Saturday, April 24, 2010

It Takes All Kinds

Earlier tonight, at the Internet cafe where I currently work, I had a strange encounter with a customer who seemed to have issues with the manner in which I was dealing with his account with our company. Or at least, that was my perception. So when he turned to the guy who'd come into the cafe and whispered something which seemed to be directly related to me, I figured that he had whispered that he thought I was incompetent. I said so, and he said nothing at the time to refute the idea.

It turns out that I was wrong. Hilariously wrong.

He called the store just now to say that I'd misconstrued his intentions. He said that he'd actually whispered to his friend because he'd noticed the fact that I had a particularly hairy chest (presumably because he saw a very small amount of hair peeking out of the top of my T-shirt). He had called to tell me that he was turned on by men with hairy chests! He therefore wanted to know if I'd just like to "hang out" sometime. And when he used the phrase "hang out," I suspect that he meant the phrase literally.

I declined his invitation, but I didn't want to cause problems for my employer or to blow the incident out of proportion, so I was polite about the manner in which I did so.

Is that how gay guys proposition men in whom they have an interest? I have no idea. I'm most definitely not gay, which he would know if he'd ever read this blog. In fact, this is the first time anyone has ever expressed that type of interest in me directly, although I do recall one other instance in which a guy told me that he thought I was attractive, in that lispy way that gay men often use in order to make their intentions fairly clear without actually coming out and saying what's on their minds. On that first occasion, and on this one as well, I think that I handled the situation gracefully, in a manner which made it clear that I didn't swing that way, without acting as if I felt threatened. To act that way would be to confirm the false stereotype about people who oppose homosexuality, which is the idea that we do so because we feel that our masculinity is somehow threatened by the perverse inclinations of others. That would be every bit as irrational as it is to think (as many gays and gay apologists do) that people are incapable of controlling their sexual thoughts and actions. One irrationality doesn't justify another.

I thought that it was particularly funny that tonight's caller was turned on by my hairy chest. (Imagine what he'd think if he saw my very hirsute back, arms, etc.) Why funny? Because there seems to be a sizable part of the population, both male and female, which thinks that anyone with a hairy chest, back, etc. must be a brute with the intelligence and social skills of a large ape.

My, how things have changed in that regard! When I was an adolescent and young teenager, in the early and mid seventies, getting a hairy chest was seen as a positive thing. It meant that one was becoming a real man and leaving childhood behind. During the disco era, it was even fashionable for men with hairy chests to ostenstatiously display those chests, which were often adorned with gold chains and pendants. (Burt Reynolds was particularly well known for that look!)

That was much more logical than the current fashion, it seems to me. But now there are people who look down on men who don't look like prepubescent children. People even sell an electric groomer, with an extremely long handle, precisely so that men whose genetics have not "blessed" them with hairlessness can conform to other people's ridiculous expectations.

It's nice that there is someone out there who recognizes how ridiculous those expectations are. Now if I could just find an intelligent, reasonably attractive single WOMAN who has similar insight, and who wouldn't hold it against me that I'm also bald, with bad teeth attributable to years of lack of money with which to pay for adequate regular dental care. But frankly, at age 53 (soon to be 54), I'm not holding my breath. I've come to accept the fact that it's highly improbable that I'll ever have any sexual partner, regardless of gender; and while I admit that that thought has sometimes caused me to experience a certain amount of frustration and depression (inasmuch as I am by no means asexual), I've also come to accept that my value as a human being is independent of whether or not I conform to other people's expectations in terms of what constitutes so-called normalcy. After all, there are now a lot of people who seem to think that it's "normal" for men to have sex with as many women (or men, or people of both genders) as possible, without any regard for the possible consequences. Personally, though, I'd rather be deprived than depraved.

Even though I'm not gay, I suppose that my relative indifference to other people's opinions about me gives me something in common with people who are gay. The significant difference is that I actually care about what God thinks about the choices I make in this life. While I admittedly do so imperfectly, I therefore make an effort to think and behave accordingly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Momentary Money Crisis

Just now, I went to the grocery store to buy some food. I tried to pay for it on my debit card, only to be told that there were insufficient funds for the purchase. I ended up leaving the two bags of groceries there and walking ASAP to the ATM to find out just what my actual balance was.

Why wouldn't I know? Well, even though the ATM is right around the corner from where I live, I often find that when I need cash, I just go to Walgreens and buy something I needed anyway (such as cereal bars for breakfast), and get $20 or $40 cash back. I'd been doing that for the past couple of weeks or so, and I therefore hadn't checked the actual balance (which Walgreens doesn't give to you on your receipt, unlike the ATM).

The last time I checked my balance via the ATM, it was to make sure that after I paid my rent, I'd still have a couple of hundred dollars in the account for food, transportation to work, etc. I thought that what I'd left over would last me until my next paycheck. And it would have, if I'd deposited the check when I got it! Or to be more accurate, if my employer had done so. The trouble is that until fairly recently, Screenz Computing Center, where I work, had been paying me via direct deposit, just as I'd requested when I'd first been hired. But then the last time I got paid, they didn't pay me like that for some reason. I thought, mistakenly, that it was just a temporary glitch, and that they'd go back to paying me via direct deposit for the next pay period. I was wrong. Apparently, they'd switched to a new payroll company, and I'm just not getting paid via direct deposit anymore, period.

I wish they'd told me that, or that my manager had mentioned that my paycheck had arrived when it did, because my paycheck for April 8 has been sitting here at work for the past two weeks, when all along I naively assumed that it had already been deposited into my account, and that I had $440 more in the account than I actually had there. I'd have realized that it hadn't been if I'd used the ATM and checked the actual balance each time, but because of the way I was getting my money from occasional trips to Walgreens, it never caught my attention.

I now have a copy of the check, for $440.35, and I'm expecting another similar check in just 3 days, on Friday (assuming that it arrives on time). But here's what stinks. I not only didn't have enough money to cover all the transactions I'd done for the past couple of weeks, but I into the negative figures in a serious way. My bank "generously" covers the actual cost of overdrafts when they're attributable to payments made to places like Walgreens. But naturally, they charge an overdraft fee when that's done. So when I finally did get around to checking the balance via their ATM (thanks to the incident at the Potash grocery store, which made me aware that there was a problem), I discovered that I was about $250 in the hole!!! I won't know until I check tomorrow, but I'm guessing that a substantial amount of that amount can be attributed to overdraft charges. Those are charges I'd never have had to pay in the first place if a.) My employer had continued to pay me via direct deposit, as agreed, and b.) My bank had taken the time to make me aware (via e-mail, phone call or whatever) of the fact that I was currently in the process of ringing up overdraft charges because I erroneously thought that there was money in the account to cover those purchases.

I don't mind taking responsibility for financial errors attributable to my negligence, but the way I see it, this was not my fault, and the bank should therefore reimburse me for those overdraft charges, or else my employer should do so because of the fact that the mistake was attributable to the failure to continue to pay me via direct deposit as he had done in the past. We'll see. I know that I am definitely going to go to the bank first thing tomorrow when they open up, and plead with them to refund any overdraft charges attributable to the aforementioned snafu. Meanwhile, it will probably be at least a couple of days before the check which I just picked up tonight clears after depositing it in the bank, and meanwhile, I'm going to need some money, since I'm down to six dollar in my wallet. So I guess that I'm going to have to do the Walgreens thing once more in order to get another $40 to last me until then. Of course, that will mean yet another overdraft fee.

Life really stinks sometimes, especially when one is just barely scraping by financially as it is. When I paid my rent last time, I was still $200 or so behind on the rent after making that payment. What I'd paid was just enough to keep me out of court temporarily. This latest incident just increases the pressure on me and the difficulty of getting caught up on my rent.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Abortion and the New Math

One of the sad effects of the 1973 legalization of abortion in America has been the introduction of a new level of tolerance for incoherent, self-contradictory rhetoric.

A great example can be found in recent news headlines from Chicago, where I've lived for the past 18 years. I'm referring to the story about James Larry, who is accused of murdering four family members by shooting them all at point blank range (ostensibly because his wife wouldn't convert to Islam).

Or was it six family members? It depends, I suppose, on how one defines family, and on whether or not one learned how to count when one was in kindergarten.

Here's a link to a relevant story written by Don Babwin and published online by the Huffington Post:

Pay particularly close attention to the second paragraph, which reads as follows:
James Larry, 32, of Madison, Wis., was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of intentional homicide of an unborn child. Officials said both his wife and teenage niece were pregnant.
I find the preceding paragraph interesting in light of the headline of the article: "Man In Custody after Rampage: Killed a Woman and Three Children".

How many children was that, again, Mr. Babwin? Three? I think not. Read your own article again, doofus. There were six people killed altogether: One adult (the killer's wife, Tawanda Thompson), plus three children who'd already been born (named Keyshai Fields, Keleasha Larry and Jahod or Jihad Larry), plus two unborn children still residing in their mothers' wombs.

They wouldn't call them unborn children if they weren't children at all, now would they? Nor would they charge James Larry with "intentional homicide of an unborn child" if, as abortion advocates claim, the entities in question were merely lifeless "products of conception" or lumps of "fetal tissue". Why file such charges, as the Chicago police or detectives apparently did, if you don't think that the charges will stick?

This level of cognitive dissonance and Orwellian doublespeak exhibited by the aforementioned story would be hilarious if not for the fact that it's so common, even (or perhaps especially) among ostensibly serious journalists, and if not for its tragic effects on our collective reasoning abilities with regard to the fundamental principles of justice. There's something bizarre about admitting that there were six homicides altogether (all of which resulted in the filing of legal charges) and then turning around and saying that only four people were actually killed. I wish I could attribute the discrepancy to bad proofreading, but I think that something more fundamentally disturbing is going on here. In an effort to please everyone involved in the inherently divisive abortion debate, journalists end up sounding like idiots who can't even count to ten.

And why is it that James Larry gets charged with homicide if he kills an unborn child he has fathered, but if his wife had decided to kill that same unborn child by visiting a local abortion clinic, she'd have been celebrated as a "liberated" woman who was merely exercising her constitutional rights? If that isn't gender discrimination, then exactly what is?

Isn't it a bit ironic that such gender discrimination is regularly practiced and encouraged by the very people who tell us that gender discrimination is evil, or at the very least socially unacceptable? If they cannot live lives which demonstrate integrity, why should we regard them as people who have any credibility?