Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My First Nut

Ninth Grade Geography. The teacher seated us alphabetically. My last name started with an M and I ended up at the back of the middle row. Seated to my left, toward the windows, was Robert Osband, aka Ozzie. Ozzie was the original nerd. He was most likely ADHD, but what did we know back then. He was the class clown and ate up the attention. Much to my chagrin, Ozzie had a mad crush on me. This fact made me absolutely miserable. Why me? He spent the entire 44 minutes of class staring at me. To make matters worse, he was so unattractive with the biggest Jew nose on earth.
During this time, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a big hit on TV. Everyone watched it. Ozzie started acting out one of the characters on the show. He always wore a trench coat and ‘rubbers.’ By rubbers, I mean black things that you put over your shoes to keep your feet dry in the rain. He was chronically late for class, so he needed to run through the halls to have a chance at arriving on time. This was challenging since he had a bit going with his locker. He had us believing that he had a phone in his locker. And I think there was a phone in his shoe as well, a la UNCLE. When asked about the rubbers after high school, he attributed it to him being late for class and not having had time to remove them once he got to school. He also let us know that it helped him round the corners in record time.
Ozzie was a radio geek. He worked on the high school radio station. This had its advantages. Here’s where being Ozzie’s love object had its benefits. It was 1968, Rochester, NY. The Doors were coming to town and were going to perform at the Eastman Theater. This is a relatively small venue compared to the size of concert venues today. Ozzie knew I loved The Doors and had purchased tickets along with my partner in crime, Janet. Ozzie let us know that he could get us backstage to meet Jim. He told us where and when to meet him. He showed up in his trench coat at the stage door and we waited outside while he went in. He walked right up to Jim Morrison and told him he was with the local radio station and could he ask him a few questions. Jim agreed. He then said the two of his biggest fans were at the stage door and would he meet them. He agreed. Ozzie then delivered us directly to Jim where I stood and looked him directly in the eyes. Very dark blue eyes. He was friendly. I remember that we sat center balcony and it was an excellent concert. It’s only now all these years later that I realize how outrageous the whole affair was. I had taken it in stride until I started relaying the story to folks 30 years younger than I am and it blew their minds.
After high school I went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Ozzie stayed in Rochester and landed a job as an errand boy at the newly erected Xerox Tower. Back then they had Watts lines. They were the early version of 800#s. On occasion, Ozzie would call me at my dorm from the Xerox Watts line. Little did I know at the time that he had set up an office for himself on a top floor that had yet to be built out. He was eventually found out and fired on the spot.
After my freshman year in college, I returned home for the summer. I have no idea how but somehow, I allowed Ozzie to come over to the house. When he got to the door I told him I really wanted some ice cream. He asked what flavor. I said Neapolitan. He darted back out to his car and in no time had returned with a half gallon. I felt so guilty that I had such power over this poor guy.
Ozzie was also a Star Trek nut. In 1972 right after I had just met my husband, Ozzie hitchhiked out to LA to attend a Star Trek convention. It was held at a large hotel right next to LAX. I had just purchased my first car, a 1967 VW camper van. He contacted me and asked me if I’d come up to the show and meet him. I drove from Beverly and Vine to LAX, which was the furthest I had ever driven in my new car. The trek included a drive on the ‘fast’ part of La Cienega. I think I went 50 MPH which was frightening.
When I arrived at the hotel, he greeted me with a tape cassette recorder strapped over his shoulder with a microphone attached. Of course he wore one of the first digital watches. He informed me that his watch alarm would go off every 20 minutes and he would be stopping to record what was going on at the conference at that time. I took it all in stride. I don’t remember anything remarkable about the show. It was nothing like Trekkie conventions of today, with wild costumes. Ozzie told me he had brought me a present and that it was up in his room. Would I come up and get it? Sure, up I went. Since he repulsed me, I saw no harm in this. The next thing I know I’m sitting on the bed and he’s putting moves on me. My feminine guiles took over and I launched into a crying jag where I told him that seeing him had made me so homesick and that I wanted to get married! I didn’t mean marry HIM, just get married. Honestly, I have NO idea where this notion came from. Oh that put ice water on his moves. He quickly let me know that he was in no position to get married. I didn’t shatter his dream and let him know that I’d die an old maid than marry him. Next thing you know I’m speeding back along La Cienega, back to my apartment.
Three years after that I was married. As my husband and I moved from apartment to house, Ozzie kept track of my moves via the Post Office. I ignored him. I would say 25 years later or so, my brother sent me an email. In it he had a link to a site and asked me if this link was to Ozzie’s blog. OMG, yes it was. Ozzie had moved to Florida and at the ripe age of 50, he was retired from the phone company. He lived near Cape Canaveral. Besides being a Trekkie, he was a space nut as well. On the website was a photo of him in an astronaut suit. His hair was now white and he had a full white beard and moustache. The blog was one long streaming entry after another. The one thing to glean from it was his 15 minutes of fame. Ozzie had petitioned for a new area code for the Cape Canaveral region. It was a lengthy ordeal and he was successful. Today, the Area Code for Cape Canaveral is
3 – 2 -1
As social networking and search engines became more prevalent, lo and behold I did get a direct email from Ozzie. He was a gentleman and invited me to look him up if I was ever in Florida. I wrote back with some details on my life and there you have it. Since my Dad was a PhD physicist and a genuine nerd as well, I must have that kind of magnetism for nerds. It’s just part of my DNA. I now also realize that these fellows are in the Aspergers spectrum. I can spot them a mile away. Interesting guys but socially, one peanut shell short of a nut.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dr. Nut, M.D.

He was a rheumatologist. I went to see him because of some pain I was having. It may have been carpel tunnel syndrome. I cannot remember.
He was Chinese but had been in the country since age 11, but still had a very heavy accent. Spoke very choppily.
When he entered the examining room he immediately set up his laptop on the edge of a raised sink edge. As he typed the laptop was wobbling back and forth. This annoyed me.
He fired off a battery of questions. I started laughing uncontrollably. I did not have the slightest idea how to answer the questions. I said: Usually, when I see a doctor, he examines me and then asks questions.
He said: Questions first, then exam.
Next I sit on the table and he examines my arms.
At this point I had no faith in him.
After the exam, he returns to his wobbly laptop with his back to me.

I said: At one point, someone had recommended surgery for my carpel tunnel syndrome, but I am afraid of surgery and don’t know if it is necessary.
He turns a half turn towards me and says:
Oh it’s nothing. Cut. Cut. Like suicide. Tee Hee.

I’m like HOLY SHIT. An MD just said that to me and then laughed.

I composed myself. Please God let every ounce of assertiveness training I’ve ever had come together at this moment.

I started:
I need to tell you something. When you are in the medical profession, you need to be very careful how and when you use a sense of humor. Saying cut, cut suicide is not really funny. I’m not suicidal, but still it was not funny.

He does not turn. Silence. Maybe it was 30 long seconds or a minute later he turns to me, and says: You’re right. I’m sorry.
He then kept saying he was sorry over and over. The rest of the visit was him apologizing. I imagine he saw his medical career go up in smoke. He handed me some brochure to read and sent me for blood tests and an x-ray, which he said I could get on the spot.

Still going along for the ride, I went to the front desk to ask for an x-ray. Oh you have to make an appointment for an x-ray, call this number. And for my last act, I went to the lab for blood. Oh, you can’t get your blood drawn now, you have to fast.

I never followed up and never went back to him or heard from him. Years later, I heard he was made head of his practice since he was able to see more patients in any given day than any other doctor. Does this not speak volumes about our medical system?? And, my arms and wrists are just fine thank you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mixed Nuts

Sometimes encounters with nuts don't constitute an entire story, but more of a blurb.

Here is a small sampling from a bowl of mixed nuts:

- Ad Agency Nuts. There is a whole bowl of nuts dedicated to nuts that rise to the top of ad agencies. Technically, they are called Borderline Personalities. In laymen’s terms, they are the people who make you cry and then tell you your mascara is running and hand you a tissue. They violate common decency. And if you were ever to ask for an apology, they would not know what you are talking about nor would they even know how to give you an apology.

The Narcissist Nuts. These nuts only see their own kind in the nut bowl. They are not aware of any other kind of nut or nut bowl. Trying to engage with them will only bring loads of frustration. Stay away from this bowl.

Stage Mother Nuts. These women may have children in theater or not. The point is, these nuts only speak about their children and their activities. It’s a boring bowl. They are enmeshed in their kids’ lives. They may start freaking out about what college their kid will go to when the kid is in 8th grade, or younger, maybe. This bowl will waste your time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Black Friday, Nevermore...

I ventured out on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. I am not one of the nuts who get up at 4:00 am and run to Macy’s to buy wrapping paper at 5:30 am. No, I was just out in my car cruising around. No special agenda. Being an artsy person, I frequently frequent Michael’s and Joann’s. My cruise had me pass and then drop into Michael’s. It was somewhat crowded. I strolled around and picked up a few items. I got in a line and things seemed to be moving along pretty steadily. I had my iPod and was coping quite well. When the fellow ahead of me got to the register, he laid his 12 skeins of yarn on the counter and the young female clerk scanned the skeins and got the grand total. Like I said, things were moving along so well. But ooops, the newbie clerk forgot to scan the 40% off coupon. In order to rectify this, she had to rescan all 12 skeins to undue the purchase. She then started the order all over again. Now we are on our third scan of the 12 skeins of yarn. She then scans in the coupon, but the register/computer did not accept it. She got on the phone to call the manager. Mind you, the store is packed, every line is very long and the manager is very busy. While our clerk calls for the manager and looks to her right, I notice that the manager is actually standing to her left. I say to the Manager, Mam, would you mind helping our clerk? Yes Mam, I will be right there. The lovely Manager comes over to help our clerk. Her screw up was not simple. It was a massive screw up and the clerk was not communicating the depth of her mishap. As the Manager is helping the clerk, the fellow with the 12 skeins, a much older Chinese man, turns to me and says, out loud: Why don’t you mind your own f-ing business you f-ing bi--h.
Wow, did my request for service merit that level of obscenity?
I retorted: I was just asking for some help.
You should mind your own f-ing business you f-ing bi--h.
He repeated this over and over. I looked to the other people in the line and NO ONE would have eye contact with me. I had become the Michael’s pariah.
I looked at my potty mouthed neighbor and said “You need to be quiet right now.”
But, he did not heed my request.
He continued in his rant, repeating different variations of the same words mentioned above.
I then said: “You are the most horrible person I have ever met in my entire life.”
This still did not calm him. However, the Manager had now finished undoing the mess up that the clerk had created. She pointed at me: You, take your merchandise and follow me. Realizing I was now getting preferential treatment, I turned to my potty mouthed friend and said: HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
The lovely Manager checked me out in a jiffy. I did ask her: Did you hear what he said to me? She said: I was trying not to listen. I then high-tailed it out of there. Fearing the crazy Chinese dude may physically harm me, I ran to my car, got in and locked the doors. I phone my husband right away to tell him about the insanity I had just been a part of. He is so lovely, his first comment was: That is horrible. And it was. I went home and spent the rest of the day recovering from Mr. Nasty
Once I got home, my husband and I started to psychoanalyze what was up with Mr. Nasty.
One, why is an older Chinese dude buying 12 skeins of various yarn, not the same yarn, different types of unattractive yarn? Did he have an invalid mother or wife at home whom he had to shop for? An invalid whom he resented? And a seemingly helpful or assertive woman did not fit into his little Gestalt of a world? God only knows, the dude was nuts and rude at the very least. I don’t think I deserved those exact words. I was not a criminal in that situation. Once again, my magnetism for nuts, drew me in and it was this was far from the Holiday shopping spirit I was looking for.
Later I was playing over some comebacks I could have used if I had not been so stunned.
Sir, I am an off-duty Torrance Police Officer and if you do not shut your pie hole immediately I can have your sorry ass in the back of a squad car and down to the station lickety split. If only…..

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Frank of the Nativity

I’ve always been fascinated with nativity scenes. Growing up as the only Jewish kid on a Catholic block, I clearly knew that we were not going to have a little manger scene with a miniature Baby Jesus in our house. The closest I got was my neighbor’s house across the street. They had cotton batting resembling snow spread out under their tree. It was tucked among the batting with a manger scene with all the characters and animals. I would get on the floor and get very close and stare at these figures. I loved dolls and miniatures and I knew nothing like this would ever make its way through my front door.
As a grown-up person, I am still intrigued by manger scenes. Sporting a new camera, I decided to devote the Christmas season, of which I am still an outsider, to taking photos of every nativity scene I could track down in my area.
I remembered in an older part of town there was Church of the Nativity. Now if they didn’t have a manger scene, no one would.
I drove by and was not disappointed. The characters were larger than life with life-sized animals as well.
I parked and approached the scene, shot close ups from all angles. Upon parking the car, I noticed a homeless guy sitting on a bench a half a block away. My first thought was, oh he looks harmless and by the time I’m done shooting, he won’t have time to get anywhere near me.
This tells you how wrong I can be. Right after taking my last shot, the homeless guy down the street is now in my face. Friendly guy I think to myself. No obvious odors and friendly.
How long have you been taking photos he asked.
Now I am usually cold and ignore homeless people. He seemed harmless and in the spirit of standing in front of a manger scene in front of a Catholic church and it being Christmas and all, I launched into a conversation with him.
Oh I've been taking photos for many years.
Isn't it beautiful? He commented in regards to the manger scene.
Oh yes I said.
It's a beautiful story too.
Yes it is I agreed.
He proceeded to tell me that he had visited a man who had been sick and was getting better, but the man was really quite discouraged with life in general.
He encouraged the man with stories about The Lord who is responsible for all things. The man asked him, you think the Lord can help me? Oh yes he told him. Who do you think is making you better?
And went on to say he cut his finger when repairing a refrigerator and who do you think healed his finger? Because The Lord is in charge of your immune system and therefore he healed his finger, at which point he showed me and I noticed his finger nails were exceptionally long, but clean. The fact that he only had three dirty teeth was a bit disconcerting though. His pony tail tied up in rope, a bit odd. The fact that I actually stood there and listened to the guy's rant, so out of character for me. It was grossing me out, but I had made the decision to have discourse with him.
It wasn't until he asked me for a hug, and I let him hug me, and that the hug lasted way too long, that I started to question my judgment. For a split second I was not sure if I was going to be able to wrangle myself out of the hug.
He told me his name was Frank.
Frank wanted to give me a CD. A Guys and Dolls CD.
Oh no I said. I already have that one, which is the truth.
I said I had to go. At which point he wanted a hug goodbye.
For unknown reasons, I let him. Again, the death grip, again I was afraid I’d never get out of the hug, but praise God I did and walked quickly to my car.
Who's your favorite photographer he called out.
Ansel Adams I called back.
Your trunk is open.
Oh thank you I said. I ran to shut it, hopped in the car, locked the door and waved goodbye.
I drove several streets over and thought okay who can I text and tell them of this macabre incident. Is there something about shooting manger scenes that attracts odd encounters I wondered? These scenes do present unexpected entertainment. Several days after my encounter with Frank, I kneeled in dog poo in front of a manger scene. I learned that carrying Wet Ones in your car is a good thing and today I learned that the Lord created my immune system.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bowtie Guy

It was a Friday, before lunch. I was waiting in my office for a candidate to show up for an interview. I needed a new PC tech. I would always think to myself, please, let this one be the one, because interviewing is such hard work.
The receptionist phoned me, my candidate had arrived. I walked to the lobby and there was a dapper guy in a velvet dinner jacket, bowtie and tortoise shell rimmed glasses. He greeted me with a big grin, shook my hand and said: “You don’t look anything like your Playboy centerfold.”
Okay, I now hate this guy and have to spend 15 minutes with him. We make our way over to a conference room where we sit at right angles to each other. I cannot remember much of what was said, but did look at my watch several times. He proceeded to tell me about the personality conflict he had with his previous female supervisor. I ask him if he has issues with women and he says YES.
Well thank you for that, I never would have guessed.
For the remainder of the day I could not get his catchy opening line out of my head. I now should mention that my last name is November. Thus, the Playboy reference which went right over my head.
It was not until dinner that night when I was recounting the Bowtie guy to my husband, that the most horrible politically incorrect thing you could say in an interview had been saved up just for me.
Yes, Miss November, me, does not look a thing like her Playboy centerfold. That is definitely one periodical I would gratefully not be seen in. I wonder how long Mr. Bowtie worked on that line before he sprung it on me and what part of his pea brain thought it was a good idea.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Banana Man

Interview time again. Looking for a new PC tech for the ad agency. Same drill. Candidate waits in lobby. Receptionist calls me. I go to lobby for greeting.
The ad agency I worked for was nice enough to have a fruit bowl at reception. Each day it would be a different variety of fruit. That day, the fruit of the day was the banana.
My candidate had helped himself to a banana and when I greeted him, he was eating it. He shifted the fruit to his left hand and shook my right hand with his right hand. We proceeded to the conference room for the interview. I remember thinking; I wonder what he is going to do with that banana.
As we enter the conference room, there is a trash can, right next to the door. But no, my candidate took the banana with him to the granite top conference table and continued eating. I figured he was hungry so I did the talking, explaining what I was looking for and what our set-up was. He is sitting munching away. Well, I can talk longer, so I keep going.
At long last, my friend is done with his banana. I picture him gently laying the empty peel down on the table. But no. Mr. Banana does a smooth move and semi-slaps the peel onto the granite. At least the sound of it hitting the granite made a slapping sound.
Okay now it’s his turn to talk. Sadly I could not hear a word he was saying since I was picturing what kind of cubicle this guy would keep. Messy, crap everywhere. Old food containers and God knows what. Never able to find a thing. I really tried to get past the banana lying on the table, but I could not. I tried very hard to picture him working with us, but alas, no can do.
Solid advice: Do not bring food into an interview nor chew gum. And NEVER eat a banana while being interviewed. Very slim chances of landing the job.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mr. Cowboy Boots

I was an IT Director for 15 years for a large ad agency. From time to time I would have to hire new staff, which meant interviewing people. This was a difficult process for several reasons. One, it was hard to find the right people and two, the transition to a new person meant that it would take awhile to return to the service level that I wanted.
I would find candidates from various locations. LAMUG, word of mouth, agencies and the like. I would set up the interview appointment after speaking to the candidate on the phone, to ensure they have some level of verbal skills I could work with.
I had the rare privilege of interviewing Mr. Dirty Cowboy Boots. The reason I knew they were dirty was that he had his legs crossed and the one boot was stuck up where I could see the dirt and need of a new sole. Crossing your legs in an interview is fine as long as knee is touching knee, but not knee touching ankle. That is too familiar for an interview.
He proceeded to tell me all his accomplishments and qualifications. I had already decided that this guy was a slacker and I would not be hiring him. He went on and on and then I took a turn and told him about our environment and what I was looking for.
As I was about to wrap it up and get his parking ticket validated, he stopped me and said “Oh, I forgot to tell you, I also have done blah blah and know the ………” I interrupted him and said, “Yes, you told me that you Blah Blah….” I completed verbatim what he had already told me about himself. Pause. Then Mr. Cowboy Boots says: “Oh, you are smarter than I thought you were.”
Silence as I stare at the floor in disbelief. I look up at the young man and say, very slowly: “Oh I’m smarter than you thought I was. Oh. Okay well let’s get that parking ticket validated, alrightie?”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bad Ringtones

We’ve all heard them, in the market, on the street. Annoying ring tones. But what do you do when a guy with an annoying ring tone is working in your open work space office?

Satish was a middle-aged fellow with a wife and two kids who lived very far away from the office in an affordable suburb. He gave an appearance of knowing what he was doing and he dressed nicely. By nicely, I mean clean white shirt and tie, everyday. He smoked, which meant he would go outside regularly.

He had a teenage daughter who had full access to his cell phone and was nice enough to select the “Mexican Hat Dance” as his ring tone. As if this was not bad enough, Satish was rarely at his desk and he would leave his cell phone, turned on, at this desk. He was always running around the place checking up on things or in meetings. The dam thing was constantly going off and playing the full chorus of the happy dance music.

As if the ringtone was not bad enough, he was then assigned the seat right next to me. This was torture because of the cell phone ring and because he was a bit pompous and from time to time, would mistake me for his personal secretary. There was another guy sitting behind me. We were literally on top of each other. The guy right behind me, Ramesh, was a sweet guy. However, after going out into the hot sun at lunch, his B.O. was unbearable. Satish informed me that the Indian owner of the local 7-11 sold incense. I trekked up there at lunch and bought some along with a book of matches. Upon returning, I showed Satish and he approved of my purchase, praising the high quality and excellent aroma of the incense. I fired up a match and lit a stick of the incense right there in my cubicle. Satish nearly flipped his fine head of hair. What are you doing Ellen? The smoke from the match could set off the smoke alarm and the sprinklers and then we will all be sitting here soaking wet and our laptops will be ruined! Damn, he was right. I did not want to be fined or arrested for creating chaos, thus the incense was no longer an option.

As things worsened at the job, my tolerance for Satish’s ringtone came to a grinding halt.

I did actually did ask him to change the tone several times, but he copped out saying his daughter had set it up. So, while he was oh so busy at one of his meetings, I picked the phone up and changed it to a plain vanilla cell phone ring. Being passive aggressive at times, I of course did not tell him what had done. But, at least the ringing for the remainder of the day was tolerable.

Well little Miss Teenage Daughter was really on her game. The very next day, the zippy little Mexican Hat Dance tune had returned. And there she was happily out in her little distant suburb, completely unaware of my nightmare.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ralph the Repairman

I am sitting across from Ralph the laptop technician who is replacing a few components and getting my PC laptop back on track.

Here’s been at my house for a whopping eight minutes and I now know all about his first wife, his second and current wife, all her immigration problems, his problems with his supervisor, his clients, the economy, and how Obama ain't gonna help him.
His 3-year old daughter is now out of the hospital. She has recovered from pneumonia. Her mother and current wife blame him for the daughter getting pneumonia because he did not drive her to the emergency room, because she doesn't drive, get the picture? His whole life is a no-win situation.
As negative as his rap is, I’m thinking at least I didn't have to leave the house to get the laptop repaired. What a trip this guy is.

He goes on to tell me that he wishes he were still with his first wife. And says he hopes this doesn’t offend me: She was a red neck. She came from a family of hillbillies. Of course that doesn’t offend me, I’m a Jew. I was not worried about any anti-Semitic comments, because he probably has not met any Jews in his life that he is aware of. He and his first wife broke up because upon coming home early from an Army training mission unannounced, she had a surprise for him, in the bedroom. She was in bed with another guy.
He adds: She was the lucky one that day, my 9 mm Glock was on the dresser out of reach and not in my hand.
OK this guy is in my house. I'm alone in my house with this guy. The word inappropriate doesn’t even cover this.
I decided to change the subject, quickly.
He was just a big bully complainer.
I'm sitting pretty in my house in a swell upper middle class neighborhood and a likely suspect to hear all his woes. Clearly how could I have any problems and wasn't I just sitting there waiting for this guy to show up and get a free therapy session.
I get my laptop fixed at home along with free entertainment.
Yes, he replaced a board and a palm rest. Unscrewed a million screws, popped a zillion modules out complaining sorely about what a pain in the ass these things are. It was endless. Bottom line, he fixed it.
Oh and by the way, his supervisor is in Massachusetts and this guy is the top tech in Southern California. OF COURSE he is, just ask him.

This guy was out of someone's central casting. Let's just hope that next time, a different studio dispenses someone. Or maybe next time, I'll buy a Mac.