by RIP RENSE
Nov. 12, 2008
Call them Less Than Satisfying
Encounters with Humanity, or
LTSEWH, for um, short. They are intended as a chronicle of the
decline in civility, efficiency, and deference, written with just the
slightest implication of humor, in this, the alleged 21st century. Names are
included when possible to protest the incompetent, and sometimes omitted
when it is in the columnist's interest! (Please note:
LTSEWH is now a book, with
And now our Christmas
sale! LTSEWH and the Lingo Czar's "BAD WORDS"---two for just $29.99! LOL or
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LTSEWH #1 Tea Nazi
There I was. . .
Inside of “Evergreen,” a
new green tea place in Santa Monica. I have long missed my old hangout, the
wonderful Green Tea Terrace in
Westwood (R.I.P.), and my heart leaped at the sight of a potential
replacement. Life without green tea lattes is punishing.
I grabbed a flyer which
informed that it was Evergreen’s “grand opening,” and that I could get one
free drink with a purchase. My old tea Jones ached.
Matcha latte? You
As my wife and I ordered,
I noticed that we were the only people aside from the two employees on hand
who were participating in the big “grand opening.” Hmm. Then we noticed that
the free matcha lattes (powdered green tea drinks) were made with various
flavors added: caramel, vanilla, coconut, possibly tutti-frutti.
“We’d like the free drink
without the added flavor, please,” I said. Why taint the deliciousness of
the magnificent tea?
The pleasant young Korean
girl behind the counter looked startled, wide-eyed.
“We can’t do that,” she
said in a sort of hushed tone.
“What? No, I don’t think
you understand. We’d like you to leave the extra flavor out of the
drink. That’s all.”
“Sorry. We can’t do
I checked my watch.
Well, I would have checked it if I’d had one. And I’d have found that it
was still running forwards.
“Wait a second. This is a
‘grand opening,’ and you are offering a free drink with purchase. But you
are telling me that if I want my free drink with less---repeat,
less---ingredients, that I have to pay for it?”
Really, what does one do
in this kind of situation? Who do you call? The green tea police? The
American Civil Liber-tea Union? Keith Olbermann? T. Boone Pickens?
“Is that your manager?” I
asked, pointing to the young fellow behind her, making drinks.
She nodded nervously.
“Would you ask him?”
Although it was obvious
that Manager had heard the entire exchange, she repeated it all to him,
sotto voce. He never turned around, but nodded slightly.
“Okay, we can do that,”
said Counter Lady.
I spoke to Manager:
“Thank you. You realize
that it costs you less money to make the drink without the extra flavoring.”
He nodded again slightly,
“Oh, by the way, miss,
I’d like the drinks made with soy milk, please.”
“That’s fifty cents
extra,’ said Counter Girl.
Somehow, I think
Evergreen is not so aptly named.
LTSEWH # 2: Parky
If I ran a
newspaper---and God knows if there was any justice in the world, I
would---I’d launch a major investigation into parking revenues: how they are
spent, who decides the amounts, how insane the signs and regulations are,
how cunning the parking cops can be, etc.
And then I would begin a
lengthy, if not endless, editorial campaign calling for the abolition of
two-thirds of all parking laws, city revenue be damned. It’s mostly all
misspent, anyhow. (Evidence: still no citywide light rail!)
I mean, we’ve all seen
telephone poles practically hidden by four or five parking signs telling you
to park before 8 a.m. and after 12 a.m., permit owners excepted, and to not
park if you are over six-feet tall and wear white tennis shoes, and to park
if you can whistle “The Star Spangled Banner” backwards while parallel
parking. . .
And we all know the row
of 45-minute parking meters, except for the very last one with the sign
colored the same as the rest---the only difference being a “1” instead of a
“4” in “45.” And recently arrived is the newest fascist scam---meterless
spaces, where you can pay with a credit card (and be charged the full price
of the space, no matter how long you are planning to stay in it.)
Yes, we’ve seen people
issued tickets after parking carefully, popping lots of money into a meter,
but failing to notice that their rear bumper was protruding a foot into a
red-painted curb. We’ve seen people drop a quarter into a meter, see it
register “FAIL,” then return moments later to find a ticket written anyhow.
(Ever try formally challenging a ticket? Your time is better spent watching
And aren’t parking
cops a wonder? All trained so well to ignore your often perfectly
justifiable complaints, and to smile, and say “Have a nice day” as they
steal $30 or $40 out of your paycheck because you are a miserable, rotten
parking criminal. It’s pretty tough to rile them up.
Tough, but not
There I was. . .
Driving endlessly around
several local blocks near Arizona Street in West Los Angeles, looking for a
space near my bank. Muttering to myself, “Why didn’t I f---ing walk?”
Okay, it wasn’t “endlessly.” It was just fifteen large, expansive, glorious
minutes of whatever is left of my allotted time in this mode of existence. I
mean it: fifteen minutes. You see, it was Wednesday, meaning that you
couldn’t park between 2 and 5 p.m. on one side of this-or-that street, in
order that a great, roaring “street cleaner” could come along and spread
filth and diesel exhaust all over the place.
At last, there it was,
wide open, gaping, akimbo as Pamela Anderson---on a block of Arizona with
four five other cars situated with spectacular legality. I zipped in, and
Well, I didn’t just walk
away. Knowing this was L.A., I took a careful scan of the block as far as I
could see, just to be safe.
Nope. No parking signs.
No hay nada. Home free.
I returned about fifteen
minutes later, of course, to find one of our fine parking enforcers. .
.writing me a ticket. A fifty-five-dollar ticket. Granted, fifty-five
bucks won’t buy you much anymore, but still. . .
“Excuse me,” I said,
quick-stepping to the car. “Why are you writing a ticket?”
The “cop” was perhaps 35,
imposingly built, shaved head, clad in those official short pants that make
them all look like leftovers from The Village People.
He ignored me, at
least partly because he had more interesting pursuits at hand---or in
hand. His cell phone. Yes, he was laughing, having a very engrossing
conversation with another human, which was surprising to me, because I
figured that parking cops have no human friends. I figure they consort
largely with the minions of hell, and retire nightly to rituals involving
eating snakes and small children.
“Okay, doood,” spoke the
“cop” into his phone, walking away from me, back turned, toward his little
white Nazi Parking Vehicle. I spoke again:
“Hey! Why did you write
me a ticket?”
Sorry to interrupt
your fun phone conversation being carried out on city time, dooood. . .
“Listen, doood, I gotta
go right now. I’ll call you back in a minute,” said this devoted public
servant, who then turned to me. I repeated my statement about the ticket a
third time. I just might make it my chief hobby one day. I’ll walk around,
saying, “Hey! Why did you write me a ticket?” Okay, first I’ll wait to
become homeless and schizophrenic.
“Where are the signs?” I
asked. “There are no signs!” I pointed up and down the street---noticing,
though, that the cars previously parked there were all gone except one
(ticket flapping on its windshield.)
Parking Nazi smiled
casually, as his rehearsed answer cut through the gentle autumn air like
bird crap hitting pavement.
“Do you think,” he said,
“that because there is noooo sign right here that the street cleaners
skip this part of the street?”
I was baffled. Had
parking regulations become invisible? Must one now intuit them? Are we
all supposed to psychically link with the Parking Wizard and just know where
on the Yellow Brick Road we are allowed to leave our vehicles?
I peered down the street. Far, far down the street. All the way to the other
end of the long block, a block that was divided into several long parking
segments by wide driveways. And. . .oh, there behind a tree, was one parking
sign! A good 100 yards away.
“But---but---there is no
sign here, or even in mid-block!” I said. “How am I to conclude that parking
is not allowed here? That sign is hidden from view from this point, and at
least 100 yards away.” (I checked later and found no other stretch in the
vicinity with only one sign on one block; most had at least three.)
Parking Nazi’s lips
remained curled into that patronizing little I’ve-heard-it-all- before
smile, and he repeated: “Do you think that because there is noooo
sign right here that the street cleaners skip this part of the street?”
My honest answer (“Yes,
of course I would”) never left my mouth. Visions of fifty-five U.S. dollars
danced in my head, and instead, out came this sentence.
“I see. So I have to come
out of a bank after ten minutes and find one of you a------s writing me a
Oh, my! What happened to
his training? His Teflon? His nothing-they-can-say-bothers-me? This
guy went scarlet---I mean flaming---and the curly smile disappeared into
grim animal tension.
“Hey, sir! I’m not
using bad language with YOU! I don’t like it!”
No. You’re just coming
around to your little parking trap to steal my money, and making a
patronizing little speech, as you obviously do on this same spot every
I spoke my next
sentence with slightly more excitement than I might use for, oh, reciting
“Mary Had a Little Lamb” for a kindergarten class.
“I don’t give f--- if you
like it or not.”
Folks, his face
wrenched with suppressed rage. His mouth turned involuntarily into a
twitching half-frown. I mean really---twitching. And his body jerked
with adrenalin. Every ounce of this dork wanted to physically attack me, but
to do so would cost him his job. I had him. It was grand.
This, by the way, is what
passes for “fun” in Los Angeles.
I walked to back my car,
tossing one more delicate sentiment at him, over my shoulder. What’s that?
You’re surprised at me, dear reader? Then let me remind:
I have written this
before, and will write it again: I think that all verbal (repeat: verbal)
abuse heaped upon unforgiving parking enforcers in Los Angeles is absolutely
justified. Anyone who would take this job is a jerk. I don’t care how hard
the economy is. It is a job that does nothing---nothing---but cause extreme
unhappiness and inconvenience, usually to nice, if not innocent, people. It
appeals to pipsqueak authoritarians. The fines are insane. Yes, yes, I also
delight in seeing giant SUV’s in red zones getting towed away---but 99 times
out of a hundred, they get away with it, because the “enforcers” are busy
ticketing some poor old lady who arrived back at her meter three minutes
late. Sorry, ma'am, the ticket is already written. There's nothing I can
do. It's in the system.
This is a stupid job
staffed mostly by stupid people, and most deserve all the stupid (verbal)
abuse they get. Yes, some of them might pet their dogs, and maybe even
forgive a ticket, but I've never heard of the latter. That’s my policy, and
I make no apologies. Sometimes all you can do is give somebody a bad
Other than that, of
course, they’re fine.
LTSEWH # 3:
Now, I have enormous
regard for doctors. Some of them are even slightly less contemptible than
parking cops. But I’ll spare you the diatribe. . .
I went to a fancy-dancy
Beverly Hills internist because I finally managed to get insurance, after
paying out of pocket during five years of hellish struggle with what is
laughingly called a “pre-ulcer condition.” This, I think, is sort of like
the term, “previously owned.” Both don’t quite tell the truth. The only
difference I can see between a “pre-ulcer” and an “ulcer” is that doctors
make more money when you have an ulcer. The pain is the same.
I had some high hopes,
foolish me, that Dr. Hills (I am omitting her real name, because I might
have to see her again) would live up to her vaunted reputation as genuinely
trying to get at the cause of the problem, and solve it. That she “really
listens” and even (gasp) answers e-mail. (That really is astonishing.)
There was, after all,
nothing I wanted more than to know why I have chronic acid reflux, why I
wake up at 3 a.m. feeling like I’ve been punched in the stomach, and if I
will ever again be able to eat something other than beans and French toast.
Delicious as they are. Urp. Yes, here was someone who would not
doctor-by-numbers---you know, glance at me, briefly probe my orifices, then
schedule thousands of dollars’ worth of tests that determine nothing. This
was someone who would hmmm and hmmm and really try to help fix the
So I was on my best
behavior as I was ushered into see a “nurse practitioner.” Huh? I
spent about fifteen or twenty minutes with Practitioner, which I think means
someone practicing to be a nurse. I told her I had very bad chronic acid,
along with what other doctors had long ago diagnosed as a “pre-ulcer.”
Practitioner, an attractive person with a Swedish accent, recommended that I
“get some pets” to ease stress.
“I have pets,” I said.
“You don’t know my cats. They hate one another. One of them throws up all
the time, and wipes his ass on the carpet. The other one stays under
blankets for days. On Saturdays they get drunk and smoke cigars and hire
Okay, I omitted the last
line, because she was already a little uneasy, and I didn’t want to unduly
frighten her. So Practitioner---call her Tish---took my vital signs, and
blah-blah’d me about what not to eat, etc. Everything I already knew very
well and had already been doing for years.
Now that was a
Then Tish left and Dr.
Hills came in. She was very pleasant, middle-aged, and actually chuckled at
one of my stupid quips. We had a nice long visit. At least, on some planets,
where alien beings have four or five brains and process information faster
than flies on speed, it would have been long. Here on Earth, it was perhaps
“The next time I see
you,” she said with a touch of ceremony, “will be when I give you your
colonoscopy and endoscopy.”
“Lucky you!” I said.
And she was right. I
did see her for all of about 30 seconds before drifting into “twilight
sleep” anesthesia, which is where you are unconscious but still responsive
to commands. I hope they did not ask me to sing. As I came to, I heard the
anesthesiologist and another tech gabbing about banks swallowing each other
up. Ah-ha, I thought, my eyes still closed, I will endeavor to impress them
with how impervious I was to their anesthesia, how sharp and indefatigable
are my powers of reason---and wit! I spoke:
“There was an old lady,”
I said, eyes still shut, “who swallowed a fly. And I don’t know why she
swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die.”
A pithy and amusing
comment on the economic scene! A droll, if somewhat eccentric, rejoinder to
their conversation! Ah, but it went right over their heads. Another
doped-up babbler. . .
I went home feeling a
number of twinges in spots where they had cut out bits of my stomach for
biopsies. Lovely feeling! Two weeks later, Tish phoned me (and you thought
it would have been the doctor, you silly person!) and left a message. You
know, the personal touch. All the biopsies were negative, she said, thank
goodness. And the big news. . .
“You have acid reflux."
Yowzah! Now tell me
something I didn't tell you when I first came here. Snort.
And the big advice:
"Keep taking the medication you are already taking.”
I thought about
calling back and asking her who was buried in Grant's Tomb, but I'd had
enough fun for one day.
That was it. Not even
interesting enough to merit a call from Dr. Hills. But to her
credit, the doc did answer an e-mail. I asked a bunch of questions---why,
they were the very same questions I had hoped she might answer when I first
went to her office! Things like: what is causing this, will it ever clear
up, will I ever eat chocolate again, why is it so painful, will I ever be
able to drink green tea again, and so on. She essentially wrote back to say
that yes, the condition will heal, and that if I had more questions, to. . .
You guessed it.
Schedule an appointment.
The snake eats itself!
LTSEWH # 4: Yes Eye
So you see, I needed
glasses. Or I needed glasses, so I see. Well, I didn’t need glasses---it’s
just that with insurance, I could suddenly afford an eye exam, and my old
glasses were so scratched that I have been viewing the world through a
couple rows of chicken-wire. Now here’s the weird thing:
One evening, for “fun,” I
donned my old gold wire-rims from college---a weaker prescription than what
I have been wearing---and zounds! I could see better! In fact, I could see
fine. A little too fine. I've changed since college. . .
Naturally, I told this to
the Ophthalmologist. Naturally, he would say, “Oh, great,” and promptly
write a prescription for my old college eyes. Okay, of course
not---he would first put me through lots of tests and rigmarole and ask me
which square looked less fuzzy when they both looked identical, in order to
make money---and then he would write a prescription for my old
Still, I took my old
wire-rims in to show him, and explained how they were perfect, and he
explained that myopia can actually improve with age (that compensates for
the rest of my body) and then he. . .
Wrote an entirely new
prescription. Hmm. . .
Follow me, now, to those
thrilling days of yesteryear, when I saw another eye doctor, out of pocket,
just a few years back. He also wrote an entirely new prescription, which I
dutifully wore for a week, despite the fact that it felt like I was wearing
a somewhat thinner version of coke bottle lenses worn by this nice kid in my
high school Spanish class.
“You’ll need time to
adjust,” that doctor told me, as I stumbled around, kicking the sidewalk
with one foot, taking Advil for a new-prescription headache. Though I kept
insisting that the prescription was wrong, he merely told me that it “will
take time to adjust.”
In the end, I adjusted by
ordering him to check the lenses, which, of course, turned out to be the
So when the new
Dr.---call him Dr. Insurance, because I might have to see him again---wrote
a new prescription, and when his “aide” told me that I might need “some time
to adjust to it,” I was not ophthalmologically optimistic.
There I was. . .
In the reception area,
having my new glasses fitted and adjusted by Aide. Now, maybe I don’t yet
live in the post-gender world, and call me a sexist pig if you have to, but
Aide was possessed with a pair of mammary glands that, managed differently,
would be worth one hell of a lot of money. I would not comment about this at
all except that said glands were fully---and I do mean fully---half exposed
when Aide bent over.
Which she did at length
as she fitted my glasses, saying these preposterous words:
“Now look right between
Folks, I’m male and
all the ugliness that implies. When one is confronted with massive,
voluptuous, fleshy, pallid bazooms---mere inches away from one’s face---and
is told to not look at them, but instead fix one’s gaze between the eyes of
the owner of said bazooms, well. . .
Absurdity, thy name is
I mean, was this some
little sadistic tease? Nah! What a thing to think about a nice young woman!
And then came her big
“adjustment speech” and how she had to go through her “hell period” of three
months---three months!---before getting accustomed to her new prescription.
Constant headaches, dizziness, nausea. (No wonder she tortures her male
Well, I got home, feeling
that the world was indeed flat, and farther a way than it actually was (like
“objects that appear in mirror”), and knowing that I would not go through
three minutes of “hell period,” let alone three months. So I e-mailed and
asked if I could just please have my old college prescription.
Dr. Insurance said that
before doing such a thing, he wanted to retest me---which he did a day
later. Then he said he wanted to retest the restest---really---early in the
morning, when my eyes were fresh.
I have given up. This is
insane. Ya can’t see good, ya go to a doc, he checks yer peepers, he
gives ya specs, and ya see good. I’m out a couple hundred bucks, but you
know, my stomach hurts. Luckily, I have a back-up pair of my present
prescription, minus the chicken-wire.
It’s just that at night,
I see two big white moons.
Which will always remind
me of Aide.
© 2008 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.