Sunday, September 18, 2011

59. Tax Breaks

Someone scheduled a lecture downtown by a conservative tax policy expert. I recently expanded my interests to include multiple viewpoints, so off I went. I arrived early and procured a good seat on the front row.

As the crowd arrived, a tall, heavy-set woman sat beside me. She was attractive, though overweight, and responded to my nod with a sweet “How are you today?”

“Well,” I answered, noticing that her attire seemed dated and worn, but neatly arranged.

She leaned over and asked in an almost-whisper, “Will there be a question and answer period, do you think, Big Dope?”

“C.W,” I said, “What the hell are you doing?”

“Waiting for the lecture to begin. What are you doing?” She smiled and leaned back in her seat.

“Please tell me you are not going to cause a scene.”

She simply smiled and nodded that the program was about to begin.

The speaker was engaging, if predictable. He was middle-aged and looked scholarly. He wore designer eyeglasses and sported an elaborate comb-over that originated near the top of one ear and slid fore and aft as the talked.

He spoke quickly, without notes and with only a few charts for emphasis. America’s economic problems exist because of taxes and regulations. He added no real support, only his expert opinion. I drifted off into thoughts of Herbert Hoover until I realized we were in the question and answer period.

Before I could stop him/her, C.W. popped up without even being recognized.

“I’m a mother of three,” she said. “My husband ran away a year ago with his secretary and hasn’t paid a child-support payment in two months.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” the speaker began, but she cut him off.

“I receive some support through the “Aid to Families With Dependent Children,” she said.”

“I’m glad that program is there to support you,” the speaker began.

“And I’m called a ‘Welfare Slut.” The tone was becoming belligerent.

“That’s unfortunate,” the speaker said. “Are there other questions?”

She wouldn’t be stopped. She grabbed my shoulder and yelled. “And this character gets a welfare payment every time he makes a mortgage payment but they call it ‘Enlightened Tax Policy.’ Why?”

The speaker leaned forward. “Are you talking about the mortgage-interest tax deduction?”

“I’m talking about a welfare payment to homeowners but not renters,” he yelled.

As George W. Bush would say:
 "Those people need to pull themselves
 up by their own bootstraps like I did.
The speaker waived for her to calm down. “You can’t compare the two,” he said. “People getting an interest deduction on their mortgage payments spend the money to purchase supplies and labor for home repairs and construction. That money promotes economic development.”

“And the money I spend on my kids’ school clothes doesn’t? She was screaming now and I protested loudly as she pulled me to my feet.

As we stood outside the door where the security guard deposited us, I trembled with fury.

“You just had to do it, didn’t you?”

“Never mind. You stay right here. “I’m going to change into an Enron executive.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

58. Germs

Someone knocked on the door last evening and, of course, I knew straightaway that it had to be C.W. I was feeling a little bored so playing along with him promised some relief from the tedium. Sure enough, he was in the form of a door-to-door salesman, complete which a checkered sport coat, blue trousers, and a pair of scuffed brown shoes.

“May I interest you in the latest health breakthrough to sweep America?” he said, holding up a small box with “Sani-Dispence” emblazoned across the front in bright letters.

“Sure,” I said. “Come on in.” It was unnecessary as he had already barged into the room before I spoke.

“Thank you sir,” he said. Holding the box up, he adopted a voice so smarmy that Joel Osteen would have blushed with envy.

“Did you know that many modern diseases are spread by hand contact?” he said.

“I have heard this, yes,” I said.

“Are you as careful about germ control as you should be?”

“Probably not.”

“I thought so,” he said. Then he smiled. “You are in luck.”

“How so?”

“I have here a device that dispenses a powerful hand sanitizing liquid that is guaranteed to kill a hundred and ten percent of all germs that you would normally carry around on your hands.”

“A hundred and ten percent? Isn’t that a lot?”

“Yes, it includes germs you haven’t even come in contact with yet.”

Not wanting to spoil his momentum, I played along.

“How does it work?”

“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. Then he made a great show of opening the box and removing a clear bottle of “hand sanitizer” along with a plastic holder for the bottle. A electrical cord dropped from it.

“You just spread some of this miracle liquid on your hands like this,” he said, grabbing my hand and squirting a small mound of jell-like substance on it. Then he spread it around.

“Germ free,” he said.

I sniffed it. “Smells like alcohol to me.”

“Ah, but I’m not finished.”

“Please proceed.”

He made an elaborate show of walking to the kitchen table, setting up the container, and plugging it in.”

“See,” he said as he moved his hand under the bottle’s spot and watching it automatically dispense a wad of the goo on his fingers. “All automatic. Your fingers never touch the container.”

“So you don’t have to touch the bottle that is going to dispense a hand sanitizing liquid that will free you from germs after you apply it?”

“Why yes,” he said and then stopped. He thought for a second and then went through the process of obtaining the liquid and spreading on his hands. He considered the process again and a troubled look came over his face.

“You, uh, don’t have to touch the bottle,” he said. “It’s automatic.” Then he looked at the apparatus again and then back at me. “You don’t have to touch anything in order to get the sanitizer on you hands.” He voice was growing weaker.

I just looked at him.

“Will your species buy anything if it is advertised properly?” he said. There was sadness in his manner now.

“Just about,” I said.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

57. The Sporting Life

C.W. promised to come by the condo last evening so when he called, I buzzed him right up. Glad I did. I wouldn’t want him hanging around the front door in the appearance he had chosen for this visit.

Let’s just say he looked like a walking advertisement for “The American Hunter.” He wore camouflage from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Even his hands sported “camo gloves.” His face was marked up like a D-Day paratrooper and his eyes rested behind a dulled set of aviator sunglasses.

It reminded me of how the reporters used to “garb-up” during the Iraq Invasion.

“What do you think?” he said as he banged his gun case into my most expensive piece of furniture.

“You wouldn’t even begin to want to know,” I said.

“Can’t wait for opening day,” he said. “If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m taking up hunting as a sport.”

“Do tell,” I said.

“Let me show you this neat stuff,” he said, opening a bag—a camouflaged one of course.

“See here,” he opened a large sack. “This here is called ‘Deer Corn.’ I can put it in my kill-zone everyday for few weeks and the deer will be coming straight to it come opening day.”

I tried not to retch.

“And this here is female deer scent. Know what it does?” He started to open the bottle but I stopped him.

“Oh, they won’t come in up here,” he said.

“That’s okay, I get the picture,” I said.

He pulled out a small recorder and flipped it on. There was a sound of repeated clanging.

“That’s a recording of two buck deer fighting over a gal.” He leaned back, evidently enjoying the sound. “That ought to raise a crowd.”

I motioned for him to turn it off.

“Now look here,” he said. He laid the bag aside and opened his gun case. “I prefer the most manly and primitive approach to hunting. Nothing but a muzzle-loader for me.”

I just stared at him as he unlimbered the gun from its case. Of course, it too was coated in camouflage.

“This here is a 50-caliber beauty build to the most exacting standards available,” he said. “And check out this telescope, 3-9x40 baby with a duplex reticle—waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. What’ya think?”

“I’m simply overwhelmed.”

“Thought you would be,” he said, apparently missing the irony completely. “What an experience, just man against beast in a primal contest of inter-species confrontation played out in nature’s neutral battleground on an equal footing.”

My mouth dropped open.

He removed his glasses. It was the actual C.W. again.

“It’s not really, is it?”

“No,” I said.

“Tell me something,” he said.


“Aren’t there enough wars going on at any one time to provide relief for your species’ blood-lust?”

“One thing to consider,” I said.

“I’m all ears,” he said.

“The deer don’t shoot back.”