Job, My Stupid

My Incompetence is Vast and Encompassing

Part of my job is doing software and applications testing. You may have noticed how I sling complicated computer jargon around with terrifying efficiency. Now of course I don’t know a damn thing about computers, or programming, or “environments,” or “anything,” which is, sadly, kind of the point. Since I work with people who, against all reason, actually know even less than I do about these things, I get to be the liaison between the compserv staff and the other pasteheads in my department. That’s a grand thing to realize: my office is full of fumbling morons, and I am their leader. I’m the Alpha Moron.

Anyway, since compserv is staffed by cruel, vicious Torquemadas, they immediately implemented a sweeping plan to break my spirit, which I must say was incredibly effective. The first thing they did was take away my PC.

WHAT? I need that! “No you don’t,” they cooed. “You can use this.” “This” is a fucking plastic do-funny that looks like a big Chiclet. It has one malevolent green eye next to a single power button. It says “Wyse Winterm.” I dolefully surveyed this . . . toy . . . while the compserv staff dumped my old PC into the garbage, which they then set ablaze. They stood around, warming themselves, while cracking open bottles of malt liquor.

“We got tired of dealing with you retards,” said one of them laconically. “So we’re not going to any more. That little guy connects you to a single server that runs all of your applications on something called Citrix.”

“Wha . . . I have no idea what you’re talking about. How does it work?”

“Basically, it means that we can just dump all the shit that used to live in your PC onto the server, and that’s that. Any changes or fixes are now done centrally on the server. And you access them all there as well.”

“Oh. Does that work all right?”

“Oh, no, it’s terrible. Christ, it’s a fucking debacle. For you, anyway.”


“Some of these apps were built in-house, some were contracted out years ago, and frankly, there’s some we don’t even know how they run or what they do. Anyway, they all work terribly on Citrix from a user standpoint. Oh, and by the way, your monitor resolution is going to suffer a bit.”

“How much is ‘a bit’?”

“A lot.”

“Oh. Uh . . . why are you doing this to me?”

“We hate you and don’t want to see your ratlike faces any more. That’s actually how Citrix markets their product: TORTURE PARASITIC END USERS WITH CITRIX! So now we can sit around and drink beer and still get paid! Haw! Isn’t that a crotch-twister? Anyway, get cracking. You’re going to have to explain to your co-workers how miserable their lives are going to become!”

“I, uh, see. Okay. Listen . . . is there like . . . instructions . . . or a tutorial or anything? Don’t leave me totally ass-out here. Please?”

“Ooooh, of course. We wouldn’t leave you dry like that.” There were broad smiles all around. My old PC emitted noxious fumes as it burned. One of them leaned in close and leered. “There’s a tutorial. Just access it through the server.”

Fashion Victim

A Game of Jeopardy in Which the Category is My Unfortunate Life

A: All day.

Q: How long did I wear my sweater backwards at work today?

A: “Hey, I think your sweater is on backwards.”

Q: What was not said to me to inform me of this?

A: “Wow, your neck is all chafed!”

Q: What was actually said to me to alert me of this?

A: “Jesus fucking Christ.”

Q: What was my response to this realization?

A: My boss.

Q: Who was the person who heard me say this?

A: The head of the company.

Q: Who did my boss immediately tell of this incident to, while laughing loudly?

A: This guy right here.

Q: Who’s classier than a solid gold toilet seat?


The Icy Hand of Death Hogs the Remote

There is an advertisement on TV that has quickly vaulted onto my list of Things That Make Me Want To Set My Face On Fire. Perhaps you’ve seen it, which would explain the extensive facial scarring.

The scene opens up with a normal schlub sitting at his computer. Behind him stalks his clearly pregnant wife. She has the kind of face that suggests she has thus far spent her life spreading malice and despair; perhaps as a telemarketer or an angry Tiki god. It’s hard to say. The guy wears a faintly haunted look that suggests the early stages of Stockholm Syndrome. Anyway, he’s kind of dicking with his computer, tapping at it with the desultory air that men have at the keyboard when they know they won’t be looking at pornography.

Then you hear a sound like old bones being gnawed by hungry ghouls. Oh, right, it’s the wife speaking. “You know, starting a family means getting a new car,” she hisses in a nice wifely way. It does? Never mind, you poor shithead! Run! Run while she’s heavy with your unfortunate child! Start a new life as a lemur wrangler in Madagascar! Anything! Don’t doom yourself to this!

“Right,” he sighs, tapping away. Oh well. A weary voice-over is mumbling some baffling, meaningless horseshit, but you pay no attention, because of the vast horror of the scene unfolding.

She looks at the screen. “A sports car?” Her voice is loaded with poison. He hangs his head, and you hear his spine creak. It’s like watching someone slowly being eviscerated. He fearfully clacks some more with his desperate fingers. The sad droning of the voice-over slouches into audibility again, drops off its hopeless freight of by-now irrelevant information, and recedes.

“A sedan?” She’s all but filing her teeth now, and there’s a screaming voice in your head. “A SEDAN IS FINE! A SEDAN IS FINE!” No, nothing is fine in this world. She speaks again, and somewhere birds fall dead. “We’re talking . . . family.” This last word spoken in a tone suggesting dark, religious overtones of a uniquely Faustian variety. Even the boneless schlub can’t quite process this turn of events, and mounts a defense not unlike that of the Cincinnati Bengals. You want to cheer weakly when he turns in his chair to confront her, but it’s too cruel to entertain hope now. You sit morosely, vaguely wondering why life is so terrible. But he has apparently picked up your madly broadcasting alpha wave message, because he despairingly reasons your very thoughts: “It’s a sedan.” Her implacable response comes like the distant croon of a lonely wraith. “It’s too smaaa-aaalll.”

“What . . . kind of family are we talking about?” he quavers, because now, like you, he is flailing around in a mind-shattering welter of panic and dread. What the fuck is going on? Marat/Sade is starting to look like a merry episode of Three’s Company compared to this.

She grins with a mouthful of angry little teeth. She pulls something from an envelope, and you feel the temperature drop ten degrees; your blood is jellied mercury. She holds up a false-color sonogram showing . . . three babies. Three tiny incubating souls waiting to erupt into this dismal world, where horrors happen every day, horrors like this fucking commercial; and they will probably grow up to produce commercials like this; and they will cackle with mad laughter.

The man is now, you see, utterly pithed by this image. All lucidity sluices from him like so much cold water, and you see him give over into pure, gibbering surrender. On a fundamental level, he is no longer alive; he is now simply her automaton, to be maneuvered as thoughtlessly as a mannequin. He grins jerkily, and tries horribly to emulate human behavior. He clacks lifelessly at the keys. “A minivan,” he jabbers in a stale voice. The beaten voice-over once more drifts into cognizance, and you manage to hear the perpetrators of this death-carnival. “,” intones the voice, which, you can tell now, was recorded in a dank basement with no light and no hope of escape.

It’s over. The commercial is over. And so are we all. These are the end times, and you can thank

Triple Word Score

Barely Connected Thoughts That Utterly Fail to Hang Together

I was sitting around rehearsal tonight watching a scene in which a husband and a wife are playing a round of golf together. At one point, the husband walks onto the “green” where his wife is waiting for him, sees his ball, and comments, “Christ, what a lousy lie.” Except that tonight he sauntered onstage and said, “Christ, what a lousy lay.” And we all had to breathe into paper sacks for a while.

Lousy lays aside, golf is an eminently sensible sport. Really. I’ve only played about five times in my life, and I never intend to again, but I stand by my statement. Sensible; sensible and utterly right. There’s only one other real sport I can think of that is as sensible and right as golf, and that is of course bowling. I submit to you that bowling and golf are the finest of sports, far and away, based on one thing. On-site booze.

On-site booze for the players! That’s outstanding! Right-thinking and just! Did you just slice a drive off the fairway? Fuck it! Have a beer! Gutter ball the winning frame? Ehhhhh! Finish your manhattan! Alligators mauled your caddy? Wildly drive the little cart around in circles while whooping “I need a bottle of Absolut and a new caddy, stat!” And so forth.

Why haven’t other sports picked up on this important nuance? I cannot think of a sport that would not be improved by fueling up the players, particularly stock-car racing. Everyone wants to see the crashes anyway. This way, there would be nothing but crashes. Everybody wins! Well, except the drivers, but fuck those crackers. This is America! If the populace wants booze-powered human fireballs, then that’s what they’ll get.


Now the World is Just A Little More Boring

Well, after a long decline and a stint in the nursing home, my grandmother passed away this weekend. It was, to employ a cliche, not at all a surprise, and a bit of a relief, as a few strokes and Parkinson’s had exacted their toll, not to mention her heroic battle with the marauding timberwolves.

As you might expect, she got a bit wacky towards the end, but she was a tough old broad. The last time I saw her, she had her moments of being with it, such as when Mom served her a thin, awful-looking cup of coffee, and she insisted on it “Hot and strong. Like my men.” A naughty gleam in her eyes. Meanwhile at night she would get a little wonky and complain about odd events involving “tiny men.” She claimed they were sneaking in and stealing her clothes. We would ask her who they were. “Mexicans. Tiny Mexicans. They wear stripes.” It is this attention to sartorial detail that set her delusions apart from boring, mundane hallucinations. Fuck you, Woodstock Nation! My grandma sees striped Mexican midgets bent on fashion larceny!

She certainly made life interesting as a child. I would spend my summers in LA with her and my grandfather, both of them Estonian immigrants who fled Europe when the USSR annexed the Baltics. Unsurprisingly, they utterly loathed all Russians, and filled my young skull with long, lurid denunciations of the hated oppressors. Also being from the Old World, she had a compendium of folk superstitions that she good-heartedly terrified and warped me with. Here’s a few of the howlers that she told me as a kid. There’s no way I’m going to tell you how long I held some of these nuggets as gospel.

  1. Whistling inside the house is evil and invites bad luck. Ooookay.
  2. If you sleep with your underwear on, you will cut off your blood supply to your legs (and, it did not need hinting at, other things). For a long time I slept naked, rubbing my ostensibly oxygen-starved legs before I dozed off to improve circulation.
  3. If you do the (admittedly disgusting) trick of snorting the snot back up your nose and then swallowing it, it will just sit in your stomach, forever. This one was a real peach, as I was haunted by the image of an ageless, indestructible wad of goo forever sloshing around poisonously in my gut.

And on and on. But like many immigrants, certain aspects of American life she took to with an erratic, half-assed glee. One year, when she was about sixty, I guess, she announced she wanted a new car, and bang, out the door she went. Everyone waited for her to return with the Oldsmobile, the Caddy, you know. You can see where this is going. She rolled up in a cherry-red Camaro muscle car, with her tiny homonculus fists clutching the steering wheel and her gleaming eyes staring squarely at the dashboard. She was a fucking terror in that thing, too, because she couldn’t drive at all. She had a carefree, sphincter-loosening way of conversing with you as she drove down the freeway, nearly facing you full on, leaving in her wake blood-curdling oaths, vows of vengeance, and smoking, twisted piles of metal and blackening human flesh. I was in the car with her once in a parking lot and she drove over one of those little concrete abutments for your tires; we were doing about thirty. After I climbed out of the glove box, I noticed that she hadn’t stopped, and was looking at me with high humor. “This car,” she said in her great accent, “has very good suspension.”

And one final memory–or story, rather–that I take with me and put into that place reserved for things that you’re never, ever allowed to forget. Near the end, Emmy (that’s what I called her, and lay off)–who was multilingual–started babbling everything in Estonian, which meant that only her husband and my dad could understand her. My mom spent days and days pleading with her to please, please don’t speak Estonian, she can’t understand! Nuts to that. The Estonian kept coming. Finally, after a solid week, Emmy caved.

And started speaking German. So now nobody could understand a fucking word she said. Hearing that just made me laugh and laugh. She always traveled her own road, and it was a long road, and, I think, a good one. It leads to the same damn place that all the roads end up at, but not everyone gets there in a fine red sports car, a fast, crazy car that could go anywhere she wanted to until, alas, the suspension finally gave out.

Visual Club

Some Celebrities Should Have Ad Slogans

Cate Blanchett: “Stealing Roles From Tilda Swinton Since 1998!”

Kate Winslet: “Pay Me to Take Off My Bra and I Throw in the Panties for Free!”

Sandra Bullock: “Why Have Jumbalaya When You Can Have Plain Rice?”

Jm J Bullock: “Are You Going To Finish That Sandwich?”

Aaron Sorkin: “Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”

Andrea Dworkin: “Get Away From That Sandwich, Jm J Bullock!”

Visual Club

I’m The Good Kind of Whore!

I started working on a new show this week; AR Gurney’s Far East. And if I am not mistaken, tonight I will be given a paycheck. A paycheck! For acting! Weekly! This is a great feeling; it’s like at the end of the week, they’re so moved by my artistic prowess, they’d love to give me an enthusiastic handjob, but it wouldn’t quite be proper, so here’s a check. Fools! With that check, I can buy several handjobs!

Most of the time in “fringe” theater (read: community theater without the bored housewives), you get a “stipend” at the end of the run. A stipend can mean anywhere from a hundred bucks down to, uh, simple good will. (Rarely a handjob. Those happen during the cast parties, and are not considered taxable income.) And I do appreciate them; I understand that these producers are doing the best they can, and I’m certainly not doing this for the riches.

But a paycheck! I can’t get over it. When I get home tonight, I’m going to throw it on the bed and roll around on it, Scrooge McDuck-style. Then I’ll probably have to peel it off my back and iron it. That’s cool. Paycheck!

And what did I do to earn it? Of the four hours I spent at the theater last night, approximately fifteen minutes of my time was spent onstage “working” (read: acting, so technically, not working). In fact, I was literally taking my first steps onstage to say my very first line when the stage manager called out: “Okay, we’re done, folks, time to go home!” And everyone laughed at me, because I was standing there onstage with my metaphorical dick in my proverbial hands. Laugh away, suckers! I’m the one getting a paycheck for sitting around eating potato chips and taking luxurious smoke breaks!

It’s incredible to have a job where they pay you good money to sit around and not do anything. It’s even more incredible to have two of them. The grass is always greener, though. Somewhere, someone is getting a handjob.


Soon My Ugliness Will Be Assessed

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my optometrist. Pro: I’m leaving work early. Con: I’m doing this to willingly have an unctious person jab erratically at my eyes while asphyxiating me with aggressively minty breath.

Nothing good ever happens at the eye doctor, and I’m an authority on this, because I’ve been blind as a turnip since fourth grade. I’ve been to a lot of optometrists, and I think I know the problem. Let’s admit it: they are not real doctors. They are a rung up from podiatrists, who are the Mortimer Snerds of doctordom. Okay, urologists and proctologists get their share of guff, but they also get points for sheer determination and bravery. You gonna get into a bar fight with a bunch of pissed off proctologists? I don’t think so. They know exactly how to hurt you.

Optometrists don’t really dispense useful advice: I know I can’t see. I even know I’m nearsighted. I see stuff up close okay, far away stuff is blurry. I can look this up! So he’s not telling me anything fresh. Every now and then I want to pointedly say, “Listen, doctor, what about this lump in my groin?” I imagine he’d look thoughtful for a moment and then say, “That’s your penis.”

But optometrists do try and sell you stuff. Doctors–real doctors–do this too, but they’re selling drugs, and hey, sure, I’ll buy some. But optometrists try and sell you expensive bullshit based on the “you’re ugly” factor. Sure. You could go for the 2-for-$29 frames sitting in a fish bucket in the bathroom. But you won’t, and to be fair, who wants to? They all look like they were made by the Mafia. No, you’ll let the blandly pretty woman make you try on all the designer frames and squintily assess your face with each one. “Hmmm. Your eyes are so unique. I want to find just the right thing for them.” Of course my eyes are unique; I’m fucking blinder than Oedipus. What she’s implying is, “Those frames make you look kind of ugly.” And it works, because I’m kind of a funny-looking neurotic guy.

I’m embarrassed to say how much I spent on my last set of glasses: around $600 (insurance picked some of this up). Okay, that’s fucking stupid. I’m wearing a used car on my face, and the glasses won’t last as long as a used car. The truth is, they don’t even look like six hundred bucks. They look like fucking glasses. Now of course I know that they’re made out of honey-glazed molybdenum steel and were polished by the hot breath of a Scandinavian bra model–or whatever the blandly pretty woman said–but nobody else does. Maybe if they played Supertramp mp3s or something, that would be tangible, I could demonstrate that. “I love your glasses!” someone would say meaninglessly, and then I could excitedly reply, “Want to hear ‘The Logical Song?’ ” And then the other person would look puzzled and say, “Nobody wants to hear ‘The Logical Song.’ “

So that’s a bad example. But you see what I mean.

Job, My Stupid

I Laugh at the Suffering of Others

Working as I do for a cancer research facility, I see a lot of medical charts. Now of course due to confidentiality laws, I cannot actually reveal any information that would identify anyone, or anything about the research itself. But I can say that reviewing those charts (1) quickly instills within one an abiding taste for gallows humor and (2) ordinary people can be and frequently are total heroes and (3) ordinary people can be and frequently are total wackjobs.

There are the chart notes. “Physical exam unremarkable. Patient has no testicles.” I would guess that the fellow in question would not use the term “unremarkable” to describe the state of things. “Pussy wound.” I stared at this for a long time before I realized that “pussy” is perhaps not the best term for “producing pus.” And then there’s the simple mistakes. “Patient suffers from dyspnea. Grade 5.” The first thing you should know is that in the system used to grade toxicities, a grade 5 means it was fatal. The second thing you should know is that dyspnea means “shortness of breath.” I guess your breath doesn’t get much shorter than that.

There is also the treatments themselves, some of which seemed to have been invented purely to test a human’s capacity for mind-shattering horror. One patient I remember evidently wasn’t consented thoroughly enough, or was too flipped out to pay attention to the definition of “intrathecal delivery.” So she was a bit put off when she came to realize on the first day of treatment that it means “a large needle is put into your spinal column.” She politely refused treatment by screaming the medical staff to death. Many patients feel their gumption wane ever so slightly as well when presented with the joyous prospect of a bone marrow biopsy. “Do you mind terribly if we insert this large-bore needle into your (pause for sinister emphasis) pelvic bone? You know, the thick excruciating part. We sometimes have to get a Samoan to jump on it to force it in properly.”

And naturally there’s just the inexplicable. One woman sailed through her diagnosis, agreed to a clinical trial, signed the consent form, and then promptly moved. To Iceland. This was thoroughly successful in terms of putting off treatment. Another dry chart note told the story of a person thusly: “Patient is nonsmoker, nondrinker. Unremarkable exam. Patient occasionally participates in blood sharing rituals.” “Unremarkable” is a favorite term in medical charts. I just guess I don’t know what it actually means.

Steak 'n' Shake

I Throw A Bunch of Crap in a Pot and Consequently Suffer Mental Imbalances

I made a pot roast last night, and boy was it edible! It was consumable from front to back. It had an adequate crust and a passable texture, because, if I may say so, I cooked it competently, and if anyone tells you different, you stab them right in the groin and scream, “I’m no fool, motherfucker! Skot has competence coming right out of his ass!” Then, you know, plea bargain, I guess, because hey, you stabbed someone, dummy. Man, what’s wrong with you?

Anyway, the pot roast was fine, but as usual, I overcooked the fucking thing. I have some odd culinary blind spot that relates only to pot roasts; I’m thinking of seeing a specialist. Perhaps Dr. Phil. “Dr. Phil,” I’ll say, “I always overcook my fucking pot roasts. What the hell?” And he’ll bare his great blockish teeth at me, and the studio lights will glint icily off his pate, and he’ll give me some warmed-over bootstrapping bowl of bullshit about self-empowerment and relate a humorous, folksy anecdote involving a small-town car mechanic and a rooster, and the audience will roar at the dumb boob who can’t muster up the fucking gumption to lay off the heat on his damn pot roasts, for God’s sake. And I’ll just be sitting there going, “Rooster? Who is this pervert?” But no, they’ll cut to commercial, and the director will crabscuttle over to me and plead with me not to say “fucking” so much on national television.

So that’s no help.

Well, the next step is obvious. I need Peggy Noonan. Why didn’t I think of this before? So, yeah! I’ll stroll up to her on the street, where she’s out stuffing beggars into Hefty bags, and I’ll breezily say, “So, Peggy, I cooked the fucking shit out of another pot roast last night. It looked like a goddamn meteorite. Christ!” I’ll kind of shriek that last bit, so she knows I’m serious about this. She’ll fix me with a wise, sad look, and let the mumbling Hefty bag slither to the ground. “When we cook, we nourish. You nourish yourself, and so you nourish society; you float up and out into the neighborhood in this way; a mournful waltz heard through rippling muslin. Take up your pot roast, and in so doing, you take up society’s pot roast. Skot, take up all of our pot roasts, take them up and sing.” She’ll lay a gentle hand on my shoulder, and say farewell. “I must go,” she’ll coo, “there are so many beggars.” I’ll stand there, touched and mesmerized.

“Tomorrow,” I’ll whisper, tears of confusion sparkling on my cheeks, “I’m cooking chicken.”