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Archive for the ‘Humor Column’ Category

Cat Adoption Preparation in 12 Easy Steps

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Pooter Plans His Attack From The Trellis

Three years ago, our beloved last cat Pooter kicked the litter-box. As time has passed, I have romanticized what it is to be owned by a cat. I picture sweet Hallmark card photos of the cat and I hanging out, enjoying life and each other’s company. My furniture stays clean, my rugs spotless. My cat loves me and only wants to please me. His meow is melodious and only deployed occasionally. When he hunts and kills the occasional rat, he eats the whole thing and I am unaware of the event, I only notice how low the cat food bills have dropped. My cat is never sick and rarely goes to the vet. In the car, the cat obediently rides in his crate, knowing the whole adventure is for his own good. My cat never interrupts me while I work; he waits patiently for me to finish. He never claws me or my furniture. He never pukes or poops behind the couch. He is perfect.

Riiiiigghht. I am actually too well aware of the realities of having a cat roommate. When I was very young we had Liz. When I was six, we adopted Cabbage. Since I was twenty, I’ve been owned by Helen, Puff, Harold, 43, Norman Bates, Doris, Crunchy, Stimpy and Pooter. The last six as a group. Yet, I still find myself forgetting what it was like. I do not want to be blind. I want to prepare myself. So I have developed a twelve-step plan to simulate being owned by a cat.

Step One: The Cat In The Lap. Every time I sit down, I must pick up and hold in my lap a plush-covered heated bowling ball randomly studded with spikes containing one extremely stinky spot. The plush covering must shed and the spikes must be sharp enough to draw blood. I must jab myself with the spikes occasionally, enough to puncture my skin, and create pulls and pills in the material of my pants. Every half hour, I must reposition the bowling ball on my lap, ensuring that the stinky spot comes within a half inch of my nose.

Step Two: Sleeping With The Enemy. I must take the bowling ball to bed at night, put it in my spot under the covers, and try to sleep in the four inches of space that’s left. Every hour, I must try to move the bowling ball to create more room, but fail miserably and allow the fuzzy ball to take up most of the bed. Every now and again, I must rake my face with a fork.

Step Three: Egregious Egresses and Food Demands. I’ve set an alarm clock to go off every three hours, including during the night. When the alarm sounds, I must stop what I’m doing, get up and go into the kitchen, smell the garbage or a tuna can, then open and close all the doors leading to the outside.

Step Four: Vomit Treasure Hunt. Frank will hide scoops of wet newspaper pulp mixed with oatmeal in random places around the house for me to step in or find before they rot. Half I must locate by walking around barefooted at night in the dark.

Step Five: Shred Fest. We’ve attached razor blades to our robotic vacuum cleaner to shred the furniture—and our legs if we aren’t paying proper attention—at approximately cat height.

Step Six: The Fur Coat Coating. I’ve cut open an old pillow and randomly sprinkled the contents all over the house and my dark-colored clothes.

Step Seven: The Litter Jitterbug. I’ve set up a litter-box in the bathroom filled with cat litter and many Tootsie Rolls. Twice a day, I have to fish out one of the Tootsie Rolls with a pooper-scooper, and sprinkle cat litter on the tile floor. (Frank thought it was important to simulate a horrible smell, but I drew the line at this.) I must purposefully forget that I’ve spilled litter so that I will walk through it later and track it everywhere in the house.

Step Eight: Lost Cats, Lost Minds. I’m arranging for a friend to break into my house, steal the bowling ball and hide it somewhere in the neighborhood. After putting up flyers with a picture of the bowling ball all over my neighborhood, I’ll stay up for three days canvassing the entire city of San Mateo while crying and worrying about the ball’s safety.

Step Nine: Destruction Derby. Once a day, I’ll knock one of my most precious glass objects off its shelf, making sure it shatters. Then I’ll take an embroidery needle and pull threads from my favorite sweaters, shirts and sweatshirts.

Step Ten: Sick Tricks. Right before Frank and I leave for our next vacation, I’ll pretend the bowling ball became ill and cancel the vacation, making sure we lose a hefty deposit. As I “wrestle” the bowling ball into a crate, I’ll rake my arms with a fork until I bleed. Then I’ll drive to the vet’s with pre-recorded cat cries blasting from my stereo speakers. To approximate the money paid to the vet, I’ll burn a stack of one hundred dollar bills. Twice a day, I’ll scratch my arms with a metal comb to simulate administering pills or medicine to the cat. Frank will hide extra scoops of the newspaper pulp/oatmeal mixture around the house. I’ll set the alarm for every hour to get up and check on the bowling ball, clean the cat box and find the fake puke. Frank will get up at random times during the night to hide the bowling ball so that I lose lots of sleep looking for it.

Step Eleven: Pray for Prey. I will buy a mouse and bird at a pet shop. When I am running out the door to an important appointment, I will let the creatures loose in my house. However, unlike my former cats, I will not maim them first. Then I will attempt to catch the live cat toys in an empty milk carton or small box—whatever I have handy that’s inadequate for the purpose.

Step Twelve: Bathroom Follies. If a bathroom door is left open, I will yank on the toilet tissue until it is in a large pile. If I’m in the bathroom for longer than a minute, Frank will yell outside the door, shove his hand underneath and wave, and try to sound pitiful and lonely. If I leave the door ajar, he’ll come in, yell at me, and knock whatever reading material I have out of my hands.

If I get through all of the above and am still sane, then I will adopt a cat. But at this point, I’m thinking a stuffed toy kitty might be a better option.

©2013 Janet Periat


How To Protect Yourself Against The Impending Government Invasion

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

The US government is planning to invade the US. You may scoff at this idea—since the government is already here and in control—but I have it on good authority that they are planning to capture and enslave the populace. My fellow bunker-dwelling, assault-weapons-enthusiast, Yahoo commentators have outlined the Obama-led invasion in great detail. In order to help the uninformed, I have outlined some simple tips to protect you and your children from attack. Even though Americans outnumber government employees 27 to 1, scoffers take note: you are in imminent danger.

Number One: Know Thine Enemy. While we get distracted thinking that the US will use the military against us, think how much success they’ve had with recent invasions. How’s Iraq doing these days? Are we still in Afghanistan? Took us ten years to kill Osama Bin Laden—in Pakistan. While the US military is busy protecting the financial interests of the oil companies they won’t waste those precious resources against us. The government is comprised mainly of middle-aged men and women. These paunchy, out-of-shape, form-pushers are our true enemies. They are the ones the government will deploy against us.

Bullets and grenades won’t stop the hoards of middle managers, we must think like them to win the battle. What do forty-something men like? Supermodels and beer. What do middle-aged women enjoy? George Clooney and chocolate. To defeat the evil male government workers, all we have to do is hire cute chicks in bikinis to man tanker trucks full of beer. As for the female workers, we need to cover the area above our bunkers in George Clooney posters and boxes of chocolates. Add a few big screen TVs showing sports for the men and Lifetime Channel for the ladies and the government workers will be too distracted to attack. Ha!

Number Two: Knowing When The Attack Will Come. The government will be staging their attack Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM and from 1:30 PM to 5:00 PM. Exceptions: every other Friday when the offices are closed, and all government holidays including the week between Christmas and the New Year.

Number Three: Safest Places To Build Your Bunker. The US government has no interest in the most crime-ridden cities in America. They rarely fund the dilapidated schools of the poor and underprivileged neighborhoods, and abandon its populace to street gangs. Large chains won’t build stores in these areas; police don’t dare to venture inside. Perfect for your armed bunker! Those drug gangs will do your front line work for you! And think how cheap and available the extra weaponry will be. HINT: Schools and bridges are great places to hide during the war, but watch for the crumbling chunks of cement. Lack of investment in our infrastructure over the previous forty years has compromised many government installations. Bonus: after we’ve won the war, think how easy the buildings will be to destroy! One well-placed kick could bring the whole structure down. Perfect! EXTRA HINT: Most cities today have fox-hole-sized craters in their streets. Build your bunker at the end of a pitted avenue. Use the decay to your advantage!

Number Four: Rely On Trusted Information Sources. Getting accurate information is difficult yet necessary to foil the invasion. The only people brave enough to speak the truth are your fellow commentators on Yahoo, the Gun Lobby, the NRA, the Tea Party and most big corporations (Remember: corporations ARE people.) After the attack, avoid all mainstream media and emergency communications. Don’t use your cell phone because it will have been hacked. Don’t call 911 or you will alert them to your location. Stay in your bunker forever. Thankfully, your friends at the pharmaceutical corporations have abandoned the ridiculous idea of curing diseases and have provided people with what they really want: drugs that enable people to eat and drink whatever they like without exercising and not drop dead. Big Pharma doesn’t want to enslave you because they already own your fat ass. Make sure to stockpile their drugs. Pharmaceuticals will help you survive on MREs and diet Coke with little exercise but gun-cleaning and jumping to crazy conclusions.

Number Five: Extreme Home Makeover—The Bunker Edition. If you’re like me, your bunker’s not quite big enough to hold your stockpile of weapons and your whole family. Rather than kicking Aunt Selma to the curb, get creative with your bunker furnishings. Ammo cans make great coffee tables; turn an AK-47 into a lamp (watch which switch you use to turn it on or you might blow a hole through the roof); make a handgun chandelier; pack bullets into the earthen floor of the bunker for a great walking surface; paint half the grenades red and string them together for dazzling Christmas decorations; cover pallets of C-4 with comfy couch cushions—the possibilities are endless!

Number Six: Invasion Tricks. The US government knows your teenage daughter sneaks out to see her boyfriend at night and will be sending agents disguised as young women to attack you. Or dressed as your mother or son. How do you know that’s your wife coming back in the house with the morning paper? Open fire and ask questions later. Even if you make a mistake and kill your loved one, fewer family members means less people to defend and less people raiding your food stockpile. Which guarantees your survival. Neat!

I hope I have given vision to the sightless and awoken the sleeping. Lying to yourself that the US government is too feeble, badly organized, technologically challenged, underfunded and uninterested in subverting you is your ticket to enslavement. Just think, while you’re safe in your bunker, the rest of the country will be forced to enjoy the sunshine, their jobs, families and communities all the while being blind to the truth of their captivity. Suckers.

©2013, Janet Periat

Things I Never Thought I’d Do

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Been reflecting on aging recently, looking at my adult life through the eyes of my younger self. I remember studying my parents and thinking, “I’ll never do that.” Or “Are they CRAZY?” Seems as if I’ve turned out just as crazy as my parents. Here’s a list of things I never thought I’d do when I grew up.

Number One: Say things like “I don’t understand these kids today.” In my defense, what the eff is up with young dudes showing their underwear? The cool kids shuffle along with almost the entire length of their boxers hanging out with their belt around mid-thigh and the crotch of their pants at their calves. I saw a teenager the other day with the outline of his junk clearly visible through his underwear. Vile. When I was a kid, if you dared to show even a micro-inch of underwear, someone would grab it and pull it up to the middle of your back and give you an epic wedgie. I think wedgies ought to make a comeback.

Number Two: Put ludicrous amounts of pepper on my food. This one sticks out in my mind more than any on the list. I used to watch my father in horrified shock as he used the pepper grinder to turn his food black. He didn’t just use a little pepper, he made his food look like volcano eruption fallout. Dad’s forearms were massive from all his pepper grinding. I think it was how he got most of his exercise. I have not yet reached his blackout phase of pepper application, but I’m getting close. I think I blacken my food with pepper because my taste buds are burning out and I can’t taste as much as I did when I was a kid. Either that or my latent pepper deficiency gene got activated.

Number Three: The contents of my bedside drawer would become the same as my father’s. Tums, reading glasses, Kleenex and back scratchers. Horrifying. Dad’s bedside table contents always disgusted me. Why would you need peppermint candy that was chalky and horrible-tasting? How many pairs of glasses does one person need? Adults blow their noses so much, they actually need a whole box of Kleenex by their bedsides? And what’s with all the backscratchers? Are adults really this blind, sneezy and itchy? Do they have no taste? Answers? Yes, yes, yes and yes. I’m glad I didn’t know then what I know now or I’m not sure I would have allowed myself to grow up.

Number Four: Refuse to acknowledge the limitations of my eyesight. I am now one of those idiots in denial you see in grocery stores with their arms extended as far as they can, squinting at the fine printing on the soup cans to make sure they don’t contain monosodium glutamate. I’ve been practicing balancing cans on my feet at home so I’ll be better prepared for the inevitable. So. Humiliating. Why can’t I remember to carry glasses with me? Because I think I’m mounting a subconscious aging protest. Like if I don’t carry glasses, it means I can see and am still young. It’s also because I hate carrying crap around with me. I already have to carry Kleenex and Tums and ibuprofen with me everywhere. Pretty soon, I’ll have to drag around freakin’ carry-on luggage just to hold my Old Lady emergency supplies. Ugh!

Number Five: Talk about getting older. There is nothing that makes you older than talking about getting older. Which is what all my friends and I seem to talk about these days. Well, that is when we can hear each other. Rock-n-roll was not kind to my generation’s hearing. I’m getting good at smiling and nodding.

Number Six: Be convinced by current events that the world is coming to an end. My grandmother was convinced that the fabric of society was disintegrating. I thought she was insane. But with global warming and the global warming deniers; our failing healthcare system; our failing safety net; our failing education system—and the news being controlled by the same corporations that are screwing us out of all of our money, polluting the planet and exploiting the workforce—I’m starting to understand my grandmother’s mentality. My bunker should be complete by next year.

Number Seven: Be startled by my reflection. Or recent photos. Who the hell is that old lady? Wow, my face is starting to look like the Death Star, all deep dark channels. And what the HELL is up with the flippin’ jowls? And when did my neck start looking like that? (Insert scream here.) The only thing that’s saving me from total shock is that my eyesight is gratefully fading. If I stand far enough back from the mirror, I look like Doris Day in her later films, all fuzzed out and pretty.

Number Eight: Wear clothes for comfort, rather than fashion. A slippery slope, let me tell you.

Number Nine: Use an old lady cart to get groceries. This is the most humiliating out of all of the above. I feel a thousand years old dragging the damn thing over to Safeway. I feel like I should heap on the Depends, antacids and laxatives, and shuffle back home. I feel like I’m using a walker. Ever since this summer when I had seizures in the emergency room—and the DMV suspended my driver’s license—I have no choice but to use the horrid cart if I want food. Yes, I know I should be thankful I can still walk and I’m alive and all that garbage, but I hate crossing six lanes of traffic on El Camino looking like a crazy old lady when I’m only fifty-bloody-three.

I have decided to stop aging altogether. Next time I emerge from my bunker, I’ll let you know how my refusal to get older is working.

©2013, Janet Periat

Before Smart Phones: A Glossary For Future Generations

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

A long, long time ago in a galaxy not too far away was a planet called Earth. On this planet there were many wondrous things—objects and phenomenon that have gradually faded from Earthers’ collective consciousnesses. While Earthers may catch glimpses of the following items in the tiny viewing screens implanted in their heads, they mostly ignore them. In the interest of posterity, here is a review of the past. While most of these objects will be foreign to average Earthers—and they may question the existence of such things—we have proof that these objects actually existed and mostly continue to exist today.

People: 1) Human beings or Homo sapiens. 2) An old-fashioned term for User. 3) Living beings that interacted with each other without the aid of a computer or smart phone. In the olden days, people would sit and chat with each other face-to-face. Instead of typing “lol” into their datapads, they would actually laugh out loud. Personal exchanges were conducted by listening to users voices and reading their facial expressions. Bonding would occur based upon mutual interests and activities that took place in the Real World (see below) rather than in an on-line world, social network or game. People spoke in complete sentences, rather than using cryptic acronyms. People would sometimes sit around their living rooms discussing the day’s events. Mostly these exchanges were civil and didn’t end in a flame session where both parties screamed expletives and wished death upon each other.

Real World: What we used to call the physical world around us, the world outside our computers. Now called our Fantasy World.

Outside: The area between and surrounding buildings.

Weather: Ever-changing temperatures and natural phenomenon that occur Outside. Weather takes on various forms: wind (air that blows without fans), rain (water that falls from the Sky), sunshine (very warm energy from the Sun), humidity (similar to the air in small meeting rooms filled to capacity with no air-conditioning) and snow (shaved ice that falls from the Sky).

Sky: The area above Earth as seen from the ground. Instead of walking and staring at a tiny screen (or viewing our brain implants), users would gaze at the sky. Clouds, Birds (see below) and gorgeous vistas would delight the users. At Night (also see below), stars and planets would appear as tiny dots of light against a blue/black sky.

Clouds: Before the age of smart phones, clouds were not data storage devices. They were (and are) visible bodies of water droplets or ice crystals in the atmosphere above the surface of Earth. They appear in the Sky and are normally associated with Weather. Users would stare at the clouds in the Sky and use their Imaginations (see below) to find familiar shapes, like a dog or a horse or a user’s face.

Day and Night: Before our world ran 24/7, we divided our time between Day and Night. Generally, Night began after sunset and before sunrise. Day occurred when the Sun (see below) rose and provided illumination and heat.

Sun: 1) A star in our galaxy that provides the light and heat experienced during the Day and sustains life on Earth. The Sun’s power is self-generated without the use of lighting fixtures or furnaces. The Sun provides nourishment for plants and is the source of power for solar-powered arrays. The Sun is visible in the Sky during the day, but staring at it for long periods of time can cause blindness. 2) A source of suntans for superficial users before tanning booths.

Nature: An unpaved area without buildings or man-made structures. These wild places may contain Plants (see below) without containers, including trees. Sometimes these strange lands contain small furry creatures. Weather is unforgiving in Nature as there are no buildings to provide shelter. Starvation and dehydration can occur quickly because there are no strip malls or fast food restaurants to provide food and water.

Plants: 1) A living green decoration some users have on their desks. 2) Source of flowers, beer, coffee, chocolate and aspirin. Note: Comes in a form called “lettuce” which sometimes appears on hamburgers and sandwiches.

Birds: Actual live creatures that fly through the sky without the aid of a mechanical device or manufactured propulsion system. Contrary to popular belief, they are not angry, nor are they normally projectiles thrown at Pigs (see below).

Pigs: 1) Source of bacon. 2) An actual live animal that lives on non-virtual farms and provides food for users. 3) Pets for rich and famous users. Note: Can only be killed online by Birds—unless the Bird is large, like an ostrich or emu, and the Pig is small.

Barbecue: An event in olden times where users would gather around a gas or charcoal grill Outside, and prepare food. Men would normally tend the fire and “barbecue” the meat while drinking vast quantities of beer, and women would prepare the side dishes and gossip about the men being drunk jerks. All communication was done without mobile devices, through speaking and listening.

Imagination: What users in the past would use to entertain themselves before the Internet. Users would allow their minds to wander and conjure up stories, plans and dreams. Before computers, the human mind was capable of such activities.

Thinking: An additional use for one’s brain other than receiving information. Thinking occurs when a user says something that is original and not a quote from a Star Trek movie, a YouTube video, or a song. Thinking aided users in accomplishing tasks before computers.

Note To Earthers: in case you don’t believe any of the above to be true, try this experiment. First, TURN OFF your mobile device. Then stand up and walk to a door that leads Outside. Step through the threshold and simply look around. If you see an avatar of a user, this is a real person (see People above). Wave and say hi. You’ll be amazed at what happens next.

©2011, Janet Periat

If They Have To Tell You It’s Food, It Probably Isn’t

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Pasteurized processed cheese food has always bothered me. It worries me when a food manufacturer is concerned that I won’t be able to recognize their food product as food. Like I might mistake their cheese slices for cheesy-smelling plastic coasters.

Another scary product is Libby’s Potted Meat Food Product. Such a snappy title for a food product. Libby’s obviously wasn’t worried about bowling over their target audience with tempting adjectives. The people who actually eat the stuff probably don’t pay attention to the title. Nor must they read the list of ingredients on the side of the can. I wish I hadn’t. And just what is “potted” meat, anyway? What kind of a process is “potting”? I looked through all my recipe books and couldn’t find any form of cooking called “potting”. Potting I’ve done to plants. Not to meat. Nor meat products. And what are meat products? Not meat. But a meat product. May or may not contain actual meat? Is it a product of the meat? What does meat produce? Troubling questions, all.

Another mystery no one should think about is polysorbate 60. I found it in both hydrocortisone cream and Ho-Ho’s snack cakes. And Twinkies. Which begs the question, how can a product that is supposed to be used topically be taken internally as well? Does some manufacturer make a generic “cream” that can be used in topical ointments as well as in filling for snack cakes? And exactly what the hell is polysorbate 60 anyway? And what does it do for the Ho-Ho’s? Or the hydrocortisone cream?

And while we’re on the subject, what happened to the other polysorbates? Were they all failures? After some investigating at my local supermarket, I managed to find only two other polysorbates being used: 20 and 80. Polysorbate 20 was in Murine Ear Drops. And I remember polysorbate 80 from several years back. I remember noticing it because they used it in Rely tampons. Remember the ones they recalled because they caused Toxic Shock Syndrome? The reason I remember the polysorbate 80 in there is because, at the time, I also found it in Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s, Suzie Q’s and Ding Dongs. But now they’re using polysorbate 60 instead of 80 in the snack cakes. So, did 80 leave some weird taste in your mouth? Did it contribute to the Rely tampon’s Toxic Shock Syndrome? Did it cause Toxic Shock Syndrome in people who ate Twinkies? Was it more costly? Why did they go back to the polysorbate 60? I looked around and could only currently find polysorbate 80 in Children’s Motrin Cold Medication and Afrin nasal decongestant. Maybe it did leave a horrible aftertaste and since medicines usually do, they decided to use it in those products and leave it out of Twinkies. I guess the polysorbate 60 tastes better. But I still want to know what happened to polysorbates 1 through 19, 21 through 59 and 61 through 79.

Another disturbing ingredient is propylene glycol. I found it in Oxy Acne Treatment and Zingers snack cakes. Another topical, yet internal ingredient. Sorbitan monostearate was another one I found in both the hydrocortisone cream and the Zingers. I just can’t figure out how the food manufacturers determine that they need to put those chemicals into their products. Did some product taster try some new Ho-Ho recipe and say “Hmmm, this is missing something. I think it needs more polysorbate 60. What do you think, Fred?” “Uh…no, Joe, I think it needs more sorbitan monostearate. A little more fumaric acid perhaps.” “I disagree, Fred. It’s either more polysorbate 60 or more propylene glycol.” “Well, Joe, we’re outta propylene glycol.” “Hey, Fred, look. There’s some in this St. Ives Wrinkle Corrector. Let’s just put some of this inside the Ho-Ho’s.” “Good plan, Joe.” These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

Another thing I want to know is who makes up these recipes? Well, I suppose they aren’t recipes anymore, they’re formulas. So the food manufacturers probably hire scientists nowadays, not cooks. I can picture the food manufacturers giving orders to their newly hired scientists. “We want you guys to find a way to replicate food using chemicals. The people will never know they’re not getting real food if we dump enough sugar in the product. The sugar’s real. They’ll be happy with that.” And we are, aren’t we?

I suppose in the future grandparents will still be passing on their favorite recipes to their grandchildren. “Here’s my homemade truffle cake recipe, Leon. Remember, don’t scrimp on the propylene glycol. And always put in the polysorbate 60 to taste. Too much isn’t good. Could give the cake a hydrocortisone cream feel to it.” Okay, Grandpa.

©20??, Janet Periat

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I can’t remember when I wrote this column, but a recent post on the Weather Channel website  by Organic Authority about the ingredients in McDonald’s nuggets got me thinking about it. So here it is. You can find it in my book, Confessions of a Pink-Haired Lunatic.


A Christmas Carol

Monday, December 5th, 2011

At the end-of-year board meeting for ScrooMoCo, Chairman Scrooge delivered the yearly financial projections. “We’ve slashed our workforce and are earning record profits this year!”

A great cheer arose from the board.

Suddenly, the room fell into darkness and the ghostly apparition of an older man in a suit, covered in chains, appeared above the long conference table.

“My God, that’s our dead founding partner, Jacob Marley!” Scrooge cried.

“ScrooMoCo Board members,” the spirit moaned. “You’re all greedy bastards who’ve caused great economic imbalance in the world and caused terrible needless pain to the masses. When you die, you will suffer the same fate as me if you don’t repent and stop your heinous actions now. These are the chains I forged in life and believe me, they freakin’ clash with my Gucci and make getting spa treatments a bitch.”

Several board members gasped.

“You will be visited by three spirits tonight. Heed their warning or you will suffer fashion humiliation for all eternity!”

Marley vanished and the lights returned.

Chairman Scrooge snorted. “Cratchit, call maintenance and get the electrical fixed PRONTO.”

Bob Cratchit, his secretary, winced. “ But we fired the maintenance staff and outsourced the work to India.”

“Then you do it!”

The overhead lights flickered. A great crash of thunder made all the board members jump. Standing on the conference table before them was Bing Crosby.

“Hello Board Members, I’m the spirit of Christmas Past and this number goes out to all you greedy robber barons,” he announced and then broke out singing I’m Dreaming of a Rich, White and Male Christmas.

The board members clapped. “Do Swinging on a Star!”

“No, I’m here to show you how it used to be, before all you mega-corporations took over the Earth. Behold, the past!” Bing pointed to the wall behind the table.

A large movie screen appeared showing black and white footage of American factory workers on assembly lines. A happy family of six eating at a backyard barbecue. A doctor making a house call. Kids walking into shining new schools. A young couple buying their first house. A stay-at-home mother working in her kitchen of gleaming appliances.

“My doctor still makes house calls,” a board member huffed.

“Yes, and my children attend schools just like that one. Nothing has changed.”

Bing shook his head. “That used to be the life for 99% of our population. Not the 1% it is today.”

“It’s their fault for being poor,” sneered a board member.

“I give up. And now, I’d like to introduce that man-about-town, that haunting spirit you’ll all come to know and love, the Ghost of Christmas Present. Take it away, President Barack Obama.”

Bing disappeared and in his place stood Obama.

The board members screamed in fear. “A Democrat!”

“But he’s not dead,” one argued.

“Hey folks, easy does it. I’m just trying to get re-elected and this seemed like a great way to get my message across to you since none of you pay attention to what I say anymore.” He gestured to the back wall. “Behold, the present!”

A succession of film clips depicted gigantic crowds of protesters in Madrid, London, New York and Oakland. A close-up on the signs revealed the messages: We are the 99%. Corporations Must Atone. Tax the 1%. Make Jobs Not War on Middle Class and Working Poor. The images shifted to a school kid reading a torn book and sitting at a broken desk next to a bucket catching a leak in a dingy classroom. Hungry children and mothers standing in long lines at soup kitchens. Thousands of unemployed crowding job fairs. A row of boarded-up houses with brown lawns and foreclosure signs. A homeless encampment under a freeway.

“Glad I’m not poor,” commented a board member.

“Hear, hear.”

“Me, too,” said Obama. “But if we don’t change things and right now, there isn’t going to be any rich people because the poor will rise up and kill us all. Didn’t you guys study history? Remember Marie Antoinette? While you guys sip Cristal with me, people are starving out there. People can’t afford health care, homes or educations. Over the past fifteen years, you bastards have taken ALL the money. You weren’t satisfied with an extra 50% or even 75% more money than your workers, you had to give yourselves 298% raises while they only got 4%. You blew it. And your iPods and Prozac and beer and NFL championships aren’t distracting them anymore. They’re onto our game.”

A board member yawned. “I’m sorry, did you just say something? I wasn’t listening.”

“Forget it. Here’s your final spirit visitor for the day, the Ghost of Christmas Future.”

Obama vanished and a sweet little Mexican girl in pigtails and a pink dress stood on the table.

All the members shrieked in terror. “An illegal immigrant!”

The little girl nodded. “You should be afraid. Shortly, I’m going to be the majority. And you’re totally screwing me over right now. Behold, the future!”

A post-Apocalyptic landscape appeared onscreen. Mansions burned in the background. In the foreground, well-dressed people ran from pitchfork-wielding crowds. The camera panned over a burnt and cracked sign: Town of Atherton.

The board members gasped, horror-struck.

“Act now or soon it will be too late,” the little girl said and vanished.

The screen disappeared and the lights came on.

Scrooge frowned. “Wow. That was frightening.” He rubbed his chin. “So should we pay our fair share of taxes, hire more people, stop outsourcing, help rebuild America’s infrastructure, improve our education system, overhaul our healthcare system and hold big banks accountable for their crimes?”

Silence fell over the room.

One board member held up his hand. “How about we give ourselves big raises and take the rest of the money now while we still can?”

Scrooge’s eyes lit up. “All those in favor?”

“Aye!” the board members replied in unison.

Bob Cratchit muttered under his breath, “Goosed again.”

©2011, Janet Periat

Facebook Follies

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

I’m trying to write this column, but I keep stopping to check out my Facebook page. This is one of the many problems with Facebook. It can easily become an addiction. Luckily, I recently found out I’m not addicted when I went on vacation and didn’t crack my laptop once. I had my computer with me in case I wanted to check Facebook, but I didn’t. Hmmm, that sounds like an addiction, doesn’t it? Great. Now I’m in denial. And I have Facebook to blame.

If you aren’t on Facebook, then you must be a Yak herder in Outer Mongolia who happens to be in the one spot left on the planet that doesn’t have cell reception. Or you’re smart. Or technologically challenged. Or a combination of all three. While there are Facebook resisters out there, most people I know have succumbed and now understand the sinking-in-quicksand feeling when you’re getting sucked whole into the world of Facebook.

There are many valid reasons to be on the social networking site. All of these valid reasons are lies. Or at the very least, self-delusions. Most people go on Facebook with great intentions. They are going to promote their business. Then they see a Farmville post from a good friend who sent them a virtual cow as a gift. Five hours later, they look up at the clock and realize they forgot to pick up the kids from school. And they didn’t post anything about their hair salon. And then they feel stupid. Really stupid. This is when the Facebook Lies begin. “Mom, where were you?” “Sorry, honey, I was working on the computer and got lost in my new promotion.” You can’t tell anyone the truth. Or they’ll think you’re a moron. Even though they’re probably guilty of the exact same thing.

While Facebook has connected me with old friends and younger family members—many people I missed dearly—there are many downsides to the interactive message board other than the massive time sink. Like when you find out that your friends had a party and didn’t invite you. Not only didn’t they invite you, they took pictures and posted them. Or a friend posts photos of you from college wearing a risqué dominatrix costume from a Halloween party you’d rather forget. Or that guy who beat you up in high school friends you and since he is connected to all your other classmates you feel obligated to friend him even though you hate him and can’t believe it when the guy has the balls to post a Happy Birthday message on your wall. Or you invite an old theater friend to be your Facebook Friend and he declines your request. Then you watch in real time as the jerk friends every other one of your theater buddies but you. Not that any of the above instances happened to me. By the way, I don’t like you either, Jeff.

Other perils of Facebook include: Faced-Book, when you post something humiliating after drinking too much. Two-Faced-Book, when your friend cancels a date with you and then posts about what a great time they had with someone else that same night. Red-Faced-Book, when you meant to send a private message regarding something sensitive to one friend and accidentally sent it to everyone. Face-Off-Book, when your right-wing nutjob friends and your left-wing nutjob friends hijack one of your innocuous posts about the government and turn it into a verbal WWF match.

Another Dark Side to Facebook—aside from its creepy practice of vacuuming all your personal information and selling it to faceless corporations who want to exploit you—is the continual changes to its interface. Nearly every time I visit the site, there is some new feature that confuses me. This week Facebook announced that they will be making giant, fundamental changes to their site, changes that “should only take users two months to adapt”. Yes, two months. The interface will supposedly become an ever-changing “scrapbook”. Where everywhere the users go and everything we do and post and read and eat and listen to will be broadcast to all our friends in real time. I don’t know about you but that idea FRIGHTENS me.

At the press conference, a perky, pre-pubescent Facebook developer reported that nowadays everyone is used to living transparent lives with no privacy. That we’ve all become very comfortable with everyone knowing what we’re doing at all times. I don’t know who their research team is, but they are INSANE. Janet Periat just checked in at Costco so this is a great time to burglarize her house. Janet Periat just bought four pounds of candy at Safeway, which proves she lied about being on a diet. Janet Periat just threw her computer across the room because she can’t figure out Facebook’s new changes.

How many people want their bosses to know that they are attending a ball game instead of lying in bed with the flu? How many people want everyone to know they just got a colonoscopy? Or that they attended a Barry Manilow concert? Okay, maybe the colonoscopy is fine, but no one could live down the Barry Manilow thing.

What my friends and I need is OldBook. Where the interface is simple, private, and stays static, like Google (not Google+ which is another bastion of confusion). A site we can learn to use in seconds. Where we can enjoy our friends’ cute cat pictures, see what they ate for lunch, and be jealous of their recent trip to Hawaii. And not be made to feel stupid because yet one more modern tool has become too complicated to use.

But here’s my biggest beef with Facebook: they’ve got us all complaining over a free service. So technically, we can’t whine. They’ve hooked us on their Internet crack and made us look like total ingrates at the same time. I hate them. And I’m never visiting their stupid site again—oh, look, my friend’s cat had kittens!

©2011, Janet Periat

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