$2 plastic pinchy picker-upper

At work, the conversation with Carlotta took a few unexpected twists. Before telling that story, though, you need to know that she’s a major babe. I haven't mentioned that before, because it’s irrelevant on days she’s fully buttoned up, but Carlotta is 25, I’d guess, with a pretty face, Playboy bod, chic clothes, etc. I appreciate the view but try to ignore it. We’re at work, and she’s married, plus just look at me, so saying anything would be ridiculous.

Today, though, she was talking about dirty jokes. Not telling dirty jokes, but she wanted my advice on who in the office would be receptive to dirty jokes, and who’d be offended. I told her I’d be receptive, and Kallie when she’s back from vacation, and Peter if no clergymen are involved. Definitely not Jennifer, though.

And then, Carlotta said she thinks she might want some of those new female condoms, and she asked me if they're prescription, or over-the-counter. “How the hell would I know?” was my answer. Why was she asking me? I’ve never seen one, never, uh, ‘used’ one, and probably never will. All I know is, I saw an ad for female condoms, and they look very un-sexy, like something for washing dishes.

It’s nice that Lottie is comfortable enough to talk of such things around me, but I’m not. Dirty jokes I can handle, but talking about birth control with a beautiful married woman — that's on the other side of whatever line I’d draw for workplace conversations.

♦ ♦ ♦

I wonder what I don’t know, from two weeks without buying a newspaper. I know of no news since late October. 

San Francisco’s two papers aren’t anything special, but they're far better than the shallow newscasts on TV or NPR. I am glad the papers are back, and the regular staffers have returned. Based on their coverage of themselves, it sounds like the strikers got most of what they wanted.

This morning’s Chronicle was thin like bulimia, though. The sports section was only two pages, which would be one page too many for a sane society. A blurb on the front page apologized for the paper’s skinniness, because “some production facilities were damaged in the strike.” Teamsters, buddy. Don’t mess with the Teamsters.

♦ ♦ ♦

Went shopping at Woolworth after work, with a dual strategy for eluding the awful ads they drench shoppers with. At a store in Chinatown a few weeks ago, I’d purchased a $2 plastic pinchy picker-upper. I don’t know what else to call it — it’s a stick two feet long, with a C-shaped slaw at one end, and a handle at the other. Squeeze the handle, and the claw closes at the other end. 

The TVs at Woolworth are mounted too tall to reach with your hands unless you’re Wilt Chamberlain, but with my pinchy picker-upper, reaching up and turning down the volume for every Woolworth infomercial down every aisle, serenity and tranquility transformed the store. Soon the only sounds were the quiet murmur of shoppers, the squeak of wheels on the carts, the beeps of the cash registers, and the benign background Muzak, which was frequently interrupted by ads via “the Woolworth Shopping Network.” 

Short of hacking their computers, those ads can’t be stopped, so retaliation was called for. Every time The Voice said, “Hello, Woolworth shoppers,” I destroyed something. When The Voice started its first sales pitch, I was in frozen foods, and they’re not frozen any more. Well, a few items, anyway. Next time The Voice came on, I was in the kitchen and cookware area, and folded some Rubbermaid lids so they’ll never “seal in freshness.” When The Voice spoke next, I opened three cans of cat food and left them on the shelf.

When I’d finished shopping, I paid for the forks and popcorn and mayonnaise I’d needed, but my visit cost the store triple what they rang up. I’ve never been a more satisfied customer.

That was childish, you say? Yes. Irresponsible? Yes. Illegal? Call a cop.

This is western civilization — each of us is a collection of fears and phobias and emotional bruises and rusty miswired synapses, and for any of us, it could all come unraveled at any moment. Maybe you don't notice, or don't care, but to me endless ads like that are an attack on my fragile mental health. Everything I did was in self-defense.

It’s a swarm of gnats buzzing at my ears. What do you do in a swarm of gnats? Just stand there? I slap at ‘em.

♦ ♦ ♦

At the back of the zine every issue, I’ve been saying, “Give me a call if I sound like someone you’d like to meet.” Well, someone's finally taken me up on it.

Got a phone message on my machine from Leaf Smith, who writes What Is the Meaning of Human Existence?, a good zine with an unwieldy title. He told me to go to hell — Dante’s Inferno, that is. It's a movie based on the book/nightmare, and it’s playing Thursday night at P.F.A. We’ll meet before the show, and see it together. If he’s half as open in person as he is in his zine, and if my conversation switch is “on” Thursday night, it might be fun.

My conversation switch is unreliable, though. It's one of those rusty miswired synapses. Sometimes it doesn't let me say much, even when I want to say something, so Thursday night might be no fun at all.

Either way, it costs the same five bucks to see the movie, and the movie looks good.

♦ ♦ ♦

“Do you seriously urinate on your silverware? That’s not just hygienically unhealthy and an invitation to disease, it’s also mentally unhealthy…
                    —Gary Randall

Whoa there, Dr Randall. Read it again (October 6). I don’t pee on the knife before spreading jam. I simply stack dirty dishes in the sink til I get around to washing them. And, since the toilet is a long walk down the hall and I might not be wearing pants, I piss in the sink. If anything, peeing on the dishes is an incentive to wash 'em even more thoroughly, when eventually they’re washed — so it's excellent hygiene.

If it bothers you, by all means don’t drop by for dinner. And if you call me “mentally unhealthy” again, I swear I’ll kill myself.

From Pathetic Life #6
Tuesday, November 15, 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. >I don’t pee on the knife before spreading jam.

    You haven't lived, my man. it's just *chef's kiss*.

    1. Mmmm. You simply must tell me the secret ingredient in this.


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