Speed

Recently, I was walking my dog when I heard the squeal of tires from a car that I couldn’t see. I assumed it was at the stoplight at the bottom of hill that was out of my view.

Moments later, I saw a 70s-era  muscle car,  barreling in the opposite direction, climbing the hill. He seemed to be going  at least 60 mph, and still accelerating, on a residential street where speed limit is 25. 

Expecting to see a teen behind the wheel, I was surprised that it was a  man who  was likely well into his 30s, or older.

I held my arms out, with palms up, and glared at him while shouting  “WHAT THE FUCK?!?” He returned the glare and shook his head and did not attempt to slow down.

About two minutes later, I approached an  intersection and  looked over my shoulder to see if there were any cars trying to turn right.  I noticed  a car traveling at the same speed I was walking.  I stopped and motioned for the driver to go ahead and turn.

My pulse quickened when I realized it was the car that had been racing  up the hill. The car stopped bedside where I stood. My immediate conclusion was that he’d returned with retaliation in mind.

I wondered what he was bringing to the confrontation. A baseball bat? Other people in the car? A pistol?  

All I’d brought was a dog and bag full of poo. Still, I liked my chances.

I  turned and looked at the driver, and the passenger seats. He was the only one in the car, so I fixed my gaze on him and braced for an escalation. 

He began to speak. I wasn’t prepared for the volume level. He said in a quiet voice, “Hey, I’m sorry.”

Huh? 

He continued “I was driving like a total ass, you were right to be mad. I was testing some repairs that I’d made, but that’s no excuse for speeding like that on this street. I promise to be more careful.”

 I was keyed-up for a  fracas and was dealt a quiet apology. I was totally unprepared for that. And the “I promise to be more careful,” made me feel like a TV sitcom dad listening to an admission of guilt from one of  the Brady Bunch kids. 

For one of the few times in my life I was stunned nearly  to the point of silence. The only words I could muster were, “Thanks for the apology.  Have a good evening. And be careful.”

 

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My Favorite Things

It was a wickedly cold morning just like this when I walked a few blocks from my Ravenswood apartment, and was fortunate that there was a 145 bus, idling in the lot, awaiting its departure time. I don’t remember what was ahead for me at work that day, but my job at the time rather tedious–making truck parts fliers for an ad agency–so it wasn’t that different than the day before.

The driver saw me shivering outside and was kind enough to let me in before his run though it was technically against CTA policy.

As I sat down he pointed his index figure toward my face and  offered this sinister warning: “You can stay on this bus as long as you don’t tell anybody what you’re about to see or hear.” Then “You got that?”

I nodded then put proceeded to unfold my copy of The Chicago Tribune.

With that he pulled a hard plastic case from the floor to his lap. When he opened the case and started to assemble its components, I saw the glistening of the metallic shaft he had in his hand.

I screamed with every fiber of my being, “My God! He has…. a FLUTE!!!!”

Then he glanced over his should placed his piece near his lips and played “Take Five” and then “My Favorite Things.”

My winter morning commutes are rarely that appealing nowadays. Now they begin with scraping ice from the windows and many days digging out after being plowed in.

There’s never a walk through the brisk cold, with some chance encounters with neighbors, or strangers, or a bit of window-shopping. Those things all put a spring in my step, at least until I began the bone-dissolving work of staring at line-art renderings of spark plugs, oil filters, and mud flaps.

Though on that particular morning, the unexpected jazz performance set the tone for my entire day. It wasn’t just the music, it was the serendipity. I wish there were a way that I could plan serendipitous events. They would certainly  involve more flutes and fewer cars.

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Bad Dog!

Last  Friday night my dog, Pete started whimpering.

“I am not making you pudding!” I’d had a long day, and it was nearly 11:00 pm.

He persisted so I went to the pantry and pulled out the vanilla pudding mix. He cried again until I went back and grabbed the butterscotch pack. I went to the refrigerator and saw that we were out of milk.

I said “Sorry Pete, I can’t make the pudding…ah!!! Don’t look at me like that!! D & W is closed, I am NOT driving all the way to Meijer!”

Closeup Picture of Dog's face white fur with brown spots

Puppy Dog Eyes

He lifted his leg on the couch so I handed him the keys to my Accord. He put out his paw again. “I don’t have any money! You’re going to have use my Visa card.”

I waited for a few minutes, but decided to go to bed. I woke up at 4:30 am and went downstairs and looked all over for Pete, but I couldn’t find him. I looked outside and the car was still gone.

Frantic, I called the police. “Well… he’s about 2 feet tall. Uh, brown eyes. White hair, with brown spots, his tail is…Excuse me? Yes, he has a tail…uh, never mind I’ll find him myself.”

Lori and I got in to the Civic and drove a grid pattern over Kent County for hours and hours.  At about 10:00 pm that night we found the car crashed into a light pole downtown. There was an empty six pack of Michelob Ultra’s in the back seat. I was furious.

With Pete’s picture in hand, we questioned the merchants and patrons downtown for any leads in finding him. After a few hours we spoke to a bartender who had seen him. “Yeah, he was here. He bought drinks for everybody all night. He ran up a $650 bill then tipped me $150 dollars. Then he left with a woman who dances at the, uh… gentleman’s club around the corner.”

He pointed us toward the club and we headed in. We found Pete, passed out, at a table, near the stage, where a woman was dancing around a pole. A drool-sopped Visa bill was on the table was under Pete’s jaw. I lifted Pete’s head and saw the total-another $400, nearly $150 for lap dances. I screamed. He was jolted awake.

“Pete! Bad dog!!! How could you do this?!? We’ve been worried sick about you! We thought you’d been hurt. How many times have I said no beer in the car?!? You wrecked my car and I know the insurance company won’t pay for a car that was totaled by a drunk beagle-mutt. Then, you go out and spend $1,000 on drinks for strangers!. And $150 for lap dances….you don’t even have a lap! This is terrible, you’ve never done anything like this before!”

“I’ve never had the money before” he said.

************************************************************************************

(Full disclosure: the punchline is not mine. I’ve heard several versions this type of joke. I heard a version on a radio show (circa 20020) and I looked into it a bit, but have not determined its origin.)

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Cold Call

“Hi, This Is Scott”

In the go-go period of 1995-1999 (the Dot.Com era) everybody was in a hurry  to do something “internety”  Salaries were inflated and an incalculable number of companies sprouted up and their only value proposition is that they had “I,” or “E” (for internet, and electronic, respectively) and created a web site. 

That time was a gold rush for recruiters. Thus, I received many phone calls that I didn’t have time for, and/or had no interest in. In 1996, my office phone did not have caller ID, so I had no way of screening outside calls.

One day I received a call from a recruiter, about a position in the Chicago suburbs. 

I told her that I lived in the city,  and was not at all interested in commuting to the suburbs. I told her I didn’t think I’d be a fit for the job based on that alone.  

Though I agreed to send her a résumé. I would soon regret that decision.

“Have You Heard of McDonald’s?”

She called back a couple of days later. She seemed out of breath as she began telling me about the greatest job in the history of our solar system. 

Less than two minutes in, I told her that I wasn’t interested. 

I reminded her that I lived in the city, and didn’t have a car, and had no  interest in buying a car. Thus, I was not interested in talking further. 

The recruiter wanted to keep talking anyway, and she did. I learned the position was with an advertising agency, that   “has been in business for 30 years.”

I already worked at an ad agency (that had been in business for 100 years). I told her I didn’t want to pursue opportunities in other agencies.

“I am not interested……” I said….again.

She interjected “They have one client, but it’s a huge one. ”

One account? My interest dropped from “Very Little” and dropped to ” zero.”

She added “Have you heard of McDonald’s?”

Hmm…moving on to condescension? Didn’t seem like a particularly solid technique to win over a prospective candidate.

 “McDonald’s: that’s their client. For 30 years! The company ‘does the work’ for their Monopoly game. They loved your résumé and are very interested in talking to you.”

 “Does the work”? What the hell?

That could mean anything: printing, graphic design, media buys, strategy, etc. and maybe even something internety. 

I must admit, the M-word (McDonald’s) did cause me to pause for a moment. Like many people my age, I had fond memories of McDonald’s:

I almost asked her to elaborate, then I had a feeling in my gut. A queasy feeling, like the time that I got sick at football practice shortly after I’d eaten 4 Quarter Pounders on a dare.

I didn’t know if this was a gut instinct, or a Pavlovian flashback. I concluded  it was the former.  There  was no force on Earth would make me interested in that position. There was too much risk, and a Super-Sized  serving of inconvenience.

“I Knew You’d Be Perfect”

I said, “It doesn’t matter who the account is. I don’t plan to work for a company with only one customer. My current company had a client for 75 years and they lost it last year. Furthermore, I don’t want to work in the suburbs. I don’t even have a car.”

“Well, you could  JUST  buy a car?”

“I don’t want a car. There are many reasons why I got rid of my car. I’d be happy if I never had a car again.”

“Well, you could JUST take a train.”

“JUST.”

The location wasn’t near a commuter rail station. The would involve several bus transfers; therefore a lot of time. I reiterated that I wasn’t interested. 

She was getting exasperated, and said, “But they loved your resume and  want to know how soon you could start.”

WHAT?!? That was the second time she said she had shared my résumé. It didn’t register with me the first time. On the second occasion it did. 

“You shared my résumé?!? Why did you do that?!? And who makes decision to hire people without an interview?” I asked, in a whisper-shout.

She replied, “I knew you’d be perfect. And I’m sure that they’ll make it worth your while to commute out there. Or you could just buy a house near their office. They have a big budget for this job, you could probably buy a nice house…”

“JUST” again.

“OK, This is Your Loss”

I was way past done. With every fiber of my being, I tried to restrain myself as I reiterated all of my key points: I didn’t want to commute to, or move to, the suburbs. I didn’t want to buy a car, or spend hours on commute trains and buses. 

She tried her money line again, “But, they’ve had the McDonald’s business for 30 years, and…”

After some effort, I was finally able to convince her that I wasn’t interested. She signed off with a disdainful “OK. This is your loss. Bye.” There was a bit F-U! in her voice.

Across the Pond

I didn’t think much of  the conversation years until  after I’d moved to Michigan. I learned on TV news of a high-profile scandal involving the McDonald’s Monopoly game.  Some of of their promotional agencies were axed.

I was glad that I had gone with my gut. I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one McMuffin.

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