Monthly Archives: October 2015

Getting Screwed

“Everyone’s out to screw ya.” That is one of my many mottos, although it’s probably about the only negative one, I have in my repertoire of truisms. “Enjoy the journey” and “It’s all good” are much more positive sounding than the aforementioned adage, but regardless “It is what it is.” That last motto is most-likely my brother’s favorite saying although he has also taken my “Everyone’s out to screw ya” sentiment a step further by adding his own “If anyone’s gonna get screwed…it’s me.” I suspect there’s a vast amount of unsuspecting people out there who’s getting screwed at this very moment, and I’m sure they’re not even aware that it’s happening to them. Don’t care for the word, screwed? Then try using cheated, gipped, duped, swindled, or bamboozled in its place if it’ll make you feel better.

I certainly dislike being so cynical at my tender age (I’m not 50 yet), but I truly believe the deceitful actions of a good portion of the human race warrants such skepticism. It’s admirable to want to see the good in people, and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but we should know by now that people are inherently bad. Why else would “People = Sh*t” be one of my favorite Slipknot songs? Okay, I suppose the brutal drumbeats and harsh vocals may have something to do with my fondness for that track as well, but the message still rings true. How do I know? Because I have lived.

Looking back, even as a child my peers obviously were out to screw me, and I probably held the identical mindset towards them; however, I doubt if any of us even realized what we were doing at the time. I’m pretty sure my main objective wasn’t fairness, when trading baseball cards with my friends, but I don’t think I was out to screw them over either. I simply believe it’s in our nature to take advantage of others if it somehow benefits us. Unfortunately, we are born into this world as self-absorbed homo sapiens. The problem is far too many of us never outgrow our selfish ways. Ultimately, it’s up to each and every one of us to choose how we’re going to handle any advantageous situation that may come our way.

The first time I can remember having the inkling that “Everyone’s out to screw ya” was shortly after my lovely wife gave birth to our son in 1989. We were required to pay the estimated cost of our attending physician’s services, minus the anticipated insurance benefits, well before our baby’s due date. We were told at the time we would be reimbursed if we had overpaid, for services rendered, sometime after the delivery. My wife and I eventually learned we were owed over a thousand dollars when all was said and done. We waited, and then waited some more, for our refund check to arrive in our mailbox.

As a young couple caring for a newborn we definitely could’ve used that money (our money). A few months had passed when I decided a phone call on my part was long overdue. I contacted the doctor’s office and was informed I had to request the funds that were owed to us before anyone could issue a refund for the overpayment. Really? About a week later we received the requested check. I believe it was during this time when I added the saying “Why does there always have to be a problem?” to my collection of truisms. I just don’t understand why some businesses seem to think it’s my responsibility to hold them accountable. Somewhere along the way I’ve also discovered it’s sometimes entirely left up to me to make sure everyone else is adequately doing their job.

Another time my “Everyone’s out to screw ya” theory was reinforced was a few years ago when I encountered a business preying upon their customers. They were a bit selective as to who their victims were, but the auto repair franchise was disingenuous nonetheless. I had regularly taken my vehicle to this particular auto shop, for oil changes, without incident. However, the one time I had the missus drop off my car, on my behalf, everything changed. The business opted to upgrade the type of oil used, which was unnecessary and without our permission, so our bill was ten dollars more than usual. I immediately headed to the auto shop, once my wife informed me of the additional charge, and demanded an explanation for their conduct. I was given some pathetic excuse, for their switcheroo, albeit the manager did offer us a free oil change next time. I told the manager I sensed they were deliberately taking advantage of their female customers; therefore, my wife and I would not be back!

More recently, a member of my family experienced a company cleverly “putting the screws” to him during an annual inspection of his 3 year-old air-conditioning (A/C) unit. The heating and cooling specialist took a few pictures of some dust and mold, located in my loved one’s attic, and then warned him of the health risks associated with the growing fungus. The representative offered to take care of the problem, right then and there, and he was even kind enough to offer waiving the $600. mold removal fee if my family member purchased a specific, expensive gadget (that day) which he claimed would eliminate any future health hazards. The scare tactic worked, and my trusting loved one spent assumingly thousands of dollars that day. Subsequently, we were apprised, after a little bit of research, that the mold in the attic could’ve only been caused by one of two things: either the A/C unit was too big for the home’s square footage or the heating and cooling system was not properly fitted when it was installed.

Therefore, we’ve concluded the company’s negligence was solely responsible for my family member’s health threat, and the problem should’ve been rectified at no cost to him. In addition, we discovered the purchased gadget, presented as the solution to any health concerns, was only an air purifier, so eventually the fungus will reappear unless the actual problem is fixed. That’s just another fine example of how ” Everyone’s out to screw ya.” I now actually live my life expecting to be cheated, gipped, duped, swindled, and bamboozled. I find that practice to be the best defense against getting screwed.

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Good vs. Evil

In the beginning, everything was inherently good until the Garden of Eden incident. Evil entered the world when Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, and ever since then there has been an ongoing battle between good and evil. That’s rarely more evident to me than during this time of year. ‘Tis the season for all things spooky: monsters, skeletons, cauldrons of witches’ brew, and black cats. (Actually, all cats are creepy all of the time.) I’m well aware that with fall comes colorful foliage, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice concoctions, and of course football season (both real and fantasy), but most noticeably autumn brings forth Halloween. Thoughts of good vs. evil are always at the forefront of my mind around All Hallows’ Eve.

The season’s cooler temperatures and diminishing hours of sunlight tends to awaken something inside of me that’s typically dormant throughout the rest of the year. I instinctively begin craving the “darker stuff” from my eclectic compact disc collection. I find myself selecting music from artists such as Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson while classics from the likes of Kenny Rogers and Barry Manilow remain on the shelf. I also naturally stray from my normal afternoon routine of watching the abundance of wholesome comedies found on network television. I gravitate from viewing reruns of Leave It To Beaver and Dennis the Menace to watching numerous horror movies of the disturbing kind. I suppose all horror flicks are disturbing in their own right although I’m more of a psychological thriller connoisseur than I am a slasher film fan. One bag of Candy Corn: $2…One large pumpkin for carving: $5…Jack Nicholson in The Shining: priceless.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend dabbling in the things associated with “the dark side” especially if one is not firmly planted in His light. One of my favorite mottos is “if you don’t stand for something…you might fall for anything.” I’m rooted enough in who I am and what I believe to not allow the Devil to have his way with me. Satan has made an art form out of deceiving humanity since he first appeared in the Garden of Eden, but I’m on to him. I do realize the Deceiver has a knack for quietly entering through the backdoor instead of boldly announcing his deceitful intentions at the front. Being aware of the Evil One’s ways is half the battle, so I will not be fooled.

Admittedly, I simply like being scared. Obviously, I’m not speaking of the fear one would have after hearing a doctor’s dire diagnosis. I’m not alluding to the deep concern one might have for a loved one gone astray either. I am referring to the type of fear that stirs up an exhilarating, yet manageable, level of anxiety within: the kind I remember experiencing, as an adolescent, when aimlessly wandering about inside one of those haunted houses exclusively manufactured for Halloween. The anticipation of the unknown, waiting behind every door and lurking in every nook and cranny, was more than enough to arouse the hair on my arms even before setting foot in the makeshift house of horror. I’m sure I’d be just as anxious today as I was back then. Some things never change.

I don’t think trick-or-treating has changed much since I used to hit the streets, during the 70’s, in pursuit of free candy. Some might argue begging for a Snickers has become more dangerous in recent years, but I would have to disagree. I know I’m about to sound like that cranky, old man (every neighborhood has one) who can usually be seen, with raised fists pumping in the air, shooing all of the neighborhood children off of his lawn, but here it goes anyway: (use old man voice here) In my day we had to worry that a “flasher” might answer their door, and parents were compelled to check their children’s goodies, at the end of the evening, for concealed needles and razor blades…and we liked it! (stop old man voice here) I just don’t hear any of those concerns anymore.

Maybe it’s because parents have become too complacent these days, or quite possibly those evil individuals, desiring to do harm, were forced to give up their tampering ways. I imagine their annual unethical practice was severely hampered after so many hospitals began offering free x-rays of every little ghost and goblin’s collected treats. I reckon the final nail in the coffin was when some schools and churches, as well as the hospitals, began providing other alternatives to neighborhood trick-or-treating. My lovely wife and I (at my urging) took advantage of both. We’d take our son to the hospital, for a bag full of candy, and then I’d escort him around numerous neighborhoods for a few bags more. Hey, free candy is free candy.

I’m sure most dentists cringe at that sort of behavior, and most churches oppose Halloween altogether. I understand the depravity associated with All Hallows’ Eve; however, I believe all situations are what you make of them. For instance, one Sunday morning, when my son was around 10 years old, one of our pastors preached a very interesting sermon. The unorthodox message was about the whole “Satan can enter through the backdoor” concept, and he mentioned the beloved Pokémon cartoon as being one of the culprits. My ears instantly perked up because my son absolutely loved the Japanese television series. He boasted Pokémon trading cards, figurines, posters, t-shirts, and a stuffed Pikachu (his favorite character).

The missus labored over constructing a Pikachu cake, for his Pokémon themed birthday party, and we even got him a Pikachu piñata. Looking back, it seems a bit ironic our son was perfectly fine with beating his adored character into pieces with an aluminum baseball bat. I can’t recall exactly why the animated series was supposedly bad for the soul, but after careful consideration (about 13 seconds worth) I concluded my family could responsibly handle Pokémon in our household. My wife and I were just thrilled our son had finally outgrown his Barney stage. I don’t think choosing to celebrate Halloween is much different than the previously mentioned Pokémon example. Life has its good vs. evil battles although a majority of those battles need not even take place if our minds (and our hearts) are right with Christ. We are all assured of this: In the end, good will conquer evil.


A Flat Tire, Religion, And The Worst Idea Ever

The other day my lovely wife got a flat tire while running some errands without me. Thankfully, she was able to safely pull into a nearby service station before any harm was done to her Elantra’s back rim. The missus then called to apprise me of the situation, including telling me there was no spare tire (aka donut) in the Hyundai’s trunk, before purchasing a new tire and having it mounted. The station’s attendant nonchalantly informed my wife that only about 50% of today’s newer vehicles are equipped with some type of tire replacement. A donut is now actually considered to be more of an optional item instead of a standard feature. I found that news to be entirely suspect, so I launched a full-blown investigation into the matter.

Well, maybe full-blown is a bit of an exaggeration: I looked it up on-line, and I read the Elantra’s manual after the missus got home. To my surprise, the newly discovered information was absolutely correct. Supposedly, one of the main reasons why there are no spare tires, in approximately half of the newer models, is because the majority of stranded motorists would much rather whip out a cell phone, to enlist the aid of a tow truck driver, than attempt to change a flat tire. In addition, I was told current government regulations, concerning fuel efficiency, was a major factor as well. Nowadays, parking sensors, rear-mounted cameras, touchscreens, Bluetooth, and even wi-fi comes standard on most vehicles, but I guess having a spare tire included in the purchase price is just asking too much.

I certainly don’t think issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple is asking too much of Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, though. The Rowan County employee recently had her 5 minutes of national fame after refusing a gay couple their newly acquired rights. Mrs. Davis tried to appear non-discriminatory, by refusing to give out marriage licenses to heterosexual couples as well, but to no avail. Her façade eventually became quite transparent, so she was forced to finally admit she was unwilling to perform a portion of her duties based on her religious beliefs. The government official’s refusal to do part of her job earned her several days behind bars on a contempt of court charge. I understand Davis’ duties changed a bit when the United States legalized gay marriage nationwide, but whose job description hasn’t varied at times throughout their employment?

Some people consider Kim Davis to be a martyr for Christ, but I think she handled the entire situation poorly. I can see only two respectable positions to take in this particular matter. The elected official should either perform all of her duties, as a county clerk, or resign. The Apostle Peter says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” We are also told to “Honor everyone” and to “be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (1st Peter 2: 13-19) My unsolicited advice for Mrs. Davis is as follows: by all means, pray for those your conscience tells you may be on a destructive path, but do not make a spectacle of yourself in the process.

I’m sure those words of wisdom will go unnoticed especially since Pope Francis “secretly” met with Mrs. Davis, at his request, while touring the United States this past week. The Pope supposedly offered Davis his support and encouraged her to continue the fight. I’m not Catholic, although neither is Mrs. Davis, but I must say I’m more than a little disappointed in the Bishop of Rome, in this instance, since the last thing Davis needs is any additional encouragement to do what I think is wrong. The Pope bears no significance in my life, so I really shouldn’t care what he thinks one way or the other. I’m not aspiring to sound harsh, but in my chosen realm of Christianity the Pope simply has no relevance. I have a personal relationship with Christ; therefore, I don’t require anyone intervening on my behalf, or relaying messages to God, because I go straight to the source.

I have no use for religious figures, whether associated with the Vatican or not (the “middleman” if you will), to hear my confessions or to absolve me of my transgressions. Regardless, I still respect the leader of the Catholic Church, and I admire his commitment to God. Pope Francis appears to be a humble man who exudes an abundance of gentleness at all times. He effortlessly spreads a message of all-inclusiveness, compassion, and love, seemingly more so than anybody preceding him, wherever he goes. I think the Bishop of Rome triumphantly advocated for universal responsibility and unity, during his recent visit, without offending either the Democratic or Republican Party. I appreciate that because I don’t think religion should ever be used to promote a political agenda and vice versa.

To the contrary, Kanye West has no qualms about self-promotion, and he tends to have an agenda at all times. The popular rapper recently announced his intent to win the U.S. Presidency in 2018. Of course, the next two presidential elections are to be held in 2016 and 2020, so I think his current confusion already suggests there’ll be some problems with his future campaign. Nevertheless, I’m sure he won’t get discouraged since he has such a high opinion of himself. Anyone who would title an album Yeezus, with “I Am a God” listed as one of his tracks, surely doesn’t possess much humility. The rapper’s ego is so elevated that even Donald Trump seems meek in comparison.

The thought of Kanye West as President only gets worse when adding his wife, Kim Kardashian, into the mix. The enormous following the power couple maintains is quite frightening. Their impact on today’s society is reminiscent of the influence former talk-show queen, Oprah Winfrey, had during her reign on television for well over two decades. The possibility of President West and First Lady Kardashian occupying the White House in the near future is not so far fetched. I’m not too confident the American public, especially the younger generations (sorry!), would denounce a feasible West candidacy.

Kanye and the missus assuredly have the finances to support a sustained campaign; the happily married couple enjoys a combined net worth of approximately $215 million. Enlisting the help of Kim’s mother, Kris Jenner, would be a wise decision and extremely beneficial for Mr. West. Kris Jenner, the mastermind behind the Kardashian empire, is a marketing genius, and she has a knack for successfully promoting any agenda regardless of how absurd or immoral it may be. She is unapologetic for exploiting her daughters’ “mistakes” (and their bodies) in exchange for growing the Kardashian fortune estimated to be around $300 million. Popularity, hoards of money, and a shrewd campaign manager have the makings of an effective campaign.

In the past, I’ve heard a few impassioned American citizens threaten to actually leave the United States if certain candidates were ever elected into office, but I assumed they weren’t being serious. However, if there does come a day when Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are residing at the White House then I’d have to seriously consider abandoning this country. I cannot imagine living anywhere where its citizens would elect an egotistical rapper as their nation’s leader. That’s the worst idea ever! Suddenly, getting a flat tire and not having a spare doesn’t sound so bad.