Monthly Archives: February 2014

I Will Rain Destruction Down Upon You Like a Vengeful God, The Source

I entered your bright white fluorescent hell like a lost soul entering a strange and despotic land. I needed new earbuds and I needed them urgently enough to brave your tangled maze of poor choices and suspiciously named in-house brands imported from only the least discerning Chinese factories. Nexxtech sounds like an anime produced by a discount Korean sweatshop animation studio and GnarlyFish like a Phish cover band that the other cover bands look down on. What sane man desires to sully the soundtrack of his life with headphones that make it seem as if your music is being piped through an unusually long air tunnel?   

But amidst the wasteland of electronic detritus designed to take advantage of the ignorant, the desperate and those whose last major technological purchase was a phonograph so they could enjoy the musical stylings of that young up and comer Bing Crosby I managed to suss out some headphones that appeared as though they would allow me to hear my music without simulating the effects of deafness, tinnitus or, somehow, both. And they were only overpriced enough to make me feel like I had been tricked by an experienced shyster, not taken complete advantage of by an incompetent conman who nevertheless somehow managed to play me for a fool. In your Kafkaesque Best Buy that constituted a “deal.”

I was heroically able to complete a transaction with your surly cashier despite the fact that she seemed less intent on taking my money than she was on demanding my email address, as though it were the last piece of the dark ritual required to raise the shambling corpse of Circuit City from a Lovecrafian nightmare realm of dead but dreaming corporations, and not a means by which to send me newsletters for television sales that the Amish would recognise as rip-offs.

I of course also turned down her offer of an extended warranty, despite her pleading assurances that it would give me three years of coverage on everything from water damage to all-devouring plague of locusts. While I realise that you are probably holding her children hostage until she forces enough of these bad investments onto hapless consumers willing to take on the financial burden simply to cease her incessant braying, her dead eyes betrayed the fact that she no longer has any love left to give her progeny. If they are lucky they will somehow escape your nefarious clutches and spend their formative years in an orphanage, or perhaps they will simply be granted the sweet embrace of death instead of being trained to slave away in your call centres, answering questions from easily confused grandparents for what will feel like endless eons.

What seemed like a prudent financial decision would prove to be my downfall, aside of course from the obviously poor decision to offer my patronage in the first place. If entering your store was my Anschluss, declining the warranty was my Stalingrad. That may seem like a tasteless analogy, but I feel it is appropriate considering the quality of neither your electronics nor your service would feel out of place in Pavlov’s House.

I left your store like Lot left Sodom, only had I been accompanied by a wife I know she would have had no desire to look back. But less than an hour later I found myself returning to prostate myself before my nemesis, to grovel in the faintest hope that this soulless harpy would show mercy on a man who was cursing her beneath her breath.

You see, it seems as though your crude packaging is made from two kinds of plastic. One has the strength of mithril and would be better put to use manufacturing bulletproof vests than in safeguarding your products from the orcs that you apparently think wish to steal them. The other kind has the strength of thin cardboard that’s been left out in a rainstorm overnight and then urinated on by a horse that had really been holding it in. That’s how, after spending several minutes trying to penetrate my new headphones’ defences with about as much success as eunuchs have in penetrating women, I sliced through the plastic, an earbud and very nearly my finger. Fierce resistance wasn’t ended that abruptly since the Death Star was destroyed.

While I admit that I am not what society generally deems to be “competent” or “intelligent” I don’t think it’s immodest of me to brag that I am usually capable of opening a package without rendering the product within useless. You don’t see me pouring a glass of milk by running a steak knife through the carton or making an omlette by smashing my fists on an egg carton and collecting the yoke that dribbles out. And yet that is essentially what your shoddy packaging forced me to do.

Under the circumstances I didn’t feel it was unreasonable to ask for a replacement or a refund, in-so much as your cold corporate heart has any concept of reason. Yet my protestations were met with nothing more than repeated statements about how my request was only covered under your extended warranty. Under other circumstances I would have taken this as the company line spouted by an apathetic employee with no desire to risk being fired for breaking protocol. But this employee knew I had erred. There was a glint in her eye, a mocking tone in her voice, a suggestion that I had fallen into a classic pitfall and instead of throwing me a rope she was going to rain down poisonous snakes.

I will begrudgingly admit that you have technically done nothing wrong, at least not in the legal sense. Morally you are doing wrong simply by continuing to exist. But if your reaction to a consumer suffering from a product’s design failures is so robotic and unfeeling that I now assume the term “customer service” is what you use to refer to the handjobs you give each other while recounting this experience then I see little recourse. I am not an angry man. But you have roused a dark part of me from a deep slumber, and soon the only “Source” you know will be the source of your constant suffering. I am that source, my friends. You will sing laments of my coming, and I will ensure you can hear them only in mono sound.

2014 Olympic Demonstration Sports

Cross-Country Tweeting

Time Zone Adapting

Fluff Media Coverage Endurance

Excessive Patriotism Displays

Apathy Feigning

Uninformed Criticism of Ice Hockey Lineups

Synchronised Homophobia

Thanks For Helping Me Through My Childhood Existential Terror, Mom

I don’t remember how I learned about death. It may have been when my grandfather died, or it may have been when I lost Goldfish, my beloved pet goldfish. I don’t remember when I learned how to not name things like an idiot, either.

But however I learned about it, I quickly became obsessed. The concept of death, of simply one day never waking up because you’re dead, sucker, gripped me with a terror even worse than the fear I associated with class presentations and the constantly looming threat of having a video game save file accidently deleted by some mouth-breathing friend. I’m pretty sure you could have locked me in a room with the sex-offendingest looking guy you could find and I would have been more at ease than I was when I thought about death. At least until I realised that I would probably be murdered after the sex offender was done sex offending. Then I would panic.

At night, when I assume other children were spending the time it took to fall asleep thinking about unicorns or winning the Stanley Cup or winning the Stanley Cup with a team of unicorns, I developed a habit of working myself into a frantic, death-obsessed feedback loop. First I would lie perfectly still and take slow, deep breaths to pretend I was six feet under. Then I would think about what it would be like to stop existing and never exist again, to reach a point where not even hockey playing unicorns who also fought crime and did your homework and were your best friends could save you.

I would imagine going to bed and not waking up, I would imagine years and decades and centuries going by without me, and I would imagine the whole world forgetting that I ever existed. All the while my breathing would get quicker and quicker as the thoughts made me more and more anxious. Eventually they’d overwhelm me, at which point I’d sit up straight and gasp like people do in movies after they have a nightmare, and yes, I’m aware that this sounds like I was getting off to some unusually depressing pornography.

After one particularly panicky instance I started crying and ran downstairs for some mothering. When my mom asked what was wrong I choked out “I don’t want to die!” in-between sobs. I assume her first reaction was to make sure I wasn’t being chased by an axe murderer, but after she performed a perimeter check she gathered me in her arms, rocked me back and forth, and tried to comfort me with words that I’ll never forget. “But that won’t happen for a long time!”

Damn, Mom. Look, I understand that I put you in a tough position. When you’re in the kitchen making tea in preparation for a nice, relaxing night of watching Jeopardy!, tactics for helping your son confront his Lovecraftian existential horror will not be at the forefront of your mind. If I was in your situation I would have either said, “Well then you better get your stupid tears off my shirt and get the fuck back to bed,” or yelled, “Go talk to your mother!” before hiding under the nearest blanket and faking a bout of narcolepsy. I’m proud of you for not panicking and trying to find a Berenstain Bears book that covered the situation. The Berenstain Bears and the Terror of the Infinite Void would really fly off the shelves.

But talk about not being comforting. There were no platitudes about going to heaven or wild speculation about medical technology one day being able to put my brain in a computer or cryogenically freeze me until science invented immortality. Not that I would have expected you to go in that direction, but I like the idea of a parent’s comforting words being loosely inspired by Demolition Man.  

No, what I got was a kick the can down the road, deal with it later mentality, which works well for me as an adult when I’m feeling too lazy to do the dishes, but less so as a child facing the most terrifying thing he’s ever learned about. I understand the strategy, because kids are dumb at time. To a kid, the week before Christmas is an eon. Ask a child to comprehend the seventy or so years it will take for them to become a wrinkled old person hanging out on death’s front porch and you can watch their brains seize up. They understand in theory that it’s really long, but the concept of time means about as much to them as the concept of money. They know it exists and it’s important, but they can’t begin to explain why it’s in limited supply. Incidentally, Mom, you never did give me a satisfactory explanation as to why we couldn’t just make everyone rich by printing lots of money.

Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a message of “It won’t happen for a long time, so worry about it later” was interpreted by me as “It won’t happen for a long time, so you better worry about it constantly until it does.” I’m good at worrying. I do it a lot. If I don’t have anything to worry about I worry that I’ve forgotten something. Or, if I’m feeling meta, I’ll worry about how much I worry. Right now I’m worried that I’m talking about my worrying too much. How’s that for meta?

So I went right back to having my little panic attacks. But guess what? Panicking about death became so routine that it started to not scare me anymore, or at least no more than I was scared of anything else in my life, like French homework or girls. I worried myself into a state of tedium. “Ugh, it’s just another night of fretting about the horrible implications of eternal oblivion. I wonder if we’ll play freeze tag tomorrow?” I worried myself into freedom, and while that’s probably the least inspirational story of someone overcoming their fears in human history, it was good enough for me.

Thinking about dying still unnerves me, but no more than I imagine it does most people. So thanks, Mom, for advice that was far more brutally honest than you probably meant it to be. I’m sorry for forcing you to get philosophical on such short notice. I don’t know if our conversation was the sort you’re taught about after “Where do babies come from?” at parenting classes, but you acquitted yourself well.

Love,
-Mark

P.S. I’m also sorry about the time I rolled my foreskin down as far as it could go while I was having a bath and then called you in to look at my amazing accomplishment. Those were my wild days before I began to fear the cold embrace of the grave.