Work is for Chumps, but I’ll Do it for Free

When I was in New Orleans doing disaster response work after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I noticed that the least likely to want to help out or do any of the hard work were the paid disaster services employees. The unpaid volunteers were always the first to jump on new jobs that needed done. The salaried workers didn’t want to participate in any of the heavy lifting. It’s all about perspective. If I have to do something, I don’t want to. If I can choose to do it, I’m all in.

I’ve recently taken on a new project that is probably going to be a lot of work for zero pay. It plays to some of my strengths and encourages creative thinking. It’s also going to be an investment of time and energy during what will undoubtedly be a busy couple of months. This new project is just something I wanted to do. I don’t have to be involved in it, and it will provide me with no income, so of course, I am an eager beaver. Also, it keeps me off the streets. If they paid me, I’d probably quit right away because screw you, man, I don’t need this job.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly the altruistic type. I’m more the cynical, lazy couch potato type. But helping others for free makes me feel good. I guess that’s the irony: I volunteer because I’m selfish. I like to feel good and I like to look good. Volunteering for stuff makes you feel and look good. It probably bolsters self-esteem and encourages a good work ethic too, but whatever, I’m all about looking good.

So, I will voluntarily work very hard at something with no recompense, but will half-@$$ the job that buys my groceries. I might even quarter-@$$ such a task. Don’t get me started on what I might do with something I have to actually pay for, like a fitness class or a Ph.D. program. My investment in the labor is inversely proportional to my financial compensation. What’s the point here? I guess I’m not very smart.

In all seriousness, there is a certain reward that comes from doing work that simply contributes to the betterment of humanity with no material gain. Volunteering, especially when it is physically and/or emotionally difficult has had the most profound impact on my life, much more than any job I’ve ever gotten paid for. One of the hardest jobs I’ve ever been involved in is food service: I’ve done it for free and for a pay check. I’d rather do it for free. Take that, Burger King drive-through. I guess being of service is its own reward. I sound like a commercial.

In summation, I’ll do it because I want to, not because you tell me to. Am I the only one craving a Whopper with cheese right now?

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop . . . in the Street

There is a discarded shoe in the road at the intersection of 17th Street and Tuttle Avenue. It’s sitting cocked, with its heel resting on the pavement and its toe on the parkway median, sort of pointing skyward, perhaps hoping to return to its native homeland. It is a men’s hiking shoe, not quite a boot but more rugged than a tennis shoe. From a distance, it appears to be a Merrill but I have not stopped to verify the brand—it could be a cheap knock-off. This shoe has been in the same location for as long as I have lived in this town. It has become my navigational landmark. I don’t know how I will find my way home if someone removes this important cultural artifact.

How does someone lose a shoe in the middle of the street? I have often wondered this. I’ve seen lost, single shoes in the road before but I’ve never understood how the loss occurs. Except for baby shoes because those little buggers kick things to high heaven and only the most attentive parent will catch every flung foot covering. But adult shoes? How do you lose your own shoes, especially in the middle of the street? Where are you keeping your shoes that you don’t notice when they fall? Shoes are expensive, and shoe owners should be keeping track of their footwear.

Of course, on occasion you may find your plastic flip flop being washed away by a strong ocean wave, and that’s at least understandable. Also, your flops cost 99 cents at Wal-Mart so you’re probably not too upset about this, except for the feeling that you may have inadvertently just harmed a sea creature with your inattention to tracking your beach sandals. You jerk. The only thing more ridiculous looking than someone chasing after an errant flop in the waves is someone chasing an empty plastic bag caught in an updraft in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We’ve all been that guy.

Inadvertent loss baffles me, but intentional litter really pisses me off. The thing I hate most is seeing a fast food bag thrown out a car window. People who do that are just the worst kind of @$$hats. Seriously. Use your PoS car as a garbage can, not the ground. It’s not like that 25-year-old Chevy Cavalier with a railroad tie for a bumper is going to depreciate any further with a crumpled up Big Mac wrapper on the back seat. Also, if you throw your cigarette butt out your window while I’m following on my motorcycle, I swear to god I will pick it up, follow you, and throw it back in your lap when you stop at the next red light. Okay, probably not, but I will fantasize about it.

Are these casual litterers (and PoS Cavalier drivers) the same careless people losing their shoes in the road? Whenever I see a shoe in the street, such as my landmark at 17th and Tuttle, I imagine what scenario has happened to result in the footwear fiasco. How did one half of a $150 pair of shoes end up guiding my way to the thrift store two miles from my house? Was the owner being chased by a bear? Did a serial killer get a hold of his foot and he saved himself by wiggling free of his hiker? Was he listening to Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” so loudly on his ear buds that he didn’t hear the thunk of a size 11 falling out of his backpack? How does this happen? I need answers.

In summation, don’t be a litterbug and keep track of your shoes. The sea turtles and motorcyclists will thank you. Disoriented motorists, not so much.

Climate-Controlled Chaos and Coastal Conveniences

The adventure continues: The air conditioning in my “new” house has stopped working. In southwestern Florida in July, this is an actual tragedy. I am apparently not reacting properly. I simply opened up the windows and lay under the ceiling fan. My neighbors seemed to think I was supposed to call the HVAC company at 7:30 p.m. and have the problem fixed immediately (incurring the extra charges for an after-hours service call.) That seemed excessive. If I can’t handle one night without AC perhaps I should not have chosen to move to the subtropics. I slept fine and the HVAC guy (gal? I wish) is coming in an hour.

I am again reminded of how dependent on conveniences I have become. Most of the developing world lives without climate controlled housing 365 days a year, and many of those countries are in tropical and subtropical zones. AC is not a need, it’s a luxury. I need food and water. I need shelter from the elements. (Mostly from hurricanes.) I don’t need perfectly regulated 72 degree air blowing on me 24/7. I went to a meeting recently where the AC in the room was cranked to like 60 degrees. It was so cold that my nose started running and I wanted a blanket. Seriously, that’s not just excessive, it’s irrational. This is why we’re fat.

I’m not even kidding about the fat thing. I read a scientific article a while back that discussed the underlying causes of the obesity epidemic in first world countries. While there were some important trends like modern food processing and chemicals that factored in, a primary trigger was the dependence on interior climate control that keep our bodies from self-regulating our body temperatures—a process that burns calories and helps maintain a healthy, stable metabolism. Sweating is actually good for us. We’re fatter as a society because our bodies don’t have to do any work to maintain a constant temperature, which is a thing mammals evolved to do. Climate controlled environments are working against human evolution. Also, having the heat set at 78 in the winter causes a similar problem, but not one I probably have to worry about anymore.

Change is good. Which reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw on a pick-up truck yesterday. It said “I’ll keep my guns, freedom, and money. You can keep the ‘change’.” Clearly the individual piloting the vehicle was not a fan of Obama. Thankfully, he didn’t feel the need to yell at me out his opened window. His window was closed—no doubt he was enjoying his truck’s AC. This is hardly the first time I’ve encountered this sort of sentiment, but I was feeling rather introspective at that moment. I had just finished a particularly invigorating karate workout and was thus feeling all spiritually connected to the universe. I wondered at what point the driver thought his “guns, freedom, and money” were being taken away, and what “changes” he found so threatening. I suspect he didn’t think too carefully about the rhetorical subtext of his bumper sticker. I am not disparaging any specific political beliefs; I am pointing out that resisting “change” as a concept is silly and impossible. Eventually, humans will evolve (change) to adapt to climate controlled living, but we’re not there yet. We develop new technology faster than our evolution can accommodate. There’s an old saying: “Change isn’t uncomfortable. My resistance to change is what causes discomfort.” Also, that was a tangent. Welcome to the rabbit hole.

In summation, the HVAC company is going to fix my air conditioner. That doesn’t mean I have to leave it on all the time. I’m not that evolved.

Flora, Fauna, and Oh God, What Is That?

It’s another day in paradise. Yesterday I learned about a secret little cove near my house where lots of turtles (and fish) hang out. It’s on a small lake with lots of big shade trees and the turtles are rumored to enjoy stale bread from passers-by. Later I plan to test the theory that turtles who eat stale bread will also eat stale popcorn. I feel confident that this will be a positive test. Turtles aren’t known for having a very discerning palate. I hope they’re smarter than the bass with whom they share the water. Otherwise, there are going to be fat fish and skinny turtles. No wonder they’re snapping—they’re hungry. Maybe they should eat more fish.

In addition to turtles, I have a number of water birds hanging around my house including the amazing and surprisingly domestic Sandhill Cranes, Little Blue Herons, and lots and lots of Ibises. Ibi? I don’t know what the plural of Ibis is. Non-water birds hang around here too, including a brazen Redheaded Woodpecker banging his head on the palm tree in my front yard, and the ubiquitous crows. Also, there are a bunch of noisy old pigeons. Mockingbirds are another noisy avian and I’ve recently learned they’re the state bird of Florida. They will eat discarded curly fries. I discovered this yesterday when I discarded some curly fries at the beach. I considered taking the curly fries home for the turtles but it seemed like a lot of work for some turtles who just float in the water all day looking bored. Also, I was wearing a swimming suit so the problem of where to store the uneaten curly fries was an issue.

Here’s a tip about birds on the beach: the signs that warn you to be mindful should be heeded. The Black Skimmers nest on the beach and there are signs during fledging season that say “chick crossing—watch for birds on the ground.” My suggestion is you just steer very clear of the whole area. Mom and Dad Skimmer will dive bomb your @$$ for getting too close to Skimmer Junior. I may have had to run away quickly with my towel on my head.

In addition to birds and turtles, there are also a crap-ton of lizards here. They’re kind of cool looking when they don’t startle me. I mean you can’t take a step outside without scattering the little guys. And gals. I’ve figured out the Brown Anoles sex characteristics at this point, I think. The females are smaller and sleeker, while the males are beefier, and tend to act like gym rats when I walk up by puffing out their throats and doing push-ups. Seriously, lizard push-ups is a thing I did not make up. 

Last but not least, there are bugs. Big bugs. Ugly bugs. Mean bugs. I don’t even know what the hell is going on bugs. I sprayed toxic chemicals inside my house bugs. This was a successful endeavor. For me, not the bugs. I know this because I found their giant corpses on the carpet. They took revenge. I was stung by a wasp yesterday and I am covered in itchy red spots. Just talking about this makes me want to scratch all over. I saw a bug the other day that looked like a giant ant with lobster claws. What. The. Hell. Florida? Maybe the turtles could cut down on the carbs and eat more protein.

In summation, I am enjoying discovering the flora and fauna here in the subtropical wonderland, even when I get stung, bitten, or otherwise harangued. I’ll let you know when I see some mammals.

Cruising the Slow Lane of the Web

My new ISP is crap. If you’re reading this blog, I got it to work today. I have seen the sickly dinosaur of failure (Chrome’s default page for a bad connection) more times in the last week than I did in the entire six years I had my previous ISP service. Sadly, that’s not a hyperbole. It’s really terrible. I find myself staring at the word "loading" a lot lately and those little swirling dots that indicate my video is buffering. YouTube recognized a loss of speed and offered up some helpful suggestions, the first of which was “consider switching to a faster/more reliable ISP.” Oh YouTube, my old friend, if only I could. Netflix just tells me “oops, there was a problem.”

I was waylaid at Wal-Mart yesterday by a very enthusiastic (borderline threateningly psychotic) salesperson for Verizon who wanted me to switch carriers, after he wanted to have a really loud conversation from fifty feet away from me about “the best part of my day” while I was attempting to look at the items I came into the store for. (There are a lot of sun protection choices here in Florida. Comparison shopping was difficult while I was being yelled at with infomercial-levels of sales pressure.) The dude was actually kind of scary and I wondered why the Wal-Mart manager had allowed him to continue his aggressive sales tactics, especially given that the neighborhood is within Comcast’s monopoly. (Comcast is the North Korea of ISPs.) I don’t think the Verizon Sham-Wow guy got many customers. I did find my industrial strength sunscreen though. My resistance to UV radiation is a topic of protracted discussion.

So, I have crappy, slow, unreliable internet access. It’s good enough I guess, and the speed reminds me of the “good” old days when I still had dial-up. At least I don’t have to listen to the whining telephone noises. The download speeds are about the same though. I see a lot of placeholders for images that haven’t loaded and I wait a good long time now to find out if I’m more Taylor Swift’s cat or Beyonce’s dog on BuzzFeed quizzes. Also, I really need to know what my taste in cheese says about my taste in men as quickly as possible. This is just painful.

What is the lesson in all of this? It occurs to me that I had become too internet-dependent and the slow speeds and likelihood of being disconnected in the middle of an Orange is the New Black episode binge reminds me that I used to do a lot of other things with my free time. Since I now live in a subtropical paradise, I can literally go to the beach every day. Why am I wasting time on the internet? I’ve got sunscreen called “Beach Defense” so I’m clearly ready to do battle with the waves. (Who names these things?)

So as I stare at a T-Rex with pixels for eyes and short little arms that can’t reach my webpage, I am forced to ponder my pre-browsing existence. I used to participate in other activities. I used to draw pictures and read books. I used to crochet and make quilts. I even used to write Xena: Warrior Princess fan fiction. Okay, maybe I don’t need to return to all of my previous hobbies. The point is, the internet has subtly sucked away my free time and I’m only aware of it when it isn’t functioning as advertised. I am actually grateful for being forced to return to a simpler time when always-on internet access wasn’t the god-given right of first world living.

In summation, the internet gods want me to go outside. Thank you, Comcast, for being so sh!tty. And, since you were wondering, I'm more TSwift’s cat. Meow.

Sketchy Comedy Gold: John Candy at the Florida DMV

I’ve got to see a man about a horse. And by that, I mean, I need to see a man about a gas-powered vehicle. I assume it will be a man. I’ve never actually met a female used car salesperson. They probably exist. If Subaru of Sarasota has women selling their cars, I will let you know. Today is all about transportation. I must go to the Florida DMV prior to my journey to the car dealer in order to secure an in-state driver’s license and get my Iowa car tags changed over, which the state of Florida requires I do within ten days of my relocation because their timeline is ridiculous. I wonder how they track my arrival date. Also, the origin of the “see a man” euphemism isn’t what I thought. Apparently, I was suggesting I wished to engage in some illicit gambling on equine racing. I thought it meant I had to go pee.

So my day today is all about planes, trains, and automobiles with fewer plans and trains and more motorcycles. Maybe a city bus or two. BTW, the metro bus service here is the Sarasota County Area Transit, and their routes seem pretty widespread and active, which is great. Unfortunately, their acronym, featured all over the city on the bus stop signs is SCAT. Insert requisite poop joke here. Someone should probably tell them.

For some reason, the state of Florida (in its infinite wisdom) has decided that officially issued Iowa driver’s licenses are not valid forms of primary identification. Seriously. I blame Jeb. (They don’t like Texas, Alaska, or Wisconsin either. I mean, yeah, those northerners are pretty sketchy, but Texas? Aren’t Florida and Texas in cahoots?) Because of this, I must also bring a copy of my birth certificate, a passport, proof of residency, proof of purchase, six box tops from Fruit Loops (with grocery store receipts) and a blood sample with me to the DMV. Also, their website clearly states that if I do not have proper identification and accompanying paperwork I will “wait and wait and wait in line only to be sent home, and have to come back and wait some more.” They didn’t hire a professional communicator to write their web copy, apparently.

So, assuming I can get my valid Florida documentation today, I am going to try to get some new vehicles. This is in part because my car is old and I need to get better gas mileage as I am driving a lot more here. I do miss walking to the grocery store. I also just want shiny new things because I’m a capitalist American. Ayn Rand would be so proud. Don’t tell her I considered a Prius. I’m sure there’s a joke about railroads in here somewhere but it might be too high brow for me. Is Ayn Rand high brow or low fruit?

Thinking about twentieth century American literature has put the Animal Farm chant in my head. “Two legs bad, four legs good” only it’s wheels, not legs. And two wheels is good not bad. “Two wheels good, four wheels bad.” What was I talking about? I got on a tangent to nowhere, much like the line at the DMV. Perhaps I should take a book with me. I could be there a while.

In summation, now I do have to see a proverbial man about a euphemistic horse. I wonder if the DMV has a public restroom. I drank a lot of coffee this morning.

I’m A Republican Now Because Florida Traffic

As I was driving through the heart of downtown Sarasota on Highway 789 on my way home from Lido Key beach, which is a heavily trafficked six lane road full of multiple turning lanes, merges, and construction, some dude felt the moment was ripe to yell at me out his open car window. He said (and I quote) “Obama.” His single word utterance of the president’s surname was accompanied by a tongue-waggling raspberry sound and his thumb gesturing vigorously in a downward motion out of the opened car window of his silver Ford Taurus. I’m guessing he’s a Rush Limbaugh listener.

His erudite expression of matters of political import was clearly an effective way to engage with me on the issues of the day, and his succinct commentary certainly swayed me to agree with his position. My entire viewpoint on Obama’s foreign policy, for example, has been updated to fall in line with this gentleman’s cleverly presented argument. I can’t believe how blind I’ve been. My misguided and sophomoric understanding of U.S. politics simply needed some redirection from a total stranger hanging out of a car window making mouth noises and gesturing wildly with one opposable digit. I don’t know how I could have been so wrong. Thanks, random sir, for schooling me up in the middle of heavy traffic.

You may be asking yourself how I knew (given the number of other cars on the road at that moment) that this individual was attempting to communicate with me. I confess that I can’t be 100% sure since I was one of many vehicles in the sight line of said raspberry; however, I do have an Obama bumper sticker on my car and he did seem to be rubber-necking in my direction. He was several lanes away and a number of car lengths up from me so it was a little hard to tell but I am convinced he was “talking” to me.

My small bumper sticker so moved his political passions that he felt compelled to engage with me on the topic, but for whatever reason, the most he could think of to say was to read half of the sticker out loud (it says Obama/Biden) and stick out his tongue. He did not express any opinion on old Joe so perhaps he is less driven to road rage over the Vice President’s policies. It was hard to gauge the Taurus owner’s feelings given the brevity of our conversation. I should probably mention that I didn’t actually reply to the man since the totality of the discourse took place while he was merging right onto Highway 301 and I was four lanes over merging left onto Highway 41. Also, he had no comment on my Human Rights Campaign sticker so I’m still a little unclear about his stance on gay rights.

It’s a real head scratcher: What was this guy hoping to achieve by making his gesture in the middle of heavy traffic? Did he truly believe his self-expression would change my political view? Did he think I was unaware that not everyone shares my opinion? Did he just want attention? I really don’t get why someone would yell out a car window. Perhaps he is just an old southern white dude who secretly wishes his silver mid-2000s Ford Taurus was actually a bright orange ‘69 Dodge Charger with a confederate flag painted on the roof. Cue the Dixie horn.

In summation, my opinion of this person, based on what I know about him from our brief interaction is that he’s uneducated hick, because seriously, who does that?

On Ferenginar, Comcast is Business as Usual

Finally, I’ve got internet hooked up at home. My nine day hiatus from the interwebz is at a temporary end. I am hesitant to say it is at an end without qualifications because I have very little faith in the company hosting my service. I’ve done a lot of reading about Comcast: their customer service is bottom of the barrel sucky in markets where they actually have competition.  I now live in a market where they have a monopoly. This has not improved their ratings. Their company motto would seem to be “We’re all you’ve got, so give us money and don’t expect too much.” They’re the Ferengi of ISPs. Caveat Emptor, indeed.

The person who came to my house to install the modem and get me hooked up did not know the difference between a network security key, a network key, and a password. (Hint: There’s no difference. They’re all the same thing.) Despite her claims to have done this “hundreds of times” she still had to call her own company’s tech support to get assistance. She also didn’t listen to me when I suggested we try inputting the recorded network security key into the field asking for a network key. My only consolation was that she was put on hold by her own crappy company. Also, she blamed degradation of the coaxial cable in my house for the connectivity problems instead of her own incompetence and the crappiness of her company. She had suspiciously large ears.

So, I had no other choices for my internet service. (Unless I wanted to get a satellite, which I didn’t. Satellites are expensive.) I have found myself wondering multiple times in recent days how they aren’t being investigated by the FCC for antitrust violations. I have since discovered that perhaps they are in fact under the government’s microscope, so I am hoping they get their proverbial crap together or face comeuppance.

The representative that came to my house seemed genuinely confused that I wasn’t excited about getting a new email address with an suffix. The only use for this email address, which I was required to have, is to receive my paperless bill. The first email I received from them was a confirmation of services and indicated that my first bill would be $12 more than the quote I was given by the rep. I signed a service agreement with the amount on it, so I can contest the billing amount, but, like the Ferengi, Comcast’s business model includes the mantra “Once you have their money, you never give it back.” I am debating whether or not to contact her to point this out, or wait until I see the bill itself.

Lastly, the rep and the disembodied voice on the phone (whom the rep put on speaker) set up a technician service visit to “check the lines” of my existing cables because they were having difficulties with the set-up. I will no doubt be charged a ridiculous amount for this service call, the results of which will be the tech telling me there’s nothing wrong with the hardware. I suspect that if I cancel the service visit, I will get charged anyway. Never trust a Ferengi in overalls. Or white jorts and tennis shoes without socks.

In summation, there is nothing wrong with my coaxial cable. It’s the company that is degraded.

Where in the World is Dawn’s Blog?

If you’ve been following along at home, you know that I’m moving to Florida this weekend. As is the case with moving across the country, there are things to do. Lots of things. I have been doing those things. That’s one reason why today’s blog is about eight hours late. It’s also why the next few blogs may be completely absent.

After tomorrow, my internet access will be spotty at best until I can reconnect in my new permanent location, and even then, who knows. They may not even have the internet in Florida. Their cell phone service is a bit iffy too. Florida is known for its tropical weather and snow-free winters, not its reliable technological infrastructure.

I am going to try to write a much more heartfelt and awesome blog tomorrow. It may be the last one I write from my house in Iowa with my always-on DSL, but if tomorrow goes like today, it could be after sunset. I am running out of time to get all the previously mentioned things done. Also, my to-do list keeps getting longer even as I am crossing things off. If you don’t hear from me for too long, you may need to send a carrier pigeon. Not during hurricane season though—they don’t fly well in 100 mile per hour winds.

I guarantee that the first blog I write in Florida will be the most amazing, hilarious, interesting bit of pondering about a fascinating topic you’ve ever read in your whole freaking life. If it’s not I will refund your money.* I’m sure I will have some really snarky things to say after spending several days in a car with three cats on drugs.

In summation, Dawn’s blog is hitting the road. See you next week. I hope.

*Refund checks will not be honored.

FU State U (Oh, My Virgin Ears)

Higher education professors can now be fired for swearing. For f*ck’s sake. (I’m using an asterisk because I don’t want to get fired, obv.) LSU fired a tenured professor for dropping an F bomb in class. Tenured, then fired for casual swearing. What is higher education coming to? Read one critical response here.  The F word wasn’t even directed at anyone. Who are these sensitive students that are reporting professors for using swear words? Haven’t they ever seen an R-rated movie? Where is Huey Long when you need him? Is Sean Penn still a relevant pop cultural reference?

I’d be willing to bet Huey Long dropped a few F bombs in his tenure as governor. I mean really. When you think of conservative southern states, Louisiana is not the first to come to mind. New Orleans is like the least conservative southern city I can think of. There’s a lot of swearing going on during Mardi Gras, I bet. Okay, LSU is in Baton Rouge, but still. I bet Robert Penn Warren used the F word a few times. It’s been a while since I read All the King’s Men. I can’t remember if Willy Stark had a potty mouth or not. He seems like the cursing type.

So, here’s the run-down of the evolution of college educating: In addition to not actually challenging students on any of their beliefs or asking them to do any real work to earn their grades, professors are now not allowed to say curse words either. It would be helpful if institutions would compile a list of things professors can do. “Okay class, today we are all going to sit quietly and run out the clock because your young minds can’t handle anything else.” Students are now listening to Final Jeopardy music for four months instead of any meaningful in-class discussions because professors are being fired for using colloquial language. Jeebus Cripes on a cracker.

Verbal abuse of a student is certainly something universities should be concerned about but policing the language choices of their instructors is just ridiculous. I wonder if this is actually a free speech violation. I’m not a legal expert but LSU is a public institution, so I am suspicious. I can think of some professors I had as a grad student that would be up the pink-slip worthy Sh!t’s Creek if this rule was enforced at the university where I received my Ph.D.

Can you imagine if people in other fields were fired for swearing? I’m picturing a drill sergeant in the Army yelling at a buck private without using any curse words. It’s amusing to consider, like watching a Quentin Tarantino film edited for network television. I can see Samuel Jackson’s lips moving, but no sound is coming out. Also, construction zones are going family friendly.

In summation, swearing, like long dashes, should be used sparingly and for emphasis. It should not be a fire-able offense. I hope the university doesn’t start scrutinizing my use of the M dash—I’m rather fond of that particular punctuation mark.

Don’t Buy Retail from Supreme Leader Megatron

I hate it when products don’t work as advertised. You have a problem for which a product purports to solve, you drop the cash for said product, use it as directed, and FAIL. It doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, it falls apart on the first go. Do they think I won’t take it back and ask for a refund? Because I will. As soon as I’m done complaining about it in this blog. I may be the Grandpa Simpson of internet bloggers.

The product I’m lambasting today? A Blue Hawk brand tarpaulin. That’s right: a simple, gray weather-proof tarp. With grommets to use with bungee cords to hold it on to the object it’s designed to protect. Except not. It failed utterly in the grommets and bungee department. It’s the primary function and it failed. Thanks, Obama. I mean Lowes. I even bought the “heavy duty” version. Heavy duty apparently refers to how much the tarp weighs and not how sturdy it is. The problem is the grommets ripped out as soon as I got on the road, leaving my stuff unprotected from the weather. And I lost a bungee so I can’t refund those. That’s a wasted ten dollars and ninety five cents. Also, tarp is an abbreviation for tarpaulin because those extra five letters are cumbersome and useless, just like the product.

I’s not like this was pilot error either. I followed the directions, which were in English and everything. (Though admittedly more of a “pictogram” than actual steps. Still.)  Step One: Cover item.  Step Two: Attach with bungees. Step Three: Autobots roll out. I don’t think I missed any steps. It’s a good thing I tried a test run and it didn’t rain because my ire would be much more pronounced today if my stuff had been ruined. Also, Transformers are made of steel and rust easily.

So the tarp fell apart almost immediately, with the grommets ripping out and flinging a bungee into the atmosphere somewhere along interstate 35. (Perhaps someone like my dad, an avid discarded bungee collector, will recover it and make it useful again.) The tarp itself is now a tattered shell of its former self, and not even duct tape can salvage its essence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m upset that my problem wasn’t solved by the solution I envisioned; it’s the fact that the item failed to function according to its only operational directive that’s irritating me. Optimus Prime is disappointed in you, Blue Hawk. More like Blue Falcon, amirite? (That’s a joke for my Army friends. Google it.)

So, despite the fact that Blue Hawk sounds like it will be an awesome new addition to the Autobots team of road warriors, it is in fact, a substandard product of Decepticon manufacture, designed to fail just as the big battle starts, probably in the middle of a thunderstorm. Smart Bumblebees know to test their arsenal prior to leaving the garage.

In summation, I’m off to shake my fist at the unwitting Lowes customer service representative.

Batman is Good with Cats

It’s Monday and I’m T minus six days from take-off. All I can think about right now is how I am going to do this moving thing. The big day is quickly approaching and I’ve done a lot already but I don’t feel nearly ready to go. The cats would disagree. Every day they have fewer furniture items to leave their fur on. I gave away their cat carriers today though and they didn’t seem too concerned. They hated those things. They haven’ figured out that the new metal box in the living room that they’ve been laying in is an animal crate. I’m lulling them into a false sense of security with it.  I hope it turns into a real sense of security. I want them to feel safe. I also plan to drug them.

Moving is hard enough but doing it with animals is even harder. At least if you actually like your pets. Which I do. (If you don’t like your pets, you can just ship them freight. And you are a terrible person.) I have two plus days of driving while pulling a trailer with three cats in the car. I am a little stressed about this prospect. Even with sedatives, I am very concerned about the stress that this will put on the kitties. And on me.  As the designated driver, I don’t get sedatives.

I hope the cats continue to drink water and poop in appropriate locations. The vet said they’re a little overweight so I am less worried about them eating on the road. It occurs to me that I am moving a cat’s toilet in my car. It’s the one time when I am forced concede that dogs are easier than cats.  If only I could train my cats to walk on a leash. Anyone who claims this is possible is either a liar or delusional. Or a delusional liar. Or Batman.

Now that I think about it, Batman’s help would really come in handy. Not only does he have a lot of useful gadgets and powerful vehicles, but he really has a way with felines. He took care of Halle Berry and Michelle Pfiepher well enough. How do you spell Phipher? Pfiper? I had a cat named Piper. It’s Pfeiffer. I Googled it. Anyway, Batman knew how to handle unruly cats. Unfortunately, I think I’m going to have to deal with these three little kitties without super-heroic intervention.

In summation, as long as they don’t decide to mutiny on the road, we should be okay. Cats are terrible drivers, especially when they’re on drugs. 

Wife Wanted, Good Credit History a Must

Some important stuff is going down today: My check register is off by 15 cents and my credit card company didn’t send me a bill. In other news, the SCOTUS ruled in favor of same-sex marriage for the country. This is awesome, of course, but I am too stressed out about my missing 15 cents and my overdue credit card balance to care. These things are very distressing to me, especially since I can’t for the life of me figure out what that 15 cents is about and I don’t like being late with bills. I didn’t pay the bill because I didn’t get one. I am old and don’t expect to get bills via email. I pay bills when I get them in the mail. So, I am missing 15 cents, my credit card was overdue and disabled because the bank dude changed my bill setting to paperless, and same-sex marriage is legal everywhere. The times they are a-changin’.

It’s great that same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. Congratulations to all my same-sex couples friends out there who now have the guarantees written in the constitution apply to them. Pragmatically speaking, however,  I am far more likely to need my credit card than marriage protections in the coming weeks. Also, I may have started crying on the phone with the customer service representative, getting her to reverse the $35 late charge. I wonder if the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case cried in court. I’m betting they did. Crying is a very effective tool for change.

Once I got my credit card bill taken care of, I was then able to focus on the same-sex marriage issue, which I read was passed by a slim majority of 5 to 4. Being one of the four dissenters, Justice Alito said “well then why not marry four gay men together?” Because Justice Alito is an idiot who thinks gay people are trying to marry in groups. In case you’re new here: group marriage isn’t a thing that gays are advocating for. That’s called a “slippery slope” fallacy with a bit of a “straw man” thrown in just for fun. Marriage between more than two people is limited to small sects of polygamous heterosexual cults. “Sister Wives” is a show about straight people, Justice Alito. Stop making sh!t up.  In case Justice Alito is wondering, same-sex marriage will not lead to human-penguin unions either. Although, that would be awesome. Just kidding. Penguins would never want to marry humans. Penguins are very monogamous. Also, they're fiscally responsible and don’t want to inherit our student loan debt.

To all the same-sex couples out there: You can now legally inherit your partner’s credit card delinquencies in every state in the U.S. Yay! Maybe I should get married. This would solve a lot of my problems. It probably won’t happen though. No one wants their fingerprints on my financial train wreck. To be clear, I don’t have financial problems exactly, I just don’t remember to pay bills that don’t come in the mail with a return envelope and I am bad at math. I never did figure out what that 15 cent discrepancy was all about. I gave up and just wrote the number the bank said. Whatever. It’s not the first time I’ve done this and it certainly won’t be the last time.

I’m trying to be all happy about the same-sex marriage ruling, but if I’m being honest, I don’t care that much because I don’t believe it will ever impact my life. I’m much more concerned with student loans and credit debt. The VISA customer service rep assured me that the late bill had not impacted my credit rating “yet” so that’s good, I guess. I want to buy a new car this year so I have to keep on top of these things. Anyway, I can’t imagine that anyone would want to try living with me. I am an introverted loner with weird personal habits and poor fiscal skills. Also, I am a bed hog. Even the cats won’t sleep with me.  

In summation, there’s a Neil Young song called “A Man Needs a Maid” that resonates with me. He laments that he doesn’t need a romantic partner so much as someone to keep his house clean. My version is called “A Woman Needs a CPA.”

Which Stinks More: Opinions or Ellipses?

They say opinions are like @$$holes—everyone has one. However, only @$$holes with broadband internet access can force their stupid opinions on masses of strangers. It’s a peculiar quirk of the age of Web 2.0 that any old Tom, Dick, or Harry can tell me what he thinks the appropriate criminal punishment for a crime he read about in a 300 word news report should be. Also, if Dick happens to be sentencing someone named Jorge or DeShawn, the punishment will likely involve death and/or testicular trauma. Also, Dick is appropriately named.

I read an article this morning about a man names Jorge who made an Alford plea in the death of his girlfriend’s child. The article was so short, that I have already told you pretty much everything that was in it except the demographics of the where and when of the case. There wasn’t enough information in the article to know anything about what actually happened. But, internet comments being what they are, a random internet “gentleman” still felt that he knew enough about the case from that short article to pronounce judgment: In his view the appropriate punishment for Jorge was the death penalty. Also, he felt that “all those people” should be deported.

Clearly Dick knows better than the court systems and is also clairvoyant. He could see right through Jorge’s feeble attempt to cover up his willful wrongdoing by making an Alford plea because only a guilty person would do that, right? Never mind that there isn’t a single piece of actual evidence presented in the news article to indicate what actually happened. Dick is clearly correct that Jorge needs to die for his (unspecified) crime. Also, his name is Jorge. Guilty.

Methinks that if Dick had read an identical article in which Tom had entered an Alford plea, his response would have been different (or more likely non-existent) since Tom doesn’t represent an entire group of people. God forbid we judge Dick based on Tom’s actions. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending Jorge. I don’t actually know what happened. Jorge could be a total raging abusive f*ckwit. Or he could have been innocent, which is what his plea indicates he believes. The point is, I don’t know anything about the case because the article didn’t say anything and I’m not a mind-reader like Dick.

It’s pretty clear from the context here that I am calling Dick out for being a racist . . . Dick. That’s hardly a new topic for discussion nor is it particularly newsworthy in and of itself given what’s been going on in the U.S. for, well, forever. What gets me is the comments that get posted on local news websites in response to articles that literally have no information in them that would allow for an honest assessment of a criminal case. Folks like Dick are handing down punishments via web comments without any information whatsoever. Is Dick aware that he is basing his death sentence solely on a bias against the way the accused person’s name sounds with no foundation in any facts whatsoever? Is Dick aware that he is a racist? Does Dick know that he is an ignorant redneck? No offense to intelligent rednecks.

I’m sorry that a child is dead but I don’t know enough about Jorge to judge him worthy of the death penalty. Dick, on the other hand, apparently knows a lot more than I do because he can read between the lines. I’ve been taught to just read the actual words. I guess I’m not as hip to the news as Dick.

In summation, using Dick’s method of pronouncing judgment based on only a few sentences, I pronounce judgment on Dick based on his short, fact-free comment: He’s forever limited to 28.8k dial-up internet access.

Invasion of the Ad-Bots: Select an Experience at Your Peril

I am a media consumer; not so much a product consumer though. Most of my clothes come from Goodwill and/or garage sales and I use hand soap to wash my hair (because I’m classy like that and my hair is a quarter of an inch long) so when I see ads for products and services while watching media, I usually just furrow my brow in mock-confusion. Silly Google+, YouTube, and Hulu: They all want to tailor my ad experience. They ask me questions like “Which ad experience would you prefer?” and “Is this ad relevant to you?” or “Which of these products/services/companies have you heard of?” I never answer any of those “concerned” questions. I don’t want my ad “experience” tailored to me. I don’t have an ad “preference.” Please don't make ads more relevant to me. I want to see all the splendid ridiculousness of commercial media. I don’t want to be limited to whatever products and services Madison Avenue’s internet robots think are interesting to me. I need to see all the ads: this blog needs all the fodder it can get. And, yes, I know that’s not where ads come from anymore. Madison Avenue is only alive and well on reruns of Bewitched. I am still waiting to see the episode where McMann and Tate accidently create an ad campaign for confederate flags and Samantha has to erase everyone’s memory of history. Hilarity ensues.

Calling the watching of commercials an “ad experience” is a clunky euphemism at best. While I do “experience” watching commercials as a thing that happens in my life, I would not categorize them as memorable enough to classify as experiences in the typically understood sense. The passive viewing of video media itself is barely an experience, even when I have voluntarily placed myself in a position to do so. My watching of the final Harry Potter film in an IMAX theatre is the closest I’ve ever gotten to calling media consumption an “experience” and that’s mostly because the movie made me queasy and want to barf. (The seasick-inducing dome of the IMAX rather than the JK Rowling story was the source of my feelings of puking. I call IMAX theatres “vomitoriums.” No offense to Jo—Hermione is my patronus.)

Back in the olden days of network television, you watched whatever advertisers had to show you. Commercials that ran during your favorite shows (or your not-so-favorite shows running on “Must-See TV”) were whatever the network had in their sponsored-by hopper. They did their best to tailor these ads to who they thought the audience for the show was. That’s why there were G.I. Joe action figure commercials during Saturday morning cartoons and ads for sexy times 900 numbers during late night Star Trek reruns. Network television commercials were nature’s way of saying “time to go to the bathroom.”

Tailoring my ad experience means I miss out on whatever weirdness is taking place in the media. For example, I am most definitely not the target audience for Axe Body Spray but I love me a good opportunity to explore the notion of aerosol-based teen angst.  Where else will I find curriculum materials for my pop culture analysis course? What would my personal ad experience even look like? I’m imagining a sequence which starts with a variety of Buffy the Vampire Slayer t-shirts, followed by an ad for men’s shoes that come in women’s sizes, and concluding with a smart 60-second blip about Amish free-range chicken eggs. Goldmine.

Of course, none of those things exist so I would rather just be baffled by a series of commercials that actually do exist, including a baby skin care line with a nonsensical tagline about the baby smiling and that’s why she needs baby lotion, followed by a lesser-known rapper peddling gigantic throwback headphones, and concluding with a dopey looking Matthew McConaughey driving around in a Lincoln Town Car. None of these are remotely relevant to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them in all their baffling glory. Also, some voiceover narration from Martin Sheen classes up pretty much everything.

In summation, my dear Madison Avenue Bots, please stop trying to tailor an ad experience to me personally. You have nothing that I want to spend my money on. Instead, just show me the crap that you do have and I will laugh and/or scoff accordingly.

Death by Hipsterism

Where do hipsters put their i-Phones when they’re moving into their gentrified neighborhood apartments from their college dorm rooms? That’s not a joke; it’s a serious question. Not only do these fashion-forward neo-beat poets suffer from a paucity of pocket-space, but it turns out being a hipster can be fatal. This isn’t a case of someone ingesting sriracha-doused kale-bacon burrito and suffering some kind of food-borne ailment; this is about being a slave to hipster fashion. Okay, so the woman in question didn’t actually die, but she was hospitalized for four days and suffered serious injuries after trying to move furniture while wearing skinny jeans. She suffered paralyzing nerve damage from wearing pants that were too snug. No word on what happened to her i-Phone.

The dangers of fashion are nothing new—women (and a few men) have been complaining about foot pain and toe injuries caused by too-high heels, and the devastating consequences on internal organs from previous centuries’ corsets and hoop skirts. And rightly so: Those “fashions” were designed by men to make women helpless and objectified. (Yes, I know that the history of high heels begins with men’s fashion rather than women’s. Don’t make this about you.) Don’t even get me started on floor-length Victorian dresses that were such dirt and germ magnets, which caused serious respiratory illnesses for their wearers, that public building owners lamented they would have to actually hire janitors to keep the floors clean once the clothing item went out of fashion.  

The point here is that fashion has a long history of being physically dangerous. Hipster jeans are just the latest offender in a long line of clothing that can kill or maim you. In fairness to skinny jeans, you’re not likely to get your pant legs tangled in the chain of your penny farthing so they’ve got that going for them. It should be noted that if you are wearing skinny jeans while riding a penny farthing, you are the worst of the worst. If you tell me you have a unicycle rather than a penny farthing, I will punch you in the face. Also, you probably have a handlebar mustache and a black eye (from someone punching you in the face for riding a unicycle.)

Skinny jeans are a style choice, which unfortunately, has coincided with the trend of obesity in the U.S. making them even more dangerous as pants choices go. Excessively tight clothing can and does cause damage, and if you happen to be suffering from low self-esteem (and/or type-2 diabetes) they can cause you to suffer nerve damage and potential paralysis and amputation. This isn’t a joke. Hipsterism can be deadly. Wise up, sheeple. I heard Hitler was a hipster. Just look at that ridiculous mustache. Hitler probably rode a unicycle.

Now, I confess, I did experience a brief period of time where I cow-towed to fashion and wore clothing that was uncomfortable and potentially dangerous in order to fit in with the cool kids. It lasted for about a week in 1988 and ended with an unfortunate explosion at a Pink Floyd laser show involving a can of Aquanet and a Bic lighter. Just kidding. I was never cool enough to get invited to the laser shows. Truthfully though, I have not had a perm since the 80s.

In summation, the next time someone says my baggy cargo pants are out of style, I will respond by noting that I’ve never suffered nerve damage as a result of excess pockets, and I have a place to keep my phone. It's an Android.

Homer J. Foucault and the Cult of Inadequacy

I woke up this morning with something vaguely in my head about the cult of something and I couldn’t quite put my finger on the whole of the idea. It was definitively a leftover sensation from a fitful dream that began about 5:30 a.m. when I finally fell back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night with a headache. (I think it’s the weather—it was humid and overcast and has just now finally started to rain and relieve the pressure.) Anyway, the swirling idea coalesced into my thinking about why we (as a species or whatever) worry so much about whether we’re good enough. I’ve decided it’s a cult.

I’m going to do a little deprogramming to counteract the brainwashing of this cult. It’s time to start celebrating our adequacy. Like Homer Simpson, who, despite being an idiot most of the time, thinks highly enough of himself to march around chanting “I am so smart: S-M-R-T.” His obvious spelling error doesn’t negate the fact that he takes pride in whatever small victory he’s achieved; although, I don’t remember what it is he was celebrating and am too lazy to go look it up. Because I’m adequate. Also, Homer lost a popularity contest to an inanimate carbon rod but still got to be an astronaut who went into outer space. (You haven’t been? You gotta go.)

I’m seriously considering beginning a rant about how media is the cause of our collective inadequacy paranoia but frankly, that seems like a lot of work. I’d have to go do research about how some media creates false images of what we (as men and women) are supposed to look like and how we don’t look like that, then do more research on how other media markets products to us to try to fix all those inadequacies that the earlier media has made us aware of. Then, I’d have to go find some critical theory about “The Gaze” (Erving Goffman or Laura Mulvey probably, if I wasn’t too lazy to actually do it) that explains how we are not seen by ourselves but by “the man” or something. There’s probably some Derrida or Foucault in there too, but it’s too early in the week to be reading French Postmodernism. And Foucault is difficult.

I am having a brilliant idea about making a Homer Simpson/Michel Foucault mash-up in which a bald Frenchman spouts philosophy while drinking cheap American beer. It’s brilliant. And by brilliant, I mean adequate for entertainment purposes. Seriously, though: I think Homer J. Foucault is the next big internet meme. I’m starting a thing. Who’s with me?

            “As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. Mmm…dates”

Do you think Michel Foucault liked to bathe or was he more of a cologne man? I bet he enjoyed donuts. Derrida liked burritos. (There's film footage of Derrida eating a burrito. I'm not making that up.)

So, we are, most of us, adequate just as we are. Much like both Homer Simpson and Michel Foucault, we've all got our brilliant side and our foibles. What a weird word. That I just used "foibles" in a sentence is perhaps my flaw. I am too lazy to get out a thesaurus. Also, I am conflating "lazy" and "adequate". Just go with it.

In summation, my creative outlet for today is an overweight, balding cartoon character with a borderline IQ who ponders deep existential questions about the nature of humanity and the deliciousness of Tex-Mex. And that’s just good enough.

Error 404: Blog Not Found

Today's blog is unavailable and you have been redirected to this page instead. I'm so sorry. I’ve been sitting here for an hour and a half trying to think of something meaningful to say today but the truth is, I’ve got nothing. Really. I know it’s hard to believe that I might not have an opinion on anything today, especially given the newsworthy week we’ve had, but it’s true. I can’t even think of any first world problems to complain about today. My biggest concern at the moment is what to get my dad for Father’s Day. Also, the agony of trying to think of what to actually say in a daily blog when I have nothing to say and lots of other things to do with my time.

~Musical interlude as time passes while I eat some eggs~

As I approach the two hour mark of trying unsuccessfully to write something meaningful (or anything even remotely interesting) it occurs to me that perhaps I should be using my time for something more constructive. I have a lot of other things to do today, not the least of which being the need to move some furniture around, pack some boxes, and hook up a trailer in anticipation of actually having to haul said furniture and said boxes in said trailer in the very near future. But I keep telling myself that I will get on that as soon as I finish writing my blog for today, which, as you can see, is a very dull and slow moving train without a clear destination. Also, I don’t know what the word for “not procrastinating but not accomplishing anything” is called. Failure? I think I’m failing at today.

What this failure-to-make-any-progress-today-despite-my-honest-effort-to-do-so is making me think about is how I don’t always use my time wisely. I have a list of things to do and yet I start with the task that is the most difficult and least likely to be completed quickly. I could have had the trailer hooked up by now and packed three boxes full of stuff if I hadn’t been sitting here writing about Red Lobster and bananas. That was the error 404 you got when you tried to find today’s blog. It was deleted and you were redirected here. Anyway, my hatred of yellow fruit and the chain seafood restaurant is well known.

So, instead of getting anything done that I need to get done, I am trying to get something done that doesn’t need to get done, making everything get done half-assed. I should really be using my whole ass. Also, I am now hungry again because of how much time has passed. I feel guilty for not doing what I need to do because I was trying to do what I also need to do. Shut up, that’s a perfectly clear sentence. Also, I am now out of eggs and need to go to the grocery store.

So, while I’ve gotten nothing constructive done, I have also made a pretty detailed list of everything I need to get done, which gets longer by the hour. I've started brainstorming how to combine tasks. For example, I’ve decided that I’m going to give my dad the book I read last week for my magazine review. I think he’ll like it more than I did and it'll be one less thing to pack. 

In summation, self-imposed deadlines are the ones that make me the most miserable. I’m going to go do something constructive. 

The World’s Most Average Number

Perhaps I shall secretly tattoo the number 64531 somewhere on my body. 64531 is a postal code for a rural part of coastal Sweden; a passenger train in Dehli, India; the numeric ID of a binding protein gene in the Norway rat; a statute in California governing something related to cattle agriculture (I didn’t read the whole thing because California legal mumbo jumbo); the player number of professional disk golfer Kyle Lancaster; a chemical compound found in certain fungi; and a part number for the stainless steel grill of Dodge trucks, among other things. That’s just on page one of my Google search.

Why am I telling you about this seemingly random number? Because Aldous Huxley’s famous science fiction novel of dystopian anxiety, Brave New World, is sixty four thousand five hundred thirty one words long. This factoid is important because sixty four thousand words is the average length of all novels ever written in the history of humans and Huxley got closer to than benchmark of mediocrity than any other writer. Huxley was unintentionally (and yet also epically) average. I also wish to be epically (though more intentionally) average, I have decided that the book I’m writing should aim for this middling word count goal. I think it’s doable. I’m at twenty one thousand right now—nearly a third of the way there already! I only need to be two-thirds more average to achieve mediocrity. My calculations may be a bit off. Math is hard.

So, I am continuing to write and develop ideas for my book, while keeping a close eye on the word count tally, while also continuously writing five new (and totally original, not stolen at all!) blogs each week. I haven’t counted, but it’s possible I have completely exceeded the magic number with my collective blogging. Of course, it would not be a coherent narrative so it doesn’t really matter. (My individual blogs sometimes struggle with coherent narratives within their measly 600 word ramblings.) What matters is that I keep working on the book until I get to where I want to be. Sometimes people even read the words that I’m writing. That’s always nice. I think I’m the only one counting words. Everyone else seems content to just read them.

So, as I endeavor to be average I think about the example of Aldous Huxley (and the mighty Dodge Ram) and try to remember that being the greatest does not mean I have to be as big as Texas or as long as the Nile. I can accept that my work can be middling and still be good. I mean, sure, Any Rand’s Atlas Shrugged weighted in at a hefty 565223 but that doesn’t make it a better book than Brave New World, does it. (No, no it doesn’t.) Also, Rand estimated her text at 645000 words, making one wonder if she was the single-handedly responsible for the deception about whether size matters. (Note to self: Never pass up an opportunity to take pot shots at Ayn Rand.)

In summation, it’s fine if some folks want to aspire to be the greatest of the greats: good for them if they want to become actors like Sir Lawrence Olivier; I’ll be satisfied putting a paper bag over my head and calling myself Shia LaBeouf. He’s still famous, right?

In case you were wondering, this blog is 575 words long, including this sentence. That's pretty average.

“I Can’t Pay the Rent” is Only Funny on Rocky and Bullwinkle

My cup of coffee is the rent I have paid to this local establishment for the use of this chair and their free Wi-Fi. I suspect the Wi-Fi is free to anyone who camps out here even if they don’t buy something. I’ve never actually done that because I like the coffee. Also, that’s sort of a douche move. Unless you legitimately can’t afford the coffee. Then you hope the baristas are friendly.

I am camped out at this locale, not for the ambiance (though that is quaint—Paul Simon is playing) but because I had to vacate my house for several hours while the inspector does his thing. I hope they don’t look in my underwear drawer. Just kidding. I don’t have any drawers. I am living out of plastic tubs. They better not look in my tubs.

So, I am writing a blog in a coffee shop while wearing clothes I got out of a tub, while my car (which is parked on the street) is full of junk. This is what temporary transience looks like. It is annoying but it beats more permanent transience. I tried that and I didn’t care for it. Fortunately, I am of sound body and mostly not too mentally deficient, so I was able to bootstrap myself out of that situation. Some folks aren’t as lucky; they don’t have bootstraps. Or boots. Or straps.

There is an essay called “On Dumpster Diving” by a man named Lars Eighner who went from homeownership to homelessness after a series of unfortunate economic difficulties. (I have not included a link out of respect for Eighner’s copyright.) In it, he documents his experiences living on the streets (with his dog because Eighner knows about pathos) but instead of being about how bad his life is, the essay is a how-to of making the most of transience and the goodies you find in the trash. Also, he explains what to do when your pup gets into fire ants. It’s not as bad as it sounds, apparently.

I made my students rhetorically analyze this essay last year and some of them even figured out that they were part of the target audience. The line between middle class comfort and first world poverty is closer than many of them realize. In my course, we also have a conversation about what “income-dependent socio-economic status” is. Many young people haven’t considered what happens to middle class folks when they can’t work for whatever reason.

So, while I am experiencing some temporary transience, I have been keenly aware of what actual transience might be like. I always wonder about the mysterious people behind the abandoned storage units on the TV show “Storage Wars.” What happened that they left all their stuff behind for human vultures to come along and bid on? Did they lose their jobs and thus their ability to pay for the storage? Did they go to prison? Did they die? I doubt they won the lottery and decided to move to Tahiti unencumbered by the possessions of their old lives, though I guess that’s a possibility. My money’s on death or taxes.

So, although my transience is self-inflicted and temporary, I can envision the sequence of decline, which might occur should I lose my job like Eighner did. It’s a sobering thought and I won’t spell it out here even though I’ve played it through in my head. Trust me, it isn’t pretty; my cats end up eating me.

In summation, transience is depressing and I want to go home. Stay out of my tubs.