terrain. One of the things that I said in my texts with my sister was this:

I feel bad for her and dad. Never having been a parent, I can’t imagine how that parental “never give up” thing must feel. Like on one level it’s, “Oh, here we go again” and on the other, “But he’s our son”…so they can’t not sign up for the potential hurt once again. Just in case it pays off this time.

It’s like me and dating, I called it the Lottery of Love.

Maybe this time

I’ve got a good supply of forgiveness. It’s just not endless – even for my brother. If he wants back into my life, it’s not gonna be with spin like saying his relationship with the family is “long lost”.

He abandoned us.

For me, I’ll sprinkle some of my forgiveness on the situation when he’s accountable for his actions. No more “She knows what she did” or “That man” or being offended that I don’t let him piss on my leg yet again while telling me it’s raining.

He’s still my brother, that won’t change. But I’m fine with the present state of our relationship – which he forced upon me – until he does.

If that means I’m the bastard, so be it.

Of Course, *I’m* The Bastard

Dos Peliculas

Here’s the Quarantine Level of procrastination I’ve achieved. I am openly admitting that I can do one thing per day.

Now, don’t think this means I have to decide between showering and eating. I’m factoring those basic activities – that I almost always succeed at on a daily basis, almost – out of the equation. Likewise, involuntary biological functions like breathing and pooping. Although, I had Chipotle today, so let’s put that last one on standby for a bit, eh?

No, these are what you’d call larger scale accomplishments that I’m succeeding at in the singular.

Writing.

Exercising.

Lyfting.

Things that require a chunk of time.

The pisser is that I started the quarantine off with promise.

I exercised consistently every third day for the first month. I took 5+ mile walks around town on my off days. The amount of time I’d put into being at least somewhat physical each day was anywhere from two to four hours, and I felt great. But then I deprioritized exercise – claiming an off week and considering what changes I wanted to put into the routine after my test week. Never went back.

I participated and completed NaNoWriMo’s April writing camp, exceeding the 50k word threshold and getting to within what I’d say is two chapters of completing my first draft on a new novel. I’d easily spend four hours a day considering how uncomfortable my barstools are while tapping out anywhere from 2-5k words each day. I even went into that goal determined to come out of it and go into editing my second non-fiction book, but that has also gone to hell.

I’d drive four days a week, committing to a 10 ride goal and usually spending about four hours, minimum in the car on my drive days. I actually have been focused lately on stretching my driving shifts so I can tweak my week to three days of driving while still achieving my weekly financial goal. That’s been more miss than hit, though. I’ve only hit what would be the revised daily dollar goal twice in the last two weeks. Regardless, though, on days where I actively choose not to write or exercise, I’ll generally make myself drive.

That part isn’t so bad. I’ve finally started making extra principle payments on Angela – the new to me BMW, because cars need names! – and finally bought a router/modem combo so that I can tell Comcast to shove theirs up their ass. If I recall correctly – dicey, I know – they charge either $11 or $14/month to rent theirs. Whichever it is, what I spent on those monthly charges in a year easily amounts to more than I gave Bezos to buy my own. Even if I have to replace my personal modem every year, I’ll save money. However, I’ve had my current Comcast modem for three years. You’d think they’d write it off as paid off at this point.

Bastards.

As a result of this lack of motivation and accomplishment, I’m watching movies that have been buried in my queue for friggin’ ever.

Hardly an accomplishment to offset what I’m not accomplishing. But, here I am – notably dragging you along with me now, dear reader.

Last week I checked two such movies off my list – hence the name of this entry. In Spanish, no less.

The two movies were 2012’s Perks of Being a Wallflower and 2017’s Death of Stalin, both of which I had wanted to see in the theaters when they were out. In each of those instances, I had also failed to motivate myself to accomplishing a simple goal.

I guess in that frame, maybe watching them is an accomplishment to crow about.

Especially Death of Stalin, as it turns out. What an ordeal.

Let me tell you, if you’ve ever felt proud for saving $15 on a movie ticket by not seeing a movie, you know how I feel now. This show had such promise for me. A movie about an actual historical event. During an oppressively and globally sad era, no less. And it was billed as a comedy!

Right up my alley. But then they threw in bonuses like some of my favorite performers – Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Steve Buscemi and the now disgraced Jeffrey Tambor – doing experimental acting by playing real life Russian political players but using essentially their native accents. So, you’d think I’d have loved it.

It was so boring.

I was looking forward to something close to Stooge level neurotic bumbling through these real life occurrences as these actors portrayed Stalin’s closest confidants attempting to manage the situation his death created.

No.

Just like quarantine is two months (and counting) of my life I won’t get back, this was two hours of my life I’d like a do over for.

Here’s hoping The Death of Trump is a much better movie – that can’t be made soon enough. Keep popping those hydrochloroquil pills, champ!

Perks of Being a Wallflower, on the other reel, was a delightful surprise of a movie. Ezra Klein, Emma Watson and Logan Lehrman in basically introductory lead roles for the two males and Emma’s first post-Potter Star turn. I was kind of irked at myself for depriving myself of the experience for nearly a decade. It was truly a movie that I could identify with:

An out gay High School character – representing for me the freedom I didn’t have available to myself in HS.

Small town life in the 90s or early aughts.

Unrequited love.

Basic Anywhere, USA HS angst.

A great soundtrack.

Writing that captured a moment but pulled you into the story – at least for me – as more than an observer.

Oh! And actual mix tapes.

Actually, I plan to watch it again – and not just for the procrastination value of that act.

It was a good example of what procrastination can result in – seeing these two films.

On the one hand, I put off something that I’d wanted to do that resulted in a sense of relief at having deprived myself in the moment.

But on the other hand, the way I felt at having missed Perks for so long…well, it’s giving me something to ruminate on concerning my procrastinatorial (Chrisism) ways.

Getting stuck in my head over that oughta kill a few days…

How about you? Are you still posting pics of bread you baked or the Caldona Coffee you’ve made or are you starting to struggle to keep yourself and your discipline away from the couch these days?

Dos Peliculas

TIL #11: Hyperbole

Maybe this isn’t a Today I Learned so much as it is a Today I Figured Something Out. Yet another thing you old bastards have been keeping from me!

Y’know, those little a-ha! moments. They really are fewer and further between than I’d have figured as a know-it-all kid. As a matter of fact, surrounded as I find myself by such stupid Americans, I’m surprised that there isn’t much more fanfare when it does happen.

Note to self: throw mental parade next time this happens, you earned it.

Like that time I finally got why it’s called a blow job. I’d simply been looking at it from the wrong <ahem> perspective.

Those types of a-ha moments. Or in that particular case, “ah-ah-aaaahhh-ha” moments.

Well, today…there I was, underthinking things when another one* hit me.

When I’m in a funk and spiraling downward, my older and wiser (just ask them, they’ll tell you) friends will tell me

It’s not that bad!

and I’ve always considered those to be words of encouragement. But as another deluge of Headlines-turned-Cautionary-Tales washed over me this morning, it hit me.

A-ha!

They must surely have been silently adding a word in order to not give away the surprise.

It’s not (only) that bad!

It’s worse.

Just wait.

Much, much…worse.

It’s funny, too. As I’ve been aging – involuntarily, obviously – I’ve found myself warning younger people. When they say something that I know (now) to be naive, I’ll whisper conspiratorially

Listen, I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but…

I figure it’s safe, knowing that they likely stopped listening to me when I said the word “listen”, because what could I possibly know, right?

On the other hand, sometimes I like to co-opt my old frenemy Dan Savage’s lil chestnut of wisdom and just push people down a little harder when they say something naive

It gets worse

I really like that one, since I think I mentioned people don’t really listen anyway. I just get my lil chuckle either way. Either because I can tell they didn’t listen and heard what they assumed they would hear or they did hear and…that look!

I don’t give away the surprise. I just leave the warning hanging there, sagely. However, when it finally does happen, I then get to say

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya

I’m just kidding. I don’t really do that.

Oops. Look at me…leaving words out, just like the grumpy old man that I am.

That should have said

I’m (mostly) just kidding

I do say those things, but just for fun.

My fun.

But since I’m old people humor me because I might be dangerous, we all get a good – if not awkward – chuckle.

The reality is that I turn my hyperbole on myself.

For.

Instance.

In the last couple weeks, a couple of my original blog buddies have poked their cute little heads back into the WordPress arena. It’s good to see old friends familiar avatars around this dusty old joint again.

In one of their returns – via comments on one of my blog posts and their blogosphere re-entry blog entry – we discussed the states of affair in his life.

Turns out he’s been having one lately. Or at least a low-key dating experience.

Graduated college.

Job searching.

Put on his – and this turn of phrase of his made me jealous because it’s really funny – COVID-15. But it’s ok, he says, because his beau likes him just the way he is.

Funny. When Myrt barfs on the floor, I clean it up. However, today I also learned that when I barf on the floor…I also clean it up.

Luckily, it was imaginary puke.

Anyway, in one of those moments of self-directed wry hyperbole – dryperbole? Chrisism – I thought to myself

Yeah, yeah…we get it – you’ve got a boyfriend

in faux exasperation – because secretly I’m a big emotional schmuck and it makes me happy when people begin relating.

But I went on to have this whole follow up conversation in my head

Some people just keep these things to themselves instead of blabbing them all over town

I said to myself.

For instance,

I said, mentally touching my pearls.

I like to keep these things to myself when I like a boy. I find that as soon as someone finds out they’re my boyfriend – pffft! – they’re gone.

Meh, wudyagundo – in my head I’m both my worst enemy and my best audience. It’s a bit crowded up there.

But I get a good chuckle out of that.

Anyway, if you ever find me letting hyperbole that you think should probably be silent out for a stroll, don’t be offended…try and enjoy it.

Because it’s probably gonna end up being right.

Yeah, I’m Ouisa.

*I’d just like to clarify, the whole blow job a-ha moment was back before the turn of the century…not recently.

TIL #11: Hyperbole

Social Pushback

I’ve been getting a lot and – I must admit – doing plenty of my own.

My new stance – coming optimistically slow – is to call people being stupid out by calling them – get this – “stupid”.

Person, does that make them mad. My stance to that reaction is undelayed.

Don’t get mad, get smart.

Simple, no?

Unsurprisingly, they’d prefer to not.

Sadly, their preference to not be called stupid while putting no consideration forward to behaving thoughtfully or putting forth a little effort, resulting in an informed opinion is not something I’m willing to consider dear or acceptable because “it’s the best they are capable of” any more.

It’s dangerous.

Thursday’s innocent incompetent suggestion that injecting disinfectant into ones body could be effective in treating Coronavirus is a perfect example. I had to resist explaining how lists and conjunctions worked to someone on the Facebook the other day after he floated the idea that what I heard wasn’t what had been said.

My first reaction wasn’t frustration, surprisingly. It was sadness at how pathetic it must be to share a mind with Trump – as this person must, knowing what he meant by his words in contrast to the rest of us, who only knew what he said.

Side note: that injecting disinfectants into the body isn’t such a crazy notion as it may sound – just a good 75-150 years out of date.

Who knew? Certainly not I.

Seriously, click that link and read the story about the historical use of disinfectants as both a potential cure for maladies like plague to pregnancy to not-being-White-ness.

It actually presents an interesting counter argument to people whose defense of Trump as a president and 2020 candidate is based on inanities like “Biden is an accused sexual predator, too!”

I mean, like basic math wouldn’t teach us to cancel out common denominators.

That argument, I think I’ll call The Lysol Rebuttal.

Here’s the deal – and I could have used this yesterday, when I was sadly left to sarcastically call someone stupid:

Someone was admittedly refusing to vote for either mainstream candidate in November because both were sexual predators. They had floated the idea of writing in their own candidate, but not committed to anything past not voting for either Biden or Trump.

Now, I’m fine with anyone choosing to exercise their right to challenge our two-party democracy.

I’m not fine with them thinking that the right time to do so is six months prior to the General. Nor that the right place to effect change is on a Facebook comment thread.

I really can’t believe it took me this long to decide to just call that type of behavior stupid to its stupid face.

But that they were ok leaving Trump in office for the sole reason that they “thought” voting Biden in would amount only to trading one sexual predator for another.

Here’s where The Lysol Rebuttal comes in.

Just like Lysol – let’s actually call it “Lysol” since Lysol actually provided the douche as birth control product but wasn’t actually the brand of disinfectant used as an internal disinfectant in the 1800s – was used as birth control in the 1920s and 30s, we now know how to use it properly for effective results, making it safe to “use”.

Well, Biden is kind of the same way – whether you believe the allegations or they are actually proved to be true. We know how to “use” him safely.

Right now, as I know it, his accuser (Tara Reade – not Reid – but can you believe the friggin’ coincidence?) claims to have filed a report with the Senate police (I think that’s what I read, who knew that was a thing) in ’93 that cannot be located now. She also says she complained to her boss, Biden’s Admin, who cannot not only recall it, says it never happened.

So, we’re kind of in a he said/she said/then another she said “Oh, no she di-in’t said”.

Meanwhile, Reade just now filed a police report in D.C. about the alleged ’93 assault.

Now.

Not when Biden was put on the ’08 Obama ticket.

Now.

Now it’s a significant barrier to his viability as a public servant. Not when he was only a heartbeat away from the presidency – serving as Veep to the first Black man elected to that office.

Now.

In other meanwhiles, we’ve got the currently sitting sexual predator who was elected (by Electoral College malfunction default, not popular vote, mind you) months after a tape of him bragging about his sexual predator prowess was released in 2016.

That was a result of what I call The Yeahbuts.

“Hey, your guy brags about grabbing women by the pussy and that he could shoot someone on the street in the middle of NYC and get away with it because he’s famous.”

“Yeah, but he’s an outsider, he’ll shake things up. Once he’s elected, he’ll act like a President.”

Ok, how come my yeahbut doesn’t work against Trump now?

Yeahbut, none of that happened – his outsider-ness hasn’t made him more effective and he hasn’t behaved presidentially.

Why are we still talking about him as a candidate? He’s proving daily that he’s harmful today.

The argument against is yeahbut Biden was possibly maybe harmful 27 years ago?

The Lysol Rebuttal.

Personally, anyone who chooses what we know is bad today, can’t see that it’s bad for us or enables it because they think both are equally bad and won’t choose?

Stupid.

It’s like being caught in a house fire in L.A. and choosing to die of smoke inhalation because the air outside is smoggy.

I’m not even considering this chosen course of action of mine as something that will make me unpopular – as if I care about popularity. These people are not folks I want to be popular amongst. But I will attempt to at least choose my words carefully enough to separate stupid thoughts and stupid actions from plain old stupidity.

That’s stupid” is not the same as “you’re stupid”.

There is a difference, not that the subjects will notice, I’m confident of that.

Social Pushback

Weird Accumulations

Do you ever look around your home and think to yourself, “I got some weird shit around here”?

No?

Just me?

I really do doubt I’m alone in this. However, as I have begun looking at my place with a more critical eye, things are jumping out at me.

Not a more critical eye…maybe more of a “What if?” eye.

Y’know…what if I died?

Ok, yeah. I’m pretty sure that one is just me. But the end result is I’m cleaning house a bit. A couple of disclaimers first:

  1. My home exists suspended in the moments following Thanos’ snap. Do not judge my inability to keep up with that level of dusting.
  2. I’ve typically been a purger throughout my fagabond (Chrisism) adult life.
  • That being said, aside from clothes I can no longer fit into nor emotionally part with yet, most of my clutter is just minutia. But I think that’s what will make whoever clears out the physical wake of my existence scratch a hole right into their head.
  • In no particular order, here is my crazy:
  • Random Coinage:
  • I have no idea where some of these are from. Whether I brought them home during my travels or picked them up as loose change without realizing I’d been given foreign currency until the CoinStar rejected it. But I’ve got them if I need them.

    Match Books:

    Some of these have moved with me to multiple residences, if not even multiple states. The Ripples matchbook has been to Florida, Texas, back to Cali, Oregon, Washington and then back to Oregon. They are scattered throughout my home. As a matter of fact, I got those Quark matches in Las Vegas at…Quark’s, the restaurant inside Star Trek: The Experience. I bought a box of them back in…2001? There is a book of Quark’s matches in every room.

    Still.

    Wine Corks:

    Because – duh.

    Keys:

    Three of those are currently in use. Two others are for my Key Buddy.

    I have at least three house keys from former residences as well as three more from people’s homes that I used to be either a Key Buddy for or a dog walking pinch hitter for – or both.

    Nuts & Bolts:

    Ok, I keep these around as both objets as well as mementos. But back in 90s LA, we used to have our own version of the 70s Key Parties. We called them Nut & Bolt Parties and that’s all I’m saying about them.

    Fortune Cookie Fortunes:

    I have no explanation. Other than the obvious:

    Ticket Stubs:

    Hey, the memory is going…

    And…honorable mention – which you may have noticed in a few pics above:

    Fingernail Clippers!

    I don’t have a set in every room, but I think the several I have in random jacket pockets hanging in my closet makes my per room average about 2 – and that’s including my car as a “room”.

    So…what crazy shit do you accumulate?

    Weird Accumulations

    ExPat

    Hopefully, this won’t become a Chronicles of ExPat as was the case with Pat the Patriot. But I made this official yesterday morning

    It’s amazing how asking a business who their Registered Agent is can motivate them to make right a bad shituation.

    I’d complained at Pat’s second and the third Spa Days through this outfit’s webpage – since there was no way to directly contact the GM.

    Both times, I got sales people reaching out to me about coming in to drive cars. The second time, I actually fired a warning shot in response, telling the salesperson my struggle and he replied that he’d printed my email and put it in front of the GM.

    Nothing.

    So I complained through the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection department, thinking that might goose the guy to get involved. Sadly, that only prompted him to push an avalanche of papers – checklists and reports – into the DoJ inbox maintaining Pat’s quality as well as their exhaustive presale due diligence.

    Case closed.

    Until

    Two back-to-back visits later, I get the GM’s email address from my service guy and drop the words lawsuit, overcharged, refund and lost income. Seriously, after a total of 5 weeks in the shop in 6 months, I was missing about $2500 in compensation from Lyft driving. I really thought that would get his attention. It was the largest chunk of what I laid out as about $7700 in what could become my lawsuit against his dealership.

    At the end of the day, who knows what word it was that really prompted him to finally reach out. He claims he never noticed my mention of a lawsuit.

    You can see where the quality performance really starts in this outfit if he’s not capable of reading for retention and picking out little details like that…

    But, here we were, sitting at a table, finally talking. The GM, the new Service Manager and me.

    He spends a lot of time running through his 25 year resume and attesting to the most important thing to him: happy customers.

    I made a lengthy show of calling him either oblivious, stupid or a liar. But our conversation continued.

    In his eagerness to demonstrate his commitment to customer satisfaction, he offered up three paths forward:

    • Let them have another (6th) crack at making Pat whole
    • Refund my extended warranty and repair charges and I can find another service provider to finish easing Pat into their early grave
    • Trade Pat in on a new vehicle
  • Now, you know my grumpy old ass. I countered with a two-point list after telling him Pat was his failure to fix and asking why I should reward him by buying another car from him when this one had been such a disaster.
  • Realizing I’d unwittingly sprung a trap by pointing a conversational arrow at letting them try to fix Pat again, I acquiesced while reminding Hong that there had been an unmentioned fourth option.
  • He promised to get Pat repaired and back on the streets by Friday. The two-day window he’d committed to was perfectly punctuated by the Service Manager’s snapping vertebrae as he reacted to the promise.
  • Great.
  • I take off in my loaner, again…seriously, this was my fourth loaner from them – I hadn’t expected to have a roster of vehicles on my ParkingKitty app when I bought Pat. So I deleted the first couple, but feast your eyes
  • Friday comes around and at lunchtime, I figure I’d best check in before the service guys were off. I message my Service Tech and he replies that the carpet hasn’t dried yet, so they’re going to leave it over the weekend.
  • I ask if they found any other leaks and he says no…then adds
  • The two floor plugs in the back were completely soaked, we resealed them, now the carpet just needs to dry!

  • Pushing down the strangeness of plugs becoming soaked – shouldn’t plugs be made of nonabsorbent material? – water leaking upward through the car’s belly and the desire to ask, “So that’s where the leak was all along?” I failed miserably at managing my sense of helplessness but gathered my thoughts and sent the GM another email. I asked about getting my warranty and prior repairs refunded and then asked about using that credit toward a new vehicle.
  • I was so frustrated and felt completely underwater in this transaction.

    Victimized.

    That’s a tough word – you conjure up images of violence or breaking and entering, not something civilized like transacting a car purchase. But I think it’s a good word. Think back to the financial crisis when people were throwing around terms like “predatory lending”. This was how I felt, like I was the weak prey versus an equal in the transaction.

    Again, I reiterated to him my dis-ease with furthering our professional relationship. A sense that both got worse and evolved into a “who cares, it’s never gonna happen” attitude simultaneously as I researched Pat’s trade in value.

    I was about $3800 upside down on them. I didn’t really see this joker that can’t follow up on an inspection checklist pulling a rabbit out of his hat here.

    Son of a bi…

    He actually did it, dragging me along with him.

    Of course, I sent the email on Friday afternoon and waited about 20 hours for a response, but when it came – well, it didn’t come with half measures.

    And just look at the car.

    It might have been my mention of regretting not going with the Tiguan when I’d been looking. Whatever it was – luck, listening skills (which seemed less likely given his track record with details) – the X3 he put in front of me was definitely speaking my language.

    But it was something he owned at a good enough price to absorb my negative equity into the price of the car. He also took my prior repair and warranty purchase in as a down payment credit.

    All of which means, the deal frigging worked.

    Of course, I made the deal contingent up on Lyft signing off on the car for service. The GM was confident that I’d be getting more lucrative, upgraded rides through LyftLux.

    We’ll see.

    Monday morning, I tootled down to the Lyft Hub for an inspection. They signed right off on it – telling me Portland wasn’t much of a Lux hive, but maybe expect them Friday and Saturday night.

    That tracked.

    But in looking at the Lux ride rates from the driver side, we keep 80% of the drop rate versus 20%. The per mile rate was ~3x more, too, so I am hoping that those special occasion Friday and Saturday night rides come through!

    Regardless, I drove away from my signing meeting thinking, “Welp, this is only gonna cost me one hour of driving more a week than Pat”. As long as I’m able to be driving consistently, an extra hour a week seems pretty manageable…keep your fingers crossed!

    ExPat