Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Turning Over a New Leaf

Enough is enough. Writing these essays used to be a lot of fun, especially when they were just emails sent to an unfortunate group of friends too polite to ask me to please, for the love of God, stop sending these. (A friend referred to my e-mails in a Brando-esque whisper as “the horror.”)

Sniping at those who can’t really be hurt is fun. It gets an occasional bug out of your ass, and may cause a smile or two. Unfortunately, current news worthy of comment has very little entertainment value, unless you’re Stephen Colbert. My latent anger gets more exercise than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. Just since the last posting I’ve learned the government is playing Six Degrees of The Home Office with my phone records. (The phone companies, in a burst of inspired disingenuousness worthy of the Bush Administration, have denied turning over the records. The phone companies only gave the records to other companies, who then handed them over to the gov. I feel much better.)

Last week came word that some self-important functionary in the Department of Veterans Affairs violated the confidentiality of over 26 million veterans (including yours truly) so he could “work at home;” the laptop containing the records was promptly stolen right out of his house. The policy breach wasn’t bad enough; the Washington Post reported the burglary look place sometime between approximately 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Isn’t that primo “working from home” time? How can the items you say you’re working on be stolen while you’re working on them?

The head of the VA appeared said he was “mad as hell.” That’s nice. VA’s own Inspector General has reamed them for years about lax practices in this area; now this guy’s mad? When is someone to take some of this stuff seriously, instead of continuously violating our rights to “protect” them? (Dubya never went to Vietnam, but the state of our civil liberties and the Iraq situation prove he learned the lesson of “We had to destroy the village to save it.”)

That’s enough; I’m getting worked up again. Suffice to say, at my age, my blood pressure doesn’t need the exercise. What I need now, more than the Daily Outrage, is a few laughs. So from now on, If I can’t make fun of it, I can’t be bothered with it. (At least until I’m really bothered by something.) And there’s nothing funny about the legacy my generation will be leaving to our children through the acts of the politicians we have elected.

So let’s have a little fun. Below is a reprint of something I wrote in my pre-blog days, 2003 to be exact. It’s as true today as it was then.

There has been a certain amount of culture shock since The Home Office relocated to the People’s Republic of Maryland last March. On the plus side, traffic in Maryland, bad as it is, is better than in Virginia. The risk of being shot in a public library is also greatly diminished. (For those of you who are not local, the Virginia House of Delegates voted down a bill that would have made it illegal to carry a firearm into a public library. No point in being unprepared if you happen onto a terrorist reading the Koran.)

Living in Maryland has its down sides. Living in Prince George’s County has even more. Here are a couple of indications, provided solely as a public service, should anyone consider moving to this area.

I recently took the Sole Heir Correspondent to a local Taco Bell for a cold drink in the midst of an errand-running expedition. Our order was taken by a young woman who I do not wish to unfairly disparage, so I will use her real name, since she is probably as incapable of reading this as she is unlikely to make the effort.

Nicole gave us the standard PG County fast food greeting, which consists of not quite making eye contact while silently waiting for me to decide she’s ready to take my order. Taco Bell offers three drink sizes. I ordered a small and a medium. No flavor was required, all Nicole had to do was give us the cups; the soda dispensers are self-service.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: We’d like a small and a medium drink, please.

Nicole (still not looking at me): We ain’t got small.

Me: You’re out of small cups?

Nicole: Ain’t no small.

A brief period of silence followed, broken by the Sole Heir telling me sotto voce, “Dad, I think they just have medium, large, and extra large.”

Finally catching on, I told Nicole I want the smallest size, and the one in the middle. She handed me two identical cups, which Taco Bell describes as “large,” and I would call “medium,” seeing as how they were of the intermediate size of the three options. As she handed me the cups, she asked if the order was for here or to go.

Huh? Her entire contribution consisted of handing me two cups, one of them incorrect. I had to get the drinks, lids, and straws. What earthly difference could it have made to her, or to Mr. Bell, where I drank them? I was tempted to order one for here and one to go, but I was afraid we’d get into a discussion about which was to stay and which was to go, even though they were both the same size.

Prince George’s County has the well-earned reputation of being the metropolitan Washington area’s equivalent of a third world nation. Proof of that was found in a call to the cable company that same week.

The cable call was prompted by a promotion the company was running when I ordered my original service back in March. Comcast would provide free installation and three free months of every channel Showtime offers if I signed up for digital cable. If I didn’t want to keep the Showtime, I could cancel after the third month. I had tried to cancel a couple of weeks earlier, but they wouldn’t let me, saying it was too early to cancel, and that if I cancelled too soon they would have to charge me for the installation after all. When the valid cancellation window opened, hesitation would require paying for a month of Showtime I could live without, since I had watched it exactly zero times since moving in.

I called the number I saw on a televised ad the previous night and was immediately directed to a pleasant young man who looked high and low for my account information without finding it. It was finally determined that I had called the Montgomery County number, and he couldn’t help me. He could, and did, transfer me to the Prince George’s County number.

I didn’t get a human right away on the PG County number. First I had to choose the language in which I wanted to transact my business. Fortunately, English was the first choice. Immediately after pressing “one” for English, I got to listen to a thirty-second spiel informing me of Comcast’s Cable Amnesty Program. It was not thought to be necessary to inform Montgomery County residents of the illegality of cable theft. In PG County, it opens the conversation.

Welcome to Prince George’s County, Maryland, where the showcase high school offers a course in Japanese to show its advanced and cosmopolitan makeup. All it really does is teach its illustrious graduates to ask “You want fries with that, motherfucker?” in a sushi restaurant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Viewing the realm of politics in this country, and the broad expanse of ignorati so represented, I have determined we have long ago left the enlightened "Age of Reason" and entered the "Age of Viscera."

To assuage my feelings of depression and frustration, I try to follow the sage advice of Elvis Costello from "The Angels Want to Wear My Read Shoes."

"I used to be disgusted.
Now I try to be amused."

Runs With Scissors.