by RIP RENSE
Feb. 25, 2010
wild acclaim for last week's LTSEWH, it seemed only right
to have an encore. . .
Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters With Humanity, or LTSEWH, just
to come up with a really stupid, ungainly,
impossible-to-pronounce acronym. Names are included when
possible in order to fully humiliate the guilty.
LTSEWH # 1: CD Place
I went to the bank to
close a CD. What could possibly be interesting about that, you
understandably wonder? What could possibly be difficult?
Problematic? Trying? The CD was mine, the money in it was mine,
I had been banking at Bank of America for 150 years, and I still
look a little bit like my old driver’s license photo.
But. . .no.
I waited in line, which
apparently is now a suspicious activity. Wherever you wait in
line these days, it seems, you are assailed by “customer
service” people who ask you why you are waiting in line. Soon
there will be "customer service" people to ask "customer
service" people to ask why you are waiting in line. I mean, is
“line monitor” a new career?
There I was. . .
When the “customer
service” person came by to ask why I was there. I considered
saying, eyes wide, “I’m not going to tell you!” But I suspect
this would have prompted a call to the Line Police Chief. So I
politely explained myself, and by golly, she diligently
scribbled down the information about my CD so as to “start the
should have tipped me off.
About ten minutes
later, Line Monitor---a rather plump, smiley woman who spoke
with some sort of Mesopotamian accent---returned.
“Sir, did you open
your-r-r CD in another-r-r state?”
“Another state? No. I
opened it in California. I live here.”
Away she went again. Did
I open my CD in another state? Yes, the state of incredulity,
after seeing the return of less than one percent. I watched Line
Monitor conferring with other perfumey bank ladies behind
bullet-proof plexiglass, and they periodically glanced nervously
in my direction. Really. I figured I would soon be on a “no fly”
After another ten or
fifteen minutes, I was told that I needed to see one of their
customer interface specialists, or personal banking intercourse
consultants, or whatever they call the young doofuses in bad
suits and three-day stubbles sitting in the little glass
offices. She added:
“I’m sorry, sir, but they
are all at lunch right now. Can you come back?”
“About 45 minutes.”
“No. I can’t come
back. You know, this is my CD. This is my money. I want to
close the CD. I want my money. There should be no problem, and
Away went Line Lady
again, and after a few minutes, I was directed to a regular
customer service window---a customary customer service window
(couldn't resist)---where a chirpy young woman stared with some
consternation into her computer screen for a couple minutes,
then went away to speak with some of the same perfumey ladies
that Line Monitor had spoken with, glancing up at me
suspiciously now and then. Finally returning to speak these
“Mr. Rense, did you open
this CD in another state?”
Nice how they all talk to
one another at Bank of America.
“No," I smiled. "As I’ve
already explained, I opened it in Los Angeles, which I think is
still in California. What is going on?”
“Was your CD originally
with another bank?”
“Oh. Yes, it was. That
bank went under, and was absorbed by BofA about two years ago.
My statements have since come from BofA.”
“And what was the name of
“Gee, I have no idea. I
That did it. I was
certifiable. Only an insane man would forget the name of his
bank that had gone under two years before, where his money was
no longer located. So Chirpy Clerky went away and chirped with
perfumey supervisors, and Line Lady, and then came back and
“You’ll have to speak
with one of our personal account representatives.”
The snake eats itself!
“Well, you know, I was
already told this. They’re all at lunch. I was waiting to speak
to one of them, but was instead told to speak to you. And
now you’re sending me back to where I started.”
And then she uttered what
has become the Great American All-Purpose Statement for Dealing
with People Who Need Help:
“I’m sorry, but I can’t
do anything more.”
As I’ve said in past
columns, I come from a time when Things Sort Of Worked. I am not
used to the 21st century. I don’t like it here. I like pens and
paper and books and handshakes and “Yes, sir, we’ll have this in
just a few moments for you.” Sigh. Gone with the wind. Gone with
the newspaper. Gone with the Beatles.
Line Lady again asked me
to come back “a little later,” but I stared into her nervous
eyes and said, “No, I'll wait.” She nodded and directed me to
the waiting area---a few cushy chairs parked in front of a
flat-screen TV showing some horrible infomercial. Which is
redundant. She might as well have pointed me toward a used cat
“No. I'll wait out
here,” I said, and proceeded to pace slowly back and forth,
back and forth, the length of the bank, as employees kept eyes
on me. I did this for 30 full minutes. Thirty minutes of my life
on earth. Thirty minutes when I might have been petting
kitty-cats, or writing soliloquies, or having my life put in
danger by women on cell phones in giant black SUV’s. At last
came the legendary “personal banking representative,” or
“financial interface team leader,” or “customer relations
support therapist,” back from lunch, but. . .
It turned out there were
two people ahead of me! Yes, two people who had already been
waiting in the carpeted, cushy-chaired, infomercialed Waiting
Purgatory! Waiting for their coveted audience with Personal Bank
Boy. I want you all to know that I did not take Line Lady over
my knee and spank her, for not telling me this. I just
continued. . .pacing.
By the time I was at long
last escorted in to see Personal Bank Boy and his three-day
stubble, I had waited about 70 minutes. And if you think that
PBB asked me if I had opened my CD in another state, you are
“I have explained over
and over that I opened the CD in California. Now what in hell is
the problem here, if you’ll forgive my language?”
The problem, it turned
out, was that the dead bank where I had opened the CD had. .
.opened the CD in another state. And BofA had no record of my
Well, what’s a little
life savings, anyway?
“But,” said PBB, “I’m
sure there will be no problem.” Really. He said that. I believe
this statement to be the most egregious, wildly false and
otherwise absurd assertion made today by any human anywhere
Anyhow, Stubble hunted
and pecked on his computer keyboard, and hemmed and hawed aloud,
and wrote many things on pieces of paper, and swiveled in his
chair, and sat and waited and stared at his screen, and wrote
more things on paper, and sat and waited and stared at his
screen, and said, “I apologize for the wait” with a straight
face, and after about fifteen more minutes. . .
Gave me a check.
It is not an
overstatement here to say that I am lucky that Bank of America
did not just lose the money outright. And that I walked out of
there without handcuffs.
LTSEWH # 2:
Old and In
This is a true story. I
realize that this implies that the other incidents related here
aren’t true (they are, and I have witnesses!), but this one is
so amazing that I feel compelled to underscore its veracity.
In Renseland, you can’t
even go to the bank. Right. You can’t even go to the bank to
make a routine little deposit without encountering some
downright operatically grotesque example of the puniest human
behavior, L.A. style.
I mean, I should have
learned a lesson from the preceding LTSEWH alone, and closed my
BofA account, but to be fair, the following was not the bank’s
fault. It was the fault of two people who fornicated perhaps 20,
25 years ago.
There I was. . .
In the parking lot,
walking toward the ATM machines at the rear of the bank. The
lot was full of cars, and there were a few people lined up at
the ATMs. It was high noon. Police interrogation sunlight. I was
wearing a sweatsuit and baseball cap so as to look like lousy
robbery material, because I am. Never occurred to me that this
also made me look like a robber, but then, most bank robbers
these days work behind the counter, and wear nice suits, and
have three-day stubbles.
Ahead, I spotted my old
friend, Franco, outside the bank. Italian guy, former
restaurateur. I looked to my right, and behind, as is my habit,
before stepping into the marked crosswalk leading from
the parking kiosk to the bank. No cars. I smiled at Franco,
waiting for him to see me. It would be good to chat, as he is a
very fine fellow. I took four steps into the marked
If I were a cat, I would
have sprung three feet into the air, claws extended, fur puffed
in all directions. Instead, I threw up my arms defensively,
wheeled around, fully expecting to be run over.
By a car rushing by in a blur
Now, let me refresh the
reader’s memory here:
I was in a marked
crosswalk in a bank parking lot. I had looked before
Allow me to refresh the
reader’s knowledge of traffic law:
Pedestrians have the
right-of-way, even if they are not in crosswalks. If they
are in crosswalks, they are as right as quadratic equations.
Ah, but I forget that I
am in the 21st century, a time overrun with snot-nosed overgrown
feral children trained by media and popular culture to believe
that they are stars of their own private movies, that they are
“winners” and certainly any old guy in a sweat suit has to be a
“loser.” That they are important and have urgent things to do at
all times and should not be delayed by old farts with white
beards who are on the way out.
The driver, in short, had
honked at me because I was in the way. Because I was not
moving quickly enough to satisfy his or her pleasure. And not
only had he or she honked at me, but he or she next whipped
around me so fast that my toes retracted.
But not so fast that I
didn’t react. Completely out of instinctive defense, much as one
might lash out ridiculously at a grizzly up on its hind legs, I
kicked. Now, I’ve been doing Tai Chi for years, and it seems
that my kicking muscles have evolved without my realizing it. Or
maybe it was just fear-triggered adrenalin. But I kicked, and to
my amazement put a healthy sized dent into the little car’s
side. A nice little car, shiny and expensive, the brand name of
which shall remain unnamed here.
And then I just stood
there, amazed, seething, waiting to see what the driver
would do. I didn't care. I mean, why had this happened? Why had
I been nearly run over, frightened, and forced into a defensive
act of violence, as I went innocuously about innocuous errands?
I didn’t give a rat’s ass whether the driver was Shaquille
O’Neal, or even more frightening, Ellen DeGeneres. It was safe
to say that my frame of mind was not conducive to picking
daisies. And out of the car emerged. . .
A princess. A
well-dressed, trim little female who could have been 20, could
have been 29, with tight slacks and requisite cleavage-revealing
sweater and little diamond necklace that glinted in the sun. She
was actually sputtering. You don’t often get to see people
sputter. And then came this shrill little yell:
“Why did you kick my
I swear. This is what she
In retrospect, I could
see how it had all shaped up. Princess was in a hurry to her
manicurist, or her pedicurist, or her young stud boyfriend for a
noon quickie, or to pick up a girlfriend for lunch at this
restaurant I read about, or just because she was important,
and this. . .this. . .old loser. . .had dared to walk in a
crosswalk and delay her as much as two---or even
three---seconds! So she had honked to get Loser out of her way,
and then had tried to blow by him, never mind that this was a
parking lot, and unseen pedestrians were walking between other
parked cars toward the bank. They were probably Losers, too.
I graciously answered her
“Because you nearly ran
me over, and honked at me to get out of your way!”
And this---oh, I know
you’ll never believe it, but I have to write it, anyhow---is
what she really, really, really said. And did I mention really?
“But I didn’t HIT you!”
I confess that at this
point, reason deserted me. I should have said, “I see. So if you
had hit me, and I was lying here with a compound fracture of
both legs, in a pool of blood, it would have been okay for me to
have kicked your car. Except I wouldn’t have been able to.”
But as I said, reason
deserted me, which is another way of saying that I got a wee bit
miffed. I began repeating an expression, rather loudly, which is
meant to convey this idea: “I hereby render you unimportant in
my life.” The marvelous thing about this expression is that it
conveys this idea in only two words! I repeated this four or
five times, as I walked away toward the ATM.
And folks, I swear to the
Devil, to whom this fine little American citizen is certainly
beholden, this was her exact response:
“At least somebody WANTS
LTSEWH # 3: Red
tales in the Sunset
Let me ask you something:
Does a red light mean
something I no longer understand? Does it perhaps mean, “Stop,
but only if you really have to?” Or “Slow down a little?” or
“Stopping is for chumps?”
I was cruising down
Sunset toward the San Diego Freeway around 7 p.m., doing about
35 around a curve, with a lot of other traffic. I suppose there
was a gap of perhaps four car lengths in front of me. Such a gap
is considered absolutely outrageous by most L.A. drivers, who
have no understanding of what it is like to be the eighth car in
a high-speed nine-car collision (as I once was.) You leave a gap
of two car lengths in L.A., and people rush in like cats
crowding a food dish, giving you a “What planet are you from?”
Now, follow this, please.
I approached a
T-intersection, where there is a traffic light. It was green for
me, red for the many cars stopped on my right. It never occurred
to me that someone might have disagreed with the judgment of the
A large, expensive car
shaped like a hunchbacked penis simply rolled through the
red light---from the center lane! Correct. There was a right
turn lane, and a center lane for turning left. When, that is,
the light was green. So the hunchbacked penis not only rolled
through the red light to make a right turn, but he did it from
the left turn lane---with the intention of turning directly in front of the car
on its right, legally and patiently waiting to make a right turn.
Just like they do in, oh,
I honked. I figured it
was either that, or land in the hospital for an indeterminate
amount of time. I prefer my hospital stays to be of fixed
length, due to pre-planned events, such as surgery. Speaking of
which, I would love to see the driver of the hunchbacked penis
subjected to castration and lobotomy. Which, more than likely,
would amount to the same thing.
He stopped. I veered
slightly to the left to avoid his jutting front end, and as sure
as right foot follows left and Oprah Winfrey follows chocolate
cake, he honked at me. I caught a glimpse of a cool dude
at the wheel, perhaps in his early 30’s. And then, of course, as
L.A. driving etiquette dictates, he finished his illegal turn in
front of other cars and roared by me, honking and giving me the
You know, when I was a
boy, I used to wonder, rather rhapsodically, what my life might
be like when I was all grown up, like my father, who was then in
What a fucking letdown.
LTSEWH # 4:
Valentine’s Day Massacre
He wanted ice cream cake,
he had a coupon, and he was mad. Why he was mad, I didn’t yet
know. In fact, I didn’t yet know that he wanted ice cream cake,
and had a coupon. All I knew was that he emerged from the Marble
Slab Creamery in Marina del Rey on Valentine’s Day afternoon, as
my wife and a family friend sat peacefully enjoying a couple of
scoops in cups.
The guy was about 35,
balding, burly, and dressed like most Americans. Jeans, stupid
T-shirt with stupid words on it, stupid baseball cap with stupid
words on it. And as I said, as with most Americans, he was
angry. But instead of translating the anger into ulcers or
airplanes into the sides of buildings, he exited the Marble Slab
Creamery and proceeded to, with the full force of his strength,
repeatedly slam the glass door into the frame---the wrong
way---until it jammed and stuck, locking the terrified employees
inside. Then he stomped away. You could almost hear the
adrenalin coursing through his hulking body.
“Hey, man, take it easy!”
yelled a guy at a nearby table, sitting with his wife and two
little girls. “I’ve got kids here!”
The hulk turned around
and bellowed out a “FUCK YOU” that was easily loud enough to
have been heard throughout the entire shopping center parking
lot. Annnnnnd, the affronted father---also in his
mid-30’s---decided not to take this sitting down. Testosterone
Vs. Testosterone, and all that. He rose, followed The Hulk a
short distance, then got in his face, about six inches away, and
spoke quietly. I could not hear his words, but somebody said
something like, “Just touch me. Go ahead.” Then somebody knocked
somebody’s dumbass baseball cap off, and The Hulk walked away
into the parking lot, followed by Young Dad---
And Young Mom!
Yes, Young Mom had simply
abandoned her two little girls, both cute as kittens, and had
run after her husband, yelling “YOU PRICK!” at The Hulk. She was
about six-feet-two, and very fit, so I figured The Hulk was in
I got up and walked over
to the girls, a very foolish act, and said:
“It’s okay, guys, don’t
worry. Your mom and dad will be right back. It’s just a crazy
guy, that’s all.”
The little kids stared
out toward the parking lot, confused, wide-eyed, and frightened.
I figured on being brought up on charges of attempted
kidnapping, or at least to be beaten up by Mom and Dad on return
for bothering their children. So I sat back down at our table
and kept an eye on the kiddies from a distance.
parents returned, the Marble Slab employees managed to get
their door opened, and a security guard said he was going to
follow up on The Hulk, as he had left behind a Hulk phone number
with a Slab employee.
The problem? Seems The
Hulk had a coupon for a discount ice cream cake. Seems the photo
of the ice cream cake on the coupon did not match the one they
tried to sell him in the store. So he had gone berserk.
I advised my companions
that we should leave, in case The Hulk came back with a gun, to
wipe out all in the vicinity.
This is how you have to
think in modern America on Valentine’s Day.
For more LTSEWH’s,
watch this space.
"Some of you have asked why I continue to write the Less Than
Encounters With Humanity column after so many years. "
Screw 'em. This is my favorite comic-relief feature on Internet,
print, or in any other outlet of human expression. I haven't
lived in Los
Angeles for years and apparently I still need the therapy.
When I type 'riprense.com' into my Internet-browser's URL window
I always hope
to see that unique acronym and am somewhat disappointed to see
classical music references which I, alas, do not comprehend.
My dear man,
You have won yourself a new fan.
I've seen your comments on Facebook, but having read your column
nearly spit out my morning coffee several times, I have become a
Thank you for your observations, keen and biting wit, and pithy
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