Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The New Normal -- "You're lucky to have a job!"

Pimp paid child prostitute in chicken nuggets:
A Brisbane pimp who paid his child prostitute in chicken nuggets will serve just nine months behind bars.

Ronald Vikash Gander, 27, was described by a District Court judge yesterday as a ''sleaze merchant'' who treated the 16-year-old girl as a ''piece of meat'' after it was revealed he had forced her to have sex with older men and take part in a lesbian sex romp in order to pay rent on his Spring Hill apartment.

The $4500 she made as a first-time prostitute went on living expenses, car hire and buckets of chicken nuggets for the girl, prosecutors said.
Once his legal troubles are settled, this guy will be leading seminars at Harvard Business School.

When prosperity and poverty are indistinguishable

The Castle, The Dragon and The Mist

Imlet One

In the Land of Glem, beyond the Milkwood Forest and Vituscian Barrens, there sat a small plowman's cottage where lived a Germac named Dugnoland. He resided with his wife, Shesba, and their eleven children, spending his days in the fields and his evenings sitting upon the front porch he'd built with his own two hands, smoking his Nimrod pipe. They lived like all quiet Germacs, raising their crops, raising their children and raising roof beams as they added on to their humble plowman's cottage.

Fourteen Nemacs had passed since the reign of the Benevolent Emperor. Dugnoland was in his fifth era. He had robbed the cradle when he'd married, Shesba, for she was now only part way through her third era. Had they resided in the village, he would have been stoned or shunned, and the marriage annulled. But they lived among the Rough Areas, and were left to their own business. Shesba was hardly old enough to recall the Benevolent Emperor, but Dugnoland remembered well that time of prosperity and peace that pervaded the land. The Benevolent Emperor had lived well into his ninth era and his spirit had been carried off to the gods one terrible night as he slept. It was then that his evil son, known to all as Argus the Adversary, seized the throne, after which ten long nemacs passed in which prosperity turned to poverty, the brotherhood of Germacs turned to suspicion, deception and ill-will, and a cold wind blew in from the west.

Life improved somewhat after Argus the Adversary was overthrown, but not by much. The Adversary's daughter, Niptu, became his successor. She was a princess, but referred to herself as and demanded all address her as "goddess."

Dugnoland was readying to go into the cottage for the night, offer his prayers to the gods, and then get four or five shiptars of sleep, when he heard a disturbance in the bramble bush at the perimeter of the yard. A moment later, a figure stumbled and limped to the front porch. In the lantern light, Dugnoland could make out the robes of a Chazzmire priest, though they were ragged and ripped. The figure within the robes appeared bloodied and exhausted.

"Please," the priest wheezed. "The Chicane Riders pursue me!"

As Chazzmire priests were little bigger than wheat-node-drimwrecks, Dugnoland bent down and picked him up and carried him into the cottage. Shesba was just finishing tidying the sustenance area. She turned at the sound of her husband's footsteps. When she saw what he carried, her smile vanished. Dugnoland placed the harried and harassed Chazzmire beneath the roddam table, and set a chair in the way to conceal him. Dugnoland held his finger to his lips, silencing Shesba's queries. He then returned to the porch.

He was in the midst of reawakening his pipe when the sound of biphoards approached. It had been well over five nemacs since the hoof steps of a biphoard has been heard in these parts. They were large, strong riding animals. No Germac farm could produce enough food to keep a biphoard and feed a family, though even a sickly biphoard would be a valuable addition to any household.

Four Chicane Riders slowly approached upon steaming, huffing biphoards.

"You, there, Germac," one Rider called to Dugnoland. "I am Whipzhed of Tooloose."

"Greetings and welcome to you Whipzhed. I am Dugnoland, Master Shearer and Nimrod pipe smoker."

There were chuckles all around at this joke.

"We pursue a spinulum escaped from the Jibnab. Might you have seen any strange travelers pass your domicile in the past thirty shiptars?"

Dugnoland puffed reflectively on his pipe. "There haven't been any travelers through these parts in a weber's age."

"Is that so?" the Rider said, skeptical.

"My wife and I lead a quiet life, as you can see by the remote location we've chosen for our home."

"Would you begrudge some water for myself and my men?"

"Not at all. Bring your biphoards around to the back of the cottage and I'll have my sons water and grimesh them."

The Rider who had done all the talking dismounted, handing the reins of his biphoard to the Rider next to him. "Would you object to me passing along my gratitude to your wife, personally?"

"Of course not, please come inside."

The other Riders went around back of the cottage as Dugnoland led Whipzhed inside. Dugnoland introduced him to Shesba and then went up to the loft to rouse his two oldest sons. In the loft where his eleven children slept, Dugnoland found his boys already awake and roused. There was a moment of confusion, but then he noticed the ragged Chazzmire lying in his eldest son's bed. The boy, who was nearing entry into his second era looked frightened, as though he feared his father would be angry with him. He whispered urgently, "Mother brought him! She said to say nothing!"

Dugnoland put his finger to his lips, silencing his son, and a hand upon the boy's shoulder. "Come -- and bring your brother Shem."

Just then there was a loud crash in the sustenance area. Dugnoland, bounded down from the loft and found Whipzhed had ransacked the cupboards and storage chests, and had just overturned to roddam table. Shesba stood against the counter opposite him, frightened.

Whipzhed turned, hearing Dugnoland's rapid entry to the sustenance area. The Rider smiled. "Please forgive my rudeness. I'm on an urgent errand and must satisfy my own eyes."

Dugnoland clenched and unclenched his fists. There was a moment in which he thought to thrash the Rider, but knew it would be pointless with three others just outside. He would bring their wrath upon his household, doing much more harm to himself than to them. "Then you will forgive my rudeness," he said to the Rider, "and please depart my home immediately!"

Whipzhed gave a quick, condescending bow. "My apologies. We shall go."

Dugnoland had his two oldest sons help their mother reassemble the sustenance area and right the roddam table, while he went outside to see the Riders off.

Whipzhed sat atop his biphoard. "Once more, my apologies for unsettling your domicile at this hour."

"Good luck in your errand and know and remember that nothing relating to it can be found here."

Whipzhed gave a salute and then led the other Riders away from the cottage.

When Dugnoland re-entered the cottage the sustenance area and roddam table were all back as they should be. His wife and sons looked at him with stunned, frightened eyes. He led them into the front communal huddle parlor and they settled upon the comfortable waifsets. "The Riders pursued that strange man who claims to be a Chazzmire priest. He wears the priests robes, but I fear he may only be a highwayman who'd robbed and beaten a priest. Only he can tell us what we want to know." Dugnoland rose from his waifset. "I shall speak to him alone."

He ascended to the loft once more and found the Chazzmire quite well asleep on Rayment's pallet. He knelt down beside the tiny creature and gently roused him. The Chazzmire woke with a start and stared up with terrified eyes. "Tis only I," Dugnoland said gently. "The Riders have come and gone and you are safe -- for now."

A modicum of relief filtered into the Chazzmire's eyes.

"Why do they pursue you?" Dugnoland said. "You are small like a Chazzmire, but your robes betray a troubled story. I have kept you safe and put my family in danger. Tell me what you have done."

The Chazzmire priest reached up with a tiny hand and grabbed the lapel of Dugnoland's burlap tunic. His eyes were wide, crazed, inspired, horrified. The Chazzmire priest said, "The Benevolent Emperor lives! I have seen him. He is enslaved! He must be freed!"

Dugnoland could not have been more shocked at that moment if the Chazzmire priest had turned into a zipflingbee right before his eyes. These were the kinds of words the fueled delusions or revolutions, depending on how much truth they possessed.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Harmonicycle by Mac Motors

What is more quintessentially American than the motorcycle and the harmonica? Nothing! So, Mac Motors has brought these two classics together in a sleek, new road monster called The Harmonicycle.

Enjoy the earthy, nostalgic sounds of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blues Traveler with every acceleration!

Each Harmonicycle is lovingly hand-crafted by women clad in 1950s period-dress. The model is so new and exciting, they still need the directions to assemble them!

This summer, don't just hit the highway and ride -- harmoniride!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Let There Be Reese on Earth

A Doug MacPhisto/Whetam Gnauckweirst joint venture.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

You Have the Right to Remain Silent, Pryvett Rawgers!

July hit the warehouse of Package Handling Company, International, like a dirty bomb. The anemic, ancient fans management positioned around the place only served to stir the dust and rouse the encroaching stink of armpit and ass-crack. Pryvett Rawgers and the other PHC scanners moved about the warehouse, sweating, morose, irritable and with a grudging, management-hating lethargy. From a shelving unit in the corner rasped a small radio no one was allowed to touch. It was tuned to a station that called itself The Rock, which abused the minions with bargain bin alternative music, such as Nickleback and Silverchair. Amid his grumbling, Pryvett referred to the music on the station as the "Guantanamo Bay mix-tape."

Among his assignments that sodden morning, Pryvett was sent to the Customs area to rescan all of the packages awaiting inspection. Once a week, a gaggle of Customs agents came in with their sniffer dogs, to sort through the packages. They hadn't been there recently, though, and the avalanche of packages piling up for inspection was growing more unwieldy than usual. Eyeing the mess, Pryvett sighed and shambled back to the office. As he did so, a cheer went up in the warehouse as a battered box being kicked by one of the trolls finally split open and disgorged its contents of Girls Gone Wild Vol. 5 DVDs.

Pryvett entered the office. "What's going on with Customs? Their area's starting to look like Krakatoa."

None of the three office workers looked up. The plant manager, Stan, talked with one of them: "No, the memo from head office was very clear -- orange highlighter for lates," he said in a flat, nasally tone he thought made him sound like a member of the Kennedy clan. "Pink for those calling in sick less than the mandatory eight hours before a shift, green for a second warning, blue for third time written-up --"

"Stan?" Pryvett said, heated. "Why haven't Customs been here so we can clear out that area?"

Stan looked up, fogged and frowning. "Uh, what?"

"What's going on with Customs?"

"Oh, the dogs haven't been able to work."

"Whaddya mean?" Pryvett said. "Don't they have more than one dog?"

"They have plenty of dogs," Stan said. "They can't work in this weather."

"Weather? We're in doors!"

"The heat. It's too hot for the dogs to work."

Pryvett stood there and died one of the thousand deaths a warehouse worker dies each day. He looked out the door at the other PHC workers. "And we have to work in this heat?"

"In fact, yeah," Stan snapped. "Get back to it!"

* * *

Pryvett stood in the Customs area, perspiring prodigiously, scanning packages, wishing he belonged to the Customs K-9 Union. At least he was away from the wretched vortex of the radio. As he thought about the approaching lunch break, the warehouse P.A. system crackled to tortured life. "'yvett Rawgers to the off-off-off-office. Pry-y-y-vett Rawg-eeeeeeers to the office."

Gritting his teeth, Pryvett holstered his scanner and maneuvered through the cluttered the Customs area. If that ass-wise shit-clown asks if I've completed the lifting and stacking refresher, he thought, I'm gonna lose my shit.

Stan met him at the office door. He was accompanied by a mustachioed man Pryvett had never seen before.

"Come with me," Stan said, and lead Pryvett and the other man to a small, windowless meeting room with blank taupe walls and half a dozen folder chairs around a laminate table. At least the room was air conditioned. For a moment, Pryvett wondered if there'd been some family emergency and this man was some sort of grief counselor professionally trained to give bad news. Then he remembered this was PHC, the locus of all un-grief-counseled bad news.

"Have a seat," Stan said to Pryvett, looking away from him. The nameless man nodded at Stan, dismissing him. Stan left, closing the door.

The man was paunchy with a brush cut, and a mustachio that looked like a redneck hood ornament. He held a leather folder and took his time setting it on the table, opening it and leafing through a few of its pages. Finally, he looked at Pryvett and offered a wan smile.

"My name is Gerald Blightman. I'm head of PHC security for the tri-county region," he said. The smile vanished and he shouted, "Are you familiar with PHC's Zero Tolerance policy on pilferage?"

"Uh, yeah," Pryvett said, suddenly not enjoying the air conditioning as much as he had been a moment before. "There's a reward of thirty pieces of silver, or something, for turning somebody in."

Blightman's eyes narrowed. "Are you fucking with me? Cuz, I don't like it when people try and fuck with me."

"Who's fucking with you? I'm answering your question."

Blightman eyed Pryvett and began on a different tack. "Yeah. Five grand if we successfully prosecute the miserable thief."

"OK," Pryvett said, still not understanding why he was in the room, "good to know." He stood up. "Well, I don't have anybody to turn in at the moment."

"Sit down. I'm not through with you by a long shot."

"Well, can you get to the point, I'm like the air traffic controller who keeps this place from flying into a cliff."

"Smart guy, huh," Blightman chuffed, nodding. "Smart guys always think they're so smart --"

"What's this all about?"

Blightman stared at Pryvett a second. "We have you on video stealing from PHC, and two witnesses who saw you. So, I just need you to man-up and confess to what you've done."

Pryvett considered these words. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"OK, so you're not just a smart, you're also a tough guy." Blightman grinned. "I'm going to enjoy breaking you."

"Break me? You couldn't break a dollar for change," Pryvett said. "For starters, I want to see this footage you have on me. And I want the names of these witnesses."

Blightman smirked and raised his eyebrows. "And I'd like some beachfront property in Florida. Not gonna happen." He slowly closed his folder and rose from his chair. He paused at the door. "You wanna play hard ball? I can play hard ball."

Blightman exited the room and nearly collided with Stan who had been standing in the doorway with his ear pressed against the door.

"How is it going?" Stan said, flustered.

Blightman shook his head. "He's going to be a tough nut to crack. I haven't seen something like this since interrogating an embassy sous chef in Bosnia in '92 who'd been accused of stealing hot dog buns."

"Did you end up breaking him?"

"It's still under investigation, last I heard."

* * *

The windowless, taupe-walled meeting room was equipped with a small closed circuit camera. Stan and Blightman sat in Stan's office watching Pryvett.

"I didn't see any history of psychosis in his file," Blightman said, his gaze riveted to the grainy, 12-inch monochrome monitor. "Or military service. Is that file complete?"

"To the best of my knowledge."

Blightman stared at Pryvett, who sat in the room still as a statue of a Civil War general atop a fountain in a public park. "What's his game?"

* * *

At the end of Pryvett's shift, three hours later, Stan went to the taupe room and said he was finished for the day. "But you're to report back to this room first thing tomorrow."

Pryvett said nothing. He left for the day, stopping at a bookstore on his way home to pick up the latest issues of Rue Morgue Magazine and The Fortean Times.

* * *

The following day, Pryvett arrived at PHC wearing the clothes he'd worn the day before. He drove to work with the windows of his car rolled up and without the benefit of air conditioning. Upon his arrival, he went to the taupe room. He closed the door and sat down. He put his hands on top of his head, aerating his armpits.

Blightman entered the room a few minutes later. The moment he came through the door, he stopped. His eyes widened and watered; his breath stopped in his throat. He suddenly felt as though a troupe of acrobats were jumping upon his gag reflex. There was a heavy, meaty, humid bog-like stink in the room. He reflexively looked at Pryvett Rawgers to see if he was reacting to the stench. Pryvett lowered his arms and rested his elbows on the table, unbothered.

Gulping back his nausea and combating the urge to leave the door open, Blightman sat down, placing his leather folder on the table. "Well, we've got your finger prints all over the recovered DVD," he said, his voice unusually low, as though he was fighting back a belch.

"Impossible," Pryvett said matter-of-factly.

"What? Hardly!" Blightman frowned. "We've got you dead-to-rights, and all you can do is sit there digging your own grave?"

"Where did you get a sample of my fingerprints?"

"Uh," Blightman said, flipping through pages of his folder that had no relevance to the case. "From your personnel file, where else?"

Pryvett looked up at the CCTV camera in upper right corner of the room, and then back at Blightman. "PHC doesn't finger print its employees."

"No," Blightman stammered, "but we lifted them from your scanner -- that's what I meant to say."

"Those scanners are handled by half a dozen people a day, minimum. There'd be no usable prints on any of them."

Blightman closed his folder and rose from the table, desperate to escape the room, but also desperate not to betray his desperation. He exited and almost collapsed in the hallway, gasping the untainted air. He retreated to Stan's office and watched Pryvett on the monochrome CCTV monitor for three hours. Pryvett didn't move; he sat with his hands folded on the table, eyes forward. After the third hour, Blightman hurled his folder at the wall, scattering his papers like a flurry of dead doves.

* * *

The door to the taupe room opened. Pryvett didn't look up. Blightman entered, wincing against the carrion-mangrove-rotting-cabbage stink of the room that had grown exponentially more rancid in the last few hours. Blightman went to a far corner; clearly hiding something behind his back. Suddenly, he tossed the object at Pryvett -- a copy of Girls Gone Wild Vol. 4 bounced across the table and onto the floor. Pryvett made no move to catch it. He followed its progress with his eyes and then looked at Blightman. "Is that the copy with my finger prints all over it?"

"Yeah, it is. Would you mind handing it to me?"

Pryvett stared at him. "Does this shit actually work on anyone? What are you, a former Sears floor-walker or an Adults Only Video secret shopper? You couldn't bust a kindergarten kid for being five years old."

"Is that what you think?" Blightman said, his tuna fish lunch rising in his throat. Beads of acrid, poisoned sweat formed on his brow. He felt like a child becoming car sick on a long driving trip. "I've broken many --" He rushed out of the room. As he barreled through the door, he collided with Stan who'd been there covertly listening. As Stan straightened up, formulating a lie for his presence, Blightman vomited his day's meals onto Stan's chest.

* * *

Pryvett reported to the taupe room the following day. He wore the same clothes from the last two days, and accentuated their effect by not showering. He again drove to work with the windows of his car rolled up and without putting on the air conditioning. He felt like a thing of nature with his quiver of evolution's natural defenses at its maximum.

Blightman entered a few minutes later. He appeared to have grease smeared all over his mustachio. After a moment, Pryvett figured it was some sort of vapor rub meant as a defense against Pryvett's own natural defense. Right, Pryvett thought. Let's see how the industrial revolution stands up to a hundred thousand years of human odor evolution.

"Do you believe in God?" Blightman said, his eyes red and watering.

"Yes," Pryvett said. "I believe in Odan, the god of Germanic people."

"Stealing's wrong, man," Blightman said tersely. "You wouldn't want the Lord to know you're a thief."

"Well, if I admitted that I was the thief, then I'd be a liar, and where would I be then?"

Blightman sat back pondering that bit of homespun theology. "You wouldn't want your parents to know you're a thief."

For as maligned as Pryvett Rawgers was for being disrespectful and unmotivated at work, there was no denying that he was among the most reliable workers in the PHC warehouse. He'd been out of there for almost three days. Given previous experiences of coming back from vacation, he guessed the melee of the Customs area was devolving into a predictably malignant disarray. He also imagined that Blightman was now under real pressure from Stan to wrap up his investigation.

And so, Blightman was on the offensive, invoking every entity against Pryvett Rawgers, from his first grade teacher to the president of PHC. "You don't want to be a pariah in your society, do you?" Blightman railed.

"I'm already a pariah," Pryvett said. "I work for a monkey-headed imbecile, and no matter how much normality I carry myself with, I am viewed and portrayed as a loose cannon." He stared at his interrogator. "Did you know that Stan thinks 'Anthrax" is someone who works for PHC?"

* * *

Blightman exited the room. He'd choked and gasped the smallest breaths he could manage for so long he was now on the verge of hyperventilating. When the door opened, Stan -- who'd had his ear against it, listening -- sprang backward, flinging himself against the opposite wall. Blightman hurried past, locking himself in the closest rest room, which turned out to be the Ladies room.

* * *

After three days of interrogation, Blightman forced Stan to enter the fetid taupe room to deliver the verdict to Pryvett Rawgers.

Upon entering the jungle-stinking-charnel-house interrogation theater, Stan covered his mouth with the back of his hand and wondered if a person could contract Hepatitis C from breathing such air. The half-hour of threats that Blightman pummeled him with, though, was enough to pry his hand from his mouth. "You're free to go," he choked.

Once the words were out, he was sure that Pryvett Rawgers would hurry out of the room and Stan could escape to his office and breath clean air directly from his air conditioning vent. But Pryvett didn't move. Stan thought to leave, anyhow, but hesitated. "Is there a problem?" he heard himself say.


"Well, what the hell is it? You've been found 'not guilty,' what more do you want?"

"I've been in this room for three days with no lunch or rest room breaks, and without so much as a drink of water," Pryvett said, calmly.

"Well, you're an adult!" Stan said, defensive. "You never asked! You could've left any time you needed a break!"


"What're you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the revised guidelines for corporate investigations that you penned last year."


For a moment, Stan was at a complete and utter loss. Then it slowly filtered back. The guidelines handed down by PHC for internal theft investigations had been entirely too lenient. It didn't take a criminologist to know that warehouse workers were woefully under paid and therefore prime candidates for pilferage. Head office rebuffed Stan's overtures to strengthen management's position in investigations; the suits balking, deferring to the police and justice system in the more egregious and obvious instances of theft. So, exercising his privilege as outlined by a little-known codicil in the PHC management charter, Stan had created his own guidelines for investigations occurring under his purview.

"Among those guidelines," Pryvett now said, "is that the subject of an investigation is not to leave the interrogation area unless prompted by management. No requests may be made --"

"But I didn't mean --"

"We asked you," Pryvett interrupted Stan's interruption, "at the time you released these new guidelines, and you said that anyone accused of pilferage would be given ample opportunities to use the facilities, eat lunch and get something to drink. You haven't done that once for me in three days."

"But you could've asked --"

"But the guidelines are specific in saying we're not to ask -- that management will make time for us to relieve and/or refresh ourselves." Pryvett pulled a stained, folded, stapled, multi-page document from his back pocket. It was already turned to page 13, the center paragraph marked in the margin with a star written in blue highlighter. When Stan had distributed copies of his updated guidelines for internal investigations, he would have bet his house that not a single miscreant under his control would have read the first three words of the document.

"Well, so what," Stan said. "You read the guidelines, good for you."

"After work today, I'm going to contact the Labor Board and county human rights commission to make a report," Pryvett said. "Your nifty document here will be 'Exhibit A.'"

"You can't prove a thing! It'll be my word against yours! I'm the plant manager and you're nothing but a lowly scanner!"

Pryvett nodded at the CCTV camera in the corner of the room. Stan followed his gaze and instantly knew what he was thinking: video evidence.

Without another word, Stan left the room and hurried to his office. He logged on to his PC and found the files of the previous two days' CCTV recordings. He deleted them. He then shut the camera off and deleted that day's recording.

When he returned to the taupe room, Stan was so satisfied with his quick thinking that the stench hardly bothered him. "All taken care of," he said. "You've got nothing."

"Well," Pryvett said, "if I'm not mistaken copies of the CCTV recordings are automatically streamed to head office via the network."

Stan's face fell.

"So, you may have deleted your copies," Pryvett continued, "but head office will have copies of the last few days I've spent in here."

"I can take care of that with a single phone call," Stan said. "Everybody knows me at head office."

"They do," Pryvett said, "don't they."

"OK, I won't win any popularity contests at head office," Stan said, "but I will surely be believed over you by anyone there."

"How're you gonna explain my absence?"

"What?" Stan said. "You punched in and out each day, what's there to explain? Your time card is current. And if you tried playing any jokes with it, that'd be easily explained."

"No, I mean the scanner. You know, the one I use to do my job?"

"I don't see how that . . ." Stan trailed off. Another "efficiency improvement" he'd instituted was calibrating the scanners so that employee activated them each day with a PIN. Stan had long suspected employees were punching in and out for friends who were skipping work, so he clamped down by creating the double-fail-safe of requiring employees to use activation PINs on the scanners. Punching someone else's time card was enough of a risk to take for a friend, but the additional obstacle of entering a PIN into a scanner -- and then hiding it or taking it around with them all day -- was just too onerous. Loyalty among the rabble didn't extend that far, Stan was sure.

"Whaddya want?" Stan said, perspiring despite the air conditioning.

"I want to forget all about this," Pryvett said. "Two extra weeks of paid vacation should help me do that."

"Two --?" Stan said, aghast. "Whaddya think I'm running here? Club Med?"

"Oh, I know this isn't Club Med," Pryvett said. "I'd never make that mistake."

Stan knew enough to know when he was hemmed in. He nodded. "All right, whatever. Two weeks without you around will be a vacation for all of us!"

Pryvett pulled another document from his back pocket. He smoothed out the page on the table. "Sign this and I'll be on my way. The folks at the walk-in legal center got a pretty good laugh out of all this."

Stan felt as though the spit in his mouth had turned to ashes. He pulled a pen from his breast pocket and signed the document. Pryvett may have weaseled this out of him, but the price would be the addition of Pryvett's name to Stan's secret hate list. He'd get Pryvett back for this, with change.

After the document was signed, Pryvett returned it to his pocket. He rose from the table and walked out of the taupe room.

As he passed the main office he saw Blightman standing at a waist-level file cabinet, writing something in his leather folder. Pryvett approached him. "It's been a slice," he said. Blightman turned, startled. Pryvett embraced him, pressing his fetid body odor into Blightman's clothing. "Hope that hot dog bun caper works out in your favor."

He left the office with Blightman looking after him; his greased mustachio quivering.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Air Travel: A potential new high in low

Restroom ransom? Airline mulls toilet toll: The head of budget European airline Ryanair unleashed a flood of indignation and potty humor Friday when he suggested that future passengers might be obliged to insert a British pound coin for access to the lavatory to get some in-flight relief.

Airline chief Michael O'Leary suggested that installing pay toilets would lower ticket costs and make flying, somehow, easier for all.
The new breed of touchy-feely-sensitive-to-the-rabble corporate executives is once more showing its unmanly weakness. Tolls on airplane rest rooms? Is that the best you can do Michael O'Leary? That's like feasting on the corpses of widows and orphans and leaving behind their bone marrow, hair and teeth. Is there anything more quaint and endearing than a rube European corporate executive?

If airlines were truly interested in making money, there are a number of financial, extortionary tools they have yet to utilize.

For instance, stop pressuring the planes and make passengers pay for their oxygen.

Also, make passengers pay for the use of their seat belts, much the same way grocery stores do with carts. In the airlines' case, however, it would take a credit card to activate the seat belt, rather than merely a quarter. I realize, most passengers would love to avoid wearing their seat belts on flights and that this may not be the revenue-generator I propose it to be. That brings me to the next cost-savings idea:

Hire terrible pilots who are willing to work for minimum wage. Not only would the airline save on wages and benefits, but these horrible pilots would instill the fear and need in passengers to start buckling up whenever the plane is in motion.

For international flights -- true air travel money pits -- a form of "musical chairs" could be played. Utilizing the seat belt credit card swipe mechanisms, some ice-cream-truck hybrid of everyone's favorite song "Pop Goes the Weasel" could be played several times during each international flight, indicating to passengers (after flight attendant explanation at the start of the flight) to insert their credit cards. If a passenger's credit card runs out of money, a Plexiglas cylinder would lower upon them from the ceiling -- activation of which would automatically nullify payment on the seat belt, thus freeing the passenger -- and suck them out of the plane, jettisoning them into the air to fend for themselves. If no one's credit card fails, the airline has successfuly slurped up some extra revenue. If a passenger's credit card runs out of cash mid-flight, their expulsion would serve as an active lesson to all about the importance of maintaining funds on credit cards.

So, nice try by little Mikie O'Leary with his quaint toll-on-the-rest-room idea. Hell, it could be just one more revenue-generating tool on any flight. However, long experience has taught veteran airline executives that this financial tool, at least, could be easily defeated by milkshake, male retirees who are jaded and savvy when it comes to pinching pennies. Test marketing of the in-flight pay toilet scheme was easily defeated predominately by old men who had no qualms about making use of air sickness bags in ways not intended by the airline. Suffice it to say, these old men will do virtually anything to save a buck, making some believe there are more retired corporate executives among the populace than researchers initially believed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Letter to AIG

Tell these assholes what you think about the AIG bonuses. Here's what I wrote to these necrophiliac, grave-robbing swine at AIG:

Hello AIG,

I now know what your acronym stands for: Arrogant Ignorant Ghouls. Your performance in recent memory has been so abominable, so poor, so egregiously hideous, reprehensible and of such a sickening depth of ineptitude, incompetence, as well as a level of greed, selfishness and hate-of-one's-country that it would make Satan himself blush. Your wretchedness will be remembered and reviled for centuries.

The executives and traders and vampires who have gotten AIG into the woeful, embarrassing, maddening monetary miasma in which it now sits like swine in a jacuzzi of manure, should be denied their bonuses. They should lose their employment immediately. They should be investigated for wrongdoing because it's so blindingly obvious that something nefarious and illegal, unethical and immoral was loose like a syphilitic gorilla in gilded AIG.

But there are a few things AIG executives should gain. They should be given orange jumpsuits. They should be given trials before military tribunals as enemy combatants. They should each be given their own black pillowcase, placed over top of their heads by the gentle hands of a member of the American military. They should then be given new homes -- in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

AIG is an economic terrorist organization. AIG employees are economic terrorists.

AIG should be dismantled brick by brick, crook by crook, and salt spread all over the land where it once sat, just as was done in Sodom and Gomorrah so many years ago.

Revolutionizing air travel one seat at a time with FlatuMatrix!

What is the single worst part of air travel? High-jackings? Crashing? Lost luggage?

No -- it's that ubiquitous, unseemly flatulence that rears up to ruin even the smoothest, most enjoyable flights.

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No longer will air travelers feel like they're traversing the skies in winged Port-o-Potties. Now, air travel can be what it always should have been -- flatu-free!

Das Delta Travell

Next time you fly Delta Airlines, and you wonder why their tickets are so expensive, keep one fact in mind: Delta's not too bothered about whether its passengers get to their destinations. That's an important detail.

It was Friday the 13th and being the amoral Fortean and Libertarian that I am, I didn't think anything of my wife and I flying Florida. We had a connecting flight to catch in Atlanta, Georgia, but worried little about it because Atlanta was the home of CNN and where Dominique Wilkins once played professional basketball.

First thing that troubled me about Delta Airlines was their inept online booking system. The link in their email that would have allowed us to choose our seats online was broken. An airline that doesn't check its links is very likely to be recalcitrant and remiss in other areas, as well. Broken Web links turned out to be harbingers for further broken physical links and connections.

At the airport, the situation improved by only 50 percent. At the Delta counter self-check-in kiosk, my wife booked a seat for me, but was issued a "Seat Request" for herself. There were technical and philosophical and theological reasons for this, explained by a Delta desk worker who looked like Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Security wasn't up on this "Seat Request" nonsense and wouldn't recognize it as a boarding pass, so Delta's secret system remained cloaked in mystery as appeared to be the intent. A kindly Delta desk attendant ultimately came over to the security line with us to explain the teleological and existential import of the "Seat Request", and so my wife and I were then permitted to go through the routine indignities of security. The "Seat Request" was Delta's way of putting its passengers to work even at the gate where it was encumbent upon passengers to stand in yet another line to submit their names and "Seat Request"s. There's nothing better for business than making people feel uneasy and uncertain about whether they are going to receive the product or service for which they have already paid and shown up to enjoy.

Our flight was delayed because the plane was coming from Atlanta, then heading back there with us aboard. The delay was due to weather, so who the hell can argue with that? Not I. When the plane arrived, an hour late, the front-line Delta employees did a great job of clearing the plane and loading us onto it. The plane was a decrepit 757 outfitted with old leather seats that seemed designed to literally suck passengers' life essence out of them. When I finally stood up after our two-hour flight to Atlanta, I felt like my body was wrapped in a wet diaper. As we waited to deplane, the sound system assailed us with execrable light rock that was even more insidious, pernicious and homicide-inducing than "It's a Small World After All."

All told, we arrived an hour late for our connecting flight in Atlanta. Since ours was the last flight of the evening to Orlando, I didn't think it outrageous to hope the plane might've been held for us -- not just my wife and I, but the hundred others among us with the same destination. No one likes delays, but we had beared with ours at the start well enough and figured the folks in Atlanta wouldn't collectively devolve into a grand mal piss-shit-fit having to wait that length of time for us to arrive.

Where common sense, collectivism, the honor system and the brotherhood of man might have bridged our hour-late gap, in stepped Delta Airlines. They sent that Orlando-bound flight out of Atlanta right on time, stranding us in Atlanta airport.

At roughly 10:40 p.m., after a full day at work that began at 7 a.m., I had begun to lose my shit. I was of the mind, but lacked the resources, to immolate the universe at that time. That's when my wife stepped in, saintly pragmatist and 15-degree red belt husband-psychologist, that she is. She maneuvered her loutish, ape spouse through Atlanta airport, which was no easy feat -- Christ, metropolitan airports are veritable cities!

In the midst of my contankerous-anxiety-fog, I noticed an interesting trend among some Delta employees. The workers looking after the exponentially expanding lines of passengers who missed their flights deputized tired, frazzled passengers to pass along messages to other frazzled, dissolute passengers. We got into a line that looked like something seen outside of a Russian McDonald's in the 1980s, and were approached by a fellow passenger who said, "The lady at the counter wanted me to tell everybody that she won't help anyone who gets in line after that gentleman with the brown jacket." And there, about a dozen people ahead of us, stood a guy with a brown jacket -- a human, Delta-deputized buoy marker in the queue. So, on the advice of other passengers who'd been through this with Delta on previous occasions, we got to the main terminal and found where help might actually be sought. It wasn't hard to miss -- it was the line of a thousand people standing before a single counter person.

We made an attempt to seek help at another Delta desk, but that Delta counter employee had deputized an exhausted passenger to break the bad news to the incoming rabble, that no help could be had at that Delta desk. The comedy of the situation was accentuated as the Delta employee silently stood about five feet away from the deputized passenger as the passenger offered the explanation. The Delta employee did none of her own talking. What a union they must have!

When we reached the Bataan Death Line in the Delta den in Atlanta Airport where help could be sought, my wife and I finally saw why Delta flights are so expensive: hundreds of Delta toiletry bags were handed out to deflated, disoriented, disgruntled passengers, as well as hotel and food vouchers. Clearly, Delta was so used to fucking up people's flights that it has Plan B down pat. Had it kept our connecting plane at the gate for one more hour, they could have saved thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Ultimately, my wife and I made it to a hotel in Atlanta. Jerry, the shuttle bus driver, was an oasis of good humor and humanity, and a font of useful information amid a night of confusion and tight-lipped corporate ineptitude. Once at the hotel, a young waiter named Swift did justice to his proud name by serving our late, late dinner speedily and proficiently. He was definitely cut from the same blessed cloth as Jerry -- oozing good nature and hospitality, a true ambassador amid a night of pilons.

The next morning, we made our flight to Florida. That plane was much more comfortable than the 757 period piece of the previous day. The flight attendants were efficient and professional. I never stop feeling sorry for those glossy, disappointed beauty queens, though, who look with disenchantment upon each passenger, almost audibly thinking, My job is to minister to fart-filled Philistines. But they treated us with dignity.

But ole Delta's corporate motto should be: "Delta: If we feel like it" or "Delta: Ya Burn!"

Talking to people afterward, I learned that Delta is renown for "bumping" passengers. My brother had had an outrageous experience in New York about a year ago where he and his pregnant wife -- both holding valid, paid-for Delta tickets for that flight -- were treated like syphillitic, TB-ridden stowaways. They were unceremoniously bumped, treated as though they should have felt honored to be bumped and then put through a maddening, months-long gauntlet of phone calls and bureaucracy to receive any compensation.

I appreciated the SkyTeam T-shirt that came in my Delta toiletry bag. I wore it to the airport the next day figuring it would entitle me to priority seating, free drinks, an autograph session with whatever minor celebrity was on the flight, and possibly vouchers for Sky Mall items, such as a ping-pong table and rackets for cats, K-9 harmonica, or a walnut juicer. None of this came to pass, but Delta did deign to fly me to Florida, for which I was extremely grateful.

One thing I would suggest to all airports where Delta lands -- they should have glassed-in doorways containing stand-up comedians, and stenciled across the pane: BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. The comedian could then step out and entertain and get angry passengers back into a better frame of mind. Or, at least, the comedians would be there for everyone to bludgeon to death with hand luggage and fire extinguishers.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

MBA: Mangle, Brutalize and Annihilate -- Tales from a Barbadian Sanitation Worker

Aside from the acronym HIV, there's not another in the world that arouses more fear, despair or hopelessness than MBA.

Skulking about in their Valentino suits, which stylishly squeegee their snail-trails of ectoplasm, MBAs insinuate themselves like termites in a wall, lick cockroaches in a food supply, overtaking countless millions of peoples' daily work lives like a plague of fire ants.

If only these geniuses of destruction could do for AIDS, cancer or diabetes what they've done for Wall Street, Hollywood and the auto industry.

The MBAs have even found their way into the Barbadian waste disposal company where I work. The most recent addition to our management mafia is Morag Merchant, the new head of our HR department. This sneering peach, with her wash-and-wear hair -- which sits on her head like a tea cozy -- severe black framed glasses and vulture's ectomorph physique, has come to bring us efficiency and order and civilization. She had apparently done the same in a school district most recently and has now washed upon our shore.

Coming from a school administration setting, you wouldn't think Morag would know much about waste management. But, seeming to equate education with garbage and trash with classrooms and students, Morag has come on the scene here with a missionary's zeal. She doesn't yet have a grasp on the various jobs and responsibilities that make the company run, but she leads meetings as though she's training us in our own jobs.

She's already brought in an over-paid consultant to instruct the pick-up crews on the finer points of lifting garbage cans -- which Morag calls "receptacles" . . . the twat. Another over-paid consultant came in to guide us in on-the-job hygiene -- how to spend a day slinging shit and return to the hub tidy as supper club waiters. The emphasis on tidiness has taken on pathological proportions with the installation of countless pump dispensers of hand sanitizer throughout the office, garage, break room and rest rooms. We've also been issued what can only be described as superhero utility belts on which we're to carry gloves, sanitized hand wipes, an extra pair of gloves, disposable facemasks, as well as plastic bags.

Plastic bags.

Morag now sends us on our routes armed with all of this unnecessary luggage -- and plastic bags. Why? In case we observe recyclable material amid the garbage.

Yes, Morag has drafted us into sorting garbage on the fly.

Obviously, none of us plans on doing this, but the insult and insanity of such a dictate stung like a rebuke.

If any of us thought the outrage would end there, Morag had plenty more in her alligator-skin folder.

Sanitation workers are now required to fill out paper work regarding any "items of a suspicious nature" in the trash we handle. "These include," Morag nasally intoned, "if you find numerous empty bags of fertilizer, or empty containers that might've held ingredients to make methamphetamine, any child pornography, drug paraphernalia, any containers that appear to have held narcotics . . ." The list went on. She gave us photocopied packets of things to look for, along with packets of paperwork. By the looks of abject disgust on the faces of my co-workers, you'd have thought she was handing around color glossy nude photos of herself.

It's no surprise Morag doesn't understand garbagemen. Few people do. We are our own breed. We are urban cowboys and our ranges are the alleys of the city. Although we work in pairs, much of our time on the job is spent alone -- it's difficult getting a conversation off the ground while hanging from the back of the truck, or running the compactor. And we see a side of life few others can imagine. Sure, everyone's familiar with their own garbage. I'm familiar with leavings of dozens of families. When you see that much trash, as often as I do, you get a pretty unique perspective on people. The broken toys, the broken booze bottles; sometimes I find photo albums, record collections, diaries, love letters, cards and enough discarded bills to break a millionaire's heart. The odd time there's even a dead pet. A few years ago, one co-worker found a dead baby.

And the life of a garbageman is one that starts around sunrise and ends when we finish our last route. If we accomplish that within eight hours, great, we're even. If it takes us longer than the eight hours for which we're paid, then tough. If we manage to get it done faster than eight hours, all the better.

Well, that's how it used to go.

Now that Morag's on the scene, she's established what she calls "duty hours." Our day begins around six a.m. and are now to end at four in the afternoon. My partner and I usually get done around two or two-thirty; some crews are faster, some are slower. When asked what point would be served by us hanging around the garage until four o'clock, Morag smiled her jackal's grin and informed us of still more paperwork that was being assigned.

"We have an opportunity to turn your daily observations into revenue for the company," she said. She handed around a new packet of forms. "The makers of trash receptacles are interested in learning what models people prefer, and why. At the end of each shift, you'll complete these forms that will do just that. Which we will then monetize."

The group of us just stared at her. There is a dense and seamless forcefield of officious impenetrability surrounding Morag, but not even that could deaden or dilute our blank, disenchanted expressions.

"Of course," she continued, "you will have management's great thanks, and also the satisfaction that you're helping your employer remain profitable." She produced a plastic shopping bag from her alligator skin briefcase. "As a token of appreciation, your leadership would like you to have these." She passed out badges that read: THE DIFFERENCE BEGINS WITH ME!

No one's sure when Morag's contract with the company expires. Doesn't really matter -- no one can wait that long. A few guys are giving the paperwork a try. Some trashed the forms on their way out of the windowless meeting room the first day they were given to us. A handful of guys just kept to their old routines of taking off for the day when the last route was finished. Last week those guys were sent offsite for some special training and no one has seen them since.

As for myself, I wear the utility belt on my route, and avail of the hand sanitizer when I'm in the office. As for going through everyone's garbage and ratting them out because a broken booze bottle has blood and hair on the end, or a severed doll's leg smells like someone's ass, I'll leave that to others who are more vigilant. No, I figured I would do my utmost to bring my daily experience to Morag. In fact, I'm bringing it to her right now. It's about three o'clock in the morning and I'm about to unload a truck I've kept full of shit onto her front lawn. Maybe Morag and her MBA hubby and MBA kiddies will gain some needed insight as they shovel the shit in a few hours.

The difference begins with me!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Way Things Work

When I was growing up, my neighborhood and school were a haven for bullies; minor league sociopaths hanging out in front of the corner store, just dying and waiting for someone to walk by so they could sneer, "Hey, what're you looking at?"

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What I learned at werk today

[Ed. Note: Learn the definition of Werkhorrer]

I remember, as a kid, asking my parents, "Why do I have to go to school?" They gave me the obligatory answer, "Cuz."

Well, I now know what I'll tell my kids when they ask that question: "Because this is what you're going to deal with for the rest of your life. No one gets out of grade school. When you go into the work-world, you deal with malignant children who are packed tight with decades of neuroses, pathologies, wretchedness and honed sadistic tendencies.

"You see that kid over there who hoards all of the crayons? He'll be your C.E.O. someday. See that other kid who kicks everyone in the nuts for no reason? She'll be your manager. And those other kids, all with their fingers stuck up their noses, gazing into the fluorescent lights as though they're having religious visions? They'll be your co-workers.

"Get used to dealing with them now so you won't commit suicide three months into your first office job."

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Roald the Japanese Maple Tree

I named the Japanese Maple tree "Roald," and thought of it as "him" even before I'd left the nursery. Growing up in Detroit, my only horticultural experience was tending a Venus Flytrap plant as a kid (which ingrained me with the belief that pieces of bologna were viable plant food). My wife and I had just built a home in a subdivision that had once been a farmer's field. Seeing all of the freshly-turned dirt surrounding our house struck a get-back-to-the-earth chord in me. In fact, I didn't even think of it as dirt, but as loam. And from that loamy earth I imagined a lush lawn rising, flowers bursting in profusion, and possibly even planting a small vegetable patch in the backyard.

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Half-Baked in Connecticut

Ghost stories work on me. I believe them less and less as I get older, but I'm always willing to hear the next one. I've never had anything like a supernatural experience, though, as a kid attending Catholic school, I used to be terrified I'd step out of the shower one day and find the Virgin Mary hovering above the toilet.

Years ago, a friend told me of a story he'd read about a family living in a home that had formerly been a mortuary. The book on the case, he said, was one of the most terrifying thing he'd ever read. Recently, my good buddy, Pryvett Rawgers, spoke of a Discovery Channel program he'd watched that sounded like the same incident. After doing some Internet research, I found the case was known as A Haunting in Connecticut.

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