"Unique Services"

While I know that doctors used to give trays of mercury out to fidgety children in waiting rooms to placate them (I think there was an abacus in my optometrist's office when I was small: post-mercury, pre-Xbox on the kids' toy timeline), nevertheless I am none too jazzed to have inhaled all the gas from a broken compact fluorescent lightbulb yesterday, as in my lifetime, kids have always known to keep their hands out of the mercury jar. Our parents might reminisce (with horror) about it, but for the most part we all now refrain from posing atop pools of it for group photos and the like. (I recognize this takes an enormous amount of restraint, since many of us can't stop eating three bacon cheeseburgers a day or sticking our fingers into wild animal cages ... or maybe it just went out of fashion, like fitting a lot of people into a phone booth.)

me with the precarious mannequin lamp,
before our relationship became strained

I seem to be ok, but I'm wondering how I could have missed the new don't-break-lightbulbs memo; aren't lightbulbs traditionally pretty easy things to break? Everyone knew not to go chucking thermometers around the house. Why didn't I know the light bulb thing? I didn't realize they had anything to do with mercury. I thought I was doing a Good Deed, one of those Ten Simple Things you can do to save the environment or whatever (anyone remember the other nine? I can only keep one thing under control at a time, so I was just doing that one to the hilt) and was primed to reap my cosmic reward. But instead I get mercury poisoning. Not cool. Where have I gone astray?

Also, did you know that it costs about a million times more to recycle plastic bags than to just make more of them? (And at some supermarkets the baggers seem bent on giving you as many plastic bags as possible, quickly, and if you do manage to head them off by asking for paper, they'll put the paper bags inside plastic ones; so the only reasonable thing you can do if you've forgotten your own bags is to juggle your produce out the door.)

But wait - while we're on the topic of things that seem good not really being so good, this one is even weirder. I was reading the fine print in the crew deal memo for one of my recent jobs, and I discovered this stipulation:

Employee hereby acknowledges that the services Employee are to perform hereunder are of a unique, unusual, extraordinary and intellectual character involving high skill and giving them peculiar value, the loss of which cannot be reasonably or adequately compensated by damages in an action at law, and that a breach of this Agreement by Employee shall cause Producer irreparable injury and damage.

Does that say what I think it says? I'm a little hurt by my services being referred to as "peculiar," but I'll let that slide since there seems to be a much bigger issue at stake here: not only can I be sued for not following through with my job responsibilities (or by, obviously, leaking sensitive information to the press, which is an absurd and selfish thing no one in their right mind under these circumstances would do - unless offered a very large sum of money), but if I was in fact sued and then cleaned out in such a lawsuit, that wouldn't be good enough. I could be harassed for life.

So the moral to today's blog could be any of these things:

1. always read the fine print
2. never read the fine print
3. don't inhale
4. act selfishly (i.e. patronize plastic bags and filament light bulbs)
5. live dangerously; or
6. don't sign (or install) anything without a lawyer

thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and good night.


would you look at this?

.. some years ago ... maybe in 1993 or so, my bro and I saw a comedian do a stand up act somewhere in Cleveland (I think it was Dom Irrera, who did this hilarious new year's eve skit that went something like "every year people say 'i can't believe it's 2000!' What'd they expect? It's 1978 again? Do you think they did that in the year 4? 'I can't believe it's 4! Four years ago it was nothing!'") .. anyway, he said "would you look at this??" and held up a sign that said "THIS." My bro Aaron used to do these funny things too, like drive up one of those runaway truck escape ramps to see what would happen (you have to get towed, if you ever wondered) or get this insane Kermitty grin on his face and then point somewhere and say "Look! There's someone famous!!" (People look! Really - try it!) I'm pretty sure also I got the best prank phone calls from my youth from him.

There's the one that goes like this: you find a phone number and keep it, because you'll be calling it over & over again. (Thank god for cell phones, and the lack of a reasonable directory for them, eh? This was back in the paleozoic era, before caller ID, when drug dealers had pagers and only the secret service had cell phones - the size of bricks - and if a friend had an unlisted number it was because his mom had an ex-boyfriend who wanted to kill her.) Speaking of the Paleozoic Era, read about it, lest you've lost faith in society during the last seven years or so; it's simply amazing what can happen in a few million years!!

So anyway, you call this number, and you ask for Salvatore. (I actually saw a version of this one on Freaks & Geeks! I don't remember what name they used - but Salvatore's a good one.) Then you do it a bunch more times, in different voices, or heck - have different people call. But you do it enough over, say, a day and a half, that they want to throttle you. Then you call back suavely and say "Hi, this is Salvatore. Any messages?" Then, the other great one was this (why this worked in this, the post-Aquarius age of the liberated woman who has two jobs and kids to raise by herself and can't be sitting around cooking roasts all day I'll never know, but I swear, in the 80's, it did)- you call someone and put on your best "housewife" voice, and .. if a man or a little kid answers, you hang up .. or you ask to speak to wife / mom, but then they get suspicious .. anyway, you get the mom / wife on the phone, and you say this: "Hi!!! I haven't talked to you in so long .. how ARE you?? WAIT - I have to go take the roast out of the oven!! Wait! I'll be right back." And then you just sit there. And listen. And look at your watch.

I was reading in a book recently that a bunch of psych experiment subjects actually failed to notice a woman in a gorilla suit running across the screen when instructed to watch carefully for a certain occurrence in a basketball game, because their focus was elsewhere. So while you've been screaming at gas pumps and wondering whether your bank will go belly-up (or having conniption fits over the legality of gay marriage in - hey! - both my home states, if you're that sort of person, but probably not, since if you're reading this, you're almost definitely someone whose company I can tolerate) here's something you may have missed:

"Fox News in Bush League" (incase that video link runs away ...) 
Bush administration gives Fox news talking points. With an agenda. Obviously.

Wow! Can you believe this? I mean, of course you can believe this - we all knew this. It's like saying that a lot of actresses have nose jobs, or that all the added security at airports since 9/11 is smoke and mirrors (an aside I'll be getting to in a minute), but here it is actually being hacked about on MSNBC. What's this? A new era of truth in news and politix? Is this really happening?

So I was at the airport - LAX - recently, and one of the elevators connecting the bag claim / passenger check in / departure floors in Terminal 5 was emitting this profuse burning machinery sort of smell, and when asked, all the security people were denying it, or saying maybe it was a car outside, and all kinds of weirdness. But then, not five minutes after I got someone to actually ask someone else (who?? who? who knows) on a walkie about it, five fire trucks showed up outside, along with 2 more fire dept. vehicles and a cop car and two airport police cars and another policeman on a bicycle. And this caravan remained, cordoning off a line with police tape and preparing for disaster, until I gave up making sense of the scene and drove away. My determination: the staff at airports has increased in number, and the lines have lengthened, but the added security is dumb as rocks, and hasn't much interest in calming people when something weird actually happens. Well, anyhow .. if this is the future, I would really like a better car. Can we just make them fly? I don't care if I have to pedal the damn thing.

Thanks to Terry Lbs. for sending me the video. xo