Why Don’t I Just Quit?

Had an incident with one of the bag boys a few nights ago.

Bag Boy>> Hey Mark! I betcha I’m a bigger trekkie than you!
Me>> Oh? How so?
Bag Boy>> I have all the movies on video.
Me>> I have them all on DVD. (Well, I don’t…yet, but this kid’s an idiot, and I wanted to shut him up.)
Bag Boy>> (visibly stunned) Well, I’ve met Scotty.
Me>> I’ve met Scotty, Uhura, Picard, Riker, Worf, Troi, and Major Kira (Man, Edmonton’s gotta have another convention soon. Those were fun!)
Bag Boy>> I’ve got two Star Trek pins.
Me>> I have six.
Store Manager (who’s been in earshot, listening to this, shouts to the Bag Boy)>> YOU’RE NOT WINNING!
Bag Boy>> Do you have any of the action figures?
Me>> I have a modest collection.
Bag Boy>> Are they still in the boxes?
Me>> They’re mint in package, and currently appraised at $150.
Bag Boy (really long pause)>> I’ve got hockey cards. Over a thousand. They’re worth a lot, too.
Me (annoyance in my voice)>> Good for you.

It’s times like this that I just have to ask the question. Why don’t I just quit?

I had another incident with one of the newer cashiers.

Cashier>> Mark! This customer is asking if we have and widgets. (I forget what the customer wanted, so I’ll say widget.) Do you know if we have any?
Me>> Uhh, I don’t know. You’ll have to call the manager in that department and ask them.
Cashier>> OK. What’s her office phone number?
Me>> Most of the department heads don’t have offices. They just roam around in their departments. Get on the PA system and page her.
Cashier>> The PA system?
Me>> Yeah.
Cashier>> Uhh, could you do it, then?
Me>> Why?
Cashier>> Well, uhh, I’m afraid of public speaking, and, uhh, on the PA system, people will hear me.
Me>> What? Are you telling me that you can’t get on the PA system and say two sentences?
Cashier>> You don’t understand! I did it once, and I turned beet red! I was so embarrassed that people were hearing my voice….
Me>> Just do it. It’s two sentences. It’s not going to kill you.
Cashier>> Why can’t you do it for me?
Me>> I’m not going to do something that you are fully capable of doing. Just pick up the phone and page her.
Cashier>> I don’t wanna!
Customer>> Well, if it’s going to be this much trouble then, don’t bother.

And the customer walked out of the store. Again, I have to ask. If the majority of my co-workers are morons, why don’t I just quit?

I had this incident with one of the teenaged cashiers.

Me>> Hey! This delivery’s ready to go! Call a cab and tell them to come and get it.
Cashier>> What’s the phone number?
Me>> 555-5555 (Well, it’s not that, but I don’t want to get sued.)
Cashier>> OK. Then what?
Me>> What do you mean, “then what?”
Cashier>> Well, what do I say to them? (Really sarcastic tones) “Hi! I’d like a cab!”
Me>> (mouth open in disbelief) YES!
Cashier>> Really? That’s all I do?
Me>> Yes. Now could you do it please?
Cashier>> Well…I can’t.
Me>> Why not?
Cashier>> I’m shy. I can’t talk to a complete stranger.

Eventually, I got disgusted with him and did it myself. But when this is the quality of co-worker I have, I’ve got to ask, why don’t I just quit?

I don’t quit, because. I have $20,000 in student loans. Despite being well-educated, Extra Foods are the only ones who’ll have me. I don’t want to spend another year unemployed looking for something “better.” I’ve gotten addicted to this thing called “money.” I’d like to get out of my parents’ basement someday, and it’s not going to happen while I’m unemployed. I’ve tried searching for other jobs. Extra Foods is the only one who’ll have me for now. I’m surrounded by stupid management, stupid co-workers, and stupid customers. I can do more than this job. But I can’t just quit. Not yet.


Chaos in Print

I got an e-mail from L the other day. As with me, she finds herself in the dubious position of living in her parents’ basement. She has been there for a few months, now, and she’s starting to wonder what kind of effect it’s having on her. In times like this, you turn to others who have been through a similar experience for advice, hence the e-mail I got. Since I constantly ramble on about “living in the basement,” she wanted to know how it’s affected me and even how it’s changed me. It’s something I had never really thought of before. In order to fully understand it, I had to go back to the beginning. I had to go back to the time when I did have my own room, and the occurrence that had it taken from me.

When I was 4 years old, there was a momentous occasion in the Cappis household: the birth of my sister. Now, for the most part, this was a sense of joy throughout the family, but for me, it had a bit of a dark side. For you see, my brother’s bedroom had been converted into the nursery, and my brother was made to move into my room. The next eight years saw my brother and I sharing a room just slightly smaller than the one I have now. It brought us closer, it drove both of us crazy, all that good stuff when people are made to share an enclosed space. And then, in the months before my twelfth birthday, another momentous occasion occurred. We moved. Finally, I would again have my own room. I’ll never forget that first night in the basement. The walls were bare plywood. There was no carpet yet, just a cold concrete floor. I didn’t even have a door. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was it was MINE. Finally, after all this time, a room that was MINE.

Of course, as the summer of 1989 dragged on, I added little touches to assert that this space was mine. I got carpet. The bare plywood was soon covered with posters; some old (some leftover He-Man and Transformers ones from my swiftly ending childhood) and some new (I had just become a trekkie, and searched Edmonton hi and lo until I found a Star Trek V movie poster). The lack of a door did start to bother me after a few months, so Mom made a curtain to cover the doorway. I finally got a full-blown door in 1992. Oh, you don’t know the simple pleasure of closing your door until you don’t have one to close. As time grew, I came to love my little room. It didn’t matter that it was in a basement. It didn’t matter that, under the posters, it was just bare plywood. It didn’t matter that I could see the underside of the living room floor. It was MINE. MY space. MY sanctum. MY room.

And then, the great move to university came. My room was still my room in principle. I still had a lot of stuff, so that’s where the excess was stored. I still slept there whenever I came home. But it was starting to feel different. The less time I spent there, the less it was feeling like my room. Where I lived in 2nd East, then Moi, then Marken (Mark’s in Marken, oh that made my sister laugh), that was my room now. With these new rooms, of course, came new rules. There could be no loud music after nine. You had to share a bathroom with your next door neighbor. But I could live with those rules. At the end of the day, it was still MINE.

May of 1999 came, and I had no plans as to where to go next. So, I went back to Entwistle, and that corner in the basement that was my room. But, it wasn’t mine anymore. The posters didn’t cover up all the bare plywood anymore. The underside of the living room floor was starting to hurt my eyes. It wasn’t mine anymore. As much as I tried to make it mine again, it felt cramped. I didn’t have as much room as I had in university. And that was the rub. I didn’t want A room anymore. I wanted MORE room.

There are many things that come with living in the basement. Most notable are parents. With parents come rules, because, when all is said and done, it’s their house. In university, I never took off my shoes. When I wanted to go somewhere, I’d go. At home, I have to take off my shoes because I’ll mess up Mom’s carpet if I don’t. It I want to go somewhere, it’s “Where are you going? When will you be back? When did you get a life?” At first, it was a little difficult to comprehend. I had to live with rules when I was at university. These were the exact same rules I had to live with before university. Why should they be bothering me now? Those who own the room make the rules.

That’s what it comes down to. I’ve always had just a room. A room in someone else’s home. And it’s starting to become painfully obvious of what it really is: a cold basement. I don’t want a basement anymore. I don’t want a room to call MINE anymore. What I want is MY kitchen, MY living room, MY bathroom, MY bedroom. MY room doesn’t cut it anymore. I want a place where I can make MY rules. I don’t want a room in someone else’s home. I want MY home.

Right next to my room in the basement is the empty remains of my sister’s room. It’s bigger than mine, and I’ve been tempted to move into it. But I don’t. As much as I would like to have more room, I know that it would start to make me comfortable. And that’s a dangerous thing. As long as I’m still in the smallest room in the house, I’ll be tripping over things, knocking things over, and always cramped. I’ll always be just that little bit uncomfortable. And it’s that tiny bit of uncomfort that’ll drive me out someday. To MY home.

There was a time when this little corner of the basement was my sanctum; my refuge from the cruelties of the world. But now, it is just another of the cruelties. As the boxes keep piling up and the walls appear to grow closer together, what was my room starts to feel more like a cell. In some ways, it’s a negative thing, as it makes me just that much more bitter towards my life and those around me. But then, it’s also a positive thing. I am fully capable of making my own decisions. The more it makes me uncomfortable, the more I desire to move out. In a way, it’s motivational.

I finished writing this up, and sent it off to L. I was also sure to thank her, as this topic would make for a great column. Living in the basement has effected me. But it’s for the better. I will escape from this prison, someday. Someday, I will have more than a room to call my own. Someday, you will all be welcome in MY home.


Chaos in Print

I’ve never really liked my name. “Mark Cappis.” It’s just so…common. I came to this realization at a young age. My parents were talking one time, and I learned that I have a third cousin twice removed by the name of “Mark Cappis.” One time, out of curiosity, I opened up the Edmonton phone book and found three Mark Cappises. My latest tussle with the commonness of my name was in my guestbook. It was recently signed by a “Mark R. Cappis,” with the message, “We have the same name! We should be friends!” There are just two many Mark Cappises in the world. I’m just another mark in the crowd.

It’s times like this I delve into my personal history as to how I became a Mark. Apparently, the decision to call me Mark was eventually made by my mother. My father was really pushing for Lucas. On the outset, I kind of like the ring to it. Luke Cappis. But then, as I look at the pop culture from my formative years, it’s almost a blessing I didn’t get that name. Having grown up with Star Wars, who knows how much teasing I would have gotten? I’m sure people would have routinely said, “Luke! I am your father,” or something as witty as “Where’s R2-D2?” Plus, don’t forget The Dukes of Hazzard, with Luke Duke. I probably would have gotten, “Where’s Bo?” or, “Did you drive the General Lee to work today?” If I ever get back in touch with my college friend Lucas Warren, I should find out exactly how much trouble the name Lucas was for a child of the 80s.

For a while in junior high, I was infatuated with the name Zack. Zack Cappis. That sounds cool. As soon I was old enough, I was going to change my name to Zack. Zack was just cool. But then, Saved By The Bell came along, and Zack was forever connected with teen-age heartthrobs/pretty boys. Suddenly, it wasn’t very cool anymore. It looked like I was again stuck with Mark.

Or was I? I didn’t have to outright change my name in order to get something exotic. I was reading a trivia question about former prime minister Brian Mulroney. It turns out his full name is Martin Brian Mulroney. So, why don’t I just drop my first name, and go with my middle name? Sladen Cappis. Whenever I mention that my middle name is Sladen, eyebrows are raised, mouths open slightly in shock, and people utter, “That’s different.” And besides, if I did use it as my name, it would wind up getting shortened to that ultra-cool, surfer/skate punk/extreme sports athlete name, Slade. Slade Cappis. That would be cool. When I first resolved to start going by my middle name, I bounced the idea off of my mother. “That’s OK,” she said, “But you’ll always be Mark to me.” What was the fun in going by my middle name if Mom refused to acknowledge the change? And so, I stayed Mark.

The only time I ever really chose a new name and had it stick was in university. There I was, my freshman year, and I was going to be doing a radio show on the campus station. I looked at some of my favorite DJs on Power 92. There was Shotgun Sean, Chad the Pog, and Kira K. And let’s not forget one of the most famous DJs ever to sit behind a microphone, Wolfman Jack. I knew I was going to need a DJ name. What should I call myself? I flopped down on the couch in the floor lounge and started flipping through channels. Eventually, I found a rerun of Batman: The Animated Series. It was one of my favorite episodes, featuring my favorite villain. This villain always based his crimes around exploiting the fears of his enemies. I admired that. Unlike most other villains, who sought to defeat Batman through sheer physical force, this villain would let your own mind do you in. He wouldn’t beat you up. He’d make you curl up in the fetal position, screaming your head off as your darkest fears came to life. I liked that. So, I decided to name myself after that villain. I became Scarecrow. I was thrilled at how Scarecrow caught on with the campus. When Lucas Warren and Brad Goertz took over as editors of the school paper, the first thing that Lucas said to me was, “Wow. You’re the Scarecrow. I gotta say, I love your column! Oh, and just out of curiosity, what’s your real name?” And that’s when I started having problems with Scarecrow.

When I began my campaign for VP External in my senior year, the one question asked of me at the candidates forum was, “I just learned that you’re the Scarecrow. Why do you use a fake name? What are you hiding?” I tried to explain that it was just a DJ name, but she wasn’t buying. She felt I was hiding something. A few months later was the only time I was offended to be called Scarecrow. It was during my infamous “vote no” campaign against Brad Goertz. Whereas Lucas took the time to ask me what my true name was, Brad never did. As Brad and I were having a heated discussion about my vote no campaign, that’s when Brad’s enforcer Andre Goulet came in. Andre, in his way, just lost it on me. “Scarecrow, what you’re doing is full of shit! Scarecrow, you are being such an asshole!” It was all Scarecrow this and Scarecrow that. He was constantly accusing me of hiding behind a false name, and yet he’d never use my true name. When I had had enough, I let loose with the only time I ever raised my voice during the whole vote no campaign. I turned to Andre, and said, “MY NAME IS MARK!” He started calling me Mark, then, but he was uncomfortable in doing so. Out of my whole vote no campaign, that’s the only time I made Brad’s pit bull uneasy: I made him call me by my real name.

That’s when I started realizing that there’s nothing wrong with being a Mark. The last time before that happened when I was 7. I was just starting to really get into movies, and I was reading a book on the making of Star Wars. That’s where I learned the name of the guy who played Luke Skywalker: Mark Hamill. Wow! I have the same name as a Jedi! That made me quite proud for a few days. Suddenly, myself and Luke Skywalker shared a common bond. We were Marks.

A similar incident happened a few days ago. Civil elections are this fall, and after 15 years, my mother is stepping down as school board trustee. Just to get some gossip going, I’ve been circulating the rumor that I’m going to run for school board; “follow in her footsteps.” So, the other day, I stopped in at the school division office to pick up a nomination package. As I walked up to reception window, I looked in to see a normal, bustling office. When the clerk finally approached me, we made small talk, and then I asked for a nomination package. As she handed it to me, she asked for my name. I said it proudly. “Mark Cappis.” The office went dead quiet. All eyes were focused on me. “As in Monika’s son?” the clerk stammered. “Yup,” I said, “I want to follow in Mom’s footsteps.” “Those are some awfully big steps,” she said. I agreed, thanked her for the package, and left. I couldn’t help but smile. Never had the very mention of my name bring an office to a standstill.

Yes, the name Mark Cappis may be a common one. But the reputation behind it, that’s uncommon. Take heed, all you other Mark Cappises! There may be hundreds of us in the world, but we each bring our own twists to it.

Love & Justice

Chaos in Print

A lot of atrocities have been committed in the name of love. There have been stalkings, scams, and things to vile for me to mention here. Sadly, though, there are no super-heroes dedicated to battling these crimes of the heart. Why aren’t there more heroes out there, protecting the sanctity of this, the holiest of all emotions? You don’t see Batman beating up the jerk who broke you heart. Spider-Man doesn’t go after that good looking person who won’t return your phone calls. The only I can think of is Sailor Moon, who vanquishes villains in the name of love and justice. Where, then, are the Sailor Moons when people like me are stung?

About a week ago, I got this e-mail. “Someone has a huge crush on you. Go to HugeCrush.com to find out who!” Intrigued, I went to HugeCrush.com. This is how it all works. Someone left their e-mail at this site, and you have to randomly type in people’s e-mail addresses until you hit upon the sender’s. This person allegedly has a crush on you. If you need a hint, you click on “hint,” and it’ll give you one. If you’re just absolutely stuck, you can buy a key, and then be flat-out told who it is. After I got through to the site and read these instructions, it was time to start guessing.

I clicked for my first clue. “Try a hotmail account.” So, I entered every hotmail account I know. Nothing. I go for another clue. “Try a Yahoo mail account.” I don’t know any Yahoo mail accounts. “Perhaps it’s someone you work with.” If it’s one of those idiot teenagers I work with, I’m giving my two weeks notice. Last thing I need is for them to start harassing me at home. But wait. Everyone at work still treats computers like some strange, foreign toy. How could they know my e-mail? I go for another clue. “Maybe it’s someone who shares public transportation with you.” Wait a minute. I live in a small farming town. I don’t use public transportation. These clues have nothing to do with the person who’s identity is unknown! They’re being randomly generated!

Out of desperation, I try every female e-mail address I know. Nothing. Still desperate, I try every e-mail address I know, regardless of gender. Still nothing. What the hell is going on? Is this just some complete stranger who glimpsed me in the store and decided to hunt me down? This mystery is really starting to bug me. It’s time to seek the easy answers. It’s time buy one of those keys. I follow the step-by-step instructions. $5 U.S. I can live with that. I enter my credit card number and hit “purchase.” My credit card was rejected. WHAT?? But it’s good! I haven’t used it in months! My credit is good! I’LL NEVER KNOW WHO IT IS! I NEED TO KNOW! I NEED TO KNOW!

I was completely stumped. I had run out of e-mail addresses to randomly try. I had no opportunity to purchase a key. There was a third option. In the e-mail I got informing me of this crush, there was the option to say, “No thanks, I don’t want to be a part of this.” I could do that, but then, I’d never find out who this is. And, as previously mentioned, I NEED TO KNOW!

Time was running out, as I needed to go to work. As in all matters like this, I unloaded my frustration and grief on Chuck, thanks to ICQ. I headed off to work, and spent a hellish eight hours in the hell that is the store. (See the column Sunday Sucks for the elaboration.) I returned, and found some words of wisdom from Chuck. It was his usual sympathetic words. “Wow. That’s tough. Hey! It’d make a great column.” Then, there was a second ICQ message from him. “OK,” it read. “I just did some playing around with HugeCrush.com. Go to my site [kenten.com] (oh man, I just revealed Chuck’s true identity!) for an emergency column I wrote about it.”

I headed over to Chuck’s site to read his complete report. It seems that he too was the recipient of a huge crush. Like me, he began randomly typing in e-mail addresses to try and reveal who it was. Then, Chuck had a brainstorm. On a whim, he typed in my e-mail address. It turns out it was me. Chuck, being more logical than me, began analyzing the set up. Why were you always required to enter two e-mail addresses when you made a guess? Why did he get a huge crush when I randomly guessed him? Chuck began doing the addition. I get a huge crush. I type in e-mail addresses trying to figure out who it is. He gets a huge crush. It turns out to be me, who typed in his e-mail address. Then, chances are, someone out there got a huge crush from Chuck, and it’ll be one of the e-mail addresses he guessed. It’s a never ending chain of e-mail addresses. It’s a scam! It’s designed to collect e-mail addresses, probably for spam lists! And, with the whole key business, they make money too! Chuck, having seen Fight Club one two many times, then spent the rest of his column outlining an intricate revenge plan to use this to take down big corporations.

When I learned of Chuck’s findings, I was appalled. Having a person who has had a crush or two in his time, I know of the agony of trying to reach out to that object of your affection. And here, some greedy little .com was using that to their advantage. Here it is, the most fragile and misunderstood manifestation of love, and it was being used to manipulate people into forking over their hard-earned cash. How dare they! Here I was, obsessing over who this possible secret love might be, but now I know that it was probably someone I know, who got stuck with a “huge crush,” and randomly entered my name.

Stop and think about the average person who has a huge crush. It’s an adolescent. The hormones are just kicking in. They think they’ve fallen in love with someone. They don’t know how to express those feelings. Here we have the weak and defenseless person-child, stumbling upon what they think is a forum to let their feelings know. They use it, and what happens? Some slimy underworld creature gets just that much richer. It’s sick.

Where are our brave and bold knights? Those who use their swords to defend those who can’t defend themselves. This is an occasion for a knight if I ever heard one. Love, the most pure and noble of emotions, being used to fleece people for money. This world needs more Sailor Moons. In today’s society of greed being good and one night stands, someone has to stand up and defend good old fashioned love. But how do you battle something like this? How people express their emotions is something that’s very difficult to legislate. People will still do it even though there is a law against it. Laws and justice are two very different things. The police can’t do much against a person or corporation that breaks hearts. We need our knights. We need our Sailor Moons. But in a world of greed being good and one night stands, does love even exist anymore? There’s no point in having Sailor Moon if she has nothing to fight for.

[And to those who got a huge crush from me, my sincere apologies.]