by RIP RENSE
LTSEWH (yet again!)
Mar. 10, 2010
the nearly year-long drought in Less Than Satisfying
Encounter With Humanity columns, and because of the popularity
of the past two weeks’ worth, and because I just can’t get
interested in writing about any of the cripplingly stupid,
inane, futile “issues of the day,” hey, kids, here’s yet
another. . .
Oh, but before I proceed,
let me note that although people continue to send e-mail
praising the columns, no one bothers to buy the goddamn
LTSEWH book, which is discounted to
the point where I enough money on each sale to buy a nice can of
organic kidney beans. Ingrates! Freeloaders! Hypocrites! You’re
all a bunch of LTSEWH’s!
Okay, I feel better.
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: Whole
Why call it “Whole
Foods,” really? Why not just call it “Half-Wits?” That would be
closer to truth in advertising.
There I was. . .
In the Whole Foods men’s
Barrington and National. I appreciate the market having a
men’s room, as it is axiomatic that any time I have to shop for
anything, it is just a matter of minutes before I have to
depressurize the bladder. Been this way most of my life. It’s
the only thing I don’t miss about
But the Whole Foods
men’s room invariably is wholly unpleasant. Sticky,
urine-blotted, crumpled paper towels on the floor, and a stench
that you don’t generally want to associate with food, whole or
partial. I’ve noticed this for years, but at last decided to
mention it to a Whole Foodie. So I did.
realize this might not be a very pleasant matter, but I’d
appreciate if you’d hear me out,” I said to a young woman with a
pleasant expression that quickly turned to discomfort at my
statement. I could read her mind. Uh-oh. . .what kind of
freak is this?
I explained the situation
clearly, and suggested that the state of the bathroom could
reflect on the general state of cleanliness in the market. She
thanked me very politely, and said she would take it up with
management right away.
I would have felt some
vague sense of satisfaction were it not for the fact that the
problem should never have existed in the first place.
Two days later, I
visited the same Whole Foods, and sure enough, after
plopping about eight cans of organic cat food (did you know that
flavors” in most foods is MSG in some form or other?) into a
basket, I had to. . .go. Never fails. Opened the door to the
Whole Bathroom, and found it. . .stuffy, smelly, and the floor
blotted with urine. Sigh. Well, I expected that.
Just didn’t expect to see
a Whole Foods clerk come in, use the urinal, zip up, and go back
out into the store. Minus that little inconvenient post-pee
sidetrip to sink and soap. Good, good, I thought to myself, and
mentally thanked him because it reminded me to get more Veggie
LTSEWH # 2: Whole
Fools, part two
I was wretchedly
unloading my dozen or so items at the checkout stand next to the
one where the checker---or “tabulation specialist,” or “checkout
therapist,” or “grocery engineer”---had just sneezed three
times. I had bananas, eggs, oat milk, carrots, and the
aforementioned eight cans of cat food.
“Will this be ‘to go?’”
said the checker, a perfectly nice looking young woman of
perhaps 28. Now, I long ago gave up reacting to the absurdity of
being asked if my groceries were “to go,” as I realize the Whole
Foods employees are required to ask this. If you answer, “no,”
then you are taxed more. I can’t imagine anyone ever answering
“no,” of course, which---you’re way ahead of me---renders the
question moot, but you know, why bother to fathom such idiocy?
So I always just say
“yes,” and have done with it. Except on this day. For some
reason, my inner smartass (really not very inner) got the better
of me. I mean, I was unloading cat food when she asked
“No,” I said. “I’m
going to eat all the cat food here.”
who probably has to put up with smartass reactions to the
question all day, was ready with her perky little passive-aggressive schtick.
“Well, then, I’m going to
have to tax you more. Is that all right?”
“Oh, sure,” I said,
returning her “aren't I being cute?” smile.
I proceeded to peer over
my glasses like some old grandfather in order to enter my PIN
number for a card purchase.
“Would you care to make a
donation to. . .”
I didn’t hear the
organization. Maybe it was Chile relief, maybe it was spaying
and neutering television "news reporters." I didn’t care.
“No,” I said. “I need
someone to donate to me.”
(Can’t keep that smartass
“Well, I’m charging you
$1.75 extra in tax, seeing as this is not ‘to go,’” she said,
smiling. “Is that all right?”
“Oh, sure, take as
much as you like,” I said, praying to every god I could
readily bring to mind that this “playful exchange” would stop
before Obama’s term is up.
No such luck.
“Well,” she chirped, “I
thought you needed donations!”
Krishna, Jesus, Mohammad,
Shiva, Manitou all failed me.
“I’ll tell you, dear, I
just don’t care anymore. Tax me all you want.”
I showed her my teeth.
What a snappy customer/employee pair we were, with all our
mutual kidding and repartee! And then---I don’t know what got
into me---I opened myself up for even more intense exposure to
the kind of human exchange that does to my spirit what the pods
did to human bodies in “Invasion
of the Body Snatchers.”
“There’s something I want
to mention, and I hope you don’t mind. But one of your clerks
just visited the men’s room when I was in there, and when he
finished zipping up, he just went back to work. Maybe you can
see to it that employees are encouraged to wash their hands.”
“Well,” she said,
grimacing a little, “You should tell our customer service
people, and they’ll want to know.”
I smiled, though my smile
“I really don’t want to
be bothered to do that. That's why I’m telling you, you
see, in order that you might want to let your manager know.”
She then asked which
clerk was the offender, but I really didn’t want to say. The clerk did not look the type to take such things
lightly. Had about a 22-inch neck.
“I think he went outside
to work on stock,” I said, and left it at that.
“You see the man in the
white shirt and glasses? He’s our customer service person. You
should tell him.”
Path of least
resistance finally overruled smartass, and I said,
“Okay,” and just left the store.
I was so proud of myself
for not saying, “How goddamn hard is it for you to tell the
goddamn customer service person yourself, you goddamn pinhead!
Aren't you here to serve goddamn customers?”
It wasn’t until long
after I had thrown out my receipt that it suddenly hit me that
she probably hadn’t been kidding about charging me that extra
$1.75 tax because I said I was going to eat my cat food at the
LTSEWH # 3:
I use the exercise and
weight machines at the YMCA in vain hopes of getting “into
shape” again before I die. This has so far translated into a
back injury and knee injury that now just about prevent me from
being able to use the exercise and weight machines at the YMCA
in vain hopes of getting into shape before I die.
The snake eats itself!
Nevertheless, there I
was. . .
In the weight room,
gamely, valiantly, almost heroically doing reps on various
machines. It was mid-afternoon, the room was almost empty, and
the air conditioning was, as usual, turned up to full-blast by
delicate women who are terrified of sweating. Ensuring that all
muscles and ligaments freeze up and border on tearing and
pulling at all times.
I moved to the “sit
up” machine, kicked the weight up to 120, and proceeded to
do my three or four sets of ten or twelve, depending on my
energy level. About ten or fifteen seconds' rest between sets.
While doing the first set, I became aware of a presence in my
periphery, close by. A humanoid form, standing, facing me,
perhaps three feet away. I didn’t think anything of it, at
first, but when I finished my first set and paused, the form
commanded my attention.
“Can I cut in?”
I looked up, startled. It
was a hulking red-headed guy about 60, red-faced, glasses, with
an unfriendly look on his face.
Cut in? Huh? I’d
just sat down at the thing. I looked at him, perplexed, then
went back to my second set of reps. Or not quite.
“Can I cut in?” he said
Can I cut in? Can I
cut in? Was this a dance? I looked at the guy again.
Impolite, aggressive, too close to me for comfort, vaguely
threatening. Had he said,
“Pardon me, sir, but can I share the machine and alternate reps
with you,” I would have responded, “Well, I’m just taking about
a ten second break between my reps, and will be finished here in
three or four minutes.” But this did not happen.
I shook my head.
And I went back to my
second set of reps. Or not quite.
“You HAVE to let me cut
in! It’s the rule!”
Folks, I know what you
are thinking. How does this stuff always happen to Rense? He
must make these things up. The man is a human jackass magnet.
At this point, I shifted
into a mode I am not proud of, but one which I find necessary on
occasion, for reasons of self-defense. The guy was sort of
looming, see. He was, to use the parlance of modern athletics,
“in my face.” He would not take “no” for an answer. The entire
goddamn weight room was empty except for two other people. Empty
machines beckoned, their metallic arms extended, calling. But
Bozo had to use the machine I was on, at that moment in cosmic
time, in all the universe.
There are times when one
is left with no recourse but to rear up on hind legs, bare
teeth, and growl.
“Fuck you!” I
said. “Get the fuck away from me!”
All in all, I thought,
Redboy turned even
redder, and the whites showed all around his eyes. He was
colorful, I'll give him that.
“You have to let me in! It’s
the rule!” he screamed, and then lunged at me, putting his face
about a foot from mine, invoking a word that would be considered
especially inappropriate by the Young Man’s Christian
Fine, I thought.
Jackass looked about 25 pounds overweight. If I was lucky, I
figured, he would drop dead of a heart attack, and I could
finish my reps. But no.
“YOU HAVE TO LET ME IN!
IT’S THE RULE! I’M GOING TO REPORT YOU!”
My best defense for
incredible anecdotes like this is that. . .I could not make this
stuff up. It’s just too ridiculous to be believable.
Anyhow, Blood Pressure
left to go tell his mommy, and I finished my reps, doing a
couple extra sets because I was, by then, absolutely deranged
Hmm. Maybe he was
actually a motivational trainer.
LTSEWH # 4: Stop
No LTSEWH column would be
complete without a traffic anecdote. Every time you go out in
this city, even a couple of short blocks, you are subjected to
enormous danger and near collisions. That’s a given. This
generally has to do with sloppiness, stupidity, people in a
hurry, people on cell phones, people having sex while they are
But not usually with
sheer, slavering madness.
There I was. . .
Stopped at a four-way
stop sign. I rolled to the stop, I stopped, I looked left, I
looked right. There was no traffic. I learned how to do this in
Just at that split
second, a car pulled up on my right at high speed, and stopped.
As the car stopped, I was proceeding into the intersection. In
other words, although I am old, gray, irrelevant, useless, I was
making an effort to fit into society by driving normally. Not
even Stevie Wonder would have questioned that I was at the
intersection several seconds before the car on my right arrived
and stopped, and that I moved into the intersection with full
legal, ethical, moral, Biblical rights.
It was, as people are
wont to say, a “no-brainer.” An expression of delightful double
The guy who had pulled
up on my right, who had seen me stopped there well before he
had stopped, who had seen me begin to pull into the intersection
as per my Constitutional rights, did not compute all this
information to mean that he should wait until I crossed the
intersection. He just whipped out, making a left turn right in
front of me---deliberately---seeking to make me slam on
the brakes and get out of his way.
I promise you---promise
you, readers---that I was not, repeat not, being pokey. There
had been no “who’s going first” eye contact. No hesitation on my
part. No false start on his, then a false start on mine. None of
that. I had simply pulled up, stopped, looked right and left,
and proceeded as per what was clearly my turn---by a good two
Jackass burned rubber in
front of me and my impotently honking horn, glaring, and sped
down the block no faster than a cat with a can tied on its tail.
(Terrible thing to do.)
I tell you, it just
ruined my day. I mean it. Why can you no longer leave your house
without being subjected to such brutish affronts, if not
outright attacks, by wild beasts passing themselves off as
civilized humans? Why?
LTSEWH # 5: Sidewalkswipe
The sidewalk was as wide
and spacious as the inside of Sarah Palin’s head, as empty as
Larry King’s testicles.
It was the kind of
morning that might have made Gordon MacRae burst into song, the
kind of morning that flower and birds conspire to make into a
thing of such delicacy, such lyricism, as to make one weep. And
in a touch of absolute blissfulness, there was no traffic.
I was out for a walk.
Jazz up the metabolism so I could go home and sit at the
computer for three or four hours and work on artherosclerosis. I
swung my arms, I lengthened my stride, I encouraged the beads of
sweat on my head to join forces and soak the silly baseball cap
on my head that reads, “Persevering Through Relentless
Which was exactly what I
was about to do.
He appeared up ahead,
about fifty yards, in a sort of pink-and-red sweat ensemble.
Not a sweat suit, a sweat ensemble. Easily cost $150. He
was stocky the way old guys get, and his 65-ish-to-70-ish
physique was in good shape. He was obviously a denizen of this
upscale north-of-Wilshire neighborhood (I live south of
Wilshire, with the
And wow, was he proud of
himself. Huffing, puffing, swinging those arms, standing utterly
ramrod straight, silver hair combed back in better waves than
ever break at Santa Monica, and yes, showing his teeth. Right, I
don’t know, either. He was just that, oh, effervescent, I guess.
Naturally, I moved to the
right side of the sidewalk. I do this out of archaic and stupid
reflexes involving courtesy.
Naturally, he did not
move to the left.
I was the weak one, you
see. I had deferred to him. What’s more, I was not walking
ramrod-straight, or showing my teeth. I seldom feel
effervescent, you see. This happens when you spend your life
doing superb work and making exactly no money for it, and
constantly run into pompous jokers in pink sweatsuits living in
You know what’s
coming. One of his big, vigorously swinging
oh-what-a-beautiful-morning arms hit me in the shoulder and
upper arm as he passed.
Couldn’t be bothered to move to one side of the sidewalk, you
I considered my options:
“Excuse me, sir, why
didn’t you move to one side?”
Nah. He’d just laugh.
“Nice pink sweatsuit,
Definitely not. Might be
So I just kept walking.
The flowers suddenly
didn’t look so great.
For more LTSEWH's, watch
this space---or buy the damn book!
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