Friday, October 22, 2004

Short Stories

I love rain. I love the way it smells, looks, feels and sounds. I know I'm leaving off the fifth sense, but I still live in Los Angeles and am not willing to get some weird disease by tasting it. When it started raining on Saturday night, I first knew by the change in noise of the nearby freeway traffic. I flung open the front door and immediately started inhaling that freshly damp dirt and street smell that's so unique to a first rainfall. I love the sound it makes on my car roof, and on my hood or umbrella when I'm walking in it. And I get an exhilirating feeling when I am driving on the semi-flooded streets and find a particularly deep puddle that I can sploosh through, sending a mini-tidal wave up in the air. I love sitting in my office chair watching raindrops trickle down the window pane, combining themselves with other droplets and racing each other to the bottom.

However, I know that not everyone is as excited about this as I am. Living in southern California, I am definitely in the minority. In fact, some people get downright panicky when it starts raining here. Still others don't function very well emotionally during bad weather or winter months.

With that in mind, I will simply share a few things with you that have struck my funny bone today. If you're already in a good mood, hopefully it can get better. And if you're feeling as gray and gloomy as the cloudy skies, maybe this will help you too.


A friend of mine owes the IRS some money. Never a fun way to start off a story, I know, but it gets better. I heard this joke about a guy who owed the IRS $3,407. He packaged up his payment and included this letter to the IRS:

"Dear IRS:

"Enclosed is my 1997 Tax Return & payment. Please take note of the attached article from USA Today. In the article, you will see that the Pentagon is paying $171.50 for hammers and NASA has paid $600.00 for a toilet seat.

"Please find enclosed four toilet seats (value $2400) and six hammers (value $1029).

"This brings my total payment to $3429.00. Please note the overpayment of $22.00 and apply it to the Presidential Election Fund, as noted on my return. Might I suggest you the send the above mentioned fund a '1.5 inch screw'. (See attached article - HUD paid $22.00 for a 1.5 inch Phillips Head Screw.)

"It has been a pleasure to pay my tax bill this year, and I look forward to paying it again next year. I just saw an article about the Pentagon and 'screwdrivers'.


So I sent this to my friend and copied my accountant friend on it, asking if this was a good idea. Her response?

"You're totally good to go. Please take note of C's new future email address,"


Speaking of Martha Stewart's potential roommates and people who try to get something for nothing, we have this fellow to thank for nearly singlehandedly bringing about the demise of The Disney Store, Inc. Not only did he ruin Structure (part of the Limited family) prior to going to TDS, then he picked his away through the ashes and ruins of Disney and went to Wet Seal.

Guess what? He and his cronies are being investigated by the SEC. It's only too bad it took this long for his karma to catch up with him.

Yes, I know that none of that is funny, but my friend's Anna's reaction to the story was, "Now all I can picture is Peter as Martha's new prison b****. Help! I need to rinse my eyes with bleach to get rid of the image!"


One of my former workmates has a cubicle neighbor, Mary, whose new responsibilities, by necessity, attract people down that aisle who wouldn't normally be there, nor are they wanted there. It's not bad enough that Kathy has to put up with those annoyances, but Mary also exhibits certain personal habits that fall into the "annoying" category.

I got this riddle from Kathy today:

Q: What's this?

murmurmurmurmurmurzkdlvjlslkdj; dkfj; murmurqerpoiuadfl;kjweowowodk; murmurmurmur asd;lkasdowekdsd;fl murmurmurmur murmurmurmurmurmuralskdjflasljlsjlmurmurlasdflmurmurlkajsdlfmurm erlajdfsljldjfjmurmur.

A: Mary typing an email.


This is from my sister who is taking a physics class. After I read this account of her very dim-witted lab partner, I've decided that when this person grows up, she'll be in upper management. Probably one of my managers someday. "Do a perfect job, even though I don't know what you're doing. And if I don't like it, you'll do it over until I do. Even though I don't know what I want."

Lab # 2: Velocity and Acceleration, Gravity

My sister and her lab partner are running the paper tape through the measuring device to discover for ourselves that velocity isn't the same as acceleration and to find some number that represents the acceleration of gravity. The partner is upset because the little dots on the paper tape aren't spaced perfectly so their time vs. velocity graph doesn't look perfect and they're not coming up with exactly -9.8 m/s^2.

My Sister: "It's probably the way we fed the tape through, or the way we dropped the weight, some friction or something, right? It's the first time we ever did this, so we probably did it wrong. So let's just run another tape through, because they told us it usually takes a few tries anyway."

Future Manager: "I've got to get to my job. I don't have time to do all this

stuff over again. Let's just cut out the dots we don't like."

MS: "Um, you mean, don't put them on the graph?"

FM: "Yeah, just leave them out. They said we only need 14 data points, and we ran it longer, we got 23, so we can cut out the ones we don't like."

MS: "But then it wouldn't be physics."

FM: "It's just physics 101 lab, it's not real physics."

MS: "So when we leave out the stuff we don't like, and we have these huge gaps in between the stuff we do like, what do we call that? I mean, that isn't the way you do science. We might as well just make up new dots to give us whatever results we want..."

FM: "Tchk! I'm going to ask the T.A."

T.A.: [sound of jaw dropping to floor] [spends next 10 minutes trying to explain to her why we can't leave out the points we don't like]

FM: [she comes back, discouraged] "Your husband's supposedly, like, some kind of scientist, isn't he? Well, why don't you ask him."

MS: "I've vowed never to talk to him about this class."

FM: "Huh? Why would you do that?"

MS: "Same reason I took this long to get around to taking a physics class. Long boring story, gotta learn stuff myself, or else I don't get it. Anyway, it doesn't matter."

[later, my sister broke her "vow" and told her husband this story...]

Husband: [sound of incredulous laughter]


This one isn't so funny as much as interesting. My dad is radioactive.

Yes, you read that right. If I had a Geiger counter and held it up to him, I would get a reading of 48.6 millicurries of radioactivity from him.

My dad was diagnosed some time ago with prostate cancer. He had originally decided to let it go untreated. He's had so many surgeries lately, for skin cancer, hip replacement and other weird cancer-like things, that I think he was probably just tired of dealing with it all.

But then his doctor advised him of this new treatment that wouldn't involve any of the usual cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or (traditional) radiation therapy. When he first explained it to me, all I got out of it was that there would be crystals loaded with something that would be lethal to the nasty cancer cells. Those crystals would be placed in the prostate to fight the cancer. I of course, could not get the image out of my head of little new-agey crystals surgically implanted in my dad's body making little woo-woo noises while they meditated and chanted at the cancer cells.

I was just slightly wrong. It's a treatment called "brachytheraphy," meaning radiation really close up; not directed through a beam like traditional cancer radiation treatment. They are little crystalic seeds that are filled with radioactive material. They are injected into the prostate giving lethal doses of cancer-fighting stuff to the nasty cancer cells. They will stay in him for the rest of his life. More or less.

Pretty cool, huh? No more cancer. The downside is no holding any great-grandchildren on his lap for awhile, but then he doesn't have to be the first one to discover the baby's diaper needs changing. So, not all bad.


Lastly, here's a real joke that still has me chuckling, even though it's been several hours since I first heard it. There may be some advice here on how I can catch me a man!

A man is dining in a fancy restaurant and there is a gorgeous redhead sitting at the next table. He has been checking her out since he sat down, but lacks the nerve to talk with her.

Suddenly she sneezes, and her glass eye comes flying out of its socket towards the man.

He reflexively reaches out, grabs it out of the air, and hands it back.

"Oh my, I am so sorry," the woman says as she pops her eye back in place. "Let me buy your dinner to make it up to you," she says.

They enjoy a wonderful dinner together, and afterwards they go to the theater followed by drinks. They talk, they laugh, she shares her deepest dreams and he shares his. She listens.

After paying for everything, she asks him if he would like to come to her place for a nightcap and stay for breakfast. They had a wonderful, wonderful time.

The next morning, she cooks a gourmet meal with all the trimmings. The guy is amazed! Everything had been SO incredible!!!!

"You know," he said, "you are the perfect woman. Are you this nice to every guy you meet?"

"No," she replies. . . . . . . "

Wait for it.

It's coming.

The suspense is killing you, isn't it?

-top-alt: auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt: auto">

"You just happened to catch my eye."


Enjoy your day, be safe and find something to laugh at. Er, about.


Reading: "The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club," by Laurie Notaro.

Excited About: ... On second thought, this should really be "Scared to Death About in a Tingly, Halloween-y Kind of Way: Spooky House Haunted Hotel tomorrow night. Ack!

Monday, October 4, 2004

Scores You Don't See On the Sports Page

I grew up, as you already know, in a suburb about 30 miles east of San Francisco. NOT "Frisco," as so many of you insist on calling it. Please. Don't. Not in front of me, at least. To any true Bay Area-ite, that term makes us cringe.

Oh, fine. Go ahead. Get it out of your system. I know you just want to bug me.

Okay. Done? Good. Moving on, then.

“The City” is what we called it. Because that's what it was. The. City. Always capitalized, because it was the only big city around. Well, maybe not the only one, but the only important one. Going there was an adventure, always begun on BART and other modes of public transportation. We rarely actually drove there, unless we knew the exact destination and that it wouldn't be easily accessible otherwise.

The City has a charm to it that other big cities don't have. I didn't realize until I visited Los Angeles, downtown Los Angeles, for the first time, that the reason for that is that San Francisco is not big. It sure did seem like it back then to a kid from the suburbs. The beggars, homeless or otherwise, are always creative about getting money out of tourists. They don't just stick their hands out and demand as is so typical elsewhere. They perform -- acting as robots that only move when an appropriate amount is placed in the appropriate canister. They shake bushes at unsuspecting passers-by while others eagerly anticipate the element of surprise of a bush suddenly walking and moving and talking. They even, heaven forbid, ask politely, as exhibited tonight by the woman who confronted me in the Jack-in-the-Box. She held out her grubby hand holding fifty-three cents or so and asked for a quarter. I dug in my pocket for my change, so she immediately saw I had about eighty-three cents. She had asked for one quarter, so I told he`r, handing her two, that I would save the rest of the change for the guy I had seen outside in the wheelchair. She was distracted though by the amount I wasn't giving her and asked for more. " But then there wouldn't be anything for the guy outside. I gotta spread it around -- can't give it all to one person, ya know?" I explained. She demurred that would be the right thing to do, and went to politely ask someone else for some money, "Hon."

But driving here at night, from the airport, when I haven't had a chance during the day to let the atmosphere of the city charm me as it usually does, I felt a little cold. Not atmospherically so, but charm that I’m used to was not on display, leaving me cold. It's another dirty, grungy, cement-filled, over-crowded city, made confusing by countless one-way streets and near-impossible to find hotel parking entrances.

Real estate is at such a premium here on a peninsula that can only grow up, not out, that even hotel guests are charged the astronomic price of $44 per day for parking. Forty-four. Dollars. Per day. To park my car that I will hardly ever drive anyway. I kept asking the valet guy about self-parking, and he said there's a garage across the street that only charges $30 / day with in/out privileges. While I would like to save the company $14 a day, the thought of getting back into that car and driving another 3 miles just to move the car across the street (remember the one-way streets?) was too exhausting to think about.

The guy at corporate travel was very excited for me to stay at this hotel. But when push comes to shove, a hotel room is a hotel room is a hotel room. Some are cleaner than others, and the cleanliness of this one is something to appreciate, but it has a bed. And a desk. And a phone. And a TV on a bureau, a closet and a bathroom with a toilet, sink, tub and shower. For this, my company pays $155 a night plus applicable taxes and surcharges for me to sleep. Oh, and the $44 / day parking charge. Sheesh. The most distinctive feature that separates this hotel from others in which I have stayed is probably the scent. Or odor, depending on your opinion. It's a Japanese hotel, and I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more ethnicity or culture or whatever to set it apart from other hotels. The smell does. It all has a faint odor of that dried seaweed stuff. Which is okay, I guess, if you like that, but . . . it's not really floating my boat right now.

I hope that my naive enthusiasm for being here can be restored in the morning. I plan on walking the half mile to my training class, so that my help. Some of my dampened attitude may simply be due to the fact I'm still recovering from this stupid sinus infection. I hope it's not just because I'm a jaded adult now who's been traveling for about two weeks too long to really enjoy this latest experience, when all I really want is to be home, with my own comfy bed, my fat, drooling cats, my friends, my own comforts. Wow, I sound old, don't I? But I shall try to enjoy this. After all, I'm not footing this hefty bill! (Why do I feel guilt about it then?)


San Francisco in Broad Daylight

Retrospectively, October 6, 2004

A decent night's sleep in a bed, that for a hotel, was almost as comfortable as the one I left at home, left me feeling a little bit better about my status as a guest in The City, as opposed to day visitor.

Walking to my training class, about six blocks away, was an infinitely easier prospect than driving, for the simple fact that it would probably only take about 10 minutes to walk a straight line, rather than 20 estimated minutes to drive a convulated route.

Even in the morning with very little traffic, pedestrian or otherwise, the city streets had a depressing pall about them. Maybe it's because there are more homeless people than I remember there being here before. And they don't all exhibit the charm that I'm used to from San Francisco beggars. most of them are just that -- beggars.

The day was warmer than most San Francisco days, draining even more of the charm that I'd come to expect from my previous day visits. In fact, not only was the near omni-present fog not present, the heat added to the increased amount of homeless people presented a sum of smells that assaulted my senses, and not in a pleasant way. There were pockets of urine smells, unwashed bodies on every side it seemed, and scents of just dirty city streets.

The highlight of my day was having an entire half (oxymoronic, I know) of my Quizno's sandwich left over from lunch to be able to wrap and give to a homeless person on the street who seemed genuinely pleased to receive it.

Lest I get any nasty notes from any San Francisco Bureau of Tourism people, let me hasten to add that as the week progressed and the weather returned to San Francisconormal, the charm of the city returned. I'm sure that still being significantly ill was not helping my initial attitude much.

Instead of letting silly things like a sinus infection and urine smells dictate my experience, I took matters into my own hands. I did not want to spend three days in a city that I've previously loved only to return home with a bad taste for it. Enjoying some simple pleasures made all the difference in the world in restoring my attitude. Using my company's dinner allowance, I took a friend who's attending USF from Burbank out to dinner and enjoyed her delightful company. I enjoyed a solo dinner, indulging in rich English-style food in an Irish pub down the street from my hotel. I visited a Rasputin music store and browsed as quickly as possible in the half hour allotted me before closing time, their three stories of used CDs.

Overall I remembered, that we're only as happy with a situation as we allow ourselves to be. If I had chosen to allow my initial frustration at navigating an obnoxious rental car through annoying, non-sensical city streets, or the disgusting citified smells dictate my overall experience, I'd be, well, frustrated and disgusted.

As with any situation that presents itself to us, regardless of our current environment or circumstance, how we perceive that situation makes or breaks us. We can choose to accept it at face value, potentially turning us into miserable human beings, or we can adjust our own attitude to accept it graciously, trying to find the humor and joy in each situation. Regardless of how obnoxious or smelly it is, there is good to be had everywhere.

I just realized that sounded a little soap-boxy, and for that I apologize. But sitting here some weeks after the fact, reading what I wrote that first night and trying to capture the timbre of those few days, I am glad that for as upset as I was that first night, I can look back on that time and say that I truly enjoyed it.

Happiness is always a choice.


: "Insatiable," by Marne Davis Kellogg