Well, Now I Feel…

Something.

Bad?

Nostalgic?

Accomplished?

Formerly accomplished?

Probably that last one. So…thanks, Facebook Memories.

Three years?!? How has it been that friggin’ long already…since I’ve had a date?

Kidding. Trying/not trying.

But I guess it’s just one more reminder that it’s been a long pandemic. If we factor those two years out, then it’s only been one year!

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make hay out of the forced free time we all gained with the 2020 lockdowns. In April, I started NaNoWriMo – despite having two WIPs from prior NaNos still waiting for completion, then didn’t finish. Again.

I think I got derailed after a Twitter battle with a local stripper, who I’m sure knew nothing of my existence until I dared to correct him on his feed. Then I was all he could focus on, earning me featured status in his social media stories where he called me old and ugly. Not to mention a failed writer.

The young people are so woke – which seems to manifest with being disagreeable and combative. That’s regardless of the validity of their initial point. What moxy.

Sure, I’d only finished three books at that point, clearly, that’s failure in the eyes of a stripper who leaves the stage in a thong.

I actually finished all tasks associated with my job title, son. I have to imagine that a stripper’s job isn’t complete until they are clothes free. But what do I know? When I was a young man, tracing on one’s flesh was viewed differently than it is today – and I appreciate the evolution of sex work from villainized and humiliating to artistic expression and empowering.

This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.

Ultimately, that all stopped when he blocked me – the penultimate admission that he was wrong. The ultimate expression being actually saying it. But this is hardly the United States of Accountability, let alone Admittingyouwerewrong.

Anyway, as this was going on, I flirted with the idea of going to one of his shows and tipping him one of my books – yeah, I’ve got a few copies laying around. My overt grumpapotamus self imagined reading wasn’t high on his hobby list, see also: how he got to his current level of misery in his life.

Judgy.

The women strippers I meet driving with Lyft are all – every damned last one of them – such interesting people. Very engaging. Great stories. The male strippers I meet are all cunts. And not in that cool English slang type of way. At best, they look at me, and treat me like, I’m an ATM. Not that I go to strip clubs often…none of them have palatable beers.

I also considered going and tipping him $.02, since me giving him my figurative two cents was what set him off in the first place. Ultimately, I decided my absence was the best action for me.

Still determined to make some productive hay out of the lockdown, I pivoted to another project I’d been kicking around. When I finished my third book, it came in at a whopping 530-ish pages. I hardly consider myself a gay George R. R. Martin, so I sought out opinions from a few beta readers. They all told me it was fine.

But that length made printing costs pretty high and I think the lowest price I could charge was $19…and that was with me making less than a buck a copy. I knew there was a logical plot break that I could use as a kind of cliffhanger if I chose to split this into two books, I just hadn’t.

But with one half finished draft from April’s NaNo making me feel guilty, I decided this was the perfect time to tackle that split.

Obviously.

And I did it!

Well, “did it” so long as completing the split and edit of the first half. I knew I needed to flesh out the second half to beef it up a bit. It had originally suffered under the pressure of me knowing the page count was running high for one book. This was my chance to flesh it out.

But my first goal was to get the newly shortened second installation in my No One Of Consequence series back up online. Then I hit a formatting snag. Just a teensy one, but it proved to be overwhelming to my lockdown self and I never went back to finish it. I couldn’t imagine jumping to the third installment to get that story wrapped up, it just seemed wrong.

Four frustrating months go by. I spent a lot of that time considering the optics of dying during a pandemic with unfinished works. I thought it looked pretty good. Other artists somehow pull it off.

Margaret Mitchell.

Elvis.

No, wait…Hemingway! That’s a better comparison. I’m a drinker, not a druggie. And we’ve established the fact that 500+ page books are not my style, so…yeah. Hemingway.

That was probably my biggest self-soothe of the pandemic.

It carried me through the next three months. Right up to the next NaNoWriMo event, the big one in November. Now I can finish!

Or…start another work.

The following April?

Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.

I had just gotten my Peloton and was jazzed to pick up the autobiographical trilogy I’d fancied when I wrote Dating Into Oblivion. When I wrote that, I was nearing the end of a year long blogging theme that had resulted from a friendly intervention at my 50th birthday party.

Rude.

As a result of the collective will of my well-intentioned friends, I leaned into a blog theme I had just finished that I hashtagged fitfy. It was a play on fifty, an age I had been determined to reach with some progress toward accepting my aging self with a healthier attitude toward diet and exercise.

I’d been having trouble forgiving myself for not being able to eat and exercise like an idiot twenty-something. Naturally, my 51st birthday had involved me tapping a keg of my favorite beer at my then-favorite bar.

Anyway, knowing I had that “fitness in my fifties” notion in the back of my head, I decided to tackle dating in my fifties. It gave me something to do, at any rate. I figured the trilogy could round out with working in my fifties. It was a notion I rather fancied.

The problem was, there wasn’t much I could actually do since I’d just gotten my bike. I considered harvesting stories from my year of fitfy blog posts, as I had when I put together Dating Into Oblivion. But I considered that would have been only a portion of the project. I needed new content to complete the story.

Another partial credit NaNo for old Xtopher. PaCreNaNo? Kind of sounds like a pancreatic medical crisis.

Maybe that stripper was right.

Shudder.

Possibly, but improbable. Maybe what I needed was the motivation of writing something people might be attracted to en masse. My current accomplishments and WIP library all featured what I call gay shit – and I hate to break it to you, but The Gays aren’t known collectively as big readers.

It’s the pandemic – everybody else was pivoting, why not me? That sounds like a riff of a Cranberries album.

I picked a theme close to every Portland NIMBY’s heart: the homeless. Came up with a mystery plot. I even created a nom de plume based off of my parents middle initials and old world naming paradigms – JT Robertson.

Finally…in November of 2021, I completed a NaNoWriMo! Have I published? No. I’m mentally kicking it around, polishing it up. Completely retooling the voice. Flipping the plot 180 degrees.

Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.

April’s NaNo is weeks away.

Weeks.

I’m determined to finish something from my WIP list before adding anything else to it. I figure at this point, if my goal is to have a WIP library consisting of a prime number of works – it isn’t but I need to set boundaries of some kind – then I either need to finish one or add four!

I think seven is enough of a library. Let’s see if this Facebook Memories shaming is enough of a motivator to get NOOC2 published and back online. Lord knows that providing airplane reading material for a friend’s trip to Africa last month wasn’t it, so fingers crossed.

Sure enough, I woke up this morning, uncovered my laptop…and started organizing my tax receipts. Then I got this text

RUDE!!

So I wrote this, instead. I refuse to be so known by my best friend.

To answer my original question: seen. I feel seen.

Well, Now I Feel…

Near Misses

One of my favorite George Carlin bits, that there’s no such thing as a near miss. You either miss something or you don’t. I believe his position was that a near miss was technically still a hit.

Makes sense to me. Literally.

Ever more precious to me is that his audience was made up of the same group he was lambasting with the observation: Americans.

Stupid, stupid Americans.

And we loved it. Iself, included.

Well, one of my weekly tasks at the new gig is covering the payroll portion of the company’s weekly onboarding. Guess who follows me and sometimes comes in early? Safety. So each week I’m reminded of how many times near misses came up throughout the day when I went through the onboarding process – which was an odd experience, since I was contracted through my temp agency.

My inner dialogue was working overtime that day correcting them every time one of the presenters reminded the participants to report unsafe conditions, even near misses.

I mean, at least say it ironically.

I watched the other captives participants for any recognition of the devil may care attitude that was being programmed into them – “My safety doesn’t matter, I only have to report injuries”. But there was none.

I guess when paired with the word “American”, stupid takes on some of the same qualities as “fuck”…it can mean a variety of different things, contextually.

I’m one of the self-aware stupid Americans. It’s misery. I envy the Americans who are too stupid to understand how stupid they are.

For what it’s worth, my favorite mental near miss scenario of the day was the bride whose groom was late, but eventually made it to the church. Better luck next time, near miss sis.

Near Misses

4

There’s a first time for everything, they say.

Sidebar: there will be no sidebar tangent on the whole “they” phenomenon of deferring judgment of our own to that faceless, possibly all-knowing cabal known only as they. But you just know I’m dubious of their wisdom. Especially if they simply turn out to be nothing more than garbage-variety stupid Americans. <gasp>

There does, though, seem to be a first time for everything.

Just about two weeks ago now, I got my first non-5-star ride rating from a passenger.

4.

I was amazed at how much this affected me. I mean…

Out of about 7300 rides at that time, one measly 4-star rating. I couldn’t tell if it was the loss of my 5-star streak after almost two and a half years (August 2019-December 2021) or the overwhelming randomness of its presence against over 7000 other ratings.

I mean, I know not everyone bothers to rate me after a ride. In those instances, my rating defaults to a 5-star automatically.

Maybe it was that she chose to click a box to support her rating.

Unsafe Driving.

Yeah….that was probably it.

I’m not meant to know who these ratings or comments come from. But this was a particularly gnarly week. It was the holiday week. And it snowed.

Of course, that created some shitty driving conditions. Particularly since the snow followed a day of rain where about 2” fell before sundown and carried on into the night. Snow was really only falling in the higher elevations…y’know, like 500 feet.

That’s high elevation for Portland!

But on Highway 26, coming into town, that created a real shit show driving situation.

That highway is a steep grade down hill into town – heck, out of town for that matter…I’d hydroplaned going uphill on this freeway on my way to the pickup. That takes some doing.

I digress. Water was running across the lanes and down hill, then running even deeper with traffic where tires had grooved each lane. It was like a liquid tic-tac-toe board.

Since we were still at about 400 ft above sea level and a good 150 ft above the valley floor, there was snow coming down with the rain. But not just any snow. It was big, wet flakes. Like Mother Nature’s minions had confused Portland’s weather with their children’s home room winter decor.

Seriously, these snowflakes looked like they were cut out of construction paper by second graders, they were so huge. When they hit the windshield, they made an audible thwack.

It was no Snow Falling On Cedar moment,

Highway 26 is also windy – in both senses of the word, but in this case you just need to know it was twisty and turny. Did I mention we were heading downhill?

Even going only 40 mph, I hydroplaned. Twice.

And this is the weather this suburbanite chose to go into town in.

Lucky me, I got to drive her.

And then she said my driving was unsafe.

Girl, your judgment is unsafe!

Best part? She tipped me!

That’s what really made her stand out. I knew it was a white knuckle ride. Mainly because I’m referring to my own knuckles! But I remembered seeing the tip and thinking that was really generous of her, given the hairy road and weather conditions.

Then she fucked me in the comments.

It wasn’t that big a tip.

Anyway, the app itself does a fairly good job of building in an occasional rogering for us drivers, too. In this case, it’s that we don’t see individual ride ratings, we get a weekly recap about nine days later. That means that I’ve given between 50-100 rides between the time someone rates their ride and I see the recap.

But! There’s an appeal process.

All I have to do is scroll through my history to the ride in question, mind you, this is all we see in our ride history

No addresses, rider names, rating…just the date, time and earnings. So, sure…let me scroll back through the rides for that day – I give 20-40 on Fridays and Saturdays – and take my best guess and then tap “I Was Rated Unfairly”. I can narrow it down by filtering out the riders that didn’t tip, but I’m usually getting tips from 40-60% of my riders, so of the 15 rides I gave that night during that nightlife ride window, I’m still gonna have to take my best guess out of about nine possible rides.

Nine days later.

On the plus side, the app does default to a 5-star rating if the passenger does nothing. And it’s not like I’m really suffering…

I mean, roughly 20-25% of my passengers enjoy the ride with me enough to bother to tap a button telling Lyft I’m friendly or go above and beyond during their ride. Hell, 1445 riders tapped a button saying I’m a good driver.

So, why let one rider out of 7300+ get under my skin?

I dunno. Maybe they are right. Maybe with me, it’s always gotta be something.

But, honestly? I think it’s C-PTSD. My therapist talked a little about this with me during my too-brief mental health tune up this past summer when Black Sheep Bro came prodigally back.

I can’t let go of something that’s wrong. Not easily, anyhow. It’s why I left my last professional job, and why I left my part time gig with Amazon. Not to mention one of my temp jobs – credit to me, though, I finished the assignment but passed on the request to extend when the owner asked for me to stay longer.

All of those situations had me in places where I was witnessing bad behaviors from leadership. I had to go. That’s my trigger, bad behaviors. Specifically, people getting away with them. Especially if that creates a double-standard.

This? This was just one passenger prioritizing Saturday night fun (or whatever night it was) over personal safety and then making it my problem/fault she felt unsafe. And tipping me to cushion the blow.

Or at least that’s how my mind spins the blanks that it fills in. Blanks that are created by the absence of immediate feedback.

Whaddyagunnado, though, right?!?

Normal People: Fuggeddabowdit!

Me: …

I tried to shake it off. Carry on like normal. Move on.

How that manifested in the doldrums between Christmas and New Years, though – when ride demand is down because people are holed up with family, not to mention the exacerbation Omicron added to the mix – was me trying to soldier on but failing to be busy enough to distract myself from the trigger.

I went out Monday to do some afternoon/rush hour rides. Because New Years weekend was so slow – seriously, NYE was a Friday and it’s typically my biggest night of the year…I did half the business I do on a regular Friday night! – so I quit “early”. After the ball drop, before last call. So, I had three make up rides to pick up in order to true up my Lifetime Rides number.

What? I like it to end in a 5 or 0. That’s not weird. It’s tidy. I’m fastidious!

Sheesh.

I was in my third make-up-rides ride, trying to decide how awful long another five rides would take – those three put me at the two hour mark, usually I do 3-4 rides in one hour – when one of my drinking buddies texted me. I saw the preview drop down from the top of my phone, “Tanner Creek at 530?”

Fuck, yeah! That was a much more therapeutic better use of my time!

The next day, I got my 4-star ride. I didn’t drive again until Friday. Outside of my vacation in October, I hadn’t taken three days off in a row since…I don’t even know when! In non-challenge weeks (where I drive about 25-30 hours), I’ll take three days off, sometimes even four. Just not together.

I didn’t get out of bed until after noon each day, including Friday. That was the week of bad Bruce Willis flicks where I stayed up until daybreak at least twice. I over ate, over drank, smoked too much weed and didn’t exercise at all.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give that week a…4.

But I came out the other side of it, so there’s that. Note to self: I gotta stop letting things get corkscrewed up into my psyche.

4

Must Distract TV?

I freely admit that my TV watchlist is certainly no “Must See” NBC Thursday Night Lineup, but a good many of the programs that streamers have put in front of me lately are barely presenting as fodder to keep me…let’s call it sedated.

While, not great shows for a variety of reasons, they are at least doing a fair job of keeping me disengaged from the surreality of the world around me. I can’t say that’s their explicit intent, but that assumption just seems slightly more generous than declaring them simply bad shows.

A sampling:

Leverage: Redemption

Maybe my memory of the original run of this show being “good” is clouded by the reality that it was shot in Portland. Maybe I’m just old and forgot that I didn’t like it originally, but tolerated it – see also: my first point.

Woo-boy, though. Lemme tell ya, the reboot sucks. Hard. Unless the point of the reboot is to showcase these actors’ skill in reading a line, then this is just painful to watch. And back to that whole “bad memory” possibility? I seem to remember thinking Noah Wylie could act at one point.

Just goes to show that acting is not like riding a bicycle…

Elite

Soapy and schmaltzy, this show is pure, dubbed brain candy. With a healthy side of nudity – which if I didn’t know these actors playing high school students were in their mid/late 20s, would make me feel weird. And since – as I pointed out to the Silver Fox – the nudity has a hearty, if not almost exclusive boy-butt-focus, that weirdness could be assuaged by handing me a priest’s collar, I’m willing to absolve myself.

And, boy…there sure are a lot of murders at this high school.

Grace & Frankie

I know…calling a show with such overt gay themes makes me a traitor to my own community. Again.

Me, the Voice of Treason.

But, again…it’s older actors demonstrating they can read a line off a cue card. Some of the writing is funny. Some of the scenarios are kooky fun. But it’s a little late in the game to reinvent the whole Lucy/Ethel trope which this show leans so heavily upon.

At this point, I just think it’s just Netflix pandering to older audiences to keep them engaged with Netflix as a viewing platform. If that’s the case, at least they are doing so with story lines designed-ish to appeal to younger, woke audiences: like the late in life gay story arc. In that regard, if they succeed with drawing Boomer and Greatest gen viewers, they are also engaging them with potentially mind expanding content.

There is a certain value to that.

The Snarky Car Insurance Commercial:

This was a surprise to me. But it’s a tip of the hat to the ridiculous horror movie writing paradigm.

Two couples run out of a corn field. One guy suggests they hide in the cellar, his girlfriend counters with the attic. A crying girl suggests they just hop in the already-running car, while her boyfriend popularly points out they could just hide out behind the wall of also-running chainsaws.

A masked man with dubious intent slowly shakes his head.

The voiceover states “When you’re in a horror movie, you make questionable decisions…”.

And when Americans are in lockdown, apparently, we do as well…medicating with stupid soapy TV (and plenty of booze, I’m sure) to make our way through.

As far as this commercial goes, though…can we just disable celebrating stupid? It’s like we learned nothing from 20+ seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Stupid people are not entertainment. If we can’t use the word retarded to describe stupid people, let’s stop airing what equates to mutually-exploitative content featuring people with intelligence that…has not progressed in pace with the majority of people of similar age. TV like this, celebrating vacuous nitwits has just seemed to drag its audience of already stupid Americans down to their level.

It’s weird, I started this post as a draft in October! Then, in typical creative old Xtopher fashion, abandoned it. But this week I realized that my TV viewing hasn’t necessarily improved over the past quarter.

Sure, there were some standout binges with – and thanks to for making the content decisions – the Silver Fox on several of his trips up from his self-imposed exile in the hinterlands of Oregon. Shows that were new seasons of proven winners like Hanna and Lost In Space. Or the coming tomorrow new season of Euphoria.

Then again, I only got sucked into Elite as a result of his content suggestions, so…<shrug emoji>

On the other hand, though, lay my own questionable decisions. Decisions that are either better or worse since they are movies versus entire seasons of TV shows, so at best I’ve only lost a couple hours.

Right?

Nah.

Because it started with an innocent viewing of Divergent after a late dinner earlier this week. But then I proceeded to immediately watch the next two movies in the trilogy, resulting in a 6 AM bedtime. That’s right, I pulled an all-nighter for a Young Adult movie series.

Blame it on the imminently watchable but better on low volume Theo James.

The worst part? I couldn’t immediately fall asleep because I couldn’t figure out if I disliked Shailene Woodley more than Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games movies. I fell asleep at least knowing that I like Hunger Games more than these movies…

As a palate cleanser, I decided to watch 12 Monkeys after reading an article about Bruce Willis’ “19 Best Movies”. Plus, I missed my annual Christmastime viewing of Die Hard (#2 on the list, BTW). I remember thinking, “Well, he’s made way more than 19…” and then got distracted by not being able to find 12 Monkeys for free on any of my streaming apps. Having just spent ~$15 getting burned by renting the Divergent movies, I decided it was best to try to scratch my Bruce Willis itch with a free movie. On the plus side, it was less than 90 minutes long, so I’d be on with my day in no time!

Nothing. No satisfaction whatsoever. A Bruce Willis Itch FAIL. And, that was 90 minutes of my time I wasn’t getting back. Lesson learned: when Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag. So the next day, on to another.

I began to wonder if this guy ever actually made good movies. When you read in the trivia section of IMDb that Willis shot all of his scenes in one day…maybe don’t let your curiosity get the better of you.

It’s like I didn’t believe myself when I said “If Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag”. Maybe this just proves that old actors reading lines isn’t limited to just TV series.

Or maybe it proves that I didn’t want to watch 12 Monkeys so much as I wanted a shot at seeing Brad Pitt drop trou. Hard to say. I did finally manage to scratch my Bruce Willis cinematic itch by watching Looper. Now, that was a hidden gem. Or one everyone else knew about, but I missed. And with Joseph Gordon Levitt as a co-star, I got a collateral Hollywood Heartthrob fix to satisfy the Brad Pitt’s naked butt quotient.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read a book.

Must Distract TV?

I Think Seal Was Wrong

You know I love a good song tie-in, even if it’s just a mis-heard lyric. But in the case of this post’s title, I’m riffing on Seal’s biggest hit: Crazy.

In it, he suggests that we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little bit crazy.

Smash cut to my morning – yes, I was up before noon – of news and email reading.

I came across this ad in one of my business newsletters. Now, not to suggest that anxiety is crazy, per se, just don’t get me started on the casual armchair self-diagnostics that I am often confronted by.

Yes, I ask. Also, I know that last paragraph ended with poor grammar. Anyway, I’m kinda over people minimizing legitimate affliction just to overdramatize their own petty struggles. So I demand – figuratively – a doctor’s note.

I don’t know why I don’t have more friends…

Anyway, what’s really crazy here is that this ad suggested that there are 284 million Americans suffering from an actual anxiety disorder. OUT OF 335 MILLION TOTAL AMERICANS!!!

Can we agree to ballpark that stat at an 80%? My blog, my rules, so I say we agree…plus, it’s not like I’m blithely self-diagnosing with a potentially serious mental health condition. I’m just doing some liberal rounding.

So what this ad is suggesting is that 4 out of 5 Americans is suffering from anxiety.

<looks around at America>

Yeah, sorry Seal…I don’t think getting a little bit crazy is helping us even thrive, let alone increasing our rate of actual survival. If anything, the type of crazy running around our country is decreasing our survival rate.

For instance, our COVID death toll as a nation stands somewhere between the populations of North and South Dakota. Think on that for a second, we’ve lost an entire state’s population to COVID in just under two years.

On the plus side – for Seal, at least – it’s not like our least populous states have any huge concert venues…

I Think Seal Was Wrong

I Can’t Believe I Got Up Early For This

Since I left professional/career level work, I’ve been low-key looking/not looking for an opportunity to get back in. For the most part, Lyft and the occasional Payroll/HR temp position keeps me engaged and feeds my need to feel productive.

Then I had to go and start thinking about buying a new place.

I had a plan: take the earnings off my savings in the 1st quarter of next year – which would equate to about 10% of the price I’m shopping in – and then save another 10% by adding 5-10 hours to my weekly drive schedule.

Then I talked to a mortgage guy who told me a self-employed worker really should put down 30% to get the best terms. I briefly considered lowering my target price, but really didn’t want to walk away from the properties I was seeing and trade down on amenities – which was a big factor in my moving considerations after a year and a half of being more of a homebody than I like.

I prodded myself to just keep to my plan and if I didn’t buy, I just ended up with that much more savings. Who knows, maybe I’d start a business with it.

Then October hit. And it didn’t pull its punches. I know part of this was the cumulative effect of spending ~$500 a month on therapy. While I felt it was helping me know myself and manage my triggers better, it was an extra hurdle each month.

Anywho, I took money out of savings to pay my monthly bills before vacation. Overused my credit card and generally felt the time I put in behind the wheel mid-month didn’t give much of an ROI.

I was a little underwhelmed.

Knowing that month end was coming up and assessing the demand for rides resulted in bleakness, I sold some more stock and prepared to cut into my savings a little deeper to prep for November. I also didn’t renew my therapy program for the month. If you’ve read my last couple posts, you know that the month went out like a lion and November started like it’s been the rest of the pride.

So I’m feeling a little optimistic, like I could feel whole and back-ish on track by month end. Hurrah.

Then I get a call about a job I applied for at the CVS around the corner from my place. In applying, I’d been my usual princess self: I wanted to walk to work and I wanted to be paid. I honestly figured there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d hear from them.

Oh, and they use assessments as part of their screening/hiring process. I loathe them and generally don’t do well on them because they ask the same questions over again later in the assessment to check for consistency. As a perceiver personality, that’s hard for me. I’ll read something and think , “Yeah, that’s what I’d do” and mark it down as an “Always”, but when it comes up again, slightly reworded, I start to find the gray area and lean into an “Almost Always” response.

Variables, amirite.

I’m not making any pendulum swings in my response, but there’s definitely room to give context for my thought process but nowhere to do so. Hence, I don’t like them.

But I got the interview!

The manager said she had time the following afternoon if I was free. I told her I was and she suggests 11 AM.

“Well, that’s morning, but I can make it.” Like I said, princess. She laughed and it was a date.

I walk into the store and she’s the only person on the sales floor. She cruises by me with a hobo whose bottle returns she’d just counted, tosses a “This’ll be a floor interview” over her shoulder as she passes and gives the bum his cash.

Then she leaves the register with a customer standing at it, comes over to introduce herself and declines a handshake or elbow bump. She literally said, “We don’t need to do that”!

I ask if she needs to help the customer and tell her I can wait. She says it’s fine, he can use the self-checkout.

The store is a shit hole. An absolute shit hole. Four foot high fixtures at the front of the store were empty, save abandoned purchases that customers just dumped and walked.

She’s wearing a beaded mask. I can see her teeth and know that it’s a mask in name only, versus anything offering protection.

“You don’t have any retail experience, what made you apply for this role?” She started out guns blazing.

Which is the only way to do it when you’re also starting out wrong.

“This is my third corporate retail job, and let me tell you, this place will chew you up and spit you out. So I’m curious what made you apply.”

Babe, if that’s the way you feel, why am I here? You clearly don’t have time to waste. “Well, I wouldn’t call 30 years of retail management nothing.”

She tells me I should have put that on my resume and I resist the impulse to counter that she should have read it. See? My therapy is working!

This is how the interview goes, her preening about this being her third corporate retail position, how she’s fought to get security and the store’s operating hours reduced. But not really talking much about me.

I offer a few times to let her tend to her customers and she accepts once and waves the offer off the rest of the time. We are within earshot of the customers she’s blowing off. That’s got to make them feel appreciated.

I wave to the empty shelves and ask about staffing: specifically what her plan was.

She poo-poos that by saying this store is just like this. Then follows it up with some crap about how if you can get promoted out of this store, everything else is a cakewalk. Basically, it sounds like she’s putting her time in until they get desperate enough to pull her out.

I’m thinking anyone that doesn’t fire her should also be fired.

Then I tell her that I worked in this very building for the former tenant…and it wasn’t like this. I go into my HR experience and how I could help with hiring, training and retention. She tells me she prefers to do the hiring personally.

“Well, I have a track record of retention, and have never had a store as critically poorly staffed as this, so if I’m her candidate she should rethink that. I offer the opportunity to meet applicants I like for her gut check approval and she offers a maybe. Sister, your interviewing skills are less than special, and your staffing crisis proves it.

The thing is, she only hires by gut. She didn’t ask any follow up questions or probe for details on my answers. I could have replied “Because” to a question and I don’t think she would have followed up. She was just thinking of her next question while I answered her.

No wonder her store was in crisis. If this was a first date, there wouldn’t be a second.

She asked what my salary expectations are and I tell her that I’d like to be on the low end of the range I indicated on the online application.

Nothing.

She regroups and asks what I’m looking for as an hourly rate. I tell her that a minimum of $30 would be the low end I mentioned. This is me converting the annual salary option I was given online to an hourly rate in me head. She tells me this role has a cap of $21/hr, so she’d have to get approval.

“You’re not going to get that. Paying me 30% more than others in this role would get you into trouble with Lilly Ledbetter. As a matter of fact, to avoid the appearance of unfair wage practices, many corporations – and remember, this is her third – have stopped asking what an applicant’s salary expectations are and switched to telling them what the job pays.

Not this mess of a manager.

I kind of left the interview angry. This is exactly the culture of incompetence that I’d left behind at my last professional – in name only – job. If The Peter Principle wasn’t slightly sexist, I’d tell you that it’s still thriving in retail.

But, Bob’s your uncle I can tell you that incompetency is still rewarded in retail. In case you were worried…the people serving us in stores are apparently hired on their ability to fog up a mirror. This woman could do it without taking off her mask, too, so she probably got extra credit on that test.

I came home determined that I didn’t want the job and wondering why I didn’t tell her so at the end of the interview. I’m still torn on whether it was uncertainty in my ability to do so without going full Julia Sugarbaker on her or if was the potential for better mortgage rates.

Nonetheless, when I got home, I decided to withdraw my application. I went to their hiring site and was surprised to find this.

There is no option to withdraw your application from consideration.

Ain’t that America?

You can’t reject us. We can put you through the ringer applying and put our worst foot forward during the interview process, but our ego will not allow for the possibility that you wouldn’t be lucky to be offered a job with us.

Stupid Americans.

GlassDoor, here I come!

I Can’t Believe I Got Up Early For This

Shitcuts

…and I’ve probably just created one by riffing on the word shortcuts.

You know what they are, where you can program your text app’s spellcheck to send a message with a few keystrokes. For me, the big win was typing “omw” into a text field to yield a message of “On my way!”

Apparently, it works as a shortcut across all apps…

So I’ve got that going for me.

The flip side, though, I’d rather more annoying.

Somehow, my spellcheck has “learned” new words based on frequent fat-finger occurrences. I’m forever sending messages with “I’m” in place of the intended word “in”, yet oddly not vice-versa.

Most annoyingly?

My autocorrect randomly changes my name to “Chrus” after a decade of fat-fingering the “u” instead of the “i” when typing my own damn name. Actually, that was the second most annoying thing. The apex of irritation in this scenario is actually hitting the “u” when typing my name and spellcheck prioritizing the misspelling of my name over my actual name.

Awkward.

AI < actual intelligence. It’s just that actual intelligence is so rarely seen in the wild anymore.

At least I got a new portmanteau Chrisism out of the deal: shitcut. That should have broad application throughout my day-to-day life. 🥸🥸🥸

Shitcuts

My Brush With Royalty

Rock royalty.

Portland rock royalty.

There I was last night, driving around and minding my own business in Milwaukie, a close-in Portland suburb. Mostly, this manifested as trying to figure out whether I should shut my app off so I can stop incoming rides briefly to set it to “home” mode. It was around 5 PM on a rainy Friday afternoon, so the ride bonuses in Portland were crazy.

For instance, I made almost $50 on my first three rides in the first hour on the road. You can see how those ride bonuses dropped on that last pick up outside the city core.

Yes, get me back to town, please.

Plus, that $2.50 bonus was a round trip ride to the liquor store for a guy who met me at the end of his driveway – which I love – only to mime “Do you have an extra mask?” from where he stood as I pulled up. Then, once he’s gotten one, climbs in grumbling about how “It’s not like these do anything, anyway” before careening into “The old man was killing him”, referring to Biden – neither of which I love right out of the gate in a ride. I managed to steer him into a conversational area he was better qualified to have an opinion on: sports.

Stupid American.

I’m sure that explains why I was debating getting back toward the city. That’s when this ride came in.

Now, Zia is not a common name. I’ve known one in my entire life, a former employee here in town. I pulled the picture up to see if it was her, and, well…wrong race.

However, I thought this rider skewed age and race wise toward being the only other Zia I could think of, who I certainly didn’t know, but whose early musical career I was well aware of, the Dandy Warhols.

The Dandys are a local band with one song most people will know – Bohemian Like You – and who I’ve been lucky enough to come across a couple times back when I stumbled into music venues around town in the 90s. Zia stood out among the band because she usually could be counted on to pull her shirt up at some point during a show.

That leaves an impression, even on a late-20s gay boy.

I mentally start discarding conversational riffs based off that song – “I’ve got a great car”, “Do you like vegan food”, “Did I see some guy sleeping on the couch? Is he always there? Why’s he looking kind of ‘meh’?”

Stupid stuff. – that I’d never actually say!

More likely, I’d try to get a heads up on her current band’s upcoming gigs. She’s got several projects going on these days and one of them – Brush Prairies, I think – has been doing shows at small venues, like the Dandys used to.

Also, I could pin her down on which member owned a wine bar here in my neighborhood and where it was actually located. Rumor vaguely has it that it’s over on/around Pettygrove & 14th but the place over there I’ve seen isn’t that impressive. But it’s open hours certainly suggest it operates on a rock and roll vibe, aka: it’s open or not on a whim. More specific rumor has it that it’s a place called Le Happy.

Cute, right? It’s at Lovejoy & 16th, so about half as much closer than the other place, but…

Permanently closed?!?

Even if this wasn’t that bar, it’s sad. Such a cute lil joint. I hope the building doesn’t get torn down in Portland’s growth/building boom.

Anyway, in real time, I was pulling up her name on Google to get a current pic.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit!

It was her!

OMGOMGOMG.

Be cool.

I pull into this driveway that’s on the backstreet of a side street behind a school in Milwaukie. The remoteness says “privacy” while the overgrown disrepair of a once well-tended yard says “recluse”.

“Damn, Zia, I know having four band projects going has to be a lot…but get it together!”

Then a college-aged kid walks out.

“Well, that’s not Zia…”

He’s got a cute mix of nerd and emo looks going, so I also tell myself to keep my eyes on the road. 🤦🏽

We’ve got a long ride ahead of us into Portland – thank you, Lyft app! – so I start off with some small talk about what’s up.

Turns out, he took a bus into town to hang out with his friend – a female friend, not a girlfriend 😈 – but he went to the wrong house. I comment that this girl has the right kind of problems…too many houses, and he clarifies that he went to her dad’s house (ok, so it’s a “depression vibe” in the yard, not “recluse”, got it) instead of her mom’s so mom was getting him a ride to the right place.

Cool mom.

AND IT WAS ZIA MCCABE!!!

Anyway, that was as close as my brush with rock royalty came. Well, that and maybe she was shuffling things around on the porch when I pulled up. And that I low-key know where she lives, but I’m not creepy, so that knowledge is just a little “I know stuff other people don’t” thrill.

But I still need to catch a random show of hers one of these days. Oh, and she’s a realtor, too, so that’s bad news for my realtor neighbor who lives in the building I want to eventually buy in…because I am Le Happy to be that kind of creepy.

Hey, it’s not like she wouldn’t get something out of that transaction, and The Gays are nothing if not transactional.

My Brush With Royalty

The Most Officious Of Pricks

No, this is not about my impending eligibility for a COVID booster – but you best believe I’m getting that sucker as soon as I am able!

This prick is a person. Not a bad person, I’m sure.

Just a guy doing his job.

Poorly.

And since it involves a badge of sorts, well, let’s just say that Americans no longer need power to be absolute for it to be too great a temptation for them to abuse.

Pricks.

This one was an airport cop. Not even TSA or the Port Police, either. He was a contract employee – is…I didn’t have him fired – working traffic detail in the Arrivals pick up area at PDX.

A little context, PDX has a two tiered front. The upper deck is the Departure level, where you walk in to the ticketing counters. The lower level is Arrivals, where you exit from baggage claim.

Outside of either, you have “islands”. The inner island, closest to the doors is for private vehicles to pick up or drop off. The outer island – called…get this, Island 2 – is for commercial vehicles, which is where I spend most of my airport time these days.

I’d say about 40% of the time when I have a ride to drop someone off at the airport, I’ll get paired with a ride back automatically. If I don’t, I just leave. It’s not worthwhile to chill in the holding area and wait, because usually there’s 20-60 other drivers in there.

Idiots.

And even smaller portion of those return rides I get paired with occur on my approach to the airport versus as pull away from the Departures drop off.

Why does it matter, all of this esoteric knowledge about airport ops at PDX?

Context.

You see, the round trip to get from the Departures level to the Arrivals level is about 4 miles and takes about six minute. Passing through and back into three different speed zones, no less:

25

35

45

35

25

Ironically, the route is rather parabolic in shape, so there’s a strangely soothing rhythm to the round trip.

Still, it’s wasteful. Plus, it throws unnecessary pollution into the air.

Sooooo…when I get that very rare return ride on my approach to the airport and happen to have that even rarer passenger that travels light – like, backpack light – I’ll ask if they mind me just dropping them on the Arrivals level. I mean, if they can work the Lyft app, I feel fairly certain they possess the competencies required to navigate an escalator.

I had one of these unicorn situations the other day. Since the passenger was also a Portland native, they easily agreed to my request tp drop them off downstairs. Hell, being a Portland native, they’d have fallen all over themselves to leave an arm behind if I’d asked.

We’re nice folks.

Passive-aggressive like there’s no tomorrow, but nice. We’re like the British of the US.

Anyway, I ask if she’d mind the whole “Departures drop off on the Arrivals level” and she’s game.

I pull up to the first of two crosswalks (from the parking garage to the terminal) and she hops out. As I’m waiting for pedestrian traffic to clear, this Officious Prick person walks over, points at my dashboard Lyft lamp and says, “You know Departures are upstairs, right?”

I tell him “Yes, but I had a pick up, so…”

“Well, next time you need to do it right!” Like there’s a wrong way to drop someone off at the airport that doesn’t involve the words “Tuck and roll!”

“I see”, I reply. “The environment doesn’t thank you”, I tell him pointedly. What a bunch of nonsense. Please, this is my job – as it were – trust me to apply some critical thinking to the situation, appropriately.

Of course, as I’m thinking this, he replies, “I work for PDX, not the environment.”

Surrealiously, pal?

Yeah…I’m not sure why I thought critical thinking would enter any equation involving Stupid Americans, but here I am.

Fuck the planet.

Quick! Someone kill Greta Thunberg so she can roll over in her grave!

<facepalm emoji>

The Most Officious Of Pricks

A Texas Taliban Twist

What is it, you ask?

A new dance craze sweeping the globe on Tik Tok?

Or something far more rewarding?

Yes, yes…it’s that one.

And it’s a reeeaaaaalllly sweet reward. The perfect embodiment of poetic justice, or to extend the analogy, just desserts.

First, a recap:

In an effort to reverse the 50 year old law of the land on abortion and a woman’s right to choose, a pro-life law was passed in Texas banning abortion past the sixth week of pregnancy. Forget that many women don’t even know they are pregnant at the sixth week for a variety of reasons like the timing or regularity of their cycle or even just plain, old denial and hope. Feel free to set aside as well that many pregnancies self-terminate in the first trimester and the six week ban doesn’t even cover half that benchmark, do the pro-lifers were defending a life that may be doomed before it has a brainwave anyway. And on that note, just ignore that the nickname for this law is the Heartbeat Bill, as six weeks is generally when a heartbeat is detected during pregnancy and the Religious Wrong has decided – overriding the scientific community on this – that life begins at the heartbeat…a tactical retreat from their usual “conception” standpoint. Don’t worry, I’m sure they will vacillate between the two standpoints as is convenient for them.

Meanwhile, smash cut to confessionals across the country with lines of pro-lifers lined up outside of them and around the block waiting to confess their “sin” after having spontaneous orgasms at the passing of this law.

For all the twisted machinations behind this five-plus decades long fight by the religious community and the individual rights restrictive results of a woman no longer having agency over her own body, the people behind this Heartbeat Bill were nicknamed the Texas Taliban.

Liberals can be pithy, too.

And, boooooyyyy did the Religious Wrong hate that nickname. Sadly, it’s completely apt, given how the basis of this law reflect the way women are treated more as property in a religious culture far more ridiculous restrictive than anything previously experienced in American religious culture. Aside from the prevalence of religion amongst the slaves in early America, that is…but is that really the closest comparisons reasonable organization would strive for?

Never-mind, I realized I just used the adjective “reasonable” in relation to the group of nutsacks I call the Religious Wrong. I withdraw the question.

How did this – could this – have even happened?

Clever pro-life rabbits, that’s how.

Let me copy/paste something from The Guardian to save time:

“When a conservative state passes an abortion ban – as they do with some regularity – state employees are usually tasked with enforcing the law, those employees are named as defendants in lawsuits brought by pro-choice groups, and the law is blocked from going into effect by courts that declare it unconstitutional before any real patients are denied abortion care.”

The psychotic brilliance of the Texas Taliban’s plan is that it shortcuts the normal channel of enforcing the validity of a law: opponents suing “The State” over enforcement of said law. No, this law removes that step and takes it into some sort of Orwellian Bigger Brother scenario: citizen enforcement.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people calling out unacceptable behaviors when they arise to prevent our culture from being sucked even further into the quagmire of this A-me-rica we’re all living in now.

This law, though, incentivizes it. It doesn’t openly solicit frivolous lawsuits, except it does. The law allows any average Jane or Joe to sue not only the mother, but any people perceived to be involved in the effort of terminate s pregnancy past the six week mark.

Insanity.

Brilliance.

Psychotic…

The enforcement of the law is up to the citizens, not the government. It offers a $10,000 bounty on people “assisting” in an abortion effort.

Parents.

Doctors.

Nurses.

Front desk clerks.

Bus or ride-share drivers.

(Yes, I legitimately got an email from Lyft telling me they had the backs of their drivers, as we’re not expected – by any reasonable person – to know where our passengers are going or what they intend to do once they arrive. Or, I suppose, what a six-plus-weeks-pregnant woman looks like.

Fucking nut jobs. But, like I said…brilliant. Diabolically so.

The fix?

At least so far…

You’ve heard the expression “Fighting fire with fire”?

Well, in this case, to get the legal ball rolling, the pro-choicers are fighting crazy with crazy.

Like, really crazy.

The law was expected to be more of a deterrent to providers, versus a tool of enforcement. As expected, a doctor who took his Hippocratic Oath seriously, performed a now illegal abortion.

As not expected, he then wrote an op-ed about it, effectively declaring open season on himself for the bounty hunters.

As also expected, this prompted two lawsuits against him.

Less expected, was that the lawsuits were filed by pro-choicers and not pro-lifers.

Twist!

Take that, Texas Taliban.

The most delicious part of this isn’t the Texas Taliban reeling over this development – although that is a delightful sight to behold. No, it’s that neither of the people bringing these suits is a Texas resident!

And, as I hinted at, they both seem equally equipped to battle fight crazy with crazier. They are both defrocked lawyers, tee-hee. And one is even under house arrest – I know not what for. That one openly states in his suit that if there’s bounty money to be made off of this law, he’s going to make it.

Then he refers to himself in the third person.

Delicious.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m livid at this intrusion of church interests into our collective state. I went rounds for days with some of the giddy pro-lifers who celebrated this <ahem> abortion of justice. But stupid Americans who are only interested in validating furthering their narrow minded interests by inflicting them on the rest of us and calling that freedom being out maneuvered by individuals the left would never hold up as our standard bearers?

That’s a justice whose irony I can appreciate.

A Texas Taliban Twist