Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Story 93: Confessions of a Once and Future Child

            You know how you look at somebody and think: “He is such a man child,” or “Why doesn’t she just grow up?” or “He’s so immature,” or even “What a big baby.”
            They wish.
            People of Earth, I am here to tell you that I have discovered the Fountain of Youth, the answer to never growing up and never growing old (mentally, that is – this isn’t a miracle).  Here is the solution for your nostalgia, your melancholy, and your animosity towards your current life:
            Don’t allow yourself to become bored with what makes you happy.
            That’s it.  I’m not even charging a fee for it.
            You liked playing with dolls when you were 5-, 6-, 7-years-old?  Why’d you stop, then?  Because you got bored with them, that’s why.  Well, guess what?  The living versions of those are called babies, and they require a lot more maintenance.  Plus they grow up to break your heart, but that’s off-topic.
            I loved playing with my little wooden soldiers, so you know what?  I never stopped!  Why should I?  They’re so cool!  Yes, I am a 52-year-old man who plays with toys because they make me happy.
            And what law is there that requires that I must work a minimum of 40 hours a week until I collapse into my grave?  Sure, things like “salary” and “benefits” may appeal to some (most) people, but it’s not as if I’ll be thrown in jail if I’m technically unemployed, right?  Mom and Dad didn’t kick me out, and they left me a nice annuity to ensure my survival, so why should I join the ranks of the miserable, over-worked, struggling adults just so I can have an in-ground pool and a jet ski that I don’t need?  Why, when I can relax around the house and volunteer at the rec center as I’ve done every year since I was in high school?
            Speaking of school, that is a key element of childhood, so I have faithfully continued my education in… everything.  Nothing defines “child” more than complaining about homework and looking forward to summer vacation!
            Ah, summer – the time to run around the yard in your bathing suit, or ride your bike to the woods to look for treasure, or play ball in the park (the street’s gotten way too crowded).  Why does everyone stop doing all that?  We all had a great time.  Are you too cool now, is that it?  Or did life just wear you down and make you old?
            Same goes for winter: sledding in the snow, ice skating in circles for hours on the local rink, and presents!  Why is all that stuff fun and appropriate now only if you’re really doing it for some chronological child?  I can’t wait to see the lights on the trees and on the menorahs, and hear the annual repetitive music, and cozy up in my bed with the blankets while it’s snowing outside (hot cocoa must be an accompaniment).
            So I’ll keep playing with my toys, and building sand castles on the beach, and exploring my backyard in the company of my imaginary friend.
            The rest of you are welcome to join me whenever you wish.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Story 92: A Good Day’s Phishing

            Let’s see what’s on the docket for today.  Think I’ll start with the old “Customer Feedback” call.
            The computer dials a random number.  “Hello?”
            And go, computer-voice-that-almost-sounds-like-a-human-being: “Hi, this is the Customer Service line.  Can you hear me clearly?”
            Bingo – he said “Yes,” which means, “Yes to everything that is asked after this point.”
            “I’m calling today regarding your recent resort visit.”
            “My what?  Who is – ?”
            “You are eligible for – ” Click.
            Too late.  He said “Yes.”  To me sending him bills.
            Next call – time to mix it up a little.  No answer; leave a message (different voice, same computer).
            “You are wanted for an investigation.  Please call ------- for questioning at the police station.”
            This one’s my favorite: calm tone, but with enough panic words to make almost anyone flustered enough to hand over everything.  Ooh, a call back!  Time to speak in my “disguise.”
            “`Allo,” my disguise is French.  “This is Laurent with Justice Lawyers, LLZ.  Who is this?”
            “Well, Laurent, since you just called my phone, you should know who this is.”
            Oh, one of those, eh?  Best to ride it out.  “Yes, I see your name is ----.  You’re going to prison now!”
            “You’re in big trouble!  You’re going to prison!”  I hear laughter – shoot.  They usually are too rattled to even think at this point.  Best to abort.  “I don’t have time to talk to you!”  I disconnect the line.  Didn’t even get to the part where I help her avoid jail for her non-existent crime.
            Let’s see, which one should I try now – ooh!  Here’s a good one, and this time I actually speak right away without the computer doing the introduction.  Ring-ring.
            “Hello, this is Financial Services, LLZ, I’m calling to see if you’d be interested in participating in an investment opportunity in your area.”  I'm not even sure what area I’m calling – is it Boston?  Who knows.
            “OK, sure.  What’s it involve?”
            An actual nibble in the first minute?  Don’t get too excited as you reel her in.
            “Well, for a minimum outlay of $1,000, you could have a return of 10 times that amount in a month, plus the chance to make triple that in a year!”  I love math.
            “That sounds great!  What would I be investing in?”
            No one’s ever asked me that before.  “The country’s future.”
            “Uh huh.  So, what, do you need my credit card, or would my bank account number do?”
            Hm.  This doesn’t feel right.  Why am I getting the sweats all of a sudden?  “Credit card would be fine!  Let me get some basic information from you first.”
            “Sure – you need my Social Security number and date of birth?”
            Is this a scam?  I’m being scammed!  “Actually, I’m going to have to call you back in a few minutes.”
            “No, wait, just say ‘Yes’ if you want direct access to my life savings!”
            This is my worst nightmare.  The banging on the front door confirms it as I disconnect the call; I open the door to reveal the FBI.
            My career as scum of the Earth comes to a tearful end as the phisher becomes the phished.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Story 91: 4th of July-travaganza

            “I know I’ve said this before, but this year will be the one everyone talks about where our show had the best fireworks ever!”
            The leader tried to rally his crew as the members prepared for the town’s 4th of July fireworks display in the local park; he knew that they needed motivation after having done practically the same show for the past 20 years.  He couldn’t let their almost-nonexistent enthusiasm result in his losing the annual contract that had taken so much work to win in the first place.  Plus, the town once again had chosen this show over regular recycling pick-up, so he needed to prove that that decision was indeed worth it.
            “Send one up!” he shouted.
            They released a single burst of color and fire to show the increasingly antsy audience that they hadn’t been forgotten.
            “There, that should hold them for about 15 minutes.”
            “Can’t we start on time this year?” his second-in-command and undercover usurper logically asked.
            “And ruin the suspense?”  One of the rules, along with making the audience flock to you year after year, was then making that audience wait for you – this heightened the thrill of the actual display because everyone realized that it had finally begun.
            Half an hour past the scheduled start, it was finally showtime.  “OK, the people are ready to revolt – let `er rip!”
            The bombardment of colored fire and the park’s temporary resemblance to a war zone was a beautiful thing.  The leader always had tears in his eyes as birds flew in panic away from the area and spent shells fell all around.  He could barely hear the “Oohs” and the “Aahs”, but they were enough.
            “This is what our forefathers fought for,” he said every year.  “The right to shoot pretty colors into the sky and make loud booming sounds.”
            “Actually,” the usurper chimed in, “the fireworks represent the battles fought in the Revolutionary War and commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  It’s the amateurs who only like to make pretty colors and things go ‘boom.’”
            The leader glared at his pipsqueak enemy.  “Don’t detract from my enjoyment.  Fire all torpedoes!”
            The crew released the obligatory Grand Finale of controlled explosions, with the crowning glory of a starburst that depicted a supernova transforming into the American flag.  The subsequent vacuum of sound was soon filled with cheers as the leader beamed with satisfaction and soot.
            “Good job, fellows.  They really loved that one.”
            “For about five minutes,” one of the crew muttered – the usurper’s influence was spreading – as they set out to clean up their equipment and debris.  It would kill time nicely so they would not be trapped in the bumper-to-bumper exodus as all the spectators left at the same time.
            The leader packed up cheerfully as he thought about the show that had just happened and began planning the one for next year.  That really would be the one with the best fireworks ever.