The Call To Trial

Chaos in Print

There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path — Morpheus, The Matrix

There is nothing but chaos and upheaval at work right now. The boss has left on maternity leave. As this is her fifth child, she is unsure as to whether she’ll be back or not. The person who was offered the front end manager position turned it down. “Big increase in responsibility, little increase in pay,” was her reason. So, it was offered to a perpetual victim and hypochondriac. She accepted. One of the other supervisors will be heading off to university in the fall, and as such will shortly be leaving to go to a better paying summer job. Add to that a huge influx of new people, and lots of old people starting to leave the evil empire for greener pastures. Everywhere I look, I see change. And in such situations, it’s often best to keep your mouth shut. With a shortage of management material in our department, I sarcastically said one day, “Hey! Why not make me a front end supervisor?” Since I was the only one who showed any interest (joking, sarcastic, interest, mind you), I was soon promoted from bagger to front end supervisor. From bottom of the pecking order to lower lower management. It happened so fast that, had I had the time to think it over, I probably would have said no. But, when you’re a starving university graduate and the opportunity to actually use your degree comes along, you tend to act before you think.

Within the period of a week, I found myself serving my first shift behind a cash register. I had always dreaded this job. In the customer relations department, it’s always the cashier who gets an angry customer’s two barrels. “The sign says 2 for 1, jerkwad!” “That’s too high! I don’t want it! I’ll get it at IGA!” “Not so fast, moron. I have a coupon for that.” And then, you have to try to diffuse the situation with your limited knowledge. “It’s only 2 for 1 if you buy the same kind. You have two different brands, flavours, and sizes.” “OK, ma’am, I’ll put it back, but you should be aware that IGA charges $1 more for it.” “This coupon is for steak sauce. You can’t use it for your cucumber.” But, on the other side of the coin, how hard could it be if they have airhead teenage girls doing it after school and senile grandmothers doing it during the day? As with being a bagger, my “training” consisted of a 10-minute briefing before being sent to do it. I was a bundle of nerves standing behind that register, waiting for the first customer to come. Soon, they came. I slowly went through things, step by step, and I did it right. That wasn’t so bad. Another came. Again, I did it right. Nerves…fading. It was like that episode of South Park, when Cartman was learning how to ride a bull. As long as no one hits the bull in the nuts with a snowball, it’s easy. I just took things slow, and everything turned out all right. Sure, I forgot to charge a guy for his dog food, but that’s an expected, rookie mistake.

Monday was going to be the challenging day. On this day, I was to be taken through the closing procedures so I could close the store myself someday. The first bit of the evening was more cashiering, more practice. I think I’m getting the hang of this. Closing time soon comes, and it’s time to go through the closing procedures. The manager herself was on hand to take me though the process. Take out the trays and put them in the office. Count this money. Count that money. Double-check it with this report. Take out this excess. Fill out the deposit slip. Go to the computer. Enter these numbers. Print these off. You’re done. It all seems simple enough. But so did quantum physics. Like with calculus, all I need is a little practice, and I should get the hang of it.

Tuesday night. Again, more cashiering, followed by being shown the closing procedures. This time, though, it’s not the manager who’s showing me the procedures, but one of the supervisors. It’s the young one, who’ll soon be leaving for a better summer job. Or, as I’ve to think of her, the chibi-supervisor. She says that she’ll let me do it myself, and all she’ll do is stand over my shoulder and make sure I don’t screw up. Right. “Don’t do it like that! You’re doing it wrong!” “I don’t care if that’s how she showed you last night, she did it wrong.” “Do it faster. The company doesn’t like paying overtime.” “You’re going to slow. Let me do it.” “You don’t have to do that, I already did it.” Nothing like being contradicted at every turn to instill confidence in a young man. I think I’ll take back the chibi. I go home that night nothing but a confused wreck of man. I’m like the Riddler in the end of Batman Forever. I curl up into the fetal position, and repeat to myself, “Too many questions…too…many…questions….”

I get Wednesday off. I decide to head into Edmonton to see Pokémon 3. On the drive in, I pass a gravel crusher and begin to long for the good ol’ days. Yes, I hated working nights on a gravel crusher, but at least I knew what I was doing.

I’m told to show up early on Thursday morning. Now it’s time to be taught how to open the store. The manager asks me how things went on Tuesday night, and I share my confusion. “What do you mean she did things DIFFERENTLY?” “I don’t know, just different.” She takes me thought the opening procedures. It’s a lot more simple. Just bing, bang, boom, and the store’s open. Bing, bang, boom, remember that as you do it yourself for the first time on Monday. I settle behind my register and soon slip into what’s become routine oh so fast. The day just breezes by.

Friday, and soon my week of training will be done. No opening, no closing, just doing the job of airhead teenaged girls and senile grandmas. Something soon pops up that I’ve never been trained to do. I call for the supervisor, only to find that she’s gone to lunch. Fortunately, one of the other cashiers knows how to do it and walks me through it. The day just goes on without incident after that. Soon, 5 o’clock comes. Pull the birdie’s tale, everybody knows it’s time to quit. I close off my till and start looking around. Only two tills are open. Long lines at each one. I call for the supervisor. The supervisor seems to have disappeared. Time to use my new, executive powers. This supervisor (point dramatically at myself) says this cashier (again point at myself) can go home. I make one more feeble attempt to contact the supervisor (it’s unsuccessful) and start leaving.

On my way out, I run into the store manager. We briefly talk.

“So, Mark, how’s the supervising coming?”

“Well, I think I’ve got the cashier part figured out, but I’m still having trouble with the supervisor part.”

“What? A smart guy like you?”

“If I’m so smart, why the f**k am I working for you in this backwater division of an evil corporation?” Well, I didn’t say that. But I just about did. Sometimes, it’s amazing what kind of conscious effort it takes to NOT be a smart-ass.

And that was my first week of being giving the auspicious title of Front End Supervisor. Nothing but more confusion and chaos. Before these dark times, a very dangerous thing happened to me. I developed a reputation. The reputation that I was the best bagger there was. That soon evolved into being the best at everything I do. That is always a bad reputation to have because the expectations others have for you suddenly jump to very high levels. The manager was telling me how she and the chibi-manager were predicting that I’d have the hang of this in a week. I think I finally understand that old saying, “Some work for greatness, others have it thrust upon them.” There is nothing but confusion and upheaval at work right now, and for some reason, people think I can rise above. They seem to think that I can bring order to the chaos; put the chaos in a box, as it were. We will see.

Midnight Ramblings XVI

Chaos in Print

NOTE: There’s something a little different about this Rambling. Keep reading and you’ll see why.

Hey Kes!

So, firstly, Kes, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing to you and not to your boyfriend, Neelix, who’s usually the target of these ramblings. Well, I’ve already had this conversation with Neelix, and now it’s time you were let in on the secret. Ever since you got me that bootleg uncut version of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, you’ve been slowly replacing him as my best friend. How about that? Now, you’re subject to the ramblings that originally only he ignored with mild disinterest.

Actually, this whole rambling started with something that I thought you might find interesting. I know that you’ve mentioned in the past a certain affinity for Jeff Goldblum. Well, while finally watching my Independence Day DVD with the running commentary, I heard this quote about Jeff Goldblum that I thought you might find interesting:

“And in case you’re wondering what that weird thing he’s doing with his hands is, he’s ‘putting his thinking cap on.’ Jeff was always full of weird, good stuff like this. That’s what made him such a joy to work with.”

Yeah, I do so love Independence Day. And after I finished watching it, I finally sat down to watch A Bug’s Life with the running commentary. Yes, I found the 2-disc, special edition of A Bug’s Life! Every online store was telling me it was out-of-print, but yet, there it was, sitting on the shelf in Future Shop. I couldn’t help but snatch it up, when the Fates were telling me it didn’t exist. In you face, Fates! And besides, like the running commentaries on the Toy Story movies, it’s just full of good quotes. Like this one:

John Lasseter (director)>> Now here’s when we first meet Flik. For this scene, we wanted Flik to seem like just a big geek.

Andrew Stanton (co-director)>> Something we here at Pixar had to do very little research on.

And even more little tidbits on the voice casting. They agreed that getting Dave Foley to voice Flik was just an “out-of-left-field decision.” But then, when they decided on Foley, they actually had to talk him into it, because Dave Foley apparently thinks that he has a really annoying voice.

And how they got Kevin Spacey for Hopper! A really Hollywood way. It took place five years ago at the big Oscar luncheon. (See, 2 weeks before the Oscars, the Academy holds this big luncheon, where all the nominees get a frame-able “certificate of nomination.”) Kevin Spacey was there that year because he was nominated for his role in The Usual Suspects. (And he went on to win for that role.) Co-directors John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton where there because Toy Story was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. So, they all started talking, and they casually asked Spacey if he’d like to do voice work for them, and Spacey said, “Yes!” So, when they started work on the Bug’s Life screenplay the next day, they started writing Hopper for Spacey, and that’s how they got him.

Then I finally watched Fight Club with the running commentary by David Fincher and the cast. Man, the more I watch Fight Club the more it starts to disturb me because the more I start seeing myself in Narrator/Jack/Ed Norton’s character. If I start inventing a violence-prone imaginary friend, you’ll hold an intervention, right?

When I was done with DVDs for the night, I watched a rerun of M*A*S*H. This was seriously an episode of M*A*S*H. I’m not making this up. The story revolved around this nurse whose tour of duty was just about up. At her birthday party, it was stumbled upon that she was a 28-year old virgin, and quite self-conscious about this. So, all the nurses decided to help her get over this problem. They cut off all the men in the camp until one agreed to start dating her. Of course, our hero, Hawkeye Pierce (how much M*A*S*H did you watch growing up?) rose to the challenge. Since our nurse was also a bit of a klutz, this led to all sorts of comic mishaps on their dates. But, this all soon built up to when our nurse had her first kiss, and that’s all she really wanted, for that was enough to convince her that she could handle herself physically in a relationship. So, this episode got me thinking, why aren’t MY friends like this? Why don’t all my friends cut off their girlfriends until they agree to set me up with one of their friends? Suddenly, I think I’m talking to the wrong gender. Better cc this to Neelix.

Yeah, when I was a kid, I loved M*A*S*H. That was one of my big fads growing up. Now, you look at kids today, and what do they have? Harry Potter. I think I’m fairly certain that the Harry Potter mania has reached its peak. I was reading in the paper this morning that, coming this Christmas, are Harry Potter Lego sets! It’ll be a set of nine Lego castles. Man, what the hell happened to Lego? I remember when there were only three subsets: Town, Space, and Castle. Now, it’s gotten all weird and science-fictiony and actiony and, well, every time someone comes up with a new idea, it spawns a whole new set. There’s the “Rock Raiders” and “Arctic” and “Ninja” and “Adventures.” Let’s get back to basics: Town, Space, and Castle. I remember when the big debate in my life was whether my Lego Space Shuttle would be Town or Space. Now, I think it’s “Space Explorers.”

Although, I think my new favorite subset has to be the Steven Spielberg Lego studios. Endorsed by Mr. Movie God Steven Spielberg, this set consists of a series of movie set-pieces. There’s “Dinosaur Attack,” which is a Lego animatronic T-Rex (complete with Little Lego Man puppeteer and Little Lego stunt man). There’s the “Stunt Man Catapult.” There’s the “Explosion Studio.” There’s even a little Jeep set so you can recreate the classic truck chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark. But, the centerpiece of this subset is the Lego Studio. This is a huge Lego movie studio complete with digital camera so you can make your own Lego movies. And, just for fun, the set even comes with a Little Lego Steven Spielberg.

All this Lego licensing never really came about until Christmas 1998, when the Lego folks got the bright idea to start making Star Wars Lego sets. Star Wars Lego is still going strong, with the Star Wars Lego figures becoming quite the collectors items. So big an item, in fact, that the Lego club started selling them exclusively to members! And new sets keep getting cranked out. According to the official Lego website, 2001 will see the release of the Lego TIE Fighter, with Little Lego TIE Fighter Pilot and Little Lego Stormtrooper, and the Lego Imperial Shuttle, with two Little Lego Imperial Guards and Little Lego Emperor Palpatine. I don’t know why, but I keep denying myself the Lego SLAVE-1, with Little Lego Boba Fett and Little Lego Han Frozen in Carbonite.

And now, before I go, one last quote from the Bug’s Life running commentary. This was the quote I bought the disc for; because they make reference to this quote on the Toy Story 2 running commentary, and I had to see if that quote was really there. See, Andrew Stanton ends the running commentary on Toy Story 2 by saying this: “I ended the Bug’s Life running commentary by saying it was 1 in the morning, and we had to go finish Toy Story 2. So, I’ll end this one by saying its 4:30 in the afternoon, and we’ve got to go finish Monsters, Inc.

Sure enough, I watched the Bug’s Life running commentary, and this is how it ended:

Andrew Stanton>> So, that’s the movie. And, we’ve got to be wrapping this up because it’s 1 in the morning, and we’ve all got to be back here at 8 to get back to work on Toy Story 2!

John Lasseter>> Yeah, we’re actually making a Toy Story 2, can you believe it? So, we’ve all got to be going to bed. AND YOU GO TO BED TOO! Good night!


A Logo On A T-Shirt

Chaos in Print

Hey, look at me, I’m on a yo-yo! — Woody, in Toy Story 2, as he marvels over all the merchandise dedicated to him.

There’s this one idea for a Chaos In A Box tie-in that’s been tickling the back of my brain for quite some time. I originally hatched this idea with my sister way back in the summer of 1996, as I prepared to begin my second year at Augustana. The radio show had gathered enough of a following, and since I was unemployed that summer, I began looking at how I could use the show to make money. As my sister and I sat around brainstorming, we soon hit upon the most obvious idea. What does every hit movie and TV show have to tie in with it? T-shirts.

My sister and I soon came up with a simple formula. Since those No Fear T-shirts were currently all the rage, we decided that we needed to spoof these. So, our shirts were going to feature obscure quotes from obscure cartoons, and in place of the No Fear logo, there would be a Chaos In A Box logo. Of course, since I was unemployed for that summer, I didn’t have the start-up capital to begin producing all these T-shirts, and that’s why they weren’t all the rage on the AUC campus in the fall of ’96. But the idea never really went away.

The idea really began returning with a vengeance about a year or so ago, when Kenten Bowick created the logo that now adorns this site. You’ve got to admit, that was just made to be slapped on a T-shirt. I remember back in university, when I was still using the original logo that I whipped up myself, I shared this T-shirt plan with Kenten. Since he had already made up Dag T-shirts for his staffers, and was in the midst of making bootleg G.I. Joe T-shirts for himself, he told me that he knew a company that did it and could hook me up. In true Kenten fashion, he never did. I tell ya, I love him like a brother, but sometimes I think he’s got that A.D.D. Falling back on the old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” I decided that if the Chaos In A Box logo were to ever pop up on a T-shirt, it would be one I made myself. I’ve got a good colour printer. The iron-on transfers are available at all stationary stores, and you can get plain black T-shirts cheap like borsht.

I started thinking that I’d put off making these shirts until I bought my URL. That way, I could stamp “” on everything. I’ve currently drifted away from the desire to get my URL, but the desire for T-shirts remains. And besides, the “.com” thing has been overdone. I’m glad that No Fear died before we started seeing No Maybe there is “” I should enter that URL simply out of curiosity. But I digress.

So we have a logo. Naturally, one of the T-shirts in the line would simply be the logo, nice and prominent across the front. But what about the quotes? Sadly, I lost the list my sister and I concocted back in ’96, so I’ve been making up a new one. Here are some of the ones we could features.

We’ve got my favorite quote from Samurai Pizza Cats: “If you talk to the wind, you’re normal. If the wind answers you, you’re crazy.” This would be a simple enough design, not too complicated. We’d have “If you talk to the wind…” across the front and “If the wind answers you…” across the back. We’d still need a little guess-work to figure out where to place the logo.

Another quote I’m toying with is one from the movie Men In Black that’s been rolling around in my head lately: “Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” The whole quote from the movie goes like this: “People are not smart. A person is smart. People are stupid, panicky animals. You know it. 1500 years ago, we knew the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, we knew the Earth was flat. 15 minutes ago, you knew that we were alone in the universe. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” But still, that one, final line is catchy enough to stick.

One that I’d like to stick on is a very obscure quote, and I doubt that even you would get the reference: “But it’s a rock.” This comes from A Bug’s Life. We’ve got that scene near the opening where Flik gives a rock to Princess Dot and tells her to pretend it’s a seed. He then goes on this emotional speech about how seeds grow into trees and that Dot is still a seed, but all Dot can say throughout this speech is, “But it’s a rock.” Sticking just that quote would be rather obscure. Perhaps it would help if we put Flik’s follow-up quote on the back: “I KNOW IT’S A ROCK! I spend a lot of time around rocks! Don’t you think I know a rock when I see one?” But on the other hand, Kevin Smith did say once that sometimes the funniest jokes are the ones that only four people get.

Let’s see, another one I like is one that I used in one of columns from university. Chef said it on South Park. “There’s a time and a place for everything. It’s called college.”

Oh, and we would be amiss if we didn’t create a shirt featuring my now-classic self-portrait. Yes, the Scarecrow Happy Face that adorns the main page!

So, we’ve got a good preliminary run of six T-shirts, here. Now, if only I could stop buying DVDs for a while and save my money, we’d be in business. Yes, the official Chaos In A Box T-shirt. The realization of a dream. And who cares if they don’t become the new trend across the nation? There would be at least one in existence, and that would be enough for me.

And let’s be honest, people. I’d really be happy to see just one other person wearing it. And that person would be my girlfriend. Oh, come on, all you young, virile men out there. Admit it. It turns you on a little to see your girlfriend sleeping in your T-shirt, doesn’t it? *sigh* But, baby steps. First, T-shirts. Then, a girlfriend. Then, Newfoundland. And then, the world!

…If It Weren’t For The Customers

Chaos in Print

People are stupid. There’s just no other way of putting it. And this becomes its most obvious in check-out lines at grocery stores. It all starts with the line. I’m starting to call it the “line mentality.” It goes like this. On an average day, four tills will be open, let’s say 1, 3, 5 and 6. 6 is the express lane, it closes for nothing. This leaves 1, 3 and 5 for normal shoppers. Lane 1 is empty. Lane 5 is empty. There’s a line of about 2 people at lane 3. A shopper comes along, and to which lane does this shopper go? The shopper will go to lane 3. Another shopper will come along and go to lane 3. And another. And another. There is now a line-up of 6 people at lane 3, while lanes 1 and 5 are still empty. No matter how much of a rush a person is in, they’ll see a line, and want to get in it. There are two other lanes open, but they’d rather be fourth in line and complain about how no other lanes are open. It’s stupid! And while they’re in line, they start complaining, and this leads to a term that I’m sure the experts will coin shortly: line rage.

We’ve got road rage, air rage, why not line rage? I’ve been working the job long enough to have had a few run ins with angry customers. Actually, I have to hand it to the cashiers. They are the ones who get the brunt of it and I just happen to have front row seats. Take this one incident I saw just a few days ago. See, Extra Foods sends out these flyers, and we’ve got coupons in them. If a customer forgets their flyer, or comes in with a mangled coupon that our scanners can’t read, we’ve always got a couple extra coupons kicking around that we use instead. Just the other day, I bore witness to this event:

Woman with mangled coupon>> I’d like my dollar off on my oranges, please.
Valiant cashier>> Oh, I’m sorry, this coupon is mangled and we can’t accept it. Don’t worry, I have an extra…
Woman>> What do you mean, you can’t accept it? The flyer came like that!
Cashier>> But I’m going to use this….
Woman>> I took all the time to cut it out of the flyer and bring it. I damn well want my dollar off!
Cashier>> And you’re going to get…
Woman>> Suddenly, I changed my mind. I don’t want those damn oranges if I can’t get my dollar off.
Cashier>> But you’re going to get it….
Woman>> How about if I don’t want all these groceries? How about I just go up the road to IGA and get my groceries there? They take my coupons.
Cashier>> This extra coupon….
Woman>> Or I’m going into the city tomorrow. I’ll go to Superstore instead! I’ll…
Woman (rather smugly)>> You do that.

And then that woman just kind of leaned back with a slimy smile, as though her ranting and idle threats actually accomplished something. If she just took the time to hear out that poor cashier, she could have avoided making a spectacle of herself.

A similar incident happened to my mother during her recent election campaign. One day, in the campaign office, my mother answered the phone, and this actual conversation took place:

Mom>> Monika Cappis campaign office, Monika speaking, how may I help you?
Person Voting Tory>> I have a message for that Monika Cappis person.
Mom>> This is Monika Cappis.
Tory>> When she come back in, you tell that Cappis woman that this is a Tory house, and there’s no way in Hell that we’re voting Liberal!
Mom>> But I am Monika Cappis.
Tory>> You tell Cappis that she’s got no right walking up to our door and sticking her pamphlet in our mailbox. Nothing that bitch could do would make us vote Liberal.
Mom>> But I am Monika Cappis.
Tory>> Cappis is going to lose, anyway. Those stupid Liberals don’t have a hope in Hell! You tell that to her!
Mom>> (frustrated sigh) I’ll pass along the message.
Tory>> You do that. (Hangs up phone.)

See? What makes people refuse to listen? And then, it gets worse when they’re really pissed off, and their anger combined with their refusal to listen just really makes for a potent combination. Take this incident in the store around Christmastime. See, in a grocery store, there occasionally comes products where the bar code is mangled and the scanner won’t read it. In instances like that, I’m sent to the shelves to get a second one with a clean bar code. We use the clean bar coded product to scan into the register, and you get the one with the mangled bar code. This woman comes up with a loaf of sourdough bread, and the bar code is mangled:

Cashier>> The price tag is torn. Mark, go grab another one, please.
Woman>> NO!! I picked that one! I want that one!
Cashier>> Yes, but the price tag is torn, so we need another one.
Woman>> You people always do this to me! That’s the one I want, I don’t want any other one, I WANT THAT ONE!
Cashier>> And you’re going to get this one. We only need one with a price tag on it so we can scan it into the computer. This is the one you’re going to get.
The Woman gets lost in thought for about 10 seconds as she thinks this over. Then, she speaks. Or rather, yells.

Needless to say, she walked out without her sourdough bread.

I wish I could say that I’m not stupid, but sadly, it take one to know one. As I look back, I think that this was the only time I did something that a customer could perceive as rude. This couple came through with three loaves of bread. It turns out they only wanted two. So, they began discussing, then arguing, about whether to take this third loaf of bread. I had no desire to watch their argument, so I retreated into Markworld while they discussed their bread. I was brought back to reality when they tossed the loaf of bread in my direction. I didn’t hear their resolution, but since the last thing I heard before retreating was, “We don’t want it,” I assumed they were giving it to me to put back. Since the store was rather busy, I tossed the loaf onto an unused till with the idea of putting it back when things slowed down. As I wandered off to another till to begin bagging another person’s groceries, I spied them out of the corner of my eye. They walked up that unused till, grabbed the loaf, and stuffed into a bag. As they walked by me on their way out, they sneered, “We wanted it.” Now if I had just taken the time to listen, another ugly incident would have been avoided.

There’s no doubt about it. People are stupid. And, if there’s one thing that doesn’t help, it’s when stupid people are angry. I think that there’s one thing we can do to combat stupid, angry people. It’s quite simple. All you have to do, is walk up to the person at the end of the line and tell them, “Hey. Lane 1 is open. You don’t have to stand in line.” But, sadly, as soon as they are on their way, another walks up and…gets in line. Angry we can do something about, but stupid is here to stay.

An Episode Guide For Clerks

Chaos in Print

I thought that my episode guide writing days were over, but then I got the big, 2-DVD set of the Clerks cartoon. This, of course, was Kevin Smith’s short-lived cartoon loosely based on his 1994 movie. I think it bombed because it had a lot of geek-humor, and face it, we laugh at things that not many other people get. Anyway, since I taped the only 2 episodes that made it to air, and I showed them to pretty much all my devoted readers, I know that there are a few of you out there who thought it was as funny as I thought it was. Since you all live so far away and can’t drive out to Entwistle for a Clerks party, I thought I’d whip up this Clerks episode guide, giving you the run down on all 6 episodes. I’d better warn you, that these are spoiler-filled, blow-by-blow plot synopses, so if you plan on renting these episodes on video or DVD someday, do not read further if you don’t want endings revealed. For those who won’t be renting or buying, or just don’t give a damn, enjoy!

Continue reading An Episode Guide For Clerks