Thursday, June 19, 2003

Signs, portents, and omens (Oh my!)

Because the American economy is striving to outdo the Great Depression in terms of suckitude (Thanks Bush! Thanks Cheney! Thanks DeLay! Thanks Rush!), many people, including me, are facing possible layoffs in the greater Denver metro area. This brings out the magic thinking worse than a high powerball jackpot, because we are essentially powerless to do anything about it, and most of us have been close enough to the upper ranks to know how truly vindictive or random, or both, the reasoning behind who gets cut is. Since you can't save yourself by being a good worker, being intelligent and knowledgeable, or even being a suck-up, you turn to the butterfly in China causing a monsoon in Arizona scenario of causation, and hope that the gust blows your pink slip off of HR's desk and into the garbage can. Or the sadder, but probably truer, image from Gilliam's Brazil where a fly landing on the printer at the wrong time means fate locks & loads and visits YOU, even if you shouldn't be the target.

So, on the highway this morning, I see a camel being conveyed in a trailer seemingly built for moving tall, gangly animals. It was a humorous shock juxtaposed against the sleek trailers used to haul horses, or the poop-splattered semi-trailer-truck used for cows, as it was just a huge cage with room for the animal to stick their neck out of in the back. The backwards-facing camel was pacing back and forth displaying a demeanor that I read as: "Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit!" It must have been truly odd to be moving backwards at a pace heretofore unimaginable to Cameldom, with all the noise and those hundreds of shiny, flat, wide things flowing all around you.

Once over the thrill of the unexpected, I thought, "why a camel?" And "who is taking a camel somewhere and for what reason?" Given the fact that the other possible reason for our economy's straits is the 9-11 terrorist attack on us by people whose primary mode of transportation is actively freaking out in a trailer one lane over, it made me wonder if the camel was a sign.

When I returned from lunch, I noticed they've placed a brand-new sign alongside all the "category" parking (handicapped, visitors, honchos) by the front doors of the facility which reads "Expectant Mother Parking Only". This immediately conjured up the image of Samuel Jackson as the hit man Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction parked in the "expectant mother parking only" slot, angry eyes locked on the doors of the building, gun pulled, waiting. Why have layoffs when you can skip the paperwork altogether?

And there was this article the other day about the uselessness of many inventions. Stuff like a cell phone that plays games, but is more expensive than an X-box and if you drain the battery playing Tetris, you can't make calls. A robotic vacuum cleaner that can't do stairs. The Segway human transport, which is essentially a moped redesigned to be more dangerous, more geeky, slower, and less useful; it doesn't even get you away from the old joke: "What do a moped and having sex with an {ugly person} have in common? You wouldn't want your friends to catch you riding either one". Etc. Etc.

This begs the question of what's really useful? The list seems short: Indoor plumbing, electricity, lights, washing machines (for dishes and clothes), stoves/ovens, furnaces, water heaters, automobiles, clothing, paper and ink, medicine, and of course, computers (though this last one is dubious and worthy of a post of its own).

It makes one wonder about how worthy some of our jobs are. How many of us make something that's really of need? (Though I consider entertainment and occupying our time a "need" so my list would probably be longer than most.) How many of us are destined to be on the "B" Ark?

Yeah, this kind of stuff fucks with your head in layoff season.

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