Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Accidental Therapist

(A recollection unearthed from my memory thanks to the writings of Mrs. Hall)

We often times end up in jobs that we never thought we would be doing. As children we dreamt of being an astronaut, or a nurse, or a railroad engineer. We seldom dreamt of being an insurance claims adjuster, or a mortician, or an executive assistant, but alas, there are many more of those job available than the ones we dreamed of as children.

The jobs that I eventually landed in found me having to deal with a lot of people on an interpersonal level. My first carrier was in insurance where I got to deal with people in crisis. No one ever wants to talk to a claims adjuster unless their house burned down or their car was stolen. After a ten year stint in the 'human life is only worth X amount of dollars' industry, I moved over to the child welfare division of state government. Again, no one ever calls you up here to say 'great job!'....or 'how is it going'.....they usually scream something like 'I want the state to give me back my mother#@%&*^ing kids!'

By the time I had gotten to the end of my insurance career, I was working as an investigator at the Arizona Department of Insurance. Our 'official' job there was to investigate insurance fraud and improper conduct by licensed agents. However, our 'real' job was to deal with irate consumers that disagreed with the decision made by insurance companies regarding claim payments. You see, in government, the first goal is for politicians to kiss the ass of the electorate. Since the Director of the Department was appointed by the governor, we kissed a lot of voter ass, even though we weren't empowered to do anything about their problems.

I am the kind of employee that always looks at my job critically and tries to find better ways to do it. I hate wasted effort and redundant job processes. Since I realized that I would be on the phone for 60% of my day, I went looking for what the State wouldn't give me....a telephone headset, so I wouldn't have to hold the god damned telephone receiver to my ear for 5 hours a day.

On one typical day, I had my headset on and was listening to a complainant (consumer) scream in my ear about how the other guys insurance wasn't paying to restore his rusted out piece of junk that had been rear-ended in an accident. I sat there with a placid look on my face, staring at the wall while he bellowed and whined about how he was being 'screwed'. My boss walked by my office, stopped and stared at me. I glanced at him, pointed to my ear and made a talking motion with my hand to let him know I was on the phone. He smirked and walked away.

Ten minutes later, my boss walked by again, and there I sat, on the same phone call (the average 'screaming' complainant phone call usually lasted 20 to 30 minutes). My boss stopped, looked at me again, pointed to his watch and then made a gesture with his hands to 'wrap it up'. I shook my head back, pointed back to my ear and mouthed the words (screamer) to my boss.

To which, my boss made the jester of hanging up the phone. I interrupted Mr. Complainant and informed him that I had another pressing engagement, that we could not do anything for him statutorily and that he would need to file suit against the 1st party for hitting his car. Then I hung up the phone.

My boss then told me to stop letting these consumers waste so much of our time and just cut them off.

I responded to him that we weren't investigators, we were therapists, and that he would be getting a call from the complainant that I had just hung up on in about 2 minutes. Sure enough, the receptionist phone rang a few minutes later with someone wanting to talk to my supervisor.

After the boss talked to Mr. Complainant for almost 20 additional minutes in his office....he reappeared at my door. "You were right Doctor, continue on with your therapy sessions. I am getting to old for this shit."

My boss never bothered me while I was on the phone again.

The boss realized what I had figured out years early. Most people in society are so upset because no one listens to them and they don't have proper coping skills to deal with their stress. The only coping skill they have is to scream at someone. That someone is usually the government.

My job as an insurance therapist was a necessary evil because insurance companies didn't care and because government was powerless to do anything. Listening to them was the only help we could give them, and most of them felt much better after getting everything off their chest to someone that would listen.

I never wanted to be a therapist................I still don't...........but someone has to do it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Scum Of The Earth...

..live in this city.

So it was Monday...the start of another work week. I am usually optimistic on Monday, believing that I can get a fresh start on things in the capitalist world and actually accomplish something. The school of hard knocks usually beats that out of my around 11am, but today was different. Today, it failed to launch completely.

Why? Because some idiot dumped a puppy in the park in front of our house this morning. One of my neighbors who was out walking saw an older model pickup truck drive through the park, slow down, the driver opened the door and threw this little dog out before speeding away.

Sadly, this is a common occurrence in our neighborhood. Since we live adjacent to one of the largest parks in Phoenix, Arizona, a lot of pets get dumped here. The feral cats that live in the park probably number over 50 and there are about 5 to 10 dogs that are abandoned there every month.

So as I am walking in from the garage, I catch a glimpse of my wife running out the front door in her bath robe with a dog leash in her hands. I asked if one of our dogs had gotten out and she replied no...someone had dumped a puppy. I followed her out the front door and there in the middle of the street was this little dog, scared shitless and alone.

Never mind that the owner 'could' have taken it to the animal shelter and dropped it off, for free, no questions asked. I suppose that would have been too much work. Easier just to chuck it out the door on the way to a job site, or on the way to buy some crack in one of the slums south of the tracks. Asshole!

So this morning, when I got to work, I sent out an e-mail to our neighborhood trying to find out if anyone is willing to adopt the little fella. My wife and I have already rescued two stray dogs and two stray cats in the neighborhood and we really can't take another one. I am proud to say that the people that live in our 'hood' have gone above and beyond in taking in strays and dumped pets from the park, but there is a limit to how many can be saved. So the bastards that do this basically leave us to do their dirty work, while they are out wrecking havoc on some one else's life without a care or an afterthought.

There is a special canto of hell reserved for these types of people. A particularly hot and nasty level where their flesh is ripped from their bones over and and over for all eternity. At least I certainly hope so. (click the picture for the full size image)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The New Frontier

Donald Fagen - "The Nighfly"

I had a flashback today. While getting ready for work and checking my e-mail, I noticed one of my neighbors had posted a link on Facebook to a video (click the picture above to see it). It is by one of my all time favorite artists, Donald Fagen (one half of the group Steele Dan) and is from his album "The Nightfly". I have known the song since college, but don't recall ever seeing the music video for it. Suffice to say it captures the essence of the song perfectly.

Many folks I know personally, are going through some hard times right now. Financially, physically, emotionally, it has been a tough year, and we aren't even 1/4 of the way through it. Hearing this song again brought back a flood of memories, not only of the college days when it was cranked up on my stereo, but also of the days of my childhood, where all the references in the song come from.

They are memories of making out in a nuclear fallout shelter, Dave Brubeck, chiffon dresses and Buicks that couldn't fit into a modern garage. As I watch the Gen-Xers on the bus listening to Lady GaGA and see our grandchildren playing with their iPods, it sort of dawns on me that they don't really have any reference to these sorts images. But we lived through them, and they shaped our psyche and thereby, our future.

Today's youth never grew up with the fear of a cloud of nuclear missiles raining down on them, or that the concept of 'scoring' was just getting to first base or a kiss goodnight. It was an age without AIDS and where divorcing an abusive spouse wasn't something that you considered...you just dealt with it for the sake of the kids. Now that I think about it...it all seems like such a distance memory.

It was a different time, in some ways better than today and in some ways much worse. There were some hard times back then for me too. Those college years were rough and there were times that I questioned a lot of things, including my own future. But like the song intimates, life is about finding the good times in the face of impending doom. Making the best of the situation that we are in is the real art of life. If it didn't rain once in a while, the flowers would never grow. I suppose, like the video says, every day is a New Frontier. Time to go party in the fall out shelter. ...........(wooo whoooo, my mother-in-law will be gone for a whole week starting today!!!)

(I have posted other references to Mr. Fagen in the past, click here to check them out.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Have Had Enough Of This!

Wake Up People!!!

This has not been a good day. I spent the majority of last night in the hospital emergency room with my ailing mother. This is the 4th trip to the E.R. this year and it probably won't be the last. To say that I am having grave doubts about the American system of 'Managed Health Care' is an understatement right now.

So I slept in from 6am till Noon today and then stumbled into the office half awake to find this e-mail in my inbox from an old co-worker that I used to work with. Mind you, he is good guy and I respect him, but this was just not the day to be sending this to me.

I have seen a barrage of these types of e-mails since Barrak Obama became president and it is starting to concern me a lot. I have this creeping sensation, that the American Religious Right Wing is starting to go Nazi on us. So I just sort of let loose on this one. My response sort of speaks for itself.

(I probably won't be writing a lot of blogs in the coming weeks or months, but I will be reading yours....sometimes, they are the only things that keep me sane.)

=========THE EMAIL AND MY RESPONSE============

USPS New 44-Cent Stamp Celebrates a Muslim holiday.
If there is only ONE thing you forward today... let it be this!

President Obama has directed the United States Postal Service to REMEMBER and HONOR the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a new commemorative 44-Cent First Class Holiday Postage Stamp.

REMEMBER to adamantly & vocally BOYCOTT this stamp, when you are purchasing your stamps at the post office.

All you have to say is "No thank you, I do not want that Muslim Stamp on my letters!"

To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.
REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of Pan Am Flight 103!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon !

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Military Barracks in Saudi Arabia !

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the American Embassies in Africa !

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the USS COLE!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM attack on 9/11/2001 !

REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were lost in those vicious MUSLIM attacks!

Pass this along to every Patriotic American that you know and get the word out!
Honor the United States of America !

========MY RESPONSE=========

I am becoming more and more concerned about these types of viral e-mails that I have been receiving from individuals that appear to be either ‘duped’ by the radical right wing elements of this country, or are just excepting what they see and hear on television and the internet as fact. This is akin to seeing the 60s television comedy “Bewitched” and believing that the pretty and perky new next door neighbor is really a witch.

After initially looking at this chain letter e-mail it was evident to me that this was not a U.S. issue stamp. It is a ‘Razzle’ stamp that can be ordered by anyone and approved by the U.S.P.S. Anyone can make their own postage stamps, with Mickey Mouse to George Bush on it, and put it on a letter. It is perfectly legal.

A further investigation of this issue on www.snopes.com reveals that the original stamp was produced by the U.S.P.S. long before 911 and long before Barrack Obama was even in the Senate, much less politics. It celebrates a ‘feel good holiday’ of the Muslim religion, similar to Valentine’s day or Easter.


The hyperactive and scare tactic right wing elements of this country want to twist and spin this into an “everything Muslim is evil” mindset and then trick the nation into believing it is true. If this is the case, shouldn’t we ban all “Cinco De Mayo” stamps, since those dirty Mexicans invaded our country back in the 1800! What about those disgusting “Hello Kitty” stamps that were inspired by the Japanese….hell, they bombed Pearl Harbor.

I had always assumed that Americans had learned the lessons taught by the spin doctors of fascism like Joseph Goebbels and Benito Mussolini, but it appears that I may be wrong. This type of character assassination is no different than the Ku Klux Klan without the hoods and the cross burnings. I no longer see politics in this country as a united group that agrees to disagree on occasion as they work toward the common good of the people. This is subterfuge and hate mongering in the digital age, on a global scale.

Wake up people, and don’t believe everything that the talking heads on the television tell you and that everything you get in your e-mail inbox is true. The world is full of liars and cheaters. Your first task is to honestly exam everything you are told by others and weigh it against common sense and any alternate truths that may be out there.

I would have no problem using this stamp. It is a stamp for Christ’s sake! It doesn’t represent Muslim’s killing babies with rusty knives. … wake up!

Friday, March 5, 2010

First Friday Flashbacks

Things evolve. I first started writing on her to rant about hypocrisy. Since the begining, I have branched out, because there are only so many things you can bitch about. Life teaches us many things along the way. One of which is how to interpret the world around us. This was my first stab at short fiction. I have yet to write any fiction better.


First Published, January 29, 2007

Fiction 101

A short work of fiction in 4 parts.

Chapter - 1, Pelicans
Chapter - 2, Pirates
Chapter - 3, Sentinals
Chapter - 4, Cubes

Fran downed the frozen shot of tequila. She knew it wasn't a good idea, but she didn't see how it was going to matter.

Mexico was always oppressively hot in August. That was why they had never come down during this time of year.

She watched from the balcony window as a flock of pelicans flew low in formation over the sandy beach. As she looked at the Sea of Cortez she could feel the tequila’s warming affects. She went flush for moment as the weight of her thoughts raced through her mind.

"It won't work, Gary", she said in a firm but quivering voice.

"Aren't you curious about what we created? How can you look at this just from the logical point of view?” he responded.

"Been there, done that. I have no desire to go through it again. This was supposed to be fun and exciting. Our problem wasn't something we had planned on."

"Is that all it is to you? A problem? Nothing more?"

"Grow up Gary!” she snapped.

“You’re looking at this through rose colored glasses. You really expect me to convince Rick it’s his? What are you going to do, swing by the park once a week to catch a glimpse while we save for another college fund? It may be easy from your point of view, but the choice is pretty clear from mine."

"I'm sorry.” he said. “I never had the opportunity in my first marriage. I was just hoping....."

He paused and stood behind her at the window. He placed his hands on her shoulders and gazed out the window with her. A pelican broke formation, tucked in its wings, and dove headfirst into the surf.

"Do you love me?” he asked.

Fran's head dropped and he heard her sigh.

"Yes…” she said in a whisper, "...but we can't. That's why we're here."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This To Shall Pass

RGM Version by the Band OK Go
(click the graphic for the video)

I don't usually do a lot of video links, but some exceptional ones have been coming my way of late. You may have already seen this one, since I am sure it will be going viral, if it hasn't already done so.

I have never heard of the band or this song, and I would have to admit that after watching this video, I beleive that this video will be remembered more for its visual impact than its music.

After watching it pretty closely, I can't find any obvious trickery or slight of hand in the one shot take of this video. If that is the case, then it probably ranks as one of the most awesome music videos of all time. The video speaks for itself..... Happy Hump Day

...and for the first time in several days...no booty references.