Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Tale of Corporate Seduction


I am using this blog post to explain a workplace incident, for which I take full responsibility.  If you don’t care to read about a workplace-specific rambling, then I completely understand.  However, even if you don’t get the specifics because you don’t work in the non-profit, victim services arena, I believe there are universal lessons contained in the following account.  Any of us could fall prey to a corporate cyclopean that sucks large chunks of time from your life for no reason at all.  Hopefully you will also be able to identify some mega mogul seduction tactics, before it’s too late, as was the case for me.

I must convey my deepest apologies to Help, Inc.’s Deputy Director Julie Gentry and Treasurer Amy Collins.   With highly sophisticated tactical maneuvers, I easily became a pawn in the hands of the commercial cellular giant, Verizon. It stings to type the word. I put up a good fight, Anitra as my witness, to no avail.

Chapter 1:  The Wearing Down

It all began at 12:45 pm on a chilly Friday in December, when I learned that our crisis line cell phone had died.  After multiple battery changes, alas, it could not hold a charge.

1:00 pm:

I called Julie, who had the day off until my intrusion, and she instructed me where to get our Verizon account information, and also told me I would need the tax ID number. As my coworkers had done in the past, I had every intention of switching out said dead phone with another phone that was donated to the agency.

1:35 pm:
Our Shelter Manager Anitra collected several of the best donated cells and met me at the Verizon store. We were pounced upon by sales people. Our first encounter was with Ringtone Randy.  This was not his name, but I think it's close. (My subconscious is protecting me from the details of the encounter at present. I am sure when my body is ready to absorb the shock, I will remember.) Ringtone said that he could help us. He rushed to his computer and went straight to work, finding the agency's account on line. He said there were no authorized users listed, and that no one could switch phones unless their name was written in blood in Verizon’s Book Of Life. I didn’t believe him; after all, other staff members had switched phones.  I insisted on seeing the account screen.  He was right, no names were listed.  A conversation ensued regarding how odd that no user names were ever collected by Verizon, and if Help, Inc. stopped paying the bill, the Big V would be SOL in collecting the pittance of a monthly payment, which never exceeded $40.00, from NO ONE.  Ringtone had no comment.  I was accomplishing nothing by continuing to use logic.  Obviously, I needed to dance the dance.  So, I told him that we needed to add users.  He said we had to contact Corporate to add users. He also told us that we could only use a phone that was marked "Verizon." Not even one stamped "Alltel" could be used, even though the V Monster had eaten that company for a snack several years prior.


Anitra and I arrive back at the office, and Lynn and Marlene join the quest to find a decent donated cell phone with appropriate branding. I went to the computer for on line access, but was not able to bring up the account. I then called the Verizon Head, somewhere in a land far, far away, perhaps Oz, perhaps Gotham City. I also do not remember the Customer Service Rep’s name I finally reached, so I will just call him Speedy Sam. Speedy knew nothing, and continuous put me on hold to talk with his supervisor for periods no less than ten minutes. Speedy reported that I had to add users to the account at the Verizon store. I said I just returned from the store and Ringtone said he was too lowly a V critter to add users to the account, that only Corporate could add users.

Speedy:   Silence. Could you hold for a minute, Ms. Bails?
Me:          It's Boles, and of course.
Speedy:  Ms. Boots, I have spoken to my supervisor, and he said you cannot add users to your account over the phone.  You must go to the Verizon store.
Me: As I said before, I just came from there.  Ringtone Randy said he cannot add users.  Two other Help employees have switched out the cell phone with no authorization issues.
Speedy:  Silence. Could you hold for a minute, Ms. Balls?" 
Me: “It's Boles, and “yes.”


Speedy:   Ms. Botches, my supervisor said you cannot add users to your account over the phone.  You must go to the Verizon store.
Me: I grasp what you are saying; however, the store reps are saying the opposite.  Given that in 2 hours, the phone in question must be active to take crisis calls from victims of abuse, I need an alternative directive than “Go to the Verizon store.”  Do you understand?
Speedy:  Silence. Could you hold for a minute, Ms. Book?
Me: A MINUTE, yes.  TEN MINUTES, no.


Speedy:   Ms. Booth, my supervisor said you must go to the Verizon store, and  show proof that you are who you say you are.
Me: OK.  You win.  I will go BACK to the store with documentation. But, I need for you to call the store and verify that they will add users and switch the phone.  And I need a name of a person on site who can help me.
Speedy:  Silence. Could you hold for a minute, Ms…..?
Me: Just go ask your supervisor!!!!!


Speedy:    Ma’am, could you give me the number to your Verizon store?
Me:  Are you serious?  You work for a TELEPHONE COMPANY.  Never mind, of course, let me look it up in the A, T & T Telephone Book. It’s 336-Ver-izon.
Speedy:  I will be right back.


Speedy:  Ok, Ms. Boughs, I have verified with Trevor at the Reidsville Verizon store, that he will indeed add you as a user to the Help, Inc. account, and switch phones for you.  Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Me: No.  Is there anything else I can do for you?
Speedy:   Haha.

So, I hung up the phone, thinking, “Couldn’t Speedy or his supervisor see WHERE my call originated?  Caller ID is a basic service.  336-342-3331? Help, Incorporated?!”  Again, logic prevails not.  I began frantically looking for documentation, saying aloud, “What can I take to prove I am who I say I am,” over and over again pulling out desk draws and rummaging through filing cabinets.  “What about a business card,” Lynn says calmly and sarcastically from my office door.  “Smart ass,” I said, and grabbed a business card.  Marlene hands me a Verizon cell phone as I rush down the hall.  She said, “It’s not charged, and may or may not hold a charge very long.”  Great.

Chapter 2:  The Seduction


Anitra and I arrive simultaneously at the Verizon store, and again were approached by the Mobile Mob.  “I need to speak with Trevor,” I said to the throng.  “There is no Trevor who works here,” a calm, cooing voice said.  “You are kidding me, right?”  “No, ma’am.  Can I assist you?  You are obviously upset,” he crooned.  “I am past upset, I am pissed!” I yell.   Anitra says, “Is that the new Galaxy over there,” and another salesperson spontaneously appeared at her side.  Leading her towards the Galaxy display, he said, “Yes, my pretty, it is.”  And she was gone.   They had separated us to go in for the kill.   “My name is Brian, and I am sure I can make everything okay,” said the soft voice behind me.  I turned slowly and saw a man dressed in business causal attire, smiling innocently at me.  The following conversation took place:

Me: You don’t know the crap I have been through just to get this phone activated. I held up the pitiful cell phone, and recount the last 3 hours. 
Verizon Brian:     No worries, I can add you as a user to the Help account
Me: I think your company needs to do more than that.  I want a new phone for free, three hours of my life back, and that watch you are wearing.
Verizon Brian:     I can give you a new phone, Ms. Boles.
Me:                     What’s the catch?
Verizon Brian:     No catch, I just need a dollar.

My defenses were shredded.

Me: That’s not free, I don’t have a dollar, and that watch will make the perfect Christmas gift for my husband Tom.
Verizon Brian:    You have every right to be upset, but this new phone can be yours for only one dollar.

He produced a the phone smelling so new, and maintenance free.  I glance at the clock. 


Me: Same plan?
Verizon Brian:  Yes.  You just have to sign a contract for two years.  Same plan, and a $29.99 charge on the next bill for the phone.  I can activate it now.


Me: I may have four quarters. 
Verizon Brian:   Sign here.

And that was it.  I had been seduced by the Wireless Gigolo.    



Saturday, December 29, 2012

Yuletide Bundling: Xanax for the Holidays

What a magical time we are experiencing!  Laughter, good will, and cheer abound!  For some of us, however, this bright and jolly juncture brings about a nasty mental health disorder called Traumatic Wassail Associative Syndrome (TWAS). Susceptibility indicators to TWAS include the propensity to procrastinate, normative disorganization, and being (and/or acting as) a blonde.   I, unfortunately, possess all of the precursors.  The holiday season bites me in the rosy-cheeked ass every year. Like a stealthy, jingling ninja it arrives, finding me on my sugar plum potty with my red and white striped tights still down around my knees. It pounces upon me and beats the ever loving Fah La shit out of me. For approximately twelve days, I run frantic. Open houses and luncheons consume my day planner. I have gifts for coworkers, friends, and family to buy and staff Christmas parties to plan. Shopping, decorating, wrapping, shopping, decorating, wrapping, to infinity. The season becomes a red and green blur. I ushered in the 2012 Post Christmas Epoch regaining consciousness behind the festive deer display in the front yard. My husband Tom said when he found me I was mumbling incoherently reindeer games, story telling elves, and naughty lists as he led me to the bed.  I slept for 12 hours. Okay, most of what I just said was a lie, but I did sleep for 12 hours.  Extreme fatigue is a classic symptom in the postictal stage of TWAS.

I am way too old to brave Chaotic Candy Cane Lane for yet another year, and I believe that my proclivity for TWAS can be managed with a few simple steps.  I have developed a plan; a sure fire approach to keeping the celebratory season in perspective and reduce the risk of full blown TWAS.  I am calling it Yuletide Bundling, patents pending. Simply stated, it’s multitasking on eggnog-flavored steroids. The course of action begins with an awareness of what must be done, grouping said assignments, memorizing the season’s to do list for immediate recall, and seizing opportunities to get several projects completed at once.  Below are three ways I am convinced Yuletide Bundling will make my 2013 Noel TWAS free.  Being the public servant that I am, I am sharing the brilliance with you, so you too can enjoy peace on earth in the upcoming year.

Absolute Merchandising Excursions

Why spend hours researching the perfect holiday photo idea, corralling screaming children and undisciplined relatives for the actual shoot? While you are shopping with your loved ones, find a beautifully decorated Christmas display in your favorite superstore, pose your kith and kin to hide price tags, whip out your cell phone, and voi-la!
Instant holiday greeting card! As you wait in the check out line, come up with a catchy, heartwarming salutation and group email it to family and friends. Shopping, greeting cards created and sent. Off, off and away, TWAS!

Hop, Stock, and Carol

As you event hustle, collect stocking stuffers. During the office holiday party, sneak into supply closet. Who wouldn't want colorful paper clips, binder clips, and packs of sticky notes on Christmas morning? Church plays are also a great place to gather little gifts. Everyone who attends gets a treat bag...duh. Bring your anorexic friends, and get extra bags of goodies!  Parades create new opportunities for gift gathering. Bring your eco-friendly shopping bag and fight those little kids for the thrown candy. Finally, give chore cards in stocking for Yule time clean up. Result: little Timmy gets a ream of paper, a pack of Juicy Fruit peppermint gum, candy canes with a hint of asphalt, and a card that says, "you have been selected to vacuum stray tinsel strands out of the carpet." In review, you attended the office party, a church play, and a parade, all while collecting free stocking stuffers. Not to mention the fact that you took care of subsequent festivities clean up, all while remaining friendly to the environment. TWAS be gone!

North Pole Parole

Use community service workers for exterior decorating. They need the hours, and you need the help.
It's a win-win. While you are all toasty and warm baking gingersnaps behind a locked door, workers decorate the largest tree in your front yard, hang garland from eave to eave, and create a rooftop winter wonderland.  You will most definitely take the top prize for the best holiday home in the neighborhood.  TWAS eradication!

I am so ready for TWAS-free Yule time celebrations 2013!  Bring it, Cringle!

A. Ballerina

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Grateful, albeit Guilt-Driven, November List of Blessings

I must admit, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for not participating in the November Virtual Gratitude Blitz (NVGB) of 2012.  It has been nice to learn all the things for which my Facebook friends are thankful.  Unfortunately, my nit picky nature led me to some glaring strategy gaffes in posts.  Those who posted long orations about God, family, and friends in the first few days had to get a little creative toward the month’s end.  Around mid November, I noticed the beginning of a downward spiral in the caliber of thankful posts…The topics of God and family during the first week digressed into parking spaces and clinical strength deodorant shortly after Veterans Day. I am certainly grateful for a place to park and fewer stinky people in this world, but I feel compelled to point out the obvious in an effort to promote restraint for the first days of NVGB 2013.  OKAY, OKAY… I am simply jealous of those who had the motivation and wherewithal to commit to such a monumental task.  So, to relieve my guilt, and admonish my tardiness in publishing my appreciation, I created two NVGB posts which are featured below.  They are mingled with seriousness and humor, and I pray, oh reader, you will appreciate both!!!!

 November 1st:  I am most grateful for God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus (both the adult and baby-in-the-manger versions); the forgiveness of sins I have committed afforded by Jesus and God’s Grace to cover those I will commit in the future, probably even in this blog.  I am thankful for my wonderful family and my awesome friends; beloved pets and all creatures here on Earth, great and small, as well as those living on other planets yet to be discovered. 

I am appreciative of Earth’s basically “clean” air, the change of seasons, and the freedom of living in this country; the ability to run, walk and talk; good health; the plants that give us oxygen to breathe; and the ability to work, buy stuff, and pay bills.  I am grateful for the sunshine, and the rain, snow, sleet and hail, and for tireless US Postal workers whom weather does not detour; my mailbox, and letters from friends; the ability my friends have to write and for me to read and the teachers who taught us to read and write, and for the public schools; for buses and cars and gasoline, for all fossil fuels, and for alternative fuels, for windmills and the State of Nebraska, corn, the Cornhuskers, and all college and professional sporting teams and events that give us the excitement of competition and betting opportunities. 

I am appreciative for Las Vegas, slot machines, free drinks in casinos, and the desert...and for camels; for Hump Day and Humpy Dumpy and all other nursery rhyme characters that made my childhood both happy and scary; for “fear” and all other God-given emotions to keep us safe, and the Techies that created emoticons to express them on our Smart phones. 

I am grateful for Alexander Graham Bell, graham crackers and S’mores; for phrases like “More is less,” and for Les Nessman, old sitcoms like WKRP in Cincinnati, and for the Turkey Drop Episode; and for turkey, as well as all other fowl (those birds that can fly and those that have purpose-less wings). 

I am thankful for the Purpose-Driven Life phenomena, and those who live it, for Cousin It, and that weird Hand the lives in a box, for Box O Wine, Advil for hangovers; for clothes hangers, and the ability to ponder why some people call them “coat” hangers, yet use them for all items of clothing without explanation. 

I am thankful for the myth and hope of wrinkle-free clothing, wrinkled noses, and the ability to smell.  I am grateful for Febreze, freebees, frisbees, and dogs that wear red handkerchiefs around their necks.  I am appreciative of Native American chiefs, pilgrims who stole their land, and, of course, Thanksgiving Day.

November 30:  I am grateful for the end of November. 

A. Ballerina





Monday, June 18, 2012

Mutant Mouse Eats My Snack Cakes...Bring It, Mick!

Friday evening, I was sitting on the couch enjoying quality time with Ben & Jerry and TLC's Randy to the Rescue, when I heard bags rattling in the kitchen.  At first, I thought nothing of it.  Being alone in the house is a rarity, and living with Paul and Wesley, well, bags are always rattling in the kitchen.  It took a few minutes for me to finish my frozen treat and to realize that I was the only known creature in the house capable of making that kind of noise…And it weren't me.  I went to investigate, like any 45-year-old, blonde, white woman would do in any given horror movie, armed only with an empty gourmet ice cream container and a spoon. The sound was coming from cabinet where the snacks, personalized stationery, and other sundries are kept. (I am not one celebrated for my organizational skills).  The Unknown Creature was either eating potato chips or penning a note to a friend.

I stood in front of the cabinet for some length of time thinking that given my professional level of crisis response skills, I should certainly be able to figure out what to do next. I couldn't. I then did what any strong, independent woman would do…I called my husband at work. The following conversation ensued:

Me:  Tom, there is something in the kitchen cabinet!

Tom:  It's one am.

Me:  It sounds huge!  I think it's eating chips.

Tom:  Open the cabinet and see what it is.  It's probably just a bug.

Me to myself:  Are you f*#kin’ kidding me?

Me:  No. I will not open the cabinet. And it is NOT a bug. I can't open the cabinet. 

Tom:  I am sure it's just a little field mouse, or something.  Just go to bed. I will deal with it in the morning.

Me:  No field mouse makes that kind of noise. And I can't sleep with a monster in the kitchen. And by morning it may have eaten the dogs.  Neither one can move very quickly.  Worse still, it may slink into the bedroom.

Tom:  Go to the bedroom, close the door, and put a towel underneath the door.

Me:  WHAT!?  You spent how many years in the military (and as a weapons specialist, no less), and that's all you got? Barricade myself in the bedroom and put a towel under the door?  Don't you have a flame thrower somewhere in the house?

Tom:  Angie, go to bed.  I will see you in the morning.

Me to a dial tone:  I hope you do see me, with all my limbs still attached.  By the way, my affairs are NOT in order, and YOU, dear husband, will have a hell of a time planning my funeral without my input.  I will haunt you if it is a tacky production!  Who am I kidding, I am going to haunt your ass anyway!

I thought about sleeping on the deck, or at a safer distance, in the yard.  I haven't actually slept in my yard before, well, at least not sober, but it was becoming more and more appealing as the sounds continued to get louder.

I finally gave up, and barricaded myself in the bedroom.  I turned the television volume up so I couldn't hear the savage beast dining in cupboard.  The dogs were on their own.  And, no, I did not put towels under the doors.  That would have been as pointless as locking the doors of a convertible with the top down.  I was certain that Mickey Mouse's Evil Twin, Mutant Mick, could easily gnaw through wood if he wanted me for dessert.

Tom arrived at 6:30 am, and lucky for him, I was still alive.  With his sharp detective skills, coupled with an advanced knowledge in the area of wildlife biology (of which I was previously unaware), he quickly surmised that the creature was, in fact, a small field mouse.  Tom had retraced the intruder's steps, examined the creature’s feces, and came to this conclusion. I remain unconvinced. And this is why...

Mutant Mick enjoyed a Little Debbie's Oatmeal Creme Pie. Below is the remnant of said snack cake, which I am entering as Exhibit 1.



A field mouse? This is a human sized bite, people. Tom Grant, AKA Marlin Perkins, also discovered droppings in the frying pan.  Mick must have made an omelet for breakfast before he left...Where were the dogs?!

So my Mouse Whisperer left for another work shift after his 15 minute investigation.  And, I returned to my bedroom prison. I began making a list of all the charges I had grounds for in both the civil and criminal arenas. This carb craving vector should be charged with the following:  breaking and entering into my home, taking me hostage, stealing my snack cakes; not to mention causing me undue stress, pain and suffering. Perhaps the vilest offense; however, is the fact that he disrespected me by crapping all over my kitchen counters. Feces, manure, dung, shit…it is not “droppings,” it is SHIT, Marlin, SHIT.

This is the end of my blog ranting entry, for I am too tired to carry on…It’s Monday, and Mick continues to elude capture. So, my plight persists. I now avoid the kitchen at all costs. Actually, I have always avoided the kitchen, but it’s for a really good reason now.

A. Ballerina

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Call of Duty Black Ops verses Hooterville Granny’s Poultry Massacre

Amongst my Rowdy Mom friends, there has been much discussion and debate over video games and said games’ influence on our pre-teen boys.  The pervasive, unspoken question is exactly how many hours does it take for a 10-year-old boy engaging in virtual violence to become a homicidal sociopath?  Like "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop,” the answer remains a mystery. The world may never know.  Apparently, every child, Tootsie Pop, and homicidal sociopath are different.

Rowdy discussions on electronic entertainment focus on what we did for fun as children, ‘cause we didn’t have Halo Reach, Call of Duty, Gears of War 3, Mortal Kombat, and Kill Zone 3 to play like our vitamin D deficient, muscle-atrophied, vampiric children.  It only seems logical that we should coax our children to do the same things that we did for fun as children, because we turned out so great.  None the Rowdy moms present as homicidal sociopaths, so I took a little survey…Amy played with baby dolls…how stereotypically sweet.  Melanie read inappropriate books…how fitting.  Renee rode her bike, and Angel swam and water skied.  Debbie, Christie, and Heather did not respond to my survey, so I am making shit up for them.   Debbie knitted shawls for the elderly, Christie played hide -n- seek with cute neighborhood boys, and Heather attended save the manatee rallies.  I built moss furniture in the pine thicket for my imaginary troll family.  Thus far, I am the one that should have the most sociopathic tendencies, given my delusions were present at age seven.     

Paying more attention to my son Wesley’s recreational habits, I began to question the influence M rated games had on his elementary school psyche.  He began to use terms like “strategic placement” in describing the positioning of the dogs’ food bowls at each end of the kitchen to avoid potential canine conflict.  He also referred to searching for the mate to a dirty sock in the chaos under his bed as a reconnaissance mission.

Even though my general approach to raising Wesley is inactive parenting, these new terms peppered into his 10-year old vocabulary gave me pause.  I made an exception to my low key style to avoid future holiday celebrations at Central Prison.  During Wesley’s next video-gaming binge,  I asked my son to take a break before he had a seizure.  He responds, “And do what?”  Thanks to my Rowdy moms, I had several options.  “You could ride your bike, read inappropriate books, or water ski.”  I received a flat affect, followed by an eye roll.  “Well, we could find some moss and build miniature furniture for make believe Teddy Troll’s family.”  “Really, mom?  Really?”

I gave up (or gave in), and asked my son Wesley to teach me to play Call of Duty Black Ops.  Why not meet the enemy?  Dance with the devil?  He handed me the X box controller, which resembled an alien death ray gun, I would imagine…if I knew an alien…and he was packing.  With multicolored knobs, keys labeled A, B, X, and Y, as well as various other gears, the controller was intimidating, to say the least.  When pressed in the right series, keys would signal characters to perform various tasks, ie--standing, jumping, and, yes, selecting a weapon and shooting.  Giving the endless sequences, I am sure baking cookies, and playing a sousaphone were probably options.   Hell, with the X and Y keys, a baby being made was not out of the question.  During my virgin voyage into the synthetic war zone, I couldn’t figure out how to stop shooting my own character’s feet and my health meter glowed red continuously.  Obviously, I sucked at the game, so I just watched Wes.  I became shamefully proud of Wesley’s gaming abilities, as he mowed down the enemy time and time again.  His tactile skills were awe inspiring…perhaps a career as a surgeon?  Truthfully, I saw little blood and gore, just random splatters that quickly dissipated.  Soon Wes completed the level, and said, “Okay, Mom.  I think I will go outside and ride my bike.”   Go figure.

I know my childhood experiences and activities shaped who I am today, as will Wesley’s.  I do have wonderful memories of growing up in Hooterville (Cousin Beth’s moniker for the geographic area encompassing North Carolina’s Lawsonville and Sandy Ridge proper, as well as surrounding boondocks).  I remember skipping to my grandparents’ house every weekday after school, making mud pies with Beth, having homemade ice cream on Sunday afternoons, and, yes, playing in mossy pine thickets. But there was a dark side to country living.  Truthfully, Hooterville wasn’t exactly rated E for Everyone.

Every week or so, there was at least one animal cut, shot, beheaded, or gutted somewhere on the farm.  From a partial pig hanging in the old house to various deer draped across the hoods of pick up trucks, carnage inundated our peaceful farm.  The stench of death permeated the rural air.  

I saw my loving, God-fearing grandmother murder chickens regularly.   She wrung their necks, hung upside down on the clothes line, then cut their heads off to let the blood drain from their bodies.  As far as assassin skill sets, I would put Grandma Hall up against Black Ops’ Alex Mason any day.  Actually, Grandma would be the premiere protagonist in a farm-based video game, the description of which would go something like this….

Hooterville Granny’s Poultry Massacre is a first-person game of farming mayhem. The player assumes the role of Grandma Mae Overby-Hall who can wield various weapons, of which two at a time can be carried; throw machetes, butcher knives, and pocket knives; and use other equipment, ie--a butter churn handle, tobacco stick, and a hoe as weapons. A player close enough to gilded swine can kill with one knife stick. The character can take three stances: standing (when dressing rabbits, canning at the stove), crouching (when slopping pigs, hoeing in the garden, collecting eggs from the hen house), or prone (when storing sweet potatoes under the bed for winter). Each affects rate of movement, accuracy, and stealth. The player can dive prone from a standing position when running after domestic fowl. The player can momentarily sprint but will then grow tired. The screen glows red to indicate damage to a player's health, which goes away after eating biscuits and rabbit gravy. When the character is within the stench radius of live swine, a marker indicates the direction of the pig next up for slaughter, helping the player effectively hurtle over the sty fence, wade through 6” feces, approach beast from behind, and slit its throat.  (Rubber boots are an optional, yet prized feature unlocked after achieving level 5 status).  Among the game's weapons are crossbows, a .22, a plow head, and ballistic knives, gut buckets, and the most powerful weapon, Old Testament scriptures from the King James Version of The Bible.  Unfortunately, the game does not allow players to turn down the blood to suit their needs.  There is no profanity used in Hooterville, ‘cause that just ain’t right.

So, is it so important that our kids have similar childhood experiences as we did to turn out as great as us?  Naw.  We just need balanced experiences:  A little virtual blood splatter, a bicycle ride around the neighborhood; a few murdered chickens, constructing a lichen divan.  Whether backwoods or virtual, brutality must be countered with humanity…or at the very least, a Tootsie Pop.  Wow, that’s a little deep for the Ballerina. 

A. Ballerina

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Greetings from a Forlorn Bulldog

I am Lord Stafford Hall Grant, and this is my annual synopsis of the year past.  It is with great sorrow that I bring you this recapitulation.  The last 365 days have been ridden with woe, thanks to the Bastard Hound who was thrust upon me late 2010.  Said creature has taken great pleasure in repeatedly stealing my 2011 spotlight.  In stark contrast, this year has been wonderful for my minion humans--a marriage for Tom and Angie with a honeymoon in the Bahamas, a new domicile for all of us with room to cavort and make merry mayhem, AB Honor Roll for Master Wesley Boles, Dean’s List for Lady Jessica, and an acceptance to the prestigious Citadel for Lord Paul.  Yet, I weep…in addition to my reign as Alpha male continually being challenged, I have suffered multiple health issues and have been confined nightly in my crate.  Topping it all off, I have been hidden away during family functions, thus depriving the general public of my many charming attributes.

The dog called Moe Moe should have been dead months ago; alas his passing remains mysteriously at bay.  Daily, he eats out of my royal dish and hogs my toys. His favorite pastime is blocking my path from the den to the great room by positioning his freakishly elongated body sideways. He growls each time I make an approach. 

As I am prone to excessive ear wax production, The Creature oft corners me to lick said wax out of my ears in an act of blatant irreverence.  I must admit that on many levels I enjoy this, a forbidden act in the Grant household.  However, I tend to feel cheap and dirty following these audiologic escapades…another way Bastard Hound attempts to thwart my power.

Besides the annoyance of Dead Dog Walking, I have been struck with odd ailments that have made 2011 difficult.  Yeast infection in my facial folds, severe conjunctivitis that required optical steroid use, and an embarrassing scrotum malady plagued me.  I will take this opportunity to aver that I have overcome the awkward nature of this last illness in an effort to raise awareness to the affliction commonly known as “Raw Balls.”  As an English Bulldog, I possess a genetic predisposition for many conditions, including Raw Balls.  Through education, therapy, and an Elizabethan dog collar, I have recovered and found the courage to disclose my painful journey so that no others must suffer.  Besides an interesting discolored area, my scrotum is back to normal.  I would be remiss if I did not add that the high stress of living with Bastard Hound has weakened my delicate immune system and most certainly caused the aforementioned afflictions.

My crate reappeared after I urinated on my new dog bed for the second time.  In an effort to “stick it to” the Bastard Hound, I peed on my own bed.  Yes, oh dear readers, I know this speaks to my pure disdain toward him, for me to sink to this level, but it worked beautifully the first time.  My human underlings assumed that I would NEVER soil my OWN bed.  And given my nemesis’ failing excretory system, plus his bend toward bullying, he was the obvious culprit.  Thus, ‘twas Moe Moe who faced nocturnal confinement in the master suite for a wonderful 4 weeks…until I again peed on my bed, then completed my restful slumber that evening on the forbidden recliner…where I was found in the morn…by Lord Tom.  Why, you might ask, would I again wet my bed?  I do not have an explanation…only the English Bulldog is the third stupidest breed of dog, according to Wikipedia. Truth bites. 

And, because of a feverish pursuit of the pipe dream to remain Alpha male, I am no longer allowed to enjoy parties and family functions.  Pre-Bastard Hound days, when guests visited the Grant Clan manor, I was the center of attention with my adorable wrinkles and flat face.  Guests would flock to love on me despite my flatulent nature.  With his bizarrely long ears and malformed stubby legs, it is around he that guests congregate.  I had no choice but to perform some attention-seeking activity.  Activity du jour…leg humping.  Alas, no more appearances at social functions.

So, there you have it…the grief that was 2011.  Moe Moe will be 12 years old in January, even though the life span of the God-forsaken breed is 8 to 10 years.  He is showing no sign of decline.  Apparently it is true that having a sense of purpose in life will increase longevity.  Unfortunately for me, Canine Methuselah’s sole aspiration is making me miserable, 24/7.  Wishing all of you well in 2012, and may it be Basset-free!

With warmest regards, I am

Lord Stafford Hall Grant

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Boo, Gobble, Ho: The Tao of the Walmart Holiday Kiosk

My husband Tom and I decided to host this year’s family Thanksgiving celebration, which was a fantastic idea in July when discussed over mojitos.  Not so much so the third week of November, as we made mega to do lists in a filthy house with Halloween decorations still up.  None the less, I “manned up,” as my ten-year-old son says, and set to making Thanksgiving a holiday to remember.  I took Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off work to prepare the domicile for Thursday festivities.  I figured in three days I would have plenty of time to clean, shop, and even squeeze in a little time for me…yeah right. Wednesday night at I found myself heading back to the God forsaken land that is Walmart for the eighth time in two days.  Yes, I needed tea, turkey gravy mix, and picture frames.

I assumed my step father Bill had gotten the tea, because it is a major item on his finicky list.  He finds tea manufactured in bulk much more to his liking than homemade.  He is a connoisseur of generic, artificially-sweetened tea products, and when he finds a brand he likes, no other will suffice.  He took to bed when his all-time favorite tea supplier, the Winn Dixie Grocery Store chain, downsized and closed all local outlets.  Winn Dixie apparently produced a tea that was brewed by angels with water from paradise.  After an inappropriate amount of mourning, he painstakingly and begrudgingly searched for the next best mass produced tea. A year later, he found it under the Great Value label with an orange top at Walmart…thus one of my reasons for a Thanksgiving Eve visit to Sam Walton’s Shopping Mecca.  I thought Shiraz and tap water was a good enough selection for our meal, but what did I know?   

The turkey gravy mix request came via text from my Mom while I was en route to Wally World, in case Tom couldn’t master giblet gravy from scratch…a safe bet.  “It will probably be in a holiday kiosk on the grocery side,” her text said.  Holiday kiosk…yes, Walmart’s one-stop shopping creation to make you buy more shit than you need for any given celebration.  Example:  “Hey Rita, where did you get those mammoth, albeit interesting, football earrings?”  “Well, at the Walmart super bowl kiosk, of course.  I was buying goalpost plates and napkins for this party, and there they were.  And, look at the little doggie jerseys and matching jock straps I got for the Bichons….”

The picture frames were my last minute frantic requirements.  You see, as I visualized my home full of relatives, I realized that I had no pictures displayed that included ANY of Tom’s family members!  And what would they think?  That I didn’t think them significant enough in our lives?  That I cared more about having a wall full of my pets, even dead ones, than their smiling faces?  Or that I had every intention of hanging their photos, but had only been in the new house for eight months, and just hadn’t had time?  The last one was true, but I just couldn’t risk them opting for either of the first two…so I had to get some pictures on the wall of the Grant clan posthaste before they arrived.

When I walked into Walmart, I found it eerily spacious.  There were NO holiday kiosks, none.  Apparently, in preparation for Black Friday, Walmarteers had removed all riot- hindering obstacles.  But it was Wednesday!  What about all the Turkey Day procrastinators?  Where were they going to find their mammoth turkey earrings?!  Where was I going to find the turkey gravy mix?  Just as panic was about to set in, I had a brief moment of sanity which I had not experienced in three days… the sauce isle!  That’s where it will be!  I found a crowd of people huddled in front of the gravy mix section, eyes glazed over, staring at the selection.  I elbowed my way to the shelves, and surveyed the wares…brown gravy mix, chicken gravy mix, poultry gravy mix, beef gravy mix, red eye gravy mix.  Not one turkey gravy mix.  WTH?  Really?  So, I texted mom, “isn’t turkey a type of poultry?”  No response.  People were now rudely pushing forward, so I grabbed two poultrys, two browns, and one red eye (just for shits and grins.)  I then headed to the refrigerated section for the orange top tea.  Okay first unit…milk, eggnog, no tea.  Next one…orange juice, grapefruit juice, eggnog, no tea.  Next, grape juice, fruit punch, Sunny D, eggnog, no tea.  No tea could be found in any of the 15 refrigerated units.  I started to sweat.  No mass produced, generic gallons of tea?  My mind raced to the worst case scenario…E. coli recall.  Thanksgiving spent in the hospital with Bill.  “No!” I said to myself, “Focus, Angie. It must be somewhere else.  Maybe with the other name brand teas? Where were they?”  So I texted mom again, “Where is Bill’s tea?”  No response.  I had circled the store two times and went in and out of all isles and found no pre-made tea, of any kind.  The panic was truly closing in now.

Mom really needed to respond before a police officer showed up at her doorstep, explaining that I was found rocking back and forth in a video gaming chair midway down the wine isle, smoking my e-cigarette, hugging a carton of eggnog, muttering incoherently about E. coli, poultry gravy, and turkey earrings.

On my third round, I happened to glance into a refrigerated unit in the middle of the grocery section, full of spiral hams…and eggnog.  Underneath a ham butt, I saw the faint image of an orange top.  I began to dig feverishly through the porky heap, and there they were…an orange sea of Bill’s tea.  My phone vibrated.  Mom had responded.  “Yes, dear, turkey is poultry.  The tea is with the spiral ham.”  Well, what was I thinking, of course tea would be housed with ham butts, it makes perfect Walli-sense…I grabbed two gallons, then set out for the frames….now where might they be?  With the feminine hygiene products or in Electronics?       

After locating the frames (which were in Housewares, go figure) and checking out, I stood in the Walmart parking lot feeling violated and confused.  Do the store layout planners and marketing strategists smoke crack at their meetings?  Is Walmart secretly owned by the US government? Did I fall down a rabbit hole?  Whatever the case, reality and Walmart mentality are two totally different beasts, and I currently didn’t have time to ponder the conundrum.  I headed home to frame and hang pictures until dawn. 

A. Ballerina