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We had to go to the emergency room the other night. My fiancĂ© had a migraine that lasted about 10 hours and was not responding to the medicine. In fact, it got much worse after taking the medicine. So we eventually gave in. We tried to go to the Urgent Treatment Center, but they were closed at 7:00 pm. Gee, thanks, Urgent Treatment Center. As if there aren’t kids falling off of bikes and cracking their heads open until 10:00 pm during the summer months.

So we went to the emergency room of our local hospital. Just another fun Saturday night. We are such party people. She was taken back into the treatment area, and the medical staff Went To Work. They hooked her up to an IV drip of fluids and gave her a couple of injections to stop the migraine. The pain eased in minutes. A smile creeped onto her face, which made me feel a lot better as well. Then, she started feeling really sleepy, and the Nurse told me she should just go to sleep while the IV drip finished administering the fluids. She closed her eyes and slept, during which time I had nothing to do but watch her. So for the next 50 minutes or so, I just sat and listened.

I know you’re not supposed to. I know all about HIPPA. I think I’ve signed one of those forms about 361 times. But, I say again, I had Nothing To Do.

The lady across the way was talking almost constantly about a pain in her ass. And when you are in an ER, it’s probably a literal pain in the ass. I have no idea what the problem was, but I could hear her talking to her friend – in a much louder tone than I would be talking about such a subject – about how she’s “not going to sleep with people to make her feel better anymore.” It was like listening to an episode of Dr. Phil.

A few minutes later, a young child who was having an asthma attack was wheeled in. Or rather, had an asthma attack. All the child was doing now was coughing. And when that let up, they were quite angry at everyone making such a big deal about it.

And then the one that really got me. Next to us a lady was brought in for – are you ready? – carpal tunnel. A true medical emergency if I’ve ever heard of one. She was diagnosed and given a wrist brace. Her husband came in a few minutes later and was quite perturbed at the situation.

“Carpal tunnel? A brace? Great. Now they’re going to charge $40 for the brace and $250 for the doctor, and we could’ve gotten a wrist brace at Walmart for 7 bucks.”

Poor guy. And here’s the real kicker to this story: Carpal Tunnel woman was a nursing assistant at another hospital in town. You would think someone who worked in the health care field would know what an emergency room is for. Emergencies, I was always taught.

And, at least that night, it was nothing like the television show.


This car pulls in front of me on Death Road and then swerves through a red light into the parking lot of a local Kmart. I had to stop. One, because it was, of course, a red light. And two because, the older I get, the more I realize that I’m just not in that much of a hurry to get anywhere these days. Much less to my local Kmart. Not that there is anything wrong with Kmart. I was actually on my way there as well. I had to return some pants. And they were high quality, reasonably priced pants. It’s just that I decided I needed a prescription more than a new pair of cargos.

I wait through two cycles of this light on Death Road. Apparently, this city thinks that people who shop at Kmart aren’t important enough to get a Green Arrow when their turn comes around. So, when my Arrow finally does appear, I make my way into the parking lot and pull into a space. I notice, as I turn off my engine, that the car that cut me off is parked right in front of me. It is a pretty beat up car, the entire back seat is full of Stuff and Things. There is a beagle poking its head out of the passenger window. And the driver is still inside. Picking his nose.

It has out of state plates. Figures.

I rustle through my Bag of Pants, making sure that my receipt is still inside. It is. During this time, the nasal spelunker has gotten out of his car, and is walking – staggering, really – into the Kmart. I can’t quite make out what he has in his hand, when he breaks into a trot toward the cart return corral. He leans down, and picks up what appears to be a receipt on the ground. He looks it over for a second, glances at me walking toward him, and lets out a strange sound. Kind of between a yelp and a growl. He wads the paper into a ball, and throws it at a 4-Runner.

He doesn’t stagger anymore, and makes his way into the store a few seconds before me. As I walk through the door, I see this man leap toward some children, stomp his foot, and blow a raspberry to them. The little one grabs his mom’s leg as they walk out of the store.

And now, I’m standing behind this weirdo while a lady is trying to return a comforter or something that she probably didn’t buy. I can’t tell exactly what the problem is, but simply from her demeanor, I can tell that this lady is trying to screw this clerk. I’ve seen it a hundred thousand times before. You people aren’t fooling anyone. The Customer Service clerk pawns this woman off to a manager, and moves the line along.

Weirdo leaps up to the desk, and slams down – hard – the item he carried into the store; a box of Trojan condoms. Magnum Trojan condoms. The clerk looks at him from over-top her glasses and then picks up the box of condoms, checking the seals on both ends. She says nothing, and begins The Return Process.

The weirdo catches her attention again, winks, and starts to nod. As if the act of returning a box of Magnum condoms is the greatest undiscovered pickup line of all time. The clerk rolls her eyes at him, lays the money on the counter, and then looks directly at me, hoping I’ll be more normal.

The weirdo struts back to the parking lot again, and I pull the pants out of the bag.

“Hello. I just needed to return these pants,” I said, pulling out my receipt, and trying as hard as I could to show that I was one of the Good Guys.

“That guy gets on my last nerve,” said the clerk, nodding towards the weirdo.

After I got my refund, I walked back out to my car, still parked behind the guy. I got in, sat down, and started the car. And then the weirdo gets back out of his car, and starts to walk toward the store again. With what appears to be another box of condoms.

I drove home. Puzzled… but still not in a hurry.

My Playstation 2 is on The Fritz. It will play a game for a couple of minutes, then the power button flashes a couple times, mocking me. And then I can’t even get it to turn on anymore. It’s been a good machine. I’m not upset. I’m not going to berate Sony for making a crap product, because frankly, I’ve put that console through hell. Since the day I bought it, I could not even begin to guess how many hours I’ve used the thing, due in no small part to several fine series; Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Metal Gear Solid, The Getaway, Prince of Persia, and, of course Grand Theft Auto.

I really enjoy playing video games. It actually relieves stress for me. I laugh when I think back to my childhood; begging for a new system that just came out – the Atari 2600. What I got was a Colecovision, the slightly backwoods, uncool cousin to the Big Dog at the time, the Atari. Later, it was the Nintendo. And then, an episode that would nearly tear my family apart, the Fight for The Gameboy.

I was told I could only have a Gameboy if I sold my Nintendo and all my games (which I did, in a fit of what I can only imagine was childhood stupidity). I was only allowed to have one game system at a time. Any more than that, I was told, and I would just waste away in front of the television, never setting foot outdoors again.

“Besides,” my Father boomed. “In a few more years, you won’t even want to play video games any more. You’ll be too interested in girls to worry about games.”

That was more or less true. I did get interested in girls during Middle School. However, “Girls”, as it turned out, were not the least bit interested in me. Super Nintendo was interested in me. It was always there for me, and never once called me embarrassing names in front of popular kids at the lunch table. Super Nintendo never made fun of my looks. I was never shy about asking Super Nintendo to dance. Super Nintendo was, in a way, much better than girls. It never made you feel inadequate, and it was always in the mood to play around.

Now, here I sit. Bordering 30 years of age, due to be married in a few weeks time, and writing about those video games that, according to my Father, I should have no interest in at my age.

Maybe I’ll put a Playstation 2 on the wedding registry.

I am not a well man. I’m not exactly sure what the problem is. I feel broken. In every sense that you could take that statement. Just broken. I might be going insane. I’ll keep you updated.

In addition to that heaping pile of excrement, I think I might be nearing the head of my career crisis. I feel that something needs to change in my job. And that change will probably end up being me leaving. The only thing is, logically, I know everywhere else I could go with an unfinished College Degree is going to have the same amount of bullshit attached to it. And most places that I could go if I did have a College Degree would also be steeped in bullshit.

That, I suppose, is really what I’m looking for as far a job goes. I just want the least amount of bullshit at a job that will still pay a living wage. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to find, would you? Are my standards too damn high, or is it not just me? I’m betting it’s not me. The fewer companies there are in this world, the tougher competition becomes. Everyone tries to squeeze every last cent out of every single employee. The bullshitters are not treating employees as a commodity anymore… sometimes they treat us as their own personal lab rats or worse… a liability.

The cradle-to-grave job market is dead. Never to return. Companies don’t want to keep you any longer than they have to. Once you have a few years in, they want to dump you. And good freakin’ luck if you are near retirement. Why keep you on until retirement, when they could hire some kid out of college to do your job at half the wage with no benefits?

I’m pretty sure there is a top-secret mission underway at my company to get rid of full-time employees. I have no proof of this, mind you. And if you look at any of their public relations-created persona, they love their employees. We are great. We are the most important part of the company. And if you believe that, you are a naive idiot. We are nothing to them. We are just a number. We are an annoying expense that interferes with the profit margin. We are diseased, rabid dogs to the bullshitters. And they would like to have us shot.

They can say all they want about trying to improve morale, but I know better. They are not that stupid. They know what they are doing. Put on a pretty face for the public. And for those of us who don’t pay enough attention or care what is going on. But in those backrooms of corporate office, the deal is this; make morale as low as possible.

The lower that employee morale falls, the more chance there is that full-timers will quit. The higher the odds are that someone like me will stir the pot more, and get more people riled up. The more people get angry, the more they feel like they are being shit on continually, the more chance there is they will strike back. And when they do; there will be management… more than ready to fire a once-model employee.

The fewer full-timers there are on the payroll, the lower the “wages and benefits” number becomes on their monthly cash-flow analysis reports. Good job, everyone. Stock options all around.

Not that I have rose-coloured glasses on about getting another job. Almost every company in America has become like this. Companies have begun to treat employees as a liability. A necessary evil. And expendable. The only way out is to work for yourself. Or win the lottery. Whatever.

The chances of me doing either are miniscule.

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This Month on Tacofish

August 2006
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