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Honest Opinions Elsewhere

The place I take my car for repair has a strange ranking system. They explain it when I’m picking up my car.

“Hey, my pay is dependent upon your reviews. I only get a bonus if you give me all tens and yeses.”

Um, okay. I mean, thanks for telling me that. Because otherwise I might’ve thought of the ranking system as, I don’t know, a way to provide your employer with feedback, instead of just a rubber stamp to give you some extra scratch.

It happened again when I stayed at an airbnb. “The company sees anything other than a 5 out of 5 as a failure and will hurt my search results.”

Do these people and companies not realize the purpose of a ranking system? Do they want my honest feedback on things relating to the service that can be improved, or do they want a guilt-ridden blow job?

Ah shit, man, you quoted me an hour but it ended up taking three. But if I list that as a seven out of ten, then your kid might go hungry. If you have a kid. I don’t know. You didn’t really make a personal connection. Wait, shouldn’t I be the one getting the blow job?

And I don’t necessarily want to fault the employees pleading for my rating. They’ve been put in an awkward position by their employer and/or service provider.They kinda have to give me a heads up that these rating systems don’t work like normal rating systems. I’m a teacher, after all, and in my mind, a 9 out of 10 is an A-. It’s a pretty solid result. Far above average. Almost perfect but not quite. Maybe throw in a blow job next time.

But if the entity that receives the rating is going to consider a 9 the same way they would a 1, then it’s fair to give us graders a warning about that. Because now if I think they gave me a 9, I might as well just give them a 1. Right? Is that the way this is supposed to work?

Although by guilting us into tens, we cease to become graders, right?

And herein lies my problem with this system. If anything other than a 10 is a failure, then why am I even providing a ranking? Don’t make me rank things on a scale of 1-10 if there are only two options.Ask me yes or no questions. Give me a pass/fail option. “Did your support provider offer oral copulation? Yes/No.”

Because what’s the point of a ranking system? One would think it’s a chance for a company to know what things it does well and what things could be improved upon. At the car dealership, I do legitimately get annoyed at the wait times they quote. They always quote on the low side. It’s gotten to the point where I just add 30% to whatever they say. Quote me an hour, I’ll be here eighty minutes. Tell me it’s going to be a couple hours, I might as well go to lunch. Three to four hours? It’ll be ready at the end of the day.

Is this misquoting a deal breaker? Obviously not. I’ve gone there often enough to be able to convert it quickly in my head. So I’ve at least used them more often than I’ve used the metric system. But do they deserve a ten if I brought an hour’s worth of work to do and I’ve now been twiddling my thumbs watching the episode of Maury that’s turned up way too loud in the customer waiting area? No, they don’t. Personally, I’d probably give them a 7 or an 8, but dude’s just told me that anything less than a 10 is seen the same as a 1. So my options are to be a complete dick and take food out of his mouth or else not give them some legitimate feedback that would help improve their experience.

It’s no wonder they keep quoting the wrong times. Nobody’s ever bothered to tell them it’s annoying. Nobody’s ever given them a B with constructive feedback.

After all, isn’t that what reviews are supposed to be for? I used to wait tables and I considered the tip as a dialogue between me and my customers as to how my service was. Unless the customers were Russian or ordered thousand island dressing. Because those people always tip poorly. But everyone else? I sure as shit never had to tell them that if they weren’t able to tip me 20% they might as well tip me zero.

I ran into the same problem with the airbnb. Was the place fine? Yeah, it was fine. Would I stay there again? Probably, depending on what else was available. Was it the Shangri-fucking-la? No, it wasn’t.

The two upstairs bedrooms at this house didn’t have their own bathrooms. Meaning I had to trudge my ass down some rickety stairs, probably waking the entire house, in the middle of the night to take a leak. Sure, I could’ve drank less before going to bed, but what’s the point of vacationing if you’re not going to drink?

Also, while we didn’t use the “fourth bedroom,” the person sleeping there would have to go through the room I was in to get to the stairs to get to the bathroom. We ended up taking the air mattress out of that room and let the kids sleep in the living room downstairs. Because the kids were there with their parents. And the bed in the room next door to the air mattress room upstairs only had a double bed. Not the best arrangement.  Not a 5 out of 5.

I know there’s nothing they can feasibly do about access to bathrooms upstairs. I certainly don’t blame the owners for this fact. But at the same time, it’s a fair thing to mention in a review, right? It’s probably something worth noting in a review so that other people booking it know that whoever’s staying in the two upstairs bedrooms better be okay holding their bladder long enough to trudge down some stairs in the dark.

But the owners seemed very nice. They were super polite in every interaction I had with them. They even told me they gave ME a good review as a tenant. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Not sure what I could’ve done to be a bad tenant. Clearly they aren’t one of those apocryphal airbnb owners who set up video cameras or they would’ve known we moved their air mattress. And they would’ve known what I did to their bathroom after a night of drinking. Or maybe they’re selling that footage to some fetish site, and they’re telling the other airbnb owners that I’m a cash cow.

Cash cow is also the name for what I left in their toilet. Look for me this week on SomeDudeTakingADump.com

So, again, I’m left with a quandry. I don’t think the place is a 5 out of 5. But the owners seemed nice. So now I have to decide if I want to give a heads up to future travelers via a legitimate review or give a fluff job to the owners.

Instead, I do the same thing I do at the car dealership. I don’t give a review at all.

The Libra in me can’t handle the two sides. I’m sure my students wish I would do the same. Give them an A or don’t give them a grade at all. Turn all of education into a pass/fail system. Although it’s not even pass/fail, it’s brilliance/fail. And really, they told you the consequences, so it’s a “they’re brilliant/I’m a dick” scale.

Apps work the same way, especially games. I notice they want you to rank them early, like when you’re still going through the tutorial. When the game still seems fresh and interesting. They don’t want your review after the game’s grown stale. They also say, “If you’re enjoying this, give us a five-star review.” But in my world, if I merely “like” something, it’s a 4-star, not a 5-star review. Maybe even three. Five stars denotes over the top. Exceptional. The difference between an A and a B.

Goodreads has a good system. If you hover over the stars, they list a 3-star review as “liked it,” a 4-star as “really liked it,” and a 5-star as “it was amazing.” They even have 2-star as “it was okay.” That seems a bit nice. I think of two stars as “Meh.” Or maybe three stars is “Meh” and two stars is “I tolerated it.”

I give two stars to a book that I finished, but didn’t really like. One star, what Goodreads classifies as “didn’t like it,” is usually reserved for books I didn’t finish. Although there was one book that was hovering around two stars, but when I finished it, the ending was so bad that I dropped it to a one star. That was probably a book that I should’ve given up on.

So not every book on Goodreads is either a 5 or a 1. But people still seem to treat it that way. I’m amazed at how many five-star reviews  write about all the problems that they had with the book. Others give a three-star review, then gush about how wonderful the book is. I can only assume those people’s ranking systems have been ruined by the likes of car dealerships and airbnb. None of us feel safe giving our honest opinion. Someone, somewhere is liable to get killed if we do.

Either that or the author was giving them a blowjob.

So here’s a ransom note. The Wombat and his entire family have been kidnapped. A gun is pointed at their heads. Anything other than a five-star review of this blog post will result in some pistol-whipping and hari kiri immolation. Oh, did I not mention there was a sword there, too? No? Well tough shit, you can’t mention in the review that the plot kept changing.

What’s that? There aren’t stars to review on this site? Only a like or dislike button? Wait, there’s no dislike button? So you can either like it or don’t do anything? Wow, this is just like every other review system. Either tell me you like me or don’t say shit at all.

Your wait time should be about ten minutes.

No honest opinions, please.

Land of Horrible Human Beings

I saw something this past weekend that annoyed me.

No, scratch that, it pissed me right the fuck off.

How pissed off? I found myself yelling at an inanimate object. Through a car windshield. I mean, if the inanimate object could HEAR me, then that would be one thing, but the mostly soundproof barrier in between, to say nothing of the traffic and other surrounding white noise, makes it a whole ‘nother level of pissed.

Or maybe I was just being cowardly. “Yeah,” the inanimate object was thinking back, “I bet you wouldn’t say that to my fucking face!”

So now, with that pesky bully of a sign out of earshot once again, I’m letting the vitriol roll. Raising my cowardice by going home and trolling the inanimate object on the interwebs. Yeah, how does that feel, motherfucker? You gonna be checking the comment feed?

But I’m still generally annoyed, because now I’m going to make a blog post that threatens to break a couple of my unwritten rules. I try to never get legitimately upset about anything here. Sure, I play the cranky old guy a lot, but I usually am looking for the humor in the things that annoy me. But I’m a little worried this post won’t have the usual humorous tangents. On the plus side, that means it might clock in at less than 2000 words and you can consume it in one sitting.

The other thing I try not to do here is get political. Because I certainly don’t have the answers. And I like to think of my happy little wombat’s pouch of mirthful passive aggression to be a place of harmony. And the first thing to ruin our little happy place is to say an innocuous little thing like “people who believes <insert sensitive political topic here> is a cocksucking demonspawn whose eyesockets should be skullfucked by Hitler.” Followed, of course, by a “See? Everybody’s afraid to debate me.”

So here I go. You’ve been warned.

The thing that pissed me off was an Amber Alert.

“Really, Wombat? You have a problem with saving kids lives? Somebody call Hitler and tell him we’ve got some ripe sockets coming.”

No, it wasn’t an actual Amber Alert. But, as I’ve written before, here in California, some nimrod in the state government gets bored whenever there hasn’t been a child abduction for more than a few days. So he likes to send us little messages using the Amber Alert system, which I’ve recently discovered is called a Changeable Message Sign. Not to be confused with the digital advertising billboards. The CMS is only yellow type on a black background. For years, I thought it was called Amber Alert based on the color of the text. Nope. It was a girl named Amber. I feel bad for her. I mean, not only did she die, but the law that was named after her is being interpreted as named after a color, not her.

Most of the messages they post are annoying, but innocuous. “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”Um, I mean, not legally. But okay, sure. “Don’t drive distracted.” Hey, you know what would help me not being distracted? Maybe don’t flash changing messages at me while I’m driving. “Look twice for motorcyclists.” Good message. I remember when I took drivers ed that motorcycles driving between the lanes is “legal but not safe.” They used to say the same thing about seat belts and helmets and riding in the back of trucks. All the rest have since been made illegal. But somehow motorcycles and antivaxxers are the last great bastions of the ability to kill yourself via hutzpah.

I had gotten used to the same 7-10 messages rotating through, but it looks like Mr. Bureaucrat came back from his sabbatical, because they seem to be testing some new messages recently. I saw a message a few weeks ago that told me to watch out for bicyclists. Not sure if it was a typo for the motorcycle one. If it wasn’t a typo, then my response is no, fuck those guys. Bicycles aren’t allowed on the freeway. Enter at your own risk, motherfuckers.

But my current rage spiral isn’t focused on bicyclists or intricacies of DUI law. Even the Antivaxxers get a pass today, despite them single-handedly bringing back measles and smallpox. Good job, asswipes. I saw one Facebook post from a mother who said her kids weren’t vaccinated and she was worried about measles. She asked if there were any “preventative measures” she could take to strengthen them against it. Yeah. It’s called vaccination, you nitwit.

And there go the antivaxxers. Hey, I know WordPress tells me when a new person starts following my blog. Do I get a notice for the unfollows? I bet I’m about to find out.

Okay, so what’s the message that has thrown me into a tizzy?

“The only prevention for littering is you.”

Yes, that’s it.

Am I being petty? Maybe.  But seriously, California? Did you just tell me that I’m your littering problem? Well, let me, on behalf of the millions of us who have never once thrown a piece of garbage out of a moving vehicle, tell you to go fuck yourself.

Have I ever driven when I shouldn’t have, in the vein of “buzzed driving is drunk driving”? Yeah, probably. And as a former Catholic, I applaud the subtle guilt of the buzzed driving message. I mock it. But yeah, I take it to heart. Tell me to look twice for a dude on a motorcycle? Fine. Do you see how easy it was to give subtle cues without implying thirty-nine million people are lingering somewhere between being a criminal and a complete piece of shit?

We all know where this rhetorical argument comes from. Smokey the Bear tells us that “Only YOU” can prevent forest fires. And that’s been a powerful message for decades.

But there’s a huge difference between forest fires and littering. Fires are (usually) an act of negligence. So when my drunk and/or tired ass is passing out in front of my campfire and I really just want to go crawl into my tent and pass out, then hopefully the thousand times I’ve seen Smokey Bear will pop up in my head and I’ll put the fire out first. Shouldn’t be tough. I usually have to take a leak after all that light beer, anyway. Sure, I could use water to put out the fire, but then the guy lighting it first in the morning, whose been peacefully sleeping for three hours, won’t get that extra little wake-up whiff in the morning.

You know what Smokey doesn’t say? He doesn’t say “Only YOU can prevent arson.” And why doesn’t Smokey say that? Because most of us aren’t arsonists. Arson requires someone taking a deliberate, criminal action. Kinda like rolling down the window of a car and throwing out your empty McDonald’s wrapper. Littering is not an accident, so those of us who don’t litter can’t solve the problem by ourselves.

But the good old Golden State government seems to think we’re all litterers. And probably arsonists, too. And they’ve chosen to  furrow their digitized amber brow at all of us for succumbing to our baser instincts.

Hey seriously, Governor Newsom, if you want to count the number of fast food wrappers in my back seat to know where all of my car-created litter ends up, feel free. I drive by the Capitol building every damn day because, despite having the highest tax rates in the country, we can’t bother to have halfway decent public transportation. BART was supposed to have expanded to Sacramento by now, but it hasn’t even made it to San Jose yet because it’s tied up in fifty years of “environmental impact studies.” Want to know what’s impacting the environment more than ten miles of track? Ten million people commuting along Interstate 680 at an approximate speed of five miles per hour for three hours every morning and evening.

And in the meantime, our roads are about as shitty as they come. I’ve had to replace my windshield once a year for the past five years because of all the shit kicked up on Highway 99. When I ask for a quote from Safelite to fill in a chip, they give a price and say “unless you’re in Sacramento, California.” I say I am, in fact, in Sacramento, California, and the person on the phone chuckles and says, “Oh, then you’re paying twice as much as the going rate.” Because while Sacramento might try to gloss itself as a “City of Trees” or a “Farm-to-Fork Capital,” it should really just opt for “Region of Potholes.”

Last time I went to Safelite to fill in a chip, I had a bona fide crack within a week. So fifty bucks to “fix” the windshield, followed less than a month later by five hundred bucks to replace it.

But hey, at least the traffic (sometimes) moves in Sacramento. The only reason the Bay Area or Los Angeles don’t have more windshield chips is because cars need to go faster than ten to kick up pebbles.

But yeah, you’re right, California. Littering is the real problem. And it’s all my fucking fault.

No, they didn’t tell me I caused the holocaust or assassinated JFK or anything. But that’s part of what pissed me off about the message. It wasn’t a “Please don’t litter.” It was a passive aggressive. “Hey, fuckface, we know you’re the problem.” If you’re going to call me an asshole, then call me an asshole. All of us Californians are quite accustomed to our government’s scorn.

We live in that nanniest of the nanny states. Every action requires seventeen different waivers accompanied by eighteen different fees. We have to ensure that the toilet-paper that we’re dropping into our fluoride water and flushing down our low-flow toilets are biodegradable and dolphin friendly. During the drought, they told us to stop “wasting” water, and we complied like the domestic violence victims we are. Then they complained that we weren’t paying as much for water as we used to. All the Water Boards had employees that they had to pay, even if those employees didn’t have as much to keep track of. If we didn’t start paying more for water we weren’t using, then those people would be out of jobs and we would be responsible for tanking the economy.

They raised the gas tax to discourage us from buying gas-guzzlers, so we bought more eco-friendly cars, which means they aren’t getting as much gas tax revenue, so now they want to force us to have GPS in our cars and charge us by the mile, even though the money raised won’t go toward fixing roads or improving public transportation. Then they also raised the gas tax again.

No, scratch that. WE raised our own gas tax, because the state government has been so good at chastising us and ridiculing us and explaining that they are better than us that we are the only population that actually votes, on a regular basis, yes on propositions to raise our own taxes! And now they want to pay for an investigation into why our gas prices are so high.

And I’m used to the disdain from my government. I know the elected officials think they’re better than us. I love when people describe a presidential candidate as “humble.” Humble people tend to not think they have better ideas than three hundred million citizens. That’s a pretty egotistical act. And that stretches down to the lowest city councilperson. I’m not saying people don’t get into politics for altruistic reasons. But everyone gets into politics because they think they have better ideas than other people.

But I always just assumed that this dismissiveness was based on their assumption that we’re all idiots. All of us unwashed masses that have trouble distinguishing right from wrong and are completely incapable of managing our own finances or driving or, I don’t know, washing our hands before going back to work. And whatever, I’m a teacher, so I’m used to people who I know more than rolling their eyes at me, assuming I have no concept of the myriad of things they think they know.

But now, thanks to my trip on the freeway this past weekend, I think that maybe I’ve been giving these politicians too much benefit of the doubt. They don’t think we’re stupid. They think we’re criminals. We are all on the verge of rape, murder, and mayhem.

I mean, props to them for reading their Rousseau. Or maybe their Thomas Hobbes. Life is nasty, brutish, and short, huh, guys? What? All you politicians aren’t up on your Enlightenment philosophers? You just want to make sure we’ve taught it to the next generation? Awesome. Wouldn’t want to know how many of y’all would fail that high school exit exam that you used to make our students pass.

But don’t mind me. I’m on the verge of robbing this liquor store. I’m surprised they haven’t made ski masks illegal.

But the nice thing about my new realization is how much clearer it makes all their actions so much clearer. They’re not coddling us. They’re preemptively punishing us. Since we no longer enforce the death penalty, maybe they can accomplish the same goal by pothole-caused car crashes. Or maybe we’ll just die of starvation because our gas is too expensive for us to get to the grocery store.

Although, now that I think of it, maybe they aren’t punishing us preemptively. They’re punishing us after the fact. After all, we’re all already criminals.

Because the only prevention to littering is YOU.

Messiah Holding on Line Three

So, Jesus’s best friend was a rabbit that fucked a chicken, right?

‘Tis the season when an organization that promotes celibacy usurps a bunch of springtime fertility symbols. Just keep your peep shows to the marshmallow type, buster.

As I mentioned during Saturnalia (what the pleebs refer to as Christmas), I understand that advertising for Christianity’s got to be a little difficult. Back in the nineties, I was annoyed when those “Got Jesus?” bumper stickers started popping up. I thought it was bush league. Maybe Christianity can’t pay the same as Madison Avenue, but isn’t the cause of all inspiration supposed to play for your team? The best you can do is steal somebody else’s ad campaign?

Well, at least there aren’t any commandments against theft or anything. Moses couldn’t be bothered with intellectual property and copyright law.

But I’m a little older now, which might (Might!) mean I’m a little wiser. I kinda get it now. Advertising for any of the various Christian faiths has got to be tough.

“Think you’re a good person? Come in and find out why not.”

“You’re a sinner! Find out how!”

“Limited time offer: Join during Lent and give up meat on Fridays!”

So I’m a little bit more lenient toward religious advertising these days. But I was still a little taken back when I saw this:

Jesus

This fills me with a lot of questions.

I live and work in a pretty high-Latino area, so my first thought on seeing this sign was to read it in Spanglish: Hay-zeus called.

So my first question is: Is this a landscaping issue?

Or is my student calling me about the homework assignment? And if so, can’t he e-mail me?

I’ve noticed that, in my classroom, Jesus seems to be the only Spanish name that nobody anglicizes. Pablo? “Call me Paul.” Jorge? “It’s pronounced George.”

But I’m still waiting for the first “It’s Gee-zus, not Hay-zeus.”

But with this sign, seeing as it was outside a church,  I assume that the Jesus who is calling is Mr. Christ. But this doesn’t stop the questions.

Actually, the first question is the same, regardless of if it’s the Savior or my student. Why is Jesus calling? Can he not e-mail me instead?

Maybe Jesus was illiterate. It would fit His position in life. Not sure how many carpenters in the conquered territories of the Roman Empire could read or write. Maybe that’s why everybody else had to write down what He said.

Okay, so e-mail is out. Too bad, Jesus. There are some great websites I could’ve directed you to.  (You or you? Do I capitalize You when I’m referring to Him in the second person?)

Okay, so no e-mail. Jesus is calling me on a landline. It’s not even cordless.

Is this a money thing or a technology thing?

I can’t imagine it’s about money. There’s plenty of cash coming in to the Christly coffers on a regular basis. Just ask Tammy Faye Bakker – she was big right around the time Jesus bought that phone. I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t have to pay taxes, either. Partly because He’s a non-profit, but He also seems to have every politician in his pocket. They invoke his name even more than the oil companies and unions, and you know those two groups don’t have to pay for shit.

So it’s about technology. Jesus is opposed to modern contrivances. I guess that makes sense. Idle hands, and all that. Maybe he subscribes to the whole Protestant work ethic. Sorry, Catholics.

But still, this advertisement suggests that  Jesus DOES still own a phone. So some form of instant communication is acceptable. As long as it’s analog.

But when, precisely, did Jesus gave up on technology? If the advertisement had shown the telephone chassis instead of just the receiver, I might be able to decipher if He lost hope in the 1950s or the 1980s. According the the Republicans, those were definitely the last two time Jesus loved America. But which one? Does Jesus strike me as a guy who takes the time for rotary dial? Or has He at least allowed for touch-tone technology?

Regardless, it’s clearly either computer or wireless technology that the Savior has problems with. I don’t know which, but I can maybe make an argument for each. Wireless travels through the ether. Maybe that’s where He lives. It goes back to the whole Copernicus issue. If Earth goes around the sun, then where is heaven? And now we know the answer. Heaven is where radio waves reside. Marconi was the one that killed him, not Galileo.

Or maybe it’s computer technology that He’s opposed to. But, Jesus, if you can get past all the free porn, you’d find your name all over social media. Nobody really gets your message, but trust me, your name is everywhere. You and Chuck Norris have cornered half of the meme market by yourselves.

I know. It’s hard to get past all the free porn. But I think you mentioned something about your right hand causing you to sin during the Sermon on the Mount. Or you might not have. I’m not sure. Most Christians don’t actually pay attention to what you actually said.

So I get that you’re opposed to most modern form of communication.

But the problem with calling on the landline is that it’ll probably just go to voicemail. Nobody answers unknown phone numbers anymore. If you really want to get ahold of me, maybe try texting instead of calling. I know that brings up the whole literacy thing again, but honestly, you’ve had a couple of centuries to learn. You really only have yourself to blame.

Regardless, I am at least comforted by one fact. If you’re still using a landline, you won’t know about call waiting yet.

So sorry, Jesus. I heard you were trying to call me, but I must’ve been on the other line.

God damn that busy signal.