Sunday, April 7, 2019

Libraries have gone to the dogs

I like dogs, but not in my salad. More and more you see dogs in restaurants these days and nobody says anything. In libraries. In coffee shops. It is as if the hippie era has come back, and traditional societal boundaries are being blatantly challenged, but only at shin height. 

In the library where I work, dog-bringers fall into two categories. They either try to pass their dog off as a service animal or they hide the dog somewhere. One lady almost got away with a covered baby stroller full of dogs, but made the fatal mistake of trying to check out books. Her baby's yapping sounded suspiciously canine. 

Another lady tried to hide a chihuahua in her cleavage. Yes, you read that right. The cleavage was ample, and the dog tiny, but still. Dogs, like people, are rarely quiet in a library. When discovered, she didn't even seem that embarrassed, as if bra dogs are just another 21st Century advance society can finally relish.

Often people will bring a dog into the library on a leash, with no trace of a service harness or vest. They use the same technique which we are taught will deter muggers—walking with confidence. Enter as if your dog is the head of the library board of trustees, come to oversee his dominion. 

Because of the Americans With Disabilities Act, service animals are allowed a lot of latitude. For example, legally I am only allowed to ask a lady with a dog in her bra two questions:

  1. Is this a service animal which is necessary because of a disability?
  2. What service was this animal specifically trained to help you with? 

I do not want Mrs. Bra Pup to answer that second one.

If the answer to #1 is yes, whether true or not, there is apparently no wrong answer for #2. I am not allowed to ask about the person's disability. So here are some possible answers to #2 which do not result in getting ejected from the library:

"Possum detection."

"His nose always points toward nonfiction."

"I can't pronounce it, but it is vital."

"She can carry two Nicholas Sparks or one Stephen King in her mouth without damaging them."

The law does not give a checklist of acceptable answers, so basically all answers are valid if you can deliver them with a straight face. I am not allowed to say "Ma'am, no disrespect, but that's not a service animal. That's a pet. An evidently incontinent one."

You can be fined $1000 if convicted of trying to pass off a pet as a service animal. You can spend six months in jail. 

"What are you in for?"

"Capital murder. You?"

"Trying to pass Fluffy off as one of my breasts."

I can't imagine a case ever being brought. Libraries and restaurants and coffee shops want to be welcoming, not alienating, to their customers. People know this, so a person who brings an animal in is basically daring you.

I generally ignore them. The ice caps are melting. Dogs in libraries are not really a big problem in comparison, more of a symbolic one. Another standard of society, lowered. 

People my age and older sometimes complain about the noise in libraries these days, and people snacking and drinking. One lady was loudly talking to another on the main floor the other day, and an old guy sitting at a table just held out his arm, silently pointing her out to me. 

I predict in 20 years the big problem will not be dogs, but people bringing in their robots. How are you supposed to shush something that can bore holes in you with its laser eyes? Thankfully, I will be retired. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Another opening, another show

I have acted in plays since I was 15, when I was too shy to interact with most people, or at least girls. Scripted words were a godsend. Sometimes it even said, right in the script, I had to kiss them. So I kissed them. I mean, it said so right there. "They kiss," was one memorable stage direction. My first kiss, in fact, was not romantic but in service to a musical. I paused. I looked out at the director for confirmation. "Kiss her," he said. So I did. 

I'm rehearsing a play now. Although I do not live in my hometown, the play's there and our rehearsals too. This has caused past and present to sort of shimmer for me, blend together, fade in and out of each other.

We rehearse in a hall where, 41 years ago, I slow-danced in the dark with my junior year sweetheart at the Girls League Formal. It was a girl-ask-guy dance they apparently don't even have any more. 

I practice our scenes now mere feet away from where Michelle and I swayed all those years ago in the humid, teen-scented dark...can it be?...almost 15,000 days ago. I remember the spot, because I kissed her while we danced, something I had never done before in public, a bold move, even in the dark. 

Sometimes at rehearsal my eye lingers there under the bright fluorescent lights. In daylight, there is no magic to the place. The ancient window curtains have collected the dust of decades and the wooden stage on the far end has some spongy boards. But, like any place out of memory, it retains a certain romance.

I think she broke up with me later that night. I can't remember. If not, it was pretty soon after. I couldn't tell you why. She probably still could. 

Near a '60's looking sculpture in the foyer I eye a wall where I remember tossing my cream-colored tuxedo jacket and salmon bow tie onto a pile of the same. A hundred teens dancing in one room can generate a lot of heat. I did the rest of my dancing in my ruffle-fronted shirt, sleeves rolled up. Was there a disco ball or does memory play tricks? 

Today in the spot of the tux pile is a clothes rack hung with all our show costumes. My tux is black this time, the tie, grey.

Every time I pull into the parking lot outside I remember the same lot, 40 years ago. I disembarked from a public school bus one final time, the bleary morning after Grad Night. Our parents drove us to the party alone, but a bus brought all us graduates home together. 

Grad Night sucked. It was not at Disneyland, as is customary now, but in a ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel across the street. I guess they figured if it had the name Disneyland in it, we would be placated. It was lame. 

I had to wear a suit and tie. There was a hypnotist at about 2 a.m. who made my classmates cluck like chickens or become stiff as a board. There was dancing. I don't remember getting on the bus, but I remember getting off in this very parking lot, the sun too bright after an all-nighter. Parents waiting in their cars to take us home, like kindergartners. 

I pull up to rehearsal and the bus shimmers in the morning sun 40 years ago. 

This is roughly show #30 or so for me, lifetime. There have been many other tuxes, and suits, prayer shawls, jockey silks, tights. I am not as shy as that teen, but I still appreciate someone providing me the words. So often the right ones are nowhere to be found. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

To some, we are dead ringers

I work at a public library desk and I have a coworker who patrons constantly think is me. He looks nothing like me, but he IS the other middle-aged balding, graying white guy. 

So when we have a shift change at the top of the hour, often a patron he helped earlier will come back by the desk and thank me. I usually just smile and nod. "You're welcome." Often a patron will walk in the front doors and say "Remember me from last week? You were right. I went home and tried rebooting and it worked!" I have never seen them before. 

It's O.K. We all look alike. 

We have a young Latina who also works the desk, and a middle aged lady. They don't get mistaken for each other by the public, understandably. But for Gaetano and me, it happens constantly, almost daily. 

His name is Gaetano, so even our names look similar at a glance on our nametags. He is Italian-American. One time a woman walked up to me, clearly having had a previous conversation with him, and she opened with "So are you FLUENT in Italian or just speak a little?" I said I was George and the only Italian I know is fuhgeddaboutit. 

People are generally embarrassed to get us wrong. If I'm being honest, it's kind of entertaining.

Recently when I relieved Gaetano from desk duty, within five minutes of each other, an old guy thanked me for giving him extra computer time and a woman happily held up a book and said "I found it. The title was just a little different than I thought." 

I never saw them before.

It happens to him after I leave the desk just as often. Even our fellow staff, if they have just come on shift and only see one of us out of the corner of their eye, will call us by the other's name. They are apologetic, always, since they know it's a "thing." They even have a nickname for us. 

They call us "Georgetano." 

Turns out we both went to the same high school, although a dozen years apart. We're both dads. We both deliver a wry punch line quietly, with a straight face. We often wear the same library logo polo shirts. How can we blame the public? Some people couldn't tell Redford and Newman apart.

That is why it occurred to me that I could totally commit the perfect crime, as long as it occurred in the library. A whole string of witnesses would swear they saw Gaetano do it. I have to figure out the details still. We have worked together for 14 years, all of them leading up to this moment. The doppelgänger denouement! It is destiny. 

Or, to borrow a library phrase, it is way overdue.

Except I just wrote about it. Crap. Or did Gaetano just write about it? Ha! That would really show premeditation on his part. Oh, he is totally going down. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Patreon supporter week - The History of Sleep

My column this week goes out exclusively to my Patreon supporters. For a buck a month you can access the full column, "The History of Sleep," the first paragraph of which goes like this:

"We spend a third of our lives asleep, and that does not even count the time during the Masters Tournament. How we sleep has undergone drastic changes over the millennia. Evolution suggests that first, like The Godfather's Luca Brasi, we slept with the fishes. Then as we developed limbs, we probably slept under a bush, because predators would never think of looking there. Then in trees. It wasn't until some brainiac discovered that caves keep rain off that our sleep customs advanced..."

From there it goes into the history of early mattresses, which I will just say involved small animals.

Do you have a buck this month? And next? Then join the fun here.


Monday, February 18, 2019

Subject line: You have been hacked!

I recently received a threatening extortion email; yet more proof that what the email scammers around the world really need more than money is English language instruction. Dear extortionists, here are some tips, using your own email as an example:

Hi There,

[This is an inexplicably folksy start. I would have gone with "Achtung" or maybe at least "Dear Sir or Madam."]

As you can see from the subject of this mail we have hacked your system. To demonstrate you we have COMPLETE access we have emailed you this e-mail from YOUR very own acccount. Look into the "From" mail address.

[Thank you. I would have never thought to look in the "From" mail address.]

We have downloaded all your social media friends, your files and your data to our server. We have COMPLETE access to your system for a few months now, 

["We have HAD complete access." This is a common mistake.]

this is because you check out mature internet sites 

[Mature! This is a great word choice. You figured out that if you use the word "porn," your email will go straight into my Junk folder. I have to give this one to you.]

and one of these websites was corrupted with a virus that mounted itself on your system, opening a backdoor to our server. 

[Amazingly, "Backdoor To Our Server" was one of the titles I was watching when you caught me. What are the odds?]

You can alter your password but it isn't going to help, our backdoor will always allow us FULL access. Don't stress, we will inform you what to do.

[Whew. Thank you. Not stressing. Inform me.]

Once in a while we activated your video camera and recorded some very exposing clips of you while you "satisfied" yourself (you know what we mean) enjoying mature content. We can forward those exposing videos to all your contacts (we posses them on our server) and basically destroy your social life and the relationship with your nearest and dearest. 

["Nearest and dearest." You have been reading Amish romance, haven't you?]

Consider the disgrace! I don't believe you want us to do that so we will give you a way out, a way that you can go on to live your life like this never took place.

[This never took place.]

When you opened this e-mail a disguised . pixel initiated a timer on our server, from now on you have six hrs (yes, only six so you better start without delay after browsing the instructions) to do the following below:

["Six hours" is good. First rule of sales, right? Create urgency. But a "disguised pixel"? You are sending me an email extorting money. Why pretend to disguise a pixel? It sounds like an idea from, like, the fifth guy in your hierarchy who you decided to humor because it's not as bad as his usual bad ideas, so why not throw him a bone?]

Below you will find our bitcoin address (copy/paste it with no spaces, it is case sensitive). We want you to transfer $575 in bitcoins to this address.

[A specific number is good when you are lying on a first date about how much is in your bank account. When demanding money, though, round numbers are best. $500 would have been a lot cleaner. Also, you DO understand that the current price of one bitcoin is $3,588, so I, what, I buy 1/6th of a bitcoin to send you?]

If you don't know how to make use of bitcoins you can use Google and search "How to buy bitcoins", it is quite simple and you can purchase them instantly.

[You might want to avoid putting Google in my head, because I might then naturally Google "bitcoin email hack scam."

If you do this inside of the given timeframe our server will notice the transaction to that address and the timer will quit counting. We will remove all the data we posses of you, 

[This is the second time you have spelled it "posses." Just for future reference, "posses" are groups of lawmen tracking down bad guys. Strunk & White, in their definitive writing book "The Elements of Style" would probably suggest the following alternative: "We will remove all the data we have of yours." Please consider the edit.]

terminate the backdoor on your system, and you will without doubt never ever hear from us again. 

[Again with the "backdoor." I sense a fixation.]

No one will ever know this occurred and you can proceed with your life. If you don't do this..... you are aware what is going to occur and you know what impact it will have on your life.

Our btc address: 1BKSFvjb46DZCw9AWibBzLjKPjsdubWmEt

[Wait wait wait. You guys used my password to for your bitcoin address?!]


[A final word of advice. "Good luck" is never hyphenated. Never. Even if I had believed you owned embarrassing footage of me, I would not have paid you just on general principle. I bet you think it's a "doggy dog world" too. Sir or madam, I bid you adieu and wish you well in your future endeavors, which you can hopefully find in a less hit-and-miss line of work that matches your skill set, like lobbying.]