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by RIP RENSE

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LTSEWH. . .
(Dec. 15, 2004)

      Call them Less Than Satisfying Encounters with Humanity, or LTSEWH for, uh, short. Names have been included when possible and appropriate in the full interests of humiliation.
        LTSEWH # 1: STUPID PET TRICK
        I looked up the number of "Katy's Pet Depot" in the phone book, because: I do not like to be charged by "directory assistance;" do not like listening to their recordings ("what city and state?") which are obviously delivered by someone receiving regular Prozac enemas; and do not like being given incorrect numbers, even though I enjoy meeting new people.
        So I looked under "K."
        That was my first mistake. No listing! Yes, dear readers, "Katy's Pet Depot" does exist. I know this because I stop there several times a week on afternoon constitutionals to entertain the various cats up for adoption, and exchange ribald stories with the parakeets.
        So I switched to the the Yellow Pages, and there, for reasons best known to science and Homeland Security, it was: "Katy's Pet Depot." I phoned.
        "Barbara's Pet Depot," said a male voice.
        "Uh. . .Barbara's Pet Depot? I thought this was   Katy's Pet Depot."
       I had immediate visions of wild competition among Pet Depots everywhere, with turf wars and discount chihuahuas. Maybe Barbara had elbowed Katy out. Catfight!
       There followed friendly and protracted explanation by the unnamed male of how Barbara and Katy used to have the same Pet Depot, or something, and that shared the same number, or something, but now they've split, or something, and Katy is still listed as Barbara, or something, and they used to be Siamese twins and had the same barber and enjoyed reruns of  "I Love Lucy". . .
        Or something.
        "Would you like the number for Katy's Pet Depot?" said the friendly male voice, at last.
        "Oh, sure, please," I said. "I was just beginning to doubt such a thing possible."
        He gave it to me. I wrote it down. Then he spoke again:
        "By the way, Katy's Pet Depot is now Casey's Pet Depot. Katy just sold it."
        LTSEWH #2: DRIVEN CRAZY
        I woke up exhausted after a night of some of the worst dreams of my life. I mean, they wouldn't put this stuff in Freddy Krueger movies. My liver must have really been duking it out with my spleen, or something. Never eat peanut butter before sleeping.
        So I decided to forego my semi-daily vigorous six-mile stomp, which is just a glorified excuse to have a transportingly delicious iced green tea in Westwood. I couldn't forego the tea, though, so I got in the car.
        Now, understand that Westwood is about two miles from my home. When I walk, it takes me twenty to twenty-five minutes, depending on how friendly the traffic lights are. Driving takes five.
        Or it should.
        Without boring out-of-towners with the particulars of my route, suffice to say that the main artery (Wilshire) was clogged, so I ducked down to a lesser vein (illegally traversing the Veterans Administration Hospital grounds in the process), which was also clogged with vehicular plaque. I ducked down to yet a third vena traffica, only to find. . .another dead duck.
        I swore, which triggered a series of chemical secretions that microscopically increased clogging in my own arteries.
        Now, anyone in his or her right mind would have simply given up and gone home. Anyone who regularly reads this column knows that I continued on.
        Like a panicked rat in a maze, I tried an end-run around the choked left-turn lane of  Third Coagulated Artery---intending a U-turn farther south, then a right (you know that game)---but that didn't work, so I laboriously right-turned my way back to the choked left turn lane, tragically assuming my spot, tenth in a line of ten. I sat through no more than three lights to complete the turn.
        All told, turning left at this intersection had taken  ten minutes.
        At long, absurd, miserable, putrified last I reached a street that would take me straight to my coveted, glorious green tea, and with a thrill to rival Columbus's when he spotted Puerto Rico, or whatever it was, I saw Westwood dead ahead. Dead being the operative term here.
         Right lanes were gummed up with cars stuck behind parallel parkers, and every crosswalk was full of sauntering lunchtime humanity, making right turns as accessible as Howard Hughes. There was no "right away" in rightaway.
        By the time I reached Westwood, paid $2.50 to park, it had taken me 35 minutes to travel two miles.
        Had I been walking, I'd have beaten myself there.
        Beat myself? Might as well.
        LTSEWH # 2: TEAD OFF
        Understand that the following is not the worst thing that has ever happened to me. That would have been when I was accepted into journalism school.
        There I was, in Westwood, ordering my long-anticipated green tea, which is always a "half-and-half" (half sweet, half plain) with boba (tapioca "pearls") and a touch of soy milk. (It ain't bad, folks!) They know me very well in this place, and my order.
        "The usual?" said the chipper UCLA coed behind the counter.
        "Oh, you remember? Yes, please."
        I mulled repeating the order to Chipper, just to be safe, but I wanted her to have the satisfaction of remembering "the usual," as she was obviously taking pride in her work.
        "Half and half, right?" she said.
        "Right! Good memory."
        Well. . .Um. . .But she didn't add the other parts of the "usual." So just to be safe, I figured I'd better remind her.
        "And with just a little soy milk, please."
        "Oh! You want soy milk, too?"
        Ah, she had forgotten. Good thing I mentioned it. Soy milk takes the edge off the tea, you see---very crucial. Well, I figured I might as well go whole-hog:
        "Right. It's a half-and-half, just as you remembered, but also with a touch of soy milk, and a little boba?"
        "Oh! You want boba, too?"
        Ah, she'd forgotten that, too. No problem. Good thing I'd mentioned it. A moment later. . .
        "Here you are, sir!"
        I took my prized, coveted, 35-minutes-in-the- goddamn-car-sweated-over transportingly delicious green tea with soymilk and boba out the door, took a sip, and. . .
        All plain. No sweet. She'd added the soy milk and boba as prompted, but had forgotten the half-and-half part---the one bit of info she had remembered in the first place.
        At least she was chipper.
        LTSEWH # 4: LIGHT COMMENT
        I was in a rare benign frame of mind, intending harm toward no bird, bee, flower, or even human. Just strolling along near the Santa Monica Pier one late and splendid afternoon.
       The sun was playing reflection games with the ocean, sand and sky; the delicious sea-spray-infused air luminscent with golden sparkly stuff. Sea gulls floated beatifically on lazy updrafts, funky old beachside apartment buildings sat easily, comfortably, baring not the least hint that their rents were affordable mostly to lawyers and citizens of Brunei. The sounds of the day were like music, a light impressionism made of a chirping child chasing pigeons, a burst of laughter from a nearby bar, hints of oom-pahs from a distant merry-go-round, the grindy whoosh of a skateboard, the sounds you assign to people too far away to hear.
        I felt nothing if not relief to be, at the moment, freed from constant displays of viciousness, stupidity, misunderstanding, mayhem, jealousy, avarice. Which is to say, televison.
        And then. . .
        "Excuse me! Do you have a light?"
        She was young---twenties? thirties?---seated on a low brick wall about twenty yards away. The sun was behind her, so I couldn't make out detail, but she appeared to be nicely turned out: slacks, P-coat, medium length auburn hair. I think she was smiling.
Did I have a light? Hmm. Well, yes, I did. We all did! I considered pointing to the sun, saying "We all have light. We are light. Let there be light!" But I didn't want to frighten her, so I smiled, shook my head, and continued walking.
        And then. . .
        "You're f---ing disgusting! Is that the way you f---ing talk to people who ask you for a f---ing LIGHT?"
        Uh. . .huh?
        "You f---ing ASSHOLE!"
        Sigh.
        Oh, yes, I got it. I should have known. How could I have been so nave? Advance word had been given out prior to my appearance: Rense is coming, and he's in a good mood--- take immediate action. Right. Good thing, too, or I might have been so badly deluded by the serenity of the day that it could have warped my outlook, long-term, driving me even to feel charity toward humans.
        Well, I am not one to let comments slide without response. It's only polite, after all. I could have addressed the creature thusly: "What manner of deranged, grunting, slavering troglodyte are you?" or "Long line at the methadone window?" or just "Menstruating?" But I settled for my first impulse, still colored by the delicacy of the afternoon:
        "I'm sorry for you."
        And, actually, I was.
        LTSEWH # 5: CHA-CHA CHANGE
        I needed change for a parking meter. I walked to the order window of a place called "Cha-Cha Chicken" in Santa Monica. You can guess what happened next.
        "Hi," I said. "I just need change for a buck for the parking meter. Can you help me out?"
        The fellow on the other side of the window looked at me with big eyes and said in English not quite too broken to understand that I needed to "buy something" in order to get change.
        Sigh.
        "But I'm not hungry," I smiled. "I don't want any 'Cha-Cha Chicken.' I don't even know how to dance."
        The big eyes began to look uneasy. Perhaps my English was too unbroken for him.
        "Look, I shouldn't have to buy something. That's wrong. You shouldn't do that to people. It's bad public relations."
        He looked at another guy standing near him, and now four big eyes stared back at me nervously.
        "It's inhospitable of you," I said evenly. "It is not in the interests of promoting peace on earth, good will towards men."
        I then realized that Guy No. 2 was carefully reaching for something out of view. I suspected that it was not a leg, wing, or breast.
        Yes, that's correct, he had concluded that I might be a robber. They hadn't the faintest idea what I was talking about, or why I stood there, continuing to yap away.
        I turned chicken and cha-cha'ed away.
        LTSEWH # 6: CELLED OUT
        He was fat, he was middle-aged, he had a cell phone, he was in a movie theater. Bad combination!
It was just before the show.
        "I'M HERE AT THE MOVIE THEATER. YEAH. I'M SITTING IN THE THEATER RIGHT NOW. THE SHOW'S STARTING IN A FEW MINUTES. I DON'T KNOW. . .YEAH, YOU COULD DO THAT. . .I'M AT THE THEATER."
        He was as audible as those deafening THX sound trailers. The audience was listening. He continued carrying on about the particulars of his current location.
        I couldn't help myself. I had been dozing a little, elbow on arm of the chair, face propped up on hand. I did not change position.
        "I'M SO GLAD!" I boomed. "THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. IF YOU HAD NOT ANNOUNCED IT LOUDLY ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE IN THE THEATER TO HEAR, I WOULD NEVER HAVE GUESSED YOU WERE JUST A FEW FEET AWAY. IT'S QUITE A RELIEF TO KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. PLEASE ANNOUNCE MORE ABOUT YOURSELF VERY SOON. THANK YOU."
        He said nothing. What a blessing.
        For more LTSEWH's, watch this space.

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