Friday, February 26, 2010

Searching For Signal: #107 - “Survivor” - Heroes vs. Villains - Episode 3

So we start out with the Heroes tribe marching back to camp after Tribal, while the eerie night-vision cameras are rolling, with all of them acting really sad and all, but you know every one of them is thinking “thank God it was Stephenie and not me.” They start unloading their gear and doing boring things around camp.

Surprisingly, Tom actually tells James that he could have been gentler with how he treated Stephenie at Tribal. Which is true, James was an ass, but I’m thinking, Dude, you and Colby are apparently on the outs with the Heroes tribe. Hate James quietly. Don’t get his attention, because James is apparently the sheepherder in the tribe right now. Go clean some fish or something and plot your revenge.

There’s a quick scene where JT is apologizing to Tom for going against their supposed alliance by voting out one of Tom’s buddies. They hug it out and everything, but you know Tom is not pleased with JT and his chipped tooth.

Tom confirms this in a sidebar. He feels that JT betrayed him. That’s right, Tom, he did. JT has changed since his original season, and not just when it comes to dental work. You and Colby better get your act together and force the spotlight on somebody else. Right on cue, we then switch to a scene with Tom and Colby realizing that they have got to play smarter.

Colby’s a little bummed. This is not the game-play that he remembers, and this is also true. “Survivor” was a totally different game back in the day when Colby played it out in Season 2. Strategy was subtle, alliances were strong, and most people played with decency. These days, you’re expected to form 47 conflicting alliances, stab your supposed friends in the back every other hour, and maniacally cavort in front of the camera, proclaiming yourself the greatest thing in the world since the invention of toilet paper.

Opening credits roll.

Now we’re over at the Villains camp, late at night after the Tribal they didn’t have to attend. I’m somewhat repulsed to see Russell and Parvati snuggled up together in the crappy shelter. They aren’t exactly having intercourse, but they might as well be, pawing on each other and bumping body parts and whatnot.

Then the two of them are whispering in each others ear, apparently sharing secret words that make both of them cackle and howl at the moonlight. We get reaction shots from the rest of the tribe as they all glare at the nasty pair shrieking with mirth and keeping everybody awake.

Rob in a sidebar: You really have to “watch how people sleep at night.” Folks are not going to sleep near someone that they plan on voting out. Very sage advice. See, I’m still liking Rob, even though I know I’m supposed to hate him. (I didn’t see his original season, so I don’t know what the hell he did, but apparently it was something not very nice.)

Zip over to the Heroes camp the next morning. It seems that the loss of Stephenie has inspired them to build a chicken coop. They march this contraption out, pick up the chickens who had previously been quarantined in a net and rock condo, and shove them into their new home. Immediately, the chickens escape through the poorly-spaced bamboo bars of their new cell. I guess nobody on this tribe is a structural engineer.

So then we have lots of shots where the tribe is running around and trying to capture the AWOL poultry. Yes, they all work together, and they do eventually snag the birds, but it’s really not anything exciting. This smells like filler to me.

Then we see Rupert in a sidebar. He’s all aglow about how his team succeeded, with him getting misty-eyed that they rounded up the cluckers that wouldn’t have been running free in the first place if somebody had paid attention in shop class. This is one of the times when Rupert got on my nerves. Saving the chickens was a nice little subplot. Winning an Immunity Challenge? Much more important.

And really, Rupert, could you lose the tie-dyed shirt that clashes with the jungle? That thing has got to be totally rank and tattered by now, after three seasons. You got a nice pile of viewer-voted money at one point, and I know there’s a Wal-Mart where you live. They have shirts there that you can buy. Check it out. And trim that damn beard. They also have razors at Wal-Mart. One trip to Wally World could change your life.

Then we’re back over at the Villains camp, where Coach is telling Russell that he needs to cool it with all that dry-humping Parvati business. People are watching and his actions could make him a target. (Wow, Coach is actually saying something worthwhile and it doesn’t involve modified Buddhism? That’s a fresh breeze.) Rob wanders up and agrees with Coach, telling Russell to back off.

Russell appears to agree with both of them, but you know he doesn’t. It has never crossed this man’s mind that anything he does is worthy of criticism. Two seconds later, we have Russell in a sidebar where he is spouting off that “Coach is a joke” and “Rob’s a fool.” He finishes up with “I’M the daddy around here.”

“Daddy” is not what people are calling you, Russell. Just thought you should know.

Then Russell races off to find Pavarti, where he proceeds to fill her slutty mind with lies about what Coach didn’t actually say. She nods her head knowingly with every word that oozes out of Napoleon’s mouth, while still managing to shove her breasts at the camera and fiddle with her skimpy bikini bottoms.

In a sidebar, Parvati actually utters “I’m just a sweet innocent little girl.” Then even she can’t help but crack up at this ludicrous statement, although she still manages to hump the tree trunk she’s straddling while the cameraman attempts to keep the frame in focus.

Now we’re in the Villains camp, at night, and Coach is telling one of his totally bogus stories where he supposedly decimated an entire Incan tribe using nothing but dental floss. Rob tries to call him on it (“Is this the same story from last night?”) but Coach doesn’t stop, gushing crap like there’s been a sewage mishap.

Meanwhile, Russell, caught up in another one of his delusional schemes, decides that he needs to take the camp’s machete and bury it somewhere in the sand, so that the missing item will cause chaos in the tribe. Okay, Russell, you really aren’t thinking this thing through. We already know that you steal things. Do you think these people didn’t watch your season?

Then it’s the next morning at the Villains camp, and Coach is out on some sandbar where he’s doing the Eastern yoga thing. Oh, and he’s singing, if you can call it that. Birds are dropping out of the sky, but he doesn’t stop wailing. And what’s with the feather you’ve shoved in your greasy, unconditioned hair? You are not an Indian, or an eagle, or… whatever you’re going for. Stop it.

There’s a brief bit where Randy drags a big-ass clam out of the water, and tries to share it with the rest of the tribe. Most of them just glare at him like they’re watching the pea soup scene in “The Exorcist”. As Randy says in a sidebar, it’s protein. Why would you not take advantage of that? In the end, after Parvati takes a bite and then classily spits it out on the sand, it’s only Randy and Sandra chowing down on the clam meat. Things look dim for Randy on the social scale.

Time for a visit to the Heroes camp. JT is chatting with Candice, and all the sudden Candice is spilling everything about her thoughts on strategy. JT, emboldened by this inside scoop, races to Cirie and Amanda and reinterprets Candice’s words to meet his needs, telling Cirie that Candice doesn’t trust her. Cirie and Amanda gasp and make appropriate startled noises.

Not really caring for JT this season.

Cirie, being who she is, confronts Candice directly. Candice denies hating on Cirie, but then Cirie won’t say who gave her the intel. (This is where Cirie is sly, and why she’s not necessarily a hero. She’ll throw a brick, but not follow through or come clean.) Candy girl then embarks on a mission to find out who is throwing her under the bus.

Candice approaches Tom. Candice approaches Amanda. Candice approaches James. They all tell her the same thing, they don’t know where the slam came from. James goes a bit further, because he’s still got something up his butt this time around, and basically tells Candice to shut up. We have competitions to win.

Which is true, you need to win, but Candice is justified in trying to find out what’s going on. Rumors can kill in this game. After all, James, that’s how YOU went home in the past. Or did you and your muscles forget about that?

Time for the only Challenge this episode, a combination of Immunity and Reward.

This one involves what is basically a modified Sumo wrestling competition, where the Survivors thrust their hands in a pillow thing and then try to shove their competitor off a wooden platform so they will fall into a mud pit. Jeff makes it very clear that you must keep both hands in the pillow bag at all times.

We get going, and the Heroes totally rule this challenge. Right away, Tom slams Russell into the mud. (Loved that.) Candice does the same with Parvati. There’s a brief interruption in the Hero dominance when Rupert and Coach are dueling. Coach clearly cheats by taking one hand out of his Sumo pillow while making a suspect move that sends Rupert into the mud.

Coach is so busy screaming victory noises that he initially doesn’t hear Jeff saying that this round has to be a do-over because Coach didn’t follow the rules. When the words finally sink in, Coach amazes me with his next move. He flips off Jeff.

Wow. Did you really think that was a smart thing to do, Coach? Or do they have such things as smart moves on the planet where you live? Wait, do they even HAVE moves on your planet? Or does everyone just stand around in the Whooping Crane position and talk about themselves?

They restart the round, and almost instantly Coach is knocked in the mud by Rupert. Cirie takes out Jeri in just a few seconds as well. JT trumps Tyson. Amanda knocks off Danielle. (I keep forgetting Danielle is even on the show. Has she done anything?) Colby routes Rob. The Heroes have not lost a round yet, it’s actually very exciting no matter who you are rooting for. Finally, James smacks Randy into the mud with just one blow.

The Heroes win Immunity. (And a Reward, but who cares about that right now.)

Forebodingly, as James finishes his round, he takes his Sumo pillow and slams it down on Randy after Randy is clearly down and out. It’s not a pretty thing, and it’s completely not cool. I’m tellin ya, James is about to implode.

So then the Villains march back home, caked with drying mud and bickering. Then most of them jump in the water to clean up and before you know it they are rubbing mud off of each other in what looks like some twisted soft-porn movie involving serial killers. (“The Creep End of the Ocean”?) In a sidebar, Randy rants about the girls flirting with the boys all the time. Especially Parvati. They need to get her out.

Interestingly, Parvati corners Coach and accuses him of trying to just that. While she’s making her claims, Parv manages to caress and/or somehow highlight most of her 2,000 body parts. (Does she not know how to do ANYTHING else?) In HIS sidebar, Coach says that he can’t stand Parvati, but it sure looks like he enjoyed the show and would certainly buy season tickets.

Anyway, it becomes clear that the Villains will be sending either Parvati or Randy home. So now we have the typical pre-Tribal montage of people running up and down the island, lying and back-stabbing and jostling to get the best sound-bites on camera.

Sandra tells Coach: “If I’m not up, I’ll vote whatever.” Then she stomps back into the jungle to drink more water from the Bad-Attitude Spring that she’s been sucking on since she jumped out of the helicopter. Jerri about Parvati: “I just want to punch her in face.” (I’ll hold her still while you do it.) Parvati about Jerri: “She’s a bitter old cougar.” (Honey, you better take notes, then, because you’re going to need them in a few years.)

Then Randy sums up the situation best when he tells Coach that “this is Micronesia 2.0” They can’t let Parvati survive until The Merge because she’ll get together with Amanda, and most likely Cirie (despite what she says, Cirie will ride the Parmanda train for everything she can until the train either derails or pulls into the station). A 3-person alliance after the merge basically means everybody else goes home.

Now we have Coach in a sidebar, where he proclaims that “nobody out here is honorable. Except for me.” (What?) Then he actually quotes Martin Luther King. (Dude, you are SO not MLK. You’re not even Y2K. We don’t believe in dragons any more.) At the end of this bit, Coach swears that he will fight for Randy. Uh huh. We’ll see, Mr. Honorable.


Jeff brings up the impact of “past relationships”, which is a valid point, but Jeff really needs to work on some new material. Sandra dings Parvati a bit, but basically they all agree that former networking is a critical thing in this game. (Then you should send Parvati home. Randy doesn’t have a friend in either camp. He probably doesn’t have a friend in either country.)

In response to Jeff asking about who is leading the tribe, Sandra starts babbling again (she sure was chatty tonight) and only takes a minimal swipe at Coach, it really wasn’t that bad. But Coach goes ballistic and lashes out, showing us exactly how one does NOT remain spiritual and calm like he claims to be. That boy is messed up.

Trying to switch subjects, Sandra suddenly blurts out “We ain’t got a machete! It grew legs and walked off!” (The camera briefly cuts to Russell, grinning in the firelight like the evil leprechaun that he is.) Jeff points out that this group is a mess. Parvati: “We’re just a tribe full of misfits.” I think I would have used a different word, Parv, but I understand that your vocabulary is limited to what you’ve read on the back of cereal boxes.

Time for the vote.

And it’s a landslide for Randy, he’s going home. (The only dissenting vote is his own, and he threw a curve ball with that by voting for Rob.) As he gets up, Randy takes off his buff and throws it into the Tribal Fire. Poor sportsmanship, but hey, I get it. I’m done with this tribe, too. They should have sent Parvati home.

We get a final shot of the buff in the fire. Interestingly enough, it’s not burning, just sitting there in the flames, a little ball of bitter coldness that refuses to go away. Wait, is this really Russell’s buff?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 7

I’m only on the back patio for roughly two seconds before Terry bustles out the door after me. I have been spewing crazy talk about trying to fix the satellite dish so we can watch “Survivor”, and his preservation instincts have kicked in. I am about to mess with something that involves the TV, and he knows better than to let me run around unsupervised.

So he grabs the broom that we keep outside to clean up after our exuberant parties wherein drunken people break things (which is why we try to restrict our friends to the patio area), and then he starts marching toward the back of the house. I scamper along behind him, pleased that he’s decided to join my Facebook cause, but really not sure what his intentions might be.

As we enter the yard proper, I’m stunned to realize that we are actually trudging through snow that is over a foot deep. (This is going to be all over the late evening news. Instincts tell me that Dallas has never seen anything like this.) As we stagger along, Terry barks out for me to grab the ladder we carelessly left leaning against the back of the house the last time we had to get on the roof. I grab the indicated item, and attempt to carry it with me.

This plan of action doesn’t last very long. It’s hard enough just trying to keep MYSELF upright and mobile as we fight our way through the dense snow. Throw in a big-ass ladder, and my efforts are doomed. Within a few steps I am just dragging the damn thing behind me.

But the odd, plunging crunches of our feet navigating the back yard brings on certain memories. Dallas may have never seen this much snow, but Tulsa certainly has, and suddenly I’m back in my formative years in my hometown. We got serious snow back in that day.

As kids, we worshipped snowy weather, and the thrilling potential that school might be closed for the next day or two. (Or entire week, we had a few of those.) Us younguns would huddle around the TV at night, excitedly watching the news that we normally avoided at all costs, hoping that one of the oddly-groomed newscasters would announce the shut-down of our school district. As soon as our town name scrolled across the screen, we would erupt into spasms of glorious pleasure.

Of course, sometimes the school boards and the news media would toy with us, not making the announcement until early the next morning. At those times, we would all be out of bed hours before we normally rose, glued to the TV and the delicious anticipation, promising all gods that we would serve them duly for a chance bit of freedom.

Once the closure was officially sanctioned, we would race around in a mad frenzy, planning all of the exciting things we could do on a day where no one would be asking us to spell words or try to multiply figures. While our drab parents were sliding their way off to mysterious places of employment where rulers did not grant them free days, we had the complete and total run of the neighborhood.

School buses might not be able to roll more than a few feet before becoming lodged in menacing snowdrifts, but any child worth a hoot could manage to traverse miles of packed snow and join up with kindred children looking for adventure. If our parents had only known half of the mischief we got into when school was closed, they would have begged the school board to run the buses anyway. Even if we ended up incubating in a ditch somewhere, at least there was an authority figure involved.

Flash back to the present.

I’ve come to a halt in the frozen tundra of the backyard, with the behemoth ladder stretching out behind me, neglected at the moment as I reminisce. There’s a slight tendril of drool dripping from my chin and then freezing in the arctic air, as I remember the glorious enchantment of Snow Days Gone By.

Terry breaks my reverie. “Could you maybe bring the ladder over HERE, where I’m standing? Because I need it. Over here. Not over there. Where apparently you and the ghost of Barbra Streisand are singing a duet about memories being the corners of your mind."

I shake it off, tromp a few feet forward, hoist the ladder, and then unfold it below the chimney where our satellite dish is located. I rock the ladder back and forth to work the feet into the snow, then motion that Sarcasmo can now climb the steps to Heaven.

Terry clambers onto the ladder, dragging along the broom as he ascends into the still-falling snow. I grip the ladder and try to hold it in place as he climbs past that intriguing demarcation line that says “do not step higher than this or you will die."

Terry, precariously perched on the forbidden upper steps of the ladder, pulls the broom up and begins whacking away at the deep layer of snow encrusted on the dish. Immediately, gallons of icy crystals are pelting me at the base of the ladder. I don’t say a word. Why complain about wetness when you have been wet for the better part of four hours? And not in a good way.

Terry, after a bit: “Did I get it all?"

I bite my tongue. How the hell do you expect ME to know? You’re the one that’s up THERE. I’m the one down here trying to keep us from toppling into what’s left of our expensive, pre-snow landscaping shrubbery that doesn’t understand icy buildup. But I tilt my head back anyway, and get whacked in the face repeatedly by chunks of ice as he continues to dislodge the snow.

Did I really go to college for this?

Eventually, with what’s left of my tattered vision, I can see that the dish is relatively clear. “You’re good,” I pronounce. “I think you got it."

“All of it?"

“Well, there’s still a little bit of snow on the left but-"

“Where? Where is there still snow?"

Why the hell did I even mention the smidge of snow? It can’t be causing any problems, it’s just a tiny little crusty bit. When will I learn to just let things be? So I lie. “You got it. Totally clean."

Terry works his way back down the ladder, leaps off, and then marches back toward the patio. I fold up the ladder and tag along. Halfway to the patio door, I notice a very enticing, unblemished section of packed icy crystals. It would be a perfect place to make a snow angel.

And back I go again, to a simpler age, when your sole focus was creating a temporary, fragile angel that only briefly left its mark before forces you can’t control took that away. When things were innocent, before the baggage of time, and the drudgery.

Terry on the patio: “Are you coming?"

“Yep. Be right there.“ I said a quiet, reluctant goodbye to the pure patch of undisturbed whiteness. Miss you, old friend, Mr. Snow. Whatever happened? When did I lose the joy?

I leaned the folded ladder against the back of the house, where it’s probably going to remain for even more months until we get around to putting it in it’s proper place. This is one of those prices you pay when getting older. You ration, instead of gunning it all out to do everything you can.

Back in the house, there are cries of triumph upon confirmation that we once again have a TV signal. “Survivor” will be starting in just a few minutes, so I race to change clothes and grab my trusty clipboard so that I can take cryptic notes for the eventual blog entry. This is serious business with me, and I must be prepared.

As we peruse the latest episode filled with conniving people doing questionable things, the snow continues to deepen outside.

Hours later, as I’m hunched over my laptop and working on the blog, trying to be creative and entertaining even though it’s late and I’m getting tired, there’s a sudden odd noise from somewhere at the other end of the house. I can’t even begin to envision what might make a sound like that, because I’ve never heard anything quite like it.

The next sound is much more familiar, as Terry opens the patio door and marches out to investigate. Good. He’ll let me know if I should be concerned. I continue typing, unaware that I am living the last relaxing moments I will have in the house for the next several days.

Terry stomps back into the house and down the hallway to the office. “You need to see this."

“Why? What is it?"

“Just come look.” He turns and walks away.

I hastily throw on shoes and a jacket, then catch up with him outside as he’s crunching across the backyard. Then he stops and just points.

A massive, multi-limbed chunk of one of the neighbor’s trees has fallen on the power and utility lines between the alley pole and our house. The force of the impact has caused the wires to rip sizable pieces of trim off the back of the house, which in turn caused the demarcation boxes for the phone and the broadband cable to break lose. They are now dangling in the wind, barely attached.

More importantly, and more disturbingly, the power line itself has taken a severe hit. That metal pipe where the power goes down into your roof? It’s no longer standing straight up. It’s been slammed on its side and is extending off the back of the house, the mangled base of the pipe somehow still clinging to the roof. This is SO not good.

Terry plays a flashlight over the fallen section of tree. This thing is huge. But even with all that weight, the power lines are not actually touching the ground yet. Instead, they are creaking in the snowy night with what must be an incredible amount of pressure.

How the hell do we even HAVE power? We should be in the dark.

I glance at the pristine section of snow where, a few hours ago, I had reflected on memories of distant childhood activities, the fun you could have in the white. So it’s come to this, has it, Mr. Snow? I gave you all those angels, and now you are trying to destroy my house.

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 6

While Medusa wails away in the background about thievery and sandwich components, the two women with their shopping carts suddenly close ranks again, blocking my escape from the aisle. They glare at me as if I’ve just slapped a nun on her birthday and then laughed about it.

I hold up my jar of mayo. I point to the duplicate jar in the hands of the bitter crone back yonder. See? Same thing. And P.S.? She’s crazy. I suggest you not breathe near her or she will accuse you of stealing her oxygen. Now, can you lower the castle bridge?

They both eye me a bit longer, pondering the potential implications here. On the one hand, it’s very possible that I am indeed a psychotic killer with dark intentions in mind. We see this on the news all the time, where one day you have a kindly neighbor who always waves, then the next day the same man has burned down an office building and done inappropriate things with livestock.

On the flip side, my accuser has somehow lost interest in potentially wrecking my life and is now having a conversation with a bottle of pickled okra. She has apparently determined that the okra’s name is Bill, and she is questioning Bill about whether or not he has fed the cats. Bill must have had a very long explanation about why he did or did not attend to the felines, because she has her head titled toward the okra in rapt attention.

The eyes of the two women clutching the shopping carts go from Crazy, back to me, and then flip back over to Crazy, basically believing me, but a little piece of them does not want to leave a sister in distress, if that’s really the case. When Crazy suddenly bursts into laughter at something the okra just said, they really don’t need to ponder any more.

They both give me a sheepish look, and quietly roll their cars apart. I thank them and shoot through the gap. Meanwhile, Crazy thinks she recognizes a bottle of tartar sauce.

On to the onions, the next item on my short list.

Now, some people have ridiculed me for the fact that I buy my onions already chopped. They think such a purchase is ludicrous, that I’m overpaying for my onions because I’m lazy. This is simply not the case. Chopping onions is a thankless task. When you do it yourself, it takes forever, you end up wasting half the onion, and you are temporarily blind for at least thirty minutes.

Besides, at Kroger, it only costs two bucks for this nice plastic container with enough chopped onion to last several meals. Why would you NOT go for this public option? It’s a little treasure from the produce aisle, a gift that brightens my day.

Except when Kroger is out of the chopped onions. This is a devastating discovery that ruins my day and changes my life. It’s emotionally overwhelming.

So when I breathlessly raced up to the “specialty section” where they normally store the little cups of onion jewels, and I was confronted with an empty shelf, I had a slight anxiety attack. How could they be out of chopped onions, after everything I had been through to get here?

In a panic, I scoured the immediate area for a store employee. A short distance away, I found one of them, an apparent 12-year-old with a Kroger smock, half-heartedly attempting to spray down some vegetables with one of those water hoses. He seemed to be startled that anyone would even want to talk to him, so the conversation was rough-going from the start.

Me: “Do you know if they have any more chopped onions in the back?"

Spritz Boy: “Chopped onions?"

Me: “Yes."

Spritz: “In the back?"

Me: “Yes.”
He processed this request for a bit, then his eyes wandered to the bins of whole white onions, and he pointed. “Ain’t them onions over there?"

Me: “They’re not chopped."

Spritz: “Can’t you chop em?"

I took a deep breath. Try to be nice. “I’m not sure I’ve seen you before. Did you just start working here?"

He brightened. “Yes, sir. I started this week. This is my first job. I keep things wet."

“I see. That’s very interesting. Now, could you do me a favor? Would you mind going in the back and finding somebody, maybe your boss, and see if they have any more chopped onion? In these little plastic containers?"

He nodded his head. “Yes, sir. I can check.” Then he just stood there.

“Could you maybe go do that… now?"

“Oh. Okay. Be right back.” Then he wandered off and banged through a set of silver swinging doors. Two seconds later there was a crash that caused something to roll up against something else metallic. I don’t know if these two events were related, but Spritz Boy’s mission may have been a bit overwhelming.

I’d probably never see him again. His boss might never see him again. They’d have to find somebody else to keep things wet.

But I really wanted chopped onions, and was willing to wait a bit. So I stood there outside the doors, clutching my hand basket with the one lonely item rolling around inside. There was more commotion from the storage area, but it didn’t sound like it had anything to do with chopped onions and nobody was coming out to present me with any.

Out of boredom, I started to peruse the refrigerated display case to the right of me. Lo and behold, wedged in between some plastic bowls of cubed honeydew melon and an array of shitake mushrooms were three containers of the chopped onions. They totally didn’t belong there, with the shelf label indicating that I should instead be viewing habanero peppers. For once, I was grateful for the incompetence of unenthusiastic employees who would shove anything anywhere without concern for the needs of customers. I grabbed one of the containers and ran.

Now I just needed eggs. After the trauma I had experienced in obtaining the first two items on my list, I fully expected chaos and mayhem on the third leg of my journey. Perhaps there would be an unexpected and mysterious explosion just as I was reaching for a carton of Jumbo-sized eggs. Maybe sacrificial terrorists would drop from the ceiling in front of the dairy section, demanding a political change in their tiny, unknown third-world country. I was prepared for anything.

Surprisingly, I was able to simply open the refrigerator door, grab the first package of eggs sitting on top of a towering stack, flip the top open to confirm that all twelve huevos were in pristine condition, and then place my selection in the basket. Nobody died or threatened legal action that would prevent me from living a quiet, uneventful life.

The ease with which I was able to obtain my final item slightly unnerved me. That was too uncomplicated. Surely I had overlooked some travesty of personal shame or humiliation that was about to stop me in my tracks. Was there another shoe about to drop?

Well, yes, there was. I grabbed another couple of basic food staples (After all, we were in the middle of a snowstorm that was completely unknown in these parts. We could be trapped in our homes for days.) and then headed to the front of the store. Rounding the corner to the row of checkout lanes, my jaw dropped open.

There had to be at least a hundred people in the various lines, most of them sweating and huffing as they shoved along shopping carts filled to the brim with enough food to feed Baltimore for a week. This process was going to take forever. My survival instincts kicked in, and I immediately shut off most of my sensory receptors. I went into auto-pilot mode and quietly queued up with the shortest line I could find.

Hours later, I regained consciousness as I was swiping my credit card and the frazzled cashier barely had the strength to hand me my receipt. We made eye contact and shared a brief moment of lifelong misery, and then she was distracted by the customer behind me who was already screaming about her coupons even though not a single item had been scanned.

I shuffled to the exit, where my yearned-for escape from this retail hell was rudely halted. There was a small crowd at the front of the store, unable to move forward because some insane woman in the entry vestibule was demanding an audience with the store manager. This obnoxious human being was offended that it was snowy and wet outside and yet no store employee was offering to carry her purchases to her car.

Seriously, that was her beef. This is Duncanville, sweetie, not Park Avenue. How did you ever even get it into your HEAD that there would be some type of concierge service at this grocery store? What is wrong with you?

Luckily, because I was only carrying two comparatively miniscule plastic bags instead of shoving along behemoth metal shopping carts, I was able to weave through the stalled traffic and work my way to the final exit door. (There was a brief tense moment when I was nearly decapitated by the insane woman making this odd, windmill, arm-flailing gesture of dismay, but some wise instinct prompted me to duck and run to the right.)

I clattered out the door, finally able to breathe air that did not reek of staleness, human sweat, desperation and dirty diapers. I took a second to compose myself, then hurled myself forward across the parking lot.

The temperature had dropped a bit. The gritty soup covering the pavement was now gritty jello. I was still stomping through icy nastiness, and the going was a little bit harder, but it was fair to say that I hadn’t had any sensation in my feet for the last hour anyway, so it really didn’t matter.

I waded to my car, threw the grocery sacks into the back seat, hoisted myself up into the SUV, slammed the door, turned on the engine, and then simply waited for minimal amounts of feeble warmth to wisp out of the vents. I made a mental note that the next time this happened, with life-altering snow falling from the sky, that I would stay at home for as long as possible, gnawing on tree limbs for nourishment if that’s what it came to.

Eventually, I put the car in gear, make my way out of the parking lot full of the lowest life forms on the planet, and thirty minutes later (instead of what should have been five minutes later) I pull into the driveway of our home. I stumble into the house, shove the door closed, and drop to my knees, kissing the shiny wooden flooring that we had insisted on installing a few years ago. Scotch the cat looks at me with bewilderment. Daddy’s being stupid, and he doesn’t know why. There might be an impact on the treat reward system this evening, and he’s concerned.

I stagger to my feet and glance out at the impromptu patio-table snow measuring device. There’s at least ten inches of snow on the table, and it’s still coming down. Dallas has never seen anything like this. Armageddon is here. Where are the children?

Terry arrives home shortly after that, his face in a rictus of horror after driving all the way from his office in north Dallas. At first, he is only able to speak in a series of grunts and monosyllabic utterances. It was bad, that’s all I know.

Shortly, though, he thaws enough to make a statement that strikes fear in my heart. “We’ve probably lost the satellite signal for the TV."

Me: “What are you talking about?” (Said calmly, but anxiety is bubbling.)

Terry: “The snow. The satellite dish is caked with it. The signal is not going to get through."

I make an involuntary yelp. “But ‘Survivor’ is on tonight. It’s the premiere. I’ve got to blog about that."

Terry, who is not as invested in this whole blogging thing, does not share my trepidation. “Well, let’s just check the TV."

He marches over to the 47 remotes that we own, and begins the intricate launch procedure that is required to fully ignite all electronic devices in the house that have some stake in our television-watching experience. This process has mystified me for some time. Terry’s the local network guru, I’m just along for the ride.

He performs his magic, and the wide-screen TV blossoms to life. Well, “blossoms” is a stretch. What we basically have is a giant blue screen with the words “Searching for Signal.” We have lost contact with the world.

I whimper, then whine. “I need to watch Survivor tonight."

Terry: “We can watch it tomorrow, on the CBS website."

Oh no, no we can’t. “People are expecting me to blog about this within hours!” (Okay, one person is expecting me to blog about this.) “I can’t disappoint my fans.” (Okay, I can’t disappoint my one fan who might check the blog if her satellite TV is also out.)

I have got to do something about this satellite thing. I turn and race down the hallway to our bedroom, where I frantically change back into the soaked jeans I had been wearing during the Kroger FUBAR. This time I actually put on some footwear that is more appropriate for trudging through tons of wet snow.

I thunder back through the house, throw open the sliding glass door, and scamper out into the night. I don’t quite close the door all the way, so there’s a thin slice of outdoor air seeping into the room. Scotch the cat seizes this opportunity and runs up to the door, breathing deeply of the forbidden outside air that smells of a place that he is not allowed to visit. Then Scotch looks up at his other daddy, with a questioning look on his furry face.

Terry: “Dude, he is just so many kinds of wrong right now."

Scotch nods wisely, then turns back to look out the sliding glass doors and wait for my return...

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 5

Surprisingly, the convenience store owner does not wave his hand in a secret signal indicating that his underlings should take my life. Instead, he yells out to the budding photographer: “Get those damn kids out of the way!"

Well, then. I think I like him. I might stop here more often. But probably not.

So Momma motions for the kiddies to get in the car. Rather than glare at me, as I’m fully anticipating, she throws an evil eye at the store proprietor, probably vowing that her relationship with this establishment is over. But she’ll be back. She has “creature of habit” written all over her Jordache jeans and Earth shoes.

The rest of the milling crowd returns to their previous criminal distractions. Nothing interesting to see here, no blood, no gunfire, no torn weave trampled in the snow. Once my path is clear, I slowly roll forward, softly crunching the short-timer Frosty (hurray!), then pull out onto the main road.

I need to get to the grocery store. Them eggs be a waitin'.

I spend the next thirty minutes navigating the treacherous hazards of what is normally a five-minute drive. Once again, the middle of the three lanes going in my direction is relatively clear. If you just stay in this lane, you shouldn’t have any issues. And most people are doing this. Teamwork is a fine thing.

But of course we have the clueless renegades that don’t truly grasp the situation, ignoring the noble examples of their fellow human beings. They are trying to drive in the outer lanes, which means they are generating an unending geyser of regurgitated snow which flies into the air and the splats on the cars behind them, compromising visual abilities.

So the smart people have to plod along at five miles an hour, waiting for the stupid people in front of them to either have an unfamiliar bolt of enlightenment hit them or to smack against a curb and bust an axle. Usually it’s the latter. Once one of the stupid cars puts themselves out of commission, the smart people floor their accelerators, en masse, and we race along until we encounter the next non-thinned member of the herd. Rinse and repeat.

Eventually, after I have worn my throat raw from rounds of creative cussing that no one else but me can hear, I finally make it to the Kroger Signature on Camp Wisdom Road. As soon as I pull into the parking lot, I realize that something is fundamentally wrong with the local environs. The snow here looks odd.

Then I realize that the asphalt is covered in a very advanced state of slush. It’s still mostly frozen, but we have quite a bit of water, resulting in a gritty soup that everyone is plowing through whilst searching for a primo place to park. But why isn’t the liquid part just gurgling down a drain somewhere? Either the laws of gravity don‘t apply to this magical slice of real estate, or somebody did a lame-ass job with the plumbing infrastructure.

I slosh the car into a parking slot and then kill the engine. Immediately, I can hear other store patrons running around and screaming shrilly about it being cold and wet. Babies. What else would you expect when it’s snowing?

I pop the door open and hop out of the car. My feet plunge at least six inches into the frigid soup. For whatever asinine reason, I have chosen to wear Converse low-toppers on this little adventure. As you may be aware, these cheap sneakers are currently the rage in some footwear fashion circles, experiencing a resurgence in popularity after a few decades on the down-low. They are poorly made items, offering little protection from the elements and providing no arch support whatsoever, resulting in flat feet and eventual spinal mis-alignments.

The freezing water permeates the lower part of my body. My socks are immediately drenched and both pant legs of my jeans suck up a few gallons of water. I have just inadvertently experienced one of those twisted Swedish spa therapies where people jump into ice water after drinking vodka.

Holy cow. I can barely breathe it’s so cold.

I suck it up and slam the car door. Hell, I’m already soaking wet, this can’t get any worse. I trudge toward the entrance to the store, fighting upstream like salmon in an Alaskan river. But I don’t want to spawn with anybody. I’m fairly certain of that.

I stumble through the automatic doors into the little vestibule area where they have tiny little stacks of firewood for outrageous prices, as well as those hateful gumball machines that incite riots among the Barney set. We also have those little yellow signs saying “Wet Floor!” in both English and Spanish. Ya think? If you don’t have the common sense to realize that this floor might be wet then you deserve to fall and bust your ass.

I get into the store proper and start to head toward the line of moist shopping carts that some poor soul has had to retrieve from the soupy parking lot. Suddenly, this rude little child emerges from the shopping cart corral, steering a cart even though his irritating little hands can barely reach the steering bar. He shrieks out some type of vicious war cry and then shoves the cart forward with all his strength, cackling madly.

The cart shoots across the entryway and slams into a Valentines display. Boxes of chocolates fly into the air, bags of candy rupture, and there’s the pitter-patter of hundreds of those tiny, slogan-etched sugar hearts plinking to the ground for miles around.

And his Momma? She’s talking on her cell phone, of course. She doesn’t miss a beat in her conversation, simply walking over to grab his tiny, evil hand and leading him off to another part of the store that he can destroy. No apologies, no attempt to clean up the mess. I’m guessing that this bundle of joy is enrolled at St. Monica’s Catholic School for Wayward Sinners. Our Lady of the Pointless Offspring.

I ditch the idea about obtaining a shopping cart, and grab one of those hand baskets instead. I have got to get in and get out of this hellhole as soon as possible, and try to avoid becoming collateral damage and/or an accomplice in the violent beating of a stupid parent. This is going to be a rough mission.

I head to the right, where I know they have the condiments aisle. My only quest in this section of the store is a jar of mayo, that’s all I need. I march that direction, my shoes squelching and leaving little puddles of dirty water. On better days, I might have been concerned about the watermarks, possibly even ashamed. Not today. If some low-paid employee with a mop wants to get in my face about this, I will cut them down.

I turn the corner and discover that the Valentine effort in this store was not limited to the now-wrecked table of advertised goodies in the entryway. Me and my drenched shoes are trudging through the “Floral Market”, which normally features gaudy groupings of tired tulips, but due to the Celebrated Day of Love they have hundreds of helium-filled Valentine balloons lodged against the ceiling. All of these airbags have long crinkly-ribbon tails that stretch nearly to the floor.

So now I’m fighting my way through a forest of pink and red seaweed, with each clingy tendril insisting on sticking to my clothing in some way. (Why do the store people do this? Do you really think that I’m actually going to BUY one of these things after it’s attacked me?)

I break through to the condiment aisle, with floating images of teddy bears and unicorns still attached to my body via some satanic Velcro that I don’t understand. I rip that crap off of me and approach the mayo display.

Where I find one of those maddening examples of “People Who Should Not Be Allowed To Shop Without Proper Supervision.” She’s blocking my access with her confused body and her illegally parked shopping cart, studying the various options with religious intensity. I guess she’s waiting for God to illuminate the proper jar. But it looks like she hasn’t paid her phone bill, because the message isn’t coming through.

So I give her a little bit of time, my fingers flexing as I contemplate clawing my face. But I can’t take it, I just want to get out of here. I reach around her and grab a container of Hellmann’s mayo. (This is the ONLY worthwhile mayo on the market. Do not buy anything else or I will look at you with pity.)

Confused Woman gasps, and then utters “That’s MY jar. Why are you stealing it?"

What? Is she serious with this? Screw it, I don’t have time for arguments or impromptu therapy. I shove the jar at her, which she grasps with odd-feeling fingers that make me shudder and envision serial killers that fixate on bottles of lotion placed in a basket. I grab another jar and race down the aisle.

Only to find the aisle blocked by two shopping carts facing in opposite directions, with the cart drivers both chattering on their cell phones as they peruse the offerings on the shelves without actually selecting anything. One of them is upset with somebody for not knowing exactly what they want for dinner. The other one is relaying details of some sordid event that transpired last night at a questionable venue known as “Champs”.

I clear my throat to get their attention. Can you let me through? They both glance at me, briefly, and then continue with the babbling without moving their carts an inch in any direction. One of them even gives me an “Oh no you didn’t” look before continuing to share the saga of her slutty girlfriend that had one too many shots during happy hour.

I could seriously cut somebody right now. This is just not worth it.

My own phone rings. It’s Terry.

I flip the phone open and proceed to launch. “I’m at the store right now and it took me two hours to get here and these people are crazy and my feet are soaking wet and I don’t understand the heathen children or why people destroy things or why they can’t get out of the way and all I remember from the shopping list is the mayo even though I know we need more but my mind is frozen and I’m losing my grip on reality and… and… ARRRRGGGHHH!"

I have been reduced to primal grunts and screaming. Very proud.

Terry: “Wait… what?"

Me: “ARRRRGGGHHH! People need to DIE!!"

Terry: “Okay, breathe. You’ve got the mayo. Just get the onions and the eggs, and get the hell out. I’ve got to go to a meeting. Breathe.” Click.

I snap my phone closed. He’s right. I am better than this. I cannot let the stupid people drag me down. I take the recommended deep breath and then send laser beams of hatred at the chattering duo in front of me. Something registers, and they both end their respective conversations with surprising speed. One of them even offers me an apologetic smile as the carts break apart, clearing my access to the rest of the store.

Too late, sister. Rambo has arrived, even though he’s sporting cheap, squishy shoes that don’t have any traction and there‘s a Care Bear floating behind him. I am done with my natural tendency toward niceness and pleasantry. I’m completely over ALL of this. I just want to get back to my house where I don’t have to interact with people. Lock all the doors and secure my Fortress of Solitude.

From behind me, a cracked and crazed voice rings out.

“That man took my mayonnaise!"

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 4

So I’m just on the verge of flipping the bird back at this obnoxious pack of pre-teens, when I decide that perhaps I should refrain. After all, I have horrible luck. The very second my business finger starts to extend, there will be a “whoop-whoop” from a passing patrol car and within five minutes I will be in jail, charged with digital criminal mischief or some such.

I keep my hands on the wheel, even though I’m not the tiniest bit happy about taking the high road and pretending like I can’t see the Nickelodeon version of Sodom and Gomorrah playing out in the back of the bus. I’m just stunned that mere third-graders already know offensive moves that my generation didn’t learn until high school.

Suddenly, the gyration party comes to a halt. All of their little heads whip around toward the front of the bus, and two seconds later they all race to their seats, exuding auras of innocent grace and non-responsibility for anything untoward that may have taken place. Apparently the bus driver had some choice words to share with the hyperactive heathens, and they have been chastised accordingly.

Two minutes later, the signal lights activate and the school bus turns into the parking lot of St. Monica’s, the largest local Catholic church, which also includes a private school. Great. Not only are these children out of control, but they apparently learned their interpretive dance skills whilst attending a supposedly morally-rigid educational environment. I guess the nuns aren’t quite as restrictive as they were in my day.

Right after that, I pull up to the next major intersection, where all I want to do is just turn right, but instead I get a clear example of why some third-graders no longer act like third-graders should. It’s because they have been raised by idiotic parents that have lost their minds, evidenced by the next abomination that this day presents to me.

I’m just sitting there, waiting for the light to change so the obnoxious jerk in front of me, playing rap music so loud that I’m surprised his wheels don’t fall off, can pull through and allow me to turn. Then I hear sirens and realize that an emergency vehicle of some kind is approaching our intersection.

Turns out, it’s a fire truck, barreling along from the opposite direction. Since the cross-traffic is still whizzing through the intersection, the truck understandably slows a bit and the driver pounds on his horn. As a decent human being, I think that we’ve all been given enough environmental clues that everybody should stop and let this fire truck go through so that the brave and noble fire-fighters can go save somebody’s ass.

But no. The cross-traffic keeps flying across the intersection, not slowing down at all.

People! What is wrong with you? What has happened to humanity that we have come to this, where some degenerates are so focused on their own personal needs that they blithely ignore civil servants who are quite possibly trying to keep somebody from dying?

And yes, ladies and gentlemen, the fire truck had to wait until the light for the cross-traffic turned red. And even then, there were morons running the red light, despite the sirens and the honking.

Words fail me. Something has gone fundamentally wrong with society.

Anyway, after the decibel-shattering car in front of me low-riders his way across the intersection, I finally get to turn right. Once I’m around the corner, I plow through the icy slush a bit more exuberantly than I should be plowing. After all, my vehicle is operating on the scantest of fumes, and I need to find a gas station post haste.

Almost a mile later, just after I pass the exit from my neighborhood that is on the opposite side of the Death Valley mess from the previous posts, I pull into the very skanky parking lot of this nasty convenience store. Even though this hell-fest is the closest convenience store to my house, I never stop here unless I have no other choice in the world. It’s just not a good place to transact business of any kind. You could die.

But I need gas, desperately, so we have to put aside any trepidation. You gots to do what you gots to do.

I pull up to an available pump, and exit the vehicle. Immediately, my senses are assaulted by the overwhelming smell of rubber. This is due, for the most part, to the fact that immediately adjacent to the convenience store is a very questionable retail establishment where they sell tires, wheels, and blinged-out accessories for your vehicle. Basically, it’s “Pimp My Ride” for people without money, pimps, or any chance of actually owning their car in the foreseeable future.

I’m somewhat used to the surrealistic carnival atmosphere of the two buildings sharing the same parking lot. (After all, it IS the closest convenience store, so I’ve sucked it up a few times in order to snag a gallon of milk when I was in a pinch.) It’s all good.

So I’m not surprised when I hear two women get into a catfight over which rims look better on the modified piece of crap that their shared boyfriend, apparently named Pedro, is having tricked out. It doesn’t phase me when there’s a guttural exclamation of surprise, followed by a reckless tire bouncing out of the auto shop and rolling across the asphalt before it strikes a parked car, setting off a shrill alarm.

What does bug me are the gas pumps. I should be used to them by now, and should have learned my lesson, but it still sends me over the edge.

For one, the convenience store owner (or somebody) has altered the pumps. Instead of a range of fuel grades like you would typically find, they have made all the button choices the same, documenting the changes with crappy handwriting in black magic marker. All the buttons give you the same thing: low-grade fuel. Nothing fancy here. (Then again, you should have expected that with the sign in the store window advertising “Fried Shrimp in the Deli!”. There is no such thing as a deli in a convenience store. It‘s just not what God intended.)

Second, although they do actually have a “pay at the pump” option, it’s a very antiquated payment method. This place still has a dial-up internet connection. So you swipe your card, and then wait an eternity for credit recognition. Entire countries can be overthrown in a military coup before you get a response. (For that matter, both of Pedro’s girlfriends have plenty of time to get pregnant before you are approved.)

Finally, the damn pump pings chirpily to indicate that I can proceed. Knowing full well what kind of quality I’m dealing with here, I only get a couple of gallons before I slap the thing off like I’ve just seen a cockroach. Who knows what vile fluid I have just injected into my innocent RAV4. I then hit “YES” when the pump asks if I want a souvenir record of our transaction, because I’m anal about such things.

“Please see attendant for receipt!"

Wrong. I’m not seeing anybody. Even if I had the remotest desire to actually enter the health-violating inner sanctum of the this ethics-challenged portal of Hell, I don’t have time for this. I’ve got things to do.

So I hop back in the car, fire the thing up, and pull away from the pump in what I assumed would be the end of my dealings with the fine citizenry surrounding me. This assumption is proven incorrect in roughly three seconds. At that point, the front door of the convenience door slams open and two male youngsters race into the parking lot, not bothering to slow down and certainly not bothering to check for oncoming traffic.

Then they both skid to a questionable halt in the mushy snow, directly in front of me. They both reach down and scoop up some of the dirty, exhaust-flavored ice crystals and begin to form a ball.

You’re kidding me. Am I about to be attacked for the second time today by uncontrolled urchins with a penchant for violence? Why is there so much hatred in the world?

But no, a different madness is afoot. They drop the hard-packed balls back into the snow and begin rolling said objects around in the clingy wetness, increasing the girth and heft. It’s possible that they are just maximizing the damage potential of their weaponry, but it quickly dawns on me what the truly intend to accomplish.

They are building a snowman. Right here. In the middle of a convenience store parking lot. In front of a running car that is waiting for them to get the hell out of the way. Driven by an astonished neurotic who could not be less impressed with the latest development in his simple quest to purchase poultry products.

I can’t get around them. There’s not enough room, what with the gas pumps on the left and a line of parked clunker cars on the right. I could possibly back up, but I don’t have the greatest skill when it comes to doing vehicular things in reverse. Besides, the pavement behind me is dotted with customers from the sordid chop shop, all of them standing around and arguing over which heavy-metal decal would look the best on the back window of Pedro’s ride.

So I’ve got to go forward, and these kids need to get out of the way. Where are their parents? Surely there’s at least a guardian figure of some kind with minimal responsibility for the welfare of the budding minions of Satan. I glare at the convenience store door, focusing my mental powers on creating the sudden appearance of an adult who can yell at the bad little boys and make them go away.

Lo and behold, here comes a woman who does seem to have some influence with the degenerates. She’s talking on her phone, and initially doesn’t seem to be paying any attention. However, both boys call out to her, requesting admiration for their handiwork. She pauses in mid-sentence, assesses the situation, then breaks into a broad grin.

“Isn’t that CUTE!” she pronounces.

(No, it’s not.)

“Gloria,” she says to the person on the phone, a woman I thoroughly despise due to whatever association she might have with these people. “We’re building a snowman! I’m going to send you a picture. Hang up and I’ll call you back."

(NO! We don’t need photography right now. We need you to drag your offspring out of my way so I can finally roll forward and crush that damn half-built snowman.)

Momma then takes her phone and starts snapping away while the boys mug it up, cavorting about and pointing at their creation. It’s all I can do to suppress an anguished wail of misery and doom. This is the clueless society that I live in?

Fine. I’ll just have to honk my horn, an action that I had avoided up to this point because I didn’t want to be like the crazy people who had honked at ME earlier over a situation that I couldn’t control. (And there’s the related fact that my car was currently idling in what was clearly gang territory, with the thugs at the auto shop behind me and the guys on the sidewalk to my right who were most likely selling crack along with the stack of bootlegged DVD’s on the table between them.)

I gently tap the horn, and a tentative squawk issues forth from under the hood.

Momma stops taking pictures and finally notices me five feet away. She is no longer smiling, instead giving me a look filled with venom instead of the anticipated apology. All of the people at the gas pumps, waiting for their credit cards to be approved, turn as one to regard the situation. The suspicious DVD hawkers stand up to get a better view. In the shop behind me, what had been the incessant sound of power tools adjusting lug nuts suddenly stops, with the customers all racing out to see who had just done something to upset the delicate balance of power in the hood. I’m completely surrounded, and nobody looks like they are about to offer cookies and milk.

I’m about to be killed, ripped to shreds by an angry mob driven to violence because I dared to honk at angelic toddlers who are just trying to enjoy the snowfall. As if to give his blessing to the impending carnage, the owner of the convenience store steps outside to survey the melee. He has a look of anticipation on his face.

Wait a minute. Is THIS how he gets the fried shrimp for his deli?

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Searching For Signal: #106 - “Survivor” - Heroes vs. Villains - Episode 2

We start out at the Villains Camp. It’s night time, so they’ve got that creepy camera going where people look like aliens. Buckets of rain are pouring down, so everyone is huddled under their crappy shelter, whining because their lame hut isn’t keeping out the rain.

Folks, it’s almost Day Four, and your shelter still looks like something that pre-schoolers would make out of popsicle sticks and macaroni. Yet every one of you has played this game before. Why are you surprised that you need to have a decent place to live? Did you not get the brochure?

Then we focus on Boston Rob. He’s basically OVER all of these people right now, and the expression on his face indicates that he could go postal at any minute. In a sidebar, he vents about always being on lazy, loser tribes. Then he stomps off and wanders up and down the beach in the midnight rain. I’m half expecting Oceanic Flight 815 to crash land while he’s doing this.

Opening credits roll.

We’re still at the Villains camp, and it’s the next morning. We have a sunrise scene with Jerri and Coach flirting with each other, which causes me to lose interest in the pizza slice I had been greatly enjoying up to that point. Then we have a sidebar with Randy, who’s also not happy about the state of the shelter. (Then why don’t you do something about it, Randy and Rob? Just sayin.)

Eventually, everybody drags their lazy asses out of the shelter, and decide that they need to do something about their quarters. So we have several scenes that clearly demonstrate that no one knows what that “something” should be. When Parvati makes a suggestion about one of the design elements, Russell snaps at her and tells her to shut up. (Just what kind of sand is in HIS underwear?)

Then we zip over to the Heroes Camp, where everyone is still working together in harmony, accomplishing great things and dancing with butterflies. Their shelter looks like the Taj Mahal in comparison to the villains. They’re so productive, it wouldn’t surprise me if they built a factory and started manufacturing modular housing made out of hemp.

Then we have a sidebar with Rupert, where he makes it known that he wants to get rid of Stephenie. Really? What’s up with that? Rupert proceeds to march into camp and starts criticizing everything that Stephenie does or says. This is SO not like Rupert’s mode of operation in past seasons. Is his broken toe starting to get on his nerves? (And that beard of Rupert’s. I’m half expecting Ozzy to pop out of it, waving one of the Immunity Idols he never played.)

So then we have a sidebar with Stephenie, where she’s understandably a little mystified with the Rupert situation. She wants to challenge him, but is afraid that it will make her a target. (Good point to an extent, but darlin, you’re already a target for whatever reason. You need to do some damage control, stat.)

Back over to the Villains Camp, where they’re still working on the shelter, or at least still standing around and trying to decide HOW to work on the shelter. They really aren’t getting anything done, fiddling around with twigs and moss and coconuts. Rob gets fed up with all this pointless nothingness and stomps off, telling Sandra that he’s done.

Rob in a sidebar: “I wanted to be the diplomat this time instead of the dictator.” Okay, that’s very noble of you. But you’re in a tribe filled with people who have back-stabbed so many times that they have carpal tunnel. These people don’t know diplomacy from a pothole.

Rob wanders off into the jungle, with Jerri tagging along somewhat behind him. She’s carrying a machete for no explained reason. (Is she about to have her own form of tribal council, where she just kills people instead of voting them out? That would be an interesting but questionable change from the normal routine of people hauling around torches and sitting at a campfire.)

Suddenly, Rob drops to the ground, out cold. Jerri rushes up to him, still waving that damn machete around while she’s trying to wake him up. (Girl, get rid of the weapon. How do you think he’s going to feel if he comes to and you’re on top of him with a knife?)

Rob regains consciousness long enough to gasp “Get help.”

Jerri scampers off, running to find Medical.

And I’m thinking, there is a CAMERA PERSON filming all of this. Are you telling me that this cinematographer doesn’t have a walkie-talkie that he can grab and speed up this process a little bit? (“Yo, Jeff. I think one of your cast members just died. Can you help us out?”) But no, Jerri and her hair are leaping over fallen trees and avoiding Tarzan as he swings through the trees on his way to a lunch date with Jane.

So Medical finally arrives, babbling away in that odd Australian accent that has always baffled me. Their verdict is that he’s just fine, maybe a touch of the flu. (Flu? Do they HAVE flu on tropical islands? Who hired these people?)

Jeff wanders in, looking all crisp because he probably just stepped off a helicopter from Monte Carlo. He has a dialogue with Rob, wherein Rob fesses up that he thinks his debilitating condition is the result of not being evil. “I’ve got to stop being the good guy, it’s making me sick.”

There’s a new one. Exactly how do you write THAT up on your insurance claims? “I’m in bad health because I haven’t hurt anybody today.”

Rob gets a second wind, and wanders back into camp. All the Villains rush up to greet and hug him, in a display of total bogus crap. You know that every one of them is thinking “Damn, there’s still going to be Tribal this week.”

Time for the only Challenge on this episode, which is a combo Reward and Immunity. (The Reward is a tarp, rope and nails, which the Villains desperately need to enhance their pathetic, basically non-existent shelter. The Immunity part, of course, means that you don’t have to tromp up the stairs to the Ewok Village.)

In this competition, they have to run across the sand, two at a time from each tribe, and then roll these giant puzzle crates back to the staging area where everybody then stacks the heavy crates up to spell out their tribe name.

When Jeff announces that JT (as well as two people of the Villains tribe) has played this particular game before, the Heroes immediately agree that JT should call the shots during the puzzle part. This proves to be a critical plot point as the episode progresses.

At first, the Heroes are doing really well. They get all of their crates back first and start working on the puzzle aspect, long before the Villains reach that point. (As the Villains are desperately trying to catch up, one of the huge cubes whacks Parvati in the head during her run. To her credit, she shakes it off and keeps going. I have to give up a little bit of respect for that, even though I basically don’t care for her at all. Other people would have flopped on the sand and waited for Medical to show up and start speaking Australian.)

Sadly, the Heroes completely fall apart during the puzzle phase. (Déjà vu from last week, yes?) No one is listening to JT and there’s lots of arguing. (And to be honest, JT had such a confused look on his face, not even trying to work it out, that I don’t think it mattered WHO they were listening to.) They fail miserably.

And the Villains win Immunity, mainly because Rob took over, whipped those people into line, and showed incredible physical strength, at one point supporting one of the huge cubes all by himself. (Guess he got over that flu pretty quick, huh? Must have been a two-hour bug.)

As the Villains celebrate, James goes off on the other Heroes, screaming about “ONE VOICE!” and whatnot. Then he decides to focus specifically on Stephenie, and tries to rip her up verbally. Seriously, they were all screwing up, so I don’t know why he singled her out. (And folks, you don’t DO this in front of the other tribe, you do it later, just like when Mom would wait until you got home before she beat your ass for acting up in Church.)

Then we have James in a sidebar, where he spells out why he doesn’t care for Stephenie. She’s the only person in Survivor history whose tribe dwindled down to just one person before the merge, meaning that her tribe kept losing and she was somehow at fault. Okay, James, here’s the deal: Stephenie SURVIVED to the end of her tribe. Girl was doing something right. Your logic doesn’t compute.

But James does NOT let it go.

We head back to the Heroes camp.

Initially, we have JT in a sidebar, where he fusses about people not listening to him during the challenge. (Dude, I didn’t hear you trying all that hard to take control, just sayin.) Then everybody’s piled in the shelter, and James goes off again. His comments are somewhat fair, with the business about nobody listening to JT, but he goes too far. And then he says that he’s “not used to losing”.

Hmm. James did not win Survivor with his first two seasons. Doesn’t that count as losing? Did I not get a memo?

Cut over to the Villains Camp, where everybody (save one) is loving on Rob and the way he pulled the team together, allowing them to come from behind. Who refuses to join the party? Russell, of course, because the spotlight is not on him. In his desperate, needy bid for attention, he runs off and kills a chicken that is wandering by. Look, Napoleon and your short-man syndrome, you used a spear to kill a tiny animal while it was pecking at something on the ground. Not impressed. Neither is the chicken.

Back to the Heroes camp, where James is running around telling everybody that Stephenie has got to go, offering up his illogical reasoning that she was the last member of her tribe. His reasoning still does not make any sense, but some of his tribe mates are nodding their heads like this is the most intelligent thing ever uttered by someone who hasn’t bathed in a week.

Sidebar with Tom, Stephenie and Colby, where they realize that they’re on the outs with the rest of the tribe. (I hadn’t realized all THREE of them were outcasts until now. Thank you, Survivor editors, for once again only showing us part of the story.) Tom: “We need Candice and Cirie on our side, so we can send Amanda home.” They’ve got to get more votes.

So Stephenie races off to confab with Cirie, telling her that she’s probably next if she doesn‘t do something drastic. Cirie seems to be sympathetic to Stephenie’s cause. But we also know Cirie’s past, where she’s shown people sympathy before and then helped to send those people home. She’s done some manipulative damage in her time. In fact, I’m a smidge surprised that Cirie did not end up on the Villains tribe. She’s a hoot and all, I’ll grant you that, but she’s no saint.

Meanwhile, Tom is working on Candice. Surprisingly, Candice, doesn’t play any games or make fake promises. “I’ve gotta think of ME.” And right when she said that, my Survivor instincts kicked in, just like they did with Natalie last season. Do we have an underdog here that might just flip this thing around? Way too early to tell, really, but we’ll see. And didn’t Candice openly switch tribes during her season when Jeff gave folks the chance to do so? Somebody’s gonna remember that.

Next is a scene with Candice and Cirie, where they basically bond as they try to figure out how to vote. (Cirie had a grain of sand on the end of her nose, which completely threw me off. I tried to stay focused, but how could she not feel that chunk of quartz bobbing around?) The scene ends with Cirie saying “As long as it’s not us, it don’t much matter to me.”


Right away, James goes after Stephenie, throwing her under the bus with a vengeance. Stephenie tries to argue back, but he’s on a roll and not stopping. He’s seriously out of line, saying things that make no sense whatsoever. Stephenie points out his fallacies, but he’s not listening. Colby jumps in and defends Stephenie. Then Tom jumps in and does the same. James doesn’t care, he keeps ripping at Stephenie, using some language that has to be bleeped. James is not right in the head at this point.

Jeff actually tries to stop all this, pointing out that “we’re on day SIX” and this shouldn’t be happening if the tribe wants to survive.

Then Jeff switches directions by asking the tribe about past alliances, and how they are playing out today. In the ensuing discussion, Cirie, who was tight with Amanda at one point in a previous season but got kicked to the curb right at the last moment, basically says that she doesn’t want to be with Amanda at the end this time around. (Amanda doesn’t catch this at all and just stares at the fire, probably wondering if she can find something even smaller to wear during the next competition.)

But will Cirie actually write Amanda‘s name down?

So the tribe marches off to vote, and Jeff goes to “tally the vote”, which always means “arrange the votes for the most drama”.

Stephenie, Colby and Tom vote for Amanda. Everyone else votes for Stephenie.

As her torch is extinguished and she prepares to leave…

Stephenie: “Really needs to be a little less cursing at Tribal.”

James: “Keep your mouth shut.”

Tom, fed up with James: “Oh, come ON.”

My thoughts? Bad move on the tribe’s part, as we already have blind sheep doing stupid things. Stephenie is not my favorite. (She made an anti-gay slur in her second season, and things like that stick with me.) But she’s better than Amanda, and Cirie, when it comes to challenges, and this tribe needs to start winning things, pronto.

But the real focus is James. I don’t know what crawled up his butt, but he’s going to implode. Soon.

Stay tuned…

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 3

The lame-brained honking behind me continued to the point that I slightly snapped, turning around as much as the seatbelt would allow, glaring directly at the idiot behind me, and raising both of my hands in the universal symbol for “what the HELL are you doing?” He promptly returned the same gesture and then hit the horn some more. Clearly, this man should not even be on the streets.

I turned back around to check on the cold war bluffing in front of me, to find that Kennedy and Khrushchev were still staring each other down and waiting for the other to do something about the situation. I glanced at my fuel gauge again, hoping that I had just misread it. Nope. Still on the big fat “E”.

I sighed. This was not good. If I ran out of gas in the middle of this mess, I didn’t think I had the strength to even deal with asking any of these Neanderthals for help. Instead, I would just calmly open my door, proceed to the back of the car, flop down on the ground, and then fasten my lips on the exhaust pipe.

Suddenly, there was movement with the dueling banjos in front of me. The guy on the right has apparently decided that he’s had enough or he’s just bored, because he starts backing up, DOWN the icy hill (brave guy), and then off to the side. Once he’s out of the way, he motions at the other car with the international symbol for “fine, go ahead, have at it, ya big ole skank”.

The lady on the left then punches the gas with all her might, with a victorious but otherwise clueless expression on her face. This, of course, causes the tires to spin and the car to start shifting sideways. I briefly consider marching up to her car with a tire iron, bashing in her window, and then taking her life in a clang of metal.

But I don’t. I’m wearing a really cute shirt and I don’t want to deal with the bloodstains.

Eventually, the woman calms down, takes a more tender approach with her maneuvering, and finally gets her ride under control. She wrenches the wheel around and is soon crunching her way down into the valley. I fervently hope that the lynch mob over there will rip her to shreds and then leave her skull on a pole as a warning to any other idiots that try anything else.

But I’m not bitter.

The guy who had backed his car up then looks at me. He makes a half-hearted motion along the lines of “Why don’t you go ahead, too. Everybody else is stomping on what’s left of my pathetic life”.

I signal back with “No, no, you go ahead, you’ve got the right of way. Besides, you just blinked during the Bay of Pigs, and you need to go somewhere and get started on learning to live with the shame”.

But he’s insisting. “You go."

Fine. I’ll go. I’m just about to slip the car in drive when the guy behind me has the nerve to honk his horn again.

Oh no he DIDN’T. This game is on.

I emphatically gesture to the guy on the right that he needs to get his ass away from that curb and headed down this road immediately or we’re all gonna be havin dinner with Jesus. I want this guy behind me to suffer by having to wait any extra second I can squeeze out of this situation. Damn honking fool. Show you.

The guy on the right somehow receives the determination in my message, works his car to the middle of the road, and starts rolling along. Once he clears the front of my car, I s-l-o-w-l-y ease in behind him, taking as much time as I can until the honker behind me is nearly beside himself. Yes, I was being petty, but it felt REALLY good.

Once there’s enough room for the honker to get around the rear of my vehicle, he squeezes through onto the main road and then floors it in the direction of Death Valley, causing the rear of HIS car to nearly clip another car parked on the side of the road. I glance at the driver of this other car, and she’s sitting there with her eyes wide, clutching a rosary in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

Down in the valley I think I can hear the muffled sound of crunching metal, followed by emphatic expletives. Good. My work here is done.

I follow the guy in front of me as we weave our way through the school zone. There are stuck cars on both sides of us, all with the same general occupant content. There’s a harried housewife in the driver’s seat, exasperation all over her face as she fiddles with the gearshift and gas pedals, trying to get the car out of the deep ruts she has created by spinning her wheels madly.

In the back seats, we have tons of children who are already bored and fussy. As we roll by, they press their faces against the windows, begging for release or at least entertainment. It’s like some twisted urban zoo, or maybe a futuristic natural disaster museum. “This is how the stupid people died in the Dallas Snowstorm of 2010. No cameras, please."

We get through that mess, and now we’re back at the intersection with Gibbs Williams. I actually think the guy in front of me intended to turn right on Gibbs, because he flipped his blinker on, but then he slid right past the street. He finally skids to a halt, pauses a moment, then his head drops on the steering wheel in frustration.

Poor guy. Really sad. But hey, I’ve got things to do. I manage to make the turn and I’m soon rumbling along Gibbs Williams. At the far end of this street, there’s another exit from the neighborhood. This one also involves a steep hill, but it’s not as bad as the other two escape routes I’ve tried. Maybe this one will work. I’ve got to get out of here somehow, because I’m really low on gas. Starting to get a little worked up about that.

About halfway to my newest destination, as I’m barely keeping the car under control in the increasingly deeper snow, I hear an odd shout of conquering triumph, and suddenly three cackling kids race out into the middle of the street about twenty feet ahead. They turn my direction and start hurling snowballs at my car.

You have got to be kidding me. What dumbass mutant gene do these urchins have that would make them think this is a good idea? I gently hit the brake and try to control the fishtailing as I slide in their direction. The car shudders to a halt just as they high-five each other and race back to the sidewalk.

Where are their parents? I want to find their parents, RIGHT NOW, and proceed to beat them with whatever implements I can dig out of the back of my SUV. You have FAILED in the raising of these children and you must suffer. A respectable jury would never convict me of any wrongdoing.

But of course the parents are nowhere to be found. They’re probably smoking crack and watching Judge Judy, cheering on the obvious degenerate that should NOT win the case. The stupid people stick together, and then procreate. Thus, civilization crumbles.

Anyway, I put the car back in gear and putter my way toward the end of this street. As mentioned, there’s a downward slope at the end. As I roll over the crest of the hill, I have a clear view of the madness at the bottom of the incline. It’s not a pretty sight.

There are cars sprawled all over the place, and the road is completely blocked. Tons of people are just standing around, staring at their immobilized cars and not knowing what to do. There are a few kind citizens actually trying to help out, lined up behind one car and attempting to shove the thing to a point where the driver can get better traction.

But for the most part, dimwitted folks are doing nothing other than squawking into cell phones and trying to keep their designer, thigh-high boots from getting wet. (You can’t buy tires with some decent tread, but you can afford a cell phone so you can talk about Oprah with your over-priced unlimited minutes?) Get your lazy ass in the street and help move some cars.

Did I mention that I’m not bitter?

I shake my head, shift into low gear, deftly perform a three-point turn, and head back up the hill. I clearly would not be getting out of the neighborhood via this route. I trundled back up Gibbs Williams, trying to figure out what to do, and finally turned down a road that crossed my own street, where I had started this whole journey. As I approached that intersection, I seriously thought about just heading home and calling it a day.

But no, this had become personal. I was going to get those damn eggs and onions if it took me two days. Screw the fact that my car was operating on fumes. This was war.

I finally got out of the neighborhood by zig-zagging my way down various side streets until I reached Kiest Boulevard. This put me on the opposite side of where I needed to be, but I was at least out of the hellacious, meandering mini-roads of the neighborhood.

The main roads are much better. You can actually see pavement, especially in the middle lanes which are basically clear, where cars are lined up in an icy caravan of the damned. I wait for a gap and then quietly join the procession.

Since the grocery store I want is on the other side of the neighborhood, I need to turn right at the next two major intersections. At the first one, a school bus comes thundering out of nowhere on the cross street, snow flying to both sides. Hey, it’s an impromptu snowplow! I zip around the corner and get behind this thing.

This proves to be a good move. There are no traction issues for me as the bus clears a path. I settle in and finally relax for a little bit. The only thing I have to worry about at this point are the out-of-control vehicular cannonballs that could come rolling off the side street hills and broadside me. But I’ll just have to deal with that if it happens.

Then I happen to glance up at the kids in the back two rows of the bus, who are staring out the windows at me. They look to be of elementary-school age, and are really cute in their matching plaid uniforms. Aww. Then one of the darling little boys flips me off.

What? One of his buddies does the same, followed by one of the girls. They’re all laughing and having the best time. Then another boy jumps up, stands at the emergency door, and starts banging his crotch against the glass. The posse of hooligans doubles over in merriment, clutching their stomachs and shouting for more thrusting.

Great. I’m being sexually harassed by the Mickey Mouse Club.

Can this day get any better?

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 2

So I’m sitting in my vehicle parked under our carport, waiting for the damn thing to warm up because it’s freaking cold. Two minutes ago I had been all bubbly about my quest for mayo, onions, and eggs. Now I’m having serious second thoughts as my teeth chatter and my huevos shrink down to raisin-size.

But I shake it off. This should only take about twenty minutes, maybe thirty. The grocery store is just a few miles away, and it’s the middle of the afternoon. Even with this crappy weather and the related idiot potential, the traffic should be relatively light. This is doable.

So I slap my little SUV in reverse and ease out of the carport, moving at roughly two miles an hour, because I’m all about the cautious driving. Then I turn the wheel to the right, shift gears, and start to inch my way down the driveway proper. I get approximately seven feet before I encounter my first roadway hazard. All of the usually majestic shrubs on this side of the house are now so weighted down with snow that they are bent across the driveway. Great.

I get out of the car and approach the sadly-drooping landscaping. I just need to get the snow off of these shrubs so they will hopefully spring back into their former positions. This is easier said than done. For one, the greenery is basically cemented to the pavement under the icy snow. I grab the first few branches and shake the hell out of them. They reluctantly rise to a forty-five degree angle. Progress, to be fair, but they are still blocking the driveway. And this is just the first bush.

I take a deep breath, and continue with the shaking and the cussing as I work my down the driveway. This takes a awhile. To help pass the time, I re-envision the bushes to be co-workers and certain political figures, which helps me add an extra oomph to my efforts as I shake with a vengeance. I’m slightly stunned at the amount of murderous zeal I apparently have in me, but at least I get most of the damn bushes out of the way.

Until I reach the far corner of the house and the end of the troublesome landscaping. Here we have something way beyond a bush. We now have an official tree, twice my height, with tons of branches. This thing is basically laying on its side across the driveway, buried in the snow. At first I can barely move any of the branches.

But I am not about to let this be a deal breaker.

I redouble my efforts, ripping and jerking until the branches finally start to poing their way out of the icy layer of whiteness. As the tree starts to rise back to its original position, there are cascades of snow pouring down on me. I’m drowning in frigid wetness, with icy nastiness getting in every one of my nooks and crannies. My underwear is even soaking by the time I’m done. I’m not impressed.

Eventually, the path is clear and I manage to make my way to the end of the driveway. It’s been a good fifteen minutes since I officially left for the grocery store, and I’m still on my own personal property. Most sane people would have called it a day by this point. But no, we need onions and eggs and I’m not stopping now.

I finally get out on to the street, where I face another challenge. The snow is already deep enough that passage has become questionable. There’s that one set of tracks in the middle of the road that people have been trying to follow. You know what I mean. (Well, people who drive in snow know what I mean.) You want to follow these tracks because you get the most amount of traction by doing so, with a silent kiss to the anonymous soul who made the tracks in the first place.

Trouble is, my tires are apparently bigger than any tires that have traversed this stretch of road since the snow began accumulating, and we have a conformance issue. My tires don’t really fit. The rear of the car is slewing around a bit as I keep jumping the tracks and various wheels lose traction. Not an “oh my God, people are going to die!” state of emergency, but you probably don’t want to be walking your dog right now.

Then things start to get a bit better as my ancient, unused snow-driving skills begin to resurface. In fact, I’m starting to have fun, purposely gunning it a little more than I should just for those brief moments of thrilling terror where you lose control. This is completely juvenile on my part, of course, but I can’t help it. There’s no one around, it’s all good.

As I approach the end of our long street, I am about to proclaim myself the King of Frozen Precipitation, feeling confident and studly. Then I am quickly slapped down from my royal position.

Because I’m unable to stop the car where a polite driver should. Instead, I slide right into the intersection. Luckily, there are no other cars around me, so death is not imminent, but it’s a wake-up call. I need to quit screwing around and pay attention.

So I head to the left, crunching and slipping along. At the next intersection, I purposely roll through the 4-way stop, because there’s still no one around and it’s fun. I trundle along for a bit, passing through a few more intersections until I get to Gibbs Williams. (Where the hell they came up with that street name, I have no idea.) I decide to head right, toward the local high school, since it sits on a fairly busy street and my assumption is that the heavy traffic will have melted some of the snow.

As I’m innocently headed that way, I hit one of those weird patches of re-frozen snow (and therefore ice) and the front of the car is no longer playing nice, slewing to the left. Suddenly, the car is filled with this annoyingly-loud beeping noise like there’s been a prison break. My heart racing a little, I glance at the dashboard to see a flashing image of a car sliding sideways.

Wow. That’s very helpful and all, but I didn’t even know I had this noisy, blinking feature on my car. And I’m not sure that I want it. I nearly had a panic attack, not because of some minimal sliding, but due to the sudden conviction that the alarm meant we had a nuclear radiation leak and Karen Silkwood was going to go running by.

Perhaps I could pay someone to have that thing disabled. Really didn’t care for its obnoxious rudeness and the potential that it could cause me to do something stupid, like scream or leap out of the moving vehicle.

Anyway, the thing shuts off as I regain control of the vehicle. I approach the high school, and I immediately realize this might have been a bad decision. The cross street is indeed busy and full of cars. But these cars are not moving. I’ve rolled up just as school is letting out. (Why this school is even OPEN is mystifying to me.) And these non-moving cars are filled with parents waiting on their hopefully-smarter offspring.

Trouble is, most of the cars are stuck. Because the ground is covered in frozen slush. And these stupid parents have sat there idling, with the heat of the vehicles slightly melting the crust of the packed snow. Now there’s a thin layer of water, on top of ice. They can’t get any traction, especially since they don’t know what they are doing. Tires are spinning uselessly, and cars are wiggling back and forth.

I start to turn around and go back the other way, but a check of the rearview reveals that hundreds of cars have appeared out of nowhere and are now behind me. Great. So I turn left and start to work my way through this minefield of cars, all of them lurching about and apt to T-bone me should they suddenly get traction at any time. It’s a little bit unnerving. But I inch my way forward, hoping my chances at survival are good.

And yes, there’s a bit of social-consciousness stirring in me, thinking that maybe I should help some of these people out. But really, there are spinning cars all over the place. Where would I even start? Besides, the ANTI-social part of me is quite pleased that so many heathen juvenile delinquents are currently trapped in vehicles with their parents. This means they are not out running the streets, joining gangs and experimenting with drugs while their pants drag the snowy ground.

As I finally get through most of this mess, I’m then presented with another life-affirming moment of joy. Just past the school, the street descends into a very deep valley that leads to another serious hill on the other side. I’d sort of forgotten about this in planning my neighborhood travels. As the snowfall briefly clears a bit, I realize that this route is no longer an option.

There’s a massive cluster of cars right at the bottom of the valley. Judging by the various angles of the stationary cars, you can tell that nobody can get out of the valley in either direction. And even if I managed to maintain traction going down and then up, I won’t be able to get through that mess of cars down there.

And some of the drivers standing beside those cars (and apparently yelling at each other, based on the contorted facial expressions) look very, very dissatisfied. It’s an angry mob looking for somebody to blame. If I go sailing past them in my smug little SUV then they are going to claw up the hill after me and rip my tires off.

So I need to turn around, and I need to do it pronto, because I’m already slightly descending this side of the valley. But turning around is not going to be easy, since there are cars lining both sides of the street, spinning in place. I check the rearview again, and for some reason it’s temporarily clear right behind me, everyone’s off to the sides.

I’m going to try backing up until I find a place to turn around. Oh boy, this is going to be a hoot and a half. I pop it in reverse and tap the gas. My car is thoroughly unimpressed with this request, slewing a bit and spitting snow. Then the tires get a grip and here we go.

Instantly, at least three cars start honking. I’m not in danger of hitting anyone right at the moment, who are they honking at? I glance around and realize the honking is coming from stuck cars, two of them actually waving fists. What is WRONG with these people. Are they actually mad that I’m moving and they’re not? GOD.

Screw em. I keep backing up, being very careful and avoiding getting anywhere near anybody. I make it to a little side street, and curve backwards into that. Looking out the back window, I can see a few cars headed this way, but they are a bit back there. So far so good.

I turn back around, and just as I start to put the car in drive, one of the stuck cars on my left breaks free and starts to roll this way, obviously unaware of Death Valley that awaits just over the rise. Okay, fine. I instantly hate this car, but I don’t have the right of way. I’ll just let them pass in front of me, then I’ll pull back out on the main street and head the other direction, away from the lynch mob.

Suddenly, there’s some snow-crunching on the right and I look that way. Somehow, somebody’s made it up out of the valley. That car is headed toward the car coming from the left. There’s not enough room for them to pass each other, one of them will have to give. But nope, they’re both stubborn idiots, and they come nose-to-nose right in front of me. Incredibly, they then just sit there and flip each other off instead of doing anything remotely reasonable.

Then there’s MORE snow-crunching from behind. The cars that had been a ways down this street are now right behind me. And the lead car starts to honk, because I’m not moving, as if he can’t see the crapfest of stupidity right in front of me.

I am just stunned with what is developing here. How are these people even able to feed themselves? I’m boxed in on all sides by losers who don’t know what they’re doing, morons are honking like it will do the tiniest bit of good, and the snow is still pouring down. This is one seriously dry gene pool I’m floating in.

My blood pressure is starting to throb, and I have a twitch. Can this possibly get any worse? Then a dim warning bell goes off in my head. I’ve forgotten about something. Something important. It suddenly clicks and I glance at the dashboard.

The gas gauge is sitting on “E”.

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