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Category: Humans

Take This Blame and Shove It
Of all the spectator sports we watch or play, is there any less enjoyable, less satisfying than The Blame Game? It may be unique among all such pastimes in that there are no actual “fans,” as such, of the sport. We watch it with the same grim fascination we reserve for multi-car pileups on the Interstate. We just can’t tear our eyes away from the unfolding pageant of horror.

Other than that sick obsession, there is really no reason to watch. The play is always dirty, there are no rules to speak of, and there are no feats of individual skill or daring to admire. None of the players is worth rooting for, and we are all debased by our participation in the awful spectacle.

Worst of all, there is never a clear winner. No thrill of victory, no agony of defeat, no genuine human feeling of any kind. Just endless polling and punditry and egregious flapdoodling to fill our moments of idle dread. And yet, these contests are thought to have real world consequences, especially in the political realm. Although that proposition remains unproven, those of us who follow The Blame Game never doubt for a moment the solemn importance of this bloodsport.

The recent shutdown drama is a case in point. There was some light chatter about the human consequences of interrupting vital government services, but most of the energy was spent on divining who the winners and the losers would be. And was there some point to all of that? No… because no one could agree on what the score was. It was an utterly meaningless exercise.

It is past time that we do something to address this situation. We need an exact time when the clock runs out, — a moment when we can clearly discern who the winners and the losers are. Come to think of it, I don’t care that much about the winners. It’s the losers I want to know about. In other words, when all is said and done, who can I blame?

One thing I don’t want to hear is this lame pronouncement: “There’s plenty of blame to go round.” No, there isn’t. I want the name of the s.o.b. who screwed up and I want him to take all of the heat. I need a specific individual so that I’m not diluting my aggrievement by spreading it around. Who killed the Kennedys? Contrary to what the Rolling Stones might tell you, it was not you and me. Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan did it, and those are the guys I blame. That’s the kind of specificity I want. Names and stats — especially the final score. I want a head for that dunce cap, a neck for that noose.

But how do we make these determinations? Ordinarily, I would suggest a blue-ribbon commission for such a task, sober and considered people to weigh all the evidence. I fear, however, that we would be taking its members away from more important duties. So how about a red-ribbon commission? I’d settle for that. Red-ribbon commissioners probably wouldn’t be doing anything so vital that we couldn’t convene them as celebrity judges on The Blame Game. They’d be like a Supreme Court for blaming. The difference is that there are no money or rights or jail time on the line — just the reputations of the guilty parties.

Episode One of the Shutdown Blame Game has now come to an end. Surely there will be an Episode Two, but I’d rather not wait to start assigning blame. If our red-ribbon commission actually existed, we would have their verdict already. We could place the blame accordingly, get back to our lives, and resume our worry about things that actually matter. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Sweat Logic
Don’t sweat
The small stuff
That’s what
People say

And don’t sweat
The big stuff
It’s hopeless
Anyway

Only if it’s
Middle-sized
Should you
Even try

And even then
It’s better when
You stay
Completely dry
Better Than Human
There was a time when cars had nothing to say. In those days they just sat there until needed, quietly and without complaint, leaking oil onto your driveway. My 2007 Civic is of a different breed.

Among other things, it is deeply concerned about whether I have fastened my seatbelt. When I have not, it lets me know with an unpleasant noise: seven too-loud beeps, followed by fifteen seconds of silence, then the beeps again. The sequence continues until I comply with its wishes or until the car is turned off. It has other, different warning sounds as well — about headlights left on, emergency brakes unreleased, and doors ajar. Those noises are equally insistent and annoying.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful that my vehicle cares so much about me. After all, any one of my oversights might result in a severe inconvenience…or even my death. I am not yet ready to say that I can no longer take care of myself, but these conveniences spare me the need to try. That’s a good thing, right?

My only complaint about the Civic is the harsh, slightly judgmental tenor of its reminders. I don’t like being crabbed at, even if it’s for my own good. I suppose the unpleasantness is meant to make me act, if only to end the pain. I can honestly say that I would respond anyway. Even without the crabbing. Probably.

My kitchen appliances are also full of helpful hints and reminders. They are more considerate of my feelings, though. My microwave, which is about the same age as the Civic, can be a bit abrupt, but my new washing machine is a model of politeness. It signals that my wash is done with a lovely chimed rendition of “Clock Town Day.” Hearing it, I find myself looking forward to the rewards of a properly folded basket of laundry.

Come to think of it, the younger generation of machines (unlike their human counterparts) are noticeably better mannered than their elders. Some of them — the ones endowed with a capacity for spoken language — are disarmingly gracious. My Waze app (I’ve chosen the voice of a British woman named Natalie) is unfailingly positive. There are never any recriminations for a wrong turn or a piece of advice unheeded. She simply moves on to the next turn.

Natalie isn’t a nice person in the normal sense, of course. Neither are Siri, Alexa, Watson, or any of their ilk. They act nice (albeit a tad robotically), and I like that. Someday, with the proper programming, they might be able to simulate genuine niceness. I can even imagine them becoming likable, especially when if they lose their stiffness. Newer versions may come to possess an enhanced sensitivity to my needs, my desires, even my moods. In fact, they could someday be preferable to actual human beings.

You heard me. Better than human beings. Better conversationalists, better confidantes, better companions. And the drawbacks of actual humans would be absent. There would be no fights, no falling outs, no estrangements. And they would do exactly as they are told, always and without question.

Come to think of it, though, that might be a problem — that there would be no problems. No eccentricities to put up with, no flaws to forgive. Real friendship carries with it the willingness to accept the other in spite of the warts. Even if we could program our robot buddies to have a few flaws, I don’t think we would put up with them that way. We couldn’t resist the temptation to remove the warts and save ourselves the trouble.

I think I would tire of a perfect companion. Even if the likeness to a sensitive, interesting friend were seamless, it would be hollow. I would be entertained, perhaps, but essentially alone. In that world, I might even find myself longing for the company of my old Civic. It's crabby, annoying, and a terrible conversationalist, but loyal and thoughtful. To a fault, is all.
Save My Ceipt
Yes, I save my receipts. Most of them, anyway…especially if you count the ones I find in my coat pocket. Sometimes, I don’t throw these away until the next time I wear that coat. And sometimes, not even then. If that is not saving, what is?

I know some people who save all their receipts and preserve them neatly in a special drawer or a little box that is always in the same place no matter what. That’s very admirable, I’m sure, but to me this is not so much saving as hoarding, and it speaks of someone who cannot let go of even the most trivial possessions. I don’t really want to know what perverse personal need is being filled by this obsession, but I question the assumption that such people are “well-organized.”

I wonder…when these people go out for a dinner, do they actually keep the “customer copy?” I’ll bet they do — even though they’ve eaten the dinner and looked at the bill and added it all up three times, just to be sure. They probably even keep that other slip that restaurants give you (whatever it is) and put it in their special place in a nice neat pile with all the other little pieces of paper.

I do recognize, in a broader sense, the need to save one’s receipts. You might need some help remembering exactly what product or service you purchased or who sold it to you or how much you paid. Any mature, grown-up adult who has reached his majority might reasonably need to have this data on file. Such information is also helpful for enforcing guarantees or qualifying for refunds. I heartily endorse this modest level of anality.

A word of warning to young people, however: no matter how careful you have been in maintaining your filing system — no matter how particular you have been in keeping those documents safe and ready to secure some important benefit — no matter how anal your attention to stuffing them into that tattered folder that you refuse to replace…the one you actually need will not be there.

And that is sad. Sad because all that focus and care that you devoted to saving your receipts ended up being for naught. What is sadder still, though, is the thought of all those other receipts — the ones that were successfully preserved — who will never be called upon to fulfill their destiny. They have waited dutifully in that file, sometimes for many years, looking to the moment when they are that proof of purchase that saves the day.

But no. Though they have remained steadfastly legible and in chronological order with all their forgotten companions, their day in the sun will never come. Their destiny is to remain in that folder — unread and untouched — until they are no longer relevant.

But I will continue to save them even then. I feel as though I owe them that much at least — even if it’s in the breast pocket of that old windbreaker in the back of my closet.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee