Move It or Put A House Number On It!

Driving to work this morning, running late (as usual) and I get stuck behind this:  red-mustang being driven by him:  old-man.  I’m driving to work.  So I’m fairly certain it’s not Sunday, but don’t tell that to Gramps there ’cause he and the missus were our for that kinda drive.

For a moment, (I had plenty of them to choose from driving behind this guy) I imagined the day he bought this car.

He hobbles up to the vehicle on the lot, a look of loving desire in his eyes, and maybe just a hint of a tent, in his pants and reaches out his lone free, gnarled hand (the one not steadying him by holding on to the cane for dear life) to touch this thing of beauty.

A salesman walks up.  We’re not sure if the look on his face is lasciviousness savoring the moment he’s going to take the old man for 15% more than the asking price; or if it’s resentment, angry at this old coot for taking up his time when surely he’ wasn’t going to buy such a beautiful specimen of a sports car.  “She’s a beaut, isn’t she?!” the salesman says, “Would you like to take her for a test drive?”

The old man just shakes his head and smiles.  “No thanks son.  I’ve already made up my mind.  I’ve been waiting 50 years to own me a mustang, and now I can afford it.  This is the one I want, right here.  I’ll take ‘er.”

The salesman is a little surprised now but happy to oblige.  “Well yes sir, Why don’t we step inside and get the paperwork started.  While you’re doing that, I’ll take your new car and get it detailed and fill up the tank and then you’ll be on your way!”

That salesman did the little old man and me and the world a disservice because let’s face it!  If you’re too timid to even drive THE SPEED LIMIT, then you have no business driving a sports car!

Germy Germison

Green M&M is a borderline neurotic germaphobe. She carries Ass Gaskets (toilet seat liners) in her purse. Despite this, in public bathrooms, she still hovers to pee, uses her foot to flush, dispenses the paper towel before she washes her hands and uses the paper towel to turn off the faucets and open the bathroom doors. When her now nearly (GASP!) 16 year old nephew was a little boy, she passed this crazy on to him (possibly not the hovering part).

It goes without saying that I give her a never ending rash of shit over this obsessive compulsive behavior. She responds that people are gross (granted) and that it’s unhealthy not to do these things. I remind her that if these things were true we wouldn’t be here now. I’m pretty sure cavemen didn’t have Ass Gaskets. The prairie dwelling farmers of the 18th century had no running water or disinfecting hand soap. Hell, Purell hand sanitizer, in which she should own stock, didn’t even exist until the last decade or so.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree it’s important to take precautions and I never, EVER, leave the bathroom without at least running some water over my hands (to quote Boston Legal’s Allen Shore, “I keep a very clean penis.”) but I do think it’s possible to go overboard and she has certainly done that.

Today, while sitting in the stall in the office mensroom I was reminded of all this when, while taking care of my own business, I listened as no fewer than three “Gentlemen” came into the bathroom, took care of their business, and left again with nary a drop of water spilled in the basin. This is particularly disturbing to me because I work for a health care organization (don’t worry, no medical personnel here). However, it got me thinking, if germs were so rampant, there’d be no hope for us in my office because clearly there are germs being spread like crazy.

I thought about this… I thought about it a lot… I thought about it while I was washing my hands (three times)… And while I was using the automatic feature to dispense a paper towel… And while I used the paper towel to open the door when I left.

Well, Either You’re Closing Your Eyes to a Situation You Do Not Wish to Acknowledge, or You Are Not Aware of the Caliber of Disaster Indicated. Ya Got Trouble, My Friend, Right Here, I Say, Trouble Right Here in River City.

In case you haven’t heard, times are very tough.

unemploymentMillions of people have been laid off from their jobs and the national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent as of January.  In California where I live it’s higher, at 9.3 percent.

The state of California is broke with a $42 billion budget deficit and it’s only getting worse by the day as the state legislature can’t seem to come to an agreement on the budget.

Can we all agree that times are tough?

I’ve known this all along but somehow I guess I didn’t really get it.  I’ve been suffering from “not me” syndrome.  “Yeah, it sucks.  Yeah people are hurting and I wish I could do something, but at least it won’t happen to me.”

Before anybody get’s too worried about me, no, it hasn’t happened to me… not yet, anyway.  For weeks, maybe even months, Douche Bag has been saying that we have to tighten our belts and cut back on spending, but he’s also been saying that we were not going to be facing any lay-offs.  “Senior Leadership” has stated that it won’t benefit The Company that Created the HMO to lay people off because after you pay severance packages you don’t realize any cost savings for at least a year if not longer.

Last week an e-mail went out from the President of Operations addressing the current economic crisis.  The e-mail said that we were facing some lean times.  It said that in an attempt to deal with these lean times they were taking certain measures to ready ourselves for the tough times ahead.  Among those measures was freezing the salaries of the top 500 employees.  This is a good move.  It proves that they are not just out for themselves and that they are trying to take care of their employees.  The e-mail went on to say that while The Company that Created the HMO was still going to give merit increases, they were reducing the overall budget for the increases by 1%.  Normally, my region’s budget is 3% so this year it would be 2%.  Not great news but livable.  In addition they were still going to give out the annual bonuses that we traditionally get in March.

Honestly, I had full expected to get absolutely nothing this year.  Not an idea I enjoy but not surprising, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when the follow up e-mail came today.  While The Company that Created the HMO as a whole is following those measures, it has been determined that some regions will need to take additional measures, determined by the market they serve.  Northern California is one of those regions.  Not only will the top 500 Executives have their salaries frozen, but not a single one of the Northern California non-union employees receive a raise before fourth quarter when they will re-evaluate our financial status.  (Read, probably not then either.)  We will still receive our bonuses, which comes as a surprise to me but, raises will not be happening.  And then the big shocker, the e-mail stated that it will not be sufficient to maintain our 2008 staffing levels.  We must reduce the number of full time employees.  There’s no other way to read that, there will be lay-offs.  I think, perhaps, it would have been good if they’d included in that information when and how many they are planning, but at least now we know that it’s going to happen.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last few weeks, as rumors started flying, about how I could see this playing out and there are a number of scenarios that could play out that would leave me vulnerable.  I have the most seniority in the department, besides Douche Bag, and my function is somewhat unique, in that no one else in the department does what I do.  It could be that the seniority will save me, but on the other and it could be that the seniority also makes me too expensive to keep around.  It could be that the uniqueness of my position will save me, but then again I do have a counterpart in another building that does the same thing and there was a time when our jobs were a one man operation for all of Downtown Oakland.  There has already been a proposition that the functions I currently perform should be consolidated to this other person leaving me free to take on other responsibilities.

I see three possible scenarios with that as well:

  1. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal to consolidate the function to my counterpart and I’ll continue working here fulfilling other responsibilities – and potentially finding a way to like my job again;
  2. Captain Oblivious will deny the proposal with concern that doing this would leave me vulnerable to being laid-off;
  3. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal and instruct that I be laid-off.

I have a peace about this.  There’s nothing I can do to change how things will play out.  I go to work everyday and do the best job I can do (when I’m not reading or writing blog entries or Tweeting) and wait to see what happens.  In the end there’s not much more I can do besides leave it in God’s hands.  I trust that he will lead me through it.

Yes, times are tough, but things will turn around.  They always do

Disappointment and Revenge

disappointmentIn slightly less than two months I will be “celebrating” my seventh anniversary working for The Company that Created the HMO.  Very shortly after starting this job, I discovered a local deli that has the best sandwiches this side of the Big Apple.

Not long after starting this job, Green M&M and I decided to join Weight Watchers.  We’re both overweight and we both wanted to do something about it.  At the time that we joined Weight Watchers they were pushing their points program where you’re allotted a certain number of points depending on your current weight and can “earn” additional points for physical activity.

I had become very fond of this chicken sandwich that my little deli makes with broiled chicken breast and melted cheese.  I always got mine on a Sourdough Roll which must be about ten inches long, with Dijon Mustard, Jack Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles, Onions and Alfalfa Sprouts.  Let me tell you, this sandwich is awesome!  When Green and I were on Weight Watchers I did an estimation of how many points this thing must be and I estimated it at 11 points.  If you’re familiar with this program you know, that’s a lot of points and if you’re not familiar with the program it may not sound like a lot but when you consider I was only allotted about 34 points and I was an “active drinker” then (as opposed to a passive(?) drinker now) I needed to save the points for the all important vodka tonics (diet tonic thank you very much!) and wine that I’d be having in the evening.    Needless to say, the diet failed and I gave up a long time ago which is neither here nor there for the story I’m trying to tell.

This deli is three blocks away from my office building, on the same street and less than a block from our sister building where evil lives, and they are always very busy with a long line (The deli, not the sister building where evil lives.)  The sandwiches are awesome, but sometimes it’s really not worth the trip and the hassle.

Sometime around mid October brown paper went up in the windows of the previously vacant store front diagonally across the street from my building and not long after that, a logo went up in the window indicating that this location was going to be either a new, or an additional location, of the deli with the 11 point sandwich I enjoy so much.

One day in October, I asked the owner, Emil, “When is the new location going to open?”

“Soon,” he replied, “Hopefully next week.”

“Great!  I can’t wait.  Is it a second location or a new location?”

“It’s a second location,” he told me.

A few weeks passed and the new location hadn’t opened yet.  “Emil!  When is the other shop going to open?”  It was the second week of November.  I enjoy my 11 point sandwich but I don’t want to make the trip and be near the axis of evil if I don’t have to.

“End of the month,” he told me matter-of-factly.

“Great!  I can’t wait,” I tell him enthusiastically.

A few more weeks passed.  Thanksgiving came and went.  It was the middle of December.  “Hey, Emil!  Seriously!  When is the new shop gonna open?” I asked, ribbing the good-natured restaurateur.

Emil shakes his head now, “Oh, I don’t know Kevin.  I hope soon.”  He seems a little distraught about the subject, but I opt not to engage.

“OK.  Good.  I can’t wait!”  If I can get my 11 point chicken sandwich and not have to walk the three blocks and be anywhere near the evil fortress, I’m happy.

Mid January I walk into the existing location for the deli.  I want my sandwich and I’m just not going to hassle Emil this time.  Emil, is no where in sight.

This past Friday, The Unsvelt Girl who Runs and I went to lunch.  She had to go to one of the other buildings where The Company that Created the HMO has leased space which we are currently responsible for.  We walked to the building six blocks away and then went to a hoagie place across the street.  While we’re eating, The Unsvelt Girl says, “Oh, the new Aroma’s opened today.  There was a line of people out the door this morning when I went out for coffee.”

“Now you tell me?  Why didn’t we go there?”  As long as I’ve been waiting you’d think I’d be there the first day.

“Because there was a line of people out the door!” She replied, and I must say, there’s a certain logic in that argument.

“Fair enough,” I reply.  “It’s going to be after lunch when we walk back by there.  Can we just stick our head’s in and see what’s new?”

“Sure,” she says.  And so as we walked by the new location on the way back to the office we stuck our heads in the door to see what’s new.  The new restaurant is beautiful, all new modern fixtures, nice marble slab counters.  Nice and modern.  Still no real seating, but that’s fine I guess, it is supposed to be a deli after all.  But I zoned in on the menu board and saw the magic word that at once thrills and terrifies me.  The new Aroma’s, or Aroma’s East, as I call it, because it’s a straight shot, three blocks east, down the street from the original restaurant, has a nice selection of Gelato in addition to a plethora of bakery type confections all of which call to me relentlessly, desiring me to come in and submit to them with reckless abandon.

We left the restaurant and returned to the office quaking in our little space boots in sheer terror of the evil with which we’d just come face to face.

Today, being low on funds, and not wanting to take a lunch break, thus prolonging the length of time I’d have to spend in the office, I ate a bowl of Kraft Easy-Mac for lunch.  Not at all surprising, this did not satisfy me for very long.  I have a bowl of microwave chili, which I wanted to save for another day, in my drawer so I was trying to decide on a solution to the hunger that crept upon me a couple ours later.  I could go to the little convenience store in the lobby and look for something but I’d almost certainly end up with something much more fattening and calorie laden then what I really wanted.  And then it hit me, “Wait!  Aroma’s East is open!  I’ll run over there and get a sandwich.  Just nothing so substantial as my usual 11 point chicken sandwich.

So away I went, off to the awesome new location of my favorite little deli from which I’m sure to order many an 11 point chicken sandwich.  I walked into the deli and looked up at the menu board… But wait, there was no 11 point chicken sandwich.  No matter, right?  I mean, it’s the same restaurant, they must have the same things, right?

Emil greeted me, “Hello, Kevin!  What can I get you?”

“Well… I don’t know?  You guys aren’t making regular sandwiches here?”

“Yeah,” he enthused, “we have panini’s.  We’ve got chicken… roast beef… I’ve got an Aroma panini still.  That’s vegetarian.”

“Yuck,” I reply without thinking.  “Yeah, I see the panini’s but you’re not going to have, you know, regular sandwiches.  Like you have at the other place?”

Emil looks at me with a blank stare for a minute.

“If I want a regular sandwich like I always get, I can’t get it here?” I ask.

“Oh.  No.”

“I have to walk up to the other place?”  I ask.  I’m still in disbelief.

“Yeah,” he answers taking on a slightly impish grin, as if somehow this will get him out of the very deep trouble he’s in with me and which matters not one iota to anyone else.  This is most disappointing.  After all the anticipation, this new location does not do me any good and might do me harm!

“But I wanted a BLT.”  Surely, if I keep pushing it he’ll bend.

“I don’t have that,” is his simple reply.  This is not going the way I wanted.  “Don’t you like chicken?  I have chicken panini’s”

Don’t I like chicken!?!” I think to myself astonished.  “Don’t I like chicken!?! I’ve been getting the same damn 11 point chicken sandwich with nary a variation for seven years! menu_cheesecake_godivachocolate1Don’t I like chicken?  Of course I like chicken.  But today, I don’t want chicken.  I want a damn BLT!”

“I already ate once today.   I mean I already ate lunch once today, I don’t want all that!” I answered…

So I ordered a piece of chocolate cheesecake instead.

I guess I showed him!

Prayers for A Drunk

Today has been a bit of a mixed bag of feelings and somehow I don’t think it’s done yet.

As a part of my efforts to reclaim control of my life I made the conscious decision to go to bed at “a reasonable time” (is 11:30 a reasonable time?) last night so that I could get up at “a reasonable time” (is 7:30 a reasonable time?) this morning.  My routine tardiness at work has not gone unnoticed and has gotten quite a bit worse in recent months as my general motivation to attend has been dismal at best.  Part of the problem, I realized is that I have a hard time getting up early enough in the mornings.  So I thought it wise to attempt to adhere to the recommendations of so many “experts” and try stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends.  Now, I’ll grant you that sleeping from 11:30 to 7:30 is probably not the best sleep schedule to have when you work a theoretically 8-5 job, but since I’ve been getting out of bed between 7:30 and 8:00 for the last few weeks it seems wise to start rolling that schedule back at a gradual pace.

At any rate, I was feeling pretty good about myself and my decision to work on my sleep schedule and when my second alarm, on the other side of the room went off at 7:00 this morning, I only snoozed it three separate times before I forced myself not to get back in bed when I turned it off.  I put on my robe, (it’s much too cold for my not at all uncommon state of undress that often meets my mornings) and went for my morning pee, after which I went into the kitchen to feed a very demanding Scared Kitty.  He still had a bit of food in his bowl from last night but if you ever needed a lesson in how to act as if you’re starving, Scared Kitty would be an excellent coach. grand-marnier After feeding his royal highness, I went on to make myself a pot of coffee and sort out breakfast.  I finally decided on the Gladware bowl of orange segments I had in the refrigerator.  The segments are lefter over after using the peels to start my own batch of homemade Grand Marnier last weekend, for which I found a recipe a few weeks back.  It takes seven weeks and I’m not really all that optimistic about the outcome but I thought it would be fun to give it a shot,  you should pardon the pun.

I brought my carafe of coffee and my bowl of orange pieces into the living room, sat down in my recliner, threw a blanket over my legs and propped my feet up to watch some television.  My DVR tends to build up during the week and I try to clear it back out on the weekends so I don’t get too far behind.  Three episodes of the much maligned and barely watched General Hospital, one episode of Ghost Whisperer, five episodes of The Click List: Best in Short Film, and a misnamed movie all awaited my attention.

Natalia Livingston

Natalia Livingston

Tyler Christopher

Tyler Christopher

I actually just started recording General Hospital again this week after many months of freedom because Green M&M told me there’s some weird event happening at the beginning of each episode that I wanted to investigate and because I read that Natalia Livingston, who played Emily Quartermaine for several years until she was murdered about a year ago in a “very dramatic” story line, has returned to the show but supposedly not as Emily Quartermaine.  Her character has not really been explained yet, but whoever she is, she does seem to have a considerable fascination with Nikolas Cassadine, played by Tyler Christopher, not that I can blame her.

Since I’m on the subject, while looking for a good picture of Tyler to include here, I happened across this rather unexpected gem:

tyler-christopher-nekked-02

Anyway, I don’t watch very much of General Hospital because I’m really not all that interested in most of the characters and I don’t want to get sucked back in, therefore I was able to watch all three episodes pretty quickly.

Jennifeir Love Hewitt

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Then it was on to Ghost Whisperer.  I enjoy this show and I have been a fan of Jennifer Love Big Tits– er, Hewitt since she first showed up on Party of Five.  I’m a bit tired of the current, on-going story line, since they killed Jim off and his spirit is now inhabiting the body of another man who died and crossed over.  But I’m still watching… for now.

The Click List: Best in Short Film doesn’t show episode descriptions in the on-screen guide and I think I may have seen all of the current shorts, but I record it anyway, just in case something new comes across.  I “watch” that on four times fast forward and there was nothing new so I was done with that in five minutes.  And that left me with just the misnamed movie.

The play list in my DVR said the movie was called “The Killer Condom”, but the movie that was actually aired in that time slot turned out to be “Dead Serious.”  If you haven’t seen it, I strongly encourage you not to.  It’s about vampires and it’s lame as all get out, but had a sexy hero so I watched it anyway.  Two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

When the movie was over it was only 11:00 and I decided to go out and get my shopping done early.  I made a list of things I needed and wanted from Target and the grocery.  I also needed cat food and gasoline.  With my list made, I hopped in the shower and then got dressed to head out.  I decided to take a second look at my finances before I left and it’s a good thing I did.  I just got paid yesterday but I have to pay my rent and car insurance and after those things happen I only have about $185.00 for the next two weeks.

So much for my positive feelings about myself and my new leaf of better money management.  Yes, I’m essentially up to date with my bills and my rent and car insurance are important, but I was starting to feel like I had things more under control and I wasn’t gong to be hurting for money and then this realization.  I went back over the list and eliminated everything I didn’t need and pared my trip down to just the grocery store.  I forgot about the gas station and the cat food and now those will have to wait for another day, but I spent $90.00 at the grocery and put $40.00 walking around money in my pocket (I only had $5.00 before that.)

I also sent a text message to Green M&M and canceled our plans to go into San Francisco tomorrow.  Wheeler Dealer Landlady lives in The Haight and I have a couple pieces of mail for her so I thought I’d go in and drop those off along with my February rent check and then we could go and play after.  Now I realize I do not have any money for that and it reminds me that I’m not really so well off after all.  Now I’m going to have to spend the next two weeks trying not to spend any money.  I’ve got $50.00 left in the bank that isn’t already spent on paper, and I have to get food for Scared Kitty and gas for the vehicle with that.  I may have to use a credit card (which I’m trying to pay off) for one or both of those things and I hate that idea, but I guess it’s better than having my account overdrawn again.

As soon as I hit publish on this post, I’m going to put the computer down and watch the Lifetime movie Prayers for Bobby.  I made up my mind to watch this movie after I read an article about it in the most recent issue of The Advocate, however, I suspect, unfortunately, that this movie will be difficult for me to watch as, from what I already know about it, I would expect to be able to relate to it pretty closely.  I too, am the son of a “devout” woman who is convinced that to be gay is to be damned.  It’s an issue that is very difficult for me and it wouldn’t really surprise me to find that the movie is a hard pill to swallow.  I guess it’s time to find out.

I Just Wanna Scream and Lose Control, Throw My Hands Up and Let It Go, Forget About Everything and Run Away

Seven years ago, I was a scared little boy, lost in the woods and searching for a safe haven.  Suddenly a seemingly friendly, grandfatherly type stepped into my path and offered me candy and a ride.  “Don’t take candy from a stranger,” my tired mind told me, “Don’t accept rides from strangers.”  But I was scared and all alone and didn’t know where to go.

So I accepted the candy and I climbed into the back seat of the grandfatherly type’s vehicle and he started driving.  The candy he offered me, turned out to be stale and inedible, “I’m sorry about that, little guy,” he told me, “There’s more candy where we’re going.  And ice cream and cakes as well.”  So I sat back to enjoy the ride and thought about having the delicious food in my belly.

Grandfatherly type drove for what seemed like an eternity and I was starving when we arrived.  He pulled up in front of a beautiful, big mansion.  “We’re here,” he told me, “Let’s go inside and get you settled in.”

I climbed out of that car and walked with the grandfatherly type to the front porch.  As we climbed the steps to the porch, I noticed some chips in the paint and the boards creaked a bit as we tread them.  One of the steps felt like it might give out beneath my feet, but I didn’t think about it or worry about it because I knew there was good candy, and ice cream and cakes in side.

Grandfatherly type produced a set of keys and turned them in his hand until he found the correct one, placed it in the lock and turned.  The door swung open slowly, revealing a dark room that smelled of must and dirt.  “Don’t worry; someone’s going to clean that shortly.  Let’s go get you fed.”

“Don’t accept gifts from strangers,” the voice said again but all I could think about was the candy, ice cream and cakes, so I stepped across the threshold.

“This way,” grandfatherly type said, gesturing toward an archway.  As I approached the archway, I heard skittering and squeaks and thought I saw something moving in the corner.  I looked up at grandfatherly type, now somewhat disconcerted.  “It’s OK.  Someone’s going to take care of that very soon.”  He gave me a little nudge and I walked forward again.

Finally, grandfatherly type brought me to a large steel door and told me to stand aside while he opened it. “This must be where the candy, ice cream and cakes are!” I thought.  The door swung open and I felt a push.  As I stumbled across the threshold I realized this was not a refrigerator or a pantry, and then before I could react, I heard a loud CLANK as the door swung shut behind me.  There was a small window up near the ceiling, but it didn’t allow any light because it was dark outside and then a single naked bulb illuminated over my head.  I turned around, and around, and around.  I was alone in the room.  Grandfatherly type had not followed me in.

The room was long and narrow, with rock walls and a cement floor.  Against the back wall, was a small cot with no pillow and one thin blanket.  The door stood, ominous before me.  It was a solid wall of steel, with no handles.  Even the hinges were on the outside.  The only thing preventing this from being a smooth surface was a rectangular panel in the middle of the door.  As the panel slid open, I heard grandfatherly type say, “Here.  Eat this.  You’ve got a big day tomorrow.  You need to keep up your strength.”  Then he passed a small tray through.  On the tray was a small metal plate with a hunk of stale and molded bread and a bottle of warm dirty water.

“But what about the candy?  The ice cream and cakes?”  I asked nervously.

“If you’re good you’ll get them later.  Now eat your dinner and get to sleep,” he said, no longer any hint of the kindness in his voice.  With that, he slammed the rectangular panel shut and turned off the light bulb, leaving me in complete darkness to eat my old bread and drink my dirty water.

The next morning, the sun still low on the horizon, he turned that light back on and opened the panel.  “Give me the tray,” he ordered.

I was barely able to make sense of my surroundings, let alone the instructions.  “Wh-what?”

“GET UP!” he shouted, “Give me the tray from last night.”  I stood up, picked up the tray from the floor and passed it back through the door.  “Here.” he said, shoving it back to me, now with a bowl of what appeared to be oatmeal on it.

“I– Um, I don’t like oatmeal.  Can I have something else?”

“No.  Eat it.  You’ll need your strength.  I’ll be back in ten minutes.”  He closed the panel again and left me to try to eat my oatmeal.

Ten minute later he returned, had me pass the tray back through the panel and told me to go and sit on the bed.  Watching me though the panel to make sure I did as I was told he waited till I was seated and then opened the steel door.  He told me to stay seated as he approached me.  In his left hand he held a chain with a ring on either end.  In his right hand he held what looked like a dog collar, which he held out to me.  “Put this on.” he said.

I was frightened now and afraid not to follow his instructions.  While I put the collar around my neck I heard a click as a mechanical lock sealed making it impossible to remove the collar.  Then he held, in front of my face, a small device resembling a car alarm remote and said, “Do you know what this is?”  I shook my head slightly.  When I did, he pressed the button and I felt an agonizing jolt of pain shoot through my body for a moment.

“Remember this.  If you do not do exactly as you’re told, you’ll get another jolt.  The longer I hold the button the stronger the jolt will become.  The collar is connected to an invisible perimeter outside the house.  If you cross that perimeter it will automatically trigger the jolt and the farther you get beyond the perimeter the stronger it will get.  If you try to run away, it will kill you.  Now, put the shackles on your ankles.”  While I did as I was instructed, he continued, “You will never leave this place.  You will do exactly as I tell you.  If you behave, you’ll be rewarded.  If you misbehave, you will be punished.  Do you understand?”

I really didn’t understand what was going on and the pause before answering was all he needed to shock me again.  “DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND?” he repeated.  I simply nodded as I could not get the breath to speak.  “Good.  Now get up, you’ve got work to do.

As he lead me out of the cell, I could see, by the risen sun, the mess and disrepair of the place.  He set me to work cleaning, scrubbing, repairing things.  Everyday, I saw the rodents in the corners.  They chewed through the boards.  They ate through the packages with the food.  The left their refuse throughout the house.  “Don’t worry,” he’d always say, “Someone’s going to take care of that soon.”  But they continued to destroy all the progress I made in cleaning and repairing the house.  Every time I cleaned a room, they drug trash in and tore it to bits.  Every time I prepared a meal, for grandfatherly type, of which I was never allowed to partake, they came and ate the remnants before I could have a chance.  Every time I replaced a damaged board, they came and gnawed through it.  Continually creating more work for me.

It has been 2483 days.  Every day is the same.  Grandfatherly type lied.  He punishes me even when I do behave.  I do exactly as he asks of me and he punishes me.  I rebel against him and he punishes me.  I have never gotten candy, ice cream or cakes.  Every night, grandfatherly type, puts me back in the cell, passes a hunk of old bread and bottle of dirty water through the panel in the door and leaves me in the dark to eat and sleep and save my strength for tomorrow.

I’ve read about Stockholm syndrome.  After a while, the prisoner comes to care for his captor, even trust him.  The prisoner starts to feel as though they belong with, or to, their captor and the captor can trust the prisoner not to run away.  Maybe Stockholm Syndrom isn’t real, or maybe I’m not your average prisoner.  I’m still being held captive, but I don’t love grandfatherly type.  I don’t trust him.  I’m just waiting for my chance to escape him.  In the mean time, he treats me just as badly as ever… and I’m trapped.