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How the Interwebs ‘Mowed Down’ the Postal Service

10 May

by Roger White

 

My old friend Gary, whom I’ve been best buds with since the early days of the LBJ Administration, recently retired after almost 40 years with the US Postal Service. Forty years of doing just about anything is admirable in my book, but working 40 years for the post office—and staying as sane, calm, and level-headed as Gary’s always been—is cause for a bit of hoopla and commemoration. So I sent my pal a celebratory retirement package: a 1/24 scale Three Stooges work truck model ready for assembly. Gary always did like working on car models.

 

postman dudeThrough the years, Gary has been the consistent yin to my yang. I’m a bit of a prone-to-histrionics type. When I’d be crying my 12-year-old eyes out because the Cowboys lost in the playoffs, Gary would be the one to remind me that it was just a game, that we’d get ’em next year, and, hey, isn’t a good time to get on our bikes and ride to the DQ for a couple of ice cream cones. That’s surely one of the reasons we remained such good friends over the years. I was the wild-eyed schemer; Gary was the voice of reason. Gary’s even-handed demeanor, I would bet, is also one of the reasons he never “went postal” working 40 years for the postal people.

 

I bring up my friend because I was thinking the other day how Gary timed his retirement just about perfectly. The USPS, like so many other entities, has been dealt a real body blow by the internet. The number of people conducting their business by hand-delivered mail has declined precipitously in the era of e-mails, texts, and Facebook. Then again, the list of industries and career paths adversely affected by the rise of the interwebs is a long one. Think about it: jounaughty magrnalists, photographers, newspaper and magazine owners, authors, publishers, literary agents, press workers, encyclopedia salespeople, recording artists, record album designers, music store owners, phone book companies, map makers, taxi drivers, camera makers, processed film manufacturers, travel agents—and let’s not forget the print porn industry. OK, never mind about the print porn. Young men now have more closet and bottom drawer space. But anyway, the list goes on. We’re in the midst of an economic revolution of sorts. And we all can’t work as Walmart greeters.

 

So back to Gary. The notion that my friend retired at just the right moment came to me when I read an article the other day that the postal service of Finland—financially in dire straits as are postal services of just about every country around—has gone to drastic measures to try to stay afloat. Posti Group, which is what the state-owned Finnish mail service is called, has decided that to help make ends meet, they will, in addition to delivering the Finnish mail, offer to mow people’s lawns once a week for a tax-deductible fee of about $148.

 

“The idea for the lawn-mowing service came from mail delivery employees themselves,” said Anu Punola, the service’s director. “We believe many customers will be happy to outsource lawn mowing when we make it convenient for them to do so.”

 

Mmmyeah. That’s thinking way, way outside the post office box. Somehow, I just don’t see it flying here in the good ol’ US of A. My postal delivery guy is friendly enough, but I can’t picture him at my door like so:

 

“Hello, Mr. White, you need to sign for this package.”

 

“Oh, thankspostal mow.”

 

“And by the way, your driveway shrubs are looking really shabby. You want a trim and an edge for an extra fifty bucks?”

 

I could see them delivering pizza, though. That just might work. “Here you are, Mr. White, jury summons, five credit card offers, Victoria’s Secret catalog, utility bill, Pottery Barn flier, and double pepperoni with mushroom, hold the anchovy.”

 

In order to survive, I envision other such services embracing the concept of double duty. For example, I edit a magazine (yes, the print kind), and I write for a newspaper (yes, the print kind). How much longer these publications will remain the print kind is anyone’s guess, but I figure it might help keep subscriptions coming in if we could figure out a way for these periodicals to be made from material with the consistency of toilet paper. Talk about double dooty. That’s something that e-magazines and e-newspapers just couldn’t match, I do believe.

 

Yep, Gar, you retired at just the right time, old friend.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely spouse, two precocious offspring units, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

 

I Give You Sniglets for the New Age

2 Nov

by Roger White

 

Remember sniglets? You have to be at least kind of ancient if you do. Sniglets, the brainchild of 1980s comedian Rich Hall, were simply described as “words that don’t appear in the dictionary but should.” They’re concocted terms used to define everyday phenomena—usually petty annoyances or ridiculous inanities of life that we all experience but don’t think about enough to actually attach a real word or phrase to them. Like backspackle, which is, of course, the ah the spacklemarkings and smudges on the back of one’s shirt from riding a fenderless bicycle. Or giraffiti, which is vandalism spray-painted very, very high. Or one of my personal faves: slopweaver, which is someone who has mastered the art of repositioning the food on his or her plate to give the appearance of having consumed a good portion of it. Teens are marvelously adept slopweavers.

I started pondering sniglets the other day at work when, for the umpteenth time (is “umpteenth” a sniglet?), one of the little protective rubber coverings on my stereo’s earbuds came off in my ear and I didn’t notice—until a coworker pointed out to me that it looked like I had a cockroach nesting in my left ear.

Ah ha. There should be a word for that, I thought. And then, as I pondered sniglet possibilities for my plight, it hit me that we need a whole new crop of sniglets for the 21st century. So, herewith, I give you a jumping-off point of Sniglets for the New Age. These are just sniglet proposals, mind you. I think Rich Hall or somebody has to officially bless them in a ritualistic sneremony or something for them to become official. And as always, I welcome your snig-gestions:

  • Burst Responder: a person who blurts out a response to someone who’s talking on their cellphone because the responder thought the person was talking to them.
  • Adcenta Previa: those frustrating ads placed in front of the youtube video you want to watch.
  • Spellhole: the maddening state you find yourself in when your mobile device keeps insisting on correcting your text spelling when you don’t want it to.
  • Asdfjkrunge: the collection of food crumbs, bits of dust, cuticle washy washytrimmings, and other tiny specks of detritus you have to empty out of your computer keyboard from time to time.
  • Coughartle: the noise made, particularly by cube-environment workers, when trying to mask the sound of passing gas.
  • Tootretort: snarky comment or question posed by annoyed coworker who knows damn good and well that somebody just coughartled. Example: “Is there a gas leak?” or “Did somebody burn the popcorn again?”
  • Textnesia: that troublesome realization that you forgot who or what you were texting in the middle of text conversation.
  • Cell Squeenge: when two people in a cellphone conversation attempt to talk at the same time and end up hearing nothing and saying, “Hello? Hello? Are you still there?”
  • Vinylstalgia: a baby boomer’s angst at the lack of albums and old-fashioned record stores in today’s world.
  • Illoleracy: the absolute dearth of language skills shown by today’s teens and young adults who have been raised on “lol, ur kiddin, rofl, brb…” etc.
  • Faceplant: when you share a post on Facebook that your friend received 102 likes on, and you end up with three likes—and two of those are from you and your mom.
  • Proselyposting: the annoying habit of some Facebookers to hallelujahcontinually post how much they love Jesus/God/Yaweh/Allah/The Dude/Eric Clapton and that if you love Him/Her/Them also you must “like” and “share” or you’re going to Hell/Lake of Fire/Perdition/The Abyss/Cleveland.
  • Screenscramble: that moment when your boss suddenly pops into your cubie, and you have to frantically pull up a document on your computer screen to make it appear as if you’re working and not farting around on youtube.
  • Budplug: I almost forgot. This is what I came up with for that tiny rubber earbud covering that gets stubbornly stuck in your ear without your knowledge.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious offspring, a very obese but mannerful dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

Reconnaissance Specialist Zorbum 9Smith Reports

29 Feb

by Roger White

 

“Oh, I used to be disgusted,

And now I try to be amused…”

—Elvis Costello

 

“Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.”

—Commander Buck Murdock, Airplane II, The Sequel

 

Floating far above the clouds somewhere over the Great Plains, a gargantuan monolithic door composed of a mysterious synthetic skin slides silently up, and the great silver mothership swallows a lozenge-shaped shuttlecraft.

Reconnaissance Specialist Zorbum 9Smith exits the shuttlecraft and immediately reports to Captain Vnnn-pu. After the traditional Andromedan earlobe-sniffing ceremony of greeting, Specialist 9Smith readies for the debriefing.

“9Smith,” Captain Vnnn-pu mindmelds, “your mission was to observe this planet’s most advanced, most powerful nation and report on your impressions of its culture. What are your findings?”

“Honored Captain, if you would open your mind to Subchannel Y, I have prepared a Mental PowerPoint presentation,” 9Smith melds. “I believe you will be most intrigued, as was I. Please disregard those first two slides. That is me at a ritualistic labor ceremony of the Western world.”

“What is this ritualistic labor ceremony called?”

“The happy hour,” 9Smith reports. “Work force representatives convene at small, local shrines to partake of what I can only presume are holy elixirs, plot overthrow of their labor overlords, and perform pre-mating functions with work force representatives of the opposite sex.”

“I see. The gyrations are quite peculiar. And what is that device on your subcranium?”

“That is termed a lamp shade,” 9Smith melds, referring to his notes. “Apparently, this is a sacred crown worn during the advanced stages of the happy hour ceremony.”

“Good.” Captain Vnnn-pu nods, mentally smiling. “You must have gained their trust to be honored so. And your report?”

“This is a land of many ironies, Captain. And I know how a good irony sets your drachio-chords to vibrating.”

“Yes, yes. Juicy irony.”

“Observe your mindscreen, Captain. These are just a few examples:

“In this culture, personal vehicles that would save the most currency for drivers—vehicles the earthlings have finally invented to run without using deceased dinosaur fluids—are priced out of reach for those drivers who would need the currency savings the most.”

“Most odd,” Captain Vnnn-pu notes.

“It becomes worse,” 9Smith melds. “Domestic energy alternatives, such as solar panels, energy-efficient windows and doors, and appliances that cost the least currency to operate—and even longer-lasting, currency-saving light-producing modules—are the very things the poor among this society cannot afford.”

Captain Vnnn-pu mentally sighs. “Continue.”

“It seems that humans who operate their personal vehicles the fastest on earth streets and highways are generally the humans least qualified to drive at any speed.

“Further, the media with the most power to influence humans in this culture—movies and television—and would therefore obviously hold themselves to the highest standards of storytelling, worthwhile entertainment, and adherence to the principle of doing the most good for the most people, instead regularly produce such products as ‘Booty Call,’ ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’, ‘Deuce Bigalow,’ ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians,’ and ‘The Jerry Springer Show,’ to name just a few.”

Captain Vnnn-pu shudders, his drachio-chords humming.

“Also, professions that have the potential to make the most positive impact on cultural progress—such as teaching—are consistently near the bottom of the human pay scale, while those who play children’s games for a living make millions of earth dollars per year.”

“Astounding.”

“What’s more, these fully grown children-men are idolized and revered by most everyone in the society—namely the males—despite the children-men’s propensity to disregard the society’s laws and morés, injure one another and themselves with firearms, ingest illegal performance-enhancing substances, and generally behave like preteen humans.”

“I must sit,” Captain Vnnn-pu admits. “My drachio-chords. Go on.”

“Those humans with the most varied and abundant life experiences, who would be revered and honored by any thinking society—the elderly—are by and large relegated to the shadows, often to die alone, in poverty, or in dormitory-like detention centers known as care facilities.

“Get this, the humans who vie for public office are most interesting. These humans claim to have ‘the average Joe’s values at heart,’ yet they are generally among the most very wealthy and privileged among them. From my observation, the average human citizen wouldn’t have anywhere near the financial means, the family pedigree, the television actor’s visage, or the innate ability to switch sentiments on a whim as do these humans. A most perplexing and frightening breed.”

“Who are these humans?”

“They call them politicians, Captain. A most untrustworthy type, yet the humans bestow upon them the most power of all, it seems.”

“And this ‘average Joe?’”

Specialist 9Smith mentally shakes his subcranium. “Apparently, not the brightest of creatures.”

“Please, the drachio-chords.”

“Lieutenant Kranki-5, please get the captain a container of neep juice.”

 “Is there more?”

“Oh, much, much more, Captain. I will relate only a few, however. This one possibly intrigues me the most. The very nature of accruing wealth is quite obviously tipped in the favor of the already-wealthy humans.”

“What is wealth again, 9Smith?”

“The accumulation of personal currency. Unlike Andromeda, sir, where every citizen is guaranteed equal access to life necessities, here one must earn and trade currency to ensure continued sustenance, care, and shelter.”

“Most curious.”

“It is a true subcranium-scratcher: The cycle of wealth begetting wealth and poverty begetting poverty appears solid and unshakeable. For the large part, it appears the wealthy human tribes will always be the wealthy, and the same with the poor humans. Any real attempt at wealth-sharing appears lacking.

“Also, human corporate leaders—bosses, they are called. In companies large or small, these are the very humans who have no need to park closest to the building because no one apparently cares if they are tardy. Yet, oddly, these are the humans with the most convenient vehicle parking spots.”

“Bosses, eh? Perhaps bosses cannot walk so well.”

“I do not know. But in a related observation, these bosses many times are given personal vehicles free of charge, when their ability to purchase such vehicles is many times greater than those humans who appear to work longer hours and park much farther away.

“Continuing, humans have more work-saving devices and more automated systems than ever in their history, yet this generation seems destined to work many more years of their lives than several generations previous.”

“And why is this?”

“It all has something to do with some dreadful collision.”

“Collision?”

Specialist 9Smith refers to his notes. “Yes, a terrible crash on, let’s see here, Wall Street.”

“Strange. Proceed.”

“More is known now among humans about health and nutrition for young humans, and more affordable access to quality choices for human children is available to  more families than at any other time in human history, yet childhood obesity and diabetes appear to be at epidemic proportions—and human childhood hunger remains a problem.

“Additionally, with the advent of cable and satellite, humans now have thousands of television wavelengths available for viewing every night, yet when one mindmelds with the humans, it appears the choices of quality programs are nowhere near as desirable as, say, A.D. 1962—when one could choose from among “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Gunsmoke,” or “The Ed Sullivan Show” from among the three network channels the humans had then.”

“Andy Griffith. Was he a great leader?”

“On the local level, yes, Captain. Apparently an outstanding officer of the law.”

“Please, no more, 9Smith, no more. Anything positive to report?”

“Well, yes. One of the culture’s leaders here announced that humans may soon be able to keep their shoes on when they arrive at air travel centers.”

“Shoes?” Captain Vnnn-pu queries. “Why on Andromeda would the humans need to take off their shoes at air travel centers in the first place?”

“It’s a long story, Captain.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

All Aboard the E-Train!

31 May

by Roger White

 

I give. Uncle. Consider the amalgam of these words on this here page a verbal white flag. The great, crashing wave of technology, ultra-instant everything, modern living, and seven days a week of genius minds such as Glenn Beck has washed over me like a great, uh, a great crashing wave washing over me. That’s called a 360 metaphor—or redundaphor. I invented it, so if you use the redundaphor, you must write me for my permission. And put $1.55 in quarters in the envelope.

Anyway, I have ceased, as of this writing, digging my heels in against the onslaught. Everything and everything’s brother is electronic now, so survival actually depends on accepting the e-world, doesn’t it? Besides, my heels hurt.

Think about it. Just about every corner of life has an “e-” in front of it now. See here:

  • We have e-exercise. I actually sprained something playing Wii tennis the other day—and our den is now in need of a new sliding glass door. I swear I heard the little Wii guy snickering. It’s difficult and demeaning, in my opinion, to lose to a smiling computer opponent whose cartoon body is eerily reminiscent of the Weeble toys from the early ’70s. If you’re too young to remember Weebles (“they wobble, but they don’t fall down!”), then you’re too young to read this column anyhow. So go on. Git.
  • We have e-gambling. And just because your friendly e-gambling provider is based off shore south of Cuba somewhere, do not for one minute think they don’t have access to your home address, your work address, or guys named Rocco. This information comes from a friend of mine. Yeah.
  • There’s e-tax paying. All I’ll say here is that this organization has the same contacts as the establishment mentioned immediately above.
  • There’s e-school, e-friending, e-flirting, e-sex, e-marriage, e-affairs, e-divorce (note the rather chronological order here); heck, there’s even e-bankruptcy.
  • We also have e-cigarettes. Have you seen these? The e-cigarette looks just like your standard 20th-century Marlboro, but it’s basically a robot cigarette. Tiny electronic diodes and things give you a lungful of water vapor when you take a drag, but you still feel cool and hip because as far as anyone else knows, you’re still smoking and genuinely playing chicken with cancer like the good old days. The e-cigarette people have taken it a bit too far, though. You can fill your e-ciggy with any flavor imaginable, from strawberry and mocha coffee to grilled rhubarb and spring-scented Pine Sol. I guess you could use these unique aromas (odors?) to your advantage, however. Say you’re a female at a party being hit upon by that obnoxious paunchy guy who never takes the hint. Pop in the flavor cartridge labeled “Unwashed Southern European Cab Driver” and you’ll have the entire back deck of the party to yourself.

 

There are many more e-examples. And I’m saying to you here and now, I embrace them all. Bring ’em on. In fact, I’m writing this very column on what they call a “computer.” Yes, it was scary, but I put the pencil and paper away, I kissed my beloved Pink Pearl giant block eraser farewell, and began composing these words on a “keyboard.” Seriously!

And now that I’ve welcomed the new e-age, I say let’s explore the boundaries. Where can we go from here? What have our best and e-brightest minds not conjured yet? What about e-beer? Pretty much all of our other vices are available at the drop of a Caps Lock now, so why not brewski? There is an i-phone app that looks like a cold one being poured out; they just need to take it a step further. I envision that you touch your lips to your i-device while it’s in e-beer mode, and a wonderful pilsner flavor fills your mouth—accomplished via thousands of itty-bitty bionic creepy crawlers about the size of Glenn Beck’s brain. Oops, sorry. I promised myself I wouldn’t mention that guy more than once a column. No calories, just e-beer flavor.

You could have an e-burping option if you want the whole, true-to-life pilsner package.

How about e-travel? I guess we have that now with I-max theaters and multi-media travelogues. As with e-beer, however, this could be rendered more realistic with items such as a 3-D e-airport security app, complete with groping fingers, e-lost luggage, and, of course, e-stuck in a Turkish prison because the customs guys didn’t believe it was e-marijuana.

Let’s see. E-war? Remember that old Star Trek episode, where the two rival planets did away with all the messy fighting and bombs and things and simply pre-selected casualties (via computer, of course)? If your number was drawn—sorry, pal, you just became soylent green. I don’t know, that one might need more baking.

I guess this segues into e-death. I know, it’s a rather morbid way to end this installment. But there is a bit of logic here, in a what-goes-around-comes-around kind of fashion. For all our advances into e-this and i-that, we invented e-death a long time ago. Remember Old Sparky? Today, we’d call it the e-chair. Well, I guess for it to be truly electronic versus simply electric, the switch would need to be in Austin and the chair du char somewhere remote, like South Austin. Ew, that is a downer, indeed. You can see how I had to throw it in, though, right?

Suffice to say, I’m on board the e-train with all appendages. Life at the speed of electrons! By the way, if you want extra copies of this column for friends, neighbors, and enemies, send me a self-addressed stamped envelope and I’ll send you a genuine handwritten copy. Allow four to six weeks for delivery.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Oak Hill with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.