Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Story 71: Snow Shoveling Extortionists



(A shot of a cookie-cutter development)
Documentary Host: (Voiceover) There is a shadow cast over this ordinary-looking neighborhood.   Whenever it snows, all tremble in fear as they await the dreaded moment when their home is targeted by: THE SNOW SHOVELING EXTORTIONISTS.
(A shot of two men in their 20s, swaggering down the street carrying shovels over their shoulders)
Homeowner 1: (Sitting in a living room chair) I go to sleep at night, it’s snowing out, a white blanket everywhere, beautiful.  I wake up the next day, and the driveway has been shoveled.  And these two guys are standing there expecting me to pay them for clearing it.
Host: (Off-screen) And had you asked them to shovel it?
Homeowner 1: No sir, I had not.  It was shoveled without my knowledge or consent.
(On a street corner)
Shoveler 1: I don’t understand; we are providing these folks a service –
Shoveler 2: A valuable service.
Shoveler 1: And all we’re asking for is appropriate compensation.  That’s ingratitude for you.
Shoveler 2: I mean, we are entrepreneurs; this is the American way.  You do work, you get paid for it – that’s the definition of capitalism right there.
Shoveler 1: Sure, do people hire us to do this?  No.  We used to do the “courteous” thing and go door-to-door asking people if they needed their driveways shoveled – they clearly did –
Shoveler 2: Clearly.
Shoveler 1: And we kept getting told “No thank you”, “We’re going to shovel it right now”, “I’ve already got a guy who does it”, and “Get off my property!”  Well, guess what?  A driveway is eminent domain!
Shoveler 2: Eminent domain!
Shoveler 1: You can’t trespass on public property!
Shoveler 2: Is a driveway eminent domain?
Shoveler 1: The point is, people should be thanking us for saving them the trouble of shoveling two feet of snow over 20 feet of driveway.  Especially this neighborhood: there’re a lot of old people here, ambulances are always coming by for somebody.
Shoveler 2: Every five hours.
Shoveler 1: You know, they shouldn’t be mad at us for shoveling their driveways – they should be mad at their grandkids for not shoveling Mee-Maw and Pop-Pop’s driveway!
Shoveler 2: Hold on, maybe they can’t get over here `cause they’re snowed in, too.
Shoveler 1: That’s an excellent point – we should offer our services to them as well.  Whole new market.  When we’re ready to expand, of course.
(In a kitchen)
Homeowner 2: Well, they did shovel out our driveway, it’s not as if they’re asking for money for doing nothing.
Homeowner 3: (In the background) I’ll shovel my own driveway!
Homeowner 2: Of course, dear.  (Sips coffee while raising eyebrows)
(In front of a house at 2:00 a.m.)
Shoveler 1: On a good night, with light snow and such, we can get about 10, 20 houses done.  When there’s ice, though, that cuts our progress at least in half.
Shoveler 2: (Shoveling in the background) I hate ice!
Shoveler 1: Gotta watch out for the plows, too, they ruin the end of the driveways; we usually have to redo those a few times.
Host: (Off-screen) And then you go to each house when the sun rises to collect payment?
Shoveler 1: Oh yeah, we have a formula and everything.  (Pulls out a piece of paper) Square footage of driveway times volume of snow removed plus any reshoveling, minus any sections covered by parked cars.
Shoveler 2: We’re honest – we don’t take credit for snow we didn’t shovel.  We will charge extra for clearing off your cars, so that makes up for it.
Shoveler 1: Yeah, the last part is plus snow brushed off cars then shoveled off the driveway.  It’s a good formula.
Host: Have you ever considered using a snow blower?
Shoveler 1: Nah, we’re old school.  Plus it would wake up everybody.
(Lights turn on inside the house and the shovelers beat a hasty retreat)
Host: (Facing the camera) As if these businessmen were not enough, the neighborhood was then afflicted with their competition.
(Five 8-year-old girls carrying shovels go door-to-door)
Homeowner 4: (Opens the door to see the girls standing there and the driveway having been barely shoveled) Aren’t you the sweetest things!  (Gives each of them money) Come inside and have some hot chocolate!
Girls: Thank you, ma’am!
(Shovelers 1 and 2 are staring in disbelief from the street)
Shoveler 1: That’s low, man.
Shoveler 2: You can’t come into our territory and play dirty like that!
Shoveler 1: I’ve got an idea.
(Homeowner 5 opens the door to see Shovelers 1 and 2, crouching to appear shorter and wearing blonde pig-tail wigs)
Shoveler 1: (Speaking in a high-pitched voice) Hi, sir, we’d like to shovel your driveway – (Is punched in the face)
(On a street corner, Shovelers 1 and 2 are standing, slumped; Shoveler 1 is holding a snowball against his bruised cheek)
Shoveler 1: I think we’ve gotten all we can out of this neighborhood.
Shoveler 2: Bled dry.
Shoveler 1: I do like the prospects better across the highway: circular drives.
Shoveler 2: Ooh.
Shoveler 1: And houses at the tops and bottoms of hills.  Don’t know why you’d want your house where all the water collects or set that far back from the street, but the bottom line is, those driveways are long.
Shoveler 2: At least a mile.
Host: (Off-screen) And what will you do in the spring, summer, and fall when there is no snow?
Shovelers 1 and 2: Landscaping!  (They high-five each other)
Host: (Faces the camera) There you have it: a perfect example of free enterprise played out before our eyes, with homeowners living in fear of whom will be targeted next.  Thank you for watching, and keep an eye on your property.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Story 70: Bluebeard’s Castle of Horrors (The Ride)



            I’ve had the best idea ever: with all those rumors floating around about me allegedly killing all of my wives, I finally decided, why not make the best of a bad situation and get people to pay me on top of it?  So I built a haunted house attraction "based upon my life” and will charge visitors to have the bejeezus scared out of them, thinking that all the horrors they had heard about me are true, right up until they exit safely out the back door.  Genius, no?
            I took my new wife, Judith, as my first guest, thinking it would be a fun way to start the marriage (plus I wanted some risk-free feedback before the go-live date).  She’s a great girl, but a little skittish – who can blame her, seeing as she had to leave her family for me, especially with my (undeserved) reputation and all?  I thought it would be best to make it a surprise, so I could evaluate her authentic reactions.
            “Here’s our new home!”  I announced as we arrived.  The “Bluebeard’s Castle of Horrors” sign that I had ordered had been hung snugly yet threateningly over the portcullis, and I made sure that we passed by a hole in the ground with a mound of dirt and a shovel that could pass for a newly-dug grave.
            “Uhhh….” Judith replied.  She’s such a sweetheart.
            “Let me show you around!”  I warmly grabbed her arm and dragged her into the main hall.  The lights obligingly went out and the thunder effect boomed beautifully.
            Judith screamed as I lit a torch.  “Where are you?!”
            “Right here, my love!  Are you scared?”  I honestly wanted to know; the first scare sets the tone for the entire ride.
            “N-no,” she lied, bravely.  “I love you, Bluebeard!”
            That was random.  “Love you, too.  Now, there are seven doors, all locked –”
            “Give me the keys and open them all!”  A little rushed, there.
            “Now, now – you only get to see one at the moment.”  Always drag out the suspense for as long as possible, till they can’t take it anymore.  I gave her a key and she quickly unlocked the first door as I loomed behind her in anticipation.
            “A torture chamber!”
            “Yes!  Isn’t it delicious?  Are you scared?”
            “I love you, Bluebeard!”  Not quite an appropriate response, but her pale face and trembling hands gave me the answer I was looking for.  This was going well, I could see.

            “Give me the other keys!”  she screeched.  For effect, I “grudgingly” handed them over, and we went through each room one by one.  Most were off-puttingly normal – in one of them, I finally gave her some jewels that I had bought during our honeymoon, to give her a false sense of security – but the last room was the coup de grĂ¢ce: it was The Room That Must Not Be Seen But Everyone Goes in Anyway.
              I gave her the last key:  “Are you scared?”
            “I love you, Bluebeard!”
            That was getting a little tiresome.  “On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, what would you say your level of fear at this moment is?”
            “I love you –”
            “Ah, forget it, just open the door!”  Yes, I was being unprofessional, but we had to keep up the momentum.
            She opened the door to reveal a room with three heads on a table.
            “Who… are… those?”  She shakily pointed at them.
            “My dead wives!”  Sick, I know, even if they were just paper mache, but I feel that the best way to counter slander is to shove it back in the gossips’ faces.  It shows both that I have an intellectual sense of irony and that I’m “in on the joke”.
            “Aiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!”  Judith ran out of the castle and stole my car in her escape.  She won’t get far: she had to use the valet key, plus she forgot that I was holding her purse, gentleman that I am. 
            I think this test run went extremely well.  With Judith's ringing endorsement, I'm so excited for opening night!