Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Weeeeee!

Okay. Here's the thing. I was gonna write something real on the blog today. But I got busy at work, so I really didn't have time. And I couldn't come up with anything to do quickly while I was there. And then I had to deliver pizza tonight. So for me, it's been a pretty long day. At the moment, my brain is kinda fried. So I'm just going to let you watch a video that I grabbed from the YouTube. It's a Geico commercial. I saw it on TV the other night and for some reason it really got me laughing. A lot. Embarrassingly so. Hope you can get at least a fraction of that enjoyment out of it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

50 Questions

So every now and then I see one of these things show up on Facebook. It's the kind of thing where someone posts it as a note and then tags so many people so that they will feel obligated to complete the survey with their own answers. This one was found on the page of one of my high school friends, Allison. I wasn't tagged, it just kind of showed up on my front page anyway. So I checked it out. And I always like to keep these things on hand. It's an easy blog post when they come along. So have fun finding out some random facts that you may already know about me. And feel free to answer about yourselves on your own blogs. Or Facebook notes.

1. What time did you get up this morning?  About 6:30

2. How do you like your steak?  Medium Well

3. What was the last film you saw at the cienma?  Dinner For Schmucks

4. What is your favorite TV show?  At the moment, Community. Of all time, Buffy.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?  At the beach. Nowhere specific.

6. What did you have for breakfast?  I'm out of breakfast foods, but usually I have a Pop-Tart once I get to work. But my box is empty. It's very disappointing.

7. What is your favorite cuisine?  I don't think you can consider "pizza" cuisine.

8. What foods do you dislike?  So many to choose from... Chocolate, most vegetables, peanut butter, and pineapple top my list.

9. Favorite Place to Eat?  Macado's. Every time I get back home I try to hit the Macado's at least once. The way I see it, I could die before the next planned trip to Roanoke. What if I didn't eat at Macado's that last time when I could have?

10. Favorite dressing?  Honey Mustard

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?  Ford Escort

12. What are your favorite clothes?  T-shirt and shorts

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?  Hawaii, Australia, Paris, Rome, Prague, Brazil, Seattle, New York... I don't get to travel too much, but I'd like to.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?  I count myself lucky to have anything my glass at all these days.

15. Where would you want to retire?  The beach. Or the lake. I won't be picky.

16. Favorite time of day?  Evenings, when I have nothing else to worry about between work and sleep.

17. Where were you born?  Roanoke, VA

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?  When I'm feeling in a sports mood, I like to check the highlights on ESPN. I find that I don't have the patience to sit through an entire game of anything unless I'm there watching it live, which is always more fun. But in those cases, I like a good baseball game or a college basketball game.

19. Who do you think will not tag you back?  I stole this from Facebook and was technically not tagged. And since this is going up on my blog, there won't be any tagging going on. That makes this question a moo point.

20. Person you expect to tag you back first?  See #19

21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this?  I'm always interested to learn random details about just about anyone. I find these lists to be a nice little social experiment. But I don't expect to see these questions anywhere else beyond this post.

22. Bird watcher?  When I get bored at work, I'll stare out the drive through window. Often times, birds will enter my field of vision and I will watch them as if it's Animal Planet.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?  Depends on the day I guess. Some nights I'm too tired to be a night person. Some mornings I'm too tired to be a morning person.

24. Do you have any pets?  Nope

25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share?  I interviewed for a new job last week. Sure it's another teller position, but it's with a different bank and it's about 5 minutes from my apartment. That's what I like to call a win/win.

26. What did you want to be when you were little?  I wanted to be a teacher so I could spend the summers off writing. That didn't work out like I thought it would. But I still want to write.

27. What is your best childhood memory?  You know, I love my cousin, Landon, like a brother. And even though we had some pretty severe knock-down drag-outs, we got along more often than not. And those times that we were getting along, we got pretty imaginative running around in his back yard during the summer. Those were some pretty good ones.

28. Are you a cat or dog person?  I am definitely a dog person. And if I didn't spend 12 hours a day away from my apartment, and also made enough money to put food on my plate and in a dog's bowl, I'd definitely have one.

29. Are you married?  Nope

30. Always wear your seat belt?  Yes. Click it or ticket. It's the law.

31. Been in a car accident?  A couple, but never anything incredibly serious. Both fender-benders. The first was my fault. I was young and impetuous. The second was the fault of some chick driving a Lexus. I really should have faked a neck injury. Oh well, I guess my conscience remains clear.

32. Any pet peeves?  When people don't give a turn signal when changing lanes or turning. Also, when people leave their turn signal on for three miles without changing lanes or turning.

33. Favorite Pizza Toppings?  Chicken, bacon, sausage... big fan of the meat-lover's pizza.

34. Favorite Flower?  I generally consider flowers to be a waste of money, but if I had to pick a favorite I'd got with daisies.

35. Favorite ice cream?  Vanilla

36. Favorite fast food restaurant?  Taco Bell

37. How many times did you fail your driver's test?  Once

38. From whom did you get your last email?  Netflix. They were letting me know that they received the movie I just sent them.

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?  I'm not much of a shopper. And I hate using the credit card for anything outside of an emergency situation. So I pretty much wouldn't.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?  Spontaneity, I find, is something that requires a little extra money most of the time. I know there are some spontaneous things that one can do for free. But those situations rarely present themselves. So no, nothing spontaneous of late.

41. Like your job?  Absolutely not. No.

42. If you could do anything, what would it be?  Write. And get paid to do it. I think it would be awesome to be a reporter or a novelist or even the guy that writes the descriptions of stuff in catalogs.

43. What was your favorite vacation?  Probably the one that's coming up in a few weeks. It'll be a weekend at the lake with the old gang from college. Can't wait.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with?  Shalana

45. What are you listening to?  The classic rock station. And the mind-numbing droning of co-workers and customers at the bank.

46. What is your favorite color?  Blue

47. How many tattoos do you have?  Zero

48. How many are you tagging for this quiz?  See the answer to #19

49. What time did you finish this quiz?  10:45am

50. Coffee Drinker?  Nope. Not even a little bit.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Faith

Caleb's hand trembled as he put the bottle to his lips. He was shaking so much that a part of him was scared he would drop the bottle. Another part of him didn't care. That part would be just as content with watching the glass shatter as with drinking himself into oblivion.

He sat on the bare, hardwood floor of what had once been the living room. His legs were stretched out in front of him and he stared at his feet. There was nothing else in the room to look at. He sold off everything that he could. He had to get rid of anything that reminded him of her. And so, the rest of the house was just as empty as the living room. All of his worldly possessions could be found in the three boxes and two suitcases that sat next to the front door.

Those things sat there waiting. For what, or for whom, Caleb couldn't be sure. He didn't know whose turn it was to "take care" of him this week. He tried to be grateful for the steady stream of friends and family that had been there for him over the course of the last month. But they couldn't possibly understand everything that he was going through. How could they know? None of them had been there when it happened. Even if they had, it hadn't been their wife who had died. They couldn't possibly know the miserable feeling of helplessness as he watched her beautiful life slip away.

He turned the bottle up and swallowed the last of the vodka. He set the bottle on the floor and tried to stand, but he knew that was a stupid thing to do. Caleb had never been much of a drinker. Tonight he was probably more drunk than he'd ever been in his life. Yet, even in this state, he understood the irony of the situation.

Headlights flooded the room as a car pulled into the driveway. Somehow, he managed to make his way over to the window and saw that the car belonged to Dave, his best friend since their medical school days. He and his wife got out of the car and slowly made their way to Caleb's doorstep.

When the doorbell rang, it sounded far away in Caleb's head. Then he heard Dave's voice, "Caleb, open up!" He stumbled toward the door. "Come on, buddy, we know you're in there!"

Under his breath, Caleb said, "I know I'm in here too." He swung the door wide and leaned heavily against it. "Dave, your timing is impeccable. I just ran out of vodka, so I'm gonna need a ride to the liquor store." His speech was slurred and Dave thought for a moment that he would have to reach out to keep his friend from collapsing.

Dave turned to his wife. "Why don't you go on back home. We'll follow you in Caleb's car." Not knowing how to respond or what to say, Barbra just nodded and took the keys.

"Bye bye, Barbra!" Caleb yelled louder than he intended to.

As Barbra backed out of the driveway, Dave turned back to Caleb. "You been doin' some drinkin', huh?"

"You figure that out all by yourself Doctor Dave?"

Dave shook his head. "You think this is what she would want?"

Caleb's anger, so close to the surface these days anyway, boiled over and he got in Dave's face. "You don't get to tell me what she would want! She's not here! And you don't have to be here either!"

Dave stayed calm. He put his hand on Caleb's shoulder, but Caleb immediately shook it off. "I know I don't have to be here, but I'm glad I am. I won't let you keep doing this to yourself."

Caleb's tears came so suddenly that they took him completely by surprise. He dropped back to the hard floor and sat with his back against the wall. Dave stepped inside and joined him. "I know things look miserable right now. You think I can't see that, but I do. We all do. But you have to have faith that God will see you through this."

"Faith?" Caleb turned to look at his friend. He wiped the tears away from his eyes so he could see clearly. "Faith was something that she had plenty of. It was inspiring, how much faith she had. But when she died senselessly, so did my faith."

"I think you're wrong. You just want to think you've lost your faith because it's the easiest thing to do right now. You have people who love you and who are going to help you get along. Eventually, you'll find that faith again. I'd put money on it."

"I need another drink," Caleb said, clearly not listening to Dave's pep talk.

"No, you need to sober up. Doctor's orders." Dave stood up. "Let's get this stuff loaded into your piece of crap car."

"The boxes go to storage, the luggage goes with me to the hotel." Caleb said as he tried to stand.

"Well tonight, it's all going to my place." Dave put his hand back on Caleb's shoulder, this time making it stick. "You're staying with us tonight." Caleb opened his mouth to protest, but Dave cut him off, "Not a request."

With that, they loaded up Caleb's piece of crap car with all that he owned. Caleb climbed awkwardly into the passenger seat and handed his keys over to Dave. As they backed out of the driveway, Caleb looked one last time at the house that represented another life. It was a life that he didn't want to leave behind, but he had no choice, because everything about that former life caused nothing but pain.

He didn't know if Dave was right or not. Caleb looked down the road that stretched out in front of them and didn't know if he would find his faith again. But he had hope that he would.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXXV

There's a gentleman that comes into my branch about once a week. We'll call him Jerkface. That's not his real name, but it's an apt description.

A little background on Jerkface: He's been with our bank for less than a month. I know this because any time I attempt to run a transaction for him, an alert pops up on my screen to inform me that his account has been open for less than four weeks. That lets me know that he doesn't have a long-standing relationship with our bank, so we can't let him just get away with whatever he wants. Now, if he'd been with us for five months, well, that's a different story.

The man never has a simple transaction. I take that back. His transactions should be simple. But he makes them complicated by complaining about no less than three different things while standing at the counter. Personally, my complaint is that I've managed to get this guy every time he's here. I'm the drive-through teller. How it works out for me to get him every time he's in here, I don't know, because he comes inside. But it's happened. And today was the last time that I will ever put up with it.

Don't worry. I didn't just quit my job. Though sometimes I think that would be nice. No, I simply announced for all the staff to hear: I will not help that man ever again. If I ever see him in line, I will find a reason to be somewhere else. I don't care how poorly staffed we are on the day that he comes in. I will be in another room.

Yesterday his chief complaint was that the check he was depositing wouldn't be available immediately. "I've never been to a bank that didn't make checks available after 2:00!" Dude, 2pm isn't a magic number that automatically means that every check that's been deposited will suddenly pass through the proof department and will have cleared all the proper channels. Checks have to go where checks go in order to be deposited into people's accounts.

Luckily, the check that Jerkface was attempting to have available immediately was drawn on our bank. So I suggested that he cash the check first, then we deposit the cash. In simple terms, cash is available immediately. This confused him. But after about 15 minutes of explaining it in monosyllabic words, I'm pretty sure he finally got it. He complained a few more times, but eventually he got what he wanted.

But it's like that every time I've helped him. Always a complaint about this bank. Now, I have my complaints, but I'm here every day. I work here. I have no choice but to endure. Jerkface, on the other hand, recently opened his account. If he's so unhappy with the way we do things, why doesn't he just move on? Though, most of his complaints can be traced to the fact that he can't manage to keep his account on the plus side of things. The guy is overdrawn every time he's been in here. So if he were to take his business elsewhere, it isn't as if we'd be missing a whole lot out of him. There are many other banks to choose from. Maybe one of those institutions will pander to him in a way that will be more pleasing. Though I doubt it, since he can't keep an accurate transaction register. Moron.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Question of the Week: Haircut

Would you accept $10,000 to shave your head and continue your normal activities sans hat or wig without explaining the reason for your haircut?

Absolutely. I mean, it's $10,000. Hair grows back. At least for me it does. And it comes back kind of quickly. So where do I sign up?

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Life Story: Chapter Forty Nine

Ah, sophomore year. What can I say about the 10th grade at Patrick Henry High? No... really... what can I say about it?

I don't remember much. So this post may come off as kind of vague. I did attempt to e-mail a friend to help me fill in the gaps, but I never heard back from her. Maybe we've had a falling out that I didn't know about. I guess it happens. I hope not, but until I know for sure, I'm left alone with my scattered memories.

During that sophomore year, I was still in those Center classes of a sort of advanced English and social studies variety. That year meant World Literature with Mr. Foard and World History with Mr. Salo. I'll do my best to do them justice, but I really am afraid my memories will come up short.

Most of what I remember about Foard's class has to do with reading Homer's The Iliad and then acting out the Trojan War. We didn't have an actual battle, but we did go out to the practice football field and faced each other with Rock, Paper, Scissors. Each of us drew parts to play, from mortals like Achilles and Paris to gods like Apollo and Athena. I drew Apollo. Yeah, that's right, I was an immortal. But, as fate would have it, I lost my match of Rock, Paper, Scissors... to a mere mortal. It was very embarrassing. As for the rest of the year in that class, I really don't remember much.

World History with Mr. Salo involved a great deal of distraction. Salo was the kind of teacher that could very easily get off-topic, and he very often did. In fact, the go-to off-topic discussion was how he damaged his finger. See, one of his fingers was missing a chunk of it. And he liked to tell the story. So we let him tell it. A lot. Another off-topic for him was the Book of Questions. This is the same Book of Questions from which I get many of my Questions of the Week.

The rest of 10th grade must have been kind of boring. At the very least, it was extremely uneventful. I did take a couple more art classes. Back then I was really into art. I guess I still am into art, I just don't draw or paint as much as I did in high school. I'm definitely out of practice. But that year I also took a ceramics class. And we're talking real ceramics, where you start with a lump of clay and you actually make something out of it. I gave more Christmas presents that year then I ever had before or since.

I'm racking my brain, but it's as if there's just a dark spot blocking that school year. If I come up with more, I'll be sure to do another 10th grade post. If not, we'll just move on to the junior year, which I think was a little better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Introvert

While I'm on this "being honest about myself" kick, I may as well go a little further. Farther? What's the difference? (Ha... and I want to be a writer...)

I've always considered myself something of an introvert. Put me in a room with a bunch of random people that I'm not too familiar with, and there's a good chance I will be standing off to the side, outside the crowd, waiting for someone to notice me or take the initiative to come start a conversation. I'm not good with starting a conversation. Once I'm inside the comfort of a conversation, I'm usually okay. Even if I don't know the initiator too well, I can generally hold my own. Just don't expect me to be the one to break the ice.

Is that what an introvert truly is? My dad was pretty much the same way. Dad was a really funny, witty kind of guy, but there are a lot of people who never knew it. There are probably a lot of people who were in his life, and people I've known over the years, who would probably think the same thing about both of us: that we're stuck up or that we're too good to talk to people. That's just not the case. Dad was shy. I'm shy. It's kind of crippling at times.

According to dictionary.com, an introvert is simply defined as a shy person. But I don't think that's enough to define me. Like I said before, you get me into a conversation, especially with people I know, and I'm fine. Most of the time I'll still be quieter than most, only chiming in when I feel the time is right, but that's because I spend a lot of time observing. Despite my seeming disinterest in being around people, I do love to watch people. People are interesting. It's fun to watch people's reactions to certain things or even to each other.

Is there a cause for this kind of shyness though? I've always written it off as an aspect of my personality. I almost said "flaw" there, but I don't like the term "personality flaw." That's like saying that simply because someone is shy, they're damaged. I don't think I'm damaged. Unless you read yesterday's post, in which case, yeah, it's likely I'm damaged. But the damage I referred to yesterday isn't about my personality. It's about my current psychological state and is completely off subject. So if you don't mind, we'll continue. Please save your remaining questions for the end of the lecture. Thank you!

As I was saying, I don't feel that my personality is flawed. I just happen to be uncomfortable in situations that put me face to face with new people. There have been occasions when I've been able to overcome the crippling shyness and I've gotten by just fine. But the anxiety that builds up is indescribable. But when I really think about it, what is there to be so anxious about?

I've always made a lot of big talk about how I don't care what people think of me. I can probably count on one hand the number of people whose opinions truly matter to me. But what it comes down to is that that is all a lot of big talk. And it's an easy thing to say behind the mask of this blog. In real life, where I really live, I allow people's opinions of me to weigh me down. And it shouldn't be that way at all. I shouldn't care what people think. Is my shyness all stemmed from an odd form of pessimism created by fear of what people will think when I finally open my mouth to speak?

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." While that quote isn't constantly playing through my mind as I prepare to talk to anyone, the idea behind it may very well be something that drives my shyness. But why should it? Why should I care if someone thinks I'm foolish or intelligent or witty or mean? Shouldn't it only matter what I think of myself?

Maybe that's exactly what it comes down to: self-confidence. If I can just figure that one out, maybe I'll be able to cure this whole shyness thing. So I'll be working on that. Now, are there any questions? You in the back? Is that your hand raised? Oh, I'm sorry sir, you were just doing a search for public speaking tips and accidentally stumbled into my blog. Sorry to disappoint. The bathroom's down the hall on the left.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Downer

Can I be honest? I believe in honesty. And if I can't be honest on a weblog being viewed by people all over the interweb, where can I be honest? So that's what this blog post is about. Honesty.

Actually, it won't be about the virtues of honesty, or why it's important that we're honest with people. It's really about my honest feelings and thoughts. This is about my personal honesty. So get ready, this could be a tough one to swallow.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm pretty miserable. I spend a great deal of my time feeling depressed. It's not something I'm proud of or happy about. Obviously, if I were happy about it, I wouldn't be depressed, now would I?

The thing is, I'm not really sure how to put my finger on exactly what got me to this point. I realize that I am where I am based on choices that I've made over the years. That's not to say that I think I've made poor choices. I think that, for the most part, I've done the best I could with what was set in front of me. Yet, here I am, working in a job that I despise, and stressing out over an inability to consistently make ends meet from month to month.

I'm sure these things play an enormous part in this depression. Another realistic factor could be my inability to properly grieve the loss of my father. He passed away nearly four years ago, yet, looking back, I'm not sure that I ever really dealt with or got over that loss. And I'm not sure how to change that. There's no handbook for people telling them the right way to grieve.

I admit, I should probably seek professional counseling. Okay, I should eliminate the probably from that last sentence. I took enough psychology in college to know that my head is in a bad place. I have no problem spilling my guts to my friends, but by now, I'm sure they're tired of hearing my woes. I used to be a pretty fun guy to be around. But now, all I can think about is how cynical I've become.

I'm not saying I was the life of every party. But when I want to, I can have a pretty good sense of humor. All I'm doing these days is letting my circumstances drag me down. It really sucks to feel this way. Just so you know.

And to my regular readers, sorry for the downer of a post today. It's just some stuff I had to get off my chest. Not sure that I feel any better though.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Perils of Pizza Delivery, Part 6

I've been delivering pizza on the side for a full year now. In fact, Friday was my official anniversary. There were no parades. There was no fanfare. Just a typical Friday night.

It had been a long day at the bank, as days at the bank tend to be. After roughly 10 hours there, I spent close to three moving pizza around Wake Forest. It should have only been two hours of pizza, but somehow I got stuck with a far away delivery at 8:55. And when I got back to the store, I still had to finish my assigned duties. So yeah, I didn't get home 'til after 10. I was tired. And since I hadn't eaten anything since about 12:30 that afternoon, I was really hungry.

But it was all worth it. Because Saturday night, my manager gave me a new shirt. I know, what's so freakin' special about a new shirt? Well, for starters, I've been wearing the other one non-stop for a year. It's about time I wash it, right? I kid, I wash that one regularly. No, the new shirt has my name embroidered on it.

I'd noticed that a lot of the other employees had their names on their shirts. But I'd never asked where they got that done or if I could get it done to my original shirt. I guess I just had to hold out for a year until they deemed me worthy of having a shirt with my name on it.

It was just like the day I got my business cards at the bank. I looked at my name on that shirt and couldn't help but think, Hey, I'm somebody now!

Now, the question is, should I feel bad for planning to quit this job just as soon as I find a replacement for my career in banking? Because I kind of do. Here I have this new shirt, showing that the company has made some kind of investment in me, and the minute I find a full-time job that pays more than $5.00 an hour, I'm gonna quit both of these jobs. Maybe I shouldn't feel bad. A shirt represents an investment of, what, ten bucks?

And the $5.00 an hour thing was an exaggeration. I'm gonna need at least $10.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dangerous

The girl ran as fast as her feet would carry her over the uneven ground. She knew that her unseen assailant was not far behind. She knew that looking back would cause her to slow down, but she wanted to see how much of a lead she had on the Bad Man.

Was it a man? She couldn't be sure.

Her eyes were still trying to adjust to the dim light and she had trouble seeing the next step in front of her. She tripped when she came to a wide set of stairs. Hitting her chin on the cold stone, she became stunned. But she didn't have the luxury of time. She couldn't just stop to feel embarrassed at the thought of falling up the stairs.

She half crawled, half ran up the stone staircase. As she caught sight of the top, she felt a familiar, firm grasp on her ankle. She screamed. Her one free foot was kicking wildly as her scraped hands clawed for that top step, which now seemed so far away. The Bad Man was dragging her back down the stairs on her stomach.

Her screams and cries would be heard only by her attacker. A rush of adrenaline gave her the strength to twist onto her back. The Bad Man was caught off guard by the girl's sudden assertiveness and lost his grip on her leg. The girl used his confusion to her greatest advantage and kicked him hard in the chest. The Bad Man flew backwards, landing hard on his back at the bottom of the stairs.

Part of her wanted to go to him and continue hurting him as payback for what he had done to her thus far. But she knew better. She knew that her best chance of survival was to put as much distance between the two of them as possible. She had to get back above ground. She had to feel the sunlight on her face once again. She had to live.

Her breathing was labored as she reached the top of the stairs, but her small victory gave her new found strength. She broke once again into a sprint, not looking back to see if he had gotten back to his feet. Her body ached, but she pushed through the pain. The lacerations on her face stung as the cold, underground air washed over her. She could hear her attacker behind her again, and fear took over.

The girl didn't know where she was. She didn't know why she had been taken or why she was being attacked. None of it made any sense. She was beginning to lose hope. What would happen when her mother found out she was dead? How would her friends react? Would she ever even be found?

She heard him getting closer and tears ran down her cheeks. The sounds he made frightened her even more, as if that were possible. Was he/it actually growling? She had been questioning the thing's humanity. She was now becoming more and more certain that this Bad Man was no man at all. Whatever it was, she was also certain that it would catch up to her eventually. It was only a matter of time.

Crying out for help would do her no good, not in this place. As she ran, she realized that it was getting darker. The thought that she may be heading in the wrong direction filled her with dread. What little hope she had of survival was dwindling. But she kept running.

Now the only sound she could hear was her own gasping for breath. What had happened to the growls? What had happened to the heavy footfalls of the thing chasing her? She risked a look back as she continued to move forward. Nothing.

The shadowy figure had disappeared. The Bad Man was gone.

She turned completely around to scan the area behind her. She still saw nothing. She had no idea what she should do now. Should she continue running in the direction she was going? Should she backtrack and pray that she could find an exit that she had somehow missed?

She turned back in the direction she had been traveling all this time and continued forward. In the darkness, she ran into a wall and fell back. Landing hard on the ground, she reached up to massage her bruised forehead. She couldn't believe she had run into a wall. Though she had been having trouble adjusting to the darkness, she didn't remember seeing a wall in front of her.

Then, a cold realization swept over her. She hadn't run into a wall at all. It was him. Somehow the Bad Man had gotten in front of her. Silently, he reached down for her. The girl's screams were silenced as he placed his claw-like hand over her mouth. Squeezing her face, he lifted her to her feet, then off her feet.

She dangled in the air, unable to scream, unable to cry out. She could only hope that the tears streaming down her face would cause him to lose his grip. But luck, it would seem, was not on her side.

He carried her off into the darkness. He didn't know her name. He didn't care. To him, she was a means to an end. She was just another of his nameless, faceless victims. On the surface, her absence would eventually become apparent, but she would never be found.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Stand, Part III

1,140 pages later, I was finished. And I have to say, I was a little disappointed.

There are probably a lot of people out there who would read that last statement and start hurling rocks and insults my way. Before you reach for your rotten tomatoes, listen to me. It's just the ending that disappointed me.

The first two parts of the book were phenomenal. Stephen King spends 900 pages building up the story and building up the characters, preparing everything for what promises to be an amazing climax. But then you get to Part III and you realize you've only got about 230 pages left in which to wrap things up. Is that really enough?

As with my first two sections of this review, spoilers abound. So if you haven't read the book or seen the mini-series, you may want to avert your eyes.

At the end of Part II, we left off with the death of Mother Abagail and the sending of our four missionaries: Stu Redman, Larry Underwood, Ralph Brentner, and Glen Bateman. Earlier, the good guys had also sent a handful of spies out west, just to check on Randall Flagg's operation.

Part III picks up with our spies and what became of them. Two of the spies, Judge Farris and Dayna Jurgens, met very unfortunate ends. The third, Tom Cullen, managed to spend his time in Vegas, then get away undetected. And this seems to be the beginning of the end for Flagg.

While not omniscient, and certainly not omnipresent, he has a vast range of abilities that allows him to know certain things and be in certain places. But these powers seem to be crumbling. He's losing his grip on his people and on his reality.

Meanwhile, the four wanderers from Boulder are slowly, but steadily, making their way across the west. Tragedy befalls when Stu takes a tumble and breaks his leg. He insists that the others leave him behind, knowing that this was all part of God's plan, as explained by Mother Abagail on her deathbed. The other three eventually find their way to Las Vegas and are taken into custody.

Glen, Larry, and Ralph are taken to jail and held seperately. Glen is unceremoniously executed when he mouths off to Flagg. The other two are put on display for the Las Vegas population and are sentenced to a public execution for crimes that they never committed. Suddenly there's another example of Flagg losing his grip when one of his upper-level lackeys speaks out against their leader's current actions. Flagg shoots some kind of lightning from his finger and incenerates the lackey, then basically dares anyone else to speak out.

Suddenly, from the back of the crowd, comes the Trashcan Man, the pyromaniac whom Flagg set to burn. Along with him is a nuclear warhead. Flagg begins to panic. His right hand man, Lloyd, attempts to get Trashcan to leave and take the bomb with him. But it's already too late. The Hand of God intervenes and detonates the A-bomb, obliterating Las Vegas and everyone in it.

And this is where I have my problem. Reading this book, from start to finish, it's as if King spent all this time building up to the climax for the first 900 pages, then got tired of writing about it. It's like, one day, he just sat down at his typewriter and decided that he just needed to wrap things up as quickly as possible, so he could move on and get The Dead Zone finished.

There really isn't an explanation as to why Flagg's powers started to fade. There seems to be no real reason as to why his own people begin to doubt his power. Sure, they're still afraid of him, but they begin to realize that they made the wrong choice when making their way across the country. All of a sudden, things fall apart for the bad guys, and even though a few of the good guys have to be sacrificed, good just happens to triumph over evil? I'm sorry, I just don't buy it.

Not that quickly anyway. I can absolutely buy into the idea that God would sweep in and take out, well, whoever He wanted to. It just seems lazy to me, to spend so long building and building and building, and then suddenly, without much confrontation at all, we're at the end.

Overall, I thought the book was pretty good. I'm basing that mostly on the first two parts. If I was just judging things based on Part III, I couldn't say the same. It isn't that the last 240 pages wasn't well written, it just felt lazy. What do you think, those that have read it? Agree? Disagree? I'm interested to know what others have thought about this novel.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Question of the Week: Unprovoked

If this country were to suffer an unprovoked nuclear attack and would be totally obliterated in a matter of minutes, would you favor unleashing the US nuclear arsenal upon the attackers?

Why stop at unleashing the nukes on our attackers? Why not just put the rest of the world out of its misery at the same time? What would the world look like without America to run things from our little corner of the globe? Okay, not really. I always thought that automatic response scenario during the Cold War was stupid. If we're eliminated, where's the satisfaction in taking out the other guys posthumously? It's not as if we'll all be sitting in lawn chairs, under the shade of a mushroom cloud, applying sun block to protect ourselves from the fallout. No, we've been obliterated. America, in this hypothetical scenario, no longer exists. Let the rest of the world deal with the guys that wiped us out. If we're all dead, I don't see why anything else matters.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Single Guy Tries Not to Obsess

The Single Guy works at a bank. That's been well established for some time. The branch in which he works is in an area of town that's surrounded by a cornucopia of banks. Oddly enough, there's even a second branch of the same bank located inside a grocery store that's only a block away from the Single Guy's workplace. Overkill? I think so. But I guess the good folks of Raleigh like to have their options when it comes to who charges them fees for holding on to their money.

That grocery store, which houses that second branch, is located directly across the street from the salon in which the Girl in the White SUV works. Remember her? Sure, there weren't supposed to be anymore posts about her. Rules are being broken. So be it. But she deserves a mention. She's back in the life of the Single Guy, however briefly or temporarily.

Yesterday was the Single Guy's day off, as are most Wednesdays. Early in the morning, he received a text from the Barney Stinson, informing him that the Girl in the White SUV was back in town. The assumption, for some time, had been that she had gone away since she had made no appearances at either of the local locations. Since Stinson is dating a teller inside the grocery store branch, he has access to the information that the Girl in the White SUV had made an appearance there the previous evening.

The Single Guy replied by text, simply, that he was trying not to care.

Some time passed during the day off and the Single Guy received another text from Barney. "She's at the salon."

Again, the Single Guy responded, "I'm really trying not to care here. I'm not gonna pursue her anymore. I pretty much only want to know about it if she asks for me specifically. I appreciate the thought where White SUV is concerned. Just trying not to think about her is all."

The Single Guy feels that his mindset is a healthy one. He doesn't want to think about this girl. If he doesn't think about her, there's no chance of obsessing over what might have been. If he isn't thinking about her, there's no reason for him to second guess his actions and activities where she was concerned over the past months. He may have thought of her as the hottest woman he'd ever met in his life, but it became fairly obvious that she didn't bother giving him a second thought.

Now, the Single Guy may be through thinking about the Girl in the White SUV. He may be done wondering where she is or how she's doing. But that doesn't mean that if she were to show up and make it blatantly apparent that she wants to make amends that he wouldn't jump at that opportunity. But it would have to be pretty blatant.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Heat and the Humidity

I need to confess something. I'm tired of being hot and sweaty all the time. Some people may enjoy the aspect of summer that keeps them warm all day. I am not one of those people.

Since May, my car has been without air conditioning. If this were still spring, or possibly mid-fall, this would be a tolerable thing. But driving around during the hottest part of the year with no air circulation has become unbearable.

In truth, on most days, it isn't so bad. I can roll the windows down and let the breeze blow through. Sure, the breeze is like feeling the hot breath of a fire-breathing dragon slapping me in the face, but at least the air is moving. It's the rainy days that get me way down.

See, when it rains, one can't exactly roll down the windows, can one? No, because then, the driver, and the interior of the car would get soaked. This would make for an unpleasant drive and a disgusting, mildewy smell in the following days. It's not good.

The problem I have won't be solved by a simple recharge of the freon. No, the problem is with the fan that circulates the air. This means that my issue isn't only with the a/c. It's with anything associated with the ventilation system. This also means that, if I let this go for the rest of the year, I'll have no heat or defrost during those cold winter months.

I have no money to brag about. My jobs keep food on my table and a roof over my head. God help me if I need to by new clothes, because those jobs sure wouldn't put new clothes on my back. And those jobs certainly do not afford me the luxury of having a $200 piece of equipment replaced in my car.

Yesterday I made the plea for my readers to help me in finding a new job. So I feel a little strange asking for your help two days in a row. But I've grown desperate. I need help.

Thus, I've added a DONATE button to the right side of the page. I honestly don't expect anything to miraculously accrue in my PayPal account, but I had to put it out there. No one can answer the door if I don't knock, right? No donation is too small. Or too large for that matter.

I used to think I had too much pride to ask anyone for help, especially when it came to money. But I've learned that, when you're broke, you really can't afford pride. Besides, I miss the feeling of forced, cooled air blowing in my face too much to remember what pride even looks like.

La Biblioteca

Okay, I admit that sometimes I don't take the good advice that friends are trying to give me. Sometimes it's because I'm stubborn. Other times, it's because I just don't feel like I've got enough time to act on that advice. So I take the easy way out and go with my gut instinct instead. Then I look back and realize that I should have listened when someone was genuinely trying to give me a good word.

Throughout the past year, the Charlottan has been trying to convince me to watch the show Community. Over and over he told me how much I'd love it, how funny I'd think it was. I nodded my friend and pretended to listen to him. I may have even told him I'd give it a look. But then I never did. And for that, my friend, I am sorry. Because now, thanks to the magic that is Hulu, I've been catching up on the entire first season of Community. And I'm here to tell you that it's quickly become my favorite new sitcom. It's dry, it's witty, it's just... well... fun to watch.

The show centers around Jeff (Joel McHale, who you may know from E!'s The Soup), a disbarred (is that the correct word?) attorney who is forced to go back to school and begins taking classes at Greendale Community College. Part of his class load is a beginning Spanish course taught by SeƱor Chang (Ken Jeong, of The Hangover). To get by in this class (and to meet the hot blond girl, Jeff forms a study group, including an old guy named Pierce, played by Chevy Chase.

So today, I give you a clip from that very program. Two of the characters, Abed and Troy, often have something to do during the end credits. In this particular episode, they make up a rap using a number of Spanish words and phrases. To my international readers, I apologize, but you can't see the video. At least I don't think you can. I don't think Hulu can be seen outside the US. You guys might just have to take my word for it. Everyone else, enjoy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXXIV

I'm gonna say something that may very well come as a shock to you. Are you ready? You may want to sit down for this one. I suck at my job.

I know. It's hard to believe that someone as awesome as I am would suck at anything. But it's true. It's a fact that I've embraced, and now I'm sharing my difficulty and my weakness with my loyal readers. It's almost cathartic.

This morning I had a brief meeting with my manager. He made it clear that the point of our discussion was not to make me think that I suck at this job. No, those were my words. The manager just wanted me to be aware of what a tough position that I'm in. Not that I'm about to be fired or anything like that. He was referring to my position as the drive-through teller.

The Powers That Be recently rolled out a new customer service scoring system. If you've ever had a bank teller run a transaction before, there's a good chance you've received one of those survey phone calls asking you to rank your experience with your bank. They introduced this new system a little over a month ago, and with that introduction, I apparently had a shaky start. I scored a zero on my first interview.

To be fair, the scoring is a bit unfair. See, the customers being surveyed are given a 1-10 scale in which to score their tellers. But the score only counts for the teller if they receive a 9 or a 10. Anything less than that counts as a zero. Does that sound fair to you? Me neither. Turns out, I got all 7s and 8s on my first interview. So even if the customer surveyed thinks the 7s and 8s were pretty good scores, they counted for nothing. Thus, a zero.

So I had that little stall at the start of this thing. I wasn't the only one. But I'm the one getting picked on at the moment. The manager's boss decided that, because I'm at the drive-through, I have a really hard time connecting to customers and achieving those perfect scores that the Powers That Be expect to see every time. When other branch managers were asked how they dealt with the drive-through customer service issue, the answer, unanimously, was that they changed drive-through tellers.

Does this mean I'm being yanked off the drive-through? No, it doesn't. Not yet anyway. It could happen, but I really don't think it will. In the meantime, that zero I got has caused me to be the one that gets asked, "How can you change that?"

It isn't as if I was really being picked on. The manager made it clear that he feels my pain as the drive-through teller. This new customer service survey system is very touchy-feely. This is not a thing that's conducive to the drive-through lane. I get a few seconds with those folks in their cars. They tend to be in a hurry, so they tend to value speed over conversation. But without conversation, it's difficult to make them feel warm and fuzzy about their banking experience, thus, it's difficult to get a 10 on that score.

I did think it was interesting that the last three interviews I've gotten have all been perfect scores. But the Powers That Be didn't want to recognize that. They just wanted to look at the zero and figure out how to fix what, apparently, has already been fixed.

As an epilogue to this story, I informed the manager that I would do this job to the best of my ability, in all aspects. I'm pretty decent with faking the customer service concerns (obviously since I've managed to get a few perfect scores). But when it comes to selling stuff and referring customers to the higher ups, I'm just not good at it. It's easy to blame the drive-through for that, because, as I mentioned above, I don't get a lot of talk time with these people. But it wouldn't be any better if I worked the lobby. I'm not good at talking with people about extra products that bank may offer. I'm just not comfortable with it. Therefore, I admitted to the manager that I'm just not cut out for this job.

So I'm looking for a new one. I know I've mentioned that before. I'm desperately seeking a new job that matches my personality and my education a little better than working as a bank teller. This is not a resume and this is not a job application. But I've learned that finding a job is not about what you know, it's about who you know.

After college, I held a couple of jobs that I absolutely loved. In both of those places, I found out about the open positions because of the people I knew that already worked there. I had no problem applying, receiving interviews, and obtaining those positions. Even here, at the bank, I got this job because a friend of mine knew the assistant manager of the first branch I worked in. I got the job at my current branch because that assistant manager had moved into the manager position here. In the meantime, I've sent resumes to about a hundred different places through sites like CareerBuilder and have never received any sort of acknowledgement that I even exist. Even a "no, thank you, the position has been filled" would be better than hearing nothing.

So I'm putting this out there. I have a few readers, and I'm using that to try to make a few connections. Let's just call it networking. I have two bachelor's degrees, one in Christian Studies and one in Behavioral Science. I'm using neither of these working as a teller. I have roughly four years experience in a counseling type of field, however, I'm not licensed as a professional counselor. Also, I love to write. If I thought I could get a job writing the contents of a paper bag I'd do it. And there's about 4 years worth of writing examples right here for anyone to peruse.

As I said, this isn't a resume. It isn't even necessarily a plea for help. I'm just putting it out there, bearing in mind that most of getting by in this world isn't about what you know but who you know.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Stand, Part II

Some time ago I began reading Stephen King's The Stand. Being such a large novel, and being conveniently broken down into three parts, I decided to read it in pieces. Between parts I and II, I read a few other books. But now, I've come back to the second book in The Stand: "On the Boarder." Honestly, I'm not sure if "Boarder" is a typo or not. I would think it should be "Border," because there's no real explanation as to why it would be "Boarder." But maybe, just maybe, that's the way Stephen King intended it to be and he fully expected his readers to sit there and scratch their heads, much as I'm doing right now. Though I have been dealing with some slight scalp itch lately. I blame my shampoo.

Anyway, this second part of this epic novel is quite extensive in itself. It spans pages 383 through 911, making it a touch longer than the first part. Part III consists of less than 250 pages. So I'm pretty sure I could have the entire novel done tomorrow if I wanted. But that's a debate I'll save for later. Right now, why don't we just focus on this Part II stuff.

When we left off after Captain Trips had decimated the world's population, we had a handful of people beginning to come together in a sort of pilgrimage. These people are driven by their dreams. Oddly enough, these dreams seem to be a shared experience. Each of our heroes and villains seem to be having dreams that center around two particular people. The first is Abagail Freemantle, a kind, 108-year-old black woman in Nebraska who seems to be a representative of God. The other is Randall Flagg, a dark man and a hardcase that inspires fear and terror in anyone who sees his shape and senses his presence in their dreams. No one ever truly sees the face of Flagg in these dreams. They only know that he represents evil in its truest sense. This is agreed upon, even by people who have a difficult time grasping the concept of an almighty Creator who has a hand in what goes on in the world.

As the book progresses, society begins to reform around these two figures. Mother Abagail leads her people to Boulder, Colorado, where the good guys try to restart civilization in a manner that, at the very least, resembles the one that existed before the plague. Randall Flagg? Well, he's got his people too. We really only get a couple of terrible glimpses into what his society looks like over in Las Vegas. But Vegas isn't his only stronghold. He apparently has pockets up and down the west coast. But Vegas seems to be his base of operations. In our glimpse of life in the desert, we see that he's ruling with an iron fist and crucifying anyone who dares to stand in his way, even his own followers.

But, as I said, we only get that glimpse into the dark man's side of the Rockies. Most of Book II is spent following the exploits of Stu, Fran, Larry, Nick, and a few others that I failed to mention in my first post about this book. For these leaders, things in Boulder seem to be running smoothly as everyone who comes to town is pretty willing to do just about anything to help get society back on its feet again. As these people begin to gel as a group, the dreams about the dark man and Mother Abagail occur less frequently, and then disappear altogether. But that doesn't mean that life in the Boulder Free Zone is all sunshine and daisies.

Just as a small government forms and seems to be working out just fine, Mother Abagail takes it upon herself (at the prompting of God) to take a walk into the wilderness. She disappears for some time, and though people are concerned for the health of such an old woman, the general feeling is that if she felt God was telling her to do this, then God would take care of her. In the meantime, we still have young Harold Lauder (Fran's fellow survivor from Ogunquit, Maine), a kid who has turned to the dark side. See, Harold left Maine with a raging crush on Fran. Fran, on the other hand, fell in love with Stu. As it tends to happen, Harold got his feelings hurt. But instead of being a grown-up about it (he's still only 16, after all), he bore a grudge. Enter Nadine Cross, a woman who has been marked as special by Randall Flagg. She and Harold set up an elaborate scheme to tear things apart in the Free Zone before heading west to receive their reward from the dark man. Tragedy and chaos ensue, but things could be so much worse for the good guys.

Eventually, Mother Abagail returns to her people with an ominous message from God. She tells Stu, Larry, Glen Bateman, and Ralph Brentner that they must travel to Las Vegas to confront Flagg. She warns that one of them will fall before they reach their destination, but that the other three will be taken before the dark man to make their stand, once and for all. She informs them that the will of God was not to bring them all together to form committees and switch on the electricity. God brought these few together so that they could act as His instruments in this battle against the forces of Evil.

And this is where Book II ends. King has built up this amazing story to a thrilling climax that seems to be just on the other side of a few pages. Originally I had planned to, once again, take a break between sections of this novel. But seeing as how there are just over 200 pages left before the end, I sort of feel the need to keep it going. I mean, I was gonna pick up the next Harry Potter to re-read in between, but I'd kind of like to go ahead and see this through now and not put it off. Yeah, I think that's the better idea. So, I guess I'll be back in a few days with my final thoughts on Book III and The Stand altogether.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The View

My view isn't a great one. I sit at this desk and I stare at this computer. Day in and day out. This is the life I've chosen to lead. I take that back. This is the life I lead due to the choices that I've made. That sounds a little more accurate.

Each day I'm given a list of things to do. Each day, I sit at this desk and I do those things. It's what I'm paid for. It's what keeps food on my table. It's what keeps a roof over my head. It's what keeps the clothes on my back.

And then there's the view.

Yes, there are things to look at other than this computer. There are walls. There are bulletin boards. There are OSHA regulations and notices of wage requirements that the powers that be are forced to tack up simply because there's a government agency that says it's so. There are co-workers that move about as if they have some place important to be, but I know better.

I know better because I'm here too. I do the same thing that they do. I watch them moving hurriedly from one part of the room to the other, desperately seeking to complete their tasks quickly, as if that will make five o'clock arrive sooner. A little thing I learned in my first year, that sort of thing never works. Getting done with your work and having nothing to do only makes the seconds tick by all the slower.

Though, I suppose, watching these co-workers does provide a way to break up the monotony of my tedious to do list.

There are no windows. Windows would only serve to give us hope of a better world. Windows would only show us a glimpse of what is outside, of freedom. Windows would not be conducive to productivity.

There are no motivational posters. It was decided that pictures of skydivers and kittens with happy phrases were also a mere distraction. Also, they seemed to be entirely unmotivational.

There are no pictures of families sitting on these desks. Personal touches have been outlawed in the office. Mostly because photos of anything that had nothing to do with the job at hand led to daydreaming, and thus, a loss of production.

So the view remains unchanged. I can sit in this chair and I can swivel around, but the view remains the same. All around me, it's as if some television writer came in and decided to provide us with a Twilight Zone-esque reality to deal with. I'll look at this same view for the rest of the day today. I'll look at this same view when I come back tomorrow. Sometimes, I close my eyes at night, and I still see that same view as sleep carries me into dreams.

Here's something new... This view through tears. Doesn't help.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Dream on the Train

To understand this dream that I had, you're kind of going to need to suspend belief in reality for a bit. And it isn't necessarily because the train itself was a physical impossibility (that will make sense later), but because in it, I star as something of an action hero. Unbelievable, right? That's the part that let me know it was really a dream.

Starting off, there was me, the eyes and ears of this bizarre world. Along for the ride were the Most Awesome Person I Know, her Youngest, and some old guy who thought he was Indiana Jones. Really, I guess my subconscious picked some random old guy to put in Indiana Jones' trademark fedora. The guy even carried a whip. But it wasn't Indiana Jones. Just needed to clarify that.

So this small crew of people was hired to accompany a shipment to its destination. We were going by train. I'm not sure exactly what this precious cargo was, I just know that it was worth a lot of money and could cause a lot of damage if it fell into the wrong hands. So of course the powers that be would want to hire me to make sure it got to its destination safely. Me, an Indiana Jones wannabe, a mother of five, and her 3-year-old daughter. I think the 3-year-old girl was the secret weapon.

We're on this train, moving steadily along, when Indiana Jones and myself decide it's time to turn in for the night. The Most Awesome Person I Know and the 3-year-old decided that they should take the first watch. Just as I slip into my sleeping bag and close my eyes, and as Indiana Jones pulls his hat down over his eyes (just like Indiana Jones would do), some strange character sneaks into car we're sleeping in. I lie there and pretend to sleep while the bad guy has a conversation with Dr. Jones.

"Is this the train going to Japan?" My eyes popped open at that point. First, because I knew that this was the train going to Japan. Second, because I knew it would be impossible for us to take a train all the way to Japan. But Dr. Jones keeps the guy talking, all the while, the bad guy thinks I'm asleep and harmless behind him. Like a ninja, I jump up and wrap my arms around his neck, attempting to hold him with some kind of sleeper move. Not that I know what I'm doing in reality, but in the ensuing scuffle, he ended up getting knocked out. Job done.

But there was a problem. During the scuffle, I could hear him trying to yell to his son, who was apparently waiting just outside the train. Not sure where he was, maybe riding on the roof, maybe just behind the car. But he had to be somewhere. We tied up the bad guy though, holding him in a seperate car until we got to our next stop, where we would then turn him over to the authorities. Oh, and that seperate car? It was off to the side of the car in which we were holding the unknown valuable item. And when I say off to the side, I mean there was a 90 degree turn to get to it. Definitely not possible on a train.

We got to the next stop and turned the Bad Guy over to another strange character with a mechanical leg. But I knew he was okay, because he had a badge. And apparently I knew Mechanical Leg from a previous meeting, so the Bad Guy was in good hands. I also informed Mechanical Leg of the Bad Guy's son that may or may not still be somewhere on the train. So I let him and his deputies do a search, while my crew took a break while we were stopped.

We split up for a while, but it only seemed like a few seconds, and then the train took off without us. And I mean, it took off. We're talking zero to 150 in half a second. I don't remember it going that fast when we were on board, but that doesn't really matter at this point. The cargo is still on board and its protectors are nowhere near it. Indiana Jones disappeared all together. The Most Awesome Person I Know and her Youngest tried chasing the train down, but there was no way they could have caught it.

At that point it started to rain. It wasn't just a little rain. It was like a monsoon opened up on us. All the people at the train station scattered, trying desperately to take cover. Meanwhile, I got the idea that I could find a way to get us back on our train if I backtracked a bit. I started along the rail in the direction we had come from. Eventually I got to Cape Canaveral and witness a space shuttle returning to its platform. It was like watching a launch in reverse. And I knew that's not how it's supposed to happen. I knew that this was a disaster in the making. So I turned back around and started running again. I was running faster than any human being has a right to run.

I found myself in a familiar place. I knew I had been there before, but I just couldn't place it. I also knew that I didn't want to be there at this particular time. Not exactly a safe neighborhood. People kept looking at me, as if they knew I didn't belong there. I tried to run again, but I couldn't pick up any speed this time. It's like I was stuck.

And then I woke up...

Analyze that one. If you can.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Question of the Week: Honestly

If your friends and acquaintances were willing to bluntly and honestly tell you what they really thought of you, would you want them to?

I'm a big fan of honesty. If someone doesn't like me, or doesn't like something about me, I want to know about it. That doesn't mean I'm gonna change who I am, it probably just means I'll put a little more thought into whether I want that person to continue being a friend and/or acquaintance. That might sound mean, not wanting to be friends with someone just because they don't like something about your personality, but I think it makes sense. Who wants to be friends with someone that doesn't like them? I don't want to call someone a friend if they're just going to merely tolerate me. Wait... is that what you guys do? Do you guys just barely put up with me? I know I can be really sarcastic sometimes. But I swear, it's only when I'm breathing. Great... now I have insecurity...

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Warning Signs

Have you ever noticed the hazard signs that are posted on the backs or sides of trucks that are hauling some kind of hazardous materials from one point to the next? Sure you have. You probably just don't pay much attention to them. More often than not, it's a little red sign that warns other drivers that there's something flammable on board. You see that a lot on the gasoline tanks. But have you noticed that they're also, usually, some kind of flip sign? You can change them as your hazard warning needs change.

Today I saw one that I'd never seen before. It was a blue sign that said "Dangerous When Wet." This sign struck me as really odd. I'm no science whiz, so maybe I'm just having a hard time coming up with materials that would be more dangerous wet than dry.

Then it hit me. The driver was obviously transporting Mogwais. Though, getting them wet doesn't really make them dangerous. Feeding them after midnight, that's where the danger lies. You know, 'cause that's when they transform into Gremlins. Then again, whenever Gizmo got wet and spawned his offspring, the kids were always pretty mean, even before they turned into Gremlins.

Which really begs the question, what's up with Gizmo's genetic code? Is Gizmo the only adorable Mogwai in the world? I mean really, every time the guy tries to reproduce, his kids try to kill him. Maybe I'm just thinking about this way too much.

What do you guys think? Anyone out there know what kind of hazardous material gets more hazardous when it's wet? Anyone out there know if there are other species of animals that tend toward patricide other than the Mogwai? Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Weird Dreams

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again. I have some weird dreams. I don't know why it happens, it just does. I've heard of people that take certain medications, such as anti-depressants or some other brain chemistry altering drugs, having strange dreams. And I've heard of pregnant women having bizarre dreams. But I'm not pregnant. And I'm not on any prescription medication of any kind. So the cause for the weirdness is beyond me.

I don't always remember my dreams. Sometimes I sleep through the night without my brain interrupting me. Having been a good psychology student in college, I am fully aware that we dream every time we go through that full sleep cycle. At least that's what they told me. Those quiet nights aren't quiet because I'm not dreaming. They're just quiet because I don't wake up on the edge of the dream, therefore it stays safely tucked inside my subconscious.

Every now and again, however, I'll have a stretch of nights where I remember dreams. And the dreams I remember are just abnormal. But I guess that's what makes a dream so much fun. While you're in the dream, the abnormal seems completely normal. If only I could get a handle on the whole lucid dreaming thing. That's where you realize you're in a dream, and then you are able to take control of the dream. There have been times when I've been dreaming and I've recognized that there's no way the world around me could be real. The problem for me is that I wake up. The images don't explode or break apart like in Inception, but the dream definitely dissolves into a hazy memory.

Last night's strangeness can be easily explained. I've been reading The Stand lately, so the fact that I was reading that book late into last night played heavily into how my dreams were influenced. Somehow I was a part of that world. I hadn't taken the place of any of the main characters, but I was accepted as part of the inner circle. It was helpful that I had read the book, so I had insights into the bad guys that the other good guys didn't have. And I knew about that Harold kid plotting behind Stu and Fran's backs, so we were able to nail him before he could attempt anything.

That dream must have occurred right on the edge of my waking up this morning. Because as I was rolling over to turn off my alarm, I was still internally rationalizing something I did or didn't do within the dream. Not sure what that action or inaction was, but it must have been a big one. The dream I had over the weekend is a little more disjointed. And with that one, it's a little more difficult to point out the influences. But I'm gonna save that one for another time. Sweet dreams, kids.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Answer to My Question

I follow a number of websites around the internet on a regular basis. These range from blogs written by people simply making observations about life, much in the same way this blog is kept, to legitimate news sites that keep me updated on how far the studio has come in making The Green Lantern film a reality. Most of these blogs and websites to which I subscribe, I do so through another page called Bloglines. Other blogs I simply follow through Blogger, the good people that host my own blog. I think I've used the word blog way too much. Sadly, it's not over.

All of that was to say that I follow a fellow blogger who calls himself the Badass Geek. I'm waiting for the sudden collective intake of breath to subside. "Did he just post the word 'badass' on this otherwise family-friendly blog?" Yes, I did. I know that I generally keep things clean, and that I have, in the past, asked commenters to also keep things clean. That policy hasn't changed. But I've never claimed that the content of this blog would be strictly G-rated. In fact, I'm fairly certain that a number of the stories I've shared here could garner the PG-13 if they had been filmed and reviewed by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Anyway, this Badass Geek fella, he seems to be a lot like me. I mean, his blog is mostly about the observations that he makes in life and the fun that he can poke at the little things. His humor is definitely the kind of humor that I can appreciate. Recently, he did the kind of thing that I've done once or twice before (and am probably due to do again soon). He opened the opportunity for his readers to ask him any questions they wanted by leaving him comments. So I asked him the question, "How did you get such a high readership?" That's not verbatim. But see, he's got a lot of regular readers and a lot of regular commenters. And I'll admit, I'm a little jealous.

I'm not saying that I'm not extremely delighted to have the 18 followers that I have. Number 18 just joined up sometime last night. Whenever I see that number go up I pretty much get giddy. It's really exciting to think that someone new is interested in reading something that I've written. After all, more often than not, this blog simply contains the cynical ramblings of a bitter old man. And I'm not even that old. But when I see other blog-keepers who have hundreds of followers that hang on their every post, I can't help but wonder if I'm doing it wrong.

The Badass Geek was kind enough to answer my question and his advice made sense. Mostly it involves getting involved in other blogs. That means getting down into the trenches of these blogs that I follow and start commenting myself. If I start making my voice heard in something as small as a comment on someone's random post, maybe they (or one of their own readers) will decide to click on my name and see what my own blog is all about. I mentioned that I follow a lot of blogs, but most of the time I'm merely a spectator. I like to read what people are saying and I like to laugh after a long day at work.

Shoot over to his site and read his answer. And read the other questions and answers. Check out some of his other posts too. He really is quite funny. But I will warn those of you who were taken aback by my use of the word "badass," the Badass Geek does not shy away from using the strong language that I so often censor in my own writing. So if you can get past that, have fun with it. He's got a lot of good stuff. Happy blogging!

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Unintentional Breaks

I'm actually not too sure what's been wrong with me lately. I mentioned in my post on Friday that I've been slacking when it comes to posting a regular blog. There was once a time when I vowed to post something at least once a day. Back then, I never said it would always be something that I originally came up with. More often than not, of course, it would be my own thoughts. However, the occasion would happen where I posted something interesting or funny from the YouTube, just to fill the void that would otherwise be there if I didn't post anything.

Recently, however, I've really been letting these empty days just slide on by. I was discussing this last night with the Most Awesome Person I Know, who said she's been quite disturbed lately to not receive alerts in her inbox telling her that I've posted something here at Carp Dime. The conclusion we came to, which I hate to call a valid excuse, is that after so many years of writing a daily post, I've just run out of things to write about.

It's true that there are a lot of things that happen in my life that could be considered dull and routine. That makes it hard to make new observations about little funny things in life. It makes it difficult to find something new to make fun of on a regular basis. But does that really mean I have nothing to write about? I've been doing this Life Story thing irregularly for two years and I still haven't gotten out of high school with those tales. One would think those stories are plentiful. One would also think the stories from the bank are plentiful, but really, it's a lot of the same crap day in and day out.

All that is to say that, from here on out, I'll be posting something every day. Just like I did in the good old days. I can't promise I'll always be funny. I can't promise I'll always be interesting. I can't even promise I'll always be completely original. But I promise that you'll always have something to look at when you click on my link. So stay tuned. I've got some stuff cooking.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Question of the Week: Worth Living

Have you ever considered suicide? What is so important to you that without it life would not be worth living?

No, I have never considered suicide. Not seriously anyway. To me, suicide seems like a pretty cowardly way to deal with one's problems. I can't imagine things being so bad that it's just not worth living anymore. There's gotta be another good day somewhere down the line. There's got to be another moment of happiness at some point.

I've been slacking on the posts this week, I know. Sorry about that. I don't really have any excuses. Just had a case of laziness to set in when I went to Roanoke last weekend. I'll do better this weekend. I promise.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Challenge

The Other Single Guy and myself met up in Roanoke over the weekend to celebrate Subway's 30th birthday. Please note, we weren't celebrating the restaurant. I'm pretty sure the sandwich place is older than 30. Anyway, Subway's birthday party was held at a picnic shelter with friends and family, including a group of us from Bluefield College. The fact that it rained really didn't dampen spirits as we caught up with each other, laughed about old times and more recent events, and played a few games of Corn Hole.

Among these old college friends, we discussed an upcoming event: a weekend getaway at Smith Mountain Lake. It'll be a time when even more of our Bluefield friends get together and try to catch up after being scattered to the four winds. Okay, not really scattered that far, but we're spread out over a few states on the east coast. We really don't see each other very often.

After the party, the Other Single Guy and myself discussed the lake trip and he mentioned that he wanted to lose some weight before choosing whether or not it would be wise to go shirtless while hanging out on the dock. Now, I couldn't care less about going shirtless or not. I don't swim, so there's a good chance I won't be getting in the water at all. Also, have you been in Smith Mountain Lake? There are houses down there. In the lake. Hard to tell what could be floating around in that water.

Nevertheless, I issued a challenge. I could stand to lose a few pounds myself, so I asked the Other Single Guy if he'd like to make a wager on who could lose more weight before the lake weekend. The winner would be the one to lose the most weight, in pounds, by September 12. The only problem is that we couldn't come to an agreement on what the winner would get.

The Other Single Guy threw out $100 as the wager. I threw that one out altogether. It would be nice to win $100, but if I lose, there's no way I can pay off the bet. I don't need him sending a collector to break my kneecaps. So I called for a Slap Bet, in which the winner would be allowed to slap the loser once in the face as hard as he can. The Other Single Guy wasn't down with that. I don't want to say he was afraid to get slapped if he lost, but... well... read between the lines.

So I pose this question to my readers, what should the terms of our bet be? Money really isn't an option (unless someone wants to float me the cash in the event that I lose), physical pain is apparently not on the table, and it can't be some crazy stunt like, "the loser has to jump into the lake naked." If I lose, I could die from that one. It's the whole "I can't swim" thing. Suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXXIII

I've noticed a phenomenon among my co-workers. Really, it's a "phenomenon" for only one or two of them. It isn't anything new. It's actually something I've openly complained about. But I've stopped complaining. See, it doesn't do any good. Nothing changes.

This phenomenon involves long periods of socialization with random people who frequent the branch. I know what you're thinking, that as tellers we're expected to have conversations with our customers in order to get to know them and make them feel special. I get that. But I only get that when it applies to talking to the random people who come in to do their transaction and spend a couple minutes, at best, inside the bank. My complaint comes when we finish their deposit or withdrawal or whatever and they're still standing at someone's teller window for half an hour talking about anything and everything except the reasons why they came into the bank.

The latest example happened yesterday. A frequent customer came in to flirt with one of our tellers as he normally does. She ran his transaction and accepted the cookies that he brought for her. They talked about nothing for about 15 minutes, and then, without any announcement whatsoever, she walked out of the branch with him. She returned roughly 20 minutes later. I'm not trying to suggest that anything bad was happening. I'm just expressing my annoyance with a prolonged disappearance for which there was no explanation.

I was discussing the situation with the Most Awesome Person I Know and told her that I need her to come by the bank sometime so that I can go hang out outside for half an hour or so. I mean, if these other people I work with can do it, why can't I? Just because all the people I know and am familiar with live away from the place where I work doesn't mean I should miss out on stealing company time.

To me, it's the same argument that I used to hear between smokers and non-smokers. People who smoke are able to go outside several times a day to take a 10- or 15-minute smoke break. What about the non-smokers? Do they get to go and stand around taking a 10- or 15-minute non-smoke break?

Some time ago I mentioned that I was hesitant to write much about work these days because some of the people I work with read this blog. The person I described above is one of those people. She doesn't check this page out every day, but she does have occasion to go in and check things out. But I'm just not sure if I care anymore whether or not the people I work with get mad at me over something I've said or thought. This is just me venting my frustrations. Believe me, when it comes to this job, I have a lot of them. And as I said earlier, it does no good to complain out loud. I don't expect this to change anything either. I expect to just keep on going to work every day, doing my job, and trying not to make too many waves. I'm not there to make friends. I'm there to get a pathetic paycheck. And I'll continue to do so until I finally (please, dear God) find a new job.