by RIP RENSE
Nov. 9, 2006
Less Than Satisfying Encounters With Humanity, or LTSEWH, just to
create a stupid, ungainly acronym. All names have been included whenever
possible in order to ensure fullest humiliation, though in some cases the
more hapless have been spared out of compassion.
LTSEWH # 1:
“Get a life! You’re an
And so I was assessed,
evaluated, sentenced and condemned by a nighttime bicyclist on the glamorous
streets of West Los Angeles.
This sort of thing is
hardly a unique experience anymore. In fact, I am the unique experience in
today’s world---the ridiculously hopeful citizen, forever expecting others
to behave with civility. This, in the fiend-eyes of most of today’s Aggresso-Americans,
makes me a wimp.
There I was. . .
Walking down a narrow
sidewalk around 6:30 p.m.. It was as dark as the future of the human race.
Cars choked both sides of Ohio Avenue for as far as an eagle could see in
both directions. The sidewalk was not a bikeway, as some sidewalks are
designated, but a good, old-fashioned cement walkway designed exclusively
for human feet.
I glanced aheaad and
noted a male cyclist in one of those helmets that makes your head look
like “Alien,” approaching about thirty feet in front of me. Approaching
fast. Aimed right at me, despite the fact that I was on the left side of the
He braked slowly. I
stopped. I had no idea whether he would try to go around me, and if so,
whether it would be on the left or right. I did not want to accidentally
step in his way.
Well, this miracle of
human development, this billion-year-product of evolution, this one-time
amoeba, this former invertebrate single-celled waste-eating organism grown
into fabulous sophistication. . .
Pulled slowly to a halt
right at my feet. Face to face. Standoff. On the left side of the sidewalk.
Right side as empty as Tyra Banks' eyeballs. I was astonished. This fellow,
who was perhaps 35, was apparently playing “chicken” with me. He did not
slow down and say, “I’m going on your right,” which would have been fine. He
did not get off his stupid goddamned racing bike and walk it around me (of
course.) He just faced me, and he spoke:
“Well,” he said, in a
spectacularly smartass, nasal tone, “Choose a side of the sidewalk.”
Now, you might not
believe this, but I start each day with a mantra that goes: “path of
least resistance so nobody kills you. . .path of least resistance so nobody
kills you. . .” And mostly, I adhere to it. I program myself.
And with this in mind, I
simply stepped aside of Nasal Boy, and in so doing caught his profile and
understood the reason for his nose-ness. This guy would have been the envy
of Caeser Augustus. How is it that such noble facial features are so often
wasted on puny pipsqueaks?
And as he went by, I
“Why don’t you ride in
the street, where you are supposed to?”
Well. Shame on me. Call
the cops. Rense has spoken his mind again. Dared to challenge the behavior
of yet another human.
Nose Boy pedaled away
quickly, and when he was sufficiently distant as to minimize the potential
for physical retribution, he yelled:
“Eat my ass!”
Yes. “Eat my ass.” Now,
it was true that I had not had dinner, but this invitation did not increase
I recently sprained my
ankle, so I could not run. Which was very lucky for him, and very lucky
for me. We would have made for good entertainment for cops. I was reduced to
yelling something very, very naughty at him, which was very audible to all
the passengers sitting on car-strangling Ohio Avenue. Some of them stared at
me, to make sure I was not about to shoot or maim.
Nose Boy’s response:
“You’re an idiot! Get a
Ladies and gentlemen, if
there are any left out there, we live in a time when most humans behave with
as much decorum, sense, and kindness as ants on a piece of excrement. I
witness this daily on scale grand and small, and it comes home to me in
minor episodes like the aforementioned. I have seen this behavior growing
for the past two decades, until it has become the norm, and I never cease to
be appalled by it.
Combine these episodes
with the runaway evil and insanity dominating world affairs, and it is a
foregone conclusion that the human race is a nasty, puerile, mendacious,
fantastically greedy species, and that centuries aimed at promoting and
developing restraint and dignity have been a great, stinking failure. We are
a wretched, vicious bunch of glorified smudges, and the failure of the race
to survive would do the planet, and probably the universe, quite a favor.
Other than that,
LTSEWH # 2: I’m
just going to pick up a few things. . .
Cut me some slack. It’s
been a long, long time since something like this happened to me, so I’m
allowed to have been befuddled.
There I was. . .
In Whole Foods Market (as
opposed to Partial Foods Market), in the checkout line, largely checked out
of consciousness. It was hot, Santa Ana Wind hot, and the air was
desiccated. It was as if the creator of the universe had slipped moisture
absorbing preservative packets into the sky.
I enjoy this weather
every bit as much as Saddam Hussein enjoys being captive.
It turns my brain into
dust. It turns my mood into crust. It renders me unfit for human
So I kept my hat and
sunglasses on, so as not to frighten anyone, and just unobtrusively went
about gathering up assorted aliments. Which I laid quietly on the conveyer
belt, hoping the exchange with the checker---er, customer service
tabulation engineer---might consist of the briefest “paper or plastic”
And it did! Home free. No social interaction necessary. Phew. Until. . .
She was in line behind
me. I had peripherally taken her in, mechanically, as part of the
surroundings. Forty-five to 50, a bit thick around the middle, bouncing
brunette coiffure, Jackie-O sunglasses. Genus Shopperus Housewifus
Routinus. Well, not quite.
“So what do you
The statement drifted
around, floated, wafted, hung there, happened into my ear. I took it in as I
would Muzak. When no one answered, I began to faintly wonder if it had been
directed at me. I glanced at the housewifus. She was smiling.
“Uh, pardon me?” I said.
“What do you recommend?”
There it was again. A
strange woman in a market was assaulting my Santa Ana-fried psyche with this
very weird question. She might as well have asked me if I wanted to eat
deep-fried tennis shoes.
What do you recommend?
Well, what’s your
“Um. . .Sorry, you’re
going to have to be more specific.”
She spoke in voice equal parts hearty and friendly, which I found even more
“Oh, you know---wine,
cheese. . .” she said.
Er, uh, yes, I knew wine
and cheese. You drink one and eat the other. She wanted me to recommend some
wine and cheese? I whipped the little gnomes inside my skull that cranked
“Well, I don’t know
anything about wine. They usually put cheese samples out, but not today,” I
I had tried to be
helpful. Was this what she wanted?
No response. The lady
finished unloading her groceries---lots of pasta, sauces, arcane
vegetables---and walked back into the store to get something else.
I was no more perplexed
by the whole situation than George W. Bush is by English. I paid, picked up
my bags, and shuffled out into the parking lot---
Where I finally
figured out what had just transpired. The woman had tried to pick me up!
She had hit on me! Me, a has-been burnout freelance writer in
What do you recommend---why,
it was a flirtatious entrée intended to prompt a witty response! Like, oh,
“Rutabaga, fig jam, coffee enemas. . .” Who knows where it might have led?
Sweaty mid-afternoon trysts in her kitchen while her bricklayer husband
grunted in the sun somewhere. . .Steaming up the car in a Starbucks lot in a
late-night quickie! The romantic prospects loomed.
Along with visions of
“Play Misty For Me” and that movie where Glenn Close stalks Michael Douglas.
What do you recommend.
I recommend you go home,
lady, and cook your pasta.
LTSEWH # 2: Park
Sometimes you don’t have
to look for L.A.. It finds you. Or rather, it comes and gets you.
My female superior,
Annie, leaves for work very early in the morning (like
LaFong.) I stay behind and engage in foolhardy tasks such as writing
this column. I am greatly concerned each day that her drive to work will not
be uneventful, and my concerns are justified.
On this day, she didn’t
even have to leave the driveway! In fact, she couldn’t. Everything ugly and
repugnant about this town came right to her---in the form of a brand new
It was parked
perpendicularly to her car, blocking the driveway, engine idling.
Well, no big deal, you
say. The driver could just move out of her way, right? Yes, but this
would have required that the driver had actually been at the wheel of the
car. He or she was nowhere to be found. Idling BMW housed only a passenger,
a female, and she was engaged in the two pursuits that marginally conscious
women in the 21st century are usually engaged in: applying make-up and
talking into a cell phone.
That’s correct. $80,000
Jackassmobile, driverless, idling, blocking exit, bimbo in passenger seat,
cell phone on ear, make-up blush in hand. Too perfect. Thank you, L.A.!
There is a reason that I
refer to Annie as my female superior. She does not like to deal with these
matters, but she attacks them with aplomb. She approached Passenger, and
asked her to move the car. Passenger said that Driver would be back soon.
Annie did not debate this insanely annoying statement, but asked Passenger
to move the car instead.
“But I can’t drive a
stick!” wailed Passenger.
No wonder Larry David
never runs out of ideas for his show.
Annie spoke not a word,
but proceeded toward Driver’s door. Yes, to the horror of Passenger, a
stranger was about to get into the car and move it for her! Kidnapped!
Just as Driver---a
well-heeled, designerly-clad guy who looked straight out of a, well, BMW
commercial---appeared, smiling, saying, “Sorry!” He got in the car and drove
It was astonishing.
Brain-freezing. Thunderstriking. Almost entirely unimaginable. . .
He had actually
(Oh, that helped.)
LTSEWH # 3:
I had just gotten out of
my car, and was crossing the street with a couple of grocery bags, when they
came bounding around the corner. Members of the nearby University High
School cross-country team, out for a practice. Five, ten, a pause, then five
or six more. . .
They had that impossible
bloom of youth in their cheeks, and inexhaustible adrenalin in their
bouncing strides---males and females alike. Some of the girls looked a lot
more formidable than the boys. Oh, they were a marvel of bone and sinew
machinery, legs propelling them forward as if this was the sole purpose of
existence. . .
It brought back---as it
always does---memories of my high school days on the cross-country team. I
almost sighed, but my lungs were all dried up by the Santa Ana condition.
Instead, as teh kids loped and flashed by me, I smiled. I gave them a
thumbs-up. And I spoke:
“Go, Uni!” I said.
One girl looked at me,
badly frightened. Why was this weird old guy shouting at her, making obscene
gestures? I smiled again and she was gone. A bunch of guys came around the
corner, and zipped by no less than ten feet away.
“Go, Uni!” I said,
One of the guys took me
in. It was plain from his look that he thought I might require either verbal
or physical neutralizing. I smiled some more, but it didn’t help. Then I
stopped smiling. Too dangerous.
Generation gap? Har.
LTSEWH # 4:
As far as I know, science
has pretty clearly established that automobiles striking pedestrians are
likely to cause great harm. Because of this scientific evidence, most
countries pass laws that exact very tough punishment on drivers of
automobiles whose cars strike pedestrians.
I seem to be increasingly
alone in this knowledge, however.
There I was. . .
With my female superior,
on yet another Santa Ana condition-sucked-dry afternoon (good old
November!), out for a “walk.” Of course, going out for a “walk” in Los
Angeles is the pursuit of the eccentric, if not homeless. It is viewed with
fear and contempt by most locals, who have forgotten that legs and feet can
perform tasks outside of pushing automobile pedals.
Still, walking in L.A.
has its charm. It is guaranteed to yield bucolic views of countless
mini-malls preparing countless styles of unhealthful food, pet stores
selling mange-ridden kittens, and lots and lots of people driving very fast
in cars that cost more money than most people in human history have ever
We stepped off a curb
in a quiet residential neighborhood. We did so, because the car on our
left had stopped at the stop sign. Cars do this in order that pedestrians
may cross in front of them without suffering catastrophic injury. It’s all
part of the way societies are designed, and well in keeping with human
compassion and logic. Except the driver of this car did not seem to be
possessed of this particular information.
She was young, she was
well-dressed; there were three children in the back seat and a girlfriend in
the front. After she stopped, and watched us step off the curb in front of
her, well, she. . .accelerated. Right at us. Sure, why not? Get those irrelevant
walking people out of my way!
We had to stop abruptly,
and jump back. Well, my female superior did, anyhow. I charged right at the
car and tried to slap it silly. Thunk! I went, on the back window and trunk,
with both hands. The car did not seem to
feel it at all, and the driver proceeded to blithely pull into a space at a
So I elected to have a
little conversation with her. I asked, in a voice probably audible in Tierra
del Fuego, what country she was from, advising that in this country,
pedestrians had the right of way. She ignored me. I told her that to ignore
me was a sign of arrogance. Of course, I put this a bit more bluntly. She
still ignored me. I told her a few other things about herself that I thought
she might find interesting, but which do not merit disclosure here. She
ignored me some more.
I expressed the wish that
she kill someone with her car and wind up in jail for manslaughter.
it---ignored me, and walked into the drugstore.
Guess she showed me.
LTSEWH # 5: Nose
But back to Whole Foods
(as opposed to Partial Foods.)
I was in the produce section, vexed and disgusted by the fact that they put
little stickers on every single apple. What’s the purpose? I have to peel
the sticker off of each one that I buy. Somebody has to put those little
stickers on every single apple. Or perhaps a machine has been devised to put
the sticker on every single apple, which would be worse.
The stickers promise me
that the apples are “organic.” Of course, “organic” has been so leeched of
meaning by the FDA that the apples were probably grown with every pesticide
known to man. But still---
Was somebody afraid that
I would forget after eating one apple, that the next one was also organic?
What was the sticky stuff on the stickers that probably stuck to the apple
anyhow, even after I peeled the them off and washed the apple, and would it
Just then Whole Foods
Produce Guy ambled by, fresh from having rearranged various oranges,
persimmons, grapefruit, and. . .apples.
With his index finger
well inserted into his right nasal passage.
Suddenly I was no longer worried about the little stickers.
There was other organic
matter to fret about.
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