Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Tale Of Hipster Romance

I recently witnessed a display of romantic intentions, hipster style.

I saw this, in all places, at Wal Mart, which is sort of like saying you held a Seder in the plains of Mecca. But saw it I did. I was standing in the self checkout lane at Wal Mart, because I have some dignity, and I saw a guy who was wearing a John-style cap. It goes without saying that he also had a beard. Sadly, I didn't see what he was scanning through the machine, but I can only assume it was a jar of pomade or a sousaphone or something.

The clerk that was waiting on us was wearing her blue vest, but was also sporting half-closed eyelids and some pouty Sandra Bernhard lips, looking for all the world like she would want to be anywhere but staring vacantly at these rubes buying sour cream and ginger ale at 10pm on a school night. Her hair was dolled up like she just walked out of the waiting room in Beetlejuice. 

When she saw our customer--well, I'd like to say her face lit up, but I don't think her face changed expression at all.

"I like your hat," she said in a tone and inflection that would make people ask Wednesday Addams what got her all riled up.

"Thanks," he said, matching her enthusiasm. "I like your hair."

Sadly, as much as I wanted to stick around and see how this awkward flirting evolved, it was already a little too weird eavesdropping on this little love play and I left.

I'd like to think that he waited until her shift was done, and then they both hopped on his pennyfarthing and they went to a speakeasy to drink Tom Collins and play chuck-a-luck while someone plays Uptown Funk on a xylophone. Ah, fake romance.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Who Is Paulie Walnuts?

My wife and I recently started watching The Sopranos. Yeah, yeah, I know, we're a decade too late, but I watched Mad Men in real time so I've more than made up for it. I even watched the Sylvia plotline, so I have some credit due.

Anyway, I'm forever confused as to the economics of The Sopranos, and for once the internet appears to have let me down. Like, I don't understand it. In one episode earning $5000 is seen as a huge score--and then they do the math and, like everyone in the room is all excited about getting 10% of it. Then in the next episode someone is walking around with $200,000 cash and it's a huge disappointment to everyone involved. And then someone goes and spends 10 grand on something, and then they get all pissy because they have to buy dinner. I know they're all good at math, because as far as I can tell about 80% of this show involves slicing up percentages of what people get and 20% of it is having sex with weird foreign people and introducing new asshole characters who everyone in the room knows is going to get shot by the end of the season.

But let's not fault the show too much. They do a pretty good job of selling the mafia to us. Like, Tony does a convincing rationalization of everything he does at one point--everybody who gets into the mafia knows exactly what they are getting into and what the risks are, and they're just filling in a need that people want. I'm sitting there thinking "Yeah! If people want to drink or hire prostitutes or gamble, those are all victimless crimes! Why shouldn't people get to do engage in willful, voluntary transactions with one another? Why do they have to dress up in ugly burgundy vests and track suits and eat pasta, when we all should be doing this? The mafia is just an underground version of a libertarian utopia! This is great! Tony's right!" And even some of the sketchier things, like skimming taxpayer money from the Esplanada project, is just a natural reaction to the bloated, inefficient ways that Northeastern unions and government officials have forced on people!

Then I remember that the mafia, you know, murders innocent people and steals a lot of stuff from bystanders and roughs up small businesses for "protection" and all other sorts of non-Murry-Rothbard-approved activities, and I realize that the mafia is actually not all that glamorous but actually kind of a horrible dystopia.

Still, it seems like a pretty decent intellectual enterprise: is there a place for some sort of mafia-light organization that uses libertarian political principles as a justification to make a bunch of money doing horrible but victimless crimes, trimming out the uglier aspects of the classical organization of the mob? We'd be political dissidents, after all, not criminals. At least, that's how I'd get myself to sleep every night. Dr Melfi would agree, I'd think.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Annals Of Bad Retail Experiences

This is a tale of customer service woe.

I frequent a local gas station/food dispensary in the area where I live (I don’t want to name names, but the first part is a word that means “Get” and the second part is a word that means “Go”. And early this week I had an unfortunate experience with one.

To be frank—this is unusual. I’ve been going to this chain for years and have had hardly any problems, aside from delicious sandwiches that are way too expensive. Although we’ve recently tried to eat a late-night meal there once and ended up having to have both of our orders fixed (they forgot my French fries and they forgot my wife’s chicken salad) but I was more than willing to chalk that up to the fact that one poor woman was preparing what I estimated to be six thousand orders in twenty minutes. It happens.

On Tuesday of this past week, my wife and I went to a concert. We are way too old for concerts, but we did it anyway and it was fun—but it was also hot and sweaty and gross and crowded and the room was probably 25% oxycontin. So when we left—had we been able to make it to the bar, which is a questionable endeavor, we really didn’t want to pay eight bucks for a bottle of water—I was incredibly thirsty.

Fast forward a few miles down the road and we stop at the gas station slash food dispensary. All I wanted was a drink. Specifically a fountain drink, because I find those to be more refreshing. It’s a simple task, but one that ended up deviling me for a very desperate five minutes.

First, I went to grab a large cup. Nope! They were completely out of large cups. Oh well, I figured, it happens, I’ll settle for a medium. So I look at the Diet Pepsi—my drink of choice—and see that it is out of order. Oh no! But, luckily, they had two such buttons, and the other one seemed to work fine. So I filled my medium cup up and went to grab a straw—no straws! The only straws they had were the kind intended for slushies, with an awkward little fake spoon at one end that increases the difficulty of using it as an actual straw. Well, I thought, this isn’t great, but I am that. Thirsty. I’ll power through.

I took a quick sip and—of course!—it was bitter and flat. They forgot the special secret fountain pop syrup.

Now, the logical part of me would have dumped it and got another fountain drink and settled for, say, Diet Dr. Pepper or something similar. But at this point, the relatively simple task of getting a drink—stretched out to a Kaizan-level three steps—failed in some fashion in each of those steps. It was maddening. It was dump-the-soda-and-storm-out maddening, although my wife wisely told me to go get a regular bottled drink because she didn’t want to hear me bitch about being thirsty the rest of the way home. Even at this point, the clerk double-charged me and I had to have it corrected. At this point I figured if I hung around any longer I’d get hit with a plague of locusts or a pirate would hand me the black spot or something, so I just didn’t complain and left.

I mean, I get it—it was the day after Labor Day, and it was late at night; the C Team was on their way home and they had to drag in the Z Team and pump them full of amphetamines. But it barely registered the minimal amount of standards of a retail transaction.