I Warned You Not to Touch That

Tag: humor


by on Nov.20, 2009, under Essays

My editor sent me an email.  She wanted to make sure I knew Shakespeare would be speaking in Tampa.  The news represented progress.  A few months earlier, she’d never heard of him.  This despite many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and numerous published works to his credit.  She told me classic literature wasn’t her genre.

My primary problem with Mr. Shakespeare is his use of language.  It’s deplorable.  I’ve been around long enough to know there’s a direct and indirect way to say something.  Can he be any less direct?  I hate his blather.

O Romeo, Romeo!  Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Cut to the chase.  “Romeo, where are you?”  That wasn’t so hard.  What a hack! 

Consider this drivel:

Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for a boy, as a squash is before ‘tis a peascod, or a codling when ‘tis almost an apple.

A codling is a baby apple?  I’ve heard of a codpiece but never a peascod.  It sounds more indecent than codpiece. 

The funny thing is, no one ever complains about Shakespeare.  Is he some sort of sacred cow?  I think his writing is a comedy of errors.  Much as he troubles me, I had to spend the money to see him.  I wanted to know what he wore to these gigs.  Would he don something Elizabethan or go with a more contemporary look?  Perhaps a smoking jacket, ascot, and pipe.  What could he possibly have to say?  I worried the evening might be much ado about nothing. 

Perhaps he’d offer insights about, “the ending I didn’t choose.”  That would interest me.  The alternate ending to Romeo and Juliet.  Juliet wakes up just in time to give Romeo CPR?  Instead of drinking hemlock, they get hammered with ale until oak-cleaving thunderbolts singe their heads.  I think he needs to pay attention to two words that have guided Hollywood for ages.  Happy endings.

This guy is a literary morgue tour.  How much tragedy does he think people can handle?  Consider what would be the television equivalent of these fateful writings.  Some talk show or reality program that makes its money on the suffering of others.  The nightly news?  That’s almost cheating it’s so obvious.  Speaking of cheating, what about Cheaters?  For my money, the deception is the best part of the show.  I love when the wife calls the husband to see how he’s doing.  It’s always when hubby has his lover right next to him in the motel room.

           Wife:               Hey, how are you?

            Hubby:             Pretty good and you?

            Wife:               I’m okay.  When are you going to be home?

    Hubby:             I thought I’d be there by now but I’ve been trying to finish my proposal to give the merchant of Venice.

I love being in on the secret.  Of course, the wife is well aware hubby is involved with the taming of the shrew.  She feeds him additional rope to hang himself:

I wish we got to see more of each other.  It seems like you’re always gone lately.  This is the twelfth night you’ve worked late.

Maybe hubby enjoys the deception too.  He answers:

I know.  The two gentlemen of Verona have been hounding me.  If I can just make it through the next month, I promise to make everything as you like it.

His sweet concessions are a waste of airtime.  His fate sealed.  Love’s labor’s lost.

I think Mr. Shakespeare would reach a far wider audience if he dumped the Elizabethan shtick and got with the times.  Write about subjects that interest today’s readers.  Like weight loss.  Here’s a topic most people read about.  If he did some before and after photos, he could call the book Measure for Measure.  The Tempest?  With a name like that, no one will grab it off the discount table.  Jazz it up.  Try something new and compelling like, My Hurricane Katrina Nightmare.  No one knows where Windsor is.  Go with, The Merry Wives of Orange County.  The key is to lighten up.  Start speaking plainly.  Get a blog going.  With a name as catchy as Shakespeare, it won’t be long before people will know it from every city to hamlet.

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Birthday Smithsonian

by on Nov.07, 2009, under Essays

A party invitation arrived the other day.  Beth, a friend of my daughter’s, wanted others to help her celebrate sixteen years on the planet.  I thought the Build-A-Bear workshop was an unusual choice, given I’d expect to find kids that age working there.  Still, it seemed more wholesome than the popular Build-A-Methlab workshops. 

There’s a show called My Super Sweet Sixteen.  Besides deciding on a guest list of a few hundred, the big stress-maker is the entertainment.  A girl in Los Angeles brought in Cirque de Soleil.  I almost choked on my chicken.  Perhaps kids in Washington take Air Force One up for a spin.  It seemed excessive until a kid in New York countered with Usher.  The tension built as little Richie Rich circled the block in his Rolls trying to time his arrival perfectly.  My heart went out to him.  Riding around in the back of his father’s car, all alone except for the chauffer and MTV camera crew. 

Manhattan has a surprising number of Rolls Royces.  When I was in school there, my classmate Calvin offered me a ride from W116th Street to W110th Street.  Six blocks isn’t far but our project to take over the world’s economy was due and needed some tweaking.  Calvin had a Rolls too.  I’m sure the cabbies all have them by now.  When we got to his car, a beat up Chevy was double-parked and blocking him in.  After settling inside, he started the engine.  It was as quiet as a spinster’s voicemail.  The dashboard clock was the only disturbance.  Lambskin floor mats caressed my shoes.  Connolly leather hides adorned the sumptuous seating.  I thought, as I searched for the Grey Poupon, this is refinement. 

I was getting ready to lower my window to see if someone would take my picture when it happened.  Calvin cut the wheels hard.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  I finally get a ride in a Rolls Royce and he’s going to use it to ram a $500 Chevy.  As I braced myself for impact, I worried about the sixteen coats of hand-sprayed lacquer.  Add a few more if you count the Chevy.  Then, instead of putting the car in forward, he hit reverse.  Yes, reverse.  Slowly, the stately carriage began backing up over the curb.  The right front wheel followed by the left.  As he went forward the back wheels climbed up.  We were like some icebound liner freed in the spring thaw.  I was riding down the sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in Calvin’s Rolls.  Even I didn’t believe it.  I suggested we detour from W110th Street to try mudbogging in Central Park.  Calvin declined.  We never conquered the world’s economy.  I think Richie Rich’s father did.  After throwing a bash that had to run well into the six figures, his son got a new BMW.  The kid didn’t even know how to drive.  Perhaps Calvin could teach him.

Richie Rich bypassed the Build-A-Bear workshop.  Maybe his dad said it would be too much.  I remember them being on the pricey side.  Apparently, nothing was too good for Build-A-Bear Beth.  I noted the location, time and the last line.  “Bring money to eat (and if you want to build a bear).”  I was stunned.  Bring money to eat.  These people had so much money, they assumed my daughter’s friends used it as food.  I thought dollars would be easier to digest than quarters.  Still, paper money would cost more to eat. 

This party is going to top all parties and, best of all, cost my daughter a fortune to attend.  That’s assuming she digests the money without surgery.  Beth and her family are onto something.  Have a party where the guests pay for everything.  I looked forward to my daughter’s Sweet Sixteen celebration.  My only question was would her friends pay more than twenty dollars for a cover charge?

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Technical Support

by on Oct.31, 2009, under Essays

Any third grader knows the difference between computer hardware and software.  When I think of hardware, I think of things like shovels, electrical outlets, and rubber flappers for my toilet’s mysterious bowels.  I suppose you could add nails, picture hangers, and wingnuts to that list.  As many times as I’ve looked into my computer, I’ve never found any of these items.  I think the term hardware is an egregious display of language misappropriation.  Another example of computers taking over the world. 

Now software is a different thing all together.  In terms of language usage, I have to give technology first dibs.  It only makes sense that other areas of commerce steal this term from the computer industry.  After all, fair is fair.  Linen superstores are a natural.  All those fluffy terry cloth towels and million thread count sheets.  That’s what I consider software.  Perhaps a nice cashmere sweater.  When you think of it, emollient names could sound better too.  Lancome Primordiale skin software.  Condoms?  Maybe not.

I have modest abilities when it comes to troubleshooting technical problems with my computer.  I’m proficient at taking the cover off and peering down into the pile of circuits, wires, and lights.  Give me a can of spray air and I will gleefully blow all the dust and other toxins back into the atmosphere so I can breathe them again.  If I see anything obviously wrong, like a leaking hose or broken fan belt, I might take a stab at fixing it.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I feel these matters are usually better left in the hands of a professional. 

Recently, I decided to delve into one of my computer’s vexing software problems.  It was a small matter but one I felt compelled to address before the warranty expired.  I called Microsoft.  Things went well at first.  After a mere twenty minutes pressing different menu selections to route me to the correct area, I reached Angela in the Atlanta call center.  It’s clear she’s well trained in the art of customer service as her goal was to get me off the phone as quickly as possible.  Period.  She didn’t care how she accomplished it, as long as it was fast.

There are many ways they can get rid of your call.  If telling you the call is being recorded for quality assurance purposes doesn’t do it, they’ll put you on hold for the weekend.  If you’re still there on Monday, they’ll fake a heart attack.  If that doesn’t work, they’ll go with a proven winner.  Transferring you.  I don’t mean transferring you to a different unit, like the military.  I’m talking about, with a few deft keystrokes, sending you across the planet to India. 

I didn’t realize I was being sent there at first.  When Angela assured me she was going to connect me to someone who specialized in my problem, I assumed she’d be sending me to Fred down the hall.  Evidently, Fred no longer works down the hall or even in the same building.  In fact, his entire department is gone.  Cost-effectively relocated to Bangalore, India.  Things in Bangalore are a little different than they are in Atlanta.  Despite some small differences (cuisine, clothing, standard of living, government, time zone, mores, culture, currency, language, religion, etc.) we have one common thread.  Technical Support!

My first clue that I’m not in Kansas anymore is the greeting from my new best friend.  “Hello, my name is Rajib.  I’m here to provide you with excellent service.  What version of Windows are you using?”  To be fair, I don’t care if I’m being transferred to Satan, as long as he can fix my problem.  My beef is having to repeat, ad nauseum, all the wondrous details about my computer, tax bracket and shoe size.  I just spent twenty minutes browsing through the menu options and submenus to connect to Angela.  If these were the right choices, why not connect me to Satan in the first place?  Oh.  Because Angela would no longer be needed?  All right.  I guess I could bear a small inconvenience so Angela can feed her six kids.

So here I am with Rajib.  A time of new beginnings.  Of tremendous hope.  We are in the honeymoon phase of our relationship.  I’m not sure Rajib feels that way, but I do.  He’s polite, well trained, has a good job and possibly his own six kids to feed.

After asking me to repeat, for the third time, all the details of my troubling situation, he asks me to check some of the settings on my computer.  He’s like a doctor whacking my knee with a mallet asking, “Does it hurt when I do this?”  Once all the settings have been verified, I’m asked, “Would you mind if I put you on hold for a minute while I check something?”  I hate that question.  I really do.  If I say I don’t mind, I’m tacitly accepting that Rajib (training, politeness and good intentions aside) hasn’t the foggiest idea how to solve my problem.  This sad realization comes after investing four hours of my life in the matter.  I’m sure there’s a legal term for that, like tempis fugit.

So I wait, listening to the white noise of celestial satellite connections.  Finally, after watching hell freeze over, my accomplice returns with a bold new plan.  He asks, “Would you mind if I took over your computer’s desktop?”  He’s going to magically transport himself into my office?  I thought he was in India.  I’m in my pajamas.  He reassures me, “I’ll only have access to the extortion notes you’ve written, dark neurological wanderings and lascivious leanings even your therapist doesn’t know about.”  Well, I guess that’s okay.  He asks me to close any programs I’m currently using and click something that hands things over to him.  My computer.  To a complete stranger.  What if something happens and technology can’t return it to me?  Given that my alternative is waiting on hold for a few more days, I let him run with it.

I must say, it is impressive.  Someone ten thousand miles away breezing through my desktop like it’s his own private desk.  He effortlessly opens and shuts all kinds of windows and doors.  He looks in the attic, junk drawer, even under the bed.  Damn this guy’s good.  He knows where everything is in my whole house and he’s just met me.  Finally, after he dug up pesky old Mrs. Goodhue in the back yard, he asked, “Would you mind if I put you on hold again while I check something?”  God.  Now I’m terrified.  I know he’s calling the police.  Maybe Interpol.  He’s probably sending the Pac Man virus to nibble through the maze of my sorry excuse for a life.  I consider slamming the phone down but he still has control of my computer.  I’m stuck.  After I agree he says, “It may take me a few minutes.” 

A few minutes.  That’s how long it’ll take Rajib to destroy the very fabric of my being.  All those years of hard work have come down to this.  Rajib from Bangalore, opening up my life like a can of tuna.  I begin quietly gathering a few personal belongings.  I guess I won’t be needing my complete twelve volume copy of Favorite Usernames and Passwords.  Can I at least bring a picture of my beloved dog, Bubbles?  This is torture.  The waiting.  My nerves are shot and eyes sandy from hours staring at my monitor. 

At last, he returns.  Judgment Day.  He tells me, “I’ve spoken with my supervisor about this problem.”  Yes?  Your supervisor.  Okay.  Well, tell me.  Please.  The suspense is tearing me up.  Then he says something I never expected to hear.  “I want you to know that I’m assigning a case number to the matter and that I, Rajib Ghandi, am taking ownership of this issue.”  He’s taking ownership.  You mean I’m getting off with just a reprimand?  What do you mean ownership?  Like a time-share?  He continues with, “I’m going to escalate things and someone who specializes in this area will be contacting you within forty-eight hours.  When would be a good time to reach you?”  No wait.  Please.  Don’t leave me.  I’ve got seven hours invested in our relationship already.  God, Rajib.  I’d hate to have to start all over with someone new.  He’s so good he’s already anticipated my concerns when he says, “Don’t worry.  I’m preparing a trouble ticket so you won’t have to repeat all this when our specialist calls back.”  A trouble ticket?  That doesn’t sound good at all.  Within forty-eight hours?  What if I’m out?  As if he’s psychic he adds, “I’ll put you in the system and someone will call you back at an agreeable time.”  Yeah right.  With my arm now atrophied and ear molded to the shape of my telephone’s receiver, I’m forced to accept defeat. 

And what about Rajib?  I’m sure he wanted more from our relationship than this.  He relinquishes control of my computer and promises me an email highlighting the details of our time together.  I worry about my new friend.  Lying awake, drenched in sweat on a hot Indian night.  Mosquito net keeping all but a few of the man-eaters at bay.  A fan swirling the dusty hot air so that it cakes to his skin.  All the problems he’s taken ownership of.  The trouble tickets stacked in his virtual inbox, like so many mouths needing a nice hot curry.  I take comfort in knowing, with a small enterprise like Microsoft and my very own case number, I’m not likely to slip through the cracks.  It’s true it has been a few years, but I’m sure I’ll be hearing from them any day.


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