Monthly Archives: January 2006

Three Conversations

They say everything comes in threes. I’ve had trouble believing that ever since I was old enough to accurately count my balls.

But, I digress. Yesterday, out of the many conversations I had, three stand out. And I don’t mean exceptionally. I’m talking more the ‘Why do people continually talk to me?’ manner.

The first conversation began innocently enough. A guy comes into work with a look that was a cross between fright and revulsion. It’s an expression I know well. I’ve been on the receiving end of it since I uttered my first words,

“Don’t tell me I’m related to you people?”

Yeah, I was a precocious little fifteen year old.

But this guys expression held a little more fear than revulsion. He was looking me over as if I were a piece of modern art not only incomprehensible (‘Is that a statement of dissociation between people and the solipsistic meaning of life?’ ‘No. That’s a plate of pasta. The art’s over there. I think.’) but smelly.

The weird part is this isn’t the first time he’s seen me. Maybe it’s the first time he’s seen me clearly. You can never be sure the way optometry is these days.

“Hi.” He says with a catch in his voice. I greet him in the manner I always have (pretend caring with a hint of garlic – I just had lunch). He steps back slightly while looking me over. I begin the transaction while he continues to watch me. Carefully. Very carefully. As if he’s just seen a ‘Capote/Brokeback Mountain’ double feature and he’s contemplating some type of new home on the literary range.

Just as I’m completing the transaction he tells me that, in his cab, there’s a picture a guy who’s been robbing cabs in the area.

“And he looks just like you.”

I slide his receipt towards him and look him in the eyes.

“Huh.” I say hoping that makes him feel more comfortable. Or leave. Yeah, I’m going to have to go with leave. But, he doesn’t. He keeps comparing me with the mug shot seared into his head.

“Ha ha,” he begins that nervous laugh of people who have to ask a dreaded question. “It’s, ah, not you, is it?”

I smile and laugh. “Not that I’m aware of.”

He smiles, a little more pinched than he’d hoped for, and laughs, a little louder and staccato than he’d planned.

“But I do walk in my sleep.”

He continues to laugh as he exits the building. I watch him hurry towards his car. He’s on the phone before getting there. I smile and walk back to the desk thinking that if there’s a reward he’d better split it with me.

A few minutes later the phone rang and, I know how hard it’ll be for you to believe, I actually helped a guy. In a helpful manner. With a crisp, informative tone. I guess I wanted someone to tell the news I seemed like a nice guy after the cops arrest me for the string of cab robberies.

After imparting all the information this man required, he seemed very happy with not only my service, but the price.

“That’s a very reasonable price.” He says pausing slightly. “There has to be a catch. What’s the catch?”

Damn, even when I’m as helpful as I’m ever going to be someone questions my motives. I’m going to go back to my normal mode of service: The Lord helps those who shop elsewhere.

“Well,” I begin to flip through all of the catches inherent in doing business with us. “You do have to deal with me.”

The gentleman laughed and said that didn’t seem like such a problem. And I guess he’s right. If he’s not a cabbie.

My last conversation of the day was with a man who fancies himself a producer. I’m not saying he isn’t a producer (in case he reads this) but I’m saying he fancies himself because of the fancy steps he took during our meeting. I’ve always called it the ‘You’re brilliant, I love it’ tango ending with ‘A monkey could write that’ salsa. Try the dip, it’s a killer.

We talk about some scripts and the pilot I’m sort of working on (I’m half way done with the second of three planned spec scripts. I’d have finished months ago but I’ve been busy. And by busy I mean no one’s offered to pay me to finish it so I keep going where the cash is). He likes the concept, knows people in TV, and says he’d like to see it. It’s not money but it’s as close as you can get and still be broke. At least it’s a little motivation.

And then the dipping begins. When he got in touch with me (after reading a bunch of my crap) he said he was interested in, mainly, my style of comedy writing. It’s a good thing I have one of those then, I tell him. But he’s too wrapped up in his own pitch to listen to my stylish bon mots.

Oh oh. He’s one of those producers. One with his own ideas. And, dip, two three.

It turns out his idea of comedy has a lot of drama in it. I’m not complaining. I often find humor in the most dramatic moments. But I did begin to wonder when it became clear his type of comedy filled drama had much less funny and much more grit.

Stovepipe up the poop shoot grit.

I’m listening to his vision. To say it sat at the bloodier end of the ‘Hostel Meets Saw’ lathe would be an understatement. But, again, work’s work and I’m sure as hell not cowered by a little gore. I’ve written scenes so creepy friends couldn’t talk to me for weeks. Which caused me to write more of them which allowed me a few peaceful months.

It was when the guy started going into these permeation’s of brutality, opprobrium, and sexual abuse that I, okay, laughed. I admit it. I laughed and boy, he didn’t like that. He’s staring at me as if he’s actually capable of his fantasies. I stare back until he realizes I am capable of putting his dreams into action. I think it’s the laugh that’s most off-putting. But that’s not why I was laughing. I thought the level of his beatings were clownish. And the sexual abuse was the kind of thing even the most hardened predator would find hard to swallow.

I thanked the man for his time but told him I could not do justice to the visions that bounced around his padded cellular membrane. I don’t know if he thought falling back into sucking up would change my mind but it didn’t. I stood and offered him my hand. I could tell he was searching for something, anything that would capture my attention about this project. While standing he grasps his last straw.

“Don’t you even want to know the title?”

Not really, I think. But I also know if I tell him I’m interested in nothing else while walking him to the door he won’t even hear the deadbolt slide shut.

“Sure,” I say as I get to the office door placing my hand gently, yet firmly, on his back. “What’s the name of this project? I’ll make sure to look for it.”

The guy turns. My hand slides off his back. He steps one foot out the door. I move my foot towards the one remaining in the building. With a gentle nudge both feet are now securely out of my office. He looks up at me and smiles the smile of someone who knows they have had a stroke of brilliance.

“Touched By An Uncle.”

To paraphrase from those war movies of yore, he didn’t even hear the deadbolt hit him.

Good Day, My Dear

A tenant came in and, as many do, used a term of endearment to summon me. I get ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey’ and ‘other friendly names due to the fact they don’t know mine’ so often I don’t even hear it.

Well, it seems the woman’s boyfriend heard it. And he started to get in my face. He has to know why she called me dear. I started by telling him, not being a female, she couldn’t call me a doe. She laughs nervously. He glares obviously unfamiliar with that song.

He turns to her and asks if she fucked me. She, being a nice but stupid girl, tries to reason with him. She says I’m the storage guy and that’s the extent of our relationship. He doesn’t buy that so leans over the counter and asks me the same question.

Knowing her history with men (she’s stupid but can, unlike the men she chooses, breathe without being reminded that there are two steps) I know he’s a moron. Even without that background information one look would have told me when he farts he thinks someone is following him armed with Vieux Boulogne (named the smelliest cheese, as you are no doubt aware).

He’s now demanding that I come clean. I’m looking at this couple. She’s grinning and rolling her eyes. He’s glaring and rolling his knuckles against each other. Ooooooooo. How menacing!

“Why the fuck did she call you dear, you fucking asshole?”

“Why, other than you’re as sharp as a low b flat, would you ask someone else why your girlfriend said anything to you other than, ‘I think we should break up because I’m afraid if we procreated the seventh level of idiocy would burst open.’?”

His rapid blinking actually covered me with a fine, intermittent breeze. It took a moment, but he falls back into trying to bully me. It took a moment, but I fell into my patented explaining the mundane to morons.

“Listen you dipshit, it’s a phrase meant to fool people into thinking there’s a sense of friendship. To rephrase, it’s as meaningless as your GED.”

I’m about eight inches from him. He’s leaning on the counter and I’m staring at him. I can see him attempt a comeback but can’t wrap his anger around his confusion. Besides, the only thing he’s ever come back to is the buffet at the Red Wiggler.

In his head, I should be cowering due to his overpowering onslaught. He’s caught his girlfriend calling some other guy dear. Now if that ain’t catching your bitch red handed nothing is. And here’s the guy! Pretending it’s nothing! Oh, something’s just not right about this!

He stands up and starts ranting to her about why she called me dear. He’s completely stopped engaging me. The girl is trying to talk him down but it’s having little effect. The sad part is she didn’t seem unduly phased by his irrational behavior. But, as I said earlier, I’ve seen some of her other beaus and this one’s only in the middle of the food chain.

I have to stand there because I know, no matter how much redundancy surrounds their lives, sooner or later one of them will remember they came here to visit their storage unit. The fighting is just an added attraction.

It wasn’t until his voice became louder that I moved towards the couple. It wasn’t until he poked her in the forehead with his index finger that I interrupted. Calmly, of course.

“Hey, moron! Get the fuck out of my building before I lift it up and bury you under it.”

He pulls his finger off her head and I see her little white spot begin to fill back with color. He turns to me, finger still aloft, and is confused. He’s usually so in control of these poking moments he’s not used to outside counsel. He slowly focuses his attention towards me and, just before he spit out some colorful phrase, I said,

“Did you hear me or are you so stupid your brains have leaked out and blocked your ears? I said get the fuck out of my building.” I pause for a moment and lean on the counter. “Did you hear me that time or do I have to come over there and show you the fucking door?”

I don’t know what it is because I’ve always been on the other side of my face, but it always surprises me when I bark at people and they do what I say. I’m not a big guy. I’m not a tough guy. I’m just not a people guy.

I’ve been told I get this look on my face. I like to think it’s like the face Large Marge made in PeeWee’s Big Adventure but it’s probably closer to a sputtering Daffy Duck. But, whatever it is, it tends to get the object of my scorn (to refresh: people) away from me.

The guy backs into the wall and slides down it towards the exit. He brushes against the girl on his way out never taking his eyes off me. It’s not until he’s at the door that I see some of the bravado slip back onto his face. He opens the door and, leaning his head just past her shoulder, calls out,

“You’re a fucking asshole.”

I take two steps towards the office door and swing it open. I can hear the front door being forced to close. I get to the door and see that he’s scurrying to his car. I’m standing at the door when he looks back to see me there. He gets to the drivers side door and opens it. He slams it shut and I hear the automatic locks slam down. He’s safe. A winning grin comes over his face.

I step off the step and lean towards the car.

“I may be a fucking asshole, but I’m a fucking asshole with a bat.” I pull a bat from behind my back and twirl it around. “And that makes you a fucking asshole surrounded by glass.”

He starts yelling and reaching into his pockets. I can kind of make out muffled cries about calling the cops. His girlfriend steps out of the building and stands next to me.

“He’s calling the cops.”

I sit down on the step. “Good. I’ll wait here and the first thing I’ll tell them is he was throwing a fit and I witnessed him assault you.” She thinks about this for a moment. She knows this can only go from bad to worse. She starts walking towards the car. He doesn’t take his eyes off me as he opens the door. She begins to open the door and I stand up.

“Get in the fucking car.” He screams. She begins to lower herself into the car as she says,

“He’s really not a bad guy.”

I look at this woman and shake my head while she enters the car and quickly closes the door.

“Then that makes you a very stupid woman.”

I stand there while he pulls out of the parking lot. It’s a nice day so I’m looking at the crisp, clear sky. I’m not paying attention to my surroundings. I’m just leaning on my bat and taking in this beautiful winter day. I begin to think if being a full moon on Friday the thirteenth brought this event to me. Nah, up to this moment it’s been a pretty uneventful day.

“Excuse me.” A woman says. I squint to focus on her. As my eyes adjust she says, “Do you have a bathroom I can use? I just shit myself.”

It’s a good thing my eyes adjusted because, as if I wouldn’t have taken her word for it, she turned to give me a view of, what I can only assume, was breakfast and last night’s dinner. Maybe a couple of snacks but I may be overthinking this.

I ask her to wait and go in to open the overhead door. She waddles in while I wonder what the bathroom will look like when she comes out. I also have a moment wondering what she’ll be wearing.

But both of those questions take a backseat as I realize it has nothing to do with a full moon on Friday the thirteenth, it’s just another normal day in my life.

May I Help You?

Thinkers deeper than I have debated the ramifications of each sibilance that slips our lips, each movement that swirls the air, each warning offered to the drunk guy running around with a sickle and crotchless chaps. But I’ve never been that introspective. But I do understand the potential pitfalls of everything we do in life.

That’s why what happened after the simple, helpful, uttered millions of times a day phrase, “May I help you?” wasn’t shocking but did cause, just for a moment mind you, introspection of the, “Hot damn! There some crazy ass crazy asses ’round here.”

It was nearing the end of another crappy day in Shitsville. The water was chilly but the sheen from the glistening porcelain made anything seem possible. Until the office door opened.

A guy with a scarf fluttering behind him kicks open the door and rushes up to the counter. He’s unwrapping the scarf from around his neck while I approach the desk.

“May I help you?” I said startling for a moment. Was that the creaking door of hell opening? Nah, must be the roof beams cracking.

Before the gentleman spoke I knew there may be a problem. You see, being a student of the human condition and someone very aware of his surroundings, I wouldn’t miss a thing like a hole in a guy’s throat.

It wasn’t one of those ‘sealed for sanitation’ holes you see in medical dramas. Uh uh. This was a gaping, gunshot style hole at the bottom of his throat. It looked like hole six at the John Wayne Gacy Public Golf Course. You know that hole. It’s the one with the brush in front of the hole and smiling clown behind.

He’s rummaging around his coat pockets while I look inside the hole. Now don’t think I pulled out a flashlight and leaned in. I wouldn’t do that. But I would put on my glasses.

I could see muscles and nerves and many other things as seen in the ‘Invisible Human’ model at school. But this time it was all moving. Up and down like an elevator at Throat Towers.

‘Next stop, twelfth floor. Consonants, vowels, and intermittent gurgling sounds.’

“I want to move in.” The sound startled me. Not because it came from the portable McDonald’s drive-thru speaker the guy talking through but because I’d forgotten I was supposed to be helping someone. I guess a hole in a normally hole-less location can cause a concentration lapse.

“Okay,” I say proving I can snap to and be helpful when necessary. “Do you have a space?”

I can’t explain what he said. Whatever it was overloaded his speaker until it sounded like a Public Service Announcement from the Static Broadcasting Network.

Even picking up every third or twelfth word I could tell whatever the guy wanted he sure did want it. I tried to quiet him to gather some information. It took a minute for all the static to fade and get a few answers but I did. That’s when I knew this scene was going to get uglier.

It turns out he indeed wanted to move in. Tonight. As a matter of fact, a truck was on its way with an ETA of sixty to eighty minutes. The problem, as I saw it, was our closing time was exactly sixteen minutes. It only took a few seconds for him to comprehend this situation.

But there’s a fine line between comprehension and acquiesce.

Between static and sputtering one thing was perfectly clear: special orders clearly upset this burger king. While the clock ticked further from his favor, he would not stop his torrent of demands. I wanted to turn the volume down on his amplification system but couldn’t so I turned down the radio. Between him and the music I wasn’t sure if he was pissed or had a ‘Dyslexic Heart.’

While he railed in his robotic tone I watched the minutes tick by. It amazes me how long someone can fight a losing battle. Do people think by dint of impassioned inanity they can win a battle so stacked against them? They must for as often as I hear it. But, just as often (funny how it works like that, huh?), the battle is for not and to the victor goes the locked door.

“Listen to me. It is now six o’clock. We are now closed.” I walk from behind the desk towards the front door which I open, put up the sign that signifies we are now officially and irrevocably closed for the day and then back behind the counter to clean up any loose ends.

Now what was it I had to do? Oh, yes, that’s right. Get rid of the metallic Harvey Firestein.

“We are closed so you must now leave the building.” Seems simple, doesn’t it? I guess not everyone is as bright as you.

The static the guy was emitting could quite possibly have been NASA feeds from Mars filtered through some demonic, profane ‘Speak & Spell’. Once I informed him of the inevitable, every word out of his mouth began with ‘F’ then ran wind sprints through Scatchy Poo Park before ending in a giant bowl of crinkly ‘U’s.’ Assuming the ‘you’ was me you could assume I wasn’t happy. Amused? Certainly. Just not happy.

The simple fact was talking to Intercom Man wasn’t in my evenings agenda regardless of the number of swears he could blender up. Especially when I realized I wasn’t getting paid for this. What amazed me was, once I explained in a calm and rational manner what his options were, what had the potential to dig into further acrimony was over with a manly handshake and a rapidly secured door. I guess it’s true, all you have to do is give people choices and they’ll choose the correct one for them.

“Listen to me,” I barked over the white noise. “This facility is now closed. Your presence on this property is now considered trespassing. Therefore you have three options. One, you leave now under your own power and without further conversation. Two, I call the police, tell them I have a trespasser and request they handle this situation as they see fit. Your third option is where I go to the back of the office, get our vacuum, fire that sucker up to frenzy, stick it your hole and suck your guts out until I get to your large intestines which I will use to strangle you to death.”

It’s all about choices, I say.