I really haven’t done this kinda stuff a lot, like dealt with the small things that resemble the vagaries of reality. Hence my involvement in the mundane doctrine of moving apartments, changing phone services and the normal routines of everyday life seem to momentarily escape me. It’s just that for most of my life I was never bothered by these intricacies and that consistency and reliability where not words that were used very often to describe me or at the very least my behavior. However the changing of time and growing older seem to find me at least trying to deal with it all on a different level; yet I am constantly amazed at what passes for the normal way that things are done.
A most recent example of what I’m talking about: After moving from one apartment to another in the same building that I already live in. I filled out the change of address form that I’d picked up while visiting my sister and brought it down to the local Post Office and stood in line waiting for the lone employee to stop fixing the display of this month’s Snowy Egret stamps and attend to the procession of people waiting ahead of me. For some unknown reason I felt better giving this mailable postcard type form directly to another human being instead of just dropping it in the mailbox on the corner by the winos and derelicts. So when it finally got to be my turn to be helped I handed it to the postal clerk and he stared at it and then at me and then he said. “What do you want me to do with this?”
“Well.” I said “Correct me if I’m wrong but this is the Post Office right? And that is one of your change of address forms isn’t it?”
I had thought that what I was getting at was sorta self-explanatory, a no brainer – I wanna change my mailing address, here’s the form, end of story!
“You hafta mail this.” was all that he said as he tried to hand it back to me.
Wherein I did the universal “Well?” gesture of my hands palms up as I shrugged my shoulders and raised my eyebrows simultaneously refusing to accept the card in question.
“Take it outside and put it in the mailbox by the front door and it will get picked up today at five.” and with that he dropped it onto the counter and looked over my shoulder and shouted “Next!” motioning the gibberish muttering woman behind me forward.
A bit confusing, no? Had I just pissed him off by being a wiseass or is this considered the normal procedure down at the post office? Plainly I could have protested and said that I knew for a fact that he took letters to be mailed and dropped them in a bin to his left below the counter because I had seen him do it several times for others while I waited in line to be helped. But then there’s that trust in your fellow human being thing again and that maybe it wasn’t in my change of address form’s best interest to be in the hands of a mad man and that in fact he was doing me a service by making me take hold of my own destiny and delivering it to the waiting mailbox outside by the scruffy yet polite panhandling amputee sprawled haphazardly on the ground.
Unfortunately it all didn’t just end there because yesterday I got a notice from the US Postal Service that the former tenant whose apartment I now inhabited had turned in his own change of address form and that from this moment forth all of his mail would be forwarded to his new address. Which wasn’t such a bad idea considering that I’d been receiving a bunch of his mail and most of it seemed to be from credit card companies or banks with the word “Urgent” stamped across the front of them in red. But in the back of my head I started to worry because just how was this all gonna get achieved with his mail going out to somewhere else and mine not going where it use to but now coming here? And after my dealings with the manic mailman, did I really have faith that there wasn’t just going to be some heinous mix up with the cross pollination of mail and the whole thing turning all haywire in a delivery nightmare?
The current notice had a phone number to call only if the above aforementioned information was not correct and someone is trying to mess with you in a decidedly evil passive aggressive way by rerouting your incoming mail. And below that was an advert for their web site for changing your mailing address and whatever other moving type mail problems that you might be encountering. I realized that I had already turned in my change of address form, or what the notice referred to as a PS Form 3575, but did I really trust the system to get it right? I still hadn’t returned the key to my old mailbox and I was checking everyday and there hadn’t been one of these notices informing the current tenant, which at the moment I guess would still be me, of any forwarding of the mail. Should I call them? Should I reiterate my change of address only this time online over the internet? Jesus Christ, it’s hard to believe that here I was getting bent out of shape and stressing about my mail delivery. Had my life digressed to such a convention of normalcy that the complexities of the postal service were my primary concern?
In the past during, my formidable years, when I moved I just moved and if the mail followed me I was usually pretty disappointed that it did. In those days moving was like a fresh start – a good time to begin chalking up new offenses on a clean slate, if you will. Gone and with good riddance were those endless incessant letters asking for their money back, no more would I be plagued with the headache of bills owed or once trusting creditors clamoring to be paid. Usually by the time it had gotten that bad moving had become a necessity: the electricity had been shut off, the landlord was banging at my front door looking for the rent and what decrepit car I owned was either towed or abandoned dead on some street and in the process of being stripped by the marauding crackheads. Obviously with all the omens in place it was time to start a new bar tab somewhere else and preferably across town!
But that was all in the days before computers and their never failing memories. Now a days, short of an act of god destroying the earth with pestilence or a really unparalleled cyber virus, a person is to expect their debt to live longer then they will. Faking what was once any easy “alternative identity” is now in the hands of semi-professional criminals or overactive speed freaks and is not so easily achieved with a simple phone call as it used to be. And these days with this ludicrous war on terrorism, well I can safely say that I am not the only one whose former lifestyle is being hindered by Homeland Security!
Obviously I’m regressing a ways down memory lane here instead of addressing the situation proactively as I should. The simple fact though was that today there was no mail in either mailbox which really didn’t reassure me that the US Postal Service was diligently on the job no matter how nice the weather was outside and that dueling address changes could be too daunting a challenge even for the best run companies. It wasn’t that I was worrying where this month’s L.L.Bean catalog was but I was sorta wondering about the various utility companies with their monthly bills that just love to throw on penalties and late fees as soon as they’re a second overdue. Which eventually leads to bad credit ratings and credit reports and… I just said credit reports didn’t I?
A vicious circle this getting it together thing is! Words you thought that you’d never utter just find their way into your vocabulary and out of your mouth. When just staying off police reports used to be your primary concern, your credibility for equity is suddenly at stake and the harsh reality of it all hits home and suddenly a horrifying realization emerges in my mind: I have sold out! Somewhere, somehow I had left the anarchistic fold and done the deed and not only for the god damn Postal Service Form 3575 and its mail delivery capabilities. But as I look around my apartment it has become all too apparent that I have also sold out for Dell Laptop Computers, LG Cell Phones, Aiwa CD Players, Ikea Reading Lamps, High Speed SBC DSL, Saeco Espresso Machines, Epson Printers, Ionic Breeze Air Purifiers, Panasonic TV’s, Kenneth Cole Clothing, GE Microwaves, Lucky Brand Jeans, Sony DVD Players, Lily Pharmaceutical’s Prozac, Honda Civics, iMacs, The Company Store Down Quilts, Ben Davis Clothing, Firstgear Leather Jackets, Chippewa Boots, Memorex CD-R’s, Whole Foods Markets, Cannon Digital Cameras, Creative Living 500 TC Linen Sheets, New Balance Running Shoes, 24 Hour Fitness Centers, Borders Books, Netflix DVD’s and a million other generic or no name brand merchandises and services that I devour on a daily basis like the lackey running dog that I seem to have become!
And in the end is it all worth it?
I guess that if the question is whether living in a capitalistic society as a participating consuming wanker is better than being an incarcerated spectator, well, then I guess that I’d have to say yes. Otherwise I’d be living a lie, no? Surviving righteously outside of society eventually takes its toll. Living as a parasite on what you can take from society, well, that’s a whole other equation and to truly be free you can’t live your life that way. Though mainlining consumer culture is no substitute for freedom, it beats the confinement of a cold cell or the final embrace of a warm overdose and as always freedom is really a state of mind not what clothes you wear or what car you drive. Those in fact are just the bribes given out to look the other way as yet again another civilization consumes itself into oblivion.
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Friday, October 8th, 2004 at
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It had appeared in the mail as usual – my annual JURY SUMMONS. And as usual after opening it I had filled out the Section A: Juror Questionnaire; and under the Disqualifications heading I checked box E for: “I have been convicted of a felony or malfeasance in office and my civil rights have not been restored.” And then under penalty of perjury I signed and dated the form and mailed it back thinking that that would be it for another year. Unfortunately it seems that there’s actually someone down at city hall that knows what they’re doing or at the very least actually reads these things and keeps records because they sent it back only two weeks later and this time there was no Section A to fill out, or a Section B for that matter, only a JURY SUMMONS containing reporting instructions.
Granted its been quite some time since my last felonious conviction and in California at least your rights are somewhat restored once you’ve completed the inconsistent complexities of parole and survived through a mandatory waiting period un-arrested and legalities free. And even though I am unable to obtain many aspects of employment, own a gun or run for political office it seems that the State of California feels that I have been rehabilitated enough to serve on one of their litigating juries.
As flattering as that preposition is I still have to ask myself whether my rights have remained untarnished enough for me to want to serve on a jury of my peers? Or have they never entirely gotten over how they felt incarcerated inside one of The Golden State’s finer penal institutions? But I guess that the matter really isn’t up to me or how I’m feeling on the subject either. My duty, or so I was told by the automated voice over the telephone, was to show up and serve and if I failed to do so I would be subject to a fine or imprisonment pursuant to Section 209 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.
That last undisguised threat was what finally motivated me to be in front of the Superior Court building at 8am ready to engage the first official that I came in contact with and proclaim my hatred of cops, or an inability to convict a wrong doer, any wrong doer, or that I was currently a member in good standing of the Communist Party! It really didn’t matter to me what I was going to say as long as it was sufficiently deplorable enough to have me ejected out of the building never to have to return! But apparently it wasn’t going to be that simple. Either a lot of people before me have recently tried that same line of resistance or in San Francisco they’re just more tolerant toward societal challenged individuals like myself.
After a thorough yet decidedly unsatisfying bag search and weapons scan we, as in the rest of my prospective judicial peers who were denied admittance to the courthouse until 8am, were led down a hallway to the basement and ushered into a huge waiting room. Designated as Jury Assembly Room 007 (as in the James Bond fame), where we were then systematically haggard into giving up vital bits of personal information while alternately being dispensed parking vouchers or forced to listen to the accompaniment of distorted bits of an ill prepared lecture on our civic duty delivered via a scratchy PA system.
Now I’ve got to say that the eerie contrast of being a juror and being an incarcerated individual are strikingly similar in more ways then one. Both are threatened with legal actions if they don’t comply to the rules set forth by the authorities, and in both cases in San Francisco the authorities would immediately be the Sheriff’s Department and its Deputies and then the Judicial System of the State of California. Secondly; the adherent intimidation process, though a slight bit less abrasive when done by the officers of the court as compared to the city jailers, was still just as dehumanizing as any I’ve gone through while in custody. And finally if you’ve ever had the pleasure of being arrested you can attest to the truth of this, A) all communication of information is over a horrendous loudspeaker that echoes off the concrete walls rendering them inaudible and B) in the beginning you are directed from one holding cell to another until you finally end up fingerprinted and processed and given a number.
Sans the fingerprinting ordeal I was now waiting in the second room of the day as Juror Badge #173791 listening for my name/number/destination combo to be called over an intercom system that made every word sound as though someone were muttering obscenities in Cantonese. You know I’ve got to point out that it says quite a lot about a society that maltreats all of the regular aspects of its population to where it can only get the cooperation of its citizens to participate in its affairs through threats of coercion.
Now before I go any farther let me explain how I’d come dressed to this legal extravaganza: In pre-disqualifying preparation I hadn’t bothered to shave for a week and when arising this morning I’d hardly touched my hair which was now searching off in all directions with a pretty mean bed-head flowing up the back. The shirt I’d chosen was an old ripped up paint spattered t-shirt and over that I’d pulled on my crusty black leather jacket. I was purposely not dressed to impress and quite bound and determined to not let them pick me as a lackey for one of their mundane juries. And even though I’d just heard my name called and been ushered off to room 606 as the first 28 in the jury pool I remained convinced that my chances were nil and that I’d probably be dining at Tu Lon on Seventh Street for a late lunch and this would all be a bad memory quickly forgotten as I drained a glass of their tasty Vietnamese iced coffee.
Slouched down in my seat with my arms folded in that universal defensive body language of aggression, I glared at the attorneys and guffawed at the weak attempts of humor that the judge and lawyers made when feigning small talk. When asked if I thought that I might have an attitude I answered truthfully and reasoned that I did. When queried further I admitted a complete loss of faith in the judicial system and a major lack of respect for lawyers and then having said this I did my best to look bored with the whole proceedings and that blatantly glaring at my foot held more interest for me than anything else in the room. Finally as the lawyers had run out of questions there was much discussion and then people were being dismissed and before I knew it I was designated juror number 4 on a civil case involving greedy lawyers and the judge was pointing at the clock saying it was twelve noon time for lunch please come back at 1:40pm sharp!
When I think back on this moment the only words that I could use to describe the devastated condition of my suffering psyche are the Bush Régime’s erroneously coined phrase – Shock and Awe! This unforeseen outcome was just too incomprehensible to be real. What was wrong with these people? Weren’t they listening? Here I’d done my best anti-social angst ridden sociopath impression and I still wound up being selected to fill the slot of good old trustworthy juror number four! What the hell did it take to get tossed off of this panel of maladjusted adjudicators? Serial killer credentials? Suicidal tendencies? Spontaneous Alzheimer’s Syndrome?
Confronted with the inevitable I had to ask myself just how much of a last minute insanity-plea-going-crazy scene would still be within the realms of acceptability and how much would be just too over the top and clink clink on go the handcuffs and you’re off to county jail with a pesky contempt of court charge? Uncharacteristically I had to admit I’d misjudged my audience and was now resigned to conceding defeat. They’d won the first round and short of spending the night in a cold cell I was apparently going to be their indentured stooge for the duration of this judiciary spectacle!
Delirious I wandered outside into the Civic Center plaza and tried to breath in a controlled manner like those meditative stress reduction exercises recommend you do whenever you find yourself in any overtly stressful situation. In mid exhale I noticed a drunken bag lady was weaving her way towards me and I leaned towards her sputtering “You won’t believe this, but I’ve just been picked for jury duty!”
She looked me up and down, nodded her head and said “That’s nice. Got a quarter?”
“No, you don’t understand…” was all that I could say as I turned and walked away into the intense sunshine of a beautiful day.
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Tuesday, October 5th, 2004 at
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“Sir, you must have known that when you moved it wouldn’t just follow you, even if you did transfer the phone number, it’s not like it’s a dog!” said the somewhat irritatingly unconcerned voice on the other end of the phone.
Ok, so like maybe I’m not the most tech savvy of individuals and maybe I expect way too much from these giants of Industry like the phone company, my DSL carrier and the US Government. But because of a slight oversight on my part I’d been cast adrift in a sea of ignorance and now I was seemingly drowning without my high-speed internet connection. I had thought that I might up my quality of life a tad and move out of my present apartment that too closely overlooked the massive construction project of retrofitting the Bay Bridge and relocate across and down the hall to the back of the building into another cramped space whose superb vista is that of the overly expensive parking lot that I can’t afford to use. Now instead of being awoken around six in the morning by insensitive steelworkers screaming obscenities at each other while mercilessly pounding I-Beams I’ll be choking peaceably on my neighbors exhaust fumes as I lay in bed contemplating another day of my sordid existence.
“No, I just thought that when I moved my telephone to my new apartment that my phone number and my DSL service would move together! I know, I know, stupid me! But I still don’t understand why it’s gonna take two to four weeks to reinstall my DSL. When as I already said I only moved twenty feet away from where I used to live?”
That’s the really amazing part! A year or so ago it took the blabbering overeager sales rep only about five minutes to sell me on what I had already called to procure in the first place and then just a couple of days later the way stoned field technician stumbled around my apartment building installing the boxes and phone lines that make up the intricacies of DSL and I was up and running and internet surfing like the proud new owner of a high speed internet connection that I was. And now unhealthily obsessed with Megahertz, Firewalls and Ethernet I was jonesing like any good addict would. Unfortunately my cyber fix was turning out to be harder to obtain than scoring Heroin at a Christian Coalition training conference and my “pusher” was slacking on its delivery like all nefarious drug dealers seem to do. Only this time I wasn’t hearing – “relax, I’ll be there in a few hours”. No, we were talking weeks and weeks of waiting for the man!
“Sir, we have to reissue you a new IP address and its going to take time and I’m afraid that at the moment we’re experiencing an unprecedented amount of backlogged orders!”
I was starting to have nightmarish visions of my mega-broadband shrinking to a slow-flow-no-go dialup and in my opinion it wasn’t a pretty sight to behold. So what does any hope-to-die dope fiend do when their connection dries up? Well, I solicited another dealer, that’s what I did. After all my unsympathetically inept carrier wasn’t the only modem slinger in town. There were phone companies and search engines – even frigg’in cable television conglomerates were out there advertising for those high-speed hookup dollars and I was only too sure that any one of them would undercut the competition like the cutthroat backstabbing jackals that they were and alleviate my untimely dilemma!
“Good afternoon, this is Moreen at SBC speaking. How can I help you today?”
“Hello, thank you for calling A.T. & T. my name is Shauntay. What can I do for you?”
“Comcast, for all your cable and internet needs! My name is Ted. How may I assist you?”
Ah, a symphony of relief to my detoxing ears. Apparently the glut of backorders wasn’t a contagious disease in the industry because every one of the other internet happy corporations that I called was willing to bend over backwards and scramble poste haste to my new digs and set up their mini illuminated corporate logo on my laptop’s menu bar. Of course there was a myriad of details to contend with and deciphering all the miscellaneous contract clauses and bonus signup deals was making my head numb. But the end was in sight. Soon I’d be back on the net clicking mouse in hand checking e-mails and overseeing the delivery of my DVD rentals.
Life was starting to look good! Or so I thought.
“Mister O’Neil, when you gave the Ok to begin transferring your existing account to your new address you went into an oral agreement on a new two year contract verbally! I’m afraid there’s now a two hundred dollar early opt out fee that you’ll have to pay if you’re terminating your service at this time”
I am for once speechless. No snappy comeback, no finely honed retort. Just that dull un-agreeable feeling of being use like the big dog.
“I’m sorry Ms… What was it Betty or Betsy or whatever, but ya know I don’t think I actually did agree to this alleged transfer. I seem to remember that what I said was more along the lines of – What the fuck you mean its gonna be a month before its turned back on! And then slammed the phone down. Well, actually pushed my finger real hard on the ‘End’ button, but anyway. That’s what I remember saying. Now if that’s admissible in a court of law, well, then I guess you could say that I did say go ahead and make me wait for eternity while you continue to charge me for a service that I’m not receiving!”
Call me crazy here, but does this sound like good solid customer service relations for a loyal never late on the monthly payment patron? I mean if someone wants to leave the party – then just let them! Don’t just piss them off and then charge them for it! It’s moments like these where I’m beginning to have a bit more understanding and a somewhat greater appreciation for people who go all off the grid and show up at the offending business while complaining in person with an AK 47 or two. You know, as in the Webster’s Dictionary definition of the only-in-America term Go’in Postal! I think even the condescending Ms. Betty would forget about that two hundred dollar opt out fee real quick with a fully loaded automatic assault rifle pressed against the base of her skull!
Wow! Well Ok now! Sorta strayed way out there in the losing control field, huh? I guess I got a little worked up over those hidden early termination fees. Not to mention that lack of internet thing and I just kinda lost sight of reality there for a few seconds. Like a blackout sorta, yeah, that’s it – a blackout! Can’t seem to remember a damn thing and then there I was in the midst of embracing my stagnant anger issues all over again. Musta been all those riboflavin free Twinkies™ I’ve been eating all day. If I could just check my e-mail. I’m sure that that would calm me down a bit. I swear to god its getting so hard to score the good shit these days.
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Thursday, September 30th, 2004 at
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