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Category Archives: Pandemic

Here’s Looking At Your Privilege, Kid

“Hey, you! Check your privilege!”

Occasionally clients would leave the club with a slab of beef instead of their privilege. It sometimes took a few days for them to notice.

“Don’t leave me!”

I was over the limit that allowed me to hold onto it, so I pulled my privilege from my shoulder holster and plopped it down on the sill of the check booth with a wet thwap. It eyed me reproachfully, a mottled blob of stumpy vestigial appendages shaking anxiously at the unexpected separation. Sure, it was punier than the other privilege already checked, but I still felt a pang of emptiness and sorrow at the parting.

The check person pulled down a meat hook on a tether, twisted it into the quivering mass, and let go with more flourish and relish than was strictly necessary, in my opinion. My privilege whip-snapped at the end of the tether and flew into the darkness of the check booth.

Even with my eyes down at the appropriate angle of obsequience, I could see the check person staring dourly at me presented as a strikingly attractive woman: youthful, flashing eyes, a nose you could only get from a skilled surgeon, and perfectly haphazard hair that telegraphed the impression it always looked this good, even when she had just gotten out of bed.

If I hadn’t been to the club on business, and if I was suicidally clueless, I would have tried to pick her up. Instead, I apologized. “Sorry, forgot I had that.”

“Of course you did,” she snorted, her thin, flawless nostrils flaring as she handed over my ticket. I took it from her and carefully secured it in a hip pocket. Privilege had a shockingly high tendency to wind up with a new and often less deserving owner at places like this. Mine was hardly a tempting target, but it paid to be cautious. When confronted, the clubs always claimed this was the legitimate transfer of debt, that gambling was the great equalizer. I had my doubts.

The good news, given I carried a couple kilos less privilege than the average patron at this particular club, was that checking it actually boosted my standing. Relatively speaking. While still technically part of the hard-working, unwashed masses, I was now entitled to the same treatment as everyone else here.

Which meant the staff still treated me like crap, but they did that to all the patrons.

It was currently quite the thing among the well-off and well-educated to be treated with disdain, but I gave the trend another six months before these clubs found their clientele had migrated elsewhere and demanded a government bail out. Even from the entrance, I could spot the occasional bored yawn from the murmuring crowd.

Of course, the guilty rich, looking to assuage their slightly less guilty consciences, weren’t the only high class people availing themselves of facilities like these. You also had individuals like the one I’d been hired to find, trying to lose themselves in the anonymity of the pseudo-privilegeless.

My mark was Lawrence Peabody, a New Roman Presbyterian on the lam with the not inconsiderable wealth that his church hierarchy had deemed to belong to his now ex-spouse. According to the Senior Bishop overseeing his divorce case, Peabody had seen the writing on the wall and liquidated his assets. Literally. By purchasing an extremely rare bottle of vintage schnapps that was worth just over one hundred percent of the (former) Peabody couple’s net worth and then pulling a runner, he got off smelling like peppermint while the ex-missus got left holding the residual debt.

Your standard booze bail scenario, and my bread and butter. You see, I’m not just a private eye. I’m also a board certified sommelier. Lapsed, but you know what they say: once a sommelier, always a sommelier. If there’s any alcohol within fifty meters, I can smell it. And identify the vintage. I have my parents to thank for that. Family money got me the education and certification, but after a couple of years sniffing and spitting fine wines and the like, I felt I wasn’t contributing to society enough. I switched to the far less lucrative but more guilt-assuaging sniffing out of mysteries.

I haven’t been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner since. Which is fine. The family has fallen on hard times, and the wine they serve is no longer up to snuff.

Now a 1897 (Big Fed calendar) Pimpernel Kuiper Peppermint Schnapps has a distinctive, minty odor that I could normally suss out faster than you can say, “Wager saugt Fledermausbälle!” But Peabody was no pea brain – he’d selected The Virtuous Signal, a club renowned for its cheap yet extremely, overpoweringly fragrant hangover-inducers. My nose didn’t so much recoil at the olfactory assault as go gibberingly insane.

Sammy’s sense of smell wasn’t going to help me today. Instead, I turned the peepers loose on the room, trying to spy anyone who wouldn’t be happy to see me and had a half liter bottle of vintage booze in their pocket.

With all of their privilege checked at the door, the crowd looked decidedly unimpressive. Their designer clothes had a manufactured shabbiness about them, their teeth looked just ever so slightly not quite straight, and their aristocratic accents lacked a sense of…authenticity. All arranged beforehand, no doubt, with the best tailors, dentists, and voice coaches money could buy. Not permanent, of course, just to blend in at the club. They wouldn’t have any work done that couldn’t be reversed with the flash of a Beryllium Card. But not until after they left, because these sorts of clubs only took cash, and only in small denominations and with lacerating looks of disapproval upon receipt.

The job should have been made easier by the fact that there weren’t a lot of people who qualified for this type of club’s services, so the crowd was fairly thin. But they all looked the same to me: mostly old and male, with the occasional glass-ceiling-busting female with, it seemed to me, surprisingly large hands.

The women were easy to dismiss, and not just because the big hands made me oddly uncomfortable. Per the ex, Peabody was and always had been male, so I could safely ignore the women. It was a habit I found came easy. But that still left a crowd of paunchy phallus-bearers to sift through, and I couldn’t be one hundred percent certain Peabody was even at this particular club.

My guess was Lawrence (no doubt ‘Larry’ inside these walls) would try and walk out with someone else’s privilege, hopefully a gob with enough to get him a berth out of town. Maybe to Happyville, Beet City, or if he was truly desperate, Trenton. Talk about checking your privilege: word on the street was that the denizens of Trenton couldn’t afford the vaccine for the latest pandemic! All this meant I needed to add to my search criteria: a down-on-his-luck on-the-lam bounder with half a liter of schnapps on him and trying to pickpocket people’s priv check tickets.

That made the task considerably simpler. With the new parameters, I spotted my mark in a jiffy.

Larry was making nice with a group of geriatrics at the craps table. Smart move, targeting the octagenarians. They, having lived longer, were more likely to have accumulated large amounts of privilege, assuming they hadn’t squandered it all on their offspring. Larry was playing the odds like a professional, and clearly was no dummy. They were having a spirited conversation about equality. It largely involved who could most magnanimously apologize for his success, but in such roundabout terms that it didn’t flag a reprimand from the staff.

I didn’t know which type was worse in these clubs, the sincere grovelers, the insincere grovelers, or the smug staff witnessing the display of self-flagellation. I found all three irritating and for the fleetest of moments, felt sympathy for Peabody, trapped in this no-win social circle. But then I remembered the cover charge to get in.

I put on my most determined (yet privilege-neutral) face and made my way to the craps table. I needed a drink, and it was going to be peppermint schnapps.

 

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Personal Hygiene in the Time of [Insert Current Pandemic Here]

Today I cut my own hair.

It wasn’t easy.

It wasn’t pretty.

It did end in tears.

Like all brutal acts of insanity and self harm, there was a triggering event.

Picture if you will:

The mild-mannered novelist, entering his fifth week of isolation. Laser-focused on his current task, determinedly chasing a particularly vexing fly around the house, his electric fly swatter at the ready, he ignores the terrified screams of his family.

They are of no consequence when a fly is about.

We can’t have flies inside houses. That isn’t normal.

They belong outside.

Yesss. Outside…

And then, tragedy strikes (for our erstwhile hero, that is, not the fly).

His overly long hair swooshes down in front of his eyes and in that terrible blinding moment, the fly…escapes.

ESCAPES, I TELL YOU!

Our hero can be heard to mumble, just above a broken whisper, “He tasks me, he tasks me, and I shall have him!”

So as the above, extremely reasonable anecdote clearly illustrates, the hair simply had to go.

As I stepped out of the bathroom, vision unencumbered by an overly hirsute state, the Missus took one look at me and laughed while simultaneously throwing up.

(You have not experienced true horror until you’ve seen someone vomit-chortle. It’s like a spit-take, but more colorful and far less pleasant smelling.)

The kiddos were more curious once they got through their dry heave-giggle fit. When one could finally speak, he asked, “Dad, have you ever been stupid enough to do this before?”

I’d be lying if I said no, and I raise my kids by example to not be obviously deceitful, so I just gave them an enigmatic wink as if to imply no.

Yes, it was stupid of me, a man who scars his face every time he shaves (with an electric razor, no less!), but I just couldn’t take it anymore. And the only other alternative was a…shudder…man bun.

Clearly that isn’t going to happen.

Honestly, if you had to go a month enduring with what I’ve been dealing with, you’d feel the same way:

  • Previously noted impaired ability to hunt down and punish flies.
  • Confidently running my hand rakishly through my hair to move it out of my eyes.
  • Flipping my full-bodied hair sexily in order to see who I’m flirting with (always turns out to be the Missus, fortunately, except that one time I gave the dog the wrong idea).
  • Facing down angry neighbors every morning after my shower, still dripping wet and with only a towel wrapped around my waist, because they don’t think my vocalizations while shampooing my hair with Herbal Essences is appropriate.

I could go on, but I don’t want to upset the frail among you. (Trigger warning: hair)

And given the present state of the world, clearly I can’t just go out and get a proper haircut.

Personal Grooming Secrets of the (not so) rich and (not so) famous

Even at the best of times, my personal grooming habits aren’t exactly top notch. Just ask my coworkers.

Oh sure, I’ve heard the rumors of the pop-up stealth salons and black market barber shops, clandestinely operating their “non-essential” services in contravention of local health ordinances.

But secretly slouching to one of their shops to partake of their illicit offerings only serves to validate the government claims that they should not be operating. That they aren’t essential. I’ll be damned! If I can’t walk openly into a hair salon to get a trim and a shave, well, I just don’t live in America anymore!

(More like Amerika, amirite?)

Plus, these places charge a lot and really up-sell you hard on hair care products when you try to leave. While I may be privileged, I’m not that privileged!

Instead I’ve been forced to take a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, a pair of scissors in one hand, a fistful of hair in the other, and trying to figure out how to hold those scissors at the right angle to actually snip away some of that pesky growth.

And so it will continue as long as I am locked in my home, sheltering in place.

Or, as my kids are constantly putting it, “We’re not locked in here with you! You’re locked in here with us!”

The Missus tells me I have to love them, and that weeks of forced proximity is not an excuse to turn my electric fly swatter on them. But I tell you true, tomorrow I might start eating my own. And that’s despite being a pescaterian.

Assuming I can see well enough to find them.

 
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Posted by on 17 April 2020 in Angst, Life, Pandemic, Parenting

 

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Every Crisis Has Its Silver Lining, Right?

I'm worried that going to the hospital could expose me to the virus

Dude! You’re sick! Stay away!

So looks like we’re in the grip of another crisis in this country. Not since election night 2016 have things looked so dark…

And I just so happen to be lucky enough to live in one of the more badly impacted regions for this pandemic.

But I find solace in the knowledge that even in the face of this medical, economic, and extroverts’ social interaction disaster, there is always a silver lining to be found.

No, it’s not that I’m an introvert.

(Though I am, thank goodness!)

No, it isn’t the lack of crowds at the store.

(Quite the opposite of late, actually, plus the damned shelves are all empty due to the panic buying that occurred before I got round to panicking myself.)

And no, I’m not talking about the news stories coming out about people offering to get supplies and the like for the more vulnerable so those people can stay safely isolated at home.

(That lining is tarnished by all the stories of greedy capitalists buying up and then re-selling hand sanitizer and toilet paper at a huge mark-up.)

No, it isn’t any of those.

It’s the traffic.

My daily commute has been, at the risk of sounding a tad insensitive, awesome! All the Google and Apple employees are working from home, so I don’t have nearly as many Telsas to navigate around.

(Cars that on a normal day, even with Autopilot engaged, still manage to cut me off regularly.)

But unfortunately, even this silver lining is tenuous at best.

Back in 2008 when the Great Recession struck, I noticed the same thing. People lost their jobs as their companies folded and my commute got really pleasant. I could leave for work later and get home earlier, providing me with just that much more time to spend with my wife, who was pregnant. With twins.

(Fans of clichés can probably guess where this is headed…)

So yes, I enjoyed the lack of traffic even if there was a tinge of survivor’s guilt associated with each uncharacteristically speedy round trip.

Then I lost my job.

And didn’t have a commute at all.

Fast forward to now and as I zip into and out of work, I can’t help but worry about the economy and job security as well as the health of me and mine.

Last time the crisis was economic only, and the worst that could (and did) happen is that my company went bankrupt, screwed us on severance packages, I was unemployed for 13 months, and calls into the Unemployment Office, due to high volume, involved waiting on hold for a couple of hours before maybe, just maybe, you’d get a human.

(And the hold music / prerecorded messages were only about ten minutes long before they looped. Over and over and over again!)

So this time there’s the health concern as well, and knowing my luck, I won’t just get laid off – I’ll get sick too.

Plus Spring came early and along with it my allergies. Which means my eyes and nose have never been itchier or in more need of being touched, rubbed, scratched, and whatever else you aren’t supposed to do to your face during a plague.

And do you have any idea how hard it is to find facial tissues right now? I’d blow my nose in toilet paper, but holy crap, that stuff, gram for gram, is more expensive than gold these days!

So I’m feeling a little down at the moment. But that might also be because I will be working from home for the foreseeable future, which means I won’t get to take advantage of the traffic-free commute.

Some silver lining.

 
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Posted by on 15 March 2020 in Angst, Life, Pandemic

 

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