Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Things, they are going to change, part 6

Seriously, once I become Emperor of the Universe, things they are indeed gonna change. I'm going to start with a program I call 'thinning the herd.' You've been warned.

As I noted in yesterday's post, I wasn't feeling exactly chipper.

However, after a couple hours of sleep, a scaldingly hot shower, and pot or two of coffee I started to feel a bit more like my usual crappy self and decided that I'd run down to to the bank and the post office - not because I wanted to, but because I had to.

Now, despite feeling better, I wasn't feeling exactly top drawer, so to speak. I'm not a good sick person. I'm not used to being sick, and so when I am it makes me irritable - or more irritable than usual. I cannot suffer fools gladly under the best of circumstance, but when I'm sick and irritated I'm even more prickly than usual. You'd think that the idiots would recognize this fact and, you know, stay the hell out of my way. But I guess that's what makes them dolts in the first place, they have no awareness of the world around them, and no sense of self-preservation.

And speaking of idiots, meet the Palmer, Alaska Post Office - without doubt the single highest concentration of booger-eating cud-chewing government employees outside of Washington DC. If you're looking for the poster-children of moronic, dimwitted, lackadaisical, drooling mouth breathers with poor attitudes, look no further than the Palmer post office. There is never less than twenty people in line, usually a hell of a lot more, and yet I've never seen any of the postal employees move at more than a snail's pace. Seriously, the old Soviet government was more efficient and better motivated than these people. (But, Jim, aren't you afraid of saying such things about our heroic postal employees? They might read this and, you know, go postal on your ass! Ha! I'd love to see that much motivation out of these people. No, really.)

Long lines and concentrated stupid; needless to say, I'm aggravated by even the thought of having to go to the post office. And it doesn't help that every single person in line has got some goofy issue that requires a long-winded, rambling explanation to the drooling unionized dung beetle behind the counter. It's always the same stupid silly shit, i.e. "Ahh, um, well, see I know there's a rule that you can't hand out mail over the counter for postal boxes, but, uh, um I forgot my key and I was wondering if maybe you could just this once... No? But, I'm in a hurry and I've got the kids in the car, and the littlest one has the shits and I'm out of diapers and I don't want to run back to the house, and I was thinking that just this once you could... No? Well, now see here, do you know who I am?" Argh! And there I am, grinding my teeth and making the fist of death, all I want to do is pick up a package which should take no more than a couple of seconds, instead I've got to watch the clown patrol for twenty minutes.

So, yesterday I get in the queue like a good Comrade, and listen to the stupid flow around me and shuffle slowly forward. Eventually I'm four people from the front of the line - and what happens? Two of the four robots behind the counter decide that it's break time! And without so much as an apologetic nod to the twenty people in line, they close their windows and disappear. Now I'm clenching both fists. And it's going to get worse, because at the head of the line is the King of the Disaffected Emo Nerds. You know him, he's the pasty fellow with the greasy hair. He's wearing those black canvass pants that are ten sizes too big for him, with the straps and buckles. His baggy black shirt puts the 'sweat' in sweatshirt, he's got the trademark Emo black beret, and black ripped sneakers. Ten years ago he'd have been giggling over the Starlog centerfold of Commander Data or an Orion Slave Girl in her busty green glory, but today he's plugged into an iPod watching illegal downloads of Lex and making loud wet Bevis and Butthead braying noises. He's got the required Bat-belt, with every electronic gizmo known to the Jedi Brotherhood, and an enormous computer bag slung over one fleshy shoulder. You know him, he's the Angry Techno Asstard, he's thirty, works third shift at Taco Bell, lives in his mom's basement and has never been laid- but he rules the 4Chan comment forum.

Eventually, the woman at the counter gives up in the face of USPS indifference and stomps off in a huff, and it's Techno Asstard's turn. Except he's snorting and giggling over his iPod and has to be poked in the back by the woman behind him before he notices. He hitches up his various and sundry electronics, enough crap to equip a third world space program, and waddles over to the window, still watching his iPod (you can actually hear the sound of my fists clenching at this point). He makes a show of finishing the scene and then pauses his iPod, a good fifteen seconds, and then the situation turns surreal:

Nerdboy: "I'm here to pick up a package."
Postal Robot blinks slowly, cow-like, and otherwise remains frozen motionless - like Vista during an indexing operation.
Nerdboy: "You have a package for me."
Postal Robot blinks again, something clicks behind his eyes, you can actually see the nerve impulse crawl from his brain to his mouth, like a small dim spark just beneath his plastic skin: "May I see your package slip?"
Nerdboy: "I don't have one," he says dismissively. The World of Warcraft Wizard cannot be bothered with such trivia!
Postal Robot blinks again. Gears and cogs chatter and clatter in the rusty difference engine he calls a brain. "You have to have a package slip." After a moment he adds, "They're pink."
Nerdboy: "I don't have one, but I know you have a package for me."
Postal Robot blinks again, a whirring noise begins to issue from somewhere behind his eyes, and he slowly assumes the air of the long suffering government employee. "What is your address?"
Nerdboy: "Something something Willow Circle."
Postal Robot blinks his slow bovine-like blink and begins to make small, spastic movements - similar in nature to a Democratic Congress.
Nerdboy repeats himself: "Something something Willow Circle." (Speak slowly and loudly so that the natives will understand you.)
Postal Robot's overloaded steam-powered Babbage engine misses a transmission shift, grinding noises emanate momentarily from his head, a wisp of smoke curls up from one ear. "What is the rest of your address?"
Nerdboy: "Palmer," and after a moment he adds, "Alaska."
Postal Robot: "Zip code?"
Nerdboy points at the sign displayed prominently behind the counter with bold letters in 58 point font, "99645!" Being rural Alaska, this is of course the only postal zip code for a considerable distance in any direction. We are, in fact, currently standing in the Palmer, Alaska post office, in the middle of downtown Palmer such as it is. Postal Robot has worked in this Post Office for his entire operational life, you'd think he'd at least write the zip code on the back of his hand. However Postal Robot has limited storage capacity and is apparently programmed in an ancient procedural language which requires a reload of all constants and variables for each operation - the programming protocol is rigid and must be followed exactly, every time, or the program will crash, the Ghost of Blaise Pascal only knows what would happen if a data field was left blank.

Postal Robot blinks myopically again, first one eye then the other, like an animatronic lizard - the variables are now complete and loaded within the program, the checksums all match, execute. Without a word, he turns slowly and clanks off into the back, clicking and whirring and trailing wisps of green smoke.

Nerdboy fires up his iPod. The queue grows restive. I begin to lose feeling in my clenched fists.

Minutes pass.

Paint dries.

Grass grows.

Congress waves it's arms and makes mewling noises - and decides that the single greatest threat facing America is illicit Viagra snorting by professional athletes.

The Earth warms.

Deep within the sun, hydrogen fuses, atoms die and are reborn.

Gas prices take wing and soar.

In Spain, a small crippled child sees the face of the Holy Virgin in her plate of Patatas Fritas, and rises from her wheelchair. She will dance again! Joyous crowds come from far and wide to witness the miracle.

Eventually the ragged punched paper tape Postal Robot uses for a memory loops around and he remembers why he went into the back. He reemerges behind the counter like Ralph Nadar reappearing on the campaign circuit. The queue becomes hopeful.

But then we see that Postal Robot's hands are empty. There is no package for Nerdboy. The queue sighs, despair descends like a wet towel over the face of a Gitmo detainee - we know what's coming.

Postal Robot: "There's no package." His face is distorted into a rictus that could almost be called a triumphant smile. The gears are now whirling smoothly within his cranium.
Nerdboy: "Yes there is. I checked online and it's here." Nerdboy is quite sure of himself.
Postal Robot's smile crumples, the gnashing of mismatched gears and pinions becomes loud once again. Postal Robot is no match for more advanced technology - he is an obsolete model. "Online?" he rasps, the smell of burnt lubricant fills the confined space, a combination of racid bacon fat and old transmission fluid. Somewhere, far back in the queue, a woman coughs - her throat stinging from the acrid fumes. Children begin to weep softly.
Nerdboy: "Yes, I checked the tracking number online, and your website says that the package is here.
Postal Robot processes the unfamiliar term 'website,' there is a stuttering sound like that of an ancient AT&T Model 28 Mod o teletype running flat out, type pallet pounding out Courier-10 in all caps on yellow three-ply canary paper, but it keeps coming up divide by zero. "There's nothing in the box for that address."
Nerdboy: "Well, it's here. The website says so."
Postal Robot: "What is the name?"
Nerdboy: "My name is [Nerdboy, King of the Geeks, Wizard of Warcraft, Admiral of the Starfleet, Fifth Level Master Jedi, and Third Shift Assistant Sandwich Artist!]
Postal Robot: "Just a minute." He retreats towards the back, again.

The heat death of the universe approaches.

Entropy increases.

The paint is now ready for the second coat and the grass needs cutting.

Congress confirms that Energy Drink usage by professional athletes is a national crisis and diverts its entire effort to stamping out the scourge of performance enhancing drugs.

In Spain, the formerly crippled girl sells a moldy plate of egg and potato casserole fried in the shape of the Virgin Mother on eBay for a tidy sum.

Overhead vultures begin to circle, attracted by the unmoving queue.

Postal Robot emerges from the back, again without a package. The weeping children begin to sob openly. Adults join the lamentations.

Postal Robot: "That's not the correct name for that address." It's divide by zero, the universe teeters on the brink of implosion, as do I.
Nerdboy: "No, I don't live there." My fists have now become rock hard mallets and I begin to make uncontrolled growling noises. People inch away from me in fear. The children go silent and stare with wide, frightened eyes.
Postal Robot blinks slowly, blink blink. Time stands still.
Nerdboy: "I think it was sent general delivery."
Postal Robot: "Um." Click click whir whir chatter and rattle. Suddenly, a dull red glow suffuses his eyes and his program diverts to a seldom used subroutine. "You said you had a tracking number?"
Nerdboy: "Yes, just a minute." He fumbles with the iPod and the headphones and the computer bag, and pulls out the veritable pimp mack daddy of all laptops, the only thing it lacks is a pair of fuzzy dice. He sets it on the counter and opens the screen with a flourish. Behold! and bow down before your Geek Master!

Yes, that's correct, he is actually going to boot up the computer, start up his email client, and find the tracking number.

The queue now contains twenty eight adults, various small hyper-active children, and one small confused and excited rat-terrier peeking out of a purse - I counted them because I wanted to know (also I wondered momentarily where the tiny yipping noises were coming from).

And now we come down to it, I have passed the point of self-control. My blood is fizzing and boiling. My fangs have lengthened into canine points and my eyes have turned the color of a harvest moon. I flex my wrists and twelve inch razor sharp adamantium claws slide smoothly out from between my knuckles with the sound of ripping silk and a dozen Samurai swords pulled from their scabbards.

Me: Loudly. "You've got to be fucking kidding me! Would it be too goddamned much to ask for you to write this shit down before you come in here? There's thirty people waiting on your bullshit!" (Yes, there was only 28 people in line. I exaggerated slightly for dramatic effect, but only slightly).

Nerdboy turns towards me in wonder - by God! He's not alone! Others have survived the Apocalypse! He is not the last man on earth!

He takes one look at the dripping claws, my clenched fists, and blood red eyes - his gaze flicks towards the queue behind me, to the pitchforks and the torches.

Nerdboy: "Uh, say this is going to take a minute, why don't I step over there and get the number?"
Postal Robot: "Yes." Click click, whir whir, grind grind. Dump program, reset. "Next!"

The queue jerks forward. A head peeks around the corner, it's the chief robot, he gauges the demeanor of the crowd, and suddenly break time is over. The previous postal robots suddenly reappear and open their windows. "Next!" "Next!" And it's my turn. I pull the pink package slip from where it is impaled on one of my claws and hand it to the robot. He scoots off like a one of those little Romba jobbers scampering after a dust bunny.

Over on the package wrapping desk, Nerdboy is peering into his computer screen and avoiding eye contact. Somewhere in the vicinity of his enormous ass there comes the sound of a sudden fanfare, the trill of trumpets - the tinny themesong of Classic Battlestar Galactica! He whips off the headphones which are still dangling from his cauliflower ears and opens his iPhone.

"Hello? Hello?" he shouts, loud enough that the apehangers passing by outside on Harley Davidsons glance around inside their helmets. "Yeah, I'm at the post office. What? Yeah, it's the same old, same old, these guys are clueless! You know how it is!"

I get my package, it's the stropping wheel for my sharpening system, sent by Beastly. I've been waiting all week for this to arrive, but for a moment I think seriously about jamming it, packing material and all, sideways down Nerdboy's throat.

Instead I settle for giving him the glare of death as I pass by.

"Uh, hey, I'm going to have to call you back," he says and hurriedly hangs up the phone.

Thinning the herd. That's what I'm talking about. And it's going to start at the post office.


  1. My goodness. This was a masterpiece of blogging literature.

    You get a "laugh out loud" point, because I did (at "gas prices take wing and soar).

  2. The part that got me was "heat death of the universe approaches." ;)

  3. Jim, you are awesome! You really need to gather these posts for a book. I would buy several.

    And had you jammed the stropping wheel, packaging and all, sideways down Nerdboy's throat, he would still have failed to understand why he should have brought the tracking number with him.

  4. Is it wrong for me to be glad you suffered so we may be amused?


    Also? Thank you for reminding me how much I *like* the postal employees at the post office closest to my house.

  5. Its just not fucking fair. Whenever, in the future, I feel the need to bitch about my Post Office, DMV, phone company, Tech Support, Bank, or any other repository of undead worker-monkeys, I shall draft said bitching, read it over, and, remembering this post, I shall delete it as it will be found wanting in comparison. I grovel. And KowTow.

  6. I grovel. And KowTow

    As it should be, as it should be.

  7. Glad you got the stropping wheel. You could have just sent an email or called or something. Well at least I know you got the damn thing. Glad I sent it priority mail.

  8. Dude, I was ill, and irritated. You know me. Did you really want to hear from me yesterday. Really? No? Yeah, I didn't think so.

  9. I'm off my knees now.

    Dying to know if Warrant Shefflin passes muster. (The chapter can stand alone, so I'm only asking you to read that one, dammit.)

  10. Hee! I think I'm becoming Jim...

  11. Nathan, I'm in the shop at the moment, but I promise I'll read the chapter tonight and give you some feedback. I'll probably call you tomorrow, just because talking to you is such a gas.

  12. OK, so you get up at 6:00am? 5 hours difference.

    Yeah, I can be alert by 11.

  13. Hah. Just when I get down about my misanthropy, Jim reminds me why misanthropy should be the natural state of all thinking humans.

    Thank you, sir. A most wonderful rant.

  14. I'm with you on this one. Where do I sign up?

    GREAT entry! lol

  15. I have got to stop reading your rants at work! People are looking at me funny (funnily?). They don't know whether to offer a tissue or give me the Heimlich maneuver.

  16. This is totally why I never go to the post office.

    UPS Store or functional equivalent (here it's a Mail Cache--good service and no lines).

    I hate waiting in line.

  17. I want you to know that I actually had to go to the Post Office today and deal with an actual, mouth-breathing postal clerk instead of the APC. Because the APC won't take packages to Canada. And I thought of you. AGAIN.

    I think I left grey matter all over the counter.

  18. It sucks to be a girl. If it had been me, and I had reacted like you did (which I would REALLY have wanted to do, and sometimes have), the response would have been, "Shut up, b*tch." There are times when being a guy is really handy. Props to you for taking advantage of one of them. :)

  19. I have never laughed so hard. But I feel your pain here in Reno.

  20. The guy's a 25 year veteran of the Navy, lives in the Alaskan outback, is as rock-hard and crotchety as I'd expect a former Chief Warrant Officer to be, and knows about Lexx? How... ?


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