Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Get Down with the Sickness

I've been on my deathbed since Monday. I had to leave work two hours early. Apparently, pitching my stomach into my desk wastebasket was disturbing my neighbor.

Unfortunately, I'm one of those poor fools who was cursed with a weak immune system. I get just about every bug that rolls through the office, and I seem to get it before any one else does. Most of the time I suck it up and go in anyway, but I'm not much use to any one when I'm blowin lava in both North and South America.

So I'm laying here in bed, wishing there were some type of super-antibody out there I could infuse with my bloodstream. Something that could come in and kick the living shit out of all the icky virussy things attacking my poor defenseless bod.

I thought of all the horrible, awful diseases that could be prevented. Then I remembered an article that was posted to a message board I frequent a few months back.


Viruses May Be Fattening

Scientists find evidence to suggest viral infection may be cause of human obesity.
January 30, 2006

For years, scientists have wondered whether viruses should shoulder some responsibility for the wave of obesity sweeping the planet. On Monday, a U.S. medical journal released a study establishing such a link in chickens.

In all of human history, obesity stands alone among chronic diseases for the rapidity of its spread. In fact, the pattern of its quick rise looks very much like that of an infectious disease epidemic.

Six viruses have already been shown to produce obesity in animals, but University of Wisconsin, Madison scientists have now shown that a human virus can cause obesity in chickens, a strong suggestion that it could make people fat, too.

(posted on Red Herring)

First, Americans were fat because we inhaled fifteen Big Macs in a week. Later, we sued McDonalds for not telling us deep-fat-fried foods were unhealthy

Then Americans were fat because we were clinically depressed, and the anti-depressants and memories of our traumatic childhoods caused us to overeat.

Then Americans were fat because we had "fat genes", and it was hereditary.

Now we're fat because of a virus.

Are you kidding me?

I can see Merck having a field day with this one...


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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Civic Duty

"Jury duty!" Mister M snorts. "Of all the things I didn't have time for this week... Jury duty."

"I take it things didn't go well?" Thankfully, the phone muffles enough that he can only faintly here the smirk in my voice.

"The prosecutor's a damn idiot," he huffs. "A damn, raving idiot. Trying to pervert the definition of 'intent'. I'll show him intent!" I can almost see him shaking an angry fist in the air. "Hopefully I made enough of a stink today that they'll release me tomorrow, though."

I execute one of my patented pregnant pauses. He continues.

"I asked if they'd dismiss me, before it all started. They were having none of it. 'If we excused every one who worked, Mister M, no one would ever serve on a jury.' Well, it's not exactly like I'm flipping burgers at McDonald's! I'm a productive member of society. I don't have time for this! Surely they can get somebody else."

That did it. My tongue slipped from it's firm grip between my teeth.

"What if it was me?" I ask.

"Pardon?" Ever so polite.

"What if I were the defendant."

"My dear, I'd storm the prison."

"Ha. You're very cute, you know. Seriously... What if it were me?"

He stops for a moment and thinks. "What are you getting at?"

"Well, what if you were the only sane, rational, mature individual in the line up. What if you were the only thing standing between that prosecutor and the herd of cows sitting in the jury box with you? Would it still be too inconvenient?"

He sighs. "Do you have to be right all the time?"

Hey M?

Yeah... I do.

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Edward E Hale

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pour Me a Cold One

The Quaff is seated on prime real estate, wedged under some apartments on a main stretch of downtown. Half the city pours down that street as they commute to and from work every day, so it makes sense that the bulk of The Quaff's business stems from the worker bees who support the downtown honeycomb. They buzz in and out all day for lunch, then head back at the end of the day to quench their thirst.

Every Friday, a group of cubby-gofers I work with kick up their heels at a local pub's Happy Hour. The service sucks, but the beer's cheap, the music's loud, and the pool's free. This week, however, one of the gofers gets the bright idea to patronize The Quaff, which has $4 draws (that's a lot for the Midwest, folks). It's the guy's birthday, so nobody puts up much of a fuss. The whole group heads down after the 5 o'clock whistle blows.

I stroll in late with a gal pal of mine after running home to freshen up and walk the dog. The Quaff is split into three rooms; the center portion is the largest, sports the most floor space for large groups, and holds the dart board and some pool tables. They're not super-busy, but the place isn't empty, either. Our party is taking up a good third of the center portion. The table's crowded, but they nudge around and make room for two more. We grab some chairs from an empty table nearby, and slide 'em over.

Seconds later, we're accosted by a tiny sprite of a waitress. "Those are my chairs," she spits, hand on her hip, other hand lofting the tray at her shoulder.

"What do you mean?" my buddy says.

"Those chairs are from my section. You have to put them back."

My co-woerker shrugs and starts pushing hers back to the table we nabbed 'em from. Keep in mind that the table was empty. It was completely bussed and wiped - no evidence of occupancy whatsoever. In fact, that entire half of the room was empty, aside from an older couple playing pool, who were very obviously occupying a smaller table in the pool corner.

"So where do we get chairs?" I looked down at the top of the snippy gal's head, who happens to be sportin' a major camel toe in her too-tight white denim short-shorts.

"Ask your waitress," she snaps, before spinning and stomping off. What a brat.

Thankfully, this adorably sheepish busboy swooped in just before I gave in to the impulse to reach out and snatch her ponytail.

"I'll get you some chairs. Where would you ladies like to sit?" We indicate the table and stand at the end while we wait for him to return with the chairs.

"What are you doing?" one of the girl-gofers asks.

"Waiting for chairs, I guess." Maybe there was a party coming in or something, and the table was reserved. It sure wasn't marked, but ya never know. It became less of an issue when the busboy returned a few seconds later hulking two chairs. He pulled them out for us with a slight bow. Cute kid.

"So which one's our waitress?" I ask the gopher-boy next to me.

He points. She's got an ultra-dark fake-bake tan and long, dark, over-processed hair framing a face that mildly resembled a rat, hammered-to-center teeth and pinched expression included. We're there for a good ten minutes before she realizes that more have joined our party. She wanders over to my gal-pal and I.

"Can I get ya somethin?" she asks my friend.

"No thank you."

"Yeah, I'd like...." I trail off. She's already walking away.

Another ten minutes go by. She returns with a pitcher and some cups of beer. I sit and wait patiently for her to make it to my end of the table. She drops her load and goes to walk past me. No eye contact.

"Excuse me? Miss? Can I please get a beer?"

"Sure. Whadya want?" She smacks her gum, disinterested. I order a bottle. Before I can pull anything out of my pocket, Super-Waitress is gone.

Fifteen minutes later, she's still giggling with a high-top full of frat boys in the corner. She's been to the bar twice. I still don't have my beer. Frustrated, I scoot back my chair and head into the next room to the bar. I order a longneck. The owner/manager, who recognizes me (because I go often enough and have one of those faces people don't forget) snags my elbow. "Aren't you at a table?" he asks.

"Yeah," I say, takin a pull from my beer.

"You have a waitress."

"I know. And if I could get her to wait on me, I'd use her." I walk off, and see him out of the corner of my eye making a b-line for Super-Waitress. I wouldn't have said anything had he not stopped me and questioned why I'd gotten my own drink.

I head back into the other room and rejoin my party. The gophers were laughing. Apparently the waitress, who'd been completely inattentive up until that point, noticed I'd gotten up and walked to the bar, and had come over to ask what that was all about. "She wanted a beer," a gopher had shrugged.

They claimed her response was, "Well, fine, then!" Sounds about right.

Couple seconds later, the owner/manager walks up and puts his hand on the back of my chair. "You guys make sure you're letting your waitress handle your drink orders. They get in trouble if y'all get up and go to the bar."

"If she'd come around, we would," I say. He walks off. No apology, no assurance of better service.

Just after he leaves, Super-Waitress swings by and asks if anybody needs anything. "I'd like another," I lift my bottle so she can see what I'm drinking.

"You already have one," she answers.

"I'm sure I'll be done with this one by the time you bring it." She rolls her eyes and takes off for the bar, presumably to retrieve the drink orders she just took from our table. Sure enough, about twenty minutes after I ordered, I drained the last of my drink as she was setting another one in front of me.

Now, I'm not a serious drinker. I'll have a beer or two every other week or so, but I don't drink fast, and I don't drink heavily. This gal was slow, and there was no way around it. To top it off, she definitely wasn't interested in waiting on anything that didn't have meat and potatoes in it's shorts.

Our party started breaking up around midnight. Had I been there alone or with one or two friends, we'd have left, but I didn't want to be rude and bail on the guy's birthday.

Yanno, about thirty minutes before we left, some folks finally wandered in and took that empty table we borrowed the chairs from. Super-waitress was on for the rest of the night, making sure everybody got what they needed and actually doing her job for the most part.

Honestly, I didn't mind getting up and getting my own beer. I do it at our regular place all the time- like I said, the service sucks, but at least they know it and make up for it in the price. Sometimes a bar gets busy, or the waitress knows the customers at another table will drop a load of cash if she pays special attention to 'em. It's not a big deal, but don't chastise me for taking matters into my own hands. I wasn't pissed about it... I just wanted my beer.

As I left, I passed by the table full of frat boys she'd been hanging around most of the night. I slipped a few bucks in front of her.

"Thanks," she said, barely turning her head enough to see who left it before diving back into flirting with the frat boys.

"No problem, hot stuff," I thought to myself. "I won't be back."

Damn shame, too. They have good chicken, but I can get shitty service anywhere.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Movin on Up

So I finally mustered up the courage to move downtown. Big step for a small-town girl like me. I still walk around gawk-jawed in typical tourist fashion, but I'm sure that'll wear off in the next couple of years.

The new apartment is right smack in the middle of downtown within walking distance of work. It's actually pretty cute: vaulted ceilings, top to bottom windows, open floor plan for the main living areas. It's also on the ground floor, which has its ups and downs. I like being able to watch all the foot traffic go by when I open the blinds, but it makes for a lot of noise on Friday and Saturday nights when everybody's down in the district tying one on and walking the streets of our fair city.

Three days ago, I had my first face-to-face encounter with an "urban personality", as I've taken to calling them ("them" being the folks I watch through my window - it's like my own live-action reality tv that stretches across the entire front of my apartment).

I heard her coming from nearly a block away, slurring and cursing at some one who wasn't talking back- which meant she was really, really drunk, insane, or talking on a phone. I was laying in bed, trying to get some sleep, staring at the ceiling and praying to the Sandman, "Please, oh please let her just keep walking."

See, part of the benefit of my ground floor apartment is that I have direct street access with a set of double-doors and a concrete stoop. I also have deep-set windows with handy little ledges for sitting and chatting, stopping for a cigarette, rebalancing groceries and the like. There are always folks hanging around outside, which is fine during the day. It's not so fine in the middle of the night.

"You never loved me!" She was sobbed into her phone. "You never loved me and you never appreciated me and you never, ever loved me!" I heard her heals click unevenly on the sidewalk as she tried to sit on one of the ledges. I waited a few minutes to see if maybe she was just catching her breath. She wasn't, of course. I mean, where else would she sit in the middle of the night on a weekday, but directly outside my bedroom?

When it became apparent that she'd grown quite comfortable on my window sill and didn't intend to leave for awhile, I hauled my tired ass out of bed, climbed down the front steps of my apartment in my pajamas, holding the door for quick escape in case she got belligerent, and said, "Ma'am? It's 11:30 at night on a Wednesday. I have to get up in the morning to go to work, and you are right outside my bedroom window. Think you could move it down a block?"

Her hair was bleached a tacky, yellowing platinum. She'd stuffed her sagging breasts and ass into clothes two sizes too small, and way too young for her. This one was pushin thirty and trying to look nineteen. She blinked back at me, mascara pooled around her eyes, making her look something like an aged clown.

"Ma'am?" I asked again.

"Oh... um... yeah... Sure sugah. Sorry bout that." She lurched off the window sill, regained her balance by hugging a nearby light post, smoothed her skirt, then staggered down the street. About half a block away, she stopped, turned around, and said, "Yanno, good for you, stickin up fer yerself. We should all be like that, us wimmen."

I nodded, waved, and went back inside. Then I double-checked the lock. Then I went to bed.

Livin down here... yeah... it's definitely different.

Oh, and I've made plans to line the window sills with broken glass tommorow.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My way, right away, at UHaul now

Now that I've bitched about the shit service I got from Nokia a few weeks ago, I thought I'd go the other route and give credit where credit's due.

I moved downtown this weekend (more on that later). Because the buggy isn't much for totin' furniture, I made arrangements with the local U-Haul dealer to get a truck a week in advance. He called me the morning I was supposed to pick up the truck to tell me that the starter was out, but he was going to try to get it fixed.

A few hours later, I get a voicemail from a different man, saying that the truck was ready for pickup. He happened to call again when I was in the car, and I assured him I was on my way to pick it up.

When I got to the dealer, the man looked at me from across the counter. "Didn't you get my voicemail?" he asked. "You were supposed to call before you came out here. The trucks' down. They're holding another one for you at a different store."

Things started falling into place. The second man I'd spoken with had been from another dealer, but I hadn't realized that when we were talking.

"I don't have time to drive out there," I said, eyeing the clock and mourning my diminishing lunch hour. Eventually, he helped me make arrangements with a third store in the town I was moving from, so I could pick up the vehicle there and drop it off in the city. Now all I had to do was get some one to take me out there.

"Don't forget to call that 800 number," he admonished. "I don't want 'em to charge you for not pigskin' up that other truck."

So I called, navigated through the automated system, and sat on hold for 20 minutes. Finally, frustrated, I hung up. I tried again Monday morning, thinking they couldn't possibly be busy at 6:30 a.m. They were. Thirty minutes later, I had to leave for work, and I still didn't have the issue of the pick-up failure fee resolved.

Still gun-shy from my experience with Nokia, I sat down and tapped out an email, explaining what had happened and asking for assurance that I wouldn't be charged for not picking up the second truck. It was, of course, followed up within a matter of seconds by the "We'll respond within 48 hours" email that's so common among service centers. I figured if nothing else I'd have it as documentation, and that I'd call again when I got home from work.

Instead, as I sat down at my desk, the mailbox icon was blinking. UHaul had already responded to my inquiry, including apologizing for the inconvenience, stating that they'd credited me any service fees that may have been charged, and asking if there was anything else they could do to assist me and make the experience better.

That is the way it should be done. Life is fluid. Things can't always go as planned, but when the unexpected happens, you do whatever it takes to keep your customer. UHaul has a client for life in me, and you can rest assured I've told everybody I know how great they were at handling things when life threw 'em a curve ball.

Way to go, UHaul. You're a shining example of what the service industry should aspire to be!