I Pledge Allegiance

…to the trauma caused by the symbol of America’s freedom.

Is it just me or do other people have a little situational PTSD after the abuse our nation’s flag has endured in the last year? Usually, when I see the flag, I feel a swell of pride or nostalgia.

Nostalgia from the years of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag at the start of each school day. Or – also quite timely – from watching opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

Pride from knowing our country’s history and what we’ve grown into in such a relatively short time as a nation.

But after last year…a twinge of shame and a flash of trauma have replaced those more positive associations.

Not that the shame isn’t somewhat warranted as I’ve witnessed the racial equity protests in my hometown over the past 16 months. Or watched as the GOP politicizes teaching truthful history that would reduce the cancer of white nationalism in America from growing as rampantly in future generations.

Knowledge is power.

Whiteness is not.

But the PTSD…after being caught in so many Trump Truck Parades last year, it’s haunting. People still fly various incarnations of the American flag, the Back the Blue flag or the Trump 2020 flag on their trucks as they drive through town. It’s more prevalent in the suburbs than the city proper, but I still see them on the highways close in and feel a sense of insecurity when they pass by. Also in the subs, you’ll find people flying American flags from their homes or fences in dubious proximity to their neighbor’s Black Lives Matter yard signs.

I truly and fearfully believe that it’s the leading ripples of the divisive wave that our Uncivil War will surf in on…

Our diseased national mental health crisis.

Not even the tiny flags that fire trucks – and I saw an inordinate amount of fire trucks while driving this weekend – gave me a swell of pride. I felt a little hope, but nothing that stuck around longer than it took for the fire trucks to pass by.

Honestly, the greatest hope – and I’m loathe to call it hope – I have for our country is for Darwin to throw an epic and devastating win on the board with vaccine deniers over the coming months. And I feel repulsed by the notion that a massive, locally concentrated death toll is what my “hope” is for these Stupid Americans snapping out of the gaslit hold the Svengali-like GOP and church have on their minds.

Help me, Common Sense…you’re my only hope.

I Pledge Allegiance

Update: People Still Dumb

My recent temp assignment ended last Friday. I wasn’t sad about it. Originally, my wrangler told me it was a four week, 9:30-5, Monday-Friday thing.

He knows how I feel about this.

But, having not been on assignment for 16 months, I took it, despite not wanting to commit full-time to anything. My rationale was twofold: first, it’ll change up my pandemic imposed only-driving schtick; and, as an added bonus might serve to get me a future assignment.

Work is about relationships.

Anyway, it turned out that this business was BiPOC and woman-owned, so I felt even better for taking the plunge. Despite the fact that the owner referred to it on day one as a six week assignment.

Once again, sticking it out played into my favor, because after the scope was explained to me – entering eight months of payroll data into QuickBooks – and I was up and running, it seemed like a fine way to go blind pass some time. Once I knew what I was doing, I even asked the owner how many pay periods she reasonably thought I should be able to get through in a day. She replied that two seemed about right…and I figured that I could do two pay periods in about six hours, so suddenly things were looking rather part-time for your favorite grumpopatomus.

Even better was the math suggesting that I’d be done in two week’s time at that pace!

Fear not…it was an interesting two weeks.

I’d drive a little on my way to the office, arriving at 10, well ahead of the owner each of the three times I saw her. Then I’d give a few rides on the way home so I arrived after paid street parking hours – I’m crafty like that. Really, I felt like I was having the best of both worlds, so I was content.

Until…because there’s always another shoe, right?

Oregon lifted nearly all restrictions just before the Fourth of July. The result was that if you weren’t certain where you were, you might think you were in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

Seriously, people were out in such numbers that they were packed to overflowing on the sidewalks. There were some corners where cars had to drive single file through a four lane intersection simply to avoid striking someone.

Because, somehow that would be the driver’s fault.

Anyway, I got a call on one such weekend night here in the Alphabet District to pick someone up a few blocks from my home. The pickup was on 14th at Hoyt, about two blocks from where a freeway exit dumps off about a quarter of the traffic of people coming downtown to party on weekends.

Of course these idiots take their full five minute wait time (and then some) to get down onto the street and into my car. Because when you’re getting picked up on a two lane road that close to a freeway off ramp, why would you concern yourself with minor details like how your lack of readiness impacts dozens of other people while your driver is double-parked in that five minute window?

Speaking of details, the app warns people of the company policy to protect its passengers and drivers – specifically, no one sits in the front seat and everyone wears masks. It pops up every damn time you book a ride.

Twice

Naturally, these considerate people are on a double date and ask if one of them can sit in the front. Since I was already done for the night and so close to home, I figured “Why not?”

I could be the cool mom.

Plus, I’d seen that they were only going to 9th and Couch, so it was going to be a quick ride…four blocks over and five blocks down. They quite probably could have walked there in the amount of time it took me to drive to them. Probably they could have even walked there in the six minutes I ended up waiting for them.

Naturally, once these inconsiderate idiots had piled in and we were underway, I saw that none of them had put on masks. After mentioning it, their leader said he didn’t know that was still a thing – and that they were all vaccinated.

I mentioned the above opportunities for him to have realized that it was, in fact, still a thing. Adding in that vaccinated or not, the safeguards were put in place to protect everyone, not just their privileged asses. But not wanting to harsh their mellow, I mentioned sometimes people miss things, like I had when it took two minutes for me to realize they weren’t wearing masks – while I was also driving.

This snot-nosed little shithead suggested that maybe my app needed updating.

Yeah, because this is my main source of income.

Sure

I was telling him that I was just being polite earlier and what a dumbass he must be for missing two reminders of the policies when we pulled up to the club and the line was around two corners of the block.

Two!

“Have fun!” I yelled as they slammed their car doors. I fully suspect they walked right up to the club entrance, pretending they didn’t notice the line.

Idiots.

Sharing this story with the only person I regularly saw at my temp assignment, I got a lil TMI that turned my amused rage into stunned discomfort. This person was the company admin, a real Jane of all trades.

She mentioned never knowing who was vaccinated and who wasn’t – which gave me an opportunity to praise the diligence with which she managed the temperature log for visitors and also tell her I’d overheard her coworker mention to her that her mother had been on her to get her vaccination done.

Thin walls, small office.

This is where the overshare came in.

I learned that the office manager – who I’d never met – was out for two weeks, isolating after her daughter was contacted about a COVID close call. And that she was also not vaccinated.

Then, this woman whose company I had enjoyed in the office during my assignment volunteers that she also is not vaccinated. That’s three of the six other people in the office. The remainders, I didn’t know whether they were or weren’t, but was surprised to realized that I’d just assumed they were.

Like a fool.

I check in to see if she knew that the black community was disproportionately affected by COVID – and she admits that yes, she knows.

I ask if there’s more truth to the distrust that blacks are reported to have of medical science than I’d given it. While she affirmed that those reports of distrust were true, that wasn’t why she hadn’t gotten her vaccination.

She somehow felt it was important to share that in addition to being late 50s and overweight, she also has diabetes and asthma.

I ran out of fingers to tally her co-morbidities on.

“I prayed about it real hard”, she said earnestly. “I figure if Jesus wants me to get the shot, he’ll put it on my heart and I just haven’t felt that.”

Ok, what the fuck.

You don’t trust doctors because they are exceedingly not black…but the old whitey who lives in the clouds is your trusted authority?

I can see the death certificate now. Cause of Death: FAITH.

It was all I could do to not say what I was thinking…I hope Jesus puts that vaccine on your heart before Mother Nature puts COVID on your lungs.

The next week, the owner calls out sick two days in a row and takes a COVID test the third day. It’s embarrassing how permissive people are when it comes to letting themselves look like fools.

Update: People Still Dumb

The Silence of the Ham

The Silver Fox was up last weekend. We went and ran some errands after coffee on…I want to say Saturday? I could be off a day or two, though. Time is a constant, my memory is not.

Anyway, while we ran his errands, he was multi-tasking by also ignoring my input about paint colors for his bathroom.

Sidebar: He’d already decided on Cable Knit Sweater based off the name alone, since there is some inside joke about that between him, his not-estranged-enough ex-wife and (unbeknownst to them) Taylor Swift.

That being the case, I was entertaining myself. Alternately looking at plants and seagulling him with unwanted opinions about paint he was pretending to consider.

This child was more excited than the Silver Fox

Somewhere between me finding an unusual looking plant and a hand painted planter to kill it in, I shared a story with him about Facebook. Since he’s not on any social media and he wasn’t listening to my opinions, we were basically punishing each other for sport.

The Facebook Story:

An old friend of mine – not as old as the Silver Fox, but “old” as in I’ve known him longer than The Fox…which is really saying something! – had sent me a late night text pointing out my conspicuous absence from Facebook.

The reason I had gone quiet was my own fault. I’d forgotten a major life rule: Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Honorable mention…a Mark Twain quote: Never argue with an idiot, they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

The idiots and stupid Americans people in question were from a Facebook group I’ve been a part of for a few years called DamnedPortlanders. Usually, they post about neighborhood free libraries or new mandalas that appear around neighborhood intersections or cute hidden gardens.

Not this time, though. This time it was about Local Restaurant Chains vs Minimum Wage – read it, it’s a descent into over-educated liberal insanity.

But knowing I was missed caused me to end my Facebook embargo. Then I went in, quit some groups – starting with DamnedPortlanders – and deleted about 15% of my friends. Most of whom were just folks I’d met once or twice while amusing myself at bars, folks I knew only on social media because they were friends of friends or, in about a half dozen cases, guy candy.

As I said, sharing this story was simply an exercise in pyrrhic entertainment…and he didn’t much care. But I got a little humble brag in in the telling, some people miss me when I’m not around.

Subtle, right?

The best part about all this? He decided he also liked the planter I’d discovered and decided to buy one…right before telling me that I couldn’t buy one because between our respective coffees, the gallon of paint and his hand painted planter, we didn’t have enough hands to carry it all home.

I mentally debated arguing – again, just for sport – but decided that this was his errands mission. I could make a separate trip for mine…but I’m telling him they were on sale after I do!

What makes this phenomenon remarkable is how many others are going through similar situations. Just the other morning, I awoke to an IM from a friend that she had deleted both of her blogs and didn’t want me to worry about her silence. It was just because she was tired of the petty backlash she suffered when mentioning friends in her blog posts.

She, like me, used nom de blog plume type masking when mentioning her friends. Unlike me and the epic brand hawk, Sacha, all of her friends seemed to mind – even though very few (if any) people would bother or care to decipher the monikers she used.

Sacha has his own special code name in my phone book…

I’m fortunate, I guess, that I only have Sacha to worry about when I write. It’s entertaining, in a way…watching him bend over backward to convince me that he’s not reading my blog. It’s always some vague “mutual friend” from Facebook that allegedly tells him about a post.

Fun fact: My WordPress hasn’t been tethered to my Facebook page since last August, so when I wrote about him about a month and a half ago and he jumped into a shrill textapalooza with both feet…well, if it walks like a Sacha and lies like a Sacha – it’s a Sacha.

Aside from those stories about overly precious friends and exes, though, I was glad to hear my friend Benjamina espouse the same instinct to cull. Maybe that’s something that being in lockdown for 15 months has instilled in us. After all, if we spent that long incommunicado when distractions were at an all time low and entertainment was at a premium, then I think the onus is on the “friend” to prove they should remain on that less and less important friends list. For my part, if someone was a legit part of my life – usually meaning they were a schoolmate or a past work colleague – they got a pass, even if we didn’t presently interact much on social media. I made a few exceptions for active friends of friends and blog buddies, otherwise I dropped the unfriend hammer. Most embarrassing for the folks who didn’t make the proverbial cut would be the nearly half-dozen friends on my list who have died over the years. They may not have survived life, but they survived the friends list cull of 2021…I don’t want to let go of the last physical tether I have to them.

I was a little more liberal or sparing on Instagram, by comparison. After all, that’s really more of a “follow your interests” environment by design.

Of course, that immediately bit me straight in the ass.

There’s a kid from Glasgow that I know from his blog here on WordPress. He’s self-published several pamphlets books, so we have a couple of similar interests…three, if sexual orientation counts as an interest. Although, at this point in my life, I’d call sexual orientation a disinterest of mine.

I’ve even bought one of his books. $10 for less than 75 pages…that tracks for what too many millennials expect as an ROI for their efforts: minimal effort, maximum return. Conversely, my books are all well over that page count – by magnitudes – and my target price range is $9.99-12.99. I want to deliver bang for my reader’s dollar. And that apostrophe was intentionally placed in the singular possessive, thank you.

He’s actually a late-20s guy, not a kid. Despite his childish behavior in what turned out to be our second to last interaction on social media.

Like I said, it was Instagram. He’s posted a pic to his story with the caption “Time to shave”. In looking at the pic – which was an extreme close up of his chin – I saw some white stubble. I thought it was cute, a soon to be expired twink calling himself out for having white whiskers and playfully responded with “Do I see some white on that stubble?” Then I went to bed, because the PNW and Glasgow are in very different time zones, right?!?

I awoke to see him having made two efforts at responding “Rude” and following them up with “And now it’s deleted”. Then I saw that he’d blocked me.

Ok…wow.

He’s been very vocal about his bouts of anxiety and depression, both on his Instagram and in his blog. As a matter of fact, weeks after the Instagram incident, he posted about exactly that and how COVID exacerbated those conditions for him. And oddly how he’d noticed people coming out of their COVID hibernations with slightly wonky social behaviors – like they’d forgotten how to people during lockdown.

Of course, I completely agreed with him. Which led to our last social media interaction here on WordPress. I just couldn’t help but use the story of how someone had blocked me on social media for incorrectly guessing why they’d post a pic captioned “Time to shave”.

Not only did that story go over his head…

…but he liked it. As in, he completely forgot the entire episode and even reading my comment didn’t trigger his memory that I was describing his own broken behavioral shittiness.

What the literal fuck? I was embarrassed for him. Being so incensed that he not only blocked me, but deleted a post from his own social media. If that wasn’t a memory that stuck in his mind hard enough to recall after being directly reminded of the situation, I’m left to wonder if he wasn’t that offended or if he’s that offended by so many people that he cannot recall who got the block hammer and for what manufactured reason.

He should take a page out of Rainman’s book and keep a list…

Yeah, I went there.

And, for the record, I unfollowed his blog. That was something that actually made me feel bad. For my part, I think if I’m living in a society that it’s incumbent upon me – and each of us – to do our part to lift others up…to help them be better people or have an easier time navigating this life we’re living.

Imagine if that was our collective goal. What a world that would be.

My hope in making this comment to this guy was that he’d read my account of what he’d done and what my intention had been in making my comment on his Instagram story and he’d have an a-ha moment and we could bury the proverbial hatchet.

I thought that the worst case scenario would be that he just blocked me from commenting on future post to his blog. Nowhere in my expected response was that he would be so oblivious as to not even get that my comment was directed at him…and that he’d actually like my comment.

I really didn’t know what to do with that level of cluelessness. Like I said, I unfollowed his blog. I know what they say about the irreparable nature of stupid, but I don’t think he’s stupid.

Naive.

Maybe a little lazy brained…but not stupid.

I had led that horse right up to the water’s edge – not much more I can do, if it dies of dehydration I’m not sticking around to beat its corpse.

In a barely interesting corollary, I’ve noticed a lot more bogus follower activities. Y’know…obviously fake accounts following me.

Mostly on Instagram, but there’s been a few on Facebook, too. And you’ve got to admit, some of their tactics are hits – like the new Instagram follower named progressivevote or the blog followers whose blog descriptions are “alcohol” or “beer”…they know the target audience. That Jane_Vera0116, though. Swing and a really big miss.

But maybe they are relying on the incipient loneliness the past year-plus of lockdowns has created. Or the desperation what I’m imagining to be the obvious unfriending and unfollowing on social media is creating in people who don’t know their value without the “likes” to back it up.

If COVID only made us worse to endure, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t just let the GOP have its way on labeling Climate Change as a hoax…because maybe we aren’t worth saving. Because just as unfixable as stupid is, saving someone or some species that can’t decide it wants to be saved is a fool’s errand for any Samaritans amongst us.

Maybe it’s time this victim of his own self-described savior complex just shuts up and watches the world burn.

Nah…I’m more optimistic than that! I’ll go buy that plant and see if it will stay alive and keep me company.

The Silence of the Ham

Barf, aight.

Ok, admittedly, that possibly makes you work to decipher my post’s meaning.

It’s about a Bar Fight that I found myself unable to avoid last week. Don’t worry, though, I’m neither lover nor fighter, so before you worry…it was a non-physical encounter.

Words only.

Promise.

But seriously, if this type of scenario is how I finally punch the clock on life, someone needs to write the Redshirt Diaries entry on it, okay?!?

This just happened to occur the night after we emerged from Lockdown 3.0 here in Multnomah county. We came out of it on a Friday, but I did my usual drive time from 8-midnight that night because there’s an 80s music show on my local station that I like to listen to.

Plus, bars on weekends…<shudder>. My saying is “I don’t drink with amateurs”; so weekends, St Patrick’s Day, Cinco…all those big drinking holidays, you can find me comfortably situated on my couch.

For Kelly’s Olympian, though…I ventured out on a Saturday.

Solo, of course. But I was still there showing support for my local favorite. Plus, it was a Saturday in the ghost town that is downtown Portland these days, so I figured it would be pretty empty at 9 PM. I figured I’d go in, have a few beers and do a lil video lottery before the mandated 11 PM closing time.

It started off with the best of intentions. I walk in, chit-chat with the two bartenders after ordering my Pallet Jack until one of the other three customers comes up to order something. I make my way back to the video lottery corner of shame lounge area.

It. Is. Packed.

The six machines have been reconfigured in three back-to-back pods to promote social distancing with one two top bar table positioned by one of the pods. Strictly speaking, it’s not perfectly socially distanced, but it’s not usually heavily populated enough to make it that much of a concern.

Saturday night, I was a little uncomfortable, but less so knowing I was two weeks-plus from my second shot. I took a seat at the only free machine and started spinning, removing my mask only to sip. These minor inconveniences aside, I managed to make a little small talk with the two guys chowing down on bar food while a friend of theirs held court on my preferred machine.

“Held court” was too nice a phrase…he was full on bloviating. I hadn’t gotten a good look at him on my way in, because I know what my eyes can do even while I’m policing them. Adding a mask to that situation makes it worse.

And I hadn’t placed the Foghorn Leghorn quality of his voice yet.

You see…I’d run into this blowhard before. I just hadn’t realized it yet.

The last time – as would turn out to be the case this time – he had brought a co-worker with him. Throughout my stay there, he had pretty much bashed this woman into obliteration over work frustrations and stuff. She was pretty much on the defensive the entire evening, apologizing and trying to placate this fat old white guy. From the sounds of it, he’d brought her in on a project with his company and at best seemed disinclined to let her forget his role in her good fortune. Worst case, it sounded like she was outperforming him in their partnership and that was not something he chose to view as a feather in his cap for choosing such a great business partner.

For my part, I endured his booming drawl, letting him off with a few glares he chose to ignore. I was, however ready to say something if the conversation turned to sexual orientation in any way. Not to profile, but she had a very low maintenance haircut, if you get my drift. They also seemed to be in the construction or related type field.

On Saturday, though, as this blowhard started to alienate the other gamblers, I realized that five of the eight people in the lounge were with him.

Co-workers, once again.

The other two players gave up on peace and left. Apparently, I’m not the only person who doesn’t appreciate this guy using our bar as a WeWork.

Figuring I could manage his company for another hour before closing, I changed machines just to be out of the direct path of his sound waves. He’d already hit the ATM once, so I figured he was on the downhill side of his stay, anyway. I decided on the machine right by the ATM to be as out of his way as possible.

A couple of his captives cohorts went out to smoke and never came back. Another drifted out a few moments later for a drink. It was just him, one poor victim and me.

Somehow, he got louder.

Oh, it’s because he was standing right behind me at the ATM. Must be having a bum luck night. And have either higher withdrawal limits than I do or was tapping multiple accounts to finance his evening’s entertainment.

I turned and glared at him as he yelled across the room behind me. In a moment of self-awareness I was surprised he possessed, he realized I had leveled my eye beams at him.

“Oh, sorry”, he mumbled from behind his mask.

“I appreciate that. I just moved to get away from you.”

For whatever reason, he went back to yelling at his co-worker across the room. I went back to my trademark grumpy old man low key seething. Nothing worse than someone who apologizes for something and then keeps doing it.

That’s about when he started in on specific complaints about work. Apparently, he wasn’t getting his therapeutic value from generic bitching.

He pointedly began by reminding his sole remaining hostage that he brought them into the project. That earned him a little fealty.

But not enough, I guess?

Because his next move was to start talking about how hard it was for him, since his company was requiring minority business partners in the contracts they were awarding.

There it is.

Maybe it’s that the other four Latin business partners of his had seemingly permanently decamped to the outdoor seating so they could smoke…or not be around this dickwad, but fealty and deference from one Hispanic man wasn’t cutting the mustard. He’d ordered up five sycophants and was only getting one.

He started going in full bore on the manners in which this last guy – I’m guessing the boss or most senior of the group? – and his company were not delivering. In a fit of “no leg to stand on”-ness, in the 20 minutes I listened to this guy hammer away at this fella, he listed not one specific or actionable criticism.

Just…it’s hard.

Or…there’s so many other companies I would have chosen if I could have.

Nothing specific.

And this poor guy on the receiving end was just vaguely apologizing for equally vague complaints.

Me: You know, I’m not sure how your business is set up, but every organization I’ve ever worked for – as a people manager, mind you – has had private areas for these types of conversations. During business hours, no less!

Foghorn Leghorn <looking stunned>: Why don’t you mind your own business? This doesn’t involve you.

Now, the guy he’s been berating this whole time turns and gives me the most genuine look of relief I think I’ve ever seen. But then turns back to the guy in full suck-up mode. I felt bad.

Me: Since you don’t seem to have an inside voice and we’re barely 10 feet apart, you’re forcing your business on me. It’s non-consensual.

FL: Look, I don’t know what your problem is, we’re just trying to talk.

Me: And I’m just trying to have a few beers and blow a few bucks in peace. But since my complaint wasn’t specific enough for you: I’m tired of listening to you “you people” this poor guy. You’re a racist, I get it. I don’t want to hear it anymore. Shut up or go outside.

FL: <sputters indignantly>

His hostage assures him it’s ok, he understands. I didn’t. I realized that Foghorn was blaring something at me, but I’d been straining to hear what his companion was saying. I wanted to gut check my position, maybe I had heard wrong or blown something out of proportion – but I didn’t think so, I’ve been a victim and know what it sounds like. Foghorn’s victim not saying I misunderstood led me to believe my ears hadn’t deceived me.

Foghorn was still blaring at me about minding my own business. I cut him off.

Me: Look, it’s one thing when it’s an isolated incident, but I know that the last time I saw you here, you were doing pretty much this exact same act with a woman. So let me just say that, as a bystander, your misogynistic and racist bellowing is not ok. If you truly think I’m wrong, have me thrown out.

His co-worker was still in placate mode – although I saw the flash of understanding in his eyes when I pointed out I’d seen this behavior from Foghorn before. He said he was about ready to call it a night, and invited Foghorn to go with. Surprisingly, Foghorn acquiesced.

I breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the next few minutes of peace.

The bartender came back to bus and I could tell he was smirking behind his mask.

“Sorry…I wasn’t trying to cause a scene or start anything. I just couldn’t validate his words with my silence.”

The bartender laughed and told me I wasn’t wrong. It made me wonder how often people in positions like his are put in similar scenarios…and can’t say anything because: customers.

That made me sad. It also clued me into this guy’s possible MO. Taking folks he secretly hates or resents out on his expense account to dress them down for not owning a dick or being non-white away from work. Curious behavior, but one I completely have no trouble believing.

What’s shocking is that none of his victims have complained over his good old boy head. Since I know this was his open tab from how he permissively encouraged the others to get another drink or round while I was present, it would put his actions under the umbrella of any anti-harassment or zero tolerance policies his company has in place. I hope one day this impotent skid mark of a human either gets his comeuppance or (preferably) sees the errors of his actions and makes amends.

Sadly, based on my own past experiences, I doubt either will happen. That’s a barf situation that is anything but aight.

But if you read my blog regularly, you probably saw my call to action at the end of a post a week or two back encouraging everyone to respectfully but firmly stand up and point out an unacceptable behavior from our stupider American country people. Maybe I was more buzzed less respectful than I could have been Saturday, but I am out there stumbling walking the talk.

Barf, aight.

The Fauci Ouchie

This is what my friend, Diezel calls the COVID vaccinations. Somehow, we became vaccination twins: our second shots both lining up on the same day.

I’ll tell you this, on the second day I’m definitely feeling the accuracy of that moniker.

First shot: nothing.

Second shot: well, I’m not sure it’s a legit malaise or my usual “my lazy ass”. I described it to Diezel as feeling like I was taken apart and forced back together.

Overall, completely acceptable side effects 29 hours in.

Which is great news for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which was a certain Bubble Boy with an itch that needed scratching. He had wanted to come over last night and had been trying to set something up since Sunday.

So, actually, he wanted to come over Sunday night.

Or Monday.

Or – please, please, please – Tuesday.

You know a boy is either hard up or sweet on a fat, old man if he’s that persistent. I hear him, though, when he complains about Grindr Gays in particular and asocial media in general – and it leads me to believe it’s the former versus the later.

Last time he’d been over – and keep in mind, this has been going on for about five months, now – he asked what the art in my bathroom was.

Not the painting of someone’s junk!

Fair point…that one is not mine, for the record fairly self-explanatory. He was talking about this one:

You’re kidding! You don’t know who REM is?!?

He was not kidding. It’s just a dumb album poster for a band, I wouldn’t call it art. But it’s something my youngest brother gave me for Christmas in the last century. He was just a kid at the time, and it meant something to me to be included in his gift giving – which came from his allowance and part-time job earnings. So I put it in a cheap little frame, which was all the rage for one’s framing needs at this point in time. It’s hung in every home of mine since.

The funny thing is that Bubble Boy always compliments my music when he’s over. Until now, I just assumed it was a statement of fact, kind of like agreeing that the sky is blue.

To be fair, that last point might be hard for Republicants to follow, since it involves science.

Once I realized he was unfamiliar with REM, I began to wonder if he liked my music like I liked my grandfather’s. Let’s just push that thought down, though, shall we?

Operating under my “Leave ’em better than you found ’em” mantra, I decided to widen his musical palate. To that end, while I was laying on the couch with a tiny and rare headache following my second shot, I decided to train a new Pandora station for his next visit.

What? I didn’t say it had to be an earth shattering improvement. Just better that they were before meeting me. Plus, music is important. It helps people <ahem> come together.

No other way I could have said that was as cringey or fun for me.

Anyway, since I was still feeling pretty good close to the end of his shift, I told him to get it while it’s (reasonably) good and he came over after work.

What? He’s chasing me down remember? I’m good if only for the simple fact that I’m available.

And I’m glad I had him over last night instead of betting on feeling better today than yesterday.

You know what didn’t friggin’ happen while he was here, though?

That damn station didn’t play a single damn REM song during his visit. Mind you, it’s on the third REM song (forth now, as I proofread) since I turned it on and sat down to tap this out.

My home network technology is kind of a jerk.

Ironically, neither Diezel nor I felt the same relief after our second shot as we did following our first doses. In texting with the Silver Fox yesterday afternoon, I shared that I thought my lack of relief was tied to a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop as far as side effects were concerned.

As in, the legends around who experiences side effects and why had me feeling rather sure that I’d fall into the side effects realm.

Needless to say, I definitely felt some relief last night around 11. <smiling devil emoji>

Waking up to just stiffness and soreness today also provided a little more relief. I’m not taking it for granted, though. Perhaps my side effects are just running on Gay Standard Time…so I’ll reserve final judgment until tomorrow night.

Plus, on the full protection spectrum, I know I’ve got another 12 days to full efficacy. I’m sure Bubble Boy won’t mind that I don’t have a lot of other social engagements to distract my attention from the maintenance needs of his libido for the near future.

Dying from COVID: meh

Dying in the service of a 29 year old’s hormones: <thumbs up emoji>

Keep your fingers crossed that this barely noticeable side effects trend continues.

The Fauci Ouchie

The Red Shirt Diaries #31

COVID vaccine!

So…Tuesday is the big day. Shot #2.

I only know one person personally who has had a bad reaction to the vaccination. That said, cocktail napkin mary suggests there’s a 50/50 chance at any given person having a bad response.

Obviously, the odds are against me, given my relatively unscathed friends and family.

This has been weighing on me. Specifically, how do I plan my last day of unvaccinated life?

Should I be responsible and get some driving done – which I would normally do on Mondays, anyway – I’m case I have a bad reaction and end up going down for a day or more?

Or, using some sort of Xtopher-style inverse logic, should I go out in a figurative blaze of glory? Maybe hit a casino or take myself out for some beers?

Decisions, decisions…

And, tipping the scale completely over, Bubble Boy started texting this afternoon. He wants to know when he can see me again. Responsibly, I told him Tuesday, so long as I wasn’t impacted by the shot.

I know he wanted me to say tonight or tomorrow, but…get used to disappointment, Bucko.

Two is enough options for me to vacillate between.

Getting ready to hop into bed, I cannot tell you which way this will go down. Waking up will bring a whole new adventure.

But in true Red Shirt style, my house will be clean by the time that needle goes into my arm on Tuesday…just in case I manage to buck the trend and spontaneously kick the bucket.

Wish me luck! Or…y’know, weigh in on how you’d spend your last day amongst the living.

The Red Shirt Diaries #31

I Can’t…Please Don’t Ask.

So, this landed in my Lyft app yesterday.

Here’s a more detailed explanation from the drill down

Basically, you give 114 rides, you get a $182 bonus. Not super great, it’s about $1.50/ride on top of whatever the driver’s fare share, tips and any surge bonuses are for each ride. But, once you hit that 114th ride, you are eligible for a second tier bonus of $70 on your next 21 rides. That’s more like an extra $3.25/ride…that is kinda something.

Let me just start out at the top here by saying that there will be earnings numbers in this post. That does not mean that they are typical. Far from, to be honest. But as the Silver Fox likes to encourage me, these are examples of “making hay while the sun shines”.

So don’t hit me up for any loans.

I usually give somewhere in the 40-50 ride range per week. It takes me about 20-25 hours.

But, since the new year, I’ve raised my weekly financial goal by 50%. I figure, if I’m not going back – read: being asked back, also known as “hired” – to professional work, I may as well support myself with my driving income versus bankrupting my future.

For instance, here’s my breakout from the last week, which ended Sunday.

You might notice I hit – exceeded, actually – my financial goal in the 65 rides I gave. And that was in only 22.5 hours.

Crazy.

What was also crazy is that I felt guilty about taking time off – more on that in a sec – last week, so started off Friday with a bang

It was also the first time I’ve ever seen this

…so, oops, I guess? Even though that 12 hour day was split up over two drive shifts – morning and evening – hitting that 12th hour and rounding my way to 13 became a no drive zone.

Anyway, most of those earnings were a combination of surge bonuses and Lux rides. Usually, I feel lucky to get one Lux ride per driving shift, Portland just isn’t a Lux market. Seattle, now that I could see being a Lux market. Much more image conscious – with the excessive compensation to bankroll their brand building tendencies, too, that lot.

But that first part, the surge bonuses, that’s pushing people to Lux…for the value.

It’s crazy. Have I mentioned how nuts this feels?

With the enhanced unemployment that gig workers were allowed to dip into last Spring, many drivers have opted not to drive in lieu of free money and reduced COVID risk. Originally, they were given around $1200/week. Now it’s more like $900/week, a big drop from almost $5k a month, for sure.

But it’s still $3600/month to do nothing! Last year, I’d say my “take home” averaged about two-thirds that number. Not free money, mind you, but I felt very little time or effort was required.

This unemployment potential means that there aren’t a lot of drivers on the road. That creates surge pricing and long wait times for standard Lyft cars. Since I have a BMW, I can get either standard or Lux rides or opt for only Lux rides. Doing both, I can usually expect 2-4 rides per hour, depending on the length of each ride, versus about one ride per hour if I toggle over to Lux only.

That means in many cases currently when demand is high, it’s cheaper – and oftentimes faster – to call for a Lux.

And it’s not just Lyft that is struggling to get drivers on the road. Uber is having a rough <ahem> road of it, too. On Friday night I picked up a couple women around closing time (ok, that sounds seedy) at a bar in close-in SE. They were doing a split Lux ride, dropping one off about 18 blocks away from the bar and the other pretty deep in North Portland’s St John’s neighborhood. That’s where this iconic Portland bridge lives

…and it’s pretty hard to get to. It’s a freeway ride to almost the state line and then a long potholed surface street journey into the bowels of NoPo.

The St John’s passenger told me that just her ride home with Uber was $120, so they checked Lyft and with the slightly out of the way drop off of her friend, it was still less than 2/3 the Uber rate.

So, why am I mad? Well, I’m not. Not precisely.

I love driving and chatting with people and being “in service” to them. I call it my social paycheck, but really, it’s filling in a void I wasn’t prepared for after inadvertently leaving my retail career.

It’s funny, the things you miss. Funnier that these realizations caught me so off guard.

However, not being mad aside, I only drove Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. I intentionally took off Monday through Thursday because I was tired.

Also, the Silver Fox was in town getting his second COVID vaccination…but that’s not the point!

I had just come off another challenge week the day before The Fox came up to town. That challenge was three tiered versus this week’s two tiers: 95 rides/$118 + 10 rides/$50 + another 30 rides/$84, for a total of $252 in ride bonuses for 135 rides.

Same number of rides and bonus potential as last week, they are just making us work for that first carrot.

Of course, this being my life, my 135th ride on the last challenge week ended in BFE. Me being loathe to drive home for free when I could get paid to drive home, switched my app to Destination Mode and caught another ride to my neck of civilization.

After 136 rides in almost 50 hours, I needed the rest. But I’d low key wanted to nail one of these challenges for over a year. With the Silver Fox out of town, I really had no excuse. Actually, I was a little mad that it took this long, but it was more bad timing than prochristination.

I swear!

But here’s the humble brag receipt:

And there were cash tips that aren’t showing in those numbers.

Yeah, if anyone with no skills beyond being able to operate a motor vehicle is looking for a job that pays $125,000 a year…I’ve got a hot tip for ya.

I do not want to earn that much. Well, honestly, I don’t want to work 50-plus hour weeks anymore. Thirty years of that bullshit was plenty.

Ergo, I’ve happily arrived at a point where my three ~10 ride days a week plus my long Friday, which I call either a double or a triple since it usually lands between 20 and 30 rides, sustain me. Added bonus: my favorite local station has a Friday night program called Party Out Of Bounds that is all 80s & 90s music from 8-midnight.

Yes. Please.

Wait…have I gotten around to why I’m mad/not mad yet?

It’s just too soon, this week’s challenge! I don’t know if it’s based on a preplanned calendar or in response to driver census in a certain area or something else altogether, but it seems this type of thing only happened a few times last year. Every other month, at most.

Every other week? Twice a month?

So much! Stop throwing money at me…I’ll respond!

But the retail manager in me – that apparently won’t die – wants to meet or exceed goals set by my employer. Even though Lyft’s technically not my employer in this relationship…when they call, I tend to answer.

If I get home after my 10 rides and my app tells me ride demand is high, I might sign back in for another five rides or so. Especially if they’re throwing surge bonuses onto rides – one of my rides this past Saturday included a $31 surge bonus. For one lousy ride! But generally, the surge bonuses are more in the $1.50-$4 range.

Nevertheless, my concern here is that even with the Silver Fox in town again yesterday and today, Angela going into the shop on Wednesday and a get together with Bubble Boy Thursday…I don’t really have the time to answer this call.

But I bet I end up trying.

Just watch.

Apparently, you can take the boy out of retail, but you can’t take the retail out of the boy.

I Can’t…Please Don’t Ask.

The C.R.S. Chronicles #3

Singledom vs. The Aging Brain

I’m no hoarder, let’s get that <ahem> straight from the get-go. So last year when everyone else was buying a garageful of crapping paper, I was blissfully going about my own days.

Such as they were, in lockdown.

That said, household supplies in my household exist on only two par levels:

1) A nine month supply, easy; or,

2) Oh, shit…I should have bought toothpaste yesterday!

If you want to know how much coffee you have to drink to cover morning breath, don’t ask me. My neurotic ass is convinced that I’ve never accomplished this feat. But I’d guess the answer is somewhere in the neighborhood of “a lot”.

All that being said, I took my CRS riddled brain on a little shopping trip yesterday with the mantra “Toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, dishwasher detergent” playing on repeat in said brain.

I knew I needed other things, but the mantra covered what I knew was urgent to remember. The rest of my shopping trips usually amount to grabbing go-to staples like Mac & Cheese and hamburger or assessing whether I’d eat something before its pull date (broccoli and salad kits are the primary aspirational purchases in this category) or actually eat it at all (anything else that’s borderline healthy or with a risk of too many leftovers).

So shopping with me is pretty fun. If you lose track of me, I’ll be wandering through the beer and wine aisles until someone comes to get me.

As opposed to shopping with the Silver Fox on one of the many times he’s allowed me to coattail on his Costco membership. We hit the cart corral and he’s off and running on his familiar shopping routine while I’m still standing by the roll up doors wondering aloud to no one about a pallet of electric toothbrushes.

Next time I look up, I see only the smoke and dying flames that his feet left. And that cagey bastard expects me to keep up, actively preventing me from retreating to my safe space.

All this, of course, is just my attempt at lede-burying.

I went to the fridge today and grabbed my last cold soda. Not wanting Future Xtopher to be caught without an appropriately chilled soda, I went to the pantry to grab another 12-pack: none.

No worries, I have back up 2-liters for just this…oooooh, fuck.

So, yeah…this is that second par level I mentioned earlier.

I even looked at soda yesterday as I grabbed a cart. Specifically, I recall thinking, “3 for $13.99, that’s a crap deal” and pushing on.

Toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, dishwashing detergent!

Oh, mania…my steadfast companion.

Back to this morning, having finished my one measly soda, I showered to be ready for an interview. Then I debated running out for a soda, energy drink or coffee; ultimately deciding there wasn’t enough time.

There was time, however, to do last night’s dishes. It seems most of what I used for meal prep last night was too big for the dishwasher, so…dishpan hands, here I come!

Except

I was also out of liquid dishwashing detergent.

Ooooh, fuck…

The only bright side here is that I know I would never have remembered six things in a mantra. I’d have had to write it down…and then find it in my coat pocket next fall.

You think I’m being too hard on myself? Well, my brain, at any rate.

When I went to get my first COVID shot on Tuesday, I took my coat off so they’d have access to this skin. As is my habit when removing my jacket in public, I checked my pockets to make sure they were zipped.

You don’t want something falling out of your pocket as it gets tossed around a coat rack or bed by others. Learning this the hard way, if you watch me in public, you’ll see me surreptitiously checking my zippers – coat pockets and pants fly, can’t be too careful – often enough you’d think I should be medicated.

Probably, I should.

But that’s not the point.

One of my zippers was open, so I zipped it as I was shirking off my coat. The other one was zipped. But, what’s this? There’s something in it!

I love little prizes from Past Xtopher.

I open the pocket while the nurse is readying my dose, boom…$1000.

Thanks, Past Xtopher!

The C.R.S. Chronicles #3

The Red Shirt Diaries #30

It’s not hard to absorb the knowledge that I’ll likely never be in the 1%.

What’s harder to deny – given my “it could only happen to me”-ness – is the reality that I’ll probably easily find myself in the 3-5% club.

That club being populated by folks who were not protected by the COVID vaccine.

That’s right, folks…grumpy, old Xtopher got hisself a vaccine today. Isn’t it nice to see me embracing life like this?

I’m half convinced that they missed or didn’t even stab me. I didn’t feel a thing and the nurse couldn’t see where to put the bandage afterward because I didn’t bleed at the injection site.

Seems highly suspicious.

Anyway…use my jaded and twisted sense of humor as a reminder: this isn’t a cure. Just like flu shots, the COVID vaccination is a protection against COVID. Every year, I get a flu shot and sure enough, at some point I get the flu. It’s just a lighter illness than I would likely get otherwise.

It could be the same with COVID. So to share some advice an old friend used to give me: Don’t get dead. Get your shot and then behave responsibly. Keep washing your hands. Don’t take unnecessary risks. And please, stay home if you feel sick.

The Red Shirt Diaries #30

It’s My Anniversary

Of sorts.

The Facebook reminded me of a personal milestone when I checked in this morning.

Two years…

I’m really conflicted about this.

On the one hand, this life event was the culmination of leaving professional work in April of 2018 and giving myself time to indulge in my hobbies. Well, hobby: writing. More specifically, story telling. It turns out that my only other hobby turned out to be rage hair growing.

That Fall, I participated in National Novel Writing Month – aka: NaNoWriMo – for the first time. I’d sat it out the prior six years because it occurs in November and that’s just hell with a retail career.

After completing my 50k word goal, I fleshed out my story over the next couple of months to around 90k, took a swipe at editing and declared my story “good enough” for the telling.

Then I started exploring publishing options. Because I wanted this to be a hobby versus a career, I was quickly and easily turned off of traditional publishing. The horror stories of deadlines didn’t daunt me as much as the stories of writers getting fired by publishers after fulfilling their contract.

If I wanted to get dumped, I’d date.

So I leaned into self-publishing. I reached out to social media contacts around the world to pick their brains about their experiences. There were plenty of holes in my knowledge of the process, but I felt I understood it enough to take a stab at it.

The cover you see in the pic above was that stab. I decided to take a practice swing at the process by collating a blog theme from WordPress and going through the process. Ironically, the blog theme was about dating, which was a personal growth challenge I’d undertaken for the entirety of 2018. Effectively, my practice run at self-publishing was about dating and I’d decided on this route to avoid getting dumped by a publisher down the road.

I can mentally bend over backward for irony.

Anyway, it was a surprisingly intuitive process – even for a tech-naive Oldie Hawn like me. Sure, my first few orders shipped with blank backsides, but that’s all part of learning.

Right?

Since that initial foray, I’ve published two additional books. I have also completed three other drafts. All of that took place by the end of April 2019, so I feel like I embraced my storytelling hobby rather enthusiastically.

By the end of that April, I’d finished the draft of my third work in progress and had a timeline for release of all three.

Then the world basically ended. Or came to a screeching halt just short of meeting a calamitous end.

You’d think lockdown would have been a perfect environment to hole up and write, but I rarely wrote at home. As a matter of fact, finishing the draft of that third W.I.P. was a real challenge. I don’t have a comfortable writing nook here and used my daily caffeination or intoxification outings as the settings for my creative productivity. So, being forced to stay inside really curbed that process.

While I was home, not writing, I was also watching my third book not sell well and indulging in some good old self-doubt. My concern was that the cost of printing a 500+ page book was high enough that the lowest price I could charge (garnering me less than $1 in royalties, mind you) was too high to be palatable by consumers. I reached out to some early readers about my concerns and was assured that all was good, despite the story sales were telling me.

By the end of the year, I had decided to split the piece into two books. So now I really had five W.I.P.s and no mojo or pathway to publishing.

And that’s where I’ve been since January.

Sulking.

Not even proChristinating, just good old fashioned sulking.

I could dress it up and call it a writer’s ennui

I’ve taken a couple of runs at recommitting to this blog. Trying to get at least a couple posts up a month. This week, I low-grade challenged myself to publish daily…a challenge I’d abandoned yesterday because I was worried I couldn’t follow through with regular posts after the fact.

Then that darned Facebook memory surfaced. Thanks, Fuckerberg.

But while I’ve been writing this, a news story dropped saying that the House had re-passed the most recent stimulus package, sending it on to the White House. President Biden is expected to sign it by tomorrow and stimmie checks should start going out by month’s end.

Assuming I get one this time (I didn’t get the second one, somehow ending up in the group that gets to claim it as a credit on their tax filings) I’d been vacillating between buying a Peloton or a new couch with the $1400. This was dependent upon achieving my goal of exercising more consistently.

More exercise = Peloton, less = couch for further potatoing.

Oddly, that is the theme for my third non-fiction installment: fitness. I’d blogged about it in the year leading up to my 50th under the fitfy hashtag and thought it was due for a revisit as I enter my mid-50s.

So now I’ve created a nice, vicious thought cycle for myself:

New couch could easily morph into a new desk set up at Chez Galby so I had a space for writing.

Which would keep me off of my couch more, in turn reducing my need to replace it.

But would inhibit my ability to buy a Peloton to reward myself for being more active and propel my fitness efforts further forward…giving me more to write about.

I swear, sometimes I feel like I’m not so much a “Friend of Dorothy” so much as I am Dorothy Gale and my mind is the cyclone that swept her away to Oz…only for us all to learn it was all in her/my head in the first place.

Maybe I should just start an OnlyFans where I can livestream a fundraiser. In it, I’m naked at the beginning and put on clothes as people donate.

I’m sure I’d make enough to accomplish all three purchases!

It’s My Anniversary