Sunday, August 21, 2005

Egocentrism in Action

I'm probably about the eight millionth person to write in his blog about the increasing egocentrism and rudeness of the general public, but today's experience at the store left me wondering what goes through the minds of some people.

We have a policy that no outside drinks are allowed unless they're in bottles with tops securely screwed on (we only sell drinks in screw-top bottles, and we ask our gamers and customers to keep the tops on the drinks when they're not actively drinking). Too many bad experiences with Wendy's cups (the local Wendy's is just down the road), Starbucks grandes, etc. have left us with damaged merchandise for which the customer was simply unable or unwilling to pay, so we just ask that customers finish their drinks outside, or that they leave them on a table located near the front of the store, away from comics, trade paperbacks, and other water-sensitive items.

Today, some late-teen-early-twenty type came in with his girlfriend, both carrying paper cups filled with whatever beverage they'd ordered at a local fast-food place. Jared asked that they leave the cups on the counter; the young woman had no trouble with that, but the guy decided to ignore the request. He continued to walk into the store, consuming his drink; again, Jared asked him to leave the drink at the table or finish it outside. At this time, Jared had (so I understand) moved into the general direction where the non-customer was walking, forcing the non-customer to stop his forward progress. At that point, he stood there looking surly, then made a point of finishing his drink in the store and went to the door, crushing the cup on the ledge outside our front window.

Trying not to let the situation get worse, Jared took the friendly approach, saying to the now-hydrated fellow, "Look, I wasn't trying to be a jerk or anything, but we have to be careful with drinks because of all the paper in here..." At that point, the non-customer cut him off and said, "You guys have always been assholes, so that's what I expect," and then continued to swagger around the store, assuming that he'd now told off the employee.

If you know Jared, you know that he's exceedingly polite, very amiable, and certainly not a rude fellow. At this point, I approached the customer, unhappy that one of my associates had been treated so poorly. I asked him if my understanding of the conversation was correct, and he said, "yeah, everyone around here is an asshole." At that point, I told him that rather than have him endure continued abuse from our staff, it would probably be best if he went to another store where he felt he got better treatment. "That's okay," he said, "I wasn't going to buy anything anyway." So why'd he bother coming to a store where, according to him, all the staff has always been so substandard? Who knows.

Now, bear in mind that Jared has only worked here for five weeks--in fact, most all of our staff has only been with us for five weeks, since Brett (our long-time store manager, who'd been with the store for twenty years) chose to leave in late July to find out what other career options awaited him (Brett began working for us shortly after graduating from high school, and he's been a part of the staff ever since, and he just decided that he'd done the retail think for long enough; he's still a friend of mine, and he still comes by the store regularly, so there's no ill will in his departure). The folks who are working for us are exceedingly polite, as is Buck (our store manager, formerly assistant manager)--and Brett wasn't a rude guy, either, even when customers gave him cause to be. But this guy came in with a chip on his shoulder for some reason.

The thing that amazes me, though, is that we see more customers who come in and violate the basic rules of polite conduct in a public place, and then act offended when they're asked not do continue doing that. We see teenagers and early-twenties who begin loud, vulgar conversations, and then look put out when we tell them we can't allow them to speak that way in a famly store. We have customers who try to break the shrink wrap on products that are sealed for a reason, and then seem angry when we tell them they can't do that. And this isn't the first person who's felt like it was his god-given right to drink wherever he wanted to, regardless of the store.

And then there's the gray-area rudeness of people who come into a store carrying on a loud mobile phone conversation and never hang up for the duration of their visit. They shop while talking, come to the register while talking, pay while talking, and never once acknowledge any other human presence. I'm old-school enough that I try to end my phone conversations before going into the store, and if I do get a call while I'm at a register, I tell the caller I'll phone them back when I'm finished... and then apologize to the cashier for the call (if I can see that it's not an important call, I don't even take it, opting instead to simply return the call when I've finished my transaction).

Seems like we have more people than ever who are convinced that whatever they choose to do in a retail establishment should be acceptable. And while some of it is tolerable (albeit aggravating), that self-indulgent and egocentric behavior that is insulting or offensive to my store associates is quite the opposite.

Okay, I've vented enough for now...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Fell Stumbles

Fell, Warren Ellis's new crime drama from Image Comics, is a perfect example of a comic that tries too hard. The title character is a former big-city cop who finds himself relocated to the blighted Snowtown, a dead-end beat in a dead-end town. Each 16-page issue tells a complete story, replacing the currently-trendy plot-starved decompressed storytelling for a tighter plot-driven tale. And I have no problems with the plot--but this is one of the few Warren Ellis comics in which the dialogue totally fails to click.

Ellis has packed Fell with the sort of tough-as-nails dialogue that writers like Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler popularized... but he all too frequently crosses the border into Leslie Nielsen spoof territory.

"Welcome to the Moon, Detective. Miles from anywhere. Colder than Eskimo nipples. And if you breathe, you die." (Most Eskimos I've seen in photos have actually been pretty well insulated by layers of clothing, so I'm not sure this comparison even works...)

"Moon St. Precinct House--where I work now. It smells like a leper's cesspit." (Does Hansen's disease actually cause a leper's waste matter to smell even worse than anyone else's?)

"I see you again and I'll shove this up your ass so hard it'll hit you in the back of the teeth."

If these lines work for you, odds are you'll enjoy Fell. If they make you wince in apprehension that Ellis wants us to take this seriously, then you'll likely remain as disengaged from this story as I was.

Ben Templesmith's art is subdued, filled with too many empty medium shots and even more minimally impressionistic than usual. The result is a dreary book thta seems to waste much of its visual potential.

Ellis, Templesmith, crime drama... I had high hopes. But this one just doesn't deliver.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What Gall!

Tisha underwent a sonogram today to determine the nature of the mass in her abdomen. I had trouble sleeping, so I got up at 5:45 in the morning to feed Tisha, pet her, and enjoy her company for a while before having to leave her at Dr. Lane's office for a few hours. In the back of my mind, I had this morbid fear that this might be the last day I would get to spend with her.

However, the news was far better than either Dr. Lane or I had ever imagined it would be. The sonographer was convinced, after meticulous scrutiny, that the abdominal mass wasn't a tumor at all, but was instead an infection in her gall bladder that had caused it to enlarge somewhat. After more tests, Dr. Marshall (another vet at the Cat Clinic of Cobb) was confident that this was the problem, and she prescribed both an antibiotic and a medication to help get her gall bladder problems under control.

Suddenly Tisha has a chance for a full recovery and I have hopes of having her with me for much longer. And Tisha didn't even act too unhappy with me for leaving her at the vet's office for several hours this mornning... but Tisha has always had a forgiving soul...

Monday, August 15, 2005

...Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

What is it about Shakespeare that inspires creators to meddle and muck about, marking their territorial trail through Will's work much as a dog marks his own territory?

Today, I received three more volumes in the Puffin Graphics series of young-reader-focused literary classic adaptations; this selection includes Macbeth, The Wizard of Oz, and Treasure Island. Tim Hamilton's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure is appropriately moody and action-oriented, with a confident ink-line that sometimes reminded me of Al Williamson or early Jeffrey Jones (although his layout lacks the inventive vitality of those creators). Michael Cavellero's The Wizard of Oz shows an animation influence, with boldly energetic lines and exaggerated energy that virtually leaps from the page.

And then there's Macbeth, adapted by Arthur Byron Cover and Tony Leonard Tamai. It's rare to find such a jarring disconnect between content and style; for some reason, Cover thought about it and apparently said to himself, "I know what Shakespeare forgot. Robots 'n' dragons and manga, that's what!" And then, compounding the error, Cover proceeded to shoehorn all of these elements into Shakespeare's play, creating an embarrassingly bad adaptation that trivializes Shakespeare while doing absolutely nothing to clarify the storyline for young readers. Cover doesn't adapt, he excerpts; once he contributes his misguided science fiction elements, he does little more than choose which Shakespearean lines to keep in. Many panels convey nothing of the meaning of the prose that will remain impenetrable to the younger readers towards whom this book is purportedly targeted. This is ponderous reading for a young reader; I taught Macbeth to high school juniors and seniors, and it was ponderous reading for many of them until the language could be broken into digestible segments, explained within context, and then re-read with an educated understanding. This version of Macbeth explains nothing, educates no one, and ultimately contains prose and pictures so isolated from one another that readers might be left wondering if this is some cynical comic book version of What's Up, Tiger Lily?

Rarely has such talent drifted so far astray...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

One Day at a Time

This morning, Tisha ate a few bites of canned cat food--ocean fish feast, a breakfast mainstay for about five years that she had lost interest in a few months ago, but I thought it might be time to bring it back into her diet--and drank a little bit of water. It wasn't enough of either, of course, but it was an improvement. I took her to the Cat Clinic of Cobb, where Dr. Marshall gave her some more subcutaneous fluids and a B-12 injection; she seems a little more alert and active now.

The mass in her abdomen is definitely a problem, though; Dr. Marshall feels that it has pushed her intestines out of place a bit as it has grown. Everyone agrees, though, that Tisha is too old and too weak to survive a major surgery, so that's not an option.

Right now, we'll continue to give her food and water with oral syringes if necessary, and we'll try to make her comfortable. The outcome of this problem is virtually inevitable, but that doesn't mean that we're not going to cherish each additional day we have with her, so long as that day is good for her as well.

...Where Kittens Run Free...

My dear Tisha is, I fear, preparing to leave us.

Tisha, more than sixteen years old, is a blue-cream Persian that we've had since she was a scant eight weeks old. Her compact, stocky body (Susan always described it as "cobby") always looked larger than it was, largely due to her thick, almost wooly fur. Tisha is one of those extremely flat-faced Persian cats--the type of Persian whose carefully-bred extreme look gave her problems all of her life. That same flat face made her appear to be scowling, but when she saw Susan or me or her sister Asia, the joy in her eyes put aside any thoughts of a scowl.

I have a thousand thousand Tisha stories I could tell, and sometime I'll begin sharing them. But right now, the joy of those memories is tempered by the sorrow of knowing that Tisha is almost certainly in her final days. Just a few days ago, she broke with her normal eating routine... in fact, she wouldn't eat at all. Then, two days ago, Susan found her lying on her favorite afternoon sleeping spot--an old padded computer bag that I had put down next to the back stairs over a year ago, intending to store it in a closet that day until Tisha discovered it and made it clear that this was now her afternoon bed--but she was lying in a small puddle of her own vomit. For a cat as fastidious as Tisha, who devoted hour into attempting to groom that wooly body, this was a serious sign of problems.

We took her to the vets, where they discovered she had a high fever and was dehydrated. Blood tests were done, and no signs of an infection showed up, not did any signs of metabolic disorders... but a subsequent x-ray showed something ominous. There was a large almost circular mass in her stomach, a mass that shouldn't be there... a mass that was almost certainly a tumor of some sorts.

The doctor gave her some fluids subcutaneously and showed me how to administer more fluids if needed, and we took her home. A few hours later, I came in from my afternoon exercise to the wondrous sight of Tisha standing near the door to greet me. I opened a can of her favorite food--Nine Lives tuna with cheese, the same food I gave her on the very first day we brought her home--and she nibbled at it three different times that afternoon. I was convinced the diagnosis had to be a mistake, and that Tisha was going to come right back to her normal self.

Of course, I was fooling myself. That was the last time that Tisha ate anything; she has showed no interest in food since then, nor has she drunk anything other than the water I've given her with an oral syringe.

Now she does little more than sleep... but oh, what glorious dreams she must have! In her dreams, she's young again and healthy and vibrant, and her feet move ever so slightly in a running motion; I know that she must be scurrying to meet her sister Asia, who left us in May of 2004. The two were inseparable in life, sleeping together, eating together, playing together--they were ideal sisters (even though they weren't related, although we did get the both of them on the same day in 1989)... and now, they'll be united again, in a place where cats are always happy and the sun always shines in time for an afternoon nap and there's never any pain or illness...

But still, when I gently touch a hand to Tisha's back, stroke her head, she awakens, and she purrs. In spite of all, she purrs incessantly at my touch, and she stretches out as best she can, and she finds the only joy I can give her. I stroke her for a long, long time, and I scratch under the chin that she always stretched upwards in order to get me to comb her neck, and I scuff my index finger across the top of her nose, between her eyes, in that spot that always made her absolutely blissful, and she is for that moment happy again and I only wish I could make that last forever, not only for her but also for me...

But I think that Asia and Tisha will be together very soon...