Friday, December 31, 2004

I Got To Be On the TeeVee!

People always say that before Christmas is a busy time, and I suppose that's true, although when it comes to shopping I tend to confine all my purchasing to one or two days. Most people like to spread the shopping out over several weeks, or even months. To this I say, "F*ck you!" It is for this reason that credit card companies and large producers of goods are able to push the start of the "Christmas Season" back to got-damn Hallowe'en. And yes, I will use the olde english spelling of Hallowe'en, thank you very much. Just be glad I didn't use the term "All Hallow's Eve" because I do it, I swear I will.

Anyway, I could get into the benefits of compressing Christmas shopping into 2 trips, lasting a total of about 16 hours, but I'd rather quickly run through the events of the last 7 days or so. Now for you this laundry list of activities may seem humdrum, but for someone like me whose nights usually consist of doing Tai Chi in front of a mirror like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, this week was positively humming with activity. Here goes:

Friday (Christmas Eve): Had the day off. Spent the afternoon at KJ's moms's place. Beat KJ and her sister Donna at the Saturday Night Live Trivial Pursuit game (naturally, I rarely lose, except when playing Dan Banazek). That selfsame day, drove to Rochester to see my family. My brother and I blocked everyone else out of a crab-dip breadbowl. I explained to my aunt (who is sort of a nun, but not really) about rap music. We ate and played the Trivial Pursuit, '90s edition, which my sister Eileen and I dominated (naturally, since that sonofabitch Dan Banazek wasn't there this time either).

Saturday (Christmas Day): Got an iPod. The rest of the day is a blur set to a soundtrack of nearly 900 songs.

Sunday: Bills beat the crap out of the 49ers. Jitter, Javen and TT come to town from Buffalo, where they had gone on a wing tour. Very nice time at the Change of Pace. Everyone got a little tipsy, and I got to talk to my boy Dave for a couple hours. We talked about college and Transformers and all sorts of stuff. Didn't get as wild as I had expected, but it was fun.

Monday: After work was another blur as I explored the true depth of the iPod's value. This topic should be a blog by itself. I now have over 1,000 songs on the damn thing and haven't even scraped the surface of it's capacity. Good lord what a technological leap forward this thing is.

Tuesday: V-Day. We had an early basketball game after work, and we came to play. Our team, the Change of Pacers, went up against our arch-nemesis, Chadwick's, or as we have dubbed them, Chumpwick's. We have a history with this team/bar, both on and off the court....

Change of Pace is about 2 or 3 miles away from Chadwick's, but Chadwick's is within walking distance of my house. So back in August Toastie and I went there, and Willie met us there. Willie came in and ordered a drink. The bitch bartender looked at his ID and said, "I can't read this, you have to leave." Will has a Massachussets ID, and he doesn't drive, so his ID is a little worn out, and the date of birth is feint, but readable. Regardless, the one thing on the ID that is absolutely readable is the year of birth. And that year of birth is in the 1970s. Now, I don't profess to be a master of mathematics, but in the year 2004, if someone was born on, say, December 31, 1979, the last possible day of the 1970s, that person would be ... right, 24 years old, well over the legal alcohol consumption age. The bartender would not let Will drink, to which Will replied, "How come I've been in hear a hundred times and they've served me before?" The barkeep only said, "You haven't been here when I've been working." So she made Will stand outside while Toastie and I finished our beer. We vowed never to return to this Yankees-Steelers (???) bar.

But that's not all...

In our first basketball game with Chumpwick's in Novemeber, they acted like a bunch of assholes. First of all, we only had 6 people, and one of them, Cliff, went down with a knee injury in the first half, which meant we played the entire second half with only 5 players, and I am out of shape. They are not a more talented team than us, but they were showboating the entire second half because they opened up a big lead on us. They have mostly a couple of fat white guys, one tall black dude, and a couple of gold chain-wearing, chinstrap-brandishing, lanky wiggers who try to zig in and out of the lane for layups. None of these fuckers can shoot, they hook the arm every chance they can, and they were talking shit. But the last straw? At the end of the game, with less than 5 seconds left, they had a fast break. Toastie ran down to try to stop the ballhandler. Another team member jumped in front of Toastie and blocked him from getting to the defender, as the ballhandler slam-dunked it. This was with a 30-some point lead with 2 seconds left. Total bushleague move. The ref waived it off so it didn't count, but it just shows the kind of bullshit character that squad has.

Anyway, this game we had 6 people: Me, Will, Toastie, Toastie's Dad, Dino and Jaime. We were ready for these fat fucks this time. They tried to muscle us inside, we muscled 'em right back. They had no other game. Now that we have learned to play physical defense, they had no answer. Willie and Dino shot the lights out from 3-point range, and since they can't shoot from outside layup range (and even that is only about 50%), they got frustrated, yelling at the refs and trying to hold and hook and cheat. But this time, we beat them. This was our first legit win in the league, and frankly I don't care if it's our last. It was so satisfying to take our 5 core guys who have been there for every single game this year (plus Jaime, a newcomer who played great) and beat these pricks with solid, clean basketball.

Wednesday: We weren't able to retain our victorious mojo for trivia at Clark's on Wednesday, but Toastie did have a very nice young lady notice his Red Sox hat and strike up a conversation with him, which was nice. Everyone mocked her after we left the bar, but I thought it was nice. He should have said, "See you next Wednesday" but he wasn't thinking clearly. Apparently none of us were, judging by our score.

Anyway, Jaime got hungry for "buffalo chicken anything," so we went to Tully's on Erie Blvd to order up ridiculous amounts of fatty foods. While there, a reporter from the local Channel 9 news must have noticed my Syracuse University hat and came to our table to ask us if we had any opinion on the recent firing of SU football coach Paul Pasqualoni being fired. We threw in a few comments, and she said, great, we're going live in about 5 minutes. I went to the restroom to primp a bit, but I looked like shit. Unshaven and bloated. But I got to be on TV. And while I haven't seen the tape, I think I did pretty well. Most of the people they interview for things like this seem like they have not much to say on the topic or can't speak in the English language. So all I wanted to do was not freeze up on camera (put your hands out of your field of vision, that's the first rule) and speak as if I had any idea what I was talking about. I didn't freeze, so that was good, and I think I did alright in the speaking department. Whether I had a clue what I was talking about is up for debate, but at the end I got to give a little wink to the camera and that's all I ever wanted to do.

I was wondering if anyone would have seen me on the news, since it was the 11:00 broadcast and many people are asleep, but a bunch of people from work told me the next day that they saw me, so I was able to walk around with an arrogance about me that said, "I was on local television for nearly 3 minutes!" I think people respect that.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Hodgepodge of Miscellany

I've been a lazy bastard and therefore haven't been able to put together a coherent enough thought to put together a proper blog, so I thought I'd just do some spitballin' and give a random sampling of the last few weeks inside my melon. I can't promise that it will be as brilliant as Larry King's USA Today column, but what young writer could be expected to reach the prosaic altitude of that literary jabberwocky? Wanna hear it? Here it go:

+ I have watched the movie Dodgeball at least 8 times in the last 14 days. I assure you I am not exaggerating. I saw it in the theater the second or third week it was out and I loved it. Then I rented it and all the good jokes came back. But after the half-dozenth time, I'm catching nuances I never really caught before. You probably think I'm an idiot, and you're not wrong, but I think Dodgeball is destined for cult classic status. Interesting tidbit: the director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, also directed the brilliant "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker" commercials for Reebok.

+ Our fortnight of dominance and Clark's Ale House trivia Wednesdays came to an end today. We had tied for first place the last two weeks, but tonight we were undone by a holiday theme with a positively bah-humbug team. We had some key mistakes, but we still hung tough. Plus, we got to drink good beer cheaply in a great bar. Team BoHall will return and we will be angry.

+ A CD I have been listening to a lot is The Creek Drank the Cradle by Iron and Wine. Apparently Iron and Wine isn't a group and isn't two guys named Mike Iron and Steve Wine. It's one dude (I think his name is Sam Beam) and his first album sounds like it was recorded as a 4-track demo, but the music and the songwriting is just gorgeous. Lots of songs with a folky southern sound that is not twangy at all. Just beautiful. It captures such a sense of loss and loneliness, but also faint hope. I don't have the latest album, Our Endless Numbered Days, yet, but I can't wait to get it. It reminds me, if this makes any sense at all, of "All the Real Girls," a beautiful film directed by David Gordon Green (and to a lesser extent, the same director's "George Washington"). Southern, but not fraught with down-home cliches or phony bombast. It's gentle and taps into real-life emotions. The south is only a setting for universal anguish in the film and the album, not a contrived character in and of itself.

+ I'm back into "black person" rap. For a while I was hardcore into the "backpacker" school, which basically meant white people rapping. Your Sage Francis, your Eyedea and Abilities, your Aesop Rock, Anticon, Buck 65, what have you. I still really like it, but for a while I was shunning the other stuff for this breed of whiteboy hip hop (and if you mention the letters M&M to me, I'll tell you to get the fuck out of my face, rookie). I was in a more cerebral place then, lyrically. Now, I'm back into the grooves and into the anger that I grew up with. It feels good to be back.

+ The new year always makes me feel cautiously optimistic. I feel so much hope, so much excitement every January 1. I'm not sure why, but I always have. 2003 was categorically great for me, so I knew that it had to take a downturn in '04, which it did to a certain extent. 2004 is probably the most eventful year of my life, in terms of major events, both good and bad. It's been a real whirlwind over the last 12 months, and I can't believe how fast it's gone. I really hope I can get my bearings back in 2005, because I feel very off-kilter right now, like I'm in limbo somehow. It's as if someone threw a ball up in the air, and right now I'm at the apex, only to come down on one side or the other. Sounds like a horoscope, I know, but that's where I am. I'm excited and terrified at what 2005 has lined up for me.

+ Arrested Development is clearly the best show on TV. Nothing else is even close, in my opinion. The episode a few weeks ago where everyone was walking like Charlie Brown with their heads down was comic genius.

+ Our basketball team had a strong showing the other night. We did lose by 15, but we were respectable in every phase of the game. Our defense and rebounding is much improved, our ball-movement is exponentially better, communication is improving. Here are our problems, still: only a couple of true shooters on the team, severe height disadvantage, some ball-handling errors (though that's been offset somewhat by our strong passing of late). We aren't getting bullied inside anymore, we're much more physical, and our transition game is improving, though still not great. We won our first game last week by forfeit, but we're improving and playing is starting to become fun again.

+ I think I spend far too much time in front of a computer. I do it all day at work, and then I come home and much of the time I'm back on it here. I'm not a computer freak or anything, but instead of watching tv or something after work, I find myself feeling much more at home at the keyboard. Maybe it's making me asocial and depressed to a certain extent, but I can't seem to stop it. I mean it's fifteen minutes until 1AM on a school night and I'm still on this damn thing, aren't I?

+ I'm going bald and I'm getting old. This makes Billy very unhappy. I have a good head for baldness, I'll always say, but I don't want to rush it. I wish I could afford Rogaine or one of those damn hair-grower products, but I'm sure I couldn't. This upcoming in a month and a half will be my last birthday in my 20s. That is a sobering reality for me. I remember my 20th birthday, never thought back then that I'd be where I am now, for better or worse. I'm too young for a mid-life crisis, but maybe I'm having one. Being out of shape doesn't help. I wish there was a way to hate food. Maybe if I start cooking it myself...

+ I have to be up in six hours, and right now, that doesn't feel like a lot. I wish I was already asleep...

Saturday, December 18, 2004

This is little 1.5 year old Lily Mae Flanders. She is adorable, as if you couldn't tell already. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Big Six-Ugh

My moms had her 60th surprise birthday on Saturday, December 11, 2004. It was actually her actual birthday. Now, for most people, something like this would go off, as they say, without a hitch. Most people, of course, are not my family. I think before my relatives came off the boat, before they changed the last name to Shannon, it must have been Murphy, you know the one who had a law named after him. Maybe they wanted to sound less Irish, I don't know.

Overall, the shindig went very well. Nice turnout, my mom was genuinely surprised, and I could tell she had a really nice time. But before I get to that, let's just make a quick rundown of all the stuff that went wrong:

1) No one was there to open the door. Now, this seems like a small oversight on the part of the Monroe County Parks and Recreation Department. But when my brother called and said no one was there to open the place at 10:00 AM, we got a little uneasy. My dad began to slightly panic, and a slight panic for my dad is like a major panic for just about anyone else. My dad panics about not taking out the trash. I wasn't panicked, I was pissed. I'm not one of these people who gets all uppity and mad about things and calls places and asks to speak to supervisors and threatens to call lawyers and all that shit, but I left a very pissed-off message with the answering machine that they had at the county. My brother, a rookie cop, had to call in a bunch of contacts he knew from "the force" to bust into the place. I, of course, thought it would be so much cooler if he just shot the lock or kicked the door down, but my bro must be one of those "by-the-book" cops. When everything was over and we were cleaning up, I wish we hadn't mopped and swept up. If the county tried to charge extra for not cleaning up, we could have said, Well, we weren't even able to get in, how could we have made a mess?

2) We nearly started a small electrical fire due to a faulty fuse or something in a coffee machine. We're putting up streamers and balloons and crap and suddenly there is a loud pop. I look over by the kitchen area and see several bursts of fire like firecrackers. Someone got the smart idea to actually pull the coffee machine away from the wall, causing the plug to pull away from the outlet. The place was made mostly of brick, and there was a fire extinguisher close by, so it wouldn't have been horrific, but it gave the old folk quite a scare.

3) My dad was supposed to bring my mom at 1:00 so we could have a somewhat large contingent of people do the old "surprise" move when my mom showed up. Instead, he shows up at ... 12:15! My brother says, "Yeah, that's dad's car, they're here." We were still doing prep work and my dad shows up 45 minutes early. Well, turns out my mom's sisters wanted her to show up early so she could spend a little time with the family before all the other folks arrived, but it was a little weird to have this big empty hall and about a dozen people saying "surprise" when we were really the ones caught off guard.

Other than that, everything went very well. I saw people I haven't seen in several years. It was nice to see a nice mix of older, younger and middling folk. I think my mom really enjoyed seeing all these old friends and family members. My mom had a pretty serious injury a couple of months ago, and I think it took a toll on her psyche a little bit. But she was right in her element. My mom is a very sweet woman, and she's always been very good to me. It was nice that everyone was able to show her how much she means to them. To me she really doesn't look 60, either.

A funny thing my mom told me before most of the people showed up: "If I died yesterday [when I was 59], people would have said, 'Oh she died so young.' But if I drop dead tomorrow, they'll say, 'She lived a good, long life.'" Amazing how numbers can color our perception. I'm not even 30, yet that magic number approaches me like the crocodile in Peter Pan that swallowed the clock stalked Captain Hook. 60 years old is more than twice my life away. I can't even fathom that concept.

One thing I realized is that I have almost no capacity for sincerity. Here we were at a very nice event with a bunch of nice people who only came to wish us well, and I tormented them with out-and-out bullshit almost the entire day. Whenever someone would ask me a question like, "What are you doing these days?" instead of telling them what I did, I would make up some phony, preposterous story. And the story would always change. I'm sure I told someone I just escaped from prison. Male modeling was one I used. (It's funny when you look like me and you tell someone you've been doing male modeling with a straight face; their reaction is priceless. It's as if they can't believe it, but don't want you to know they can't believe it. So the look on their face starts as surprise, then morphs into a false sense of being impressed.) I told one very sweet lady with whose son I graduated high school that I never graduated. She had a befuddled, confused look until my mom swooped in and saved me, saying, "Oh Billy, you did so graduate." That's when it comes to bite you in the behind: when you say something that you know is totally ridiculous and yet the person you tell assumes that you would actually tell the truth about something and believes you. On one hand I felt kind of bad for being such a charlatan most of the day, but on the other hand I have to admit, I was on.

Another thing I learned about myself: beer and more than 1 slice of birthday cake will put me to sleep before 8 PM. Every single time.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Stupid Things I've Done: The Mayonnaise-on-the-Shirt Trick

I'm starting a new, hopefully recurring part of my blog today called "Stupid Things I've Done." I'm hoping that these things will be so stupid as to make you laugh, not just plain old stupid things, like the time I put a homemade pizza in the oven on a wooden rack, not thinking that wood burns and often catches on fire at high temperatures. That's not funny-stupid, it's dangerous-stupid.

Today's will be a mild example, but I think it's a good idea of what a complete imbeclie I can be. Enjoy!

Summer 1998

I was taking an English class at Le Moyne College, not having realized that I was exactly one class short to get my degree. It was the summer after what was supposed to be my senior year, and I stayed on campus for the summer to paint dorm rooms and take this one class. The class was called "Perspectives in Literature" with Dr. Novak, and to this day I would have to say it's the best class I've ever taken. It truly and sincerely changed my life. The class didn't make me smarter though, and I'll prove it.

One fateful summer day I went to class clad in jeans, a baseball cap and a white t-shirt. I don't remember what the t-shirt said on it, but like I said, it was white. The class was four hours long, and consisted of a woman with some sort of foreign accent (don't remember what kind, but I think it was German), a guy who was training to be a cop, a woman who I think worked at a grocery store, and myself. I'm no genius obviously, but I was like the ringer of this class. The class's participants were less a collection of scholars than people you would see at a defensive driving course for people who crashed into stop signs or something. I felt so bad that Dr. Novak, one of the most insightful professors I ever had, had to deal with this collection straight out of "Summer School."

Mercifully, the class was half over, so I headed down the barren staircase of Le Moyne's Grewen Hall down to the lower level where the Dolphin Den was located. The Den was the place where you could go and get pretty good, cheap food, watch some TV, play some old old video games, and sometimes study in peace. It was usually packed during the school year, but during summer, no one showed up.

Anyway, to speed things up, I ordered some sort of sandwich that had sauce on it. I think it may have been a chicken parmasean sandwich or something like that. It was delicious, I'm sure. But in the course of eating the sandwich, I -- as is my custom -- dripped some of the sauce on my shirt. My heretofore pristine, white shirt. Now, there was a huge red glob in the middle of my shirt, and I had to go back to class with it. There wasn't enough time to run back to my dorm and get a new shirt. Here I was, thinking I was the smart one in the class, and now I had a stupid stain on my shirt. I was gonna look like an idiot!

Quickly, I thought, how can I rectify this? I ran to the restroom and tried rubbing it out with a wet piece of toilet paper, but that didn't work. It just made a wet spot around the stain which further magnified it. How could I cover this up?! I've got it!

I went to a condiment station where one could pick out any of a number of items: napkins, straws, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper. I saw my salvation; my embarrassment was to be spared by the Hellmann's company. Mayonnaise is white, I thought, and my shirt is white. White on white! It's perfect.

I went back to my table, a packet of mayonnaise and a napkin in hand, ready to undo the cruel past. I proceeded to rip open the packet of mayo, put it on a napkin, and ... wait for it... WIPE IT ON MY SHIRT. This was my brilliant solution. Hindsight being 20/20, I didn't realize two things about mayonnaise that I should have anticipated: 1) Mayo isn't really white when it's taken out of a jar or packet, it's actually closer to yellow. 2) Mayo is made of eggs and vinegar, and therefore not odorless.

Well now I snapped out of my moronic daze and realized what a fuckup I really was. I went back to class with this nasty yellowish blotch covering up a red blotch on my shirt and finished the last two hours of the class. No one said anything about the stain, but they noticed. They noticed...

This was fun.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

A Couple Pics from the SU-St.Bonaventure Game

Toastie enjoying the game despite my incredibly hairy hands Posted by Hello
Jav, Willie, Me, Toast after the game Posted by Hello
Javen, Bill and Toastie after the game Posted by Hello

For Whom the Credit Card Machine Declines

As if going to the mall isn't bad enough, technology -- which is meant to make our lives simpler -- screwed me over today. Today, technology cost me $2.00 in ATM fees. You owe me, Technology! Pay up, bitch!

I haven't been to the mall since before Thanksgiving, and there's good reason for it. I hate the mall. And I mean I really really hate it. Not any specific mall, but all malls.

When I was a teenager of about 15 or 16, I loved the mall. And I mean really really loved it. I got my first job when I was 16. (I'm a late bloomer in a lot of things: didn't get my driver's license until age 18, didn't get drunk for the first time until later that same year. I've still never "done it" with another dude.) The job was at Richardson's Canal House in Bushnell's Basin in Rochester. I'm told it was a very good restaurant, the former owner even had a license plate that said "5 Star." She was a real bitch. She's not my boss anymore so I can say that.

My boy Cialini actually got me the job there. He and I worked like dogs at that place. We were dishwashers, but in addition to that very important task, we also mopped floors, broke down boxes, peeled green beans and all sorts of other skilled duties. The kitchen was always hot as hell, the waiters were assholes, as were some of the people that worked there. My boss, Dave, was a raging prick. In fact, one Saturday night when I came into work he yelled at me because I had left early the night because I had to take my SATs that morning. He said to me, "That's bullshit. I oughta fire your ass right now. [Long pause.] I'm not gonna but I should." Yeah, you're not gonna because your ass is gonna be down your only dishwasher for the night. To this day I wish I had said, "Go ahead and fire me, bitch. Go ahead." He never would have done it, he would have been screwed. That very same night he got violently ill and had to spend several weeks in the hospital. He ended up being okay, but I never saw Dave again. I put in my two-weeks notice the next week.

Anyway, I'm getting way off track. The mall. Yes, working in that hell's-kitchen was always worth it, because every other Saturday or so, Cialini and I would cash our paychecks and then spend the bulk of it at Camelot Music at Eastview Mall. Over the course of the 8 months of my junior year of high school, I wouldn't be surprised if I spent close to $900 on CDs and (mostly) cassette tapes. Mike and I listened pretty much only to rap music at the time, so we would snap up all the new releases, then go home and "dub" them off each other (this was before downloading and burning, young children). I actually would calculate my paychecks in terms of how many rap tapes I could buy with it. Back then, tapes were about $8.99, so with tax they were just right around $10, so if my check for the week was $120, I would think, "Wow, I can get 12 tapes this week!" CDs were usually about $17 back then. Of course, at chain record stores they still are. I had no idea you could go to a indie record store and get CDs for like $11. This is why I have three large plastic crates positively overflowing with cassettes. That's forward thinking, eh?

I was so obsessed with stretching my cassette tape dollar, that I became a cheap son of a bitch when it came to spending money on anything else. In fact, once I was at the mall with my brother Mike and his friend (I think his name was Rajit, sarcastic little Indian kid), and they were hungry, so we went to Burger King. It was right across the way from Camelot. I was the only one with a job, so I had the money. My brother and Rajit wanted hamburgers, so I said they could get hamburgers, but no cheese. (I swear this is true.) The cheese would have been 10 cents extra per sandwich, but I put the kibosh on the cheese. Rajit later found a dime on the floor after they ate, and he asked me, "If I bring this up to the register, do you think they'll give me a slice of cheese?" Punk kid.

Was there a point here? I don't know. But the point is, now the mall is the last place I want to go. Not only is it a soul-sucking place of commerce, especially around Christmas time, but it's filled with old, slow-walking people; gaggles of teenagers, girls with shirts too tight, boys with pants too big; loud obnoxious noises everywhere; and all that walking. I hate the walking. I'm always too hot, but I don't want to leave my jacket in the car. It's miserable, but yet I love to buy things, so what else am I going to do?

Today I went to a place that Willie, Toastie and Javen have told me about called Steve & Barry's. They said it was a treasure trove of t-shirts that were usually under $10. And I'm a sucker for "gimmick" t-shirts with wacky or ironic sayings on them. That they know of, there are two stores, one in Albany, one in Auburn. When I got there, I was positively floored by the amount of merch available, and how cheaply. If you ever have a chance to get to one, take it, especially if you are a t-shirt person. Not since the heyday of the soon-to-be-defunct Champion Outlet (moment of silence...) have I seen such reasonably-priced, awesome shirts. They have shirts that range from legit college logos, funny slogans, and the obligatory double-entendre shirts. ("Dick's Wood Shop," "Go Hairy Beavers," et al.)

I got 5 shirts: four for myself, one for someone else. The shirts I got for myself are one that says "I'm with Stupid" and has an arrow pointing upward, one that has the "Parental Advisory, Explicit Content" logo on it, one baseball-type shirt that just says "Buffalo" (awesome!), and one that says "Canada" with a logo of a hockey player taking a slap shot. For all these shirts, I paid $27.

Well... I tried to pay $27, but unfortunately, Steve and Barry were having a bit of a credit card machine malfunction. I have a check card from Visa that withdraws the money direct from my checking account. The credit card number is 4456 8.... that's not important right now. The problem is that the card "wasn't going through." Rage, who was with me, had a similar problem at the register next to me, but her's was cleared up on the second swipe. With me, the cashier had to call a manager over. Great.

I've worked in retail, and it's a very awkward situation when you have to tell a customer that their card didn't go through. The customer invariably will say, "There's money in there, run it through again," at which point the cashier will gladly oblige, only to advise the customer 15 seconds later that it declined again. Few retail situations are more awkward: for the cashier having to break the news, and for the customer having to be told he has no money.

I'm no stranger to credit card decline. In fact, many years ago when I made less money than I do now -- and I'm still no Michael Bluth when it comes to yearly earnings -- such an occurrance was routine. Every purchase I made with a credit card back then was a fingers-crossed game of chance. This is why many of the major credit card vendors still prefer that I don't use their cards for at least a couple more years.

But this time, I knew I had the money. I went to get an oil change earlier today and the card worked like a charm. LIKE A CHARM! (Good thing, too, because if that hadn't worked, I would have had to have walked home.) I frantically ran outside to check my account balance on my cell phone. Because even know I knew I had the money, I didn't know if I had the money. I punch in my account number, 3024 873... sorry, off track again, and yes, I did have at least a couple hundred bucks to play around with this month. But the people in the store don't know that. The cashier, the manager, the line of people who were waiting for my deadbeat ass to get out of line didn't know that. So I had to walk all around the mall looking for an ATM. (And by the way, I've never been to a mall with such a dearth of ATMs as the Finger Lakes Mall.) I took out the money, and walked back triumphantly to Steve and Barry's with cash in hand, as if to say, "See, haters? I got the money, bee-otch!" But I'm sure they thought I just borrowed the money or beat up some kids for it. I had considered just walking away, not only to save face, but to penalize Steve and Barry's for their faulty computers. But that "I'm with Stupid" shirt? Ha ha! It's priceless! And appropriate.