by RIP RENSE
LTSEWH. . .
(June 8, 2005)
Less Than Satisfying Encounters With Humanity, or LTSEWH, for um,
short. Names and other identifying characteristics have been included
whenever possible to ensure fullest humiliation.
LTSEWH # 1: ILLEGAL
At first I did not
comprehend ex-Gov. Gray Davis’s plan to give drivers’ licenses to illegal
alien residents in California, in order that they might buy insurance (ha,
ha) and that the government could keep track of them.
I thought Gray meant
illegal aliens from south of the border. I now realize that Gray meant
little grays. Aliens, yes, but from Metaluna, not Mexico. I see it all
clearly. Gray himself hails from another galaxy, dimension, solar system.
How else to explain the oversized head, the robotic, Vulcan-like demeanor?
He was standing up for
his own kind.
It all came to me in a
flash the other day as I drove down Ohio Avenue near my home. I’ve noted
in recent months that most drivers no longer comprehend the large white
lettering on the hexagonal red signs reading “S-T-O-P.” I now suspect it’s
because extra-terrestrial eyeballs do not see the same colors as earthlings
do, and that both red and white register as the same on the E.T. retina.
Allow me to illustrate.
There I was. . .
Doing about 35 mph. I was
a singing, dyed-in-the-wool, fabulous example of “oncoming traffic.” There
was no more mistaking this than there is mistaking Schwarzenegger for a
governor. I confidently approached a cross-street, with a stop sign on the
right, and stop sign on the left, fairly drunk with right-of-way, a boldly
chiseled living letter of the traffic law.
Then. . .
A car appeared on my
right, rolling right through the stop sign and half-way into Ohio
Avenue---the driver’s head turned toward me, with actual eye-contact
established, all along.
I slowed abruptly and
stopped, chin inspecting kneecap. Ah, but this was not merely a
close encounter, I now understand. It was a Close Encounter.
For as I sat there,
staring in befuddlement, the driver calmly remained, blocking my lane,
waiting for the other lane to clear, in order to complete his bisection of
the boulevard. Meanwhile, on my left. . .
Another driver took a cue
from driver # 1, and did exactly the same thing!
Picture it: a car on the
left, and a car on the right each deliberately rolling through stop signs,
deliberately coasting half-way across a busy street, deliberately blocking
fast-approaching oncoming cars clearly visible in both directions, then
And there they
crippling Ohio Avenue---until, after they had halted travelers in both
directions, they proceeded breezily on their ways.
To rendezvous with the
LTSEWH # 2: I YAM
WHAT I YAM
I purchased four yams. Or
so I thought.
I was in one of those
wholistic wholesome whole grain whole foods whole world kind of stores---the
Santa Monica Co-op. The checker---I’m sorry, they must be called something
like “customer service specialists” now---rang up (okay, scanned) my four
“I’m sorry,” I said,
wondering why I was sorry for speaking, “Why are those yams so expensive?”
The Customer Service
Specialist, a young woman sprouting bits of metal from lip and eyebrow,
I stared at the large
burnt-sienna colored legumes resting inside a clear plastic membrane.
Garnets? No, they looked like yams to me. Was it possible. . .could it be. .
.the Customer Service Specialist, like so many drivers, was also. . .an
alien? Did potatoes and related root vegetables register as precious stones
“I’m sorry?” I said
again, wondering why I kept saying that.
“They’re garnets,” she
Yes, yes, I think she had
already made this claim. Was she pleased with the sound of the word? Was her
earthling communication program stuck? I decided to humor her.
“Okay, they’re garnets,”
I said. “Why are they so expensive?”
“Garnets are expensive!”
Yes, yes, they are. A
quick Google check shows that rhodolite garnets, for instance, go for up to
I decided to drop the
wholistic thing. I didn’t want to appear too unCo-opeartive, after all, and
I really wanted the $5.36 yams.
LTSEWH # 3:
Every day she appears on
my block: pink velour athletic suit, cascading hair turned blonde with only
the best chemicals, face a vague mask of lost youth arranged by only the
most expensive stitching, cell phone vacuum-sealed to ear and voice
declaiming half a dialogue audible for any stay-at-homes bored with Oprah or
Matt and Katie.
And three Lhasa Apso
doggies on three leashes, dust-mopping their way along.
“Oh my GOD! No! I can’t
believe this. . .Well, I should hope SO. . .That’s COOL. . .” Etc.
|They have meddled in things that Man was not
meant to meddle in. The Christian Right will be after them shortly,
I’m sure, calling their practice an affront to God, or at least
capitalism (which, of course, is a fine distinction.)
every day, Madame stops while the little dust mops deposit their not-so-cute
legacies of daily walkies on someone’s front lawn or garden. Then she goes
on her pink velour buttocks-lifted way.
Until, that is, one
neighborhood resident confronted her a couple weeks back with a plastic
bag. I watched delightedly from the balcony:
Resident: “Here’s a
plastic bag! You’re supposed to pick up your dogs’ s---!”
Madame Dudu: “Oh, but
EVERYONE lets their dogs s--- here!”
Ah, yes, all the best
canines deposit their excrement here, lady---you should feel privileged that
my champion Lhasa Apsos have decided to favor your terrain. . .
I monitored the
little strip of grass in the ensuing couple of weeks to see if the
distinctive exotic Apso tootsie rolls stopped appearing, but. . .no. Madame
would not dare stoop, literally and figuratively, to collecting little
Froo-Froo and Boo-Boo and Floy-Floy’s yams. Er, garnets.
So I took matters into my
own hands, so to speak. I grabbed all the little Lhasa Crapso, put it into a
plastic bag, and left it on Madame’s doorstep (I know because she parks her
white T-Bird---what else?---in the garage there) with a note, reading, in
“Your dogs’ fecal matter
is hereby returned to you in this plastic bag. In the future, it will be
returned to you without using a plastic bag.”
Of course, it’s probably
all my mistake. She is probably a four-headed creature from Nigoviggo,
somewhere near Space Quadrant 569.1, where such deposits are high art.
LTSEWH # 4: FISHY
I was in yet another
wholistic whole earth whole wheat whole grain whole store the other day,
with the well-known and rather curious whole name, Whole Foods.
As opposed to, I always
automatically wonder, Partial Foods?
At Whole Foods, they have
Merry Fish Merchants. Yes, they shout and sing and act robust and hardy, as
if perhaps they have just docked their Merry Fish Boat outside the store,
and hauled in their robust and hardy catch with robust and calloused hands.
“We have GREEAAAT King
Salmon, folks! Today, fresh! And Chilean Sea Bass, Snapper like you’ve never
tasted. . .” Blah blah blah. (Then they drive home to their apartments and
have a couple of Merry beers over “Fear Factor.”)
Anyhow, I asked for my
usual “one pound of salmon, please,” and got the usual response, as slab of
said fish was weighed:
“Little over a pound
Yes, this is the most
frequently spoken Merry phrase of the Merry Fish Merchants: “Little over
(requested weight) okay?”
I watch in wonder as
this question is asked, and customer after customer nods or smiles or
says “sure,” then receives more than they have requested. Sometimes a lot
more. In my case, it was a Merry one-third of a pound over, which amounted
to a Merry buck or two for the Merry Fish Merchants.
“No,” I said. “Not okay.
I’d like a pound, please, or even a little less.”
And I was handed a
package of salmon weighing about a pound and a fifth.
Which I promptly
deposited in the cereal aisle, among the whole wheat and whole rice and
Where the Merry Fish
Merchants were wholly free to fish it out.
LTSEWH # 5: FREE
I understand, grasp, and
fully embrace the concept of purchasing tickets. I think it is a good
system, tried and true, and I congratulate the human who first thought up
this smart, essential concept (probably in China 5,000 years ago, like
It’s clever, really: you
pay a fee, and are issued a unique kind of receipt which grants you special
status---to enter a special room or experience a special event or sit in a
courtroom with a special person, like Michael Jackson. Sometimes this
receipt might be used for other purposes, such as claiming a prize, or
claiming a chance to claim a prize, etc.
What’s more, tickets are
a part of the popular culture---cherished, hoarded, fetishized, collected,
treasured. Used Beatles tickets? A small fortune. I still lament the loss of
the alphabetized tickets at Disneyland. (For that matter, I lament the loss
of Disneyland, long since taken over by aliens from the planet, Venal.)
All in all, it’s a
bulwark barter system, taken for granted as a part of everyday existence.
Except by the good
people at the wonderful Museum of Radio and Television, which is based
in Beverly Hills (which does not yet require tickets to gain entry.) These
folks have turned the ticket concept on its ear, and although concepts do
not have ears, if they did, the Museum of Radio and Television people would
have turned this one on its.
Or something like that.
Yes, they have flouted
5,000 years of Chinese history (or the history of whichever culture invented
the ticket.) They have meddled in things that Man was not meant to meddle
in. The Christian Right will be after them shortly, I’m sure, calling their
practice an affront to God, or at least capitalism (which, of course, is a
fine distinction.) “President” Bush will soon be declaring that he is
morally opposed to the Museum of Radio and Television’s ticket practices,
and Paul Krugman will devote pithy columns in response.
The Museum folk, you see,
are issuing tickets without charging.
No, no---this is not to
be confused with “free tickets.” A free ticket is a wonderful, joyous thing,
especially when it is redeemable for pie.
This is a ticket that you
are required to obtain without purchase.
Think about that a
You are required to go
to a counter, have a ticket issued to you, in order to access the Museum
of Radio and Television, otherwise you may not enter. And it is free.
Of course, that means
that it is not free. You must spend a minute or two (or longer, depending on
the line) of your life negotiating a free transaction in order to enter a
I did this the other day,
in order to see a video history of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. You might
think the ticket arrangement was a stunt done in the absurdist spirit of
Monty Python, but no. The irony is lost on the Museum. It would have made a
good Python sketch, though:
“Museum’s free!” (John
“Get your ticket first.”
“But you said it was
“Free with a ticket!”
“Well, then it’s not
“Yes it is.”
“Well, then, I’ll just go
“Ah-ah, you can’t go into
the free museum without a free ticket, or we’ll kill you.”
“I mean. . .prosecute you
“But you said ‘kill me.’”
“No I didn’t.”
“Yes you did.”
“No, I said we would
require you to dance the cha-cha, with an aardvark on your head, while
reciting Lenin backwards.”
“No you didn’t.”
This exchange was
really not so far away from the one I had. I was late for the Python
screening, so I merely walked through the lobby and up the stairs to the
Ah, yes, the familiar
tense voice of an impotent human charged with authority. Several people
turned to see what crime Sir was committing.
“Do you have a ticket?”
“You have to get a
“But it’s free.”
“You still have to get a
“But that’s stupid! Why
do I need a ticket if it’s free?”
“You’ll have to take that
up with the people at the front desk.”
Yes, ladies and
gentlemen, it had turned into a veiled threat, and “you’ll have to take that
up with” order. What would they have done had I just gone into the theater,
I wondered. Phoned the Ministry of Silly Walks?
I chose the path of least
resistance and got my ticket. But I couldn’t resist asking:
“Why do I need a ticket
if it’s free?”
“It’s our only way to
keep track of how many people are here,” said an officious, concerned
looking woman. "I hope you don't mind."
"I do," I said.
I resisted an impulse to
add, “what about a clicker?” or “what about a turnstile?” or “what about all
the trees?” and just went in to watch Monty Python.
For a dose of sanity.
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