An inappropriate workplace conversation

Today Darla told me to work on the regular work — though there isn’t much of it, and none of it’s rush-rush — instead of working on a more important project that’s a little removed from my job description, but absolutely must be done by tomorrow.

It’s not smart, but her ignorance isn’t her fault; she’s not the fool who decided she should be the manager of an office where she doesn’t understand the work. But we know what we’re doing, know how to prioritize the tasks, and a boss ought to let us do what we do. She ought to just be there when we need her, not micromanaging things she doesn’t understand.

When I had a chance in the afternoon, I disobeyed and switched back to the urgent project. Sorry, boss, but if the urgent work doesn’t get done, you wouldn’t like the ramifications.

♦ ♦ ♦

The dentist says I have special spit, something in my saliva that impedes the build-up of plaque. So even though I brush only 3-4 times a week, and my teeth haven’t been dentist-cleaned in years, today’s cleaning that was supposed to take an hour took only fifteen minutes. I’ll bet he bills  insurance for the full hour, though.

I returned to the store and worked for an hour, before busing out to Kaiser’s optometrist, and what a joke that was. The optometrist was an intern; another optometrist was there “to observe,” and the guy examining me was so nervous it made me nervous. I had to ask a fairly simple question twice, to get an answer that seemed memorized from a textbook and unconcerned about my blurry vision. He told me blandly that I don’t need bifocals, though I have to take off my glasses to see what’s closer than about ten feet away, and put them back on to see farther than that. How is that not someone who needs bifocals?

Yeah, yeah, any rookie needs to be taught on the job, and I don’t seriously oppose the concept of training the new kid. But, you know, they’re my eyes. It would be nice if I could see an eye expert about my eyes, and nicer still if I could see an eye expert clearly instead of blurry.

What keeps me with Kaiser Permanente is that I’m not allowed to leave. Nobody is allowed to take their business elsewhere, except once a year for two weeks, when the company’s health care is declared “open.” Then and only then, workers are allowed to switch, if we wish, from one incompetent, barely functional HMO to another that’s probably just as bad.

Will I switch? Probably not. By the next “open period,” next spring, I'm sure I'll have been laid off, which means I'll have no health care at all. In America, only employees get health coverage; the unemployed are outta luck. The whole system is not really a system at all.

Question: Why can’t America have nationwide, everybody’s-covered health care, like England and Canada and other civilized countries have? Answer: Because that would make sense.

♦ ♦ ♦

I’m delivering the TV to Kallie’s house tomorrow after work, and we’re having dinner, either at her house or at a Chinese place she likes — she hasn’t decided yet, but says it’s her treat either way.

After making those arrangements, a little later in the afternoon, she said something peculiar. We were talking about what we’d done over the weekend, and agreed that we hated the Blue Angels, and then she mentioned that one of the roommates in her shared house had brought home a weekend guest. “I wouldn’t mind the grunting and groaning,” she said, “if it hadn’t been so very long since I’ve gotten any. It’s been two years.”

Based on some workplace seminars I've attended, I believe that’s what’s called an "inappropriate workplace conversation," and definitely more personal that anything we’ve shared in the office until today.

I can top that, though. I’ve gone two years, three years, and five years without. I am not Warren Beatty. And tomorrow I’m having dinner with Kallie, and I’m pretty sure it is not a date.

♦ ♦ ♦

Darla is new at being our boss. She transferred in, and she’s learning how we do the work we do, and she’s not an idiot or anything, but sometimes I can't figure out what she's figuring.

Because of my dentist and eye doctor appointments, I came in hours early this morning. But because of my special super-saliva that made the dentist’s appointment short, I was able to come back and work an hour between my appointments, which should mean I could leave work an hour earlier than usual.

But, no. When I ran it by Darla, she said I had to stay until my normal quitting time, even though the last hour was overtime, even though there wasn’t much work to do, and even though there were other people who could answer the phone, because, “We must maintain standard business hours.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Back to the Roxie after work, fourth night in a row I've been there. They’d know me by name, if I was sociable. I’d buy season tickets if they had ‘em.

It was a Jack Webb double feature. Bet you didn't know that Joe Friday from Dragnet made movies, too.

Appointment with Danger (1950) is a good piece of noir, once you get past the concept of a hard-boiled, tough-talking, no-sense-of-humor scowling steadfast slalwart super-cynical … postal inspector?

I shouldn’t snicker, but postal inspectors are barely cops. They investigate mail fraud. Well, hold your pony express, in this movie a postal inspector is murdered, a nun is the only witness, and another postal inspector (Alan Ladd) is sent to investigate. So I guess postal inspectors investigate mail fraud and the occasional murder of other postal inspectors.

If you can get past the whole ‘postal inspector’ thing, it’s a well-made noir thriller. There’s plenty of clever rapid-fire staccato banter, and the inimitable Mr Webb steals the show in an early supporting role as a bad guy. Also, Webb’s accomplice is Harry Morgan, who later co-starred as Webb’s sidekick in the last several seasons of Dragnet, and it’s strange seeing them together but on the wrong side of the law.

The second feature was The D.I. (1957), directed and produced by Jack Webb, who also stars as a psychotic Marine drill instructor (“D.I.”) who, since it’s a movie made in 1957, isn’t allowed to use foul language as he screams and insults and dehumanizes his platoon.

I’m not a big fan of “so bad it’s good” movies; Plan Nine from Outer Space bored me, and I left early. With films like that, the laughter usually runs out before the second reel. But I have never seen a better-worse movie than The D.I. 

It is unintentionally hilarious all the way through. I laughed myself hoarse. There were tears rolling down my cheeks even before the opening credits, as one by one Webb’s raw recruits knock on his office door to receive their morning dose of humiliation. Webb is so unrelentingly serious as he delivers every line with his patented “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude, it makes this movie madly marvelous. If it had screened more than once tonight, I would’ve stayed and watched it a second time, just to hear whether Webb’s girlfriend actually said “Yes Sir” after a kiss. I think that’s what she said, but hundreds of people laughing drowned out the dialogue sometimes.

The story, if it matters, is about one recruit who’s a slacker, so un-American he tries faking a headache to get a day off from boot camp. Sergent Webb, though, is determined to make him into a man and, more importantly, a Marine.

It’s all so red white & blue you won’t believe it’s black & white. Most of the recruits are played by genuine jarheads, and the auteur Webb isn’t content to simply thank the US Marines for their cooperation in the making of this film; he also thanks them over the closing credits for every battle from Tripoli to Iwo Jima.

If you’re a Marine, hey, I do respect what y’all do, and we need you on that wall — though honestly, we don’t need you on that wall as often as you’re posted to that wall. But the patriotic fervor in this movie is just nuts. It’s uproarious, but also unsettling to think that not so long ago, a film like this was taken seriously by the audience.

From Pathetic Life #5
Monday, October 10, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


Pathetic Life 

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  1. You don't like the Blue Angels, you don't like the US Marines, do you just dislike the military?

    1. Isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, I for one am not going to stand here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!

    2. I don't like the military. No country's military even does anything good except sometimes defeat other country's militaries that want to do worse things.


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