Water Buffalo Outsourcing

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SCENE ONE: A DINNER TABLE

DAD: Great mashed potatoes, honey.

MOM: Thanks, dear. Kids, have you gotten enough?

< Phone rings >

DAD: Damn it! Who in the sam-hell is calling during dinner again?!

MOM: Let it ring, dear. It’s just another one of those telemarketers.

DAD: No way. I’m going to tell these bozos I’ve had it once and for all!

< Picks up receiver >

DAD: Hello?

TELEMARKETER: HHRRRUGGHGHGGBNAAHH!

DAD: Hello? Who is this?

TELEMARKETER: BBRRGNGHHNNNAAAAFFGHGGGGRRR, HHMPHR!

DAD: Oh, what is it with you telemarketers? You call and interrupt my family and me during dinner, and you don’t even have the common courtesy to put a human on the line? Good Lord!

VOICE: GGRNNBRRRHHMMM?

DAD: You bet your leathery hide, it’s a problem! You should be pulling plows in Indochina, not trying to sell me the San Francisco Chronicle! I mean, come on! Can you even read?!

VOICE: GRNBNAMAH, GRRNMMPH!

DAD: Well, to hell with you, then!

< Slams phone down >

DAD: Damn outsource!

*****

SCENE TWO: A HOME NURSERY

FATHER-TO-BE: Look, Abbey, it says right here: connect rod two to rod four with a one-inch screw! There is no one-inch screw! Since when do I have to be an astrophysicist to assemble a stupid crib?

MOTHER-TO-BE: Would you please just hang up your ego and call the help hotline? We’re not getting anywhere this way.

FATHER: Fine!

< Dials hotline number from instruction manual >

HOTLINE: BBRRRGGGHHHFF!

FATHER: Hello?

HOTLINE: RRRGGH, MMNNEWWWRRR!

FATHER: God almighty! < Covers receiver with hand and whispers > I told you this wouldn’t do any good. Damn water buffalo! They hardly even speak English!

HOTLINE: GRRNBH?

FATHER: What, sir? What did you say?

HOTLINE: GGGRRRRNNNNBBBHHHRRRYYEEEE!!!

FATHER: Oh, ma’am? Ma’am, I’m so, so sorry.

*****

SCENE THREE: TWO FRIENDS ABOARD A PLANE STUCK ON THE TARMAC

MIKE: Hey, Kevin. Check out these cool shoes in the Sky Mall catalogue.

KEVIN: Those are nice, man. Cheap, too! You should hook them up.

MIKE: Yeah, I think I’m going to order them right now. God knows we’re not moving anytime soon.

< Dials number on cell phone >

HOTLINE: MMRRRRGGHGNNN!

MIKE: Uh, hello? Yeah, I’d like to order the shoes featured on page 97 of the Sky Mall catalogue.

HOTLINE: NNRRGGHBNN?

MIKE: What?

HOTLINE: NNRRGGHBNN, NRG HHRRMB?

MIKE: No, not the suede, the other pair. It says here: Genuine oiled Sri Lankan leather loafers with —

< Click >

MIKE: Hello?

*****

SCENE FOUR: OUTSIDE AN EMERGENCY ROOM

IRRITATED MAN ON CELL PHONE: Look, lady. I’ve read the policy terms a million times! This visit should be one-hundred percent covered!

INSURANCE REPRESENTATIVE: Sir, if you would be looking in the words of your policy, it will clearly be stating that that is not being the case within the case of your policy.

MAN: Wait, what?! I — I can’t even understand you, ma’am! I mean, nothing personal, but what does it take to get someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about on the line? For Pete’s sake!

REP: I am being very, very sorry, sir.

MAN: Well, me too! Would you please just let me talk to your supervisor?

REP: I understand sir, please be holding for a moment while I am being connecting you.

MAN: Thank you!

< Holding music from other end of line >

MAN: Oh, great.

< Man paces back and forth for two minutes until music cuts off >

MAN: Hello? Is someone there?

SUPERVISOR: GGRRNNNMMMMEEEBBBRRRRYYTTTRRNGGGGHGH-GH!

MAN: Oh, you’re kidding me!

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A Brief Conversation with My Hair

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Me: My Hair has had a career defined by wild extremes. Each highlight, such as His First Trip to the Barber, has been followed by failures like So This is a Mullet. I am confident that My Hair will have lots to say in what is his first opportunity to speak out publicly. Welcome, My Hair. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule.

My Hair: The pleasure is all mine. Frankly, I thought no one really cared about my career anymore.

Me: Let’s start by focusing on some of those moments when you struggled. What were you thinking when you found yourself working on The Too Tight Perm?

My Hair: Yes, yes, that was quite grueling, wasn’t it? Well, the fact is, I had always had dreams of being a loose mane of long curls — unkempt but sexy — kind of like a modern day Jim Morrison. I expected a loose perm, but came out with a set of tight curls — more “Weird Al” Yankovic than Mr. Morrison.

Me: Did Shave It All Off come as a relief after this experience?

My Hair: Somewhat. Actually, Shave It All Off had been something I wanted to work on since the Limp Mohawk Incident — another tragedy that I’d rather not get into.

Me: Let’s go back to some of your early work. What do you look back on most fondly?

My Hair: From my early years, I look back on Before My Classmates Cajoled Me into Washing My Hair Every Day as a particular nadir. Before then, I basked in the innocence of just being who I was. I did not feel the incessant pressure of needing to look like everyone else. I miss the days of that free-flow of creativity: letting dirt and dead leaves stick to me for days on end. Splattered mud was a form of unconscious self-expression. All of my contemporaries were in a thriving creative cauldron; then came junior high school. Suddenly, my peers were smothered in gels and drained of life by blow-dryers. That’s when I became involved with The Hairspray Debacle. Can after can of that stuff can rot your brain and eat away at your follicles. Let’s just say — when you wake up one day surrounded by empty cans and the dank scent of aerosol in the air, you learn to stop cold turkey.

Me: Your career kind of faded for a bit. You were long ignored and didn’t try anything new or edgy as you attempted to do in your 20’s.

My Hair: I chalk that up to the relative implosion that followed Damn, Is My Hair Thinning? I found myself in a deep depression. I was riddled with anxiety and my contact with the outside world became limited. I became a virtual recluse — hiding under baseball caps and winter hats. As far as I was concerned I would have been happy to never see the light of day again.

Me: That changed, however.

My Hair: As everyone knows, I came out of my shell with I Have a Girlfriend Who Loves Me, Potential Male-Pattern Baldness and All. Yes, thank God for that. If that hadn’t happened, I might have languished in constant reruns of Shave It All Off forever.

Me: These days you seem to have gained the respect of your peers. You are very visible and generally admired, or at least tolerated by your audience. Do you think it had much to do with I Have a Girlfriend…?

My Hair: Most definitely. Especially because that was followed by She Married Me, Now I Can Go Completely Bald and I Won’t Be Alone. This whole period of my life has given me a confidence I never had before. It’s allowed me to tap into a sense of just being myself, which I never had as a youth. I think this happens to most in my position. It has also given me the confidence to engage in riskier material again.

Me: You mean such things as Why Pay $25 to a Hair-Dresser When I Can Cut My Own Hair with a $25 Pair of Shears?

My Hair: Yes. And Mutton-Chops Can Look Good on a Forty-Year-Old.

Me: Well, I want to thank you for talking with me today. Before we go, can you tell us which of your future projects you are most excited about?

My Hair: I probably shouldn’t say anything about this, since so few know about it yet, but I’m currently in hot negotiations over Honey, What Do You Think of Cornrows?

*****

If you enjoyed this piece, visit Russell Bradbury-Carlin’s web site: AllMyShoesAndGlasses.com

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The Elephant in the Corner

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Just when everyone had successfully managed to ignore it, the elephant sneezed. Rolling our eyes, we looked to the corner of the room where it was seated uncomfortably on a bulging armchair with a Gauloise in its trunk and a tumbler of whisky by its side. “Sorry,” it said, “just ignore me.”

“The thing I never understood,” said Marcie, “is why we got that elephant in the first place.”

“That’s the point, woman. It’s not meant to be there. It’s like, symbolic, get it?”

Marcie didn’t. A star of adult films when she was younger, she didn’t get much these days except the odd STD outbreak whenever she was vexed or the moon was too bright in the sky. The latter was her own diagnosis, admittedly, one which Doctor Loveridge didn’t share, though he was careful not to reveal his skepticism for fear that Marcie would leave and stop revealing her exotic, pneumatic chest arrangement. The third breast had been a masterstroke on Doctor Loveridge’s part, and even Marcie was getting used to it now, although suitable bras were still an issue.

“Run it by me again,” she said.

I shook my head. “Marcie, I’ve explained this to you a hundred times.”

“In one ear and out the other,” said the elephant, waggling his own for emphasis. The lampshade billowed in the breeze, casting odd shadows on the mantelpiece and the stolen Munch paintings on the wall.

“Don’t you diss me, you great lump of gray blubber,” said Marcie, standing on her dignity and getting it dirty.

“Or you’ll what?” said the elephant.

“Hank, shoot it.”

As it happened, I was holding a revolver in my hand — metal, black, with a banana-shaped barrel which Reg the Rat assured me meant the bullets would travel faster.

Maybe they did, but they never hit their target.

Mind you, an elephant was hard to miss. I eyed it speculatively.

“You’d be amazed how far a trunk can reach,” said the elephant, blowing smoke rings and spearing them on its tusks. “And how fast it can move. Drop the gun now, sucker, before I knock your head into yesterday, whenever, wherever.”

I looked up and saw a face in the mirror, Reg the Rat, his whiskers quivering with amusement at my predicament. I didn’t care. What Reg didn’t know was that the elephant was tired of his drug-taking and had hired a hit man — Jackal Jack — to take him out before the end of the week. I held back a smile.

“Take a seat, Reg,” I said. “We’re just debating the elephant.”

“Where ya’ been, Reggie,” said Marcie. “I missed ya’, hon.”

“Afghanistan, babe. Poppy season. Collecting the September harvest. Cold out there, too, I’m telling you.”

“Tell me about it,” said the elephant. “That swine Hannibal made me march through the Khyber pass in the middle of winter.”

“Rubbish,” I said. “That was the Alps, and it was two thousand years ago. You weren’t there. Not even your mummy’s mummy’s mummy’s mummy was there.”

The elephant snorted. Reggie the Rat caught most of the blast, leaving him covered head to toe in greenish-yellow mucus. I’d describe him as a drowned rat but that would be too clichéd. Nonetheless, an oxygen-deprived rodent he certainly was.

“So you think,” said the elephant, “that marching with Hannibal is any more unlikely than me sitting in an armchair in your living room, do you? Get a grip, man.”

Marcie stamped her foot. “Will somebody PLEASE tell me what he’s doing here! I don’t understand.”

Reggie the Rat cleaned his whiskers with a copy of the New York Times and tossed it to the floor. He patted Marcie’s arm, leaving a trail of elephant mucus down it. “The point about the elephant in the corner, Marcie,” he said, “is that it’s something so conspicuous it ought to be talked about, but no one dares mention it.”

“But we have, guys. We’ve been talking about it for the last ten minutes, haven’t we?”

“Ah,” said Reg. An uncomfortable silence settled as we sought a way to contradict her. We couldn’t. Reg looked at Marcie. Marcie looked at me. I looked at the elephant.

And, at that moment, with the most rueful of grins, the elephant vanished.

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Redshirt Academy

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Okay, cadets, welcome back to the Starfleet Security Specialist Workshop. In Module I, we studied basic drill, chain of command, and tricorder etiquette. In Module II, you’ll learn how to recognize common dangers and how to deal with them.

Assisting me this session will be Ensign Kenner. He’s the fellow in the back with the large-bore phaser rifle and the nervous tic. Are you ready back there, Ensign? Is it set to you-know-what? Then we’re ready to begin.

Before we do, though, I’d like to address some of the comments I heard during the break.

Some of you expressed misgivings about a career in the Security Division. Now, it’s true that the life of a security specialist — or “redshirt,” as we’re popularly known — is a dangerous one, but space exploration is dangerous no matter what color your shirt is. Besides, a career in the Security Division offers all kinds of fringe benefits that you won’t find anywhere else.

For one thing, the Security Division has the best teams in Starfleet, including the defending parrises squares champions — go, Fightin’ Sand Bats! — so if you’re into sports, then this is the place for you.

For another thing, redshirts get more meal credits than other specialists. While the goldshirts and blueshirts are picking over their synthloaf for the third day in a row, the redshirts are eating like kings. Indeed, a typical redshirt eats so well that you’d think every meal was his last.

Finally, redshirts have the best opportunities for advancement in the fleet. Other specialists often spend years in the same position, but there are always openings for ambitious redshirts, sometimes two or three at a time. Heck, pass my course and you could find yourself serving aboard a starship next week.

So, to sum up, the life of a redshirt has its dangers, but it also has its own unique rewards, so keep an open mind.

Now, before we continue, let’s observe a minute of silence for the cadets who died during Module I, especially that guy from Spokane who was turned into a cube and stepped on.

Was that a minute? Who has a watch? Okay, let’s get started on Module II.

As redshirts, it will be your duty to protect the ship, the crew, and to a much lesser extent yourselves. That means knowing how to recognize danger and how to react accordingly. Of course, danger can be hard to spot on strange alien worlds, but you can always fall back on the tried-and-true techniques that have made the Security Division the respected institution that it is today. Let’s look at a few examples now. Ensign, start the film.

Here we see a landing party exploring a crash site. What’s the first thing they should do? That’s right, Ledbetter, they should split up, and pay close attention to how they do it: the captain, the science officer, and the doctor go off together in one direction, while the redshirt goes off in another direction by himself. That’s textbook splitting up. And now that the redshirt is all alone, the energy cloud that’s been waiting to pick the landing party off one by one can come out of hiding and attack him, like so. Ooh, that had to hurt. The redshirt is dead, but when he fails to check in later, his teammates will know that there’s danger afoot.

Let’s look at another film. Here we see a redshirt exploring alien ruins when suddenly he comes across a strange alien artifact throbbing with some strange alien power. What should he do? No, Birch, he should NOT report in and request instructions. Haven’t you been paying attention? I don’t care if he has TEN communicators and an Aldis lamp, that’s not how we do it. Anyone else? Right again, Ledbetter, he should walk right up to it and touch it, and there he goes. Ooh, that wasn’t pretty, was it? Again, the redshirt is dead, but when his teammates find what’s left of him, they’ll know to keep their hands to themselves.

Let’s look at one more. Here we see a redshirt exploring an abandoned settlement when suddenly a bunch of creepy children come out of nowhere and surround him. What should he do? Right again, Ledbetter, he should assume they’re perfectly harmless no matter how crazy or feral they look. Even as they inch closer and closer, picking up rocks and makeshift clubs as they do so, he should just stand there asking them where their mommies and daddies are until WHAM! Ooh, what a way to go. Once again, the redshirt is dead, but when his teammates see the children frolicking in his blood, they’ll know that those children are trouble.

Okay, enough films for now, it’s time for the real thing. Ensign, release the M113 creature. Isn’t she a beauty? Now, the M113 creature — or “salt vampire,” as it’s better known — feeds exclusively on sodium chloride, something the human body has in abundance. Don’t worry, though, the creature is perfectly harmless as long as OH MY GOD! BLAST IT, ENSIGN, BLAST IT! AGAIN!

Whew. Okay, how many did we lose? Three? That’s not so bad. Remember that Horta sensitivity training seminar we had last year? Now that was brutal. Shame about Ledbetter, though.

We may as well take another break. Everyone go get some coffee while we clean this up. When you come back, we’ll tackle Module III: Introduction to Zero Gravity Hygiene.

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