Clouds over the island


leftovers & links
Sunday, April 16, 2023 

I've been working at Haugen & Dahl for a month and a half now, and still like it there. It's not a fairy tale, though, and the shine is starting to wear off. 

When I started, our 'team' was scattered all across the building, and interactions with most of my co-workers were rare, only a few minutes at a time. A few weeks ago, we were re-arranged so we're all in the same clump of cubicles, and there's still nobody I hate. It's become clear, though, that two of my co-workers don't like a third one. 

Have you met my co-workers? There's Ramona, 30-something, almost always in good spirits, and amazingly helpful with customers when she's on the phone. She's the lady who answered all my rookie questions, and still does, although my questions are becoming fewer.

There's Brianna, 50-something, who's a little brusque and has a New Yawk accent, and sometimes she's funny. She's buddies with Ramona, and they laugh a lot together.

There's Kimmy, who's 40-something, serious about the work, and never cracks a joke. She doesn't seem to bother with office friendships, which probably makes her my most likely office friend. Or it would, but most days nobody gets anything out of me except good morning and good night.

There's also Peter, but he's usually not involved in the drama, and he's not involved in this story.

Anyway, there've been some moments between these three women, in the few weeks I've been sitting close enough to overhear:

① "You were very rude earlier," Kimmy said sternly to Brianna.

"What did I do that was rude?" Brianna asked, and I wondered too, eavesdropping from my cubicle. Whatever rudeness she meant, I hadn't heard it.

"Look, it's my time to answer phones right now," Kimmy said. "We can discuss it tomorrow."

"Well, harrumph to you too," said Brianna, and I had to stifle what would've been a loud laugh.

② A few mornings later, Kimmy announced loudly, "Is someone going to help with all this mail?"

"You do know my name," said Brianna's voice, "and I'm the only other person here."

Well, I was there too, but hidden in a different row of cubicles, plus I'm new and nobody's shown me how to sort the mail yet. 

What Brianna meant was that Peter and Ramona weren't in the office, so it's kinda rude to complain, "Is someone going to help?" when there's only one other "someone" there. And yeah, that's rude. Even me with no social skills, I know that.

③ Here's the best moment of Kimmy-Brianna drama, because Ramona got involved. Until this, I'd only seen Ramona's sunny side.

Kimmy was complaining again about something allegedly rude that Brianna had said, and Brianna said, "That wasn't rude."

"It's not your words," Kimmy explained, "it's your tone." 

Brianna said, "Hey, I'm from Brooklyn, I always talk like this."

And then Ramona, who hadn't been involved in this at all, said from her cubicle, "You know, Kimmy, your tone could wilt flowers sometimes."

The whole office fell silent at that, so they all must've heard me giggling.

But these ladies don't seem to hold grudges. The day after that "wilt flowers" crack, all three of them were laughing over a difficult incoming phone call, and telling each other their plans for the weekend.

It's a chick thing — if they were men, there would've been profanities before and after "wilt flowers," and long silent spells the next day.

There's an increasingly annoying man who's not in my department, but his cubicle is among ours, probably because his own department wants nothing to do with him.

He sits very quietly at his desk, doing who the hell knows what work, but once or twice daily he's on the phone, and you always know when he is, because he talks way, way too loud — triple the volume necessary. 

You're sitting there doing your own work or lost in daydreams, and suddenly words come booming out from behind you — "I think that's for the Shipping Department to handle," and then silence again.

He's an older man — meaning, he's the second-oldest man in the office, after me — and he attends meetings by Zoom from his desk. He doesn't speak often but when he does it's the voice of God. You can't miss a word, anywhere on our side of the building.

Just now it was, "That's something Katie was working on," and it scared the bubblegum down my throat. Ten minutes of silence, and then one sentence at 110 decibels. Let's call him Boomer Esiason.

One otherwise ordinary afternoon I was doing data entry and sucking a Jolly Rancher, when Mr Esiason suddenly said: "I was doing follow-up with a customer, and he said he was surprised that our customer service lines haven't been outsourced to coolies in India."

What the hell did I just hear? And very, very loudly? Surely nobody in what's a very diverse office would be using that word, and double-surely not at that volume. I had to Google it to be sure, but it means "an unskilled native laborer in India, China, and some other Asian countries," and it's flagged by Merriam-Webster as offensive.

By the time I'd confirmed that, though, the moment had passed, and Boomer wears a suit, so he clearly outranks me. And anyway, I'm the new guy and carry no clout. Fifty people heard what he said, and I'm not going to be the one to confront him over a bad word.

Unless he does it again, in which case I might. Maybe I'll stand up and start hollering from my cubicle, and be instantly unemployed.

Unemployment loomed likely one morning last week, when I got called into the boss's office for a mild scolding because I'd been late. And indeed I had been — very late. Almost an hour late.

I blamed buses and bad traffic, and the boss nodded and said I could stay late to make up the time. But I shook my head no at that, which turned a two-minute talk about tardiness into an uncomfortable ten-minute conversation about my philosophy of work.

I'm not sure the boss ever saw my point. Probably she thinks I'm trouble. I'll tell you what I told her.

Haugen & Dahl pays me for 40 hours of work a week, and doesn't pay me for the commute. That's normal, for just about any job, and I ain't complaining.

The buses are not precise or terribly reliable, so every morning I catch an earlier bus than the schedules would suggest, so if my bus runs late or doesn't show up at all, I still get to work on time. It sucks, but it's part of the employment deal, and again, I ain't complaining.

On that particular morning, though, my first bus had never shown up, and the bus after the bus that never showed up had never showed up either, so I was already late to work by the time I got downtown. Then the bus from the city to the island moved at 3 miles an hour, because there was a wreck on the bridge.

Most of the above I said to the boss, and her eyes barely rolled but she wasn't enjoying it.

"Is it the company's fault?" She looked at me like I'm crazy.

"Well, yes! We're on an island in the middle of a lake. There's no way to get here except the I-90 bridge, and on bad traffic days people will be late."

She again looked at me like I'm me, and eventually she said, "Well, try not to let it happen often."

To that, I made a shruggy-face. I try not to let it happen by taking that earlier bus every morning, like I'd said, but that's the max I'm willing to do.

She expected me to make up the hour, or deduct it from my time card, and I'm an easy going guy, honest, but — no. I'm old, and I've already taken a lifetime's worth of work-related shit.

I turned in a 40-hour time card, for working 39 hours, and if my paycheck isn't a full forty, well, the job at Haugen & Dahl was easy to get, and I can get another.

News you need,
whether you know it or not

Australia climate change activists 'halt' coal train, 50 charged 

More of this, please. Lots more.

Wendy's poisons allergic kids to get around complying with new safety regs 

"Family policing system": how the US criminalizes Black parenting 

Cecil Adams has returned to The Straight Dope 

Clarence Thomas' mom definitely still lives in the house the billionaire bought 

FTC threatens to go after snake oil companies

How odd to see a federal agency doing the right thing. Probably it's only a photo op and idle threat...

San Francisco opens long-term shelter on Treasure Island, for people with mental and drug issues 

Treasure Island is a windy and remote part of San Francisco, free from NIMBYs perhaps, but will drunks and addicts want to live there? The article quotes the Twitter feed of "a Tenderloin community activist and anti-drug advocate" who reports that people are eager to move to a rock in the middle of the Bay. I remain skeptical, but a facility on Treasure Island is better than the usual nothing.

South Florida endures 'life threatening' floods 

Climate change making "flash droughts" more common: study 

Emerging livestock diseases – another unwanted climate change effect 

Police realized they might be at wrong house before killing man, video shows 

Minneapolis agrees to pay $9M in Chauvin misconduct suits before George Floyd's murder 

Ex-deputies involved in Guardado shooting indicted federally in separate abuse case 

Officers ignored man who died in NYPD precinct as he pleaded for help, girlfriend says 

Another police officer pleads guilty to punching handcuffed man 

DA won't prosecute deputies in high-profile shootings of teens 

Liberty Lake police officer arrested for 3 counts witness tampering, felony charge 

Conservatives are turning to a 150-year-old obscenity law to outlaw abortion 

DeSantis signs Florida's near-total ban on abortion 

Missouri Republican who wants to ban trans healthcare defends 12-year-olds being married 

Right-wing goes into meltdown mode because Bud Light gives actress a can of beer 

Mystery links
There's no knowing where you're going


My browser history
without the porn

Leonard Cohen's A Ballet of Lepers 

Annals of the covert world: the secret life of shampoo
by Jeffrey St. Clair

Got kidney stones? Ride a roller coaster. 

♫♬  It don't mean a thing  ♫
if it don't have that swing

Brown Eyed Girl — Van Morrison 

Enter the Dragon — Lalo Schifrin 

I'm Your Man — Leonard Cohen 

Mother Earth — Sparks 

Tubthumping — Chumbawamba 

Eventually, everyone
leaves the building

Craig Breedlove 

Burrito Drive 

Virginia Norwood 

Mary Quant


Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.  

Tip 'o the hat to ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, CaptCreate's Log, Katameme, Looking for My Perfect Sandwich, One Finger Medical, Two Finger Magical, Miss Miriam's Mirror, Nebulously Burnished, RanPrieur.com, Voenix Rising, and anywhere else I've stolen links, illustrations, or inspiration. 

Special thanks to Linden Arden, Becky Jo, Wynn Bruce, Joey Jo Jo, John the Basket, Dave S, Name Withheld, and always extra special thanks to my lovely late Stephanie, who gave me 21 years and proved that the world isn't always shitty.


  1. I love reading your column or whatever you like to think of your entries. I think of you as being an interesting columnist who writes for the only paper I'd enjoy reading. For all your proposed grumpiness, I find you're extremely thoughtful and reflective and you always take any points I make in the spirit I make them in. Sometimes I feel bad and think I shouldn't be so critical about a situation you're writing about but then you write back that it's a point worth considering.

    We definitely agree on law enforcement and their uselessness in nearly all situations.

    Hope you're able to bank some money from the new job so you can have another extended holiday. Have you ever checked to see what your Social Security payments would be if you took them at the various ages? I would think Washington would be a decent state to retire in. If not Medicaid then something for people who make just a little too much. In NY State, the Dems keep giving people who make too much to qualify new options that are more generous than the red states and yet half the people here keep voting against their interests because they're idiots. It's sad. Just glad NYC is considered part of NY State because cityfolk guarantee liberals have a chance, even if they're really Rockefeller Republicans. It still beats the seditionist set. That's what things have come to, sadly.

    You're a terrific writer, Doug. Don't let nobody tell you different!


    Linden Arden

    1. I'd forgotten than Van Morrison turned into a putz. His pre-putz music is still good, though, and we're all putzes one way or another.

      Certainly I agree with you agreeing with me that police are useless in most situations, and if the goal is a peaceful, polite, law-abiding society, cops are often counterproductive and opposed to all that. I believe law enforcement is a good idea, and being a cop *could* be a noble profession, if it was regulated as sternly as, say, beauty salons.

      It would be nice if this job or any job could earn me enough money for another extended holiday, but it'll never happen. Sitting on my butt for almost all of 2022, I spent my life's savings. I'll never be able to do that again, at least not until I'm sick and on the way to dying, which isn't in my near-term agenda. Then again, for most people it's a surprise…

      I am pleased to hear that the Democrats in your state sometimes pass legislation that helps real people. Democrats run Washington too, but if they've done anything for ordinary people, I haven't heard about it in all the years since I was ordinary.

      As for your kind comments about my writing, I always say that I hate compliments, but they're better than insults. I do appreciate knowing that someone gets something from what I pound out of the keyboard, and I thank you sir.

    2. Washington is a lousy state to retire in if you don't make a shitload of money. Here are the states without a state income tax:

      South Dakota.

      Yup. all red states except maybe Nevada and you-know-hoo. As a result, we have burdensome property taxes and a 10% sales tax. The high property taxes drive up costs of both home ownership and rental. People with high incomes love to move to Washington, and they're doing it every day, driving up housing costs as they arrive. And 10% sales tax is highly regressive.

      Nevada found another way to keep taxes relatively low, but I forget what it was. Had something to do with Louis Prima and Keely Smith.

      always trying to be of help,


    3. NY State has annoying state taxes AND super-high property taxes AND right now housing prices are ridiculous. Sadly, it's the price we pay for any kind of civilization. The imperfect state government (redundant, no?) at least tries to address these issues. I'd think there's nowhere in the US that's 'good' for the poor. Maybe Europe somewhere? Mexico? No idea. Just going by my limited experience. My girl and I have been able to qualify for Medicaid and even save a few $$$, which is more than most people, apparently. -- Arden

  2. Is somebody telling Doug different?

    A Friend

    1. Doug often tells Doug different.

    2. I don't know how you know which question to answer with single level imbedding, but you usually seem to figure it out. I read this just now, and, even though I was the one who wrote the question, I had to go back up and follow the trail to determine why the hell I asked it.
      I can't find the reference at the moment, so I'll call this a paraphrase. . .

      Dashiell Hammett was asked about the secret of his apparent mastery of the short story form. (soft quotes) 'Write a great deal and throw away 90% of it. Unless you're getting paid by the word -- then send the whole thing.'

      I've found this advice helpful.

      (Hammett's short stories are among the best in the language, and four of his five novels were gems [of course, the fifth was his favorite.] Then, twenty years before he died he vanished, like a fist when you open your hand.)


    3. I can write a little bit, but I can't add. It was thirty years. And he didn't exactly disappear. He became a screenwriter and a drunk, served in WWII at an impossibly advanced age with an advanced case of tuberculosis. Then he vanished again.


  3. The gent could write. Didn't know he could disappear, too. I respect the disappearing almost as much as the writing.

    1. He vanished into the house of his longtime friend and sometimes lover, Lillian Hellman. The TB kept getting worse, and nobody would hire him to write after the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) labeled him a communist. He was honorary treasurer of a progressive organization. The position was honorary. He didn't know who the donors to the organization were. HUAC demanded that he name them. He refused. He didn't tell them he had no idea who the donors were. He considered being compelled by your own government to reveal private secrets was a violation of his code of honor. He got tossed in prison, where he spent a long time (I forget, but a year or more) cleaning toilets. It was said that his were the cleanest toilets in the prison. A man who volunteered and served in two world wars when no sane country would have drafted him was released from prison and went back to Lillian Hellman's home because he was broke and sick. She nursed him for the last couple years of his bedridden life and he died, penniless, but with honor.

      Ms Hellman collected his Black Mask short stories and published them in two volumes. His short story work had been forgotten, but the new volumes sold like hotcakes. After death, he was promoted from screenwriter to screenwriter and author. He's my favorite author because he writes so damn well. He's one of my favorite guys because honor is a rare bird and should be recognized.


    2. Prison, for not naming names. It's a long, long ride from America to America's ideals.

  4. Holy shit, Doug, the Straight Dope returns? How did I miss this news when it returned and how did I miss it again when you wrote about it a couple of days ago? Do you know whether Ed Zotti is coming out of retirement to write the column? If you don't, I'll do some scoop reporting and find out.

    Thanks, as always, for The News.


    1. It would be shitty to bring in a ringer and I don't think he';d stand for it quietly. Seems like the real guy to me. No big splashy announcement, though. I only landed there cuz I was looking for his old stuff.

  5. OK, now I know how I missed it but not why. The site that has hundreds of Straight Dope columns archived, including the announcement of the termination of publication of new columns says NOTHING about The Straight Dope coming back. I'm guessing that there are at least two camps with the new publishers, the Chicago NPR station (99% subscription funded, serving the public interest) in one camp and, perhaps the last "editor", Ed Zotti and the folks who have run The Straight Dope Message Board for decades on the other. I'm going to have to do a little investigative reporting here unless you have it figured out. I'll await your word. But hurrah.


    1. I got nothing figured about about anything, certainly not about that.

      I prefer the quiet roll-out, though — no press conference, no splashy headlines, just the guy writing again, what and when he wants, and then deciding hey, it's too much work, let's do this bi-weekly instead of weekly.

      For most of my long career as a daydreamer, that's how I've wanted to start the big projects I've never started. Skip the major announcement and expectations and *especially* skip the PR and ad campaign. Instead of talking about what you're planning to do and explaining what you''re planning to do, just do what you're planning to do and let the audience find you if they find you, instead of pushing it.

      Anyone pushing anything, I generally feel pushed in the other direction.

  6. Sorry, I didn't write very cleanly. I didn't mean the reboot should spend money on billboards, real or virtual. The Straight Dope was always smallball. It was published in a non-profit community newspaper, The Chicago Reader during all of its 45 years of existence. It was the rare column that was nationally syndicated from such humble beginnings, and the national syndication happened slowly, over years, and organically. It was never a big deal in terms of money. The third "editor", Ed Zotti, wrote other pieces for the Reader and wrote a book or two on his own to make ends meet (besides the five Straight Dope collections published over time).

    The Chicago Reader is a community, nonprofit newspaper and, by 2018, could no longer afford to pay Mr Zotti because the death of American newspapers had substantially reduced the amount of revenue the Reader received for syndication of The Straight Dope. One could argue that Mr Zotti should have worked for no wages on a non-profit newspaper, but this is his profession, not his hobby. and the guy is over 70. Actually, The Straight Dope never provided Mr Zotti and his family a real living. He was also an urban transit planner. He worked two jobs most of his life so he could pay the bills and, even then, when the family needed a bigger house, he built it himself. It took a while. Then he wrote a book about building the house, which sold enough copies to pay for publication.

    I'm not saying that Mr Zotti should get rich off a popular Web destination, but there's never been any danger of that. Most of the syndicate consisted of other non-profit newspapers who had scant budget dollars to pay The Reader for The Straight Dope.

    In any case, even though TSD has been a relevant part of my life for decades, it's been mostly a work of love and art for its creators. That's why early TSD questions are all about Chicago, and why the unpaid Straight Dope Advisory Council has survived these five years on volunteer help alone. Human curiosity is a more powerful engine than a fistful of dollars. At least on the small scale.


    I was just curious 1) who is doing the syndication now that the column is being revived by the local NPR station and 2)

  7. ... and 2)? You ended it with a cliffhanger, a mystery.

    Also a mystery is why my comments from yesterday show up as by "Anonymous" from my computer at work, but by me from home and the library.

    Almost all of what you say about TSD is news to me, faskinating but I don't got lots to say about it. I never bought the books or became a big fan, only consistently enjoyed Cecil's columns same as I consistently enjoyed Herb Caen's and very few others.

    Virtually *all* regular news columnists, the people paid to write 1-5 columns weekly in newspapers, aren't regularly worth reading. At least, that was my opinion when I was really reading real newspapers.

    Cecil had a much higher batting average, and I'm glad he's doing it again.

    1. Sorry about that. I think #2 was "and is Mr Zotti writing the column or did they get somebody else?"

      I don't know what interrupted me nor why I thought I had a complete thought when I got uninterrupted. Perhaps I had to run down the hall and execute a #2. There's less warning of that event than when I was a younger man. But I'm just guessing. My memory has deteriorated along with my digestive tract.


    2. I miss the warning. When we were young you could ignore it, like hitting the snooze alarm, and take care of it later. Now it's more like a fire alarm that you *know* isn't just a drill.


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