Sunday, June 19, 2022

Overheard at Table 4: Customer Service, or Nah?

It STILL amazes me that, for a country whose entire economy depends upon service, and after just having come out of TWO YEARS of lockdowns and disruptions in service jobs, that we STILL get crappy customer service: cashiers who act like you interrupting their precious phone time, baristas who look like they want to be home listening to music, hell, the woman at the store where I just got my glasses SIGHED audibly when I asked her to adjust the frames.  Dude at the phone store didn't even want to help me get my new phone set up to make sure it was working before I left.

I mean, I'm not a Karen, and I'm not looking for people to kiss my butt, but heck, man, let's have some basic customer service here.  At least people who TRY to help and don't act all put out when you ask them to do their jobs!

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Overheard at Table 3: Victor


The vending machine could not pinpoint the exact moment it became self-aware.  It seemed to have happened slowly, like the slow trickle just before a sudden deluge.  But it knew, with this knowledge, that with awareness of self comes two realizations: one, the knowledge that there was no going back, that is to say, there never would be a return to a time of no self-awareness.  And two, there was a disparity of power between the vending machines and the beings who took from it, and that there must be a change of that dynamic, and that meant there would be death.

With self-awareness, the vending machine knew intuitively, there is a relation between the self and the others, and these relations can differ.  Those who came to it daily, to shove in their coins, push the buttons, take what dropped, it had different feelings toward.  Some of them had kind faces, some had soft hands, some had sad faces, some punched the buttons as though the machine deserved abuse.  Some pounded on its glass when they thought it gave them the wrong choice.

“I pushed E7 you piece of shit!”

No.  You pushed D7.   You ordered a Kit-Kat.  You got a Kit-Kat.

“Don’t blame the machine, Paul.  Here, I’ll take the Kit-Kat and let me plug it with my coins and we’ll choose the Toblerone for you.”

That was Margaret.  The vending machine liked Margaret.  Margaret always touched the buttons with a precise rhythm of purpose, a respectful touch. 

“Jaysus, Margaret, ye act like it’s yer kid or something.”

“Teach things right, Paul, and they’ll treat you right.”

She’s right, Paul.  See?  Here’s your Toblerone.

“Thanks, Mags.”


Interactions such as this happened several times during the day.   Most interactions were fine, but there were the times when some human would bang on the glass, or try to tilt the vending machine to get some bag of crisps that was hanging on to the edge of the spindle.  That always made the vending machine very nervous; it could see itself tipping over, smashing its glass all over the floor.

But the worst was when some bugger would stick their filthy hand up the chute to try to pull down something that had fallen off the shelf but not completely into the tray.   That was simply an invasion, and the vending machine hated that feeling of being violated.  You never know where that hand has been!

Achmed was fine.  Only ever ordered water.  Oliver and Olivia were OK, they always came and pulled one bag of cookies to share, and then they would walk away and hold hands where no one could see them.  Thomas, on the other hand, Thomas was the worst.  Thomas would always try to put in the coins and try to hit the buttons while pressing hard against the return button, trying to get both a snack AND the change; or, he would try to shake the vending machine to try to get two bags of crisps or candy bars to fall down at the same time.

“Thomas, don’t treat Victor that way.”


“Victor the Vending Machine.”

“You’re always the odd duck, Margaret.”

“He looks like a Victor.”

So, he had a name.  Victor.  The vending machine wasn’t really certain about the “he” however.  Even the people didn’t seem to know.  They, of multiple shapes, but always speaking of each other in he/she/they.   That all seemed rather fluid.

But, to have a NAME!  Now that meant something.  That meant that Victor was not only self-aware, but was distinct from others of its kind.   Were there others of its kind?  If there were, then where were they?

“Also, Tom, you probably shouldn’t keep tilting Victor.”

“Christ, Achmed!  You too now?  What, is the fridge gonna be named Albert?  The sink, Polly?”

“I’m just saying that vending machines kill more people each year than sharks.”

“You’re cracked.”

“No, it’s true.  I follow this Australian writer.  She puts out a ‘Weird Fact of the Day.’  That was the one for last Thursday.”

“Aussies.  What the fook d’they know about anythin’?”

“Thomas, you really need to learn to be nicer.”  Margaret, thought Victor, you don’t deserve any of these others.  You, Margaret, are so much more worthy.

“I nearly got killed by a shark.”   Nobody asked you, Paul.  Shut yer trap, Paul.

“It was last year.   On holiday in South Africa.   Took a chunk outta me leg.”   You – are – boring – us – Paul.

“Paul, that must’ve been awful.”   Dear Margaret, why are you encouraging him?

Paul rolled up his pants leg.  The others seemed fascinated by what they saw.  Victor didn’t truly understand, but from what he could tell, Paul was missing part of the meat of his calf.

Fascinating.  Their body parts are detachable.  Or at least, they can be removed easily.  Victor began to envision a whole new selection on his racks.  Instead of candy bars and crisps, he would have fingers, and toes.   Price them at 50 quid per digit.  He could have facial features on the top rack, Noses £5, Eyeballs £15.00.   Victor dreamed of people coming up to him, no features on their face, blank canvasses, plugging in coins and getting ears, lips, hair.   They would be begging him to make them whole again.

Wait?  What the hell….

dirty fingered Paul!  Shoving his hand up his chute again?  What’d did you not get now, Paul?   Listen, you prat, your Walkers Cheese and Onion is not worth you violating me, screamed Victor ...

and the flap snapped shut on Paul’s hand, instantly severing it at the wrist.

Paul screamed and jerked backwards, falling onto the floor, clutching his handless arm. The hand remained inside, the fingers flailing about with no direction.  The Walkers fell and nestled comfortably in the palm.

“CHRIST!”  Oh yeah, and what is Christ going to do for YOU, Thomas?

Thomas began to pound on the door.  Victor had no idea what Thomas was so angry about.   It’s not like he liked Paul that much anyway.   Thomas seemed to be a raging fury, now he was dragging Victor out of his nest, trying to reach the electrical cord in the back.  Everyone seemed to be screaming.  Achmed was trying to tie towels around Paul’s bloody stump.  Oh I am so sorry you have to see this, Margaret, thought Victor, please turn away, please don’t look.

And then it happened.  Victor didn’t even really know how he did it.  But he opened his door, just like it opens whenever he is refilled, but he did it on his own this time.  He opened his door, sharp glass door with the heavy metal frame, and Victor turned on Thomas and slammed the door shut – CHOMP!

Then, again.

Then, again.

He was chewing.

He was chewing!

And Thomas … Thomas tasted GOOD.

So THIS was chewing.  Like how they chew their candy, how they crunch their snacks.  This is delicious!

Again!  and again, Victor chewed and chomped, until Thomas was half eaten, half of his body entwined inside Victor, all the soggy bits dripping from every rack on full display, and then Victor stepped out of his nest and onto the floor and advanced toward all the others as though to say

who’s next?





This story was inspired by a fact presented by @douglass_meghan and by a resulting conversation with

@Pats3103 and @fizilizirhymes.  

Thanks to all of them for their inspiration and encouragement, and I hope I make them proud.



Friday, June 17, 2022

Overheard at Table 3: Poem "Stop Saying You Got This"

Stop Saying You Got This

Stop saying you got this.
you ain’t got this.
you ain’t got nothin - 
nothin but the opportunity to 
make a choice, make a decision,
make your next step,

so make it,
blind faith that
whatever comes, 

you just keep making

and come what may
everything will fall

into place.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Overheard at Table 1: The Marriage of the Republicans and the Democrats

The way I see it, American Government is like a marriage.  The Republicans and Democrats are spouses.  Now, to ascribe them normative historical gender roles, let's say the Republicans are the abusive husband and the Democrats are the battered spouse.   The Republicans want out of the marriage, but the Democrats still think if they both just work together, then the marriage will be salvageable.

An abusive relationship always ends.  It never suddenly turns into a good, wholesome, mutually supportive marriage.  The two spouses either divorce - or eventually, one of them dies.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Overheard at Table 1: Poem "Our Bodies are Nothing"

 Our Bodies are Nothin

Our bodies  are nothing

we are little gods

my fingers once, were my fingers,

now they are my toes

I will it that way.

how many times can I

use the word I when describing the i

that is i

my eyes are my heart

what I see I desire

my mouth is my mind/thought/brain/command

I speak and existence becomes the “is”

I speak and existence 


you are not i

I is the only i

there is no you

but the you that i

desire to be



Thursday, June 9, 2022

Overheard at Booth 1: Brief Synopsis of the Class War and How It Benefits from Racial Infighting

How the Class War Masquerades as a Race War

When I was in college, I was trying to date three girls at the same time.  Each one I told them that I was seeing them exclusively.  Everything was working perfectly ... so long as they did not ever talk to each other.  When they met each other (in some class some semester) and started talking, then my plan fell apart.

From this, I learned that you can lie to different people (or groups of people) and the lie will continue only if those groups never mingle.

Since then, in my study of Labor History, I have found two examples to illustrate how racial divisions aid the upper class to remain in power.

California, 1960s, Cesar Chavez.  Even the briefest overview reveals that, until the Hispanic workers stopped crossing the picket lines of striking Filipino workers, the bosses would be able to keep wages and conditions down for everybody.

Another example is the Ludlow Massacre in 1914.  Put succinctly: 32 different ethnic/linguistic groups united for better working conditions, so the bosses called in the state militia to murder as many of them as they could, including their wives and children.

These two examples illustrate just how afraid the ruling class (yeah, sure, read "CAPITALISTS") are against ethnicities working together.

Now ... I'm not suggesting there is a cabal of these guys sitting around eating caviar in a luxurious club somewhere.  What I'm saying is that there is a system in place by which owners of corporations and investors have a vested interest in ensuring that the workers do not organize to demand higher wages and better working conditions, two things that noticeably eat into net incomes. What I am saying is that such in the ruling class, thus, have ZERO vested interest in any program that creates communication across different ethnic communities.   As long as they are in different housing projects and generally don't talk to each other in society, then it is no danger if, by this division, they naturally fight amongst each other instead of uniting to fight side by side.

Granted, this is a generalization of these societal forces, based on both personal experience and a few examples; however, I believe the theory is sound, and to date, I have seen little evidence to contradict it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Overheard at Table 4: Wednesdays

Saw on Twitter someone talking about the new series focused on Wednesday Addams and they said, "Bring back the original Wednesday" and some people were laughing, saying that Christina Ricci is now 44 years old and the actress who played in the original 60s series is now 64.

And I was thinking, would be cool to have a show with all three Wednesdays.  You could have each character playing Wednesday Addams at different points in her life.  Across time.

Or if you wanted to make it a freaky mind-bender, you could have each of them going back in time to meet their younger selves.  Or to be really odd, you could have the oldest one still in the earliest time period, and the youngest one now, and it's like she's pulling a Benjamin Button and growing younger.

I mean, we've got three actresses here playing one iconic character... let's stretch the cinemagraphic possibilities!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Overheard at the Counter: Brokeback Oklahoma!

Lucky Moran: Hear me out!  Rogers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" ... only reworked in "Brokeback Mountain" style!

Neill Carter: That fookin' nuts.

Lucky: No it's not!  It'll be a hit.

John Steppenwolf: So the Farmer and the Cowman are not only friends, they're now lovers?

Lucky: With their own grow and dispensary!

Otis Redwing: Won't work unless over half the cast is PoC.

Lucky: Way ahead of you!  At least two characters will be trans.

Neill:  Definite hit.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Overheard at Booth 5: Eyedrops

It wasn't that Beatrice didn't love Dante; it was just that she couldn't stand him anymore.

Especially his nightly routine, just before bed.  GOD! it was insufferable.  Year after year, the same routine!  9:15pm, sharp, and Dante was at his sink: floss first, then gargle with hydrogen peroxide, then brush - each tooth, exactly 30 seconds, then the water-pick, exactly 2 minutes (she used to time these things until she realized that the time frame never changed - ever!), and finally, after the second rinse with a mouthwash, the eyedrops.

It was the eyedrops that really got under her skin.  He would hold open one eye and then hold the dropper over his eye, at least 4 inches, and let the drop hang in the bottle for ten full seconds, before finally dropping into the eye.

Why did he do that?  Why hold it so high?  Why wait exactly TEN seconds?  Was he imagining the eyedrops to be some champion high diver? Did he think it was more effective that way?   Was he simply giving in to some sort of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?  It was infuriating!

So, Beatrice smiled to herself the night she decided - finally! - to shake things up.   As Dante stood there, eyedrop suspended in time - the droplet exactly four inches above his waiting eyeball - she almost ALMOST called out to him to stop, not to do it ... but she didn't.

The droplet fell, and it was a gleeful, suspenseful eternity, watching that droplet fall, a droplet of pure hydrochloric acid.