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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!

Of Trip Angst and Clip Envy

(Update Time!: For you Easter freaks, my latest Zolton Does Amazon piece over at tackles everyone’s eggiest holiday. Have a gander at Easter Fun-Day!, if you dare.

Also, if you’re in the Providence, Rhode Island area on Tax Day evening — that’s Sunday, April 15th, for you revenuer-dodgers — come down to the Cable Car Cinema for theSENE Film, Music and Arts Festival funny short film screening.

The 7:30pm session includes Viral Video — featuring moi! — so if you’ve never seen me humiliated, smack-talked, bad-mouthed and beaten with a broom… well, I don’t know where the hell you’ve been. But come see the movie. It’s a hoot.)

I’m currently preparing to jet off to that last-minute conference I mentioned earlier this week.

I don’t do a lot of “work-style” travel — which is to say, alone, lightweight and short-term — so the prep for this jaunt has been a little surreal. I’m staying over just a single night, and after weighing my options this morning, decided to pack in my gym bag.

And now, it seems really weird.

I keep staring at this bag, this sack, this thing that usually holds sweats and racquetballs and unspeakably sullied footwear, and I think:

“Of course, I’ll still get there and realize I’ve forgotten my hair, or left my legs at home or something.”

There’s a tie in there! An honest to god NECKTIE!

It doesn’t seem right. And it’s making me very paranoid that I’ve forgotten something. I don’t need much — nice pants, a shirt, some socks and undies, toiletries, my laptop, that just-in-case tie — but it’s just so light. And the wrong sort of bag. It’s impossible to fathom that even the bare essentials I need for this triplet are sitting in that little lump of plastic and mesh.

And yet. I open it up — and there they are. Uncanny.

Of course, I’ll still get there and realize I’ve forgotten my hair, or left my legs at home or something. But it’s not the bag’s fault. Oddly enough, it’s getting the job done.

In the spirit of “packing light”, I’ll share below the latest homework assignment from that RISD writing class my friend Jenn is teaching. This week, we’re writing a ‘newspaper-style’ column about something embarrassing that happened to us.

Seems like sort of a slam dunk. I write. I embarrass. The two tend to mingle.

Except! This being a ‘newspaper-style’ exercise, we’re pretending that this gasping medium of paper-related communication isn’t on its last legs, and limiting ourselves to the per-inch confines of a traditional newspaper write-up. As in, 600 words or less.

Ouch. I just spent 427 words on updates and introductions. And I haven’t even written anything yet.

(Yes, I counted. I’m OCD like that.)


So we’ll reset the counter, and I’ll spend another few hundred — 599, to be exact, title included — on the latest mortifying misfortune to fall on my head. Meanwhile, I’m off to Chicago for the night with my gym bag full o’ goodies. Did I really pack that tie? I’d better check, just one more time.

I’ll be damned. It’s in there. Who’d have thunk it?

Clip Envy

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Other times, “kind” is the cruelest thing of all.

Take my job, for instance. We have a fantastic office assistant – helpful, knowledgeable and efficient. In other words, all the things I’m clearly not.

So I stay out of her way, lest I interrupt actual work being accomplished. It’s rare that I need something from her — and rarer still that I muster the nerve to ask. She’s busy with Serious Business Matters. I can always ask someone else where we keep the defibrillation paddles, or call the fire department myself.

One thing I did dare to ask concerns our ID tags. We have these nifty electronic keycards that we swipe to open doors, get into the building, or access the fridge drawer where they keep the good half-and-half. Each card has a handy retracting string and attaches to a metal belt clip.

Only, mine doesn’t. I keep breaking the clip, or tangling the string or accidentally mangling the retractor in the car door. I’ve gone through three of these doodads in a month, and our office assistant is the only person allowed to hand them out. It’s an important and solemn duty — and thanks to my special brand of clumsiness, I fear I’ve abused the system.

So I stopped asking for them. When my last clip broke – the string got caught in a ceiling fan; don’t ask – I sucked it up and went without. I’d taken enough of our long-suffering assistant’s time, and was determined to trouble her no further.

But life as a clip-less employee was difficult. Faced with a locked door or too-black coffee, I’d fumble in my pocket, jousting keys and fluff and sensitive anatomy to find the elusive card. People laughed and pointed. “Clip envy” became my constant companion, and growing shame.

Eventually, I wised up. I found the card would still work from inside my pocket – provided I got it close enough to a sensor. Huzzah! Now I could amble nonchalantly to a door, and with a quick flick of the hip – presto! Open, sez me.

The only door that resisted my trick was the side entrance near the assistant’s desk. That sensor is above waist height, making it tricky to pull off a “pocket swipe”. But not impossible. It just took more of a thrust, and a hop – or three — to work my magic. Finally, the monkey was off my back. Or belt. Whichever.

Frankly, I was proud of myself. I’d never need a belt clip again – and I’d done it without haranguing our beleaguered office assistant. Not only was I empowered, I was helping the company – and the assistant, to boot. Heck, she should be thanking me.

Maybe she would have, too, before Tuesday afternoon. I was returning from a long lunch, hoping to slip unnoticed through the side door. The sensor was especially tricky that day, and my jiggling gyrations just weren’t doing the job. That’s when the assistant came crashing through the door – right in the middle of a leaping pelvic thrust. And another. And one to grow one. I was on kind of a roll.

Now she won’t speak to me – or look me directly in the eye – and I still don’t have an ID clip. Also, I’m prohibited – per the restraining order – from thrusting of any sort within one hundred yards of the office. So I’m back to schlepping out my card at every door, to mocking laughs and downright cruel eyes.

And all because I tried – lord, help me, I tried – to be “kind”.

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Me on Film 'n' Stage:
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Eight Your 5-Hole?
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Selected Clips:
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  04/30/05: Goodfellaz
  04/09/05: Com. Studio
  01/28/05: Com. Studio
  12/11/04: Emerald Isle
  09/06/04: Connection

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  #35: My Spring Break
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