Cranky all day

On my errand for Jay, when I got within a block of City Hall, my stomach began knotting itself. An ominous, sinking feeling engulfed me, as if marching toward a battle impossible to win.

Easy does it, Doug. You're only stepping inside the enemy's lair to drop off some forms, paperwork that some imbecile employed by the city might glance at, might not, before deciding that we have no right to sell Darwin fish from a table on Telegraph Avenue.

That's what I said to myself, but based on past interactions with city employees, where I've always tried to be polite while they've always been unyielding, the odds felt 50/50 that I'd be treated like a used, radioactive condom.

And I'd have to take whatever rudeness they dealt me, too, because I was there representing Jay and the fish stand. If I said anything even slightly smartass instead of kiss-ass, the could easily retaliate by finding a new rule to enforce against the fish.

"I'm looking for Frank LaRue's office," I said cordially to the receptionist.

"He's on vacation," she said, bored and monotonous, as if she was talking in her sleep. A smooth, east brush-off.

"I just need to leave some papers," I said quietly. I was trying, damn it. I was smiling, on the outside.

"He's *on vacation," she said again, looking  up at me this time, and looking annoyed. "You'll *have to come back next week."

Resisting a perfectly logical urge to strangle her, I gently placed the papers on her desk. If I'd said what I wanted to say, she would've shredded the documents as soon as I'd left, and it's certainly possible that she did so anyway, but I wasn't going to give her an easy justification for it. In my most obedient schoolboy's voice I said, I don't need to see Mr LaRue personally, but he needs to see these papers. Could you please see to it that they're in his in-box or whatever, when he returns?"

She nodded yes, and added my papers to a tall stack atop the filing cabinet behind her. 

"Thank you kindly," I said, still all smiles as I whirled and left. Rode the elevator down in silence, stepped outside, leaned on a bench, and let out a soft scream.

It's not reasonable how much I hate those people, I know that. Not normal. Cripes, though. Every interaction with any of them — on the Avenue, on the phone, at their office — is like dealing with disinterested royalty.

Never again, not as a requirement at a job.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Since I was in the neighborhood and needed a short walk to cool down, I strolled over to Barlow's Office Supply for a new not-necessities. There was nothing I particularly needed, but a well-run office supply store can be a joy. You go in, maybe looking for a stapler or a few pens, and you find them, but also find a cool rubber stamp, a wacky magnetic pen holder, a paper-clip-shaped tie clasp, and a plush velvet shelf set, all reasonably priced.

That's in a well-run office supply store. Barlow's, though, was locked. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, well within the posted business hours, and I saw people inside the store. A sign at the door said, "Please knock for service."

That's dang peculiar, I thought, but as instructed, I knocked and waited. Through the glass door I could see customers browsing the merchandise. A guy in an apron looked over at me, saw me, and waved as if to say, "Just a minute."

As with me and my response to City Hall, my response was probably unusual and wrong, but once again I was growing annoyed. Only in the worst slums have I seen businesses locked when they're open, and customers have to knock or buzz to get in. This was University Street, though, a commercial district safe as any, and it was broad daylight. Why the heck is the door locked? 

I knocked on the glass again, and after a few seconds Mr Apron excused himself from the customers and walked toward me at the door. By the time he got there, though, I'd changed my mind. Shook my head no and walked away.

What that was all about I'm not sure, but I was in a "Never again" frame of mind already, and there are other places to buy office supplies. A few blocks down, I walked into Gordon's Office Equipment, and bought some typewriter ribbons, white-out, a ream of paper, and a combination whistle/kazoo, depending on which end you blow into.

♦ ♦ ♦

Quentin Tarantino's name has been on a couple of movies I've liked and none that I didn't, and Pulp Fiction opened, what, a year ago? Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Elmwood, tickets are only $2.50, so tonight I finally saw the movie everyone's been talking about since way back when.

As with Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, and Natural Born Killers, Mr T has again delivered a fast-moving film full of vivid violence and snappy dialogue. It's audacious, gruesome, thrilling.

I have some quibbles, though, two tiny and one big:

Anyone who's ever been in a fight could see that Bruce Willis hadn't.

And the movie should've won a Reverse Oscar for Worst Makeup, for somehow making Uma Thurman look unattractive in several scenes.

Mostly, though, my complaint is about the movie's racism. I don't have many conversations in my hermit's life, so perhaps I'm isolated from reality, but it's been lots of years since the last time I heard a white person said the n-word. In my mostly-white world, being openly racist like that is not tolerated.

This movie has perhaps a dozen n-words, and it's jarring, every time. Maybe that's an artistic intent? Or maybe I don't hang out with as many assholes as Tarantino does.

From Pathetic Life #16
Wednesday, September 20, 1995

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.


  1. Any impartial observer would quickly decide that I'm *not* doing OK at all, but it's been that way for most of my like, and I make the best of it.

    You're in San Francisco, right? Do you think the A's will be in Nevada by next year?

  2. "I blocked a man in Reno
    Just to watch him die . . . "

    Mean Joe Greene


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