Thursday, May 31, 2007

How Do You Fix a Problem Like... Sha-Ria?

Just in case anyone this side of the kook border had any doubts that multi-cultural tolerance and "reasonable accommodation" have reached ridiculous proportions, here's a story that's guaranteed to warm your hearts.

A regular reader of this esteemed blog, The Warbasse Warlord, happened into his friendly neighborhood supermarket last week to stock up on sale items. Wow! Boar's Head Deluxe Ham for $5.99 a pound. As that great American philosopher, Stymie, once said: "Isthmus be my lucky day!" And from there it only got better as special offer after special offer for the Memorial Day Weekend jumped out at him shouting: "Buy me! Buy me!

So after filling his cart with low-cost goodies, including a $3.99 watermelon, buy-one-get-two-free Snapple, and a pound of Boar's Head Dead Pig (sliced thin), off he went to the checkout.

That's when he made a giant leap, unknowingly, out of the serene republic of Brooklyn and into...

The Twilight Zone.

Suddenly, the bagboy began speaking to the cashier in a very agitated tone.

"What's the matter?" asked the Warlord.

"Do you have meat in any of your packages?" she asked.

"Yeah, we're coming up on a big barbecue weekend," he answered.

"Well... uhh... Hassan can't touch any meat that's not Halal," came the explanation.

Call me intolerant, but bagboy at a non-kosher supermarket was probably NOT the best career choice for this pluralist American in training.

My good friend and legal counsel, Oliver Wendall McMansion, had a similar situation a few years back. On a Monday he hired an associate; a seemingly well-adjusted young lady who had graduated from a respected law school. On Tuesday she informed her new boss that she could not work in the cubicle that had been assigned to her because she suffered from adult ADD and needed a private office to screen out the distractions. This particular suite of offices consisted of one private office (belonging to the boss) and a large open area divided with cubicles. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act Oliver W. could either give up his sanctum, build her a private office, or face an ADA lawsuit.

One day on the job and this new employee orders him to "accommodate" her disability or incur the wrath of legions of angry Washington bureaucrats.

Here in New York, where cabbies are not allowed to refuse service to people who look as if they just stepped out of a dumpster, there are constant stories about Muslim hacks who refuse to pick up young women who are dressed inappropriately. It almost makes me want to get behind the wheel to pick up the crumbs these guys leave.

So what's a multi-cultural society to do? Reasonable accommodation makes sense to a reasonable person. It's just that "reasonable" is another of those elastic terms that members of the American Left interpret in the most ludicrous ways to justify the most idiotic policy decisions.

And every time we think it can't get any dumber the headlines shriek out about a woman in Florida who wants to take her driver's license picture with just her eyes showing behind a Casper the Friendly Ghost veil or a federal judge says that a youth sports league has to allow a teenage girl to play soccer with a table cloth wrapped around her face.

While we're at it, why not provide a driver's license exemption for members of that legendary southern civic group.

It just gets goofier and goofier.

Does an employer have to provide flex time for a worker who's not a "morning person."

Do our courts need special procedures to accommodate killers who come from cultures where honor killing has a long and glorious tradition?

Should we make a reasonable accommodation for immigrants from regions in Africa where the phrase "Having our neighbors for dinner" has a completely different meaning than it does here?

And what about me? I'm lazy and undisciplined. Why should I have to compete against people who are focused, ambitious and persistent?

Where's the justice... where's the reasonable accommodation... for those unlucky masses who suffer from my disability?

Why should I lose out to those who are the winners in life's lottery?

Why indeed?

Sha-Ria... say it loud and there's music playing. Say it soft, and it's almost like preying.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Kind of Loser Would Want My Identity?

I've been trying for two weeks, without success, to come up with a humorous angle on this story so bear with me.

Yes, my identity was stolen.

Yes, the consequences have been relatively minor.

Yes, I'm pissed as hell and want to have the guy strung up by his scrotum in a junkyard filled with hungry, snarling Rottweilers.

And I would prescribe a more torturous fate for the long line of bureaucrats and political flunkies who could have helped at any point along the line, but chose to do nothing other than suggest that I "pay the two dollars."

Well, it's not two dollars. And while $750 may represent small potatoes to New York City's esteemed billionare-in-chief... THEY'RE MY POTATOES!!!

In case you're wondering, Mayor Mikey is one of the political flunkies who chose to do nothing, along with Betsy (uggghhh) Gotbaum, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Parking Violations Bureau and the City Marshall, one particularly heinous dirtbag named Richard Capuano.

So let's begin at the beginning.

It all started with the tribulations of a very old and tired 1990 Mazda 626. As jalopies go, this one would have long ago been rolled off a cliff by Wally Cleaver and Lumpy Rutherford, but it was perfect for ferrying fishing gear and gardening supplies and those periodic trips to the town dump. Then, in June of 2005, it reached the tipping point, as the Global Warming kooks like to say.

Like the old hermit living in the Arizona desert spitting out teeth as he walked, Ol' Mazie was dropping parts along the street at an alarming rate. When the brakes failed to slow its momentum at 5 MPH, it was time to put her to sleep. Even driving to the junkyard less than a mile away was more risk than I was willing to take, so I called Stevie the Junk Man and he showed up ten minutes later with his flatbed. Off came the plates and away went the car. Good riddance, you say, but I still wiped away a tear as it disappeared around the bend.

Like a good little boy I went to DMV and surrendered the plates. I love that expression. Imagine crawling up to the DMV dimwit waving a white flag with one hand and sheepishly "surrendering" the plates with the other. Then, with my receipt in hand, I returned home confident that I had fulfilled my civic duty. My thoroughness was rewarded a few weeks later when I received a refund check from the Comptroller of the State of New York for the unused balance of my registration fee.

What a windfall!

Then, in September of 2005 I received a cordial letter from the NYC Parking Violations Bureau informing me that I had failed to pay a parking ticket that was issued in August, 2005.

The summons was issued at the corner of Sutphin Boulevard and 94th Avenue in Jamaica.

Now, it's not that I have anything against Sutphin Boulevard or Jamaica. It's just that since Gertz, Robert Hall and the Valencia Theater closed more than thirty years ago, I have no reason at all to go there. Yes, I did take my father-in-law to the ER in Jamaica Hospital. I remember the incident because one of the "patients" took the ER nurse hostage at knifepoint. But that was still many years ago.

A quick phone call, I thought, would resolve the issue. WRONG!

The genius on the other end of the line suggested that I pay the fine and be done with it.

"Yes," I answered, "but it will never end because whoever is doing this will continue doing it." And continue he did. A letter to the mayor's office resulted in zero action, not even a reply telling me how busy Hizzoner is. At least Senator Moynihan had the decency to tell me he couldn't be bothered with my petty problem. He had a book to finish. Mind you, my petty problem was that my wife and child were stranded in a third-world country in the middle of a terrorist war, but the senator was busy writing his tenth book in his tenth year in the Senate. That's the ticket, become a United States Senator, cure writer's block (and banish those pesky rejection letters).

So on and on it went. I wrote to the Public Advocate (HAH!!!) explaining my problem: tickets on a car I no longer own. Two weeks later I get a phone call from Ms. James of the Public Advocate's office. I explained my problem again: tickets on a car I no longer own. Two weeks after that Ms. James calls back and says she's very sorry, but there's nothing her office can do.

"Do you know you have parking tickets?", she queried.

Excuse me, Ms. James. I have to scrape the top of my skull off the ceiling because MY HEAD JUST EXPLODED!

More phone calls. More letters. And still no action, until the fines, penalties, and ultimately the towing charges reached $750. Yes, I said towing charges. The Missus came out of school two weeks ago to find "our car had been stolen." A quick check confirmed that rather than car theft, this identity theft resulted in the towing and impoundment of my cherished 1995 BMW, a car that has a completely clean record.

Would that I were so lucky.

The next day, armed with all the relevant documentation I trudged down to the NYC Department of Finance/Parking Violations Bureau, curiously located on 94th Avenue just off Sutphin Boulevard. I should have recognized this as a clue, but I shrugged it off as a coincidence. More bureacratic mumbo jumbo. More gov-speak.

"Do you have documentary evidence?" asked the Senior Judge.

I showed him the receipt for the plates. "Anything else?" he continued. I showed him the stub from the refund check issued by the Comptroller of the State of New York. "That's still not enough. How about a letter from your insurance company indicating that you terminated the insurance on this car?"

Quick as a flash I got on the cell phone. The rep from GEICO printed the letter and faxed it to a nearby Kinko's. Breathlessly I submitted the final document to the Senior Judge.

"What about the bill of sale from the junkyard?"

The inferno roaring from my ears set off every smoke alarm in the building.

Several images began floating through my mind giving me the premonition that this episode would not have a happy ending. That's when I paid the $750, went to the Marshall's office in Rego Park, got the release, and then traveled to Whitestone to get my car out of hock.

My interaction with the fat bastard wearing the Yankee cap behind the bullet-proof glass in the Marshall's office I'll leave for a subsequent blog.

So, what had happened? Simple.

One hour of amateur sleuthing on my part revealed that a gentlemen living in close proximity to Stevie's Junkyard saw the Mazda sitting out front and offered to buy it, as is. He then put a set of stolen plates on the car and drove it for another year without registration or insurance. Then he registered the car in his own name and drove it for yet another year, racking up nine additional unpaid parking tickets. Since the car was not registered for a year the geniuses who wrote the tickets simply entered the VIN and let the computer do the rest of the work.

Apparently the computers at the DMV do not speak to the computers at the PVB which do not speak to the computers in the New York State Comptrollers office. Never did any of them take notice that the car and the plates did not match.

My only solace is that this fraud was committed by a corrupt slug, not an illegal immigrant from Yemen who stuffed it full of fertilizer and heating oil. Rather than paying to get my car out of the pound, I'd now be reading the Koran at Gitmo.

And what about the Sutphin Boulevard connection? Not only is the perpetrator of this fraud an investigator for the law firm that represents the Department of Motor Vehicles, this guy has the castagnas to go to PVB in Jamaica (94th and Sutphin) and contest the tickets while posing as me... and then he gets another ticket while he's there!!!

I have to show my photo ID to buy beer at the self checkout at Stop 'n Shop, but this guy has a formal hearing in front of a government magistrate and never has to show any proof that he is who he says he is.

This, of course, fills me with confidence in this post 9-11 world.

Especially when I see the livery drivers out every morning switching plates from one Crown Victoria to another.

But there's more to this story, because I'm not letting this one go.

Stay tuned.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Orfeo ed Euridice... or... I've Just Gone Through Hell for This Chick and She Still Won't Do What I Tell Her!

Proving once again that there's nothing new under the Sun, the Metropolitan Opera wound down its 2006/2007 season with a spectacular production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Orpheus myth, here's a quick synopsis:

Orfeo is mourning the death of his young wife, Euridice. But he sends everyone away because his grief is so overwhelming even their sincere and heartfelt support sinks him deeper into despair.

Then along comes Cupid, yeah Cupid, suspended from a wire no less, who tells him that all he has to do is follow his beloved's spirit into the underworld and bring her back.

But, she orders, he cannot look at her, or tell her why he can't look at her, until they're back home or she will die. And this time, for keepsies.

Yada, yada, yada... he descends into Hell, gets past the Furies, finds his wife and they start home.

"But why won't you look at me?," she asks, "Am I no longer beautiful?"

"Just shut up and follow me." implores Orfeo, but she's relentless.

"Is it because this dress makes me look fat?"

"Have you found someone else? It's that little tart from Thessalonika, isn't it?"

At this point the Missus turned to me and said "What a wimp. Why doesn't he just grab her by the scruff of the neck, tell to STFU and drag her out of there?"

Why not indeed? But this is an opera.

Finally, when he can't take her nagging anymore, he turns and looks her straight in the eyes and she promptly drops dead... again.

At that point poor Orfeo collapses to his knees and wails: "Che faro senza Euridice" (what shall I do without Euridice). Well lets see... for starters I'll play golf, go fishing and drink as much beer as I want anytime I want.

But no.

All Orfeo has to do is threaten suicide and Cupid returns to snatch the dagger from his hand. Touched by his devotion Cupid brings Euridice back to life and she immediately starts nagging him to finish mowing the lawn. What oh what shall I do without Euridice? What oh what shall any of us do?

Well, they live happily every after, have five kids and Orfeo gets a job playing in the house band at Euridice's father's catering hall. They are Greek, after all.

And we can only speculate as to how Orfeo's life would have turned out if he had passed on Cupid's "descend into Hell" offer and just looked around for a younger woman. After a respectable mourning period, of course.

But this is pure fiction. For the happily married among us, thankfully, Orfeo's tragedy is a prospect that few of us (gentlemen) will have to confront. All you have to do is glance at the obituary page or take a walk past your local assisted living center to recognize that we're not going to outlive our wives. It brings back memories of the old Alan King routine, "Survived by his wife." In fact, I'm sure that if we followed the Orpheus legend to its conclusion we'd find Euridice sitting in a beach chair in Boca Raton cashing Orfeo's pension checks from the Amalgamated Greek Lyre Players Union.

Face it, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So when you're tempted to blurt out, "Why can't you do what I tell for once?", understand that this is a male/female dynamic that's been going on since there have been males and females. Just swallow those words before they jump out and get you into trouble because the odds that she'll do what you say are roughly equivalent to the chances that Alex Rodriguez will hit a bases-loaded homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the World Series while still wearing a Yankee uniform.

It ain't happenin'.

Next week: Wotan, the King of the Gods, chides his teenage daughter Brunnhilde for her disobediance. "You're grounded, young lady!", he shouts. Then he places her on a rock surrounded by a ring of fire for all eternity. Would that it were...