I speak to a police officer

I would not want to be a police officer. At least not the kind who has to speak to annoying people calling to complain about their neighbors. No, not that kind, behind a desk, trying to decipher who is telling the truth, who is lying.

I'm looking good while patrolling the mean streets of Los Angeles. Kind of like Batman without the outfit and really cool car.

I’d rather go after perps in high-speed chases in the streets of L.A. And tap them in the rear bumper with my turbo-charged Hemi-powered Dodge and send their car spinning out of control. Then, I’d jump out and just shoot them. Well, not really. I’d play it by the book. But if they pointed a gun at me, I’d demonstrate the hours I spent on the range making holes in paper targets.

Back to reality.

I spoke to a police officer the other day. I told him the short version of the conflict I had with my neighbor. I’m sure it went down in the report as a “neighbor argument.”

Accurate, I’m afraid, but not quite what I would classify it as. Just as the police categorize incidents, I do as well. But try to explain how the type of communication someone uses, and the statements they yell out, differ from what most people might say in an argument. It’s not easy and I gave up trying to.

I’m talking about statements that make you say, “where did that come from?” Or, “that doesn’t make sense.” Or, “Am I talking to a rational person?” 

The verbal equivalent of a furry bat winging its way past your head in broad daylight. Was that really a bat?

How do you describe a non sequitur that might denote someone not playing by the rules most “normal” people play by? Then again, I wear a bag on my head.

“No, officer, he did not yell a profanity at my wife.” The point is he yelled at my wife for no reason. And after allegedly having a gun out in broad daylight a week earlier. So, I went to find out why he felt it necessary to call out to her.

Despite the officer being nice, I can’t say there’s much for the police to do now. It’s my psychological drama to live out. I’m committed to not provoking or speaking to the neighbor. Still, the memory of it hangs over me like smoke in a German restaurant in the middle of winter where no one will crack a window to clear the air, and four Germans at a table in the corner keep looking this way and laughing.

It’s uncomfortable and I can’t wait to leave the restaurant.

Are people in Los Angeles getting angrier? (A non-political post for Margie)

One of my neighbors “displayed” his gun to another neighbor’s gardener the other day. I was on a conference call and missed the fun that ensued when my two neighbors got into a heated argument about it (my wife’s description, as she caught the last two minutes). It’s a good thing I missed it because I would have called the police. When a gun comes out, that’s process step 1 for me.

If cannons, not guns, were legal, we'd have a fewer killings and more people going to chiropractors instead of prison

Today I saw the good neighbor, who is a friend and the one who didn’t brandish a gun in the light of day, and he filled me in.

Turns out his large tree overhangs Dirty Harry’s property. And as an act of kindness, his gardener went to the front door of Mr. Harry to ask permission to move something on the property to access the tree and to make sure his cars weren’t damaged from falling debris. But no one answered the door.

When the gardener tried again, he was confronted by Mr. Harry who had a shotgun or machine gun – some kind of big gun. Then the argument started about it not being a polite gesture to greet a gardener with a weapon of death instead of a rake or hoe.

Now I know most of my neighbors probably own guns. This is Los Angeles where it’s almost mandatory, though I’ve managed to resist the impulse, thinking that I’d probably use it on myself in those dark moments of blood clots and hemoptysis. But here’s a neighbor who feels like we’re living on the open range and he’s protecting his property from cattle rustlers.

What do I do? Or don’t do?

This is the kind of photograph that lures people to California. It's all Hollywood magic. The bird is fake and the beach is a painted backdrop.

Move? I don’t know, but it was the first thought that crossed my mind.

It does make me wonder if my unscientific theory that people are growing angrier is true.

I don’t have any facts to back this up.

It’s the feeling I get when I see how people treat each other in public, how they drive, how certain neighbors could give a flying fudge bar if they return a “hello” while I’m walking in the neighborhood – to the point I feel like flipping them the bird when I see them – a pre-emptive strike – which would illicit a response from them or a comment like, “you’re the worst neighbor ever and I wish you’d f’ing move.” Hello to you, too, neighbor, glad you finally acknowledged my presence. 

I experience this hostility in the way men treat my wife when I’m not with her (another post coming soon).

I wonder if this city is suffering from traumatic or post-traumatic stress syndrome. We’re going through our days carrying so much stress and tension that we’re ready to snap at anyone, and are too burned out to be courteous.

It’s a just a hunch, but I feel it in my bones.

Unemployment is high in California; illegal drugs are popular; foreclosures with For Sale signs in the front yard and near-foreclosures with brown lawns, broken picket fences and half-finished additions lace neighborhoods. Do these daily images impact our sub-conscious?

Worry. Overrated and un-fun. (Creative Commons: Photo by Steve Snodgrass)

And then there is the constant worry we’re not working hard enough at our jobs and could be laid off at anytime to save the company money. And we’re working longer hours to make up for the whole “do more with less” mentality of companies during the recession. And there are the bills.

If we lose our jobs, where would we be? Brandishing a gun at a hard-working gardener? Walking into a beauty salon in Seal Beach to kill eight innocent people in an unspeakable, tragic act of violence?

I don’t know anymore. The older I get, the less I know.

Maybe I should have taken the advice of the first bumper sticker I saw when I moved to L.A.: Welcome to California, now go home. 

Should we occupy Wall St. or Washington? Or does it matter?

I’m fighting a cold tonight, which followed the usual course of starting with my daughter, then my wife, then me. So, just a short post and a link.

I read this excellent piece on how the rich get rich and take advantage of our government’s generosity.

When Being Rich Makes Us Poor, People Should Occupy Wall Street

I don’t fault anyone for making money. Hell, I wish I knew the secret and have only myself to blame for failure. Unfortunately, this country doesn’t function as well when wealth is disproportionately distributed and the top one percent horde the majority of the cash. And until the situation is fixed, expect more “American against American” occupations and battles.

“Class Wars 2011” will be the title of chapter in a history book one day.

The view from the Reagan Library. (I can't find the photos I took of the plane.) Check out the web site: http://www.reaganfoundation.org/

All of this relates to my epiphany that one cannot hate the government and love capitalism. They are lovers entwined, and one without the other wouldn’t provide the great opportunities to make cash these days. (Think Iraq War, the moneymaker of all moneymakers for movers and shakers.)

I’ll leave you with this final thought before I go flush my sinuses.

A couple of years ago, we went to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Regardless of politics, Ronald Reagan lived an impressive life. And the library matched the man’s incredible journey with its own impressiveness. Heck, Air Force One is inside the building if that gives you a sense of its scope and size.

But one of the most telling moments I’ll never forget was coming to the end of the tour, walking out of the gift shop and seeing the list of those who donated and made the library possible.

It wasn’t the poor.

Anchors disguised as people

Have you ever worked with a person who has nothing to contribute to a situation or project? The type who lives to criticize work and never offers any constructive feedback? Who sits in meetings quietly and only speaks up to point out why action is a bad thing, why change brings risk, and why sitting on your ass doing nothing is always the best course of action?

People who “don’t” not “do”?

I hate these people.

I work with a lot of good people. And yet, I work with a few who the universe dropped on the planet with the sole purpose to point out flaws and imperfections, or  why something won’t work or isn’t right or who knows what. I like to call them “anchors” because they keep projects from moving forward by creating obstacles to dodge and hurdles to jump.

There's one of them now, hanging out, making life difficult. Creative Commons: Michael Wilson

I see this quality in many of our current politicians and the people who follow them.

They have no plans of their own and they hate everyone else’s plan.

Don’t give Americans the right to purchase healthcare, they say.

Then what should we do instead to solve the challenge of affordable healthcare for all?

Well anything but that plan?

Okay, what about this plan?

Well, not that plan either.

What’s your plan?

[silence]

So, you’re just going to say “no” to anything we come up with?

[silence]

Nothing is ever right with these people. It’s all wrong.

My daughter was like this when she was two-years old. I would build a tower with her blocks and she would come along and take a swipe at it like Godzilla walking the streets of Tokyo and down it would go. She’d laugh and it was quite a game we played. But then she grew up and understood it wasn’t so cool to destroy something someone took the time to build, especially if she was the builder.

Here’s my remodeling math: It took me a day to demolish my bathroom to the studs, and six months to rebuild it. So, anything politicians or others want to blow up, like Social Security, takes a long time to rebuild. It’s easy to remodel when you have some structure in place. From scratch is hard and takes a long time.

If we really want to “fix” this country, we have to stop listening to the people who tell us why we can’t do something before it has ever been tried, and who have no original ideas of their own. It doesn’t matter what party they’re from – they live in both.

If we don’t cover our ears to these Eeyores with half-empty glasses, we’re going to find ourselves peeing in a bucket asking when the bathroom is going to be finished while these knuckleheads debate the color of the tile.

Or, to borrow from Facebook: Done is better than perfect.

Drive like a maniac while eating bags of fried pork rinds – why auto insurance should be more like medical insurance

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get in your car, pick a long, desolate stretch of highway, crush the accelerator to the floor and exceed the “suggested” speed limit. 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, as your speedometer covers numbers it’s never met before. Bliss, pure bliss, as your shaking foot settles down at 130 mph.

Little red Corvette. Well not quite, but this picture was free to use if I mention Balaji Dutt and Creative Commons

And when you start racking up the tickets and paying fines for your weekend jaunts to points far away, wouldn’t it be great if the infractions didn’t raise your auto insurance rates?

So, you blow a grand on some tickets. What fun it was. And worth every dollar you’ll no longer have to spend on your wife’s anniversary gift next year. So much fun, in fact, you tipped the officer when he gave you a ticket. “For the police officer’s retirement fund, Sir Kill My Fun.”

What if you decided red lights were optional and caused a three-car pile up on your way to Starbucks to get your pumpkin latte before you were late to work?

Your insurance company would inflict a world of hurt on your pocket-book by raising your rates to the moon, Alice, and back again. Perhaps even drop you for being an idiot, which would surely happen the second time you crashed your car while running late to your massage therapy appointment due to the first accident.

Now if auto insurance were like the health care industry, your rates wouldn’t go up for being reckless.

Isn’t that the way it is with medical insurance? You can drink and smoke in excess and gain a couple hundred pounds eating McGriddles but your rates stay the same.

Want to sniff a pile of blow Tony Montana would be proud of? Take a dozen coke-induced trips to the ER with your heart ready to explode like Alderaan blasted to smithereens by the Death Star? Be our guest, you’re covered by the company plan as long as you keep your job at the law firm billing 70 hours a week. And the cartel in South America thanks you for your patronage, Señor Deviated Septum, which was also covered, though you lied to your doctor and blamed it on a face-plant you took when you borrowed a neighborhood kid’s board to show off. Oops, my bad, Doc. 

So, here’s my real question that took me an hour to get to: Would our health care system be busting at the waist if it were punitive like auto insurance?

Now I know the argument to this crazy idea because I shared it with my wife, who put the pin in my balloon by asking me how we’d measure what is considered healthy.

A minor obstacle, my dear wife, who had the misfortune of marrying me, King of the Pre-Existing Condition.

If I placed a picture of a McGriddle in every blog post, I'd feel pretty good about the decision

It’s a good question, but couldn’t we start with BMI? The higher your BMI over normal, the more you pay, except for conditions where the person couldn’t control it. But for the rest of us who fill our bellies with McDonald’s three times a day and think anything can be deep fried (dead or alive) and eaten, it’s going to cost us more in insurance premiums. (Damn the thin vegetarians who will be loving their cheap rates and stick-thin BMIs.)

And isn’t this really why medical costs are at a breaking point? What incentive do people have not to use it?

With auto insurance the incentive is losing your insurance or paying more if you’re reckless. Do you lose your medical insurance if you’re reckless with your eating habits or if you smoke a pack a day, which by the way should be Philip Morris brands if you do smoke, as baby needs some new shoes and our PM stock needs to keep going up, up, up.

Yes, radical ideas from an idiot, no doubt. But change doesn’t happen until you tap someone’s wallet or purse.

Perhaps we need to raise rates really high for everyone and follow the “discount for cash” plan some businesses do when you get money off for using cash instead of a credit card. If you take care of yourself and avoid fried McGriddles, which I would eat in a heartbeat if I could talk my girlfriends at McDonalds into tossing one in the deep fryer for me, you’d receive a big discount on your medical insurance. Do your best to stay healthy and you save money and live longer.

The question is . . . would someone be happier passing up their usual lunch of two Big Macs, large fries and super-sized coke for a salad and water? I know I wouldn’t, which makes me think this has all been one very stupid idea. Nevermind.

What not to do when someone tries to break into your car at 2:30 in the morning

[As if readers of this blog needed more proof of my stupidity, here’s more evidence. Clearly, I could place “what not to do” on most of my posts, but this is more glaring than the rest.]

I was having a bad dream, which is not to be confused with the parts of my life involving cystic fibrosis. This one happened while I was sleeping and woke me up at 2:30 a.m. I’d also been fighting a virus all week and my body temperature was screwed up, which made me feel more discombobulated at that hour (building the excuse for my idiot behavior right now).

What's a leek?

As I am the most paranoid guy in the world, I looked out the window of the front door on my way to the bathroom, as I always do, and noticed a white SUV in front of our house. Double take, it’s really there and the door is open.

Unfortunately, I’d been too lazy to replace the bulbs in the fixtures near our garage because I would need to find the step-stool, and because the light fixtures are a pain in the arse to unscrew and there are spiders in them and I didn’t have bulbs and hadn’t gone to Home Depot to buy any because even though I’ve passed the store 50 times in the last two weeks, I was too lazy pull into their parking lot, get out of my car, lock my car, walk into the store, find the bulbs, pay for them, get in my car, drive home and find the step-stool.

So, the driveway was darker than it should have been thanks to me, creating the perfect environment for thieving scumbags to go to work. Oh, and I didn’t have my eyeglasses on either.

So, I moved to the bathroom window to get a different view and I saw someone standing next to my wife’s car with an object in their hand – a tire iron? I don’t know what it was. All I know is after all the years of people stealing shit off of my car at night, I was pissed. A spark ignited in my brain, or what there is of one, and any chance of rational thought fled it as I walked with pace to the front door.

I didn’t disable the house alarm when I opened the door because I wanted the high-pitched squeal of the 30-second countdown to start in case one of them came running at me and I had to shut the door in a hurry. I can’t hear the sound anyway thanks to years of IV tobramycin, but I figured they would hear it loud and clear in the dead quiet of night.

Geek does Rhyme with leek

I opened the door and in what my daughter would call my “big voice,” I yelled “Hey you guys, get away from that stuff.”

I had to confirm this is what I said with my wife at least a dozen times because I couldn’t remember and I thought I must have yelled something like “get away from that car, low-life scum, before I come out there and rip your bowels out of your throat” or something cool like that.

But no, I didn’t say that. I said “you guys.” Not “you scum sucking criminals’ or “demon-spawn from hell car thieves.” No, instead I said, “you guys.”

Oh, and by the way, while I was using my big voice, my wife disabled the alarm because I’m always activating it by accident, which she thought I did again, unaware I was having a conversation with criminals.

At about the time I opened it door and yelled, it occurred to me at the very second the words left my mouth that I was yelling at exactly the kind of people in Los Angeles who worship and carry guns. The kind who probably don’t like being told what to do in a loud voice.

And there I was standing in my t-shirt and J. Crew boxer shorts covered in a charming “carrots and leeks” pattern (picture included) in the glowing light of the porch.

Could there be a more perfect and easy-to-shoot idiot in the history of targets?

I’m a lucky idiot because the perps ran to their SUV like the vermin they are and pulled a U-Turn in front of our house as my wife and stood in the doorway watching like dopes – defiant dopes – providing yet another possible double-homicide, target-shooting opportunity for the crooks, and headlines for tomorrow’s newspaper, with our daughter growing up parent-less.

And though I was calm during the incident, after I shut the door I was wound about my stupidity and it took me two hours of replaying my missteps before I could go to sleep.

Now the hindsight part of the story.

Though everything turned out okay, I’ve been flogging myself daily for not calling the police as the criminals did whatever they were going to do, which is a mystery still stuck in my mind and a question I can’t answer for friends who hear the story. What did I really see in the street-light dim of night?

I would have loved for the police to catch these guys. I love stories like that. But I blew it. I blew it. I let my anger overcome my rational thoughts and even endangered my family by opening the door, a key defense (the sound you hear right now is the whip hitting my back).

Though I may have saved the $500 deductible for my car insurance, it cost me almost a grand to have an electrician, locksmith and our alarm company come to the house on Friday. We now have new motion detector lights around the house, stronger locks in the doors, and a soon to be upgraded alarm with a panic button for my wife when I’m not home – and a different tone control panel I can hear when I am home.

Oh, and I did drive to Home Depot to buy five bucks worth of light bulbs. And I did take out the step-stool and climb up to unscrew the tops of the light fixtures to reach in past the spiders and cobwebs to unscrew the bulbs and replace them, which had they been replaced may have stopped all of this from happening by causing the criminals to go to a different house with a different idiot lording over it.

The silver lining: when I’ve away, I’ll feel a better with my wife daughter at home with improved security. But I’m not done yet. Soon to be installed: a fence or wall. A good fence may make for good neighbors, Mr. Frost, but an electrical one with barbed wire makes for a big FU to criminals when they’re flat on their backs unconscious waiting for the police to scrape their electrocuted, bloody bodies from the sidewalk.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. This is a lesson is what not to do when criminals pick your house to rob. Call the police. They like to catch bad guys. Unless you own complete body Kevlar®, of course, which means you can walk right up to them and beat them with your flail, which would feel pretty satisfying.

Stay safe.

My head cold goes south; I stay West

Everything was going fine this morning preparing to leave for my trip until I coughed a dry cough – red alert. It was a clear sign my cold had crossed the imaginary barrier of my throat and entered my chest – chest cold, red alert.

The monkey tossed a wrench. But was I reading the sign correctly?

I don't know why, but this photo seems appropriate. (Creative Commons: soldiersmediacenter)

I went through my routine. And when the driver knocked, I hugged my wife and left. And the first thing I did when I got in the car was take a Xanax. But it was too late. Each suppressed dry cough was like someone shaking me to wake up.

The closer we got to the airport, the greater the thought of “turn around” became. Turn around. Turn around. Go home. Do not go, turn around. TURN AROUND. BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.

At least a dozen scenarios played through my head of what might happen – what I would do when I got to New Jersey and this chest cold turned worse. What would it be like to be in the cold weather, a hotel room, sick? What would it be like to have a dry hacking cough on the plane and have people stare? What would it be like to go through security and have to open my bag of CF paraphernalia and explain it?

How would I get home? How would I get home?

Too overwhelming, go home.

As we exited the freeway, I felt warm.  And as we got closer, hotter. When we were about a mile away, I knew I couldn’t get on the plane. My face was flush, my heart beating in an uneven drum beat – hard beats, ready to release blood into my lungs.

When the driver pulled up to Terminal 1, I told him I was having a panic attack and couldn’t get on the plane. I asked him if he could drive me home or send another car to pick me up. He was very nice and said he could drive me home. But he suggested we wait five minutes, take a deep breath and see if I changed my mind. I called my wife and told her I couldn’t get on the plane. I had made my decision. No sense waiting five minutes.

The driver took me home. I handed him an extra 40 bucks. And in the dark of morning, I wheeled my suitcase into the house.

Now had I written this post this morning, the title would have been: This blog post written by the world’s biggest idiot. I felt that way for making the decision not to get on the plane. Wimp, wuss, were a few of the words I used. However, the cold worsened throughout the day. I’ve had a dry cough and been out of it, tired, groggy from the stress and the virus.

But, for once, I made a correct decision. An uncomfortable decision, but the right decision. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but it does now. I’m fighting a chest cold, which may put me in the hospital. I have no doubt had I gone, I would have been in deep s**t with this thing.

So, the part of me that felt like a complete wuss at the airport for not getting on the plane, now feels good because I made the difficult decision not to go and to ensure I was in the best position to fight the cold and, with luck, stay out of the hospital. That is yet to be determined. It’s 50/50 at best right now.

Here’s my last thought tonight: I hate cystic fibrosis. It can kiss my ass.

CF Bones and Benihana Redux

It’s all in the bones

“You look skinnier,” one of my co-workers said. I had just arrived at the office and “POW,” in my face. Cream pie, yum. It amazes me when someone comments on how I look when they greet me. I don’t understand it and never will. “Yo, Unknown. Hey, is that a new mole on your neck? I hadn’t noticed it before. It’s gotta be a centimeter in diameter. Wow, look at the curly hair coming out of your left ear. Oh my. And look at that nasty looking suit. Is that lice?”

I’ve heard comments about my weight my entire life. They used to throw me into a tailspin and send me to the vitamin store for a jumbo can of weight gain powder. Now they don’t bother me as much because my skin is elephant-thick. And my scale screams when I step on it these days. But sometimes people say “thinner” because of my CF bones and the look CF etches on my face. What my co-worker probably meant to say is “you look sick in the face,” which makes me think a bag over my head at work would be a good idea. But later that night, when another coworker told me I was looking well, I got confused. Does anyone else get this many comments about their looks? Supermodels need not answer.

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

Don’t pick up the phone when he calls

Why does every local work dinner I go to culminate in a trip to Benihana? What is the allure of the place? Instead of my thoughts on it tonight, let’s hear what Stacey of Confessions of a Cyster thinks of Benihana. She gave me specific instructions to give her credit (in a funny, charming way like only Stacey can do).

You have to constantly act impressed with the stupid knife-slinging show…then ohh and ahh at the onion volcano.  Seriously, how many onion volcanos do you really have to see in one lifetime.  All this while trying to avoid being in the path the one time they slip up.  Oops, everybody makes mistakes, right?

Exactly, Stacey. You’re right on. Nothing spoils a good night out like a hibachi knife to the chest.

I once posted this photo for CG. It's good luck. So, perhaps the screaming chef shouldn't knock it over. I don't want "Brady Bunch finds lost Tiki statue in Hawaii" bad luck. Sorry, Lucky Kitty. Please don't curse or hurt me.

The food was good, but the applause for tossing a few shrimp tails into a hat was non-existent. Suggestion for improvement to the Chef: toss a few flaming shrimp tails in your paper hat, let it catch fire, and run screaming from the restaurant, knocking over the lucky kitty and aquarium as you go. That will earn you the standing O you used to receive in the 1970s when your table was filled with onion-volcano virgins.

I did, however, think Benihana would benefit from Stacey’s constructive feedback. So, I emailed her blog site and home phone number to the Head Chef at Benihana. (Stacey, he wrote back and said he’d like to make you dinner one night. You’re welcome. Enjoy. Your pal, UC.)

Stay happy and wear a Kevlar vest when eating out.


Tapping the Maple Tree

Lately, I’ve been tapping my anger like one taps a maple tree. I jab a spike in my right leg and let it drip sap into a bucket. Most of the time I keep the anger inside, contained. But slowly, I’ve been draining it, letting go of my fear of using it.

Does this hurt the tree? Because it hurts my leg.

We went to a restaurant a few weeks ago for lunch. It took forever to find a parking space. And when my daughter is hungry, that feels like forever and a day. The restaurant was half full; it was 2 p.m. The hostess came to take our drink order and they were out of fresh squeezed lemonade, their specialty. On a Saturday?

We ordered water and an ice tea. But the hostess never came back with the drinks. She walked by us a dozen times – we had transformed into customer ghosts. Then the waitress helped everyone except us. So, we got up and left. No one cared.

Not getting service made me feel bad because I take it personally. My wife says I shouldn’t because it has nothing to do with me – it was a poorly run restaurant. But I tell her the world revolves around me. It always has something to do with me. Was there something wrong with me? Look, I know there’s something wrong with me, but does it really show in the 10 minutes I’ve been in your restaurant? Are you clairvoyant? Did you read my mind and not like what you saw? I don’t like it either, but you don’t have ESP. If you did, you would have seen I’m a great tipper. So there, Amazing Kreskin.

Then I remembered rule #1 in the Book of the Unknown: Never leave the house without the paper bag on your head – you’ll only frighten people if you do.

So, I wrote the restaurant. I’ve written many emails to companies expressing my happiness or displeasure. I had never used the “F” word in one before. Never. Time to tap the anger tree. Bang. I showed it to my wife: “Are you really going to send it?” Bang, I pressed “send.” Then I thought, “What did I just do?” and panicked, a little. But something about it felt good, like they deserved it. The staff at the restaurant was incompetent and lethargic. They ruined our lunch and made us feel bad. The crappy restaurant needed a wake-up call, something with punch – an email capturing the emotion of how we felt. I did my best to communicate it. I never heard back.

We ate lunch at Jamba Juice next to the blenders. I offered my daughter 10 bucks to walk into the evil restaurant and throw her Mango-a-go-go on the floor. “Then, run like the wind. We’ll have the car ready.” Simple plan. She declined. At least she laughed and saw the humor in it. That’s my girl.

The Story of the Manure Salesman

One day an unknown manure salesman hurried to load his camel. Shovelsful of manure were thrown up and into a large wood crate strapped to the camel until it became a heaping pile and the camel’s legs shook from the weight. At that point, the salesman threw handfuls of hay onto the load to keep it together, and to knock down the smell, as if that were possible.

A woman watched from the shadow of a doorway.

Sweating from his labor, the man stood back and looked at the camel – loaded and ready to go. Glancing at the ground, he picked up one more long stray piece of straw and tossed it on the load. In the time it takes a summer breeze to appear, the camel collapsed and died, crushed by the weight of the manure, which spilled into the street and onto the salesman.

He stood there stunned and speechless, covered, stinking, his hands not wanting to touch his soiled clothing. Tears filled his eyes from the loss or the smell.

“That was unfortunate,” the wise woman said, stepping carefully to avoid the mess as she approached.

“It was the fault of this one straw,” the man said, as he plucked a sample from his shirt and held it up for her to see. “It only took this cursed piece of hay to kill my animal. If not for this single straw, I would still have my livelihood and load.”

“It’s never the fault of a single straw.”

“It isn’t?”

“All of that manure weighed a ton. You were an idiot for loading too much on your camel – to the point it only took one straw to tip the scales toward disaster. But it was the total load, not the single straw, that killed your animal.”

The man gave this some thought, his facial expressions mirroring the realization of the truth and his responsibility. Then his face became calm, his body relaxed, and he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the heart while the wise woman watched.

She stood there for a minute, calm, quiet, studying the scene in front of her. The man, the camel, and the fertilizer, all linked together. Her hand raised up to her face, slowly wiping away a drop of blood, but no lines appeared on her face for anyone to read – if they had noticed her.

People circled around the man and camel, letting their curiosity overcome their sense of smell. A young girl stood next to the wise woman and tried to peek through the cracks of the wall the onlookers formed.

“What happened?” she asked the wise woman.

Looking down into the young green eyes, the woman said: “Always choose your words carefully when speaking to someone who doesn’t have their shit together.” Then she turned and walked the opposite direction of the growing mass.