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Posts Tagged ‘Flip Collective’

Hating IT

By Corby Anderson

I am being methodically, malevolently denuded of an already depleted mental capacity by a wireless Internet system that taunts me mercilessly and evades capture on a regular basis.

If I could afford the monthly expense (which is to say if I avoided eating, fueling my vehicle, drinking, etc.), I would gladly pay for my own dedicated Internet line to avoid this maddening, odd circumstance that I find myself in – trying to marathon-watch the fourth season of Breaking Bad on Netflix on my shit-hot new iMac via a poached wireless connection that seems to vanish every time Brother Hank the Narc appears on screen.

“IT” – the  appropriately creepy name that the gracious stewards of the ranch that I live on have given their weak-ass wireless signal – wafts in like a mirthful, rotten ghost. IT appears in my available networks list in full-bar force, only to vanish when I wearily discover IT’s renewed presence and attempt to engage in a renewed viewing of a show that I can never seem to catch up on.

Hello, big fella! I’m here! USE ME! IT howls, only to dissipate into a cloud of nothingness, leaving me with a red, spinning wheel of Netflixian frustration to ponder. I curse. I reload. I back the stream up a few seconds. I close programs. I holler. I whimper. I consume more than the recommended daily intake of alcohol (but that may indeed be unrelated.) I plead for technical mercy. I do everything in my limited internetworking experience to cajole IT into action. But like Charlie Brown lining up for a field goal attempt, my efforts end up with me foiled yet again, lying on my back and staring at space.

If the wire-free Internet weren’t invisible, matter-less, and everywhere at once (or, mostly not) I’d stab IT in the groin with a rusty butter knife.

This weekend, as I was setting up the new computer – my long-awaited, first –ever personally purchased machine that I saved every nickel for over the past few months, I went out and bought a wireless range extender – some cockamamie device that is supposed to boost the area’s available wireless signals. Then I spent an hour on tech support with some Linksys agent who prefaced each instruction with “kindly please.”

Predictably, this brain-numbing programming effort worked for a total of about 30 minutes, during which IT appeared on my list of available wireless signals. Approaching cautiously, expecting the virtual football to be yanked once more, I clicked around the link in every direction. IT hung around, all four bars gleaming invitingly into the distrustful rods and cones of my jilted eyes. Finally, feeling like something Technically Important had occurred, I clicked IT.

Then, as if life had always been this simple, the Internet fired right up. Netflix launched into the episode I had previously watched in five-second spurts with dazzling speed.  The extension had WORKED! IT was compliant. I had broken IT’s rebellious spirit.

“Thank the Lord! Or Steve Jobs, or whoever is running the weird spectacle that we all bumble through, because we’ve got high speed connectivity!” I yelled silently. (Better to not to wake the wife. She avoids computers with Luddite passion, reads books and falls asleep at a normal hour.)

I’ve never been a fan of the term “it goes without saying,” mostly because it is generally always followed with a direct contradiction, but in this case it really does go without saying just how important the Net is in our lives these days. Hardly a single job, task, event, duty, hobby, or responsibility can be accomplished without some necessary component of Internet.

And now, thanks to my impressive technical support dialing skills, I had accomplished total, harmonious internetical SYNC with the neighbors’ Internet signal. IT has personally approved of my equipment choices and invited me into IT’s world. Good ol’ Hank was back on his feet again, shaking off an assassin’s bullet to his spine.

In the immortal words of Gilby, the freckled kid from Guam who tormented me in the street games of my youth: “NOTTTTT!”

Just as easily as IT had come, IT went, taking my spirit with IT. Then IT appeared again. Oh Hi! Ca-lick. Then, gonzo…

Brutal, pervasive frustration reigns. Remember dial up? No? Here, let me remind you.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRBBBBBBBBLLLLLLEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPfuckfuckfuckshitgoddamnallIwanttoseearemovingtittiesandit’stakingtenfuckingminutestoloadEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG.

IT makes that crazy-making dialup “speed” of yore seem like a live HD shot from Mars.

I would tether the fucker to my phone, but I learned THAT harsh lesson a few months back, when in a fit of ignorance, perhaps exacerbated by an extended homebound flu, I decided to see what the Personal Hotspot function of my new cell phone was all about by watching the entire show run of The Wire, back to back to back to ohmygodwhatisthis$500billfromAT&fuckingT?

Did I mention that this connectivitease happens only when Hank the Narc is on screen? Isn’t that ODD? What sort of superfreaky juju does THAT character have over me? And why has IT channeled Hank the Narc into my own personal Lucy? Am I supposed to skip those scenes? Is there something GOING ON here? Is the entire internet possessed by some sort of paranoid Meth-crazed jokester?

Or is it just me? Can someone Kindly Please email me an answer? Better yet, mail IT.

*This story originally appeared in the Oct. 2012 release of the literary journal The Flip Collective. 

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Ponder, for a moment, the lowly, oft-used, at times abused, everyday fixture of metabolic necessity – the toilet. It is, of course, a receptacle for all of your cast-off humanly bile and toxic waste. The toilet, or commode as it is known in the south, or shitter, as we lovingly say in the trades, has the singular distinction of sanitarily disposing of an entire species’ collective excrements. Over the years, it has also been the unfortunate splash landing spot for some of my dearest possessions:

Phil the Hermit Crab

My misfortunate, gravitationally-challenged relationship with the toilet started at a young age. Barely past the potty training stage, I was faced with the horrifying act of having to ship my beloved first pet, a  Hermit Crab named Phil, off to greener seas after he/she had made the awful decision to exercise his/her only form of self-defense against the tender skin of my brother’s scrotum.

As unenlightened children, we had for some reason engaged in a form of crustaceous Russian Roulette: taking turns sticking Phil down our pajamas in a timed contest to see who could handle the tickling of his shelly phalanges the longest without screaming. It was after bed time. The lights were out in our room, but this grand scheme had our competitive juices awash with muffled laughter.

The game went on for several “successful” turns, each of us enduring Phil’s weird traverses in our underoos…until disaster struck. In a shocking turn of events, what I had assumed would be some fun, cage-free exercise for my buddy Phil quickly turned into a nut-pinching fight for life that woke everyone in the house after the previously docile crab unexpectedly clamped his formidable left claw on Brody’s testicular region.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the sensation of having your gonads savagely scissored by an enraged sea creature, but judging from my brother’s reaction, it is scream-inducing unpleasantness.  Thusly ensnared in a bony, serrated vice, Brody emitted a sustained, high-pitched primal howl that I have since only heard in Tea Party conventions and small-claims court.

At the beckoning of Brody’s shrieks, my parents came bursting into our room, expecting the worst. Bewildered, they found us gripped with fear and screaming bloody murder. After ascertaining that I was not the afflicted one but rather suffering from empathetic emotions, my father set upon Brody to save him from some unseen demon. “What is it? What in Jehovah is going on?” he demanded. Biting both lips at once, tears pouring down his cheeks, the eldest Anderson son gingerly lifted open his drawers and pointed down to his nether regions with a quaking, inconsolable finger. “Ffff..ffff…fffil got his nads, Dad!” I yelled, reporting for my shock-muted brother.

The Phil Removal Project was quickly underway, and I will spare you the details due the graphic nature of the operation. For the sake of educational purposes (should this savagery ever occur to you or your own bright-minded progeny), I can report that the operation took no less than the use of a D-Cell flashlight, a rusted pair of my grandfather’s carpenters pliers, a jar of salt (Mom’s theory, relating to slugs), a wooden stick from the backyard (for Brody to clamp down on), a splash of hydrogen peroxide, and a large, perhaps overly-gluey Band-Aid.

Phil, mangled from battle, was handed to me to dispose of by my perturbed Dad. The toilet and the mysterious waters beyond offered the only thing close to Phil’s native habitat for which to reintroduce him into the wild. So, accompanied by a river of mournful tears, and with a splash pattern that would make a Chinese diver proud, I cast my best friend into the wilds of the Contra Costa County Sanitation System.

R.I.P. Phil.

Superman Toothbrush

Some time had passed since my sorrowful goodbye to Phil when I was again broken-hearted by dropping a vital possession into the toilet. I was ten then – old enough to have collected a few prized items of my own that did not also belong to my brother. One of those was my electric Superman toothbrush. I may have been a wee little feller and mostly reliant on my parents for food and shelter, but dammit I had electric Superman toothbrush, and together we could conquer the world!

It was near bedtime and I was “scrubbing my pegs,” as my Dad always called it, a strange term for dental hygiene now that I think about it, since at no other time in our youth did he utilize pirate-speak. Like all ten-year-olds, I was excited to get the actual brushing behind me so that I could go read more “Choose Your Own Adventure,” books.

It was in this Adventure-bound frenzy that I found myself rushing Superman’s main chore along. A quick lap around the gums was all that I had time for. As I wheeled to grab Dad’s Listerine off of the shelf next to the toilet, I somehow loosened my grip on ol’ Supey. Down he went, spiraling through the air like a buzzing, spitting, super heroic depth charge. I noted the unchanging, goofily grinning expression on Superman’s plastic face as he broke the water’s plane and slid down along the bowl into the muck that I had as yet neglected to flush.

It was at this time that I chose to let loose an undeveloped but aspirational string of 10-year-old swear words that would have made a drill sergeant blush with shame. Coincidentally, it was at this time that my live-in, elderly grandmother decided to check on my progress. Needless to say, Superman did not make a heroic return to the sink counter. Much to my chagrin, a well-used, tooth-marked bar of soap did, however.

The Only Expensive Pair of Sunglasses That I’ve Ever Owned

You know that predictable asshole named Murphy? The one with all of the Laws and the sick sense of humor who comes around to mock your regular inability to spot malady even when it is barreling down on you like a stroked-out trucker? I do. All too well. He nearly blinded me in 1998.

I was a lift operator at a ski area in Colorado, “living the dream” after my college years. Twenty-five-years-old, criminally handsome (so I’ve told myself), living on a half of a rotten couch for $200 a month, surrounded by impossibly beautiful mountains, adventurous women and piles of mostly illegal intoxicants.

The inevitable late nights of our ski bum existence always seemed to bleed directly into the next far-too-early morning, usually before light actually arrived, when we had to meet our snowmobile hop up to the bottom of the ski lift to start our work day. The sustained lack of appropriate sleep, combined with eye-reddening substances and the brutal glare of sunbaked snow made having a strong pair of sunglasses a vital necessity. Losing or breaking a pair was akin to jabbing yourself in the corneas with a flaming marshmallow stick. So, even though I made a total of somewhere south of seven dollars an hour at the time, I decided to throw down for the latest, most expensive pair of shades possible – a stylish pair of Bolle’s that ran me a season’s worth of oily tuna cans.

Being most of the way up a 12,000 foot mountain and far from a sewage system, the facilities at the bottom of the High Alpine lift consisted of a horrible smelling, freezing cold drop toilet. Using the head was something that was to be avoided at all costs. Everyone on the mountain ate the same disgusting processed food diet, and it proved out in decomposition stage. “Holding it,” was a way of life. Thus, the locker room facilities were often equally destroyed on a daily basis once everyone skied down at the end of the day, but at least they cleaned those. Poor fuckers…

As Murph would have it, you can’t always hold it, especially after consuming half my weight in malted barley and free Crab Rangoon (Phil’s revenge, I called it) the night before. So, off I went, bracing myself with a makeshift turtleneck gas mask to enter the lair of an assy beast.

Now, the thing about a homemade outhouse on the side of a mountain is, there isn’t much light to see your way around with. They were built with as little ventilation as possible, so as to contain the olfactory demon within. After all, nobody wants to pay $80 bucks to ski Aspen only to have their sense of smell permanently deadened by the gaseous emissions of lift-operators. Most days I considered the lack of light a blessing, given the god-awful creature that lived down below the wooden rim. But on this day, proud of my brand new sunglasses as I was, I decided to keep them on rather than stow them away on the bill of my hat. I figured they might work in tandem with the turtleneck mask and form an impenetrable shield against the evil that lurked in the High Alpine shithouse. Also, I was lazy.

Somehow I managed to find myself in proper unloading position without the benefit of illumination. It was on the hasty dismount that I ran into trouble. The elastic suspenders that normally held up my ski pants formed a sproingy lasso when unleashed, and when I stood to quickly evacuate the premises, they wrapped themselves around the iron toilet paper holder, yanking me violently around with enough force to lose my footing on the snowy pine floor.

I landed in a twisted heap on the shithouse floor, face-first on the brink of the death hole. My Bolle’s went hurtling down into the pit, forever sealing them in the mud of a thousand poo’s.

Dazed and dejected, I extricated myself by kicking out the shitter door, crawling to a blinding freedom. I was greeted with a chorus of bellowing laughter from my fellow crew members and cheers from the skiers who were craned around from a half dozen chairs, rising into the skies from the base of the lift.

Later, at the end of the ski season party, I was presented with a pair of sunglasses that were made out of duct tape and cardboard toilet paper rolls, upon which someone had written “Bolle” in fine black marker along the sides.

Cell Phone

Generally, the “five second rule” only applies to non-sticky food stuffs that have been dropped on a relatively clean floor. In some dire cases, this rule has to be applied to items that are both irreplaceably expensive and vital to your working life, such as my first iPhone.

Like many people, I enjoy good reading material when nature calls. It is an unscientific fact that the act of reading ushers along the biological process. In the past, I would go to great lengths to procure reading materials of any kind prior to heading for The Loo. But that was before Steve Jobs made all of our lives better by giving us unlimited options for restroom infotainment, all in a smart little box that fits in the palm of our hands.

And while the iPhone is a brilliant package of mystifying technological magic, I found out the hard way the one thing that it is not, is waterproof. So, when my entire working and social world made that inevitable, ironic plunge into the Bakersfield, California In N’ Out toilet after slipping out of my breast pocket during an unfocused attempt at flushing, I was faced with an unpleasant, split-second decision. Perhaps you’ve been there yourselves, and can empathize with my plight.

Despite what most of my former employers, girlfriends, and teachers would say about me, I consider myself a Man Of Action, an unflappable beacon of pragmatic agency. It is only due to this inner-Chuck-Norris that I was able to utilize my cat-like reflexes and follow its course immediately down into the water and fish my phone out of the fast food restaurant commode before the shock waves that its splashdown had created in the bowl allowed the traditional contents there within to recede back to their former resting places.

Just as quickly as it had entered the toilet, it exited, along with my hand, which did not escape as unscathed as the fetchee. Into the sink everything went for a wash. Fortunately, the In N’ Out had both paper towels AND a power blower, which I promptly forced into sustained usage.

I was just about satisfied with my efforts at drying out my afflicted tele, contemplating where I might find a bag of dry rice at midnight when the bathroom door swung open. It was a pimply kid in a paper hat, peering in on me with one crooked eyebrow, his foot holding the door wide open to the full dining room.

“Dude, are you number 130?” he asked hesitantly. I stared back at him from underneath the blower. “Your order is up and we thought you disappe…,” he added, pausing when he saw my phone in my hand below the air dryer. His oily head tilted to the south momentarily, and then his eyes lit up with delayed recognition. “OH SNAP!” he shouted, snapping the fingers on both hands at once for effect. He was laughing now, his voice rising and squeaking in a crescendo of pre-adolescent dynamic range. “Did you drop your PHONE IN THE CRAPPER!? Dude, that SUUUCCCKS! That happened to my toothbrush once!”

 

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“Dear God. Jesus Lord. Jah…Great Yogi Spirit in the Sky,” I pleaded aloud to all humanity from atop Coyote Mountain, a short hike that terminates at the locked gates of an abandoned Molybdenum mine not far from my house. I was down on my knees, as piously posed as one can be. You know the look: hands pressed together, elbows bent and tucked rib-ward, back straight, my head tilted precisely at 45 degrees, eyes closed to the world but opened inwardly to the possibility of random salvation.

“I. Need. A. Job. Any job…. Work.” I continued, really working up a spiritual lather. I felt my voice subconsciously morph into the staccato pattern (strangely, including an effective high-ceilinged echo) of a Baptist Minister who was reciting a particularly meaty passage of The Good Book.

“I need this work badly, you see. Any paid sort of regular activity will suffice, so long as I am able to pay my goddamned bills.”  I paused for effect.

It was in the pause that I first felt an eyebrow lift uncontrollably towards the heavens – a peculiar reaction. I am generally not prone to facial spasms, and so I took this as some sort of sign.

“Oh Jesus. Was that you? Controlling my brow?” I asked aloud without my typical trepidation for public oratory. What the hell. There was nobody around the old mine that could hear my prayer but me, the dog (who was off wallowing in irradiated mud), a few haggard marmots and The Big Guy Upstairs.

It occurred to me why my brow had twitched. Heavenly disapproval seemed the likely culprit. “Uh. Sorry about the “goddamned” thing.” My brain pinged.

“Whoops! Sorry again. I’ll stop with the goddamn stuff. Er. Yeah. OK. That was the last one. I swear. OK. Well, not anymore. With the swearing. I promise. Semantics…”

The other brow lifted to match its partner. “Whoa. So it IS you, right? With the brow tick thing?” I asked excitedly. I hadn’t officially prayed since 1993, and that was only to see if He might allow me to make out with Jenny Dorrance, a total hottie who otherwise ignored me with all of her pigtailed, freckled glory, on the church-sponsored 7th grade ski trip.

“OK. Well, hell..,” I continued. Looking around to make sure that I was truly alone. Of course I was alone. Nobody else EVER hiked this trail. They were worried about contamination. They read the signs and accepted their warnings as law. HA! I knew better. And because I knew better, I had my own private mountain to hike on whenever I wanted.

“OK. Brass tacks, sir. So, this job deal…I need one. Again. I know, I know. I am really sorry about that last one. I seriously tried to make that work, Dear Lord God. I Gave It My All.

“Unfortunately, my all was too much, apparently. It appears in retrospect, God Sir, that in fact, I gave too much. They said that I was “Over The Top” and that I was ‘Scaring the Customers’ with my ‘Antics.’

“Well, fuck em’, Lord. I am sure that you will agree that the Right Dishonorable Senator Teabagger was laughing just as hard as I was when I “accidentally” spilled that decanter on his lap. I mean….You were there. You tell me!?”

“So. Lordy Lord Lord. God of all G’s. Yahweh the Almighty. Can you help me? I won’t go so far as to say that I am in a pickle because I fuckin’ hate pickles. Too bitter. And all those seeds! Yuck! Why cant they make pickles out of carrots, anyways? See if you can look into that…”

“Anywho…,” I prayed with every ounce of spirit-loving hopeyness that I could muster. “I won’t go that far, but I did have to sell my left kidney to science this week to pay for my weekly massage. Priorities, right? We’ve all got ‘em. I’m sure that you do to. Like this job thing. If you can see to it that this little favor gets shuffled up there on your List above all of those prayers from the goddamned mute Jesus freaks down at the monastery that would be really helpful. Maybe if they did a little less silent prayin’ and spent their time making more beer they’d have something to really talk about ,” I added for good measure.

Have you ever had both eyebrows and your ears twitch at the same time? Well, neither had I, until then. It was as if my entire bedraggled face decided to lift itself without provocation or expensive surgery. But that is exactly what happened to me right then and there in front of the old rusty skull and crossbones sign at the shuttered entrance to the Coyote Mountain Molybdenum Mine. This new, enhanced tick was a sure-as-shit sign that my prayers were working. Allah himself was shining down his ever-loving Light of Destined Employment upon my jobless ass. I could almost feel the heat and smell the smoke of providential change singing my back hair. The facial quivering eased up. I could feel my dog at my side. (He dropped a slobbery rock on my exposed calf.)

Slowly, I opened my eyes. A new heavenly dawn was upon me, but it was dusk as hell, and Coyote Mountain is no place to be after dark. I collected the sacraments that I had spread around me in my prayer circle – old corporation name badges, a half bottle of lukewarm Schlitz, some Redman chewing tobacco, and a pack of saltines – and began the winding walk back down the trail to my truck.

I could feel The Spirit lifting my every step and was eager to get home to see what new job God had assigned me. My mind raced at the possibilities, and I found myself smiling as broadly as I had ever even attempted to smile. As I verily skipped down the path, I looked up at the darkened sky and yelled “THANK YOU LORD GOD THE JESUS!”

“You’re welcome.” My answer came in an echoing crackle that filled the hillside. My heart leapt out of my skull while my stomach rocketed right out of my ass simultaneously. It was He. The Great Employer.

“Is that really YOU?” I asked aloud, my feet no longer touching the dirt. I felt myself floating down the hill like some hillbilly Moses hot-rodding around in an invisible Segway.

“Yes. Come here. I am at the bottom of the hill.” The voice commanded. It sounded like God had gotten himself one of those fancy megaphones. I was not surprised in the least. I’d always heard that he works in mysterious ways, but secretly I had always taken The Lord for a man of practicality.

The dog was going nuts by now and had sprinted ahead. It was clear that he too was Called Forth.

Disbelief crept briefly into my psyche, but was quickly dashed by an incredibly bright light that was now shining up the trail from down below. There was no time for pondering the reasons behind my sudden anointment. I had done the hard work of prayer, even Tebowing on my way down to my prayer position, and this was the result. I had to go with it.

“Do you have a JOB for me!?” I sang aloud in a gravelly voice that I’d only heard Jimmy Stewart use before.
“Yes, Mister Anderson, actually I do have a job for you.” The voice said. I was astonished. HE knew my NAME!

Running now around the last corner of the trail, I prepared myself to meet The Creator. The voice talked me into the blinding light.

“Tell me, Big Guy. What job do you have lined up for me?! What am I going to do? Er…Is there, by chance, health insurance involved? Maybe a few weeks of vacation… without having to wait a year to cash in?” I asked, thrilled at the possibilities, trusting my footing in the white wash of heavenly illumination.

Then my world went dark again. My pupils rioted against the sudden change, clamping down on my spiritualized cones and rods with bank vault alacrity. It took a disorienting moment, but I was finally able to see the slim human form of God emerge in the spotty blackness. Hmm, I thought to myself. He’s skinnier than in the paintings.

“Your job, Mister Anderson, if you choose to accept it…” the voice answered from mere feet away. I steeled myself to receive my Ultimate Destiny, delivered by an Eternal Being. My eyes continued adjusting until I could make out the rig that God stood next to. It was a Chevy Blazer with a Pitkin County Sheriff emblem emblazoned on the side. “…is to move your goddamned truck. It’s blocking my way, and I’ve got to get up that hill to investigate reports of someone trespassing at the old mine site.”

“And leash this fuggin’ mutt, he took a piss on my tire.”

(This story was originally published in the literary website, flipcollective.com in August, 2012)

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