Posts Tagged ‘random’

Cancelling the Gutter Guy

November 16, 2011

Sometimes, voicemail can be a blessing. Other times, it only delays the inevitable.

Yesterday morning I had to call and cancel an appointment with a pushy salesman trying to get me to buy new gutters for my house. Under the mistaken impression that his firm would simply clean my gutters rather than propose a whole new installation, I made this poor man drive all the way from Charlotte to Rock Hill last week. I dashed his planned two-hour sales pitch about 15 minutes in, when I had decided that I (and he) urgently needed to be someplace else.

To peel him off of me, I had to promise he could come back when I’d be better prepared to carve out a good eighth of my waking hours to learn about the advantages of Guardian Gutters (or perhaps it was Gutter Guardians). Now, only hours from the appointed time, I was going to back out.

I called his office and listened carefully to their voicemail options, as it seems they had changed recently. Patience paid off when I learned that option 6 was to cancel a sales presentation. It looked like my rejection could be done automatically.

Unfortunately, after a few rings on the other end of the line, a machine belonging to “Ed Reynolds” picked up and claimed he was out of the office but would return my call when he returned. I didn’t dare simply leave a message and hope that my salesman, some non-Ed Reynolds guy whose name I think was Mike Something, would get word in time to abort his 2 p.m. appointment. So I hung up and re-dialed the main number.

This time, I chose option 2, to speak with an office manager. I mentally rehearsed the reasons I would give for ditching a perfectly serviceable gutter guy on such late notice:

• My aunt’s recently diagnosed hair cancer looked like it was spreading to her eyebrows and mustache, and family had been advised to prepare for the worst, plus
• I was expecting an urgent call from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, plus
• I damaged my hearing at a Mannheim Steamroller concert and couldn’t hear a word he was saying, plus
• It’s pretty hectic so close to the holidays, maybe we can reschedule after the new year.

The office manager was all business regarding my request and, to my relief, she didn’t demand an explanation. She did press for a January meeting, and I agreed, but didn’t settle on a year. When they do call back to remind me of that perceived commitment, I’ll deny all knowledge of gutters, eaves, fascia and soffits, and will adamantly insist that roofing in general is all a big hoax.

I did, however, want to make sure that the salesman was absolutely, positively not coming. I didn’t fancy the thought of again having to resist his sales superpowers and escort him off my property at the same time.

“You’ve definitely got the right appointment cancelled?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “You’re in Rock Hill, on Brookshadow Drive. The 2 p.m.”

That’s the one. I thanked her for her time, apologized for the inconvenience, and ended up pretty confident that the salesman wouldn’t return that afternoon.

I got off early from work so I could be home in time to lock all the doors, draw all the curtains and hide under the covers of my bed until at least 3:30. Just in case.

From this angle, the gutters don’t look that bad after all.

Protecting the last stand

October 24, 2011

As you might guess from the name of my neighborhood, Shadebrook has a brook and it has trees. The brook may be more like a babbling drainage ditch, but the trees really are magnificent.

The people who planned this subdivision some 20 years ago had a lot of respect for the woods that their homes were largely supplanting. From the hardwood canopy road at the entrance to the giant cedars that line the main drag, this place is a nature lover’s dream.

However, it could become the city arborist’s worst nightmare. A couple of weeks ago, the municipal authorities surveyed the area’s older-growth trees and decided that some were so sick they needed to be euthanized. No twilight sleep and potassium chloride for the doomed oaks and elms; they would be assaulted with chain saws wielded by government officials. Talk about a Tea Party fantasy.

When I was coming back from my afternoon run earlier recently, I noticed that a particular pine had suddenly sprouted a bright green patch of spray paint. I remembered the newspaper article about the upcoming pogrom said that the dying trees would be marked with green. It said that city planners originally wanted to use a dark brown marking, to better symbolize the sad but necessary task of culling the deadwood, until they realized that work crews would have trouble seeing it. Ultimately, they switched to the green, thinking it might signify the fresh new life the tree was about to experience as someone’s coffee table.

As you can see, the pine isn’t an especially handsome specimen. In fact, you could probably go so far as to say it’s about as dead as it can get.

Still, I have an obligation as an ardent eco-nut to protect this old gal from the lumberjack’s axe. And so, even though I’ve got a ton of stuff to do this week and next week’s going to be even crazier with a filing deadline approaching at work, I guess I have to chain myself to the tree.

It’s going to be really inconvenient. I’ll have to reschedule Friday’s dental appointment, and the weekend’s planned yardwork is definitely out of the question, unless I can find myself a long enough chain.

It’s supposed to turn much colder by mid-week, so I guess I’ll have to dress in layers to accommodate the sunny days and chilly nights. Wardrobe selection is shaping up to be quite the challenge. What exactly is proper attire to set just the right tone of civil disobedience while balancing that against the conservative fashion sense of the suburban South?

I’ll need something that’s easy care, because this is a pine and, though I don’t consider myself prejudiced against the common softwoods, some of their kind have been known to ooze sap. This tree probably doesn’t have a whole lot of lifeblood left in it but whatever remains, you can be sure it’ll make its way onto my slacks.

I don’t know how extended a protest this might turn out to be. I’m ready for the long haul if that’s what’s required. I will admit to concerns, however, about how the work crew will respond. Rock Hill is not familiar with the kind of strident and committed stand I’m prepared to take, and I’m a little worried their standard procedures won’t include removing a doughy guy from the base of the tree before chopping it down. I have my own lifeblood to consider, you know.

Maybe it’d be safer if I constructed a tree stand for myself, and conducted my effort to save the Earth from about 30 feet in the air. Nah. For one thing, I’m not that handy with tools, so treehouse construction would not play to my strengths of Excel and middle management. For another thing, I don’t care to plummet to my death.

I think if I switch a few things around, maybe ask my wife to cover for me at Tuesday’s board meeting of the credit union, maybe use a rope instead of a chain so I can duck out for a few minutes if I have an essential errand, I can pull enough strings to make this stand for ecology.

Defend our environment! End the rape of our Mother Earth! Don’t get any sap on me!

Driving myself to distraction

October 10, 2011

I’d have to characterize myself as a good driver, primarily because someone has to do it and it sure isn’t going to be anybody who’s ever watched me drive.

I learned to drive as a teenager growing up in Miami. The experience provided me with an appreciation for intense traffic, a familiarity with high-speed interstates, and a convenient excuse whenever anyone accused me of recklessness.

“Hey, I learned to drive in Miami,” I’d tell anybody who objected to my wheel-screeching turns and frequent lane changes. “Get over it.”

(I use an advanced sign language to communicate this to those in other vehicles who can’t hear me; my extended middle finger means “hey,” and the upward motion of my hand means the rest).

While defensive driving was stressed in most parts of the country, those of us living in South Florida learned offensive techniques as a means to safe motoring. The peculiar demographics of that area made anything like considerate driving habits a sign of weakness.

In the late 1960s, about a third of the Miami population was elderly, and chronically crept along the highway at 15 m.p.h. under the limit. They were careful to keep to the left passing lane in case they needed to pull into the median for the sudden urge to reminisce about their grandchildren.

Another third of the city was made up of Cuban refugees. These folks tended toward the middle lanes, looking for the safety in numbers that successfully got them across the Florida Straights piloting a raft made of tennis balls. They never used turn signals (because the rafts didn’t have them) and they ignored STOP signs (because they weren’t in Spanish).

The final third of the city was made up of narcotics dealers and other criminals. These drivers typically used the right lane, the break-down lane, the shoulder and the adjacent, grassy right-of-way to evade pursuing police cars. They created exit ramps as needed, or would simply launch themselves off a bridge and into the Intracoastal Waterway, especially if movie cameras were filming nearby.

To survive in this frightening mix of questionable skills, I learned a motoring style I consider both efficient and rarely fatal. I pay such acute attention to the traffic conditions around me that I block out all other stimuli as I maneuver my vehicle down the road. I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t talk on my cell phone. I don’t rubber-neck at the accidents I leave in my wake. Instead, I’m focused like a laser on getting where I intend to go, bringing most of my passengers and their limbs safely with me.

The concentration this requires is sometimes lost on those who ride along with me. Just this weekend, for example, my wife and I took a trip uptown to a yarn shop she wanted to visit. She had the directions and I had the steering wheel. I had reluctantly agreed to listen to the podcast she brought along, at least until we had to start watching for signs directing us to the right neighborhood.

“Turn that off. I have to really concentrate now,” I told Beth as we approached our destination.

“You can’t look for the right exit with this on?” she asked incredulously.

“No,” I answered. “I can’t.”

“You realize, of course, that auditory signals entering your ear canal should have little or no impact on your ability to see,” she reasoned.

“Quiet,” I snapped. “You’ll kill us all.”

The podcast went silent, leaving only Beth’s directions to be heard above the hum of the engine. Bear left. Turn right. Merge quickly, then get into the left lane. Don’t run over that baby carriage. Look out. Look out! LOOK OUT!!!

I did indeed look out, and what I saw was the yarn shop that was our goal. I pulled through the parking lot and into a spot just outside the store’s entrance. Beth was a nervous wreck, but we had successfully arrived where we intended in record time, if records were kept for routine crosstown drives.

After the yarn shop, we wanted to visit a new bakery we recently found in the same area. I needed to make a left out of the lot, despite a bunch of traffic coming at us from both directions.

“At least get out into the center merge lane,” Beth advised. “That’ll make it easier to turn left.”

“No,” I answered. “What if someone wants to use it as a turn lane? We’ll collide.”

As I waited for just the right moment to take advantage of an opening, Beth launched into her much-rehearsed testimony about the advantages of using the “merge lane.”

Years ago, when she was a newspaper reporter, she rode with a highway patrolman for a feature she was writing. He told her that the proper way to make a left on a three-lane highway was to creep across to the middle of the road when you can, then merge and accelerate from there into the far lane.

I would counter that such a maneuver is just asking for a head-on collision.

Since I’m the driver, it’s my decision to execute this turn as I see fit. Her job is to get mad at my reluctance to recognize her long-ago patrolman as the ultimate authority for how I should make a left.

After our stop at the bakery, we drove home in silence, allowing me to concentrate to my heart’s delight. We arrived at our house about 45 minutes later, our marriage scratched and dented but my 2008 Civic completely unmarred.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not a reckless driver. I’ve been involved in and caused numerous wrecks.

But I know what I’m doing, and I know how I want to do it. The elderly and Cubans and drug kingpins have taught me well. If you’ll be an offensive driver, people will notice and watch out for you. If instead you’re defensive, I’d advise that you prepare for impact.

If you're aware of your surroundings, you'll be a good driver.

Blurbs from the South Carolina upstate

June 3, 2011

Making police work easy

A Charlotte man was arrested this week in connection to a recent Clover burglary after deputies found his wallet in the home he’s accused of breaking into.

Travis Bernard Phillips, 26, faces four charges of second-degree burglary, two grand larceny charges and a criminal conspiracy charge. He is being held at Moss Justice Center.

On May 23, York County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a burglary on Montgomery Street, according to a York County Sheriff’s Office report. A black wallet was lying on the steps inside the residence.

It appears that the burglar slid down the stairs and fell, the report states. The wallet contained Phillips’  identification, credit cards and other pieces of paperwork. Deputies believe Phillips has been involved in other robberies as well and are investigating potential connections.

The owner of the residence has been living in New Jersey and said he would let deputies know later if anything was stolen, the report states.

Nice-smelling robber sought

A man stole at least 15 sticks of Axe and Degree deodorant from a local grocery store Sunday, police say.

An employee at the East Main Street Food Lion said a man came to check out with two sticks of deodorant about 10 a.m. Sunday, according to a Rock Hill police report.

The employee said he could see a bulge under the man’s shirt, and when the man lifted his shirt slightly there were more sticks of deodorant underneath.

The man fled the store and rode away on a white bicycle toward Porter Road, the report states. The total value of the deodorant is $75.

The suspect is described as a black man between age 50 and 60 with a beard, short hair and a cataract in his right eye. He was wearing a white shirt with blue stripes and a blue baseball cap at the time, the report states.

Look away, Dixieland

A swimsuit with the Confederate battle flag caused controversy this weekend at a Rock Hill apartment complex swimming pool.

A man says someone pointed a gun at him at the Paces River Avenue pool Sunday because one of his friends was wearing the rebel-themed bathing suit, according to a Rock Hill police report.

The 20-year-old said he and his friends were hanging out around 8 p.m. when a group of people approached them, the report states. The group began calling them racists because a girl in his party was wearing a “stars and bars rebel flag” bikini. The group then surrounded him, so he stood up.

One of the suspects pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and pointed it at him, but fled when he realized the police had been called, the report states. They took off in the direction of Riverchase Boulevard toward Celanese Road.

The gunman is unknown.

Take that, Slabby

A teen in a Marble Slab mascot costume said a man tackled him while he was promoting the business Sunday at a Rock Hill shopping center.

The 17-year-old dressed as “Slabby,” a giant ice cream cone, was with another employee in front of the Dick’s Sporting Goods at ManchesterVillage trying to recruit customers around 5 p.m., according to a Rock Hill police report.

The second employee said a teen pulled up in an SUV and tackled the mascot, taking him to the ground. The suspect then got back into the car and drove away.

A witness said she couldn’t see a license plate number because a piece of cardboard was covering it, the report states.

However, she said at least four other people wearing swim trunks and no shirts were in the car.

Could make an interesting cocktail

Thieves in York didn’t take the kitchen sink — but they did take a York family’s chocolate milk and a birthday present of sour mash sipping whiskey.

A pair of burglars took computers, cameras and jewelry worth more than $12,000 Thursday from a York home before the two men fled after being accosted by the homeowners, according to police reports. But the two did not leave before stealing a half-gallon of chocolate milk from the refrigerator and a birthday present of an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels.

The theft on Ivy Creek Road Thursday was followed by a search using police dogs that found a sweatshirt at a nearby intersection, a police report from the York County Sheriff’s Office showed. However, the suspects — and the milk and liquor and the expensive electronics — have not yet been found.

We must obey the signs of the times

April 5, 2011

In a news story reported March 29 by The Rock Hill Herald, a local man was charged with indecent exposure at the new, upscale YMCA located in nearby Baxter Village.

The 73-year-old man was accused of exposing himself to another man in the steam room at the workout facility around 4:40 p.m., according to a report from the York County Sheriff’s Office.

He was also “touching himself inappropriately,” the report stated.

The suspect was arrested and transported to the Moss Justice Center, from which he has since been released.

In a related story, naked forces at the other local Y — the one I regularly attend to get my daily session on the treadmill — have apparently succeeded in overturning a regulation spelled out in paper signs hung around the men’s locker room dictating “No BARE bottoms on benches.”

The signs appeared earlier this year, as first reported on this blog Feb. 10, in response to complaints from some members that elderly nature boys were reveling a bit too much in their altogethers. The birthday-suited seniors routinely exited the small sauna at the facility to grab a cool breath of air, plopping their sagging disease-ridden posteriors on the same wooden benches that properly clad people used to tie their shoes.

In the intervening weeks, however, the signs have disappeared, and the “BARE” bottoms have returned.

“If ya can’t be naked at the Y, where can ya be naked?” asked one elderly man, in a hopefully rhetorical inquiry. “I’ll sit wherever I damn well please, thank you very much.”

Asked whether he would at least draw the line at “touching himself inappropriately,” the coot pawed reflectively at his backside as he pondered the question.

“How’m I supposed to dry myself off without touching myself?” he asked. “If you think I’m hauling my family jewels up to those air-blowing hand-dryers, you got another think coming.”

“I know someone who tried that and he darn near broke his pelvis,” chimed in another unlikely member of the Greatest Generation, who once fought Imperial Japan on the shores of Iwo Jima and was now limiting his battles to causes closer to home. “The varnish on them benches won’t allow any germs to spread. I know that because my grandson is a scientist.”

YMCA director Moe Bell admitted that the Lord Godivas had won the upper hand in the ongoing struggle for decency by removing the signs every time he’d put up a new one.

“What are you gonna do?” Bell asked. “Physically remove those guys? I, for one, am not touching them — appropriately, inappropriately, or in any other imaginable way.”

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Ever find yourself behind a dump truck bearing the following sign?

How stupid do these people think we are? They’re hauling 20 tons of broken glass shards around town, pretty much for the sheer fun of it, yet they’re concerned about being blamed if one of the shards jostles loose and ends up crashing through your windshield and into your eye.

As long as the debris first bounces off the road surface, they figure they’re covered. It’s not their fault; you need to blame the vagaries of physics that dictate a body in motion will remain in motion until it burrows a full two inches into your face.

Never mind that it originated from the bed of their overstuffed dump truck. The disingenuous sign warned you to stay back 500 feet.

I’m thinking about putting the following sign on the FRONT of my automobile: “I have flame-throwers in the grill of my car. Should they erupt and melt your tires, it’s not my problem.”

Revisited: A bug’s life, transformed

March 27, 2011

Spring has arrived and so have the bugs. Though I’ll be the first to acknowledge that all creatures in God’s wondrous creation are worthy of respect and the right to live, I think I stepped on a caterpillar when I went out to check the mail Monday afternoon.

I swear, it wasn’t on purpose. It’s just that we have a lot of trees on our property, and these furry things have suddenly appeared everywhere over the last few days. I realized at the last moment what was about to happen, and I lurched sideways in an attempt to save him, or her, or it. It was too late.

I wiped my shoe in the grass after the unfortunate incident, which hardly seemed like a fitting ceremony to honor this bug’s brief life. But I wasn’t about to dig my high school “Taps” bugle out of storage because I think it’s covered in spider webs. I didn’t want this insecticidal spree to spiral any further out of control.

It did make me pause to think, however, how we immense humans swagger through the natural world with so little thought for the beasts beneath us. We swat flies, squash roaches and eat Wendy’s hamburgers, all with complete disregard for the welfare for the lower life forms we are destroying in the process. To me, it seems about time we do a little something special for the entomological kingdom to show that we care.

There are literally trillions of these guys and gals scurrying amongst us, so it’s impossible to show my gratitude to each and every individual for whatever purpose it is they serve in the grand scheme of life. All one man can do is bring one pest into his home, give that bug a special day he will always remember, and hope that the karma and the word of mouth when he returns to the wild will allow me to live a slightly less guilty life.

“There is at least one good, honorable man among the humans,” he can report to his colleagues. “Don’t sting the chunky guy with the glasses.”

Below are some highlights from the day I tried to balance the scales in my little corner of the world.

Keeping up online

Humanity has developed some awesome technological devices to entertain and educate us, so I thought I’d share one of these with the Giant Peruvian Dinosaur Ant I brought into my house. Here, the ant gets a chance to check his email and catch up with a few friends on Facebook. You may recognize the home page from AOL on the screen behind him, but we can’t fault a creature who has barely emerged from the Mesozoic era for visiting such a primitive webite. Besides, where else could he catch a quick update on whether or not Kate Gosselin was going to be leaving “Dancing With the Stars”?

Exercise is a great stress-buster

Too often, insects encounter us via the soles of our shoes, and that rarely makes a good first impression. I thought I’d turn the tables a bit by offering to bring my new ant friend along with me on my mid-day jog, allowing him to ride along on the top of my Nikes. We had a great run in the warm air heavily scented with azaleas and dogwoods. I think he struggled to hold on at a few points in the route, but that simply meant he got a good workout as well. We smiled as we passed the playground at the daycare center, where children laughed and squealed with innocence we can barely recall. We chuckled at the passing SmartCar that would barely hold the two of us. We recoiled in horror as I accidentally inhaled a gnat. We were tired at the end of the two-mile jaunt, but it was a good kind of tired.

A well-earned supper with the family

By dinnertime, the giant ant had virtually become a full-fledged member of the household, and joined my other animal companions for their evening meal. Taylor (left) and Harriett didn’t mind at all sharing their food with their new brother. There was enough for everyone in the bountiful indoor world, where predators and prey are merely movements on the other side of a thick, protective sliding glass door. When Taylor was finished with his bowl, the ant leapt off his back, directly into the remaining Cat Chow, frolicking in the plenty that was unknown out in the yard, where he had to fight thousands of rivals for the smallest scrap of potato chip. Soon, both his abdomen and thorax were full, and a contented evening of relaxation could begin with his new family.

Bath time

As the day drew to a close, it was time to scrub away the accumulation of grime that comes with a busy schedule of fun. I wasn’t about to allow this disease-carrying vessel of filth and bacteria in my bathtub or shower so we arranged a quick dip in the toilet. He splashed merrily in the water as I tried to work a loofa into the crevices of his exoskeleton. He wanted some tub toys to play with, so I wadded up a ball of toilet paper and tossed it in. Tragically, the wad knocked him into the deep end of the bowl. His drowning was quick and mostly painless for him, and quite convenient for me, as I simply had to flush him away.

Somewhere, in a sanitary sewer deep beneath the city, he’ll whisk past millions of his insect friends, who will offer a touching final tribute to one who was briefly able to bridge two worlds.

You know who you look like? Not me, I hope

February 8, 2011

I like to think I’m unique, that there’s no one else like me. I enjoy thinking I’m like the gently falling snowflake, its crystalline structure so beautiful, so symmetrical, and yet so wholly different from the trillions of other snowflakes. Sure, I’m a little heavier, a little colder, a little whiter. But, inside, I really do feel like a snowflake.

Certainly a flake of some sort.

A big part of what makes me Davis is how I look. No one would mistake me for Brad Pitt or George Clooney or any other handsome movie star (the bastard child of William Pitt and Rosemary Clooney — maybe). I look about average for a fifty-something American male, perhaps a little more endowed with hair and body fat than most. I might be described by some as “professorial,” what with my glasses and my serious expressions and my penchant for functional, non-fashionable clothing. I’ve had a number of people approach me over the years and ask if I used to teach at their school.

I’ve also had people come up to me and say, “Hey, John, how you doing?” That’s because there was a man in my town by the name of John Frazier who some say I looked like. I’ve seen this John person, and there was some resemblance for a while, especially when we both sported beards. I got rid of my facial hair about 15 years ago. Unfortunately, we got rid of John entirely about five years ago, when he died of a heart attack. I try to be sensitive to those who think they’re approaching John and obviously haven’t heard the sad news.

“I’m not doing so good,” I’ll respond as John. “I think I feel a myocardial infarction coming on. Maybe I’ll stay home from work tomorrow.”

I’m very uncomfortable with people making observations, positive or otherwise, about my appearance. It indicates they’ve gone through an internal evaluation process and come up with an opinion on some feature of mine they feel is worthy of comment. Whether it’s good (“Gee, your monobrow doesn’t seem as bushy today”) or bad (“What in God’s name has happened to your face!?”), I don’t especially care to hear it. I’d rather not be noticed at all, and if it requires me wearing an executioner’s hood to go about my daily affairs in relative anonymity, I’ll do it.

So it was very much outside my character on Saturday when I stopped by a local coffee house to pick up a take-out order of soup for my wife, and struck up a brief conversation with the guy behind the counter. He had shortly cropped hair and a round, open face with a certain childlike quality. To me, he looked exactly like a little-known British TV star by the name of Karl Pilkington.

Karl Pilkington

I asked the barista if anyone had ever told him that he looked exactly like Pilkington. He said he hadn’t heard of him.

I started to explain who Karl was. He’s the dim-witted foil of comedian Ricky Gervais who once agreed to be filmed taking an IQ test (and scoring an 83) and who is now starring in a limited-run series on the Science Channel called “An Idiot Abroad.” On this TV show, Karl fumbles through a world tour of famous monuments, making ill-informed, tactless comments about his foreign hosts. Then, I realized such an observation would probably not be viewed as an especially favorable comparison.

“But I’m certain you’re not an idiot,” I could’ve assured him, though I doubted I’d still be able to count on the spittle-free nature of my wife’s soup. Instead, I caught myself barely in time and said he should Google Karl’s image on the internet.

“It’s spelled ‘Pillington,'” I said, “and it’s ‘Carl’ with a ‘C,’ not a ‘K’.”

Later in the day I found myself on the treadmill at the YMCA, idly gazing around the room in search of some distraction from the boredom. There was CNN on the overhead TV, a couple of giggling teenagers talking too loudly in the corner and, over by the free weights, a fifty-something American male, perhaps a little more endowed with hair and body fat than most, who some might describe as “professorial,” what with his glasses and serious expression and penchant for functional, non-fashionable clothing.

It was a guy who looked exactly like me. He even had the slightly hunched posture, the prominent brow and the perpetual frown. He had just decided to step away from his reps for a moment when I first saw him, and it only took a second or two before he turned in my direction and looked directly at me. Our eyes met, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had the same thought as I: “Oh, you poor soul.”

It’s definitely an awkward situation when you encounter a stranger who could be your identical twin. I know it happened all the time on TV sitcoms and science fiction programs of the sixties, but I’ve heard of no real protocol for dealing with it in real life. Do you acknowledge the similarity and hope that they don’t regard it as a slur? Do you play it coy, and say something funny about meeting at Mom’s for dinner tomorrow?

No, if you’re a couple of reserved-to-the-point-of-sedated, anti-social, borderline-neurotic middle-aged guys, you turn away. You ignore the other person with an intensity you’ve never ignored anybody else in your life.

We both returned to our business of pretending to care about our physiques, making a point of finding something else to look at. I still had another ten minutes to go on the treadmill while he was free to roam around the room and look at whatever and whoever he pleased. He moved to one piece of circuit equipment almost directly in front of me and bent over to adjust the weight setting. It was then that I saw his crack.

I’ve never seen my own backside cleavage before, so I don’t know if there was a resemblance or not. That, however, was beside the point. This man could now be judged as not just another slovenly individual who gave little thought to his personal appearance; he was officially a full-on slob.

I literally stopped in my tracks, or might have, if it wouldn’t have thrown me off the back of the treadmill. If I looked so much like this poor fellow, did I also act like him too? Were there times when parts of my anatomy had also become exposed to the light of day, and I hadn’t realized it? If I feared people evaluating my haircut or new shirt, how would I feel them sizing up my hinder?

Now severely winded, I wrapped up my exercise session and left the cardio room with the following resolution: I need to redouble my efforts to ignore those around me.

Introducing an additional blog

January 7, 2011

Like I needed to waste more of my time, I’ve started a second blog. It’s called DavisOnTV, and sometimes it’s about stupid stuff on TV and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’ll appear daily (usually around 5 p.m.) and sometimes it won’t appear at all. Who knows? I may eventually lose interest and give it up entirely.

Until then, I invite readers who enjoy DavisW’s Blog to check it out, especially when you’re not in the mood to wade through one of my 1200-word essays on supermarket U-Scan machines. Most posts on DavisOnTV will be much shorter and snappier, as I practice reining in my tendency toward logorrhea. Occasionally, I’ll even get a little experimental, though I’ll try not to go all Yoko Ono on you and post a single large exclamation point as my commentary on sensationalism in TV news.

What follows are a few highlights that have appeared since this blog started Jan. 1. Give a look and see what you think.

http://davisontv.wordpress.com/

Incidentally, I hope to have news of a third blog, appearing on the Charlotte Observer website, soon.

And, in case you’re wondering — no, I haven’t lost my regular job. I’ll find time to pursue these new efforts by giving up certain grooming rituals — shaving, flossing, bathing — that I’ve found in my experience to be significantly over-rated.

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Things that make new Speaker of the House John Boehner cry:

  • being teased about his Orange-American ethnicity
  • only getting a “sidehug” during handover of speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi (had been hoping for the “full frontal”)
  • Toy Story 3
  • the “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” concession ad shown before Toy Story 3
  • most petrochemicals
  • cheap lobbyists
  • collar too tight
  • the American people
  • children (they’re our future)
  • ammonia
  • hard work, liberty, the genocide of indigenous peoples, and other American values
  • Toy Story 2
  • Love Story
  • onions
  • Dancing With the Stars
  • healthcare reform that wasn’t his idea
  • smelling salts
  • gluten (allergic)
  • triple vodka martinis
  • speaking in the House
  • peanut butter (really, any nut butter)
  • the natural beauty and wonder of Ohio’s 8th Congressional district
  • when President Obama calls him “a big baby”

+++

Video transcript from the captain’s deck of the Enterprise:

Capt. Kirk: This evening, all of you bleeding hearts … why don’t just go ahead and hug yourself for the next 20 minutes or so, because there’s a really good chance you’re gonna be offended.

Science Officer Spock: Let’s get to my favorite topic — something foreign to the gay kid over there: chicks in the shower.

Kirk: Over the years, I’ve gotten several complaints about inappropriate materials in these videos, never to me personally but, gutlessly, through other channels.

Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy: Drop the F-Bomb! Drop the F-bomb!

Cut to shot of Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, who is feverishly simulating masturbation.

Scott: And when I’m done here, I’m going to eat some feces.

Cut to two women showering together, Communications Officer Lt. Uhuru and Captain’s Yeoman Janice Rand. They hold a life-size cutout of Capt. Kirk.

Kirk: Glad I could join you, ladies, at least in cardboard form.

Uhuru: We know that you’re no fag.

Kirk: Now, let’s move over to the men’s showering area.

Spock: Captain, I am not at all sure this is appropriate behavior as defined by Starfleet Command.

Kirk: You better be careful. With those ears, Spock, we may be simulating donkey sex with you.

Kirk pulls back another shower curtain, revealing Ensign Chekov and Lt. Sulu bathing together.

Kirk: Now Sulu, I kinda knew about you already. But Chekov, I’m surprised at you.

Checkov: I’ve been meaning to correct your, sir, for several years now. The name is Jackoff.

Fade to black.

+++

Cleatus, the sports robot who struts his stuff in the bottom corner of the screen during Fox NFL games, was not himself Sunday.

Instead of the usual playful antics like dancing, hopping and holding a guitar, Cleatus sat quietly on a stool during both nationally broadcast games yesterday. At one point, he appeared to be reading a book. At another, he seemed to be writing holiday “thank you” notes.

“Cleatus has been diagnosed with a Class B concussion, and has been instructed to limit his activity,” said an NFL spokesman.

The Transformer-like automaton was reportedly kicked in the head when another corner-screen promo, this one for Fox’s upcoming season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” sent an amateur dancer lurching across the bottom of the TV. Just as he executed a Rockettes-style kick, the robot ventured too close and was struck in the head.

“We think he’ll be ready for the playoffs,” said a Fox representative. “His activity may be limited to polite applause and the occasional formal bow, but he will be a part of our coverage.”

Cleatus is one game robot

+++

Ranking the most character-dense bowl games on TV this holiday season:

1. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (39 letters)
2. Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman (38 letters)
3. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (37 letters)
4. (tie) Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (31 letters)
4. (tie) Tostitos BCS National Championship (31 letters)
6. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl (30 letters)

Note: I know, I know, the inclusion of entry number six is bound to stir debate among purists. I did count the open single quote, the close single quote, the apostrophe and the period in “St.” as characters, even though they’re not letters. However, if we don’t count those at all, but instead spell out “Saint” to its full five-letter length, the name would still amount to 29 letters, outdistancing the seventh-ranked “Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio” (28 letters).

The NCAA really needs to get rid of this bowl system and go to a playoff, so disputes like this won’t arise in the future.

Fake News: New Congressmen doing it their way

November 16, 2010

WASHINGTON (Nov. 15) — Nearly 100 new members of Congress arrived on Capitol Hill this week for the first time since winning election, and immediately began the process of remaking the federal government into a slimmer and wackier version of its former self.

Freshman orientation sessions for the class of 2010 were meant to show newly minted representatives how to handle the basics of being a member of the House — where to live, how voting works, where the bathrooms and dining rooms are located, etc. But many of the Tea Party-inspired Republicans are already showing their extremely conservative tendencies and are resisting the conventional ideas of what it means to be a congressperson.

“We’re not about to listen to the Old Guard tell us how things work around here,” said Rep.-elect Tim Scott, R-S.C. “The people who elected us want to see a new way of governing, and we intend to start with the basics.”

Scott said he would set an example of fiscal restraint by foregoing an office in the Capitol complex and instead would set up shop in a trench he’s having dug in the lawn just outside.

“Fighting against the tax-and-spend status quo is going to be much like trench warfare, so it seemed appropriate that my office is in a ditch,” Scott said. “I’ve seen some good-sized rocks unearthed so far, and these will serve me well as furniture.”

Scott has hired a number of ousted Democratic congressmen who would otherwise be out of work to dig the trench for him.

“I need the work so I’m happy to do what I can,” said soon-to-be-former Rep. John Spratt. “We’re just hoping he doesn’t shoot us in the head when we’re done and kick our lifeless bodies into the trough. I don’t think this is a dig-your-own-grave scenario but you never know with these rebels.”

Rep.-elect Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., has objected to the elaborate food spreads put out by lobbyists at the various orientation events, and has vowed he will not accept any free meals. Instead, he intends to stand outside in the sun in hopes of generating enough chlorophyll to survive.

“If the evolutionists are right, I should be developing leaves and turning into a plant by supper time,” Kinzinger said. “If they aren’t, I trust in God to sustain me. This PowerBar and can of Red Bull I have here stand ready to be transformed into enough bread and fish and wine to last my entire first term.”

Rep.-elect Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., was seen walking out in protest from a class on how the electronic voting system works on the House floor.

“I just don’t trust those sneaky electrons,” Hayworth said. “They have a pro-science, anti-faith bias, and I can just imagine them changing my vote on a key bit of legislation. I’ll be casting my votes the old-fashioned way: writing ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on a piece of paper and depositing it in that round bin on the floor right next to the speaker’s podium.”

When told by a reporter that she was referring to the trash can, she covered her ears and said she’s “had it with listening to the lamestream media.”

Rep.-elect Allen West, R-Fla., interrupted a page’s tour of the hallway outside the House chamber when West’s group was being shown where the restrooms were located.

“I intend to do the people’s business as I would do my own business, and it’s not in some fancy-shmancy bathroom with golden urinals and taxpayer’s money being used as toilet paper,” West said. “I’ll hold it in as long as I can, and then it’s adult diapers. If they’re good enough for my constituents, they’re good enough for me.”

Revisited: I’ll circle the building only if I want to

November 13, 2010
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs
Blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind,
Do this, don’t do that,
Can’t you read the signs?

I don’t respond well to direct requests made by giant multinational corporations. For example, when the McDonald’s drive-through pre-recording asks me to “try our new Angus Third Pounder,” or the receipt implores me to “have a nice day,” I tend to resist. I have no problem following their subliminal requests to get fat and clog up my coronary arteries. I just don’t like the hard sell.

So when I drove into the newly redesigned Mickie D’s not far from my house several weeks ago, and saw that they were redirecting traffic to make the best use of their tiny piece of property, I wasn’t playing along. The entrance I chose was only a couple dozen feet from the speakerbox where you place your order, yet the sign next to the lane demanded that I “circle building to enter drive-thru.” At this time of the mid-afternoon, there were virtually no other cars in sight, so I swung my car around a small curb and went directly to the order board. I’ll show those corporate bigwigs who’s boss.

However, this past Saturday morning it was a lot busier when I stopped by to get my son an Egg McMuffin. Cars were already backed up almost to the front of the store, and it actually made sense to drive the short loop around to position myself in the proper sequence. (I’m not such an anti-establishment rebel that I’m going to avoid breathing just because “The Man” says that air is good for me.)

By the time I made the circle, a large pickup from a local sign company had come in the same entrance and angled directly to a position behind the car that would otherwise be in front of me. I pulled up tight in back of the same car, and it started to look like things could get tense. I know McDonald’s is no stranger to provoking explosions from the lower half of the body, but this potential eruption of emotions from the upper half was different.

I could see the face of the guy who was trying to cut me off. He was giving me the no-look defense, staring straight ahead to avoid eye contact. I adopted a strained facial expression that should have gotten his attention, but he continued to avoid turning in my direction.

So now I had to figure out if I should honk my horn at him. I made a quick assessment of where each of us stood in the two social hierarchies that most influence interaction among strangers. I was obviously superior on the socioeconomic scale, since he worked for a billboard company and I didn’t, but it was somewhat less clear that I could beat him up if it came to a physical confrontation. He was a good 15 or 20 years younger than I, and had a significant number of hardened tools in the back of his truck. I think I had a blanket and an old pair of work gloves in the trunk of my Civic, and maybe a box of cat litter, though unfortunately it wasn’t soiled.

He inched forward and I inched forward and we were rapidly running out of inches. Horn-honking was increasingly out of the question, since there was no escape if things turned ugly, unlike on the interstate where you can always cross the median and start driving wrong-way into oncoming traffic. I considered my other options, because increased grimacing didn’t seem to be working. There was the phone number of his home office plastered across the back panel of the truck, and I supposed I could call and complain to them. Though what were they going to do, fire him? He’d probably welcome the unemployment insurance, as opposed to teetering 60 feet off the ground and looking up at a giant Hugh Laurie face. I could complain to the McDonald’s management, except that they probably had surveillance video of that first time I violated their rules, and would likely be aghast at my hypocrisy, if they cared at all.

The two majestic bucks facing off in the forest for dominance over the herd had head-butted and reared and twisted their horns together, and it had become clear who had won, and who was going to have to settle for that homely doe with the bad teeth. I gathered up what was left of my dignity, gave in, and let him proceed to the ordering position. He asks for a dollar-menu egg biscuit and a large, no make that a medium, coffee. If he had added a side order of lichen, my defeat would’ve been total.

Now I look off to the right and here comes another intruder trying to wedge in front of me. This is a much younger woman, probably college-age, and she makes the mistake of catching my eye. This time, it’s a clear case that I’m the superior human being, so I assert myself immediately. I raise my index finger in the air next to my head, then move my hand in a rotating motion to indicate that she needs to circle the building before lining up to place her order. The look on her face is blank — she thinks I’m either signaling that she hit a home run, or I’m asking her if she has a lasso. I mouth “you have to go around” so now she’s convinced I’m a crazy menace and zips out of the way.

I place my own order without further incident and pay at the first window. The guy who butted is still in front of me, though there’s little left I can do, except maybe hope that they screw up his order. If it were one of those complicated ones — can I substitute a freshly killed groundling for the cheese?, for example — they might make him pull off to the side, and I can swoop past triumphantly and beat him to the exit. Instead, we both move swiftly through the last step and turn out of the parking lot and back into city traffic.

When I’m sure he’s far enough ahead that he can’t see me, I raise my fist in a sign of contempt.

drive
The scene of Saturday’s humiliation