by RIP RENSE
PILE OF LTSEWH. . .
Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters
With Humanity, or LTSEWHs for um, short. Only the names have been changed or omitted to
protect the impenetrable.
LTSEWH # 1: Cosmic transaction
The dull-eyed young clerk behind the Barnes and
Noble counter recited his courtesy-by-numbers refrain:
"Did you find everything all right?"
Now, I realize that it's not the young man's
fault that he has been turned into a giant parrot by demographers. I know that the
ubiquitous "finding everything all right" intoned in emporiums across the land,
millions of times each day, is well-intentioned. I comprehend that this is an attempt to
instill at least the illusion of courtesy and efficiency in shopping matters.
But I'm tired of it. If I
didn't "find everything all right," I would ask for help! Well, actually, I
probably wouldn't, given that whenever I ask for help, it doesn't turn out all right.
(Usually ending in "Gee, guess we're out of 'em!")
So I admit it. Sometimes I get a little um, playful.
"In what sense?" I asked Clerk.
He stopped ringing up my magazine, and stared
back, his mouth open. The eyes, I thought, lost some of their glaze.
"In the cosmic sense?" I added.
"If so, the answer is 'no.' I haven't found everything all right. I'm still
Clerk stared some more. I gave him a big,
friendly grin. And by God, a light came on in those eyeballs.
"No. . ." he said slowly. "Not
in the cosmic sense. A little narrower. In the cosmos of Barnes and Noble, maybe."
I was thrilled! It was brilliant! The lad had
parried adroitly, returning my quip and embellishing it masterfully.
"Good answer!" I said, and he smiled,
rang up my magazine, and spoke again.
"Have a nice day."
LTSEWH # 2: Sing along with
It's joyful thing, to sing along to a favorite
song, especially in the car! Does the spirit good, and lets passers-by in on your joie
d'vivre---helping to color the world a little brighter. I relish seeing humans
singing in their cars, as I know this means they are happy, and therefore less likely to
kill and maim.
So my spirit soared as I
stood, waiting to cross a boulevard, and a merry duet of car radio and driver trickled
into the porches of my ears. Driver was a baritone with a hefty voice, and his SUV stereo
was impressive enough to snare the admiration of music aficianados as far away as, say,
planets circling Arcturus.
What especially buoyed my heart was that this
was a young Caucasian male, and he was singing along to music recorded by
African-Americans! Racial borders were breaking down! We shall overcome! Here is
a little of what he sang:
"Gonna (unintelligible) Uh! Uh!
Motherf---er! Don't f---k with me, motherf---in' bitch!"
Okay, well, I made it sound better than it was.
The lyric wasn't quite as poetic.
Funny thing, though. When I glanced at Driver,
making the briefest eye contact, he looked back with what appeared to be hostility.
LTSEWH # 3: Ticket pleas
"Hello, you've sent me incorrect tickets,
and I wonder if you can solve the problem."
I'd purchased three tickets to a production at
Opera Pacific---two on one day, and a third about a week later. They were all
side-by-side. In a miracle of computerized efficiency, I received not one, not two, but
three incorrect tickets---in separate rows.
It was a Saturday, and I got a long
speech from a nice lady explaining why no one could help me until Monday, and how she is
"all thumbs" with the computer, etc.
"Isn't this the box office? The website
said you are open today."
"No, this is sales," she
"Uh, excuse me, but what in hell is the
difference between 'sales' and 'box office?'"
"Oh, they're very different."
She started another speech about the
differences, but I gently interrupted.
"Look," I said. "I bought three
tickets, and I didn't get any of the three I ordered. I need you to fix this right away,
"Well, what do you want me to do?"
I took a deep breath, ditched the "do I
have to tell you how to do your job" sentence, and said, "Call someone at home,
"Well, you didn't ask me to do that
"I shouldn't have had to."
"Well, how do I know what you wish us to
do, if you don't tell us?"
I ditched the sentence about the
merits of high colonics. Finally came the big payoff:
"When you order tickets on-line," she
said sweetly, "the tickets displayed are not always available when you order
I looked out the window. Sun was still bright
yellow, the sky blue. Birds were not barking.
"What? You're saying that I order
tickets on the site that are clearly marked as available, but I might be given entirely
different seats ?"
I ditched the sentence about fraud, and
psychological terrorism, and notifying Homeland Security.
"You and I both know that is
"Oh, no, not at all," she said, and
began another long speech.
LTSEWH # 4: Up a tree
I phoned the city to tell them that a power
line was arcing to a palm tree in front of my home, repeatedly setting it on fire. After
hearing a lengthy menu offered in English and Spanish, and pushing several buttons, a live
woman actually came on the line! I held forth about the flaming fronds.
"Do you want to file a report?"
she said, with great interest and enthusiasm. You know, as if I had jut offered to read
the entire Oxford Dictionary aloud to her.
"No, I don't want to file a report. I need
somebody to come out and trim the tree back."
"Is it on private property?"
"We can take a report, and do an
"Wait. The power line is setting it on
fire! By the time you do an evaluation, my place could burn down!"
"Do you want to file a report?"
"No! Can you trim the tree or not?"
"Do you want to file a report?"
LTSEWH # 5: No Stopping Him
The black BMW roared through the stop sign at
no faster than 40 miles per hour. One second sooner, and I'd have been writing this from
heaven. (Okay, maybe the other place.).
Just for fun, I decided to
have a little chat with the fellow who had just nearly killed me. I drove after him, and
noticed that he had pulled over to wait---no doubt, to apologize. People are so given to
humility and contrition these days. . .
"Hi," I said. "I'm not going to
yell at you. A lot of people ignore the stop signs around here, and a lot of people get
confused by the occasional two-stop-sign intersection, so I just wanted to say---"
"I'm not one of those people," said
BMW Man. "I always pay attention to stop signs."
I confess that this response baffled me. I
checked him for signs of designer drugs. T-shirt, tan, muscled biceps, sunglasses, short
trendy tinted haircut. No. Run-of-the-mill actor.
"Well, you didn't pay
attention to that one!"
"I had a flat tire! I couldn't stop!"
"You had a flat---What? of course you can
stop if you have a flat tire."
I craned my neck to see his tires. No flats.
"Where is your flat tire?"
"Well, it felt like I had a flat
"Uh. . .It felt like? I think you are just
making excuses here---"
"I don't give a f--- WHAT you think!"
Ah, the magic word. The one that says,
"abandon all courtesy." So I took the cue and decorated the air with as
ornate a string of expletives as anything ever composed by Tommy Lasorda. In a liberal
hail of saliva.
BMW Man nodded and smiled.
I finished by expressing the hope that he kills
someone the next time he ignores a stop sign ,and gets 25 years for manslaughter.
Then I had to go. I felt like some designer
For more LTSEWH's, watch this space.
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