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2006-03-20

Yesterday I went with Dave Marr to help him move out of his apartment. One of our tasks for the day was to rent him a storage space.

The office was almost empty when we arrived—only one customer in front of us. Dave picked out some moving boxes while the shopkeeper worked with the one woman ahead of us. It looked like she just needed to buy a few boxes. We figured we'd be out of there in no time.

Oh, we were so wrong.

The Woman from Hell came in and started breathing fire and unhappiness all over the place. Time came to halt and the air thickened with thick, dark tension.

Medusa was probably about 28. A 10 year old son kept a close orbit around her rolling, round, planet-like midsection. She wasn't obese like the kind of person that needs two seats on an airplane. But, she may have been a runner up. She was definitely fat—with a height to width ratio of eight to three. Not that it matters how much she weighs. It was just that I'd noticed because her clothes seemed stretched to the limits and even the freckles on her shoulders seemed distorted and stretched.

But, bigger than anything was the grumpiness and cancerous demeanor that spilled out of her mouth.

The situation was like this: Grumpy Woman had clearly not paid her storage space rent on time. The rental place had cut off her lock, put on their own lock, and put a lien on her belongings.

So she did what any "reasonable" person would do: She made a scene, complete with shouting, stomping, lying, and name calling. It didn't take long to see she'd been conditioned that you can get what you want if you just make other peoples' lives a living hell for long enough.

She cut in front of us and demanded the attention of the sole employee. The volume of her voice was far above conversational. "I talked with the owner of this place and he told me that I didn't need to rush to pay the bill and that he wasn't going to put a lock on my storage space. So, you need to let me in."

The employee sighed—they'd obviously had this conversation (or one like it) before.

With the patience of Buddha, Employee Woman nodded her head at Dave and me and explained, "I'll be right with you. I just need to finish ringing these people up."

Grumpy Woman wasn't taking no for an answer, though. Her voice was already way too loud to be culturally appropriate. Now she was nearly shouting. "You need to check my account right now. George said he'd put something in the notes so that you'd know that he said I was going to be OK this month. He specifically said I didn't have to worry and that you should check the notes on my account. You need to check my account. I want you to call George." Just in case we didn't hear it the first time, she said it again—like a broken record. George told her this and George told her that.

Grumpy Woman's demand for attention was so much that the shop–woman got mixed up when counting back change to the other woman. "You need to please hold on and wait your turn, I'll be right with you." She was finally able to finish counting change to the quiet, deferent, non-shouting customer. The woman let herself out—leaving us behind in the horror of the office scene.

Sitting back at her desk, the employee explained, "Ok. I actually called George and spoke with him today. I called him on his day off. I explained to him your situation and asked him what he said to you and what to do. He told me that he never said such a thing to you and that you knew your account was past due. So, I called the owner on his day off and I helped you when it wasn't your turn. I've gone above and beyond what I normally am supposed to do here to try to help you. There is nothing more we can do. You will need to pay your account in full before we can let you back into your space and give you an access code to the facility again."

She added, "And, you need to calm down. Now, I need to help these other gentleman that have been waiting her for much longer than you."

But, the irate customer stood her ground—lips flapping and arms waving and making lots of noise. "It's not like I was that late. Did you already put your own lock on it?"

The woman explained yet again that it had gone into lien and that their lock had been on it for some time now. I got the impression that the customer was the sort of person that never paid her bills on time. And, it was easy to see she was lying and doing—and saying—everything she could just to get her way.

Dave and I needed to look at a storage space before Dave signed the papers, so the office woman needed to kick out The Grump and lock the office for a few minutes during our walkthrough.

"I'm the only person working today. I need to lock the office to show these folks around. You'll need to wait outside the locked gates."

"I don't see why I need to wait outside no gates! Why can't I wait inside?"

"Until you're paid in full you will need to wait outside the locked gates."

And out she went.

Inside the facility we found the Angry Lady's young son hiding around a corner—flattened against a wall to try to make himself less visible to us. From the guilty look on his face you could see he was planning on letting his mom in as soon as we were out of sight.

The boy knew he was caught, and he followed the tiring manager as she led him out the gates. But, as she was shutting the steel door he kicked his foot out behind him to keep the door from closing all the way. He did it with the grace and subtlety of a dancer or a thief. He didn't even look back as he propped his foot out behind to stop the door—he was young but still clearly a pro at sneaking around and doing what it took it get what he wanted.

But the powers that be kept pushing the door, forcing his foot out. The boy muttered a guilty ow under his breath and walked away without even looking back. He didn't act like a kid who'd been injured for no reason—but rather like someone who was saying, "Ok, fine. You caught me on this one. But, I'm not giving up."

His mother tried to give him a boost so he could climb up and over tall iron bars as we walked away.

"The nerve of those people. Can you believe it?" Dave and I nodded in agreement with her. The woman's actions seemed desperate, dishonest, and rude. She seemed like someone who'd lived her whole life lying, cheating, screaming, hitting, stealing, and doing anything possible to get her way. It was sad; it was annoying; and it filled the whole scene with a heavy, negative air.

I asked the lady, "Did you see how her son stuck his foot behind him to try to prop the door open as you were kicking them out?"

"Yeah. I'm glad you saw that—you guys are my witnesses. Some people! If they don't leave I'm going to have to call the police when we get back to the office."

We got back to the office fast. It didn't take much longer than a 1950's pop song to look at the storage space and decide it would be fine for Dave's needs. So, we returned and the employee reopened the office. Angry Woman slammed the door open and stomped inside. Her son followed her—and this time the grandmother came in, too.

I thought it was bad before. It got worse. Angry mom's sloshy breasts heaved as she let out a huge sigh and screamed, "AGGGHHHHH! I am going to DIE! This is taking FOREVER!"

The woman behind the counter was about to snap. Dave and I weren't far behind. We were late for our next appointment because this woman kept butting ahead and demanding attention.

Her fists smashed down on the counter, "How much money do I owe?"

"$315.10."

"Why do I owe that much?"

"I'm sorry, you're going to have to wait until I finish helping these two gentlemen."

"You need to tell me why I owe that much money! You don't have any right to charge me without telling me what the money is for. I demand you have to tell me right now! You can't just go and charge me whatever you want without telling me why. You need to tell me right now!"

Since when was it OK to walk into places and just start demanding and yelling and shouting (and lying) to get what you want?

The squeaky wheel finally got the oil. Dave and I were instructed to wait just a second so she could print out an invoice for the Screaming Hag. "Ok. Here you go. Your monthly space rent is $265. And, there is a late fee of $50.10."

"I wasn't even that late. Geez. Fine. Ok. Fine. What payment methods do you take?"

"We accept credit card, cash, or money order."

"No checks? What about checks."

I let out a little laugh. With customers like this, there's no way in hell any business would be stupid enough to take checks. They'd be out of business in a week if they took checks.

"No, no checks. Now I need to help these other customers."

Medusa got on her cell phone and started to get all inappropriately loud at her bank. She was nearly shouting. Maybe her bank was a block away and they could hear her from there? I don't know.

"Hello. Uh huh. Uh huh. Yes. I need you to transfer $310 from my savings account into my debit card account."

Now, I'm not always the smartest with my money, I admit. But, it's a big glaring red flag when someone has to transfer the exact money for a transaction into their account in order to pay you. It's not the kind of person you should ever accept a check from, that's for sure.

Dave started to fill out forms and sign agreements—we were finally wrapping things up. But things weren't moving fast enough for the Witch of the West—she started to actually scream again. She threw her arms behind her and let out a big, stupid fake yell of pain. "AAAAARRRRGGGHHH!"

Her mother decided to step in! Cowering by the racks of cardboard boxes, she whispered out a humble, "Now, you stop that."

We all just wanted the woman out of there, so while Dave scribbled a million sets of his initials on a thousand stupid forms, the employee snuck away to run the other woman's credit card—which was accepted.

"Ok. You're all set now. You still have a code for the gate, right?"

Miss Misery smiled a shit eating grin and spat out another obvious lie, "Why no I don't. I guess I LOST IT. You'll just have to give me another one!"

"Well, you're going to have to wait a few more minutes until I finish helping these people."

Fat shook, lips flapped, her hot air pushed her anger out of her mouth. "NO! I am not going to wait! I paid my money just like everybody else. I am going to DIE HERE! WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG?"

Dave snapped, "You need to wait. It's my turn now. I've been waiting for almost twenty extra minutes because of you."

"Well, it's not like I didn't pay. I've been here much longer than you anyhow! I paid with money just like everybody else does! I don't need to wait my turn!"

Nobody was buying it, "No you haven't. I was here first. You've been in here mistreating that woman behind the counter and making it so everybody has to wait on you. It's my turn know. You need to stop being rude and wait."

I don't normally speak up to people about things, but I couldn't help it at this point, "You're being very rude and unkind to that woman. She's doing her best to help you. In fact, she's the only one that can help you and you're still treating her bad. Do you really think you're going to get ahead here by being mean to the one person that can actually help you? You have some serious bad manners and you need to learn how to treat people. You should be ashamed of yourself."

She glared at us. "OH YEAH? SO. Maybe I do. I don't CARE. I don't care if I'm rude. This is how I am. And I paid mah money!"

Dave laughed, "Obviously not. That's why your stuff is in lien. If you paid your bill this wouldn't be an issue now, would it?"

We caught her off gaurd. It was like she'd never been called on her bad behavior before. So she hissed back, "Oh yeah, well I don't care. So THERE! And, OH YEAH? Well you guys look like HOMOSEXUALS! I bet you're homosexuals! So, YEAH! So, THERE!"

Her mom—who'd been cowering in the back of the store saying nothing—tried to speak up again. Almost a whisper, she let out a meek, "Ok, now stop it." Butterflies would've been more forceful. Anyone could see how this lack of discipline created this beast of a person.

"Well, I don't care. This is how BLACK PEOPLE ACT. You just don't understand. And, you act like you're HOMOSEXUALS."

Dave replied, "Actually, I have black people in my family, and I've never seen them—or any black people—act like this. Never."

"No you don't. You don't have no black people in your family. And you act like you're probably HOMOSEXUALS."

And I jumped in again, "You know, I don't think this is how black people act. I've never seen anyone act like this before—black or any color. This is how YOU act. And, it's not OK. You're being very rude."

"No, this is how black people are. You people wouldn't understand. Hmmph! I was planning on writing her a bad check, too!"

Big surprise on that one. Of course she was going to write her a bad check. As if it wasn't obvious from her body language and behavior.

She finally got her gate code, and her receipt, and she stomped out of the office to move her things into the box truck she had waiting just outside the gate.

She shop-woman just shook her head and sighed, "I can't believe how some people act. What a day."

I was surprised by how the irate customer acted. But, I was downright floored by what she said. "This is how black people act." What kind of person would say that sort of thing? It goes against everything we've been fighting for!

What's next? Will corporate embezzlers start shouting at the drowsy jury, "Well, I'm an American white collar criminal! I guess 'you people' wouldn't understand! This is just how upper class white people act!"

In fact, maybe we should all make a list of as many stereotypes as we can think of. "Oh, don't mind those Jews (or those fucking fags or those fire-water drinking Injuns), dear. That's just how those people act!" Don't forget gays, Mexicans, liberals, teenagers, Christians, criminals, and anyone else you can lump into a group!

So, from now on I propose that every March should be forever celebrated as Perpetuate Your Stereotypes Month. During this month make it a point to victimize yourself by blaming the color of your skin, your country of origin, your parents, or anything else you can think of that you want to blame.

Go on and generalize! Go ahead, it's fun!

And, don't forget to pigeonhole others into groups, too! Even if you know nothing about them as an individual or a group, don't worry—here-say and rumors are proof enough! It might be hard to do at first, but just remind yourself: they can't help the way they act!

Still don't agree? Oh, you people wouldn't understand, anyways. If you only knew: This is just how they (and we) are.


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