Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Flatulympics

I have no memory of anyone in my family farting, ever. It just wasn't done.

I do realize that it probably happened. Otherwise our whole family would have been bobbing about on the ceiling like balloons in the Macy's parade, and I'm sure I'd remember that. And looking back, I now see that my brother was probably world-class. All I knew was you did not want to go in the bathroom after he'd been in it. He always planted a major fug in there, part aftershave, part cigarettes and part Fumes of Mystery. My eyebrows still haven't grown back all the way.

I also remember it happening to me at least once. I've only got about ten memories from first grade, but tops among them was the time I farted and Chris Ripper smelled it and he got all the kids to stand up in a line so he could sniff their butts. Chris probably had a lot of self-confidence to pull that off, and I don't remember anyone flinging that "he who smelt it, dealt it" line at him. Anyway he passed right by my butt without fingering me, as it were, and that's probably why it's so vivid. You always remember your biggest humiliations and triumphs, and while that one could have gone either way, I put it in the "triumph" column.

(The next memory I have of Chris Ripper was in tenth-grade biology, when we were doing a study of blood types and had to prick our own fingers with a lancet, and he volunteered--with glee, mind you--to stab all the leery ones. I wonder what Chris is up to now. I really do.)

So if I don't remember any farting in my family, it must be because I learned early on that such a thing was never to be remarked upon, or noticed in any way, and I took that to heart so much that my memory slate was wiped clean. As it were.

But although I signed on for much of our family ethic, in this respect at least, the apple fell from the tree and hasn't stopped rolling away. I now live in a household in which flatulence is a competitive sport. No matter what sort of noise I might make, Dave can imitate it. We go back and forth. It's a form of conversation, I maintain, and while not elevated, it serves a lot of the same function of ordinary discourse ("hello, I'm here, I care, I'm listening"). We're not just talking about the weather; we're doing something about it.

I remain fascinated that so many different sounds can be made with just the one instrument. It's a matter of embouchure, just like in woodwinds, I assume; everything from the little squeal to the pop-pop-pop-pop to something worthy of a ship in fog. And we both try to hold back enough ammunition to get in the last word. (Also, we do our own laundry.)

One of the beautiful things about modern technology is you can write an essay about farting and blast it all over the planet (as it were), and somebody out there will care. The blogosphere is a cozy place, and there are all sorts of interest groups and communities in it. There's something for everyone. There are mommy blogs and birding blogs and art blogs and knitting blogs and wingnut blogs, left and right. And sometimes when you're bobbing about on the ceiling of the blogosphere, you can recognize a kindred spirit, someone who holds your core values. A case in point would be Don Joe, the proprietor of the very funny blog Workforced. Ostensibly, it's about life in the modern office; but after reading this post and that post and OMG this one, I realized that Don was essentially putting out the same inspirational message I am.

Pull my finger.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Legendary Hotness

Climate science is very complicated. There are reams of data to collect and analyze about a multiplicity of systems interconnected in an infinite number of ways. Throw in feedback loops and the whole enterprise seems almost impossibly complex. It's serious business. How is the average person expected to make sense of it all? It's simple, with the Peter-Meter. Earlier last year, when a couple of British scientists were discovered talking smack in their emails, the very foundation of climate science took a big hit. But neither scientist was caught diddling the pool boy, so we were unable to come to any conclusions.

Fortunately, now we've got much more information to go on. Al "Call me Al" Gore has been rumored to have engaged the services of a massage therapist here in Portland who had more legitimacy than he was counting on, and before you could say "lock box," a convenient hand of truth was shoved down the groin of mendacity. Mr. Gore reportedly thought the Northwest Passage was open and had his mighty vessel all ready to break through, but it was not to be.

At first, many of us were inclined to discount this story, putting it down to the legendary hotness of Portland women, but as the tale unfolded, it became clear we have all been taken for a ride. Mr. Gore allegedly attempted to remove the straps of her camisole, revealing the underpinnings of the global warming hoax. Then he flang the woman onto a bed and launched himself on top of her with a thwomp and a wobble, and that, ladies and gentlemen--that is the sound of glaciers growing, of seas retreating, of hurricanes relaxing to swizzle-stick velocities. It's over, folks. There's no need to panic anymore, no need to soldier through the mountains of research, and best of all, no need to change a thing.

Senator James Inhofe has said that all along, of course. Senator Inhofe, who has irrelevantly siphoned off tankers of oil industry cash, nailed global warming as a hoax a long time ago. So we will have to take him at his word, at least until he bangs the maid.

Oh, if only Copernicus had been revealed to have a wide stance in the bathroom, we'd already have that sun back revolving around us, just the way God set it up.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blown Away

You know how sometimes there's just someone out there who you can totally relate to? Not in the standard way we all relate to George Clooney or Cate Blanchett or the like. No, I'm talking about someone like Debby Kaspari, whom I haven't yet met in person, but still consider a friend. She's an artist--the rare kind, the kind who can nail down her subject in one minute with a cocktail napkin and a magic marker. Give her some real tools and a little more time and she'll blow you away. Just as I, given all day and a pencil with a huge eraser, can draw you, if you remain utterly still, and have it come out looking just like you, only with a bigger forehead and freakishly long lip and maybe a suggestion of there having been alternate primates in the woodpile.

Or there's her musical ability. I listen to music!

Or how everything she does completely knocks your socks off. I wear socks!

Or how adorable she is, which I totally would be if I looked like her. I mean, the parallels--it's uncanny.

Or, you know how you go into the next room with some idea in mind, and when you get there, you can't remember what it was, so you go back out, and you still can't remember what it was? That's Debby all over. She went into a tiny storm shelter below her garage the other day, just for a few minutes, and when she climbed back out, her entire house was gone. Anybody could relate.

Not too long ago, I realized that the SAT scores I'd been toting around for the last forty years were missing. I toted them around because when I was younger I'd had an inkling I might need them some day as proof that I ever had two brains that touched each other. Now I barely remember how to inkle, and I've lost my SAT scores. Same exact thing with Debby, only with her it's her sketchbooks, her photographs, her clothing, her furniture, her life's work.

She's finding some stuff. The banjo made it. Some of her artwork is drying out now. Some of it's in the next county.

A lot of people would like to help her out in some way. All of her friends would, and a lot of us who only know her through her magnificent website and the good word of mutual friends in the birding and art world would, too. I made up a little design that people can have on a t-shirt if they want. All the profits will go to Debby. It's not as good a design as Debby could have done if she were into self-promotion, but she's not.

The two birds in the front are scissor-tailed flycatchers, the Oklahoma state bird. Behind them are birds from all over, western meadowlark to eastern bluebird, all converging with nesting material and hope. Well, that's the Internet for you--knitting up new communities. It makes us all warmer.

It's probably a great way of getting perspective on our stuff: having it all blow away in a minute. Most of us aren't in tornado alley, but we're all a short-circuit or an earthquake or a fallen tree away from finding out what's important in life. Friendship's got to be right up there.

If you'd like to read a little more about Debby Kaspari, check out my friend Julie Zickefoose's four-post series (Meet Debby Kaspari, An Oklahoma Eden, The May 10 Tornado, Aftermath of A Tornado). She's also got a direct donation button all rigged up and ready. If you want a t-shirt too, check out the button in the sidebar, right on top. It will be up for a while; or you can click right here. If you scoot around the zazzle site, you'll find many more style choices than these. Even onesies. And to all of you: Nest In Peace.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Drilling For Dudgeon

It is Day 60 of the BP oil crisis and President Obama still stands accused of maintaining levels of vexation insufficient to cap the well. Early efforts undertaken with a frowny face and lips pressed tightly together did not appear to stem the flow. Nearly everyone is certain that it will require nothing less than a serious fit of pique to get a handle on this problem, and many complain that Obama is falling short.

As is often the case, the American people have shown themselves ahead of their leaders in demanding action, as evidenced by the speed with which they clicked on the Facebook button "I bet we can find 1,000,000 people who think BP should just quit dicking around and plug the hole." Emotion is running high.

In recognition, Mr. Obama recently made a trip to the State of Dudgeon, on whose shores he was photographed kicking at snark balls, but it is clear that more pissiness is called for. With that in mind, Mr. Obama fired the head of the Minerals Management Service for gross negligence and corruption that began in the previous administration and may have continued into his own while he was busy frowning at the economy and the health care industry. Stated the National Republican Senatorial Committee: "This finger-pointing follows a deliberate pattern by the White House to deny responsibility for anything that takes place on President Obama's watch."

The White House responded with a statement of regret for the recent elevated sunspot activity. Obama himself declared "in case you were wondering who's responsible, I take responsibility. The buck stops with me," provoking Sarah Palin, checking in from Planet Huh, to retort that "the fundamental problem at the core of this crisis is a lack of responsibility. There's a culture of buck-passing at the heart of this administration."

As the oil continues to gush, many call for increased umbrage and question the efficacy of simple exasperation. Speaking to this issue, an interviewer asked Obama whether this wasn't a time to "kick some butt" rather than be calm and collected, a deportment that has so far failed to end the crisis. In response, Mr. Obama said: "I'm going to push back hard on this. Because I think that this is just an idea that got in folks' heads and the media's run with it...A month ago, I was meeting with fishermen down there...and I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially had the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick. Right? So, you know, this is not theater."

Headlines caught the gist ("OBAMA SAYS ASS") and pundits
immediately accused him of theatrics, suggesting his temperament was unsuitable for the job. Republicans pounded him for failing to step up as a leader. Mr. Obama side-stepped this controversy, prompting complaints about his aloofness, and extended a moratorium on new drilling for six months, which Republicans immediately condemned as being an egregious act of taking charge. Obama responded by calling for renewed efforts to plan for the post-oil age, infuriating Republican counterparts. "We are doing more than anyone to get to the post-oil age," a spokesman said, "by running through all the oil as fast as we possibly can."

Across the pond, Britons have faulted the President for failure to maintain a more diplomatic level of detachment. A Conservative peer, Lord Tebbit, called the American response "a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan, political, presidential petulance." Meanwhile, the crisis of appropriate comportment has also snared the CEO of BP, who had been roundly castigated for his demeanor after saying: "I'm sorry...there's no one who wants this over more than I do. I'd like my life back." Puzzled by the uproar, he amended his statement to: "This is great. I'm having the time of my life," which also fell short of public expectations, and he remains hunched in his closet, confused.

Mr. Obama took his case for cooperation in a proposed energy bill to Republicans in a closed-door luncheon. He was met by solid opposition on all points, including choice of appetizer, and afterwards, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas was quoted as saying "he needs to take a Valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans. He's pretty thin-skinned."

Geologists studying the issue have not been able to agree on the size of the President's reservoir of wrath, noting that despite eruptions of temper and efforts to measure the flow of snits, much of it remains below the surface. Republicans warn that they may need to provoke additional releases of rage before they will be able to slam the cap on him completely.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Just Point And Shoot Me

I'm not the sort of person who'll replace a perfectly good camera just because something better comes along. Even it if got eaten by a wolverine, I might be inclined to wait it out and see how it cleans up. It's my nature. The word you're looking for is "thrifty."

My old camera was one of the earlier digital models. What it lacks in slimness and capacity it makes up in paid-for-ness. But I decided to look into a new one in advance of my recent birding trip. The old camera did a fine job, but it would put out only a couple dozen pictures before it took to the fainting couch with the vapors, fanning itself with the effort. "Lawsy, Miz Murr," it would say. "I do declare I couldn't take another byte." With most cameras, you can relieve this kind of congestion the same way you do with people (poke a stick in), but not mine. It's too old. The folks at the camera store busted into giggles when they saw it, which annoyed me.

I explained to them that all I was interested in was a simple point-and-shoot without much in the way of features. I don't ask much of a camera. "It would be nice if it were a little smaller," I said, which caused the camera people to erupt anew. Wiping away the snot of mirth, they assembled a collection of matchbook-sized cameras for my perusal. I didn't choose the very smallest one, which was the size of a Wheat Thin and could get Saturn into focus. But mine was way smaller than its own manual. For a person who is easily intimidated by features, this is very alarming.

My old camera didn't have many features, but it had at least one more than I'd been aware of, which I found out when I tried to take a picture of a flower and the shutter didn't move. I put it down to a spent battery and walked towards the house dangling my camera. Later I emailed what I thought was a photo of an artichoke blossom to my family. It turned out to be a short video of me headed inside to go to the bathroom, and faded to black just as I got my pants down. I imagine my family did not know what to make of it.

So the new camera is sort of a point and shoot. Really it's more of a point-consult menu-choose setting-install software-order takeout-fluff your pillow-and-shoot. I hunkered down with the manual with fear in my heart.

Having a camera like this for my purposes is like going to the marble halls of the Library of Congress to check out The Cat In The Hat. Lordy, do it have features. There are separate settings for day, night, sunset, party, beach, snow, volcanic ash probably, and that special gray area at dusk and dawn (the default Oregon setting). It can recognize human faces, which makes it handy as a vampire detection system. Once a face is recognized, the camera can be set up to not take a picture until the person is smiling. Think how long a battery would last in the Dick Cheney household! There's a skin-softening feature. I'm not sure how that works but I think I found the hole in front that the lotion squirts out of. In the editing phase, you can get rid of a mole in less time than it takes to get Kaiser Dermatology to even answer the phone.

There is a food setting. A setting just for food. This might seem a little too out there except that, as it happens, I take lots of pictures of food. It's always Dave's food, because his food is always weird. Sometimes he makes a whole plateful of beige food. Sometimes his dinner looks like something a deer already ate.

There's a museum setting. When the "best shot selector" is enabled, the camera will automatically veer away from the Thomas Kinkade paintings and focus on the floor registers.

There's a fireworks setting. There's a Blink Proof feature. I got a little sleepy towards Page 146, but I believe there is a setting that will replace the subject of your choice with Johnny Depp. But I made it all the way through the manual.

I wanted to know all the possibilities before I accidentally sent anyone my x-rays.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What Creek Is This, And Where's My Paddle?

Probably every one of us remembers exactly where we were in April when we heard that distant rumbling, followed several minutes later by a sustained ralphing sound. As we all know by now, of course, that sound was issuing from the Bartelheimer Brothers Dairy in Snohomish, Washington, where a lagoon containing 21,000,000 gallons of liquefied cow manure ruptured and emptied its contents into the fields and then into the French Slough, a tributary of the Snohomish River. (Efforts are already underway to change the name of the French Slough to reflect current popular usage, according to Darryl Dimrod, the widely-grinning proprietor of Snohomish Paddles-R-Us.)

This is a poop breach of almost unimaginable proportions, although, speaking personally, it does bring to mind a certain difficult afternoon in late November, 1975, and doeesn't it suck to be a bicycle commuter sometimes?

As yet there is no explanation for the massive failure of the dike. "It's a known hazard," admitted a local dairyman, intimating that any effort to contain huge quantities of shit is bound to lead to a blowout sooner or later, which has certainly been my experience. But this begs the question why anyone would deliberately maintain a lagoon of 21,000,000 gallons of liquefied cow poop in the first place.

It would be one thing if the lagoon contained 21,000,000 gallons of bird poop--in fact, that would really be something--but whereas cow poop starts out liquid, it tends to jell up right away, like the squirtable mashed-potato machine at Denny's. The cow flop then dries up and can be used for cow-pie-throwing contests (that's me in eastern Oregon, c. 1990), home insulation, and, notably, fuel. In many areas past and present, cow pies were a primary source of fuel for cooking, which probably took a little of the sting out of your occasional potato famine.

Many animals, such as the llama, the guinea pig, and various birds, are fastidious about their poop, making an effort to eliminate outside their immediate environments--nests, cages, trails, etc. Cows have never been observed to back up to a lagoon to make deposits, rather, letting the chips fall where they may, and yet they are just fastidious enough to avoid pasture that they or their friends have pooped in. Evolutionarily speaking, this has led them to be nomadic in nature. In confined areas such as a dairy farm, it is advisable to remove the chips, and bingo, there's your poo-poo pond.

This means that a number of good American jobs are to be had in Dairy Poop Lagoon Maintenance. Several workers must be employed to tip those pasture pastries up on end and roll them up to the lagoon, where, presumably, several more workers are on hand to add water and stir. A third contingent is responsible for coming up with a side dish.

Due to my inherent queasiness, I prefer to visualize the first group of employees dressed in short pants and funny hats and rolling the cow pies down the lane with a stick. They would be cheerful and carefree like the sepia-toned children of yore, who rolled hoops in the days before electronic ("real") fun was invented.

Any one of these fine American workers could have been in a position to put his finger in the dike at Bartelheimer Brothers Dairy at the first sign of trouble. He would run the risk of becoming sepia-toned, but it seems to me he would also be in an excellent position to negotiate himself a pretty healthy pay raise.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chicken Head: A Drama In Three Acts

The ants that arrived in April are still here, by the way. After allowing them to feel at home for a few weeks, hoping they'd disinvite themselves, we finally brought out the big guns. First we polished up the counters. Then we cleaned the cabinets. Then we pulled out the drawers and took everything out and cleaned that. The ants kept coming back, so we sprayed them with Windex. They kept coming, so we bought ant traps. That didn't work, so we mashed them with tiny hammers. That didn't work, so we poured little pots of boiling oil on them. That didn't work, so we killed some and put their heads on tiny little pikes all over the kitchen. No matter what we did, they kept coming back and coming back, like The Eagles.

Which reminds me of BP and its oil gusher.

First they fluttered their hands and hoped it would heal itself. Then they poured golf balls and plastic into the hole. Then they tried to smother it with mud. Then they cut the pipe off and scrubbed it up so it flowed more abundantly. Then they dropped a house on it, an idea that still had traction from the Wicked Witch of the East incident. Then they tried mopping up oil on the shoreline with live pelicans. Then they announced that plugging the leak might take a while. August, maybe. Or something like August. Like, maybe, never. By early June, they had finally succeeded in stemming the flow of hope.

Which reminds me of the New Carissa.

The New Carissa was a ship that foundered off the southern coast of Oregon in 1999. There had been a storm coming up, and she had anchored off shore, if by "anchored" we mean bobbing a fifty-foot weight in a 100-foot sea. Folks were concerned. They tried to re-float her and get her going under her own power, but the local tug couldn't make it over the bar. A more substantial tug was held up in Astoria for four days, while the New Carissa continued to dig in closer to shore. Then she busted up and commenced to leak oil. Folks were concerned.

So they set her on fire. Using 36 shaped charges, 2280 liters of napalm, and 180 kg of plastic explosives, they succeeded in burning one tank for 33 hours, but the other remained unscathed. And then she busted in two. Folks were concerned.

Nearly a month later, they were able to tow just the bow section out to sea with the hope of sinking it into oblivion, but the tow line snapped, and half of the New Carissa poinked onto shore again 80 miles north in Waldport. Within a week it was re-towed out to sea and sunk in nearly two miles of water, where, whatever it is doing, we can't hear it (la la la la la). No one was taking any chances. They used a destroyer and a submarine equipped with 400 lbs of high explosives, 69 rounds of gunfire, and a torpedo to simultaneously sink the bow and serve as a stern warning (har) to the grounded section back in Coos Bay, which nevertheless continues to leak. Thousands of sea and shore birds were fatally oiled, including hundreds of murres, which I should not take personally, but I do.

Which reminds me of Lady and the chicken head.

Lady was my uncle's dog, a sweet girl, and I loved playing with her when we vacationed at the farm in North Dakota. She and I were following my uncle around one day when, without warning, he snatched up a chicken and lopped its head off. My four-year-old city heart was shocked and inconsolable, and Lady tried to cheer me up with the chicken head, missing the mark by quite a lot. So Uncle Cliff buried the head, but the next day Lady bounded up to me with the soiled head, which was then buried deeper. Every new day, Lady showed up with an increasingly grisly gift. By the end of the week, I was seeing that dog as just another bad-news bitch with a mouthful of garbage.

Which reminds me of Sarah Palin. Who recently blamed the BP oil fiasco on environmentalists.

Which I should not take personally, but I do.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Woes City

Portland, Oregon: The month of May has recently adjourned after setting a record of one hundred and forty-five consecutive days of rain, smashing the previous single-month record of eighty-nine days in 1876 ("Dead Man's April"). Portlanders woke up last week to the news that a woman who had jumped from a tall building fell directly on another woman on the sidewalk, killing both instantly. Slouching in coffee shops, languidly stroking the ridged scars on their wrists, they pondered, in that crescent of time between the last coffee and the first beer, which of the two women was the most fortunate.

Although suicide pacts among the young have largely been thwarted by lethargy, pedestrians have been observed to linger on bridges. In the animal world, cats are irritable, slugs exhibit zip, and the baby bird population has proven susceptible to drowning, with natural selection now favoring the picky eater.

In those few areas experiencing sunbreaks, rods and cones have snapped audibly; temporary blindness is reported to have led to a spike in fatal car wrecks, some of which have been ruled accidental. Elsewhere, sporadic sunbreaks have been blamed for the socially corrosive introduction of hope.

Sociologists are also studying the possible detriment to the spirit arising from Portlanders' self-satisfaction as environmental advocates, noting that the reputation is largely unearned. Anyone willing to wait a couple years can boast a green roof, they point out, although green vehicles take a little longer.

As always, natives spurn the personal use of umbrellas, which merely add to the number of items that require drying out. These are observed only in the days leading up to the Rose Festival to protect hybrid tea roses in competition. Portland is, in fact, known as the Rose City, an umbrella term (as it were) encompassing many individual Black Spot Fungus neighborhoods, and this holds the key to understanding springtime weather patterns in the area.

Traditionally, the Rose Festival concludes with a week of parades in June, beginning with the Starlight Parade, an evening event named after a mythical sky phenomenon. This parade always features a clown troupe called the Rainmakers, who carry inside-out umbrellas and spray spectators with water pistols, an activity that was finally abandoned when nobody noticed. The Grand Floral Parade is held one week later, with thousands of plastic-covered spectators lining the streets to witness the annual drenching of delicate petals and princess curls. It's a festive scene, and marks the coming of the sunny season, which begins the next day. Meteorologists explain that our prevailing weather pattern arises when a deep plume of moisture embedded in a powerful jet stream stretching from Japan to the Oregon coast collides with the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.

The hail, on the other hand, is thought to be caused by the planting of peonies.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I had occasion to drive a car in West Virginia a while back, and when I pulled up to a filling station, I got out of the car with my wallet and stared at the pump and then walked around in circles for a bit. Fortunately, I am not a man, so I didn't need to dither about it all day. I walked right up to the nice-looking fellow at the next pump, and introduced myself.

"Hi there. Say: this is going to sound weird, but I'm from Oregon, and I can't figure out how to pump gas."

"Oh sure, I'll show you," the nice fellow said, and he got me up and running in no time, while we chatted amiably.

"Thanks a lot," I said.

"No problem. It can be confusing. I don't think it's because you're from Ore-gone," he said.

Suddenly I realized how he must have heard me. He thought I was saying, "Hah thar. I jest fell off a log truck in Oregon, the Home of the Big Dummies, and I'd shore be obliged if you gave me a pat on the head."

But it is germane that I'm an Oregonian. We don't have self-service gasoline here. I hardly ever drive out of state. I hardly ever drive in state. I've gotten so used to walking everywhere that sometimes, after over thirty years of piloting a postal truck, I climb into the passenger side of my car and wonder where the steering wheel went. I can count the number of times I've had to fill my own tank on one hand. Enough times to know that whatever worked the index-finger time won't work with the pinkie.

Get out, lift nozzle, insert into vehicle, squeeze. Nothing.
Get out, lift nozzle, insert into vehicle, lift up the handle, squeeze. Nothing.
Get out, locate slot, insert credit card, lift nozzle, lift up handle, squeeze. Nothing.
Get out, insert credit card, lift nozzle, lift up handle, walk into store, tell clerk to turn on pump, go back squeeze, nothing.
Get out, go into store, give clerk money up front to turn on pump, insert card, lift up handle, insert nozzle, squeeze. Nothing. Perform chicken dance.
Thar she blows.

Ostensibly the reason we don't have self-service in Oregon is that it's dangerous, because we will surely set ourselves on fire. Clearly this is not true. You can't get anything to stay lit in Oregon. But every few years we put it to the ballot again, and we smack self-serve down every time. Part of it is pure orneriness.

We like that we are just about the only state that prohibits self-serve. We feel special. We like feeling special. That's why we walk around in the rain all day wearing flannel shirts, shorts, sandals and a nice pair of wooly socks. We dress that way to go to the symphony, too. We think we look grand. It might be special-ed special, but it's still special.

We also were the first state to gin up a bottle bill, requiring a deposit on bottles and cans containing carbonated beverages. We think that was just terrific of us. We're still sailing proud on that old dinghy, the fresh breeze from 1971 whipping up our hair, obscuring the new acreage of non-carbonated beverages sprawling across the Seven-Eleven that we don't require a deposit on. We're green, baby. Could be mold; can't rule that out.

But however we've stumbled into this way of doing things, I think we're onto something with the gas stations. Year after year we Americans lose more and more of our service jobs. We make ourselves, essentially, unpaid employees of every store we frequent. We keep farming all our work out to ourselves; we're like Wal-Mart and China at the same time. You can't get anyone to answer the phone. You have to navigate a website to find your own answers. You find your groceries, check yourself out, bag them up, load them into your car. There wouldn't be butchers if they could figure out a way you could back a hog into a meat slicer. Then you go home and get into a chair that feels you up. Okay, that part's cool.

Thanks, but no. I'll stay inside my car, listening to the radio, and remain dry and odor-free while some nice person, a person with a job, feeds my car and takes my money from the window. Why would I want to take her job? I don't.

The rest of you can keep piling on work for yourself, but don't blame me if one day you wake up to discover that YouTube is really a self-colonoscopy kit.