The Danger of Grapes and the Myriad of Bob’s Imaginary Health Issues

Burn!

Bob is of the firm belief that he is always sick or working his way towards sick. Generally textbook hypochondria isn’t humorous, but as all things go in the Bob-i-verse, this is as far from textbook as a lamp is from a fire-breathing vagina.

Friday morning I get a call as I’m working through the list. “Very very very important,” Bob says (he thinks that if he repeats words three times in a row that they mean more, really that just makes people want to take an ax to his face). “I need you to Google grapes, ASAP.”

Pardon me as I take my life into my hands.

I have been through this with bananas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so being the seasoned veteran of Googling inane shit that I am, I stop to ask all the right questions so this grape search won’t be repeated again.

“What do you want to know about grapes, Bob? Specifically.”

I’m not sure if Bob interprets the word ‘specifically’ the same way I do. I think he believes it’s a command to list a lot of vague words together. Like when I ask him for what he wants in an email, specifically he responds with, “Something about reviewing the attached and give comments and so on and blah blah blah.”

You know those things will kill yah?

And yes, he actually says the words ‘blah blah blah’. So his specifics on grapes are: “I don’t know, healthy, nutritious, good, bad?”

“Bad?” See now I’m just poking the bull.

“Will they make me sick?”

Let me remind you again that Bob is a grown man of 78 years and he doesn’t realize that grapes can’t make you sick. Sure, crush them, let em ferment and then chug the sludge until you’ve had too much and you’ll get plenty sick. But grapes making you sick?

I know deep down Bob believes there is a great grape conspiracy hidden on the interwebs, some place a Google can only find. When he finds that paper, he will show it to the world and save us all by opening our eyes to the pitfalls and hazards of grape consumption.

Stepping on the Face of Danger

Nowadays, if I can find anything that says a food can be bad, I make sure and put it in the top of the stack. The more unreliable the better.

I have a prescription, and it’s for more powdered milk!

It’s one of the games I use to make my time in the Bob-i-verse a little less like a prison sentence. See, I hope one day that Bob, due to his fear of grapes and the like, is relegated to only eating a small bowl of powdered milk a day.

Bob has other health concerns. He believes he has tinnitus, but only when it means he can purchase something for it. “Buy me this,” he says, handing me a clipping for some cure-all herbal supplement, “It will help me with my tinnitus and it’s free.”

“Bob, it’s not free, it’s ninety bucks and you get paid it back minus shipping and handling if it doesn’t work.”

I know I’m going to be both buying this product and then later returning it, but I have to stick to Sunny’s rule of making less work. It’s the only way to survive. Plus, I won’t have time to write this blog if I’m buying a bunch of useless shit and sending it back in the vicious circle of Bob’s random needs.

Wow, your job sucks!

“Just call them, get them on the phone, find out what it’s all about,” he says. See Bob thinks that if you get someone to talk to you there’s a magical special for all phone callers that gets them the product for free, the answers to life, and an extra gift of eternal life. He doesn’t realize that I will spend the next twenty minutes telling a call center dude that my crazy boss thinks he’s getting for free a tinnitus cure for ears that don’t ring but instead hear the tinkle of imaginary fairy voices. The call center people often say they’re sorry that my job is horrible, and they wouldn’t switch with me if their lives depended on it.

This is how I know I’ve hit rock bottom.

Still, Bob sends me on these missions to get ‘cures’ for things that are just part of getting old. “I’m tired,” he complains, “I’m exhausted all the time and my joints ache.” Somehow it’s beyond his grasp that being 78 means things will ache, that there’s a certain amount of fatigue related to being in the last quarter of your life, that you have gotten old. Instead he tells me I need to pick up any number of drugs for him.

“I can’t buy you Flurinef at CVS.”

“Why not, just buy it, this ad says it helps with fatigue.”

“It’s prescription, Bob.”

It’s fatal and I have it!

“Then call my doctor and get a prescription.”

“Bob, this drug is for Addison’s Disease, do you have Addison’s disease?”

“No, but I have fatigue.”

“But you don’t have Addison’s Disease, it’s for Addison’s disease!”

“Look here, it says for fatigue…”

“Fatigue from Addison’s.”

“LET ME FINISH! It says right here it’s for fatigue. I will outline it and you will fax it to Dr. Ruth and ask her for a prescription.”

It’s just my gynocomastia

Once, just once I wish Dr. Ruth would let go of the Hippocratic Oath and prescribe Bob every looney drug he wants so he would be barraged by the massive onslaught of side effects they all provide. Not death, per se, but an unending blitz of side effects like gas with oily spotting, anal leakage, temporary blindness, gynecomastia, anosmia, colored urine, explosive diarrhea, hallucinations, compulsive gambling, and of course–erectile dysfunction.

Instead I waste my time faxing clippings to a woman who earned her MD just to deal with batshit crazy hypochondriacs like Bob. Sometimes it’s good to know I’m not the only person who suffers in the pitch and sway of the Bob-i-verse.

Bob only believes he gets diseases that he doesn’t possibly have. One day while sick with the flu, he calls me repeatedly and I finally give in, just to make the ringing stop. “Yes, Bob,” I croak, holding back the vomit.

“I need you to research shingles?”

The only kind of shingles Bob has.

“You’re calling me about shingles?”

“I need to know the symptoms.”

“Bob, are you covered in welts or sores or scabs?”

“No.”

“You don’t have shingles.”

“I NEED the research.”

“Why, Bob, why shingles?”

“Because I’m exhausted and have a headache so it must be shingles.”

I went to Med school for this shit?!

At this point I hang up on him. Eventually he will get his research. He will learn that no matter how tired he is, shingles is not defined by exhaustion but by the actual presence of shingles. He will learn this from a call from Dr. Ruth who must be one of the most patient people on earth.

The funny thing is, Bob is sick. Bob’s forgetfulness, the way he gets lost, his massive issues with memory are a medical problem. In the afternoons he actively sundowns–the marked decline in the evening usually seen in Alzheimer’s patients. He starts to slow down, lose his place, forget the events of the day. He keeps the lists–usually two or three identical ones as he makes new ones after forgetting the previous–because he cannot remember. Sunny and I are sure he has dementia if not Alzheimer’s. Yet these symptoms he never looks up. These diseases are never on his list to research.

I don’t know if he’s stubborn or scared, but I know he sees the signs and chooses to ignore them. Bob will worry about bird flu and Hurler Syndrome (not as awesome as it sounds) but he won’t once pay attention to the actual threats looming in his symptoms.

And then he was gone…

I would feel sorry for him, but he’s a cruel old man. The fact that he’s forgetting things, that his life will end in a blank page means that he likely is going to forget every horrible act he committed in his life. If there’s guilt for his actions with any one of his wives, if there’s any nagging sensation about the cruel way he has treated his daughter, any regret for cutting off a son with a drug addiction–it will all go away. In the end, Bob will avoid his way into oblivion, never once taking stock of his life, just slipping into the present peacefully until his slate is blank.

Call me cruel, but I find this unfair.

Bob and the Witches

Today Bob and I had a fight about witches.

Sucking in all that is good in the world.

While I thought those words would cross my lips about any job, here I am saying them. I have a feeling one day I will be Googling places to rent narwhals or arguing the finer points of length of ear hair. If it is absurd, it will come careening toward the workplace, because Bob is a giant black hole of fuckery and confusion.

As for the witches, some time ago Bob started receiving Meetup.com notifications from the Paradise Eclectic Women Coven of Greater Los Angeles. At first it was just well wishes from fellow goddess-children and some Blessed Be’s. Granted, each one needed to be printed out and scrutinized by Bob, who asked, “What is a Wiccan?”

“It’s witches, Bob.”

“Witches? What do you mean by witches?”

“Double double boil and trouble. You know, witches.”

Fire burn and cauldron bubble, bitches.

“Why would witches contact me?”

“I don’t know, are you a warlock?”

Bob always expects me to understand his indecipherable humor, but when it comes to me  cracking the rare joke, he has the skill of a Swedish tourist trying to communicate with Klingons.

Which witch?

“Well I’m not,” he says, and chucks the email. Good, we’re done, no more witches.

Not until we get the next email and he asks again “What’s a Wiccan?”

“It’s a witch, Bob.”

 

“And they’re women?” He gets that greasy look to him, a sort of intent sex laser look that

Downfall of humanity? Or just falling down?

makes me wish I’d been the twin that didn’t survive. I wonder how Evil Twin Samantha would deal with these moments. Would she whip out a katana and perform hari kiri for both parties? Would she decide that her career path should shift into evil doctoring or perhaps world domination. Would she stop waxing her upper lip, buy some Rogaine and become the Jewish Hitler of the modern era?

Only you can help.

Then there’s that creeping feeling that I may be the evil twin and Good Twin Samantha would calmly explain Wiccans before judiciously quitting her job so she could minister to suffering orphan leper seal babies in Pakistan.

“It’s an all-women’s group, Bob, there are no men. Like they don’t allow men.”

Not the kind of witches you’re gonna meet.

“So I could meet ladies there?” He is obviously in Bob-land, wandering in the murky corners of his Bob-brain, somewhere even my scumbag brain (thankfully) chooses not to flit off to.

“No, Bob, it’s for women…”

“Google Wiccans,” he says, grinding his booming steamroller of a voice over my obvious logic.

Sunny still joins me for lunch and drinks sometimes even though she’s found a job where insanity doesn’t dance about the workplace like a fat girl in a sea of daisies. (I think all fat children dance at one point in seas of daisies).

The the lovely ladies of the Paradise Eclectic Women Coven of Greater LA.

“Did you sign Bob up for a Wiccan Coven?” I ask.

“No, but that’s fucking hilarious.”

“I figured it might be a parting practical joke.”

“Not me. So what’s he saying about the coven?”

“He thinks he can meet women there.”

“Of course he would. Pervert.”

“But it’s all women. There aren’t any men in it.”

“Oh, Bob,” she says. I think that if this was a sitcom, that would be the catchphrase. It rolls better off the tongue than, “Ghandi in a goddamned meat grinder, did your mother ingest radiation during the fucking development of your personality you gorilla-haired mongol?!”

Just saying.

Event is Black Cat Optional

Now we’re into the Wiccan holiday season and today Bob gets a notice for Lammas (Lughnasadh), which is (of course) the festival of the wheat harvest. Bob calls me from wherever he is busy heaping sadness and frustration on other poor souls. “What’s this Women’s Harvest?”

“It’s witches, Bob.”

“What kind of witches?”

“The ones who cast spells.”

“So these are witches controlling my thoughts?”

“No, Bob, they’re women who dance around fires and and drink wine and sing songs to the Goddess. Did you read the research I gave you on Wiccans?” By research I mean printing out the Wikipedia article.

“What are Wiccans?” Bob shouts over the crackle of his shoddy earpiece.

I’ve come for your thoughts.

“Never mind Bob, can I unsubscribe.” Now is the time to cut the cord. I mean, I would have unsubscribed earlier, but when you do, you get an email and I didn’t want to deal with the interrogation over that so I figure now he’ll approve it so the fire dancing witches trying to take over his mind can’t invade his email inbox.

“Print it out!” He’s yelling now. The exclamation point there does nothing to convey how offensive his yelling is. Just think back to when you got something right in high school and the teacher had it wrong and in his/her defense they just started yelling the wrong answer at you. Bob is yelling at me on speakerphone in the lair/computer lab and the other temporary denizens of my personal pit of career shame are giving me pitying looks.

“But Bob, it’s women only and it’s witches.”

“I WANT TO LOOK AT IT! DO YOUR JOB!”

“Fine,” I say, getting a little pitch to my voice, “But there is no way you can attend an ALL-WOMEN’S EVENT!”

“JUST PRINT IT OUT!”

Before you all start the sacrifice, can we go over these numbers?

At this point, the others have fled, and I cut off the call and look back at the invite, cheerfully asking attendees to bring their Books of Shadows and Magickal Grimoires to the event. People are welcome to speak for a length of fifteen minutes about their Magickal Grimoires. I can see Bob trying to pitch his business concept, pushing away all decency, entering the circle to speak the great words of Bridge Management Systems and how it is the new shining light of bridge safety and it only needs a measly $3-5 million initial investment. You’ll be some rich witches.

“You should sign him up,” says Lily, the new receptionist at the Venetian., “Send him off to spend time with the witches. It would be hilarious.”

“I should,” I say, thinking of Bob showing up with his plastic briefcase that looks like an 80’s Tonka Toys reject, his slacks and button-up, his greased down-hair and pinched glasses.

“Maybe they’ll cast a spell on him,” Lilly says and the idea suddenly sounds fruitful I return to the invite:

All attendees are asked to bring grapes, corn or poppies. If you are a bread-baker a fresh baked loaf would be appreciated.

When they say the prayer to the Goddess of menstruation will he leave, or will he tough it out to the naked moonlit dance?

There is no place for Bob here.

If only witches still sacrificed problematic men.

Don Juan Disastro

There are a lot of things in my work with Bob that make me hesitant, cringe, even outright yell, but the one thing furthest from any possible job description we ever agreed upon is my work as his personal Cyrano de Bergerac. Yes, I help Bob online date.

Sarlaccs don’t come in Black & White

When the order was first made, I thought he was joking. Oh, the halcyon days when I thought Bob was just a misunderstood geezer! I sat there beside Sunny still excited to be employed in this sinkhole of an economy, so glad that with my MFA I managed to cling to a secretarial position. I was like the entire Star Wars crew escaping the mouth of that terrifyingly toothy (and slightly vaginal) sandpit creature.

“I’d like you to print up my ladies and send out letters to these ones,” he says, handing me a thick stack of personals ads from JDate. I let out a chuckle, I mean this must be a joke, right? Soon Bob’s going to crackle in with the harsh feedback of him enjoying his own awkward humor.

Even with one eye, I can communicate the desires of the world.

Sunny, however, knows. And she’s still with me, in the final month of our training (we pretended I needed a LOT of training) and gives me a look that says That’s no fucking joke, Bob’s trying to get his ass laid and we’re helping him with it.

Sunny can communicate a lot with a simple look.

It’s hard with Bob to truly pinpoint when I lost my spirit, but somewhere in the top ten is this moment, as I realized my job now included courting 50-70 year old women. Nothing against the demographic, but I prefer mine pre-menopause.

Looking for some NSA fun, D/D Free.

“Bob signs up for all these dating services,” Sunny tells me during our pre-lunch drinks, “And he looks through all these women and finally meets one, and decides she’s always too old. He comes back saying, She could be my grandmother! I mean, seriously Bob, you’re almost eighty and you don’t have enough money to buy yourself a gold digger!”

Bob somehow thinks he’s charming. He loves to haunt the local coffee shops eating cake and doing what he calls Kibbutzing. What he actually does is creep the hell out of twenty-somethings with a combination of pitching his bridge business and flirting. Usually later in the day he’ll arrive saying, “I met a gorgeous, a stunning girl, kibbutzed with her all day. Send her a full package and my Seinfeld (Gotta wait for that story)”

Wanna Kibbutz?

Bob seems to think that he can amazingly draw in women a quarter of his age with his slick hair and his impeccable style of baggy khakis and plaid button-ups that are tight enough to show his pot belly. Combine that with flirtatious lines such as, “Have I told you about the idea I have for a movie about Father Zembruwski? Some people think he was a Nazi sympathizer, but they’re all scumbag liars. He was a saint.”

Bob never picks up women in person. I think it’s because five-tailed gila monsters with the runs appear less offensive than Bob in kibbutz mode.

Bob in Kibbutz action.

So he leans on the ever-expanding crutch of online dating. LA Singles, Golf Singles, and his holy grail: JDate. Hundreds of older Jewish women dotted across Los Angeles, desperate and lonely and bored, all in this giant swirling eddy of senior sexual frustration. They writhe about on the chatlines, sending out currents of requests for the romantic dates never had, someone to take interest in their post-retirement hobbies, the constant calls to take a look at/be proud of/just hear about their grandchildren. It’s a constant display of their successes, happiness, whatever they have left.

I am a single woman, who finally hit the point of singlehood where I accepted the possibility of ending up alone with family, friends, accomplishments as my partner. But scouring the coves and winding turns of JDate I’m starting to rethink. These women are desperate to believe that there’s some prince charming out there at age 80 ready to sweep them off their scooters and show them a bright new world for the next 5-20 years.

Or maybe that’s just the lay of the land in the online dating scene.

All the ladies love my pen.

One thing can be said about the elderly women of JDate, they respond well to the writings of a thirty year old woman. I talk to them about their burgeoning careers as movie extras, chat about watching children grow up, converse about the hardships of getting older: swelling joints, aching backs, watching yourself change.

I give myself the space in those emails to become older, give myself less time to finish my work in the world. I let the end slip a little closer and share that experience with them. It’s a sick game, but I always win.

The dates slide in as I use the silvered tongue of a masters in writing to lure these catches.

Bob picks through the photos like headshots, not even bothering to read the descriptions. “This one looks nice, but we’ll see, they always are uglier than their photos” he says squinting at a photo, tongue sticking out a bit, giving the appearance of someone hungry for sick things. I always find this process inappropriate because of my traitor brain.

Heyyyy ladies!

My brain is a downright motherfucker. It brings to life anything and everything. Tell me to imagine a hellbeast mating with a zombie and the image of their offspring haunts my dreams. Say the words ‘cup of shit coffee’ and I got in my mind, on the stove for ever. Even the scent haunts me.

In high school, my friends and family learned of this and enjoyed playing a game called, “Imagine Someone Naked”. My little brother landed on the phrase Imagine Rodney Dangerfield Naked. It prevented me from eating breakfast from time to time.

Now think of him nekkid.

Now with Bob licking his lips over photos of elderly women I had seduced for him, all my horrible raging bitch of a brain decides to go kamikaze and imagine Bob-sex.

Oh the horror…

There are few things less horrible in the world than the mental image of Bob sex. It brings tears to the eyes, pain to the mind, and an incredible amount of nausea to the stomach. Lunches have been skipped after the sifting of the profiles.

Aside from this charming process, there are the actual dates. I put together cheat sheets with snippets of information, little talking points pertaining to the love letters that have flown between me and his potential paramour. Everything he needs to make her fall madly in lust is right there.

He takes these sheets and chucks them into the garbage. “I don’t need these,” Bob grumbles, and gets up to leave, “Now what’s her name again?”

I’ll always remember your letters.

Bob never gets a second date. I never get a follow-up letter. He leaves behind him a wake of disappointed women, who find their supposed Romeo to be all hot air in person. I’m not sure of the damage it does, but I do know one thing:

Bob is not getting nookie.

At least my nightmares can’t become reality.

 

Clippings and Reservations

And here are the really important clippings!

Bob’s been reading his magazines. I can tell because there’s a stack of torn out articles seated on his desk when I walk in. This is a good sign of a very long day.

Bob subscribes to dozens of magazines. There are some that make sense, like Golf Digest and Bloomberg Businessweek. Then there’s conundrums like Men’s Health and Conde Nast Traveler. Bob hates planes, he hates leaving his apartment for anything but his set destinations–a short list of places Bob is willing to go that are all within a ten mile radius of his home.

Any magazine and every magazine! Subscribe!

Bob really hates to travel. Recently he was invited to a wedding. Grabbing the invitation he said to me, “Now Grace and Dean are some of my closest friends, very very very close. I want you to RSVP ASAP. Tell them I am so happy to be there on their day of joy. And Google me directions.”

Truly the last of his cyborg kind.

For once, I begin to believe Bob has friends and some shred of humanity left in him. I mean, in every person that isn’t actually a cyborg messenger of death, there’s at least a little spark of hope that they can do something good. Maybe Bob has a part of him that goes to weddings and wishes people well without the ingratiating schmoozing.

A girl’s gotta hope.

So I look up the directions, it’s an hour and a half away down the PCH. Pretty drive, especially nice on a Sunday afternoon. When Bob gets them, he looks to me and says, “Three hours of driving? There’s no way I’m going to this. Cancel my RSVP.”

Sorry I missed the event, I was busy being a heartless SOB.

“What should I say?”

“I don’t care. Come up with something.”

Activate Bob, Cyborg of Indifference and Selfishness.

So in short, Bob doesn’t travel. He also doesn’t work out. So the Men’s Health subscription is about as useful as the book with the half-naked black man book in the living room.

Back to the magazines, and why they’re so trying. See Bob loves the concept of getting something for nothing, and magazines are always filled with advertisements for get rich quick or cure-all pills. When he goes at the mags, I get a good dozen clippings of out and out scams.

Probably a useful clipping for Bob

I once told Bob that a particular article was a scam. “Look it up anyway,” he yelled at me. He seems to think a louder voice will make his point more clear.

“But Bob, there’s no way you’re going to start bringing in $10,000 a week from home. These are information gathering scams.”

“Google it!”

So I Google and he’s still sure he’s gonna be raking it in within week’s end. He wants the forms filled out. But me, well I was still a greenie and didn’t know that taking a stand was pointless. “They want your social security number, I really think this is a bad idea.”

“Fill it out,” he says, tossing aside the research I’ve done on the company and how it scams people.

Now this would be a time when most people would just say screw it and let the man eat his just desserts. But me, I’ve got this misaligned moral compass that somehow wants to prevent injustices, yet is thoroughly ineffective at it.

I give up.

So I commence to not only beating the dead horse, but systematically mutilating it. There was some sort of impassioned speech on the dangers of handing out social security numbers and how people like to take advantage and as I’m expressing my concern he interrupts.

“Just do it, it’s your job.” This is delivered in a booming irritating tone, like I’m some impetuous child, a fly that keeps buzzing, a goddamned irritation.

Slightly more unnerving in traffic.

Rudeness is not part of my wheelhouse. Outside of Bob, the most disrespect I get is from pissed off people on the highway. Once I got the finger from Sigourney Weaver, and I would consider that disrespectful, but I had just called her a cunt and instructed her in the proper use of turn signals. I’m still afraid she’ll don a robot suit and hunt me down.

But Bob always manages to surprise me with his rudeness. It pops up in so many fashions, and here it was loud and brash in response to a person actually caring about him.

So I filled in his social, and he eventually ended up with phantom charges and now I spend a part of each day tracking down his Experian and making sure no one’s applying for credit lines but him.

Bob was surprised secretaries think.

I dutifully sign him up for cure-alls to solve tinnitus, putters to improve accuracy, today there was a pillow to increase sleep. I’ve contacted Caribbean funders who promise the sky and handbooks that promise diets which will give you eternal life.

I think somewhere Bob wants to believe in something and these great white lies are enough for him. He’s a man without faith, isolated from family and friends, and these promises of lands of milk and honey–of phone numbers that will lead you to great fortune–they’re the easy way to purchase your way into hope.

I’m not falling for it.

Real faith of any kind is hard to find these days, but Bob doesn’t bother with the long roads. Get rich quick is enough.

Me, I think I’ve learned there isn’t a down pillow or a herbal remedy in the world that I’d trade for the hope and faith I get from friends and family. That’s why I’m flying to Michigan next weekend for a wedding.

Jokes in the Bob-i-verse

Bob doesn’t believe in holidays, national or other. He claims Judaism yet charged me half pay to attend my family’s Seder. I have yet to broach the subject of the High Holy Days with him. (Yeah, God if you are listening and want Bob to be written in the book of life for next year, you might want to help me help myself to a new job.)

I’m sure, though, when it comes to the holiest of the holiest days for us Jews, Bob will say with his general resolute reverence, “So, you’ll be in on that day, right?”

Then he’ll do one of my least favorite of his mannerisms, this deep throaty viscous chuckle paired with a leering lizard-like grin showing off yellowed teeth stacked like stained fence posts in his jaws.

You can tell I absolutely love his jokes.

Like this…but worse.

Granted Bob’s sense of humor is generally confusing at best and offensive often. “Are we twins?” he’ll say to some poor college aged chickadee in the business office/my lair. He’ll give me a conspiratorial nudge and I respond with the sound of a soul deflating mixed with a dash of anguish and a touch of I’d-rather-be-eating-glass-while-setting-my-toenails-on-fire. Maybe also add a whimper of desperation deep in the heart. It all sounds quite similar to a mouse being stepped on.

Not twins.

“See how we’re twins?” At his point his ‘twin’ is both confused and horrified as the aforementioned grin appears and Bob smell is currently overrunning the lair.

“We’re both gingers,” Bob says, pointing to his yellowish white hair. Apparently at some point Bob was a redhead. Explains distinct lack of soul.

The girl generally says,”oh,” and flees for the door. I once saw a student leave in the midst of an online test–effectively failing in order to leave. I have seen them slink, spy-like, towards the exit attempting to jailbreak before any more uncomfortable statements arise.

If they make the mistake of not leaving, Bob will reappear later asking me loudly, “Now my girlfriend here didn’t talk to any other boys while I was done, did she?”

Dear God, you are not my boyfriend!

You would not believe the shit I’ve seen in the Bob-i-verse.

There are no words for the mortifying silence that follows as a communal horror to Bob’s social genocide. It’s a shared moment where I, the veteran of the Bob-i-verse, sadly shake my head as the green student, yet unaware of how uncomfortable things can get, searches for an appropriate response. The trick I’ve learned is there aren’t any phrases that can save you. There is no fight in the Bob-i-verse, only flight.

In short, Bob’s jokes are never funny. His sense of humor is off, and this is most obvious when it comes to holidays. Bob believes if he is awake and completing inane tasks, you should as well. This would be understandable if I were a personal assistant to a retired Playboy Bunny or a member of the Jersey Shore cast, but Bob’s goals and daily activities are truly useless.

When I find myself working Martin Luther King Day because Bob wants me to research golf clubs and find out if he could possibly have liver damage from gingko biloba, I find a nice simmering resentment for all things Bob.

Average Southern Fireworks Show

So I decided to take a stand and show my patriotism with July 4th. Independence Day to a southerner like me means grilling lots of meat and consuming it with lots of beer while setting fire to explosives that shouldn’t be legal anywhere in a slightly dangerous manner. I am proud to still have all my fingers, but past activities have lost me eyebrows, a shed, and once left scorch patterns on a soccer field that looked as though aliens had drag-marked the ground with an especially flame-y UFO.

So I most definitely need the day off. Even though LA sadly has the most pathetic fireworks I’ve ever seen. Seriously, these people get excited over sparklers and only a few of the most daring smuggle in from Mexico or Vegas some small mortars. I’d look down on them more, but our city does tend to catch fire every once in a while, so I can understand why a Black Snake doodling itself out of pellet gets a big whoop-de-doo out of Los Angeleans.

I Love the Navy Men Too.

So I go to Bob with a plan, I start a good month ahead, talking about my support of the troops, how I know some army guys, how patriotic I am. I would think this might strike a chord because his friend Mitchell Barry sends these uber-patriotic chain letters that oftentimes mock Muslims and praise God for letting the bombs fly. I’m not going full Conservative, but I figure the patriotism will get me something.

“You want what off?” Bob says when I ask for the fourth.

“Independence Day, you know I’m a very patriotic person, right? I have friends who have fought…”

“You are?” Of course Bob never listened, why do I even bother. I’d have more luck trying to bring down a wall with repeated blows from my face.

Communicates better than Bob.

“Yeah, Bob, I really need the day off…to think.” Thinking rhymes with drinking, I figure it’s close enough to be a white lie.

“No.” He says. And I wait for the follow up and that lizard grin. But there is no chuckle, no unnerving joke, just ‘no’.

“Why not?”

“I need you around.” On a national holiday when no one will be doing business, Bob needs me around. Will I be restacking boxes in storage? Researching the health benefits of PB&J? Or maybe I’m just keeping a rich old lonely man from getting bored with the emptiness he has made of his final years. Or more likely I’ll be printing out copious amounts of crap for no good reason.

What should happen on Independence Day.

Then it dawns on me. National holiday means the Venetian office is closed. No Lollie, no computer lair, no printer. “Sorry, Bob, but the office is closed, I can’t get any work done. Unless you want me to hang out in your apartment.”

This is a dangerous bet, but Bob hates me invading his space. I’m just hoping that space is more important than my companionship. There is enough tension in me at that moment that I do believe I could shit a diamond from my sheer internal pressure.

 

 

“Well, you could always spend the day at FedEx on their computer.”

I imagine a day of me doing Bob-work in the kiosk while confused FedEx employees stand about guessing as to what is so important that Independence Day is spent printing emails and pictures off of Facebook.

But a few seconds later, I hear the sound of grated asphalt slapped into mucus, and Bob’s hamming it up. “You can have the 4th off,” he says, finding it oh-so-funny that he’s warped my world enough that I actually thought I had a day of FedEx ahead.

“But you’ll need to answer my calls.”

Our Dearly Departed

An event not to be missed.

I need Friday off so I can go to San Diego and hang out at Pride with a buncha lesbians, which is a fine and dandy reason to take a day’s vacation if you get vacation.

However Bob skirted my questions about holidays and vacation throughout the interview process, always saying We’ll work it out later.

Sunny told me, “If you want to take a day off, just call in sick. He pays you on sick days, probably because he’s too lazy to do the math, but he just lets you take them.”

No calls, please, I’m dying.

I tried this out for the first time when I was incredibly sick and I found out that during a sick day, Bob will call incessantly. He starts off feigning interest in the illness: “So what have you got?” “Have you seen a doctor?” “You can see my doctor, she’s fantastic, I’ll pay for it.”

Moving on, he just gives up on the niceties and says, “I need you to send Randy an email.”

“But, Bob, I’m sick,” I say with the frog wedged somewhere between my tonsils and my trachea, “I need rest.”

“You can do email in bed,” he says.

Oh, the never-ending compassion of Bob. He’s like Mother Theresa if she’d decided to run a heroin operation in Mexico instead of taking care of the sick and poor.

After our smoke, let’s peel the faces off the people who are skimming off the top.

Still, sick days are nice, and I take a good number of them. I recently went for a long weekend in San Fran on a sick day, I had a friend visit town and caught pneumonia for a couple days, I got hungover and had last Monday off.

I am sick so often, Bob started to notice, so to take care of that issue I explained that I was born with a hole in my heart (true), it wreaked havoc on my immune system (for the first three months of my life) and I was plagued with constant colds from the college students who frequented my ‘office’ as they coughed and printed out papers (seriously freshmen are like fucking source monkeys).

Sunny warned me to not take more than one in two weeks, though, and I gave Monday up for the hangover, so I am faced with the challenge of finding a proper Friday excuse that will still get me paid.

“I’m going for a funeral,” I say to a friend while planning my escape.

“Ballsy, who’s going to die?”

“Uncle Larry.”

Uncle Larry, mind popping up for a second death?

Uncle Larry died. Granted it was over a year ago, but he did die. So it’s not a complete lie, it’s one of those half-lies. Yet as I plan to tell Bob of the death, I realize I could hint at other elderly aunts and uncles, some stricken with cancer and others plagued by Alzheimer’s. I could create this giant pool of dying family from which to pull double the days off. I mean, I come from a Southern family and two hands won’t even count the number of deaths I can tick off as suddenly happening. Why not resurrect Daddy Carl and Grandma Rosie and old Aunt Mildred for a day of fun? It’s technically not lying.

While filing, Bob asks me how it is outside. This is the closest we get to him asking me how I am, so I take it as a cue and say, “My Uncle Larry died and the family really wants me to come home.”

“Who died?” He says looking up from whatever was more important than me explaining a family death.

“My uncle. He was very dear.”

“And you’re thinking about leaving to go home?”

“Just Friday, just enough time to set up the wake with my family.”

We sit shiva, bitch.

Now here I’ve made a slight mistake. Bob knows I’m a Jew, and Jews sit shiva. I have used my Jewishness to get time off as well (I would really be going to hell if I believed in one) so he could catch me. I mean, he’s the guy who loves to proclaim that his father was the Biggest Jewish Philanthropist in the City of Philadelphia all the time.

Fortunately for me, he’s a terrible Jew and doesn’t even notice that I went for the Christian wake, and looks back down at his papers. “Better call Sunny in, then. So can you go ahead and fax those papers now?”

I leave the apartment offended. I mean, I’m not actually grieving, but if I was…what a horrible reaction. How can he justify putting his business needs above those of a person in mourning? But I can’t ruminate on that too long because then I’ll have to think about what kind of person creates a pool of dead relatives from whom to glean days off.

And Mildred was there, and Leslie, and Catherine…they were all there.

Sunny is unable to confirm if she’s taking the day or not, as she has another job as well. I go upstairs to tell Bob and he looks at me as if I’ve suggested a genocide party (not sure what that is, but I’m guessing the reactions are largely not positive). “So, what about me?”

Wow, Bob, not gonna let this drop, are you? “I don’t know, Bob, she may not be available. I know this is an inconvenience, but I can’t exactly plan when people die.”

Oh, but I have.

“Well,” Bob says, like he’s deciding if I’ll actually get the day off.

“I’ve already bought the ticket, I did know him for my entire life, Bob.”

Not my Larry

I knew him as weird bachelor Uncle Larry who was in desperate need of an eyebrow plucking and made the most incredibly awkward phone calls where you could never think of anything to say to this strange man who was your father’s brother but in no way the man your father is. He once sent me books of existentialist plays that made no sense. I may have met him at my sister’s wedding. I did not fly to his funeral in Phoenix after he lost a battle to cancer.

“Well, should you even get paid for this?”

Out of left field, Bob tosses a whamdinger like that and I have no response. God forbid I’d actually had someone die, I would be a withering mess, I would have quit on the spot. With as much tact as a bloated tic, Bob wins again in the category of Most Horrible Person.

“I think most people get bereavement leave, Bob,” I say and walk out of the room.

So this specter of death thing…think you can work through it?

Bob has a keen talent for insensitivity and once he’s started prodding a nerve, he just goes at it. For his grief-stricken employee, he has made sure to yell at me twice today, cut lunch short, and blame three of his own mistakes on me.

What makes someone go so bad? Maybe he has an internal bullshit detector and he’s calling me out. But if that was true, he’d probably realize I’d wizen up instead of continuing to get food poisoning once a month. No, he just lacks those very vital elements like a human soul and a kind heart that are necessities for compassion.

Perhaps Bob was bad from the get-go.

There has to be a point in one’s life where that dies. It may have been early in life as a little Bobby with all that money wrapped around him by his philanthropist father. Maybe it was later, as an adult when he did the job of a 1960’s businessman and stayed in the office instead of watching his children grow. Maybe it’s his age–as his friends grow old and drop away he simply becomes numb to the concerns of others.

All I know is my grief may have been fake, but his indifference was real and every time he called to yell at me or demand something else without a please or thank you. The fact that he not once asked how things were for me, it made me realize more and more that I don’t want to work for someone like him. Not all bosses are good people, but I’d like to see a flicker of decency in the person I serve.

I may have very few scruples (Still guilty about that pool of old dying relatives) but at least I try to have empathy for those around me. Must mean there’s something worth saving. But Bob, that ship has sailed, and most likely sunk.

S.S. Bob, Iceberg-Bound

Say My Name

The cat wants nothing to do with this.

This morning Bob asked me about that Catty Perry person. When I told him her name was Katy Perry, not Catty, and that he wouldn’t be interested in seeing her newest movie, he responded with:

“I don’t care, Google Catty Perry and give me the showtimes.”

Of course I went ahead and did my job, but that piece of paper with Katy/Catty Perry’s movie information will be discarded into the wastebasket along with his multiple searches on Hysteria, a movie about the history of the vibrator.(One search simply wasn’t enough) All these tossed slivers of trees, the sheer waste of it…sometimes I think Bob is trying to give the rainforest death by a million papercuts.

I don’t think this is the movie for you, Bob.

Back to Catty Perry and Bob’s usage of names. Bob has an amazing talent for mispronouncing names. It’s as though he goes out of his way to create new syllables for seemingly easy names. Ridgeley becomes Wrigley. Ian becomes EE-ahan. And for some reason he called a lady named Marie “Emtalnack” because he appropriated her email as her actual name.

I have called a Richard Anne only to find myself connected with a slightly perturbed Anne Richards. And when it comes to foreign names, forget it.

Bob’s inability to properly pronounce things has very little to do with accidental ignorance and a lot more to do with full out brazen indifference and laziness. You can correct him a dozen times that William likes to be called William and he’s gonna be screaming “Billy my man!” into the phone. He decides that his way is the right way, the same way he still calls me up as ‘Sammy’ even though I finally managed to tell him I despise the nickname.

Frankly my dear, I forgot who you are.

Bob retains so little respect for others, he sees no importance in getting their names correct, or even remembering them half the time. Granted, some of his memory loss is likely due to the lurking dementia that flares each afternoon around 4 and sometimes hangs out for the day as he literally forgets what he was saying as he was saying it.

“Email Steve, and tell him that I’ll see him out on the course on Saturday,” Bob will say, look down at his pile of papers and notes, then look back up at me and say, “Did I give you an email for Steve?”

It would be sad and doddering if he didn’t add in his total lack of respect for others. Unableto remember Wen Chan’s name, a woman with whom we’d been corresponding for at least two weeks, he decided it was an acceptable substitute to call her “That Chinese Girl”.

He does realize there’s more than one of us, right?

I mentioned it was offensive as Wen was at least 50, her name wasn’t all that hard to pronounce, and if he went around calling all the Jews he knew “That Israeli Dude” we might have a lot of confusion ahead of us. Yet there he was, on the phone with an investor Wen had put us in touch with saying, “So, Bing (and how can he remember Bing Qu and not Wen Chan?) I was talking to that Chinese Girl and she said…”

I don’t know why Bing still takes his calls. Maybe it’s because Bob got the country right. If he’d said “That Japanese Girl” it would all be over.

Many otters died at the tentacles of this beast.

Still, Bob’s inconsiderate renaming of people gave me a bit of introspection. I am terrible with names, they are said once, maybe twice and once I hear them they rush out of my brain like a couple of otters being chased by a whale-sized otter-eating squid.

I can usually get by with face-to-face meetings without using a name. It’s a fancy little tango, but you can pretend that you know their name without ever saying it again. Yet, it’s uncomfortable to know one day I might be set the task of introducing two people to each whose names I draw complete blanks on. It has happened and I’ve sat by as the train wreck spatters me with the utter disgrace of two friends with whom I’ve spent far too much time (try 3-4 months) simultaneously realizing I have no fucking clue who they are.

Bob may be a man plagued by a great deal of bad habits and personality flaws, but I have to realize these things lurk in me too. Give me another 50 years and I might be as bad as him. A friend accompanied me to temple, and watched me chat with a security guard I see every Friday night and Saturday. “Hey girl,” I said to the guard, “How was your week?” She went on to play out the 3-4 minutes of chit-chat and we went in to park.

“Hey girl,” my friend said smiling at me, “You have no fucking clue what her name is, do you?” He knew me too well as I used to call him Franklin for the first month of our friendship, not realizing that was his last name and Douglass was his first name.

Bitch still doesn’t remember my name.

“I’m making do,” I say, trying to cover.

“She knows, the only reason white girls say hey girl to each other is if they’re fifteen, in a sorority, or have no clue what the other girl’s name is.”

“Well I can’t ask her for her name now.”

“How long’s it been since you met her?”

“A year and a half.”

He whistled the oh-fuck-you’re-kinda-in-screw-city whistle. “Well, when she gets older, you might wanna switch to Hey, Lady.”

I use the brain damage I have from a car wreck as an excuse. I tap my right temple and say, “Get hit by a truck and you tend to forget things. So sorry. You know how it is.”

But just today I’m sitting in the office and Bob’s on the phone with a man who he’s apparently called three times in the past 20 minutes. “Sorry, that’s right, I did call you a couple other times,” he says, and taps his right temple, “When you get old you forget things, you know how it is.”

I am become Bob. I must un-become.

I don’t care what your name is, I’ll forget it all day long.

So I’m making it a point to remember names from hereon out. It’s a basic element of human decency, a sign of respect, and it really isn’t that hard to do. Just pay attention. My only challenge is how to reclaim the names of countless people who’s hands I’ve shook, ears I’ve bent, and on occasion, lips I’ve kissed. This will be a hefty task.

So the universal message I’m sending out today is We can all become Bob. We can all slip into bad habits without thinking and fifty years later find ourselves to be incorrigible boobs without a lick of decency. Fight your inner Bob.