A SOCIETAL SATIRE IN SHORTS

This collection of curious anecdotes is intended to stimulate thought about the world we live in, the products we use, and the way we interact with each other.  These tales combine elements of fact and fiction, and generally represent the random musings of the author who’s intrigued by observations from daily life.  You may notice some common themes like the 1st person narrative perspective and the use of time, a valuable commodity we humans cannot alter or create, to reinforce the plot flow.  Enjoy and keep your eyes open out there.

S.G. Lacey

A Case Of The Mondays

5:45 AM: Caffeinated Aromatics

The alarm buzzes incessantly.  I ignore it, rolling over and burying my ear deeper into the firm, but conforming, memory foam pillow.  After suffering through another 15 seconds of this unbearable racket, I make the seemingly gargantuan motion of lifting my left arm out from under the comforting warmth of the blankets; index fingertip finally locating the button which activates the snooze feature on the bedside alarm clock.

Glancing over, I find my wife sleeping soundly, apparently immune to the noise and commotion on this side of the bed.  Her brown hair, well over shoulder length, cascades down across her bare shoulders and onto the grey cotton bed-sheet.  Closing my eyes, I think back to our younger days together; wild college students in love, unencumbered with the worries of adulthood and raising a family.  We’d shared many an adventurous, romantic encounter back then.  This morning, as often happens, I let my mind drift back through those lusty activities.

15 minutes later in actual time, but much longer in the exploratory haze of the half-awake mind, my fanciful wanderings are rudely interrupted.  This time the noise is louder, and more piercing.  A cruel auditory trick designed to entice my groggy brain into action.  This wake-up device was likely conceived by some electronics geek in a university lab after extensive experimentation on rats, and the torturous, shrieking devil is now part of my daily morning routine.

Groaning, I roll out of bed, kicking my legs from under the covers and rotating on my silk boxer covered behind.  My bare feet instinctively search for the comfort of the thick, shag carpet in our bedroom.  Instead, the tender flesh on my sole meets a small, hard obstruction, sending excruciating pain up my still slumbering, left leg.  Fumbling in the predawn glow coming through the drawn shades, I reach down and extract the foreign object from the bottom of my foot.   A yellow plastic Lego® building block.  That much is clear from the company logo and 3 x 2 pattern of small round dimples now imprinted on the skin of my arch.

In my pain, I clumsily reach over to turn on the bedside light, and confound the problem by knocking the lamp completely off the dresser.  It bounces once on the carpet before hitting the wooden baseboard, breaking in half with the telltale crack of a cheap glass.

Wobbling gingerly to avoid both the razor-sharp green shards and additional toy landmines, I limp across to the bathroom; physically and emotionally wounded before the day has even begun.

16 minutes later I feel like a new man, after following my well-oiled “3-Sigma” routine of a shit, shower, and shave which has served me well over the years.  I pride myself on regularity, my wake-up schedule being no exception.  Through years of practice, the standard deviation on this process is now pretty tight.

As I stride out of the bathroom, refreshed and wrapped in a damp towel, the aroma of coffee hits my nose.  Right on time.  I smile, congratulating myself on the automatic timer coffee pot I found while flipping through a Sharper Image® magazine on a cross-country flight during a work trip last month.  While not usually a big shopper, this impulse buy is already paying off in a big way, cutting 2 minutes out of my daily routine.

I dress quickly, donning khaki slacks and a solid color golf shirt, the same outfit I wear to work every day.  Today I select a dark blue offering, which mirrors my current mood.  Fiending for the adrenaline rush of caffeine that my body has become accustom too, I hurry downstairs to get my fix.

However, as I near the kitchen, it becomes clear something about the coffee is different today.  The aroma, typically roasty and rich, is replaced by sweeter holiday smells.  Peppermint, cinnamon, clove, and vanilla fill my nostrils, and the potency intensifies as I approach the coffee pot.  Intrigued, I pour a little sample into a mug and sip cautiously.  The thick black liquid tastes as burned and potent as usual, piping hot with the harsh, bitter jolt I’m looking for.  However, the smell is inescapable and like no coffee I’ve ever encountered before.  I make a mental note to ask my wife if she’d swapped out my usually French roast bean blend on the last grocery trip, or, more likely, made one of those syrupy cappuccino concoctions in the pot this weekend.

With no time to further consider this aromatic predicament, I fill my trusty travel Coleman® thermos with the rich, black potion; covering my nose to avoid the fanciful Christmas sensations my nasal passages are registering.  Grabbing my briefcase, I head out to the car and another fun-filled day at the office.

 

11:30 AM: Music To My Ears

I stare at the tiny numbers on the 22” computer screen in front of me.  The rows of digits in the spreadsheet blur in and out of focus as I scan across them.  Blinking several times, I try again, following a line of calculations about a third of the way down the page, using my finger as a guide.

Are my eyes going bad?  It wouldn’t be surprising, considering how many hours a week I’ve spent seated at this confounded workstation over the past 20 years; not to mention the multitude of other TV displays encountered in my daily life.  Maybe I should schedule a doctor’s visit to get my glasses prescription checked.

Deciding to give my mind and eyes a quick rest, I open an online browser to search out a replacement for the nightstand lamp I broke this morning.  Within 5 minutes of perusing Amazon®, I find a suitable offering claiming delivery this same afternoon.  Unfortunately, the only color available is something called “Midnight Rain”.  The lamp we had before looks more like “Mountain Foliage” from the tiny swatches on the computer screen, but who knows.  It’s pretty dark in our bedroom anyways; I decide to pull the trigger on the order.

Maybe if my wife doesn’t discover the package before I get home she’ll never have to know about my sleepy clumsiness.  I click purchase, with my credit card and home shipping information already saved online, and return to mind-numbing work tasks.

I focus back into the dense spreadsheet; lines of income, debts, inventory, and numerous other corporate metrics.  Manipulating a few custom calculations, I force-rank the columns of data to hone in on key accounts, numbers moving at my bidding.  I’m in a zone, doing what my mind was born to execute, however menial and boring it seems to most.

Suddenly I become aware of an unknown song pulsing through my headphones.  I always work with music on these days, letting the task at hand and current mood drive selections.  All morning I’ve been listening to crooner, highlighted by classic American jazz artists like Sinatra and Bennett.  These soothing tunes help me relax as I run through the monotonous tax filing analysis that fills my daily routine.

However, now the sound reaching my ears is decidedly more upbeat; typical high-pitched horns are still present, but a deep baseline and electric guitar provide a more rounded sound.

My Pandora® music player settings allow some leeway from its starting point, but this song is way off the map.  Selecting the appropriate app on my I-Phone® 8, I see it displaying “Bobby Darin – Mack The Knife”.  Clearly not the song currently on.

Confused, I switch over to a 60’s classic rock station, another staple of my workday listening.  Though the description switches to “The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man”, nothing changes in my headphones.  The same hypnotic beat still churns along; a mesmerizing tune with the eclectic combination of electronically manipulated instruments, now joined by the contralto female voice.  The music seems to penetrate through my ears and deep into my brain.  I pull one foam earpiece off to make sure the noise is not in the background at the office, but this only seems to increase the volume of the sound in my other ear.

Shaking my head, I decide to take an early lunch offsite and see if the music playing software is working any better in my car.

 

3:15 PM: The Big Boss

The afternoon meeting is dragging on more laboriously than usually.  I should have grabbed another cup of coffee before we got started.

As Becky, our rail thin secretary, drones on I tune out her voice, instead examining my surroundings.  The former, long wooden boardroom table has been replaced with a round one, stark white with a “writeable” top surface.  This sounds like a great idea for stimulating spur-of-the-moment brainstorming, however nobody at our firm ever seems to have an innovative thought.  The most common use of this table covering turns out to be discrete doodling; often with the colored marker transferring to the back of important documents used to cover up such idle drawings.

In place of the well-worn, but exceedingly comfortable, black leather chairs are metal stools, sculpted from some fine gauge wire.  Positioned at an awkward height where the legs of a standard adult male can’t touch the ground when seated, but knees become annoyingly scrunched up when placing your feet on the lower rung, these are potentially the most uncomfortable pieces of furniture I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting on.

All of these recent boardroom “upgrades” are the result of renovations by a group of workplace ergonomic specialists, though any expertise they have besides charging absurd amounts of money for their consulting escapes me.  Personally, I miss the calming security of hardwood and leather; maybe I’m just old school.  I’d even identified a favorite seat on which the locking mechanism was broken, allowing it to recline subtlety backwards; exceedingly comfortable yet unseen by fellow colleagues in a meeting.

Now, I’m forced to sit perched on top of these ironwork stools like a squirrel on a branch, or stand awkwardly leaning against the same metallic sculptures, constantly trying to keep enough weight down so that they don’t slide out from behind me.  With all the motor skill requirements needed to safely attend this meeting, it’s no surprise I am having trouble focusing on the discussion’s content.

Looking around the table, I notice my boss, Jeremy, has taken the lead in the conversation.  This occurrence is never a good sign, as he rarely speaks in these team meetings, and when he does it’s usually to exercise his prolific, uncontrollable anger.  I study Jeremy intently, hoping my feint at focused eye contact will distract him from the fact that I haven’t been paying attention for the last 20 minutes.

Jeremy is a distinctive figure, both in stature and personality.  Just on the downhill side of 50 years old, he’s clearly lived life to the fullest.  A former Division I college linebacker, “J-Roll”, as he’s unabashedly dubbed himself, is not a subtle human.  I’m not convinced he ever had hair, Bic® razor shaving in high school transitioning into perpetual balding, probably from too much time spent with a helmet on.  His stark and weighty head is complemented by an equally thick neck and broad set of shoulders; this solid foundation is needed to support the giant, egotistical orb which sits atop it.

In fact, as I watch this current tirade, his face distorts and transforms; taking on a hilarious yet grotesque caricature of its actual self.  Jeremy’s massive dome begins to morph, the glistening sweat on his brow flowing even more readily than usual.  In unison, the already pronounced red veins crisscrossing his skull seemed to darken and deepen.  Combined with gruff, baritone notes of my boss’s current rant, the entire effect becomes that of lava flowing off a mountain: with sound, color, and heat all rivaling an eruption on the foothills of Krakatoa.

Unable to handle the overstimulation of the scene in front of me, I topple off my useless stool and backpedal out of the conference room, the door shutting noisily behind me.  My eyes have deceived me and there’s no chance for subtlety in my current mental state.

 

7:30 PM: Modern Family Dinner

Lovely aromas from the kitchen fill my nostrils.  Seated in my favorite recliner, the traumatic visual imagery of the afternoon at work has mellowed slightly; helped by a few bottles of Lagunitas® IPA.  Now I’m content and looking forward to a relaxing dinner at home.

Our family has long since forgone the traditional group meal at the dining room table, a product of too many occurrences of bickering, complaining, and awkward silences.  Our concession as parents is that we eat in the less formal living room, which provides many more technological distractions and anonymity from actual verbal interaction which both of our teenage children seem allergic to.

A typical evening dinner involves our youngest at 13, Julie, exchanging text, pictures, and god knows what else with any number of individuals in cyberspace.  Her rate of cell phone typing is mesmerizing; finally, our primate heritage is putting the gift of opposable thumbs to good use.

Peter, two years older, is usually similarly anti-social at dinner, not just with his parents but with anyone in the virtual world as well.  Having always been shorter, and decidedly heavier, than his younger sister, after years failing at a variety of sports pursuits, Peter’s conceded that his athleticism comes from his dad; I can’t argue with his assessment.

However, Peter has plenty of other talents which will hopefully make up for his lack of both charisma and physique.  Clearly an exceedingly bright boy, he often asks math questions about logic and game theory beyond my scope of knowledge as a tax attorney with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics.  Hopefully they don’t develop robots to supplant mudane, analytical jobs in cubicles before Peter enters the workforce; this would have spelled disaster for me 30 years ago, and my son presents all the characteristics of an even more sheltered societal niche.

Wrenching these prophetic thoughts out of my head, I refocus on the dinner at hand.  Tonight, as usually, it smells like my wife has outdone herself.  There are very few things our family can agree on, but eating tacos is one of them.  Julie, who disavowed meat in 5th grade, when a few of her girlfriends read an online dieting blog, will eat beans, rice, and grilled veggies and be content for days.  Peter, eats anything at this point in his adolescent path, as long as it’s put in front of him on a heaping plate.  But I know the real reason why my wife makes tacos every Monday night.  For me.

Setting my IPA down on the corner table, I wander into the kitchen to get a closer examination of the savory aromas.  Approaching the kitchen, the smell becomes stronger and more distinctive: cumin, chili powder, oregano, and garlic combining into a dynamic, mesmerizing fog which tingles the nose and causes my eyes to water.

Kissing my wife on the cheek, I grab a spoon off the countertop and help myself to a big mouthful of chili verde pork.  It’s been in the crockpot all day, and the pork butt is now falling apart.  Bringing the utensil to my lips, I soak in the flavors.  Placing the seasoned meat in my mouth, I sense the combined heat of both the warmth and the peppers.

The flavors are thick, powerful, and completely foreign.  Soap.  Nearly spitting it out, I cough and swallow as my wife looks over.

“Everything OK, Honey?”

“Perfect.” I reply, recovering quickly.  “Spicy tonight, anything different in the recipe?” I enquire as innocently as possible.

“Not really, just used some extra fresh cilantro.”

“Very tasty,” I stammer, tearing off a piece of flour tortilla and stuffing it in my mouth to both cover up the soapy taste and avoid any follow-up conversation.  I’ve suddenly lost my appetite for tacos and, thinking back on the day, am becoming increasingly concerned with my mental and sensory status as a whole.

 

11:00 PM: Passion Play

I assume the kids are in bed.  At their age, any time we can account for their whereabouts is a success.  I work long hours, mainly so that my children can have a good upbringing and attend college.  Not that I know what education is possibly worth $60k per year in this day and age.

My stomach is still gurgling from the lack of dinner.  It was tough to stomach the Mexican food after my soap taste episode; I made a few bean and cheese hard shell tacos but couldn’t bring myself to try any more chili verde pork even though I know it’s one of my favorite homecooked dishes.  I feel like I’d hidden the predicament well, throwing enough iceberg lettuce on top to hide the lack of meat.  Cheese would have been better camouflage, but I always put the cheese at the bottom of the shell stack to promote melting, and any deviation from this routine would have been a red flag to the “Wifey”.

Oblivious to my taste predicament, my lovely partner sitting upright in the bed next to me is contently scrolling through some likely mindless drivel on her Microsoft® tablet.  We made a pact not to have a TV in the bedroom, but recent developments in online streaming technology have threated my plans to make the bedroom a sanctuary for dressing, reading, talking, and other, more productive, activities.

After finishing a chapter in the current science fiction novel I’m half-heartedly reading, I glance over at my wife.  She’s looking gorgeous as usual; I decide to try my luck.

Folding the book with exaggerated noise and setting it on the bedside table, I roll over to my wife’s side, sliding a hand under both the covers and her tank top.  As usually, she’s not wearing a bra, and it’s not until I reach the nipple and give it a firm pinch that she lets out a gasp, and looks up from the computer screen.

“Looking for something?” she queries skeptically.

Immediate rejection avoided, my window of opportunity is open.  Leaning in, I kiss her on the lips, simultaneously pushing the technological distraction away.  She begrudgingly concedes, placing the tablet computer on her own bedside table.  Phase two complete.

5 minutes later we’re in full make-out mode, clothes still on but the trajectory of this activity clearly headed elsewhere.  In one passionate move, my wife slides her hand down my side and into my boxers.  My anticipation is evident as she moves past the belly button, working under the elastic waistband and toward the ultimate goal.  However, as her fingers find their destination my body goes rigid, and not in a good way.

Her touch is as cold as ice.  And my mind is now moving as slow as an iceberg.

How did I not notice this temperature issue before?  We are in the throws of passion, as hot and close as two warm blooded mammals can be.  My partner in crime has already touched my cheek, collar bone, thigh, and numerous other locations; none inciting this frigid sensation.

Providing my own gasp this time, I roll way instinctively.  This won’t look good.

Backpedaling, I try to recover.  “Sorry Honey, my stomach isn’t feeling well.”

“Was it the tacos?” she replies, so quickly I’m even more skeptical she didn’t observe my vegetarian audible at dinner.

“Nope, I’ve been unsettled since lunch.  Love you.  Get some rest.”  I give her a light kiss on the forehead, hoping to salvage any remaining pride.

I give it 15 minutes in the bathroom, sitting patiently on the folded down toilet seat cover and reading the book I discretely grabbed upon my bedroom exit.  I hear her telltale snoring, then wait 5 more minutes before slinking back into bed.

What an epically unproductive and confusing day.

 

6:00 AM: Another Day In Paradise

The ringing banshee is back!  Stirring restlessly, I look over angrily at the confounded alarm, then shift my gaze to the adjacent bedside dresser.  Even in the dim light and without my glasses, I can see the slender lamp.  Its colored glass stem is bright red, not the original “forest” green, or the “midnight” blue I seemingly ordered yesterday.  The digits on my alarm clock identify the time as 6:00 AM on Tuesday morning.  Unfortunately, yesterday wasn’t a dream, just another chapter in my increasingly bewildering excuse for a life.

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