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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Hi! Can I Help You? Booga booga booga! *click*

It’s not what you know that counts. It’s what you blog.

Isn’t it funny how a tiny little word or two can make a big difference?

Oh, I’m not talking about ‘thank you‘ or ‘please‘ or ‘not pregnant‘. Sure, those can make a big difference as you go through life (and, in some cases, save you a hell of a lot of money), but this is Where the Hell Was I?, not Reader’s Digest. I don’t care about all that kissy-kissy nice-nice crap.

(Speaking of which, why is it that the prissy little nerdy types get all the sing-song hyphenated descriptions, anyway? They get ‘kissy-kissy’ and ‘namby-pamby’ and ‘goody-goody’. Some of ’em even get ‘touchy-feely’, which is at least a good excuse to clock them. But where’s the love for the rest of us? You never hear of anyone being ‘horny-horny’ or ‘pissy-wissy’ or ‘suicidal… um, -widal’. Okay, so forget that last one. Still, I think it’s time we got in on the action. I say we take over, and beat the shitty-witty out of any puny-wuny pissant that stands in our way. I’m mad-mad as hell-hell, and I’m not gonna take it any longer! Who’s with me?)

Anyway, I’m talking about little words that sometimes get accidently left out of, or added to, sentences by people who just aren’t paying very much attention to what their mouths are doing. And then we, the marginally normal ones, have to deal with the ape gibberish coming out of their pie-holes and try to respond intelligently. Which only drags us down with them into the moron muck.

I had this happen to me just this morning. First, just a smidgen of backstory is in order. In case you’re new around here, I’m currently looking for a job.

(Actually, even if you’re old around here, I’m still looking for a job. I don’t even know why I say these things.)

And I’m collecting unemployment insurance while I’m at it. You know, because I used all the money from the fancy day job I used to have to light expensive cigars, and paper the walls of my house, and wipe my ass. Important stuff, in other words.

(Okay, I’m kidding. I really blew all my dough on beer and Girls Gone Wild! videos. But that’s not nearly as sexy as the cigars and the ass-wiping. So don’t tell anyone, okay?)

So, after a couple of weeks of this, the state gubment decides that it’s had just about enough, and sends me a letter stating that I must sign up for one of their ‘career center seminars’ in the next two weeks, or lose my benefits. And since I’m only up to Girls Gone Wild IX (that’s the Daytona Beach Spring Break one, if you’re scoring at home), I really need to keep the money rolling in. On the other hand, I’m already working with a career counselor that my old company was kind enough to hire.

(I suppose they could see that I’m nearly unemployable, and can use all the help I can get my grubby paws on.)

But I really don’t need a roomful of state employees with their fingers up their noses asking me what a ‘Pooter Pro Grammer’ does. Honestly, my blood pressure is high enough as it is.

(Okay, so if you’re a state employee and you’re reading this, I’m not talking about you, all right? I’m sure you, and all of your friends in the local office are perfectly competent, not to mention friendly, helpful, thrifty, brave, and all that other good shit. And you probably hardly ever stand around picking your nose, I’m sure. No, the people I really meant are those other bastards in your office that you and your buddies hate, who never do anything and are always yelling and getting into pissing contests, and generally making life miserable. Those people. Not you, okay. Unless you don’t know any of those people, in which case you’re those people, and I am talking about you. Shiftless no-good loser-bag.)

All right, what was I saying? Ah, the seminar thingy. Good show.

So, I talked to my counselor about the whole mess.

(Sounds like I’m in summer camp, doesn’t it? Seems like I oughta be making leather wallets and practicing archery and trying to get to second base with the cute redheaded girl during a midnight skinny dip. Of course, during a skinny dip, pretty much any physical contact counts as second base, I suppose. I mean, besides the fact that she’s naked all over, you know she’s naked, which is pretty damned exciting. And which further means that if you’re facing your swimming sweetie, it’s pretty clear what the first thing you touch her with is going to be, whether you mean to or not. And that’s second base, or at least a reasonable enough facsimile for a twelve-year-old boy to hang his hat on. Unless there’s shrinkage, of course, in which case you have to try a little harder. Or try to be a little harder, I suppose. I guess this is one of those cases where adding in a couple of little words really doesn’t change much at all, does it?)

Anyway, swerving back on track, my counselor assured me that she could get me out of the seminar with a simple letter saying that I was already spoken for. Or as I like to call it, my ‘Get Out of Flunky Unemployed Boring Seminar Hell Free’ card. All I had to do was call up the job center, figure out where and to whom the letter should be faxed, and she’d handle all the rest. And it was during that phone call that I was struck dumb by one of those creepy near-sentences that make you want to box somebody’s ears for making you feel and sound like a raving idiot.

Okay, so maybe that was just a tad more than a smidgen of backstory. This is why I don’t cook, by the way. A ‘pinch of salt’ becomes a handful, and a ‘dash of hot sauce’ morphs into a whole bottle, if I’m not careful. It just never works out very well. On the other hand, I do make the homeless people around here very happy when they ask if I can spare a ‘little change’. So somebody’s getting rich off this sickness of mine, at least.

Anyway, I made the call. Here’s how it went:

Lady: Hello, Mass Employment Training Center.

Me: Hi, my name is Charlie, and —

Lady: Can you hold, please? *click*

Me: Um, sure.

Now, right away, this was odd. Sure, a lot of busy places will answer the phone and put you right on hold, but she didn’t do it all in one breath like the pros do. Instead, she let me get my name out, and then banished me to holding pattern Hell. Which made me wonder, ‘Do they know about me already? Am I walking into a trap?‘ When in doubt, folks, I turn to rampant, snarling paranoia. It ain’t pretty, but I haven’t been ambushed by ninjas yet, knock on wood. So it must be working.

But getting back to the phone call. After thirty seconds or so on hold, the lady came back. And this is where she threw me for a loop:

Lady: Hi, sorry about that.

Me: Oh, no problem. So I got this letter in the mail —

Lady: Excuse me. Are you the gentleman I’m talking to?

I mean, seriously, how the fuck do you answer that question? Unless your name is DeNiro, or maybe Pacino, ‘Am I talking to you?‘ is not a rhetorical question. And certainly not during a phone call, when — let’s be clear on this — by goddamned definition, yes, you are talking to me! If you’re talking to someone else, then I can’t see them, now can I? So what the hell was I supposed to say to that? I didn’t know, so I stalled, hoping she’d clarify if I asked her to repeat the offending half-assed question. But, of course, I’m just never so lucky:

Me: Um… what?

Lady: Are you the gentleman I’m talking to?

Me: Uh… well… um, yes?

Lady: Oh, wait. No. You’re not. Hold on a second. *click*

Okay, so I answered the question, in the only logical way I could possibly see how, and — guess what? Apparently, I was wrong! What the hell was it, a date? I had no idea the conversation was going to involve trick questions and unanswerable riddles. I fully expected her to come back and spout, ‘Does this phone receiver make my ass sound fat?’ or ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ Um, well — don’t care! Just get the hell back on the phone so I can get the hell out of the seminar you’re randomly trying to make me go to! Bitch monkeys!

(Anyone still wondering why I have little faith in the state’s best and brightest to run an employment seminar? They’ve got Fannie Gump here working the phones, speaking quasi-English and playing Whack-A-Mole with the ‘Hold’ button. And you’re gonna find me a job? Greeeeeeat.)

After another fifteen seconds or so:

Lady: Okay, I’m sorry about that. I’ll transfer you now to someone who can help you. *BEEP* *BEEP* *click*

Me: Um, thanks. I guess…

Now, I don’t know whether she remembered who the hell I was, and she never asked what the hell I wanted, so I have no idea why the hell she thought she knew who would be capable of helping me. Maybe my paranoia was well-founded after all, and they knew exactly what I was after. Or maybe she mixed me up with someone else. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s a toothless, babbling idiot, because five seconds or so after she dingled on the phone buttons and ‘transferred’ me, I heard an ominous *ka-click*, and then dead silence. No buzz, no Muzak, nothing. Bitch cut me off. Slung me back and forth, left, came back, spouted gibberish, and then cut my ass off. Maybe it was a date, after all. If only there’d been an eighty dollar check to pick up and a firm slap on the cheek for trying to smooch her, the picture would have been complete.

(Not that I would try to sneak a kiss from her, mind you. For one thing, I’m happily married and get all the smoochy-smoochy I need here at home. And for another, the receiver did make her ass sound fat. And I could see from our conversation that she had the IQ of week-old roadkill, so I wasn’t interested. Not by a longshot.)

Anyway, after a bit of thought — and a lot of cursing — I finally realized that what she’d really meant to say was, ‘Are you the gentleman I was previously talking to?’ Or something similar. On the other hand, she repeated her fractured, meaningless question rather than the more coherent version when I asked her, so I still have to stamp her ‘Moron, First Class’. But at least I understand where she meant to be coming from, though the message got garbled as it passed through her headmeat and out through her lips.

And, to be fair, after a couple hundred deep breaths and a few shots of tequila, I called back, and sorted things out rather uneventfully. Maybe I got the same woman, and she’d just had a brain lapse earlier. Or maybe she has multiple personalities, and one of them is Sylvester the Cat. Or Sylvester Stallone, for that matter, and that’s who I’d reached the first time. Or perhaps I just reached someone more competent and phone-worthy when I called back. For all I know, the first lady was some crazy vagrant who’d broken in and started answering phones, until they subdued her with tasers and dragged her by her ankles back to the curb. Hey, it happens. How do you think Stuttering John’s career got started?

So, it all worked out. I got the info I needed, and I got out of a seminar that would have sucked up another two hours of my life that I could never get back. And no, the fact that I just spent two hours blogging about the whole mess is not delicious irony. It’s just coincidence, pure and simple. Besides, this way, all of you learn a valuable lesson — if you decide you simply must open your yap and… well, start yapping, do try and make sure that all of your words are on board, and in the right order, okay? Otherwise, you’ll just freak people out, and they’ll call you names behind your back. And nobody wants that. Not even that headjob crack whore bozo bitch at the career center. It’s too late for her, folks. Don’t you be next!

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