Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sorry, wrong number

phone it in



phone it in (third-person singular simple present phones it in, present participle phoning it in, simple past and past participle phoned it in)
1.     (Should we move(+) this sense?) to choose to deliver a message by telephone when etiquette demands the effort and respect conveyed by in personcommunication
2.     (idiomatic) To fulfill a responsibility with a minimum effort rather than the appropriate level of effort.  [quotations ▼]
3.     (Should we move(+) this sense?) to make an unseemly timid performance; to be restrained and timid when strident action is called for


·        punt

Yeah, sounds good to me.  I’m on a mandatory vacation from work this week.  Not “Jim Flowers” mandatory, but more like “Use up all of your remaining vacation hours by the end of the year or lose them.  Yes, that’s an ultimatum,” mandatory. 

At the company, we the exempt get a certain number of hours of PTO awarded to us each month.  PTO stands for “Paid Time Off”.  I think most places allow you to carry some number of PTO hours over into the next year for a certain amount of time.  Something like “No more than 40 hours may be carried over.” 

But the company says no.  The company would rather you go into debt.  You can borrow up to 40 hours you haven’t yet earned.  I think this coincides with the number of hours your paycheck is held back.  That way if you quit, the company doesn't have to do the awkward "You owe us some money" thing.  Anyway, it doesn’t really matter to me.  I have to take the time off, so I do.

This is a fairly recent policy change at the company.  They used to let people just build up vacation hours forever and ever.  But when they were trying to polish the company up to sell it, this was seen as a huge liability.

There were several transitions to the current “no carryover” policy to get everyone a chance to use up their vacation hours.  The most popular method among managers was to tell employees not to worry about it. A couple of years ago, I was not “allowed” to take PTO (it has to be approved) but promised that even though I would lose somewhere around 100 hours, my manager would make it right “off the books.” 

So yeah, I got screwed pretty hard on that deal.  What was cute was the next time it happened and a V.P.  tried to pull the same shit.  I asked for some sort of written documentation.  I was told that would not be possible, since it is against policy.  I was so sad about this happenstance that I had to take a few days off to think about it.  It was the second time I had been told I had to use up PTO, but that I could not.  I ignored the “could not” part. 

This year however, all of my managers insist that everyone gets the PTO they deserve.  That’s why I’m off through the end of the year.  That’s also why I’m phoning it in today.

Thanks for finally getting your shit together - managers of the company.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rike a Virgin

Walking into the Perry Iowa Best Western Motel after day one at the pig processing plant, we became acutely aware of our stench and general filthiness.  We could see and hear people reacting.  Some were fighting the urge to vomit.  Others were simply blinking their eyes in obvious discomfort.  Actually, I was kind of surprised that there was any reaction at all.  I knew we smelled like Iowa, but I had figured Iowans would be used to it.  I guess the workers at the Best Western were from out of state. 

Soon enough, it would all be over.  We’d check in and get cleaned up before dinner (supper in Iowa). 

The Company had booked our rooms ahead of time.  We agreed to all get washed up and meet in the hallway 30 minutes hence to go get some dinner.  Dean said he would just order room service and let us two lovebirds have a nice romantic dinner (supper) to ourselves.    That was fine with Boomer and me.  If I haven’t mentioned it, I hated Dean.  Not as bad as I hated Beth, but pretty bad.  Beth was my manager at Wendy’s when I worked there in High School.  I was not fond of her.  She was greasy.
It had never felt so good to get clean.  I scrubbed myself into absolute squeekiness, turning the shower water as hot as my sunburned arms and neck could possibly stand.  I shaved my face to “3 day” length, cologned, and put on my best Don Johnson kit.  I was ready for whatever nightlife Perry Iowa could provide.  “Look out Iowa foxes, here comes the Cube!”  I winked, clicked my tongue and pointed my index finger in a shooting motion toward the steamed up mirror of the room.

Boomer met me in the hall dressed in his normal lumberjack attire and we started to walk toward the front desk when Boomer noticed Dean’s door was not quite closed.  We wanted to quietly slip by, but then we smelled it.  The odor coming from the slightly cracked open door was hideous.  It was hard to believe we’d smelled like that all day.  I was relieved to be horrified by the stench as it was evidence of no long term damage to my sense of smell.  There was something else though.  Mixed in with the horrible pig smell was a faint hint of alcohol.  A stale odor with a putrid sweetness of some sort of whisky.
“Let’s just go,” I said to Boomer who was approaching Dean’s door to listen in. 

Boomer said, “Hang on, you hear that?”

I leaned toward the opening and heard a rapid clicking sound.  My imagination told me it was the cylinder of a revolver being spun as in a game of Russian Roulette.  I looked at Boomer who pushed the door open.  The full force of the poop and liquor smell hit my Old Spice full on.  The Old Spice didn’t have a prayer.  The room was completely dark.  The clicking of the gun cylinder was the only sound. 

“You boys need something?” came the craggy old voice of our fearless leader. 

“Just checking to make sure you don’t want to join us for din – uh supper,” Boomer said.

Looking into the room I still couldn’t see anything.  Then I saw the orange glow in the corner of the room of Dean’s cigarette as he took a drag.  It partially lit up his weathered old face as he said, “No, I won’t be needing any supper where I’m going.”

Boomer and I didn’t know what to say.  It seemed like something was seriously bothering Dean.  Was he planning on killing himself?  Just to be safe I said, “Ok then.  See you tomorrow!”  and tried to get the hell out of there as Boomer switched on the light just inside the door.

Looking into the room, we saw Dean sitting in the corner, halfway through a bottle of Jim Beam.  He was looking at a small black gun he held in his hand.  He really was thinking about killing himself.  “Turn the damn light out, morons!” Dean yelled waving the gun around, but pointing it low so it wouldn’t have hit us if it went off.  Boomer complied and I turned to go.  “That is frickin’ crazy,” I said as we got out of earshot of Dean’s door.  “Boomer?  Oh shit.  C’mon I’m hungry,” I said to no one in particular as I realized Boomer had gone into Dean’s room.

“I’ll, uh, just be down at the lounge, then!”  I yelled back into the room.  I wanted no part of whatever was going on.

“Well that was interesting,” Boomer said as he sat next to me at the lounge bar, “You want a light,” he said, sliding his Zippo to me.  Now I was really confused.  Robert Duvall had deftly relieved us of Burt Rasson’s lighter earlier that day.  We knew we’d see it again (we had a little knowledge of the future) but we had no idea it would be so soon.

“Where did you …” I began, but Boomer interrupted.  He insisted we find a place to get some grub.
Turns out there were 2 places to eat dinner near Perry Iowa and one of them was the diner attached to the Best Western.  We just decided to eat there since the desk clerk told us there was a smokin’ hot pop/jazz band playing in the lounge later on.  They had been tearing up the Midwestern Motel lounge scene for a couple of years now.  They had packed the house for the last 3 nights, so if we were looking for action, the Best Western Motel lounge in Perry Iowa was the place to be.

Boomer and I both agreed that that was one of the most ridiculous sentences ever strung together but figured we might as well give the band a chance.  They were called “Hiromi, Takashi and Starr”

At dinner, Boomer told me how he got the lighter back.  He had gone in to make sure Dean was ok.  He wasn’t.  He was actually crazy.  He had tried to convince Boomer that he was Robert Duvall from the future and that today when he saw himself nab the lighter from Boomer’s pocket, he realized he was done.  He was calling it quits. 

“He doesn’t look or sound anything like Robert Duvall.  Even an old Robert Duvall,” I said, “That’s not him.  It’s just crazy old Dean.”

“Look closer at the lighter,” Boomer said.  Oh this wasn’t Boomer’s “Elvis’ Birthday Lighter” named “Burt”.  It said “Mike” on the side and the date stamped on the bottom was “Dec 30, 2362”. Otherwise it looked just like it. 

Boomer told me that Dean insisted he was Duvall, but the time machine he was using was a December one, so there was usually considerable bodily harm to anyone who dared to use it.  He had travelled many times with faulty lighters and the once handsome, charming man had become the hideous creature we knew only as “Dean”.  He had never been able to obtain a lighter earlier than August in the past.  Now that he had the Elvis, his mission was at an end.

“… Then he put a bullet in his head,” Boomer finished.

“Interesting,” I said, cutting into my delicious T-bone, “So does that mean …”

“Yeah, we get tomorrow off,” Boomer confirmed.  This was good news.  If the band was as good as the clerk seemed to think, we were in for a treat.

Note:  The band really was Japanese and they really did do these songs.

The Best Western Clerk had a different idea of “Packed house” than we did.  There were maybe 20 people in there.  Plenty of places to sit.  Boomer and I chose a big round Table right next to the stage.  Actually, the sound wasn’t bad.  The music was of a relatively high quality.  The only problem was the lead singer had a heavy Japanese accent. I also don’t think she actually knew the real words to the songs.  Her first song was Madonna’s “Borderline” But when she sang it, it sounded like this:

“Border-rhine, fears rike I trying to ruse my mind …”etc.

Granted, it’s probably better than the actual lyrics, but Boomer and I enjoyed it enough to sing along. 
Next, and probably because Ringo Starr was the drummer, they did “Help!”  By the Beatles.  Which went like this:  “Herp me if you can I fearing down.  I do appreciate you been around.”

But seriously, even though we were laughing at them and they were a Top 40 band playing on a Tuesday at a Best Western in Perry Iowa, they were pretty good despite the heavy accent.  I got the feeling that they might have noticed our laughing hysterically at them, since we were sitting about 4 feet from them, so I decided to go tell them what I thought of their act.  

After the show, I went up to Takashi, the guitarist and told him I really enjoyed the show.  “Yeah, pretty good,” is all he said as he bowed his head in defeat and walked sadly away, sniffing quietly to himself.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


“Ok now just walk up to the top of that mound so I can get a reading,” Dean was telling Boomer. It was the end of a long hot stinky day at the Oscar Mayer in Perry Iowa.  I was leaning up against the blue Suburban that carried the crew and all the equipment.  I was smoking a cigarette while Dean and Boomer finished getting the last couple of measurements.  There was a rise in the earth that graded at about 10 percent and went to about 4 feet high next to the big pen area.  It looked like a ramp of packed dirt.  As boomer carried the rod to the top so Dean could get a measurement he started complaining.  With each step, he said “Ew”.  I looked down at his feet and saw the problem.  That rise wasn’t packed dirt at all.  It was packed shit.  But not too packed.  Boomer’s boots were sinking in deeper with each step.

By the time Boomer reached the top, his boots were completely submerged.  And since being a smartass is much more important to either one of us than keeping shit off of our boots, Boomer somehow managed to turn and face Dean.  He set the rod atop the pile of shit and started waving it back and forth like any professional rodman would.   “Ok funny man, let’s get the hell outta here,” Dean said, not measuring. 

“Oh c’mon man, at least read it,” I told Dean, his face reddening with embarrassment and rage.

Dean said, “It’s beer-thirty anyhow,” and walked back to the truck to wait for us to load up all the gear.  Boomer was still precariously standing on top of the squishy stuff when I flicked my cigarette aside and went over to the instrument.  I looked into it and boomer started moving the rod again so I could get the read.  “1,3” I said out loud and waved him off.  I expected him to step up onto the concrete platform right next to where he was standing and start cleaning off his boots.  But no.  He just walked right back down the way he came.  Because it’s funnier that way.

After we put all the stuff away and Boomer got done scraping his boots off with a lath (a thin strip of wood about 3 or 4 feet long that we’d pound into the ground for the marking of boundaries and such), I asked Dean what the ground level was next to the mound of shit.  He told me it was 6 and 2.  That meant Boomer was standing in a pile of poo 4.9 feet tall.  We figured it had to be some kind of record and made sure to brag about it to the hotties back at the Best Western lobby.  Whoops, looks like I misspelled ‘fatties’ back there in that last sentence.  Oh well, too late to do anything about it now.

As Boomer jumped into the passenger seat of the Suburban, Dean looked down at Boomer’s boots with a certain disdain, “Can’t you get them any cleaner than that?”

“I don’t smell anything.  Do you cube?”  The truth was we hadn’t been able to smell anything since before noon.  Well, we could smell everything except pig poop.  So when I cracked open a PBR from the back seat, Dean forgot all about Boomers boots, “Toss a couple of them up here, Cube.”

“Yessah Massah,” I said, thinking I was funny.  Dean ignored me.  He’d had just about enough of me today.  I could tell he was still a little pissed off at me from when he just about killed Robert Duvall at lunch time.

We had gone into the Pizza Hut to get some lunch.  “Looks like we have the place to ourselves,” Boomer noted as people started packing up and leaving upon our entrance.  One female patron, who frankly could stand to skip a couple of slices of supreme, if you know what I mean, was dragging her nose picking 4 year old behind her while she said to me “You guys could take a bath before going out in public, ya know.”  At that, I shrugged at Boomer who chose that moment to let go of the fart he’d obviously been saving for a special occasion.  Disgusted beyond belief, miss nosy shouted, “Bunch of pigs,” as she slammed through the Pizza Hut front door.

The manager guy told us to sit wherever and he’d bring us some menus.  “You guys working over at Oscar Mayer?”  He asked, swaying and clutching at the table for balance as the full force of our day’s accomplishment slapped him right in the face.

“That’s darnright observant of yuh,” Boomer said, trying out what we perceived to be the Iowa parlance.

“Heh, heh, lucky guess,” said the manager guy, his eyes watering from the sheer emotional gravity of the scene.

“Yeah – no anchovies,” I said, wanting to move this along. 

After we figured out what kind of pizza we were getting, Dean said, “You boys might wanna wash up for dinner.”

“What? This?”  I said, looking down at my mud encrusted hands and forearms, “Surely it’s just a little dirt,” looking out the window casually, pretending to be bored.  Dean kept staring at me, trying to figure out if I was going to eat Pizza with pig crap all over myself. I wasn’t.  I was just messing with him.

On the way back from lunch to the work site, I got into an argument with Dean.  I’m not sure how it all got started.  I don’t think Dean liked talking about his past or something because all I said was, “So Dean.  Tell me.  How is it that you came to be such a huge fucking asshole?”  - note this part isn’t true.  Everything else so far is, I swear, but I need to get a fight going here because I’m in the back seat and Dean is driving.

“Why you little,” Dean said as he reached a skinny, wrinkled, purplish, frail looking arm back, trying to swat me.  I effortlessly batted those gross long yellowy fingernails away.

“Um guys,” Boomer said, looking down the road.  But neither of us paid him any mind (Iowa parlance). 

Dean was too old to do me any physical harm, so he went with the old “time travel” threat.  He was looking back at me, pointing a spindly index finger, yelling, “Why you little punk.  You’re not half the man I was at your age, blah blah blah, etc. etc”

“We’ll see about that,” I said, thinking I know a guy who could send me back to when Dean was my age so I could go kick his ass.  Then I reconsidered, realizing Dean might be right.  It’d be a drag to travel through time just to get my ass kicked.

“Dean,” Boomer was saying with more urgency, “Stop the car!”

Then I saw it.  Standing right smack dab (parlance) in the middle of the highway, cutting a lean figure against the horizon, was the familiar sunglasses and sharkskin suit of our old pal, Robert Duvall.  Dean was going too fast.  No way he could stop the Suburban in time, even if he was looking.  Finally, the old man turned his head to get the faintest glimpse of Duvall as the truck passed clean through (parlance) where he’d been standing a moment earlier.  Boomer and I were shocked.  I was sure the movie actor’s blood and guts were about to be spattered all over and through the Suburban.  But no.   He just disappeared.

Boomer said, “Never mind.  I thought I saw something,” as he slid down in his seat a little, resting his knees against the glove compartment and pulled out a cigarette.  Reaching into his shirt pocket, he asked me, “Cube.  You got my lighter?”

“Fuckin’ Duvall,” I replied.

“Fuckin’ Duvall, indeed,” said Boomer, pressing in the coil cigarette lighter in the Suburban’s ashtray.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”  Dean asked.

“Well, for one, it means now we don’t get to find out how much of a man you used to be,” I mumbled to myself.

“Nothing boss.  It’s just that Robert Duvall stole my time machine again,” Boomer explained.

“You boys been smoking something,” Dean asked.

“Don’t change the subject.  Jinx,” Boomer and I said.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Based on a True TV Series

Note:  Half season break?  What the hell?  I'm not waiting.  I'm finishing this shit now.

It’s yet another beautiful day in the sleepy little town of Woodbury in Georgia.  The first ray of sun pokes though the bedroom window of the Governor’s mistress, Andrea. Andrea has been through a lot of heartache in the last couple of years, but now she’s found a place to call home.  She turns away from the incoming light and covers her head with a pillow, staving off the day for a few more precious moments as she stretches and moans with delight in the luxurious east bedroom of the Governor’s mansion.

“Knock Knock!” says the cheery voice of Andrea’s true love, Governor Philip Blake.  Pushing the door open with his foot, he carries a breakfast tray to his beloved.  Reluctantly, Andrea sits up to welcome her tall, dark and handsome.  He’s wearing a light blue cotton robe and white t-shirt.  As he walks across the room to her, his auburn hair neatly styled back, Andrea cannot believe she ever thought she was a lesbian.  Looking into his beautiful azure eyes, she does not fully appreciate the magic of the moment.  Twelve hours from now, one of those beautiful eyes, along with a good deal of the right side of his brain will be savagely punctured clear to the back of his skull by a 9 inch triangular shard of broken aquarium glass.

Still able to use both his eyes for the time being, the governor pauses in the middle of the room to take in the beauty of his new love.  Andrea is the most beautiful woman he’s ever set eyes upon, even if she is a little butch.  Her tight clean white tank top revealing the hint of hardened nipple underneath, causes Governor Blake to go all stiffy.  Luckily, the breakfast tray obscures the pitched tent.  God, she’s so wonderful, the governor thinks as he subtly delays setting the tray down, trying to think about baseball.  The governor would commit his very soul to protecting this wonderful creature the rest of his days.  Well he would have if she hadn’t been slowly devoured by a pack of zombies later on that night.  But, I get ahead of myself.

“Pour Moi?,” Andrea says in a totally inappropriate coquettish way that doesn’t fit her kind of leathery skin and manly appearance.  Hey – beauty is in the eyes (soon to be eye) of the beholder, I guess.  To anyone watching this scene unfold, nausea would certainly ensue, but to the governor, the sound of her Camel no filter, gravel trash voice only worked to undo all he had accomplished by thinking of baseball.  He could not contain himself.  He threw the tray aside to embrace his one and only, and was rewarded with the sweet sound of her delirious squeals of delight.

Two minutes later, Andrea exhaled with the satisfaction that only comes from that first drag of Camel no filter while the governor furiously worked at the coffee stain on the bedside rug.  “This better come out.  It was Nana’s rug,” He was saying.  But Andrea was miles away.   Too bad about Amy getting all mauled and killed by Zombies and stuff that one time and then me putting a bullet in her brain.  She would have liked it here.  Then Andrea had another irrational thought that made her feel a little guilty.  If Amy were still alive, would the Governor have gone for her instead?  Sure she was 12 years younger than Andrea, but she was definitely way hotter.  Plus, it didn’t matter how the light hit Amy, she always looked female.  Unfortunately, Andrea didn’t get that gene.  I’m a horrible person who should die a violent death.  It should have been me, not Amy, Andrea correctly assessed.  Why did Dale force me to live on?  Anyone watching the situation would have been ok with me blowing to tiny bits at the CDC.  Oh well, God must have something bigger in store for me, Andrea wrongly assumed.  Unless she meant “Becoming food for the undead” was somehow part of God’s grand plan for her.  Because I can tell you, that’s what’s going to happen if I have anything to do with it. 

It’s Midnight in Woodbury.  Well past curfew, but all of the citizens are out on this warm summer evening.  They are gathered around in a circle waiting to hear from the Governor just what the hell is going on.  The impossible has just happened.  There has been an attack on the town.  Some band of armed ruffians from “out there” have managed to get through security and seemed to have pillaged through the town, killing nearly a third of the population in the process.  There are many rumors about why this has happened.  There are arguments.  Blame is being placed.  Those who were tasked with guarding the perimeter are under the most critical scrutiny.  Just as things are about to boil over, the Governor calmly walks to the town square from his home.  At his arm, is his new girlfriend, the peculiar looking Andrea, tears streaming down her wind battered face.  Then the crowd notices the governor has been injured.  This is disconcerting.  The governor is their rock.  Every single person in town (except the Dixon Brothers) thinks of the governor as sort of a cross between Jesus Christ and Dirty Harry. 

Noting their dismay, the governor raises his hands to indicate he’s just fine.  “My good people,” He begins.  So strong is his influence you can actually see the shoulders of everyone in town lower a little as they relax at the soothing sound of his words.  “We have suffered a great blow this night.  We have lost many loved ones and an eye.  But I swear to you, we are secured now and we will promptly avenge the deaths of those so cruelly taken from us.”

Nods of satisfaction and agreement course through those standing around.  Sensing the people were ok with all that and ready to return to their homes for the night, The governor added,  “There is one thing we need to take care of right now, though,”  suddenly a hush fell upon the crowd as each person prayed they were to be held blameless in the intrusion, “I have discovered this was not some random attack.  That would not have made any sense.  We have a traitor in our midst,”  He paused to let the weight of his words settle on those gathered. The governor briefly looked to Andrea for support in what he was about to say.  He ended up turning his head way more than at first he thought he would, because he had forgotten that his one eye was gone, so when he first turned to look at Andrea, he couldn’t see her.  Finally, he saw her.  If anything, his newfound lack of depth perception made her look even more fetching!

Seeing her tearful face solemnly nod for him to continue, The Governor forged ahead with his totally bogus accusation, “My right hand man and most trusted confidant is to blame.”  A sigh of disbelief swept through the townsfolk as they all turned to look at Merle Dixon.  He was more surprised than anyone.  Merle?  A traitor?  This couldn’t be.  Racist?  Sure.  Misogynist?  Most certainly.  One hand fashioned into a long steel blade?  Uh-huh.  But Traiter.  Say it ain’t so, Governor.


Outside the town, Rick and his rescue team were baiting an area with blood from their own wounds to lead walkers to an opening they had created along the town's perimeter.  In time, this would hopefully lead a zombie hoard right smack dab into the middle of Woodbury.  “It seem wrong, use walkers on human,” Michonne protested.  This had been a concern of Rick’s as well, but he’d actually only gotten about 6 hours of sleep the night before and so with the whole trek over to Woodbury from the prison and then the whole rescue thing, frankly, Rick was just too tired to do his own fighting.  In the end, he knew it was probably wrong to send in walkers, but after careful consideration he decided, “Fuck ‘em.”


With the shocking revelation that Merle Dixon was a traitor, The townspeople were slowly closing in on old stabby-hand.  This was exhilarating for Andrea who, tightly gripping The Governor’s hand, was becoming a little bit aroused by the excitement and impending violence of the moment.  As Merle circled in the center of the gang, using his scary hand blade thing to ward off any who would get too close , the noise of the mob became deafening.  And since zombies don’t make any kind of noise until you know they are there, nobody even saw the nasty one that took a big chunk out of Andrea’s shoulder.  Her scream was nearly blotted out by the general crowd noise, but not quite.  The governor turned as he felt her grip tighten.  He counted 3, maybe 4 goons going after the only woman he’d ever loved.  Instinctively, he shook free from her grip and backed off to watch in horror as Andrea writhed in unimaginable agony.  Her flesh coming free in bloody chunks as the now half a dozen zombies went into a feeding frenzy.  The smell of Andrea’s bowels and the squishy sound of her splashing guts was enough to cause a big circle vomit from the crowd.  “I’m so sorry Amy.  Truly I am,”  She gasped at last.

How will Andrea ever get out of this one?  Hard to say.

(to be continued in February)