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Saturday, June 19, 2004

moving house

If anyone's reading this dang thing, I should tell you that I'm moving to lj. The new url for the blog is http://www.livejournal.com/users/squalorholla/ . Yes, I know it's cheesy, but there are pretty pictures and a more bells-andwhistlesy interface and I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

twisting in the wind

The week of the 10th, someone at my workplace went through my purse and stole a couple of checks out of my checkbook. They also wrote down my credit card number. I didn't notice at the time, but know this because some days later a check in the amount of $455 posted to my account. I looked through my checkbook and discovered that the check was missing. I immediately sent away for a photocopy of the check, and found that some unknown person, a person with loopy junior-high handwriting, had forged my signature (badly) and used the check to pay their PG&E bill. They also (get this) WROTE THEIR PG&E ACCOUNT NUMBER ON THE CHECK.

The next money that went missing was a $150 charge on my debit card, made to Comcast Cable. I froze my account (big headache) and disputed both charges (another big headache.) So here I am flat broke, unable even to go to the grocery store, bumming cigarette money off the hubby.

But I am armed with the copy of that check, and to make a long story short I just got done talking to the cops. Whoever jacked my shit is about to go down for forgery, grand theft, and credit card fraud.

Now, I know for a fact that this person was not directly employed by B&N. Inventory was on May 10th, and the place was full of random inventory people who had full access to all the employee areas. There is not a doubt in my mind that it was an inventory worker who did this. My coworkers are responsible and sane and they like me. The suspect check posted four days after inventory. Coincidence?

Here's the pissing-me-off part. This person is an idiot. They're an idiot for stealing from someone in a place where they do business, for one. They're an idiot for writing their stupid PG&E account number on a forged check. They are a serious, oughtta-be-put-to-sleep idiot for paying a CABLE BILL with a stolen credit card number when they already owe $455 to the power company. Before two weeks ago, all they had to contend with was a couple of past-due bills. Now they have a couple of past-due bills and are looking at jail time.

In short, they are a waste of space. But I kinda pity them. They're probably poor and uneducated and floundering, and got desperate.

But I will still be overjoyed to see them get nailed. Fucker.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

liberal Christians give me the warm fuzzies


Inspired by the fact that I'm visiting my in-laws next weekend. They are embarrassingly devout. They praise Jeebus at the drop of a hat. They go to church every. day. They also don't give a fig that they raised two perfect heathens, or that their elder son married one. (They haven't even asked me about my religious affiliation, not once.) They are terrific people, and I find myself thinking that, since they've embraced all the stuff about love and tolerance that their religion supposedly espouses and rejected the nasty bits, they are unusually virtuous folks.

I also work with a lot of African-American Baptists, one of whom is a pastor in his off hours, and they make me very happy. They are pragmatic and politically liberal and don't mind anybody's business but their own. When they talk about church or Jeebus, I am actually happy for them, because they're great folks and they seem to be making their faith work for them.

The last case study is a coworker named Ben. Ben is a born-again fundie. He's already had a couple of hellacious rows with other coworkers -- one of the aforementioned Baptists and one radical-agitator thuglet -- with hideous results. He is incredibly "socially conservative" (read: fascist, to my mind), and although I've made a point of not discussing politics with him, I couldn't resist mentioning the Ahmet Chalabi fiasco today, with the intent of needling him, and to my VERY great surprise, he blew up. "We are so ROYALLY FUCKED," he said. "We need a REAL president and a REAL administration next, one that knows how to get us OUT of this bullshit that Bush and his buddies stepped in. It's HORRIBLE! I have a feeling that even FDR couldn't wangle his way out of this one. But either way, we have to get the Shrub out of there!"

Waitaminnit. FDR? A fundamentalist Christian is invoking FDR? And disparaging His Holiness George Dubyah Bush?!

So now Ben, for all his bullshit half-cocked quasi-spiritual fasistic ideology, makes me happy too.

I am beginning to suspect that it's not religion, but politics that pisses me off. And that if every Christian the world over were able to overlook the inherent illogic and nastiness of their alleged religion, and reject the political agenda of the prominent folks who claim to be furthering said religion, we would be much much much better off.
I used to think that Christians pissed me off. They don't, not anymore -- even if their religion is a bunch of bushwah.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

the stand

My workplace is pretty politically fractured. The management team is always genteelly at war, and the booksellers' allegiances shift like the tides. It's pretty much like any other retail establishment, I guess; work is more or less tense, and we often go out in groups and get drunk and talk shit and worry about whether we've said too much in the morning.

That all changed today.

It changed with the coming of CINDY.

That isn't her real name. But CINDY'S arrival has resulted in an unprecedented event -- we all, booksellers and managers alike, stand as one: fists raised, locked and loaded, bound by solidarity and goodwill. A united front.

United against CINDY.

I'll start at the beginning. Recently our district changed management, and the power structure got shuffled around. The old district manager, who made her professional home at a nearby store, quit, and the new district manager, "Paul", decided he'd rather work out of our store. He is moving in next week, and bringing his secretary with him.

This morning, my store manager "Gina" -- a very magnanimous-acting, PR-oriented woman -- presided over our regular morning meeting. "Well," she said brightly, "as you know, Paul will be coming next week. We're setting up his office today and tomorrow."

Pause.

"He's bringing his secretary with him." Slightly less brightly.

Longer pause. We were all looking at each other questioningly; what was going on?

"His secretary's name. Is. CINDY." Sepulchrally. This was WEIRD. Gina is never anything but mildly upbeat. Then she sighed and said, with considerable fervor, "I am REALLY getting KIND OF TIRED of CINDY."

We all knew instantly that CINDY was a piece of work indeed, if the mere thought of her could inspire such dark tones in our mild-mannered SM. Then it was revealed that CINDY had been running the entire management team ragged with insults and condescension, inappropriate requests and unfeasible demands, for weeks.

Then I remembered a conversation I'd had on the phone a few days earlier. A woman had called for Gina. Gina wasn't in, and I said so. The caller demanded to know when Gina was scheduled to work next. I said I couldn't tell her -- we can't, it's against state law to make employee schedules public. She proceeded to tell me that I most certainly COULD tell her, and in fact I WOULD tell her, right now. I continued to refuse, at which point she announced that she was from The District, that she knew everyone's schedule ANYWAY, and that I'd better get her a manager IMMEDIATELY. All this in the snottiest manner imaginable.

Listening to Gina, I realized with whom I had spoken.

CINDY turned up later that day, and I am not even kidding when I say that she may well be the most unpleasant person ever born. She arrived, didn't introduce or identify herself, and proceeded to mouth off to everybody. EVERYBODY. She demanded that we open the emergency-exit doors so that she didn't have to walk to the main exits from her car. We couldn't do this. She whined about it. She rolled her eyes. She demanded that she be provided with free parking, when there IS no free parking within about a mile of our store. When she was told that this would be impossible, she proceeded to ask every one of us in turn, getting angrier and angrier as we all told her the same thing. She was bitchy and horrible to the women and saccharine to the men. (Evidently she thinks she's pretty hot shit. She is decent-looking -- blonde, maybe early 30s, a little heavy, okay, but certainly not anything to write home about.) After 15 minutes of CINDY all of us were bristling, exhausted, and springloaded on pissed-off.

I may not have made myself entirely clear here. CINDY is the BIGGEST BITCH IN THE WORLD. And I've met some bitches. You'll have to take my word for this. She is the kind of girl who gets smashed on appletinis and careens around the club giving the prettier girls stinkeye and cornering all the boys and petting them aggressively, and then bumming cigarettes and taking two puffs and not inhaling and then throwing the cigarettes away and bumming more cigarettes, and accidentally-on-purpose spilling appletini on her perceived rivals, and embarrassing the living shit out of everyone. Later, she will vomit, and some softhearted sap will have to hold her hair back. She will then proposition him.

You know this girl. Picture the Platonic ideal of this girl, and you will have CINDY. She's so epic, I have to write her in uppercase.

Shortly after the advent of CINDY, Gina actually gave us all carte blanche to say anything that we damn well pleased, if we were provoked -- and CINDY is a walking provocation. "Trish", one of the AMs, remarked darkly that it was now up to us to put the fear of God in CINDY.

I am so, SO looking forward to this.

Towards the end of the day, I was sitting in the breakroom when Gina blew by. She poked her head in.
"Luna," she said, "I'm going to get myself a sandwich. I am going to sit for awhile and try to calm down. And then I am calling HR. Right. Now."

I'm kinda hoping CINDY stays for awhile. She's so awful it's beautiful, and she's doing wonders for employee morale. I can't even hate her. I actually admire her; it's gotta be a lot of work to be so ghastly.

I can't WAIT for work tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

my mind is a bad neighborhood I don't go into alone

I cribbed that line from Anne Lamott, who I like. (She's a born-again Christian, a radical lefty, and she says "fuck" a lot. What a gal.)

I've been bottoming out recently. My brain has been screaming bloody murder at me, and I don't sleep too well, and when my brain isn't screaming it's replaying little movies, little full-color vignettes with exquisite cinematography, of all the dumb-shit things I've ever done. I know this happens to everyone, but I swear right now I'm at dumb-shit-things critical mass. I've adopted this series of mantras, little sonnets of self-loathing, that I chant under my breath whenever the Coke-sponsored trivia-challenge screens stop and the lights go down and the previews start to play.

My husband thinks I have a self-esteem problem, and I really don't. I just feel like I'm a parent to myself, and myself is a good, bright kid with a sunny disposition who nevertheless keeps getting arrested and wrecking the car and flunking trig, over and over again. I love that kid, but damn, she drives me up the wall. Why doesn't she just get her pretty little head out of her ass?

Speaking of people I love, I spoke to BR tonight. He does not have his head up his ass. We talked about how this social contract exists, this pact between members of a generaton which may be wordless but nevertheless certainly exists in hard copy in a vault somewhere. BR says that he's being driven crazy by his increasing unwillingness to live by the pact. I am driven crazy by the fact that i was absent the day they discussed the pact in the first place, and I'm kind of adrift in this crazy sea of interactions that I can't make head or tail of and keep screwing up.

If I were better at math I'd swear I have Asperger's.

Monday, January 26, 2004

the ten retail customer commandments

I posted this on Craigslist, in the Rants and Raves section. It was a shameless bid for Best of Craigslist, but has been lost amidst the hate-speech howlings and a lively debate on the relative merits of circumcision. Here it is again, for the ages, unexpurgated.

Recently, much has been made of the so-called Decline in Customer Service. Supposedly retail employees have become surly, unresponsive, and not at all interested in catering to every whim of the Almighty Customer. Employees' worth can be easily determined by the size of the paycheck they bring home, and they're obviously never going to amount to anything .. they should be happy to prostrate themselves before
the Customer in all matters. Right?

Wrong. Unbeknownst to many, those of us who ARE retail employees -- who may have found ourselves in retail-related circumstances owing to
unfavorable divorce settlements, unexpected widowings, or Mumsie and Father's inability to pay our tuition -- are in direct communication with the great and mighty Retail Gods. The Retail Gods are very, very angry. They, and we, realize that the so-called Decline in Customer Service can be DIRECTLY attributed to idolatry -- namely, the notion that The Almighty Customer is a god in his or her own right, and therefore may behave in any damn-fool destructive, rude, careless, stupid, ignorant or abusive way he or she sees fit.

It goes without saying that you get what you give, and if you are cheerful and kind and willing to work with us, we'll fawn all over you. But, tragically, customers have ceased to pay attention to the Ten Retail Customer Commandments. In fact, most customers have no idea that these Commandments exist at all. So, for everyone's edification, here they are. (Your faithful scriptural scholar is donning her Consecrated Asbestos Suit against the inevitable flames from people with exaggerated senses of entitlement.)

1. Thou shalt not fancy thyself a God, to have no other Gods held above thee.

You have money. We want it. This does not mean that we are obligated to have our time wasted by you. You are not entitled to be a dick. You are not the be-all and end-all. Sorry if this hurts your feelings, guys, but if you make a nuisance of yourself you deserve what you get.
"A nuisance" is a pretty broad definition, I realize, but here are some examples: deciding you don't want those chicken livers after all, and stashing them behind the toilet paper. Allowing your offspring to destroy everything in sight. Exorcising your PMS demons on a helpless employee,over an issue with which the employee has nothing to do. Coming to us with questions along the lines of "I want this book. I don't remember what it's called, or who wrote it, or what it was about, or when I saw it, but it was about this big and had a blue cover," and threatening to call Corporate when we can't help you. And so on.

2. Thou shalt not make Graven Images in an attempt to fake us out.

Xeroxed coupons, phony receipts, counterfeit bills, expired this, issued-by-our-competitor that. We are not obligated to take your Graven Images, and don't you DARE give us a hard time when we refuse.

2a. Thou shalt, however, pay much heed to the Graven Images with which the Retail Gods choose to surround you, lest you tick us off most severely.

Yeah. You know how there are signs in stores? Please read them. Please. Chances are, you won't even NEED to interact with that nasty employee at all, if you just read the damn signs. Wanna know where the restroom is? Look for the sign that says "Restrooms"! Wanna know what the store's Hours of Operation are (as per the Fourth Commandment)? They're posted right on the fuckin' door. These Graven Images are not there for decoration.

3. Thou shall not utter blasphemy in the presence of the Retail Gods, for this is naughty in Their sight.

If the phrase "The customer is always right" ever escapes your lips, we assume that you are not only WRONG, but festering, bloodless, rigor mortis-having DEAD wrong. You may whine and minge and yell and stomp your little feet until the poor employee caves in just to get you the hell out of his face, but you're probably fucking wrong anyway.
Example: You want an item. An employee informs you that the store is out of said item. What do you do? If you demand that the employee produce
the item anyway, because The Customer Is Always Right, you are in clear violation of the Third Retail Customer Commandment. Likewise, if you invoke the dread phrase after you have tried to finagle Free Shit to which you are not entitled (see the Sixth Commandment, below,) may the Gods strike you down where you stand.

4. Remember thy Hours of Operation, and keep them holy.

There's an Asshole Customer urban legend which claims that if you are in the store, even if the store is closed, we are STILL obligated
to wait on you hand and foot. This is a pernicious lie. If we say we're closed... if we have made seven or eight PA announcements to the effect that we are closed...
WE'RE CLOSED. We now have to get down to the business of cleaning up after you, so please note the time the store opens in the morning and get the hell out.

5. Honor thy Return Policy, that its days may be long upon the earth, and that we don't get exasperated and take it away from you.

Need a receipt for a return? Keep your receipt. Is there a time limit for a refund? Remember what it is, and behave accordingly. This isn't fucking rocket science,
people. Also: unless a product is defective, we CANNOT take it back unless it is in saleable condition. If the kitty barfed on it, if it looks like it's been trodden on by an exceptionally hefty horse, if you purchased it in 1996 and it is faded, covered with pills, and the elbows have gone all baggy, don't even think about trying
to return it. This is tantamount to attempting to finagle Free Shit to which you are not entitled. (Again, see the Sixth Commandment.)

6. Thou shalt not Kill thy Retail Establishment's Profit Margin by attempting to finagle Free Shit to which you are not entitled.

You stubbed your toe on a display. You think an employee looked at you funny. An item won't scan the first time the cashier swipes it. Someone else stuck a 50% Off sticker on an item, in an attempt to finagle Free Shit to which they were not entitled, and said item fell into your hands next. What do you do?
If your first reaction to any of these calamities is something like "Hot DOG! Maybe I can get Free Shit!" you are in clear violation of this most grave and pointed of Commandments.
Now, well may you wonder.. "Hey! What do I care about this faceless megacorp's profit margin?" You shouldn't, of course. However, the more money we lose
on people trying to scam Free Shit, the more likely we are to hike prices, cut employee hours and hours of operation, and subject you to even less fawning service than that to which you have become accustomed.
If you try to weasel the price down, or get Free Shit, every time you are confronted by a retail transaction, you should know that you are DIRECTLY responsible for higher prices and the presence of harried employees. Retail establishments are not ego-stroke emporiums, nor are they charities. They're in it to make a buck, just like you. If you go out of your way to avoid paying for the goods and services these establishments offer, you're only cornholing yourself (and everyone else) in the long run.
A note on haggling, extrapolated from the original text of the Sixth Commandment: Haggling works at yard sales, at thrift stores, at swap meets, and
sometimes at mom-n-pop joints with which you have a years-long relationship. It does not work anywhere else. Sidling up to the register at your local big box
and telling the cashier "Hey... I'll buy these undershirts, and this copy of 'Us Weekly', IF you give me the Capri Sun for free," DOES NOT WORK. The
cashier doesn't stand to gain anything by giving merchandise away -- she STILL takes home the same paltry check she would otherwise. If she acquiesces, and gets caught, she could even be fired. So don't you DARE give her a hard time if she won't knuckle under to your bullying.
Sometimes the Retail Gods do deign to give you Free Shit, in the form of Special Promotions. Pay heed to said Special Promotions... and if they require a coupon, BRING THE COUPON.

7. Thou shalt not threaten Retail Adultery in the service of violating the Sixth Commandment.

Does our competitor have the same item for cheaper? Great! Go there! Some Retail Establishments pricematch. Most do not. If the Retail Establishment you are patronizing doesn't pricematch, you're wasting your breath.

8. Thou shalt not Steal.

If you shoplift, you're a pathetic fucking loser who needs to wake up and realize that you're not in seventh grade anymore.

9. Thou shalt not bear False Witness against thy Employee.

Did I politely tell you that we are out of the item you wanted? Did you then call back, ask for my supervisor, and tell her that I "cursed at you" and "hung up on you"? If so, you are Bearing False Witness, and you deserve to be strung up by your toenails.
Don't fucking LIE. Don't call us up and tell us that some mythical other employee told you that you get to take home our entire inventory for free. If we tell you how it is, don't accuse US of lying either, as this also constitutes Bearing False Witness and is just plain shitty to boot.
Example:
Asshole Customer: "I've had this item for a year and I've driven over it with my Expedition, oh, five, six times. Can I return it?"
Employee: "No, sorry, that's against company policy."
Asshole Customer: "You're a LIAR! I KNOW you can take this back! LIAR! Get me your manager!"
Um. We underwent many interminable hours of training so as to absorb all the company policy the Retail Gods care to shove at us. We KNOW what the return
policy is. We KNOW we can't get you stuff that isn't on the premises, at least not immediately. We KNOW we can't give you a discount for no reason.
Do not Bear False Witness against us!
There is a special place in Retail Hell for people who Bear False Witness by crying racism.
Example the second:
[banging on locked door, employee pokes head out]
"I'm sorry, we closed at 10 and it's 10:45 now. We open at 9 AM tomorrow--"
"What?! You're just not helping me because I'm [insert ethnicity here]! You're a RACIST!"

10. Thou shalt not covet thy Employee's Free Time, nor his/her Discount, nor his/her Secondary Sexual Characteristics, nor anything else that belongs to thy
Employee.

If you see a store employee, in civvies, bereft of nametag, skulking out of the store and obviously trying not to be noticed, she is probably heading going home for the day or going to lunch. Do not insist that she help you. You may be entertaining some romanticized notion that if she took her job seriously, she'd help you even though she is off the clock and not getting paid. Fuck you. You may work on your lunch break, but dammit, we don't get paid enough. Leave us alone.
Also: if you use the employee's company discount (usually provided as a bargaining chip to keep us from giving up and quitting in disgust) as collateral in some kind of sick psychological warfare, you deserve NOTHING. ("Hey, uh, give me your discount and I won't tell your boss you called me an asshole." "But I didn't call you a --" "Nuh-uh-uh! Discount!")
Also: the employee is not there for your titillation. S/he is not there to be ogled, groped, or leered at. Do not hit on him/her. Leave him/her alone and let him/her do his/her job. Okay?

That is all, but I think you will agree it is enough.

Monday, December 29, 2003

lobotomille

My husband came up with the above term; it's a chimera of "lobotomy", "thousand[s]" in Italian, and "milling". Isn't he a genius? I am sure you are wondering, "why, how did this useful term come about?"

Short answer: we went to Las Vegas for Christmas.

Yes, yes we did. I originally wanted to go to Hawaii, after having had a particularly vivid dream about Christmas in Hawaii. Unfortunately Hawaii was a bit out of our price range, so I hastily emailed my hubby at work (this was back in late October) and suggested Vegas instead. Next thing I knew, he'd booked tickets and a hotel and we spent a lot of the intervening time rueing the day (and the $800 the package cost -- BEFORE food, Cirque, and video poker.)

We had a great time anyway. I had never been to Vegas before and am embarrassed at how much I liked it. I have something of a self-indulgence fetish, so any place where you can get a banana split AND a bottle of Maker's Mark AND a porno movie, at 4:30 AM, without getting out of your comfy hotel bed, is fine with me. I LIKED the architecture, which in the cold light of day resembles nothing so much as a community-theater set on steroids. I LIKED all the things that blink and pulsate and make bonging noises. I find them soothing. I LIKED the earnestness and lack of pretense that only comes when everything within view is striving to hoover out your wallet. It was all very exotic and refreshing. I don't think I'll be back for awhile, but I figured I'd best share with you some of my impressions.

We didn't do a whole lot. My hubby is not a gambler, and I'm not a gambler provided I restrain myself. So we pretty much broke even -- lost about eight dollars in the accursed video poker machines, until hubby hit a straight flush on a 25c bet and won fifteen bucks, and I made him pack it in.

What else did we do? We drank a lot of bourbon (illegally smuggled into our room,) slept a lot, had a lot of sex, ate a WHOLE lot, and watched scads of awful TV. We had hangovers and lay there moaning until "Divorce Court" came on, and then we shot rubber bands at the people on "Divorce Court". We ordered a couple of pornos, and shot rubber bands at the porno people, too. (Nothing like having terrific nookie on a regular basis to make porno hella funny.) We spent a lot of time debating about whether or not to order room service, and usually ordered it anyway. My mommy got us tickets to "O" (the Cirque to Soleil show at the Bellagio) on Christmas night, and that was fan-fucking-mazing. Worth the price of admission just to see clowns who are actually funny, and not just obsequious and garish and frightening.

Most of all, though, I got reacquainted with my husband. We've been ships in the night of late, what with my mental problems and gothic work schedule and his similarly gothic work schedule and both of us having to talk to idiots all day long, and at the end of the day we've about had it with humans and only want to sit there and move very very little, and talk less. This trip afforded us an opportunity to chill and shoot rubber bands and whatnot, and I had a startling realization: I have a really huge crush on this guy. He's great. He makes me feel kinda funny. We've been virtual strangers for some time and it was lovely to rediscover him. I got the best one, nyah nyah nyah.

That said, here are

a first-timer's observations about Vegas

1. Casino coffee is invariably horrible. Even in the swanky steakhouses. Even at the goddamn Bellagio. The espresso is merely passable, if there is even espresso in the first place. I'm gonna make a kajillion dollars and open a Vegas hotel called "Java", with a coffee theme, and the throngs will come because they are sick of the useless warm brown water you get everywhere else. It seems like it'd be in the casinos' best interests to serve decent joe, just so folks stay up later and gamble more, but for some reason they don't.

2. The good buffets will break you. The cheap buffets will kill you. Also: the idea that "everything in Vegas is cheap except the gambling" no longer applies. The Powers That Be have decided that Vegas is now a "family vacation destination", and now everything is really spendy. Beware.

3. The newfound "family vacation destination" bullshit does not change the fact that NOBODY SHOULD BE BRINGING LITTLE KIDS TO VEGAS. EVER. Don't even front; if you bring the sprogs to Sin City it's plain that all you're gonna do is park them in the arcade, or in the hotel room with "Finding Nemo" on pay-per-view, or (if they're little enough) in a stroller by the slot machine, while you gamble your life away. Don't believe the hype! You may be gettng your rocks off shoving hundreds of dollars into the one-armed bandits, but little Teighlor and Keighleigh will doubtless be spening their vacation time beating down the dorrs of the neighbors, and then running away. (Ahem.) Try a camping trip instead.


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