Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Going Home / Oil on canvas board / 20 x 24 / S. Shawcross / 

It is to laugh sometimes.

Depending on the Bankster

The banksters always win. We all know that. Banksters and governments. They get it all. We don't like to know this. In fact, it can make us downright despondant if the truth be told, but that is neither here nor there. I am here to tell you that you can win. Oh I know that they have constructed an elaborate game with all sorts of nefarious ins-and-outs and snake ladders all wrapped up in fine-print and inscrutability but you "can" win. In fact I'm absolutely certain I won this last round even though it might be hard to tell.

This week I was at the bank playing the retirement planning game with a lovely bank clerk who was just a ray of sunshine in my otherwise bleak existence. Dressed in pin-stripe perfection with high heels and peach nails, she was a delightful human being, as far as any Bankster employee can be a human being in the spiritual sense of the word. I figure she was a nice human being because she asked me how I was today, and nobody does that anymore. She said she'd be right with me so I had about 45 minutes, as it turned out, to wait to play the retirement planning game with her.  I didn't much mind as they had the daily paper there with the crossword puzzle and I was just brilliant if I don't say so myself. I'd just figured out the eight-letter word to 13-across was Esurient. How appropriate I was thinking to myself that I would get the word Esurient, a synonym for Greed, just before scuttling into the clerk's office to play the game.

Did I happen to mention that before seeing this ray of sunshine I was greeted with a wide smile by the Bankster's receptionist who offered me water? Thoughtfully and rather graciously I would say, I replied that given that it's 9:00 in the morning, a coffee would be more in order. She said she was deeply sorry to report that they only had tea. So I took a free pen from her desk and sat down to wait with a cup of water. While I was struggling with 24-down, I noticed another Bankster employee arriving with six Tim Horton's coffees and donuts. They didn't offer me any. I made my way to the Receptionists desk and took two more pens. 

Pin-stripe was gleeful with numbers. There exist in this world people like this. They are not normal but try as I might, I can't seem to convince the Canadian Psychological Society that this is a mental illness requiring deep sedation… forever. But that's an entirely different story. 

Pin-stripe played with little blips of light on her computer with frightening speed. I was glad I wasn't epileptic, I was thinking, because all those flashing lights were beginning to make me dizzy. Pin-stripe mentioned percentages of locked-in RSPs that converted to REBLEEBLEEs would constitute a gain of sixteen percentage accruals during the fiscal year provided I was not aged 67. I noticed a spider in the corner outside the window. It was a lovely web, all shimmery and symmetrical. Pin-stripe was looking at me as if she wanted some sort of response. I hate that. I took a pen. This was good because she then informed me that I needed to go to the police to get papers witnessed. This is because I live in Quebec and I'm married. When she said because I live in Quebec I took a pen. When she said Police I took another pen. I felt like a criminal. I don't know how that happened. I'm fairly sure I worked for 20 odd years in the real world and made that money. I had no idea why I had to see the police but then I knew at least enough not to ask. I had no idea what the papers were. Mine is not to question why, as they say. Otherwise it would be complicated. I hate that.

So I called the police and said I need some documents witnessed and they informed me I had to go to the station during office hours. So the husband left work early and we drove, rather snail-paced our way through the construction on Highway 105 to arrive at an Information desk where the woman, after getting off the phone, told us to wait because she had no information on this matter. We waited three hours on account of the man who was dating a border-line personality disorder woman who had his car impounded to spite him and who now took precedence over all the other people in the waiting room because he had a taxi waiting. We other people didn't apparently have meters running and were therefore considered secondary. We were finally shuffled into the hallway where a nice young officer explained that they didn't do the sort of thing the Banksters needed. So we went elsewhere. It was either the CLSC, the notary or that guy who sells poutine down by the drugstore that finally signed the papers. I'm not sure who it was because it was all a blur really.

Pin-stripe had changed her nail colour I noticed. They were flaming pink. She was surprised that the police in Hull wouldn't do what the police in Gatineau routinely do. She didn't seem to want to hear about the three-hour wait or even the man whose car was impounded. Now that was a story! She began sweeping her wild pink nails over the keyboard and it lit up like lightening, scaring the spider all the way outside the window. And the government will take 30% of this rather than 21% if you do that because you live in Quebec. I looked lugubriously at her and took three pens. One for each ten percent. AND, she went on delightedly, you can take 7% of this and that if you are this age when that happens with super-analation. So I took another pen.

She then thrust a stack of papers at me to sign. "My, I said, that's a lot of papers. How many are there?" 

"Seven," she said assertively. Delighted, I took seven pens. One for each sheet.

"That's a lot of pens you have there," she said. 

"Yes indeed it is," I said with firm finality. "Transaction fees," I added to her rather strange facial expression that had replaced the white-strip smile.

"Now, this is all pre-tax and there will be fees," said Pin-stripe with appropriate firmness.  I was pondering about how crossword puzzles never seem to have any of the four-letter words I was thinking about just then. Doesn't seem right somehow since they are the mainstay of most people in this world when they have to communicate these days.

"How many fees?" I asked hopefully.

"Well, if the REPL becomes a BLIFLE then there is a fee of this to make that into this and percentage wise the misconstrued figure of the BINGBONG will convert to a RIFFRAFF after 16 months." I didn't recognize any numbers in her spiel so just I took 6 more pens. 

"So, at the end of the day," I said sweetly, "In my old age I will be living on gruel and dust."

"I wouldn't put it that way," said she suddenly considerate. I noticed the spider had finally caught a nice big dragonfly. It was busily wrapping it up. Pin-stripe went out of the office and collected a box of pens to replenish her supply. I took them all.

"Maintenance fees," I said pleasantly as I thanked her for her time.

I'm looking forward to my next appointment. I garnered about 23 pens I think this round. I was triumphant. Indeed I was.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

City Rain
S. Shawcross / 19.5" x 9.5" / Oil on masonite / 

Oh the wildlife living here in Quebec. Many don't know about the interesting night lives of Owls e.g. Here is a video worth watching on the life of the Owl:

The Island

There's an island, I figure anyway, somewhere in the Caribbean where the long hot sands stretch out alongside the teal blue ocean and the wind wafts through coconut trees. This is an island where "they" are. (This, of course, is just "my" grand conclusion based on living daily here in the northern part of the world.) They are the people who are not here. They are the people with whom we wish to conduct some sort of interaction with but whom always seem to be "not here right now." Everywhere you go, you are told that the manager is not here right now, would you like to speak to someone else? The owner is not here right now, would you like to come back later? The person you elected in the last election isn't here this year would you like a candy? The bank manager is not available at the moment, would you like a free calendar? They are not here. They are never here. They are there. That can be the only conclusion: there is an island full of people who are not here.

The people who are not here leave behind their little minions to handle things because they are there and not here. One of the most important minions sits behind a very important looking desk in a profoundly conspicuous location under a usually lighted sign called Information.  They have practised for hours pretending to be on the telephone on a very important matter before they actually look up to tell you they don't have that information right now. Their job is to tell you they don't have any information on whatever matter you bring up. They will never actually have that information anyway in their lifetime but they don't tell you that. You could come back day after day after day and they would still not have the information because whoever might have that that information is living on an island in the Caribbean drinking no doubt pina coladas on a lounge chair laughing about something or another. Probably about you; although I can't say that with any certainty, although I have my suspicions.

Another minion of the people who are not here but are there, snorkelling with colourful little fish on coral reefs, are the people who answer telephones eventually. They are very happy in their jobs because they are faceless employees of giant corporations and institutions and government places that can say whatever they want to you to ensure you get off the phone with them. You could ask this person if blue-spotted kumquats from Antartica are going on special this week and they will tell you yes. Their whole point is to ensure you have no business whatsoever disturbing them but since you are, they will pleasantly agree to everything you want so they can get a pay check that week. They will never give you their names because it is "policy." That policy probably doesn't exist but the idea of it keeps them unaccountable. This is their preferred existence. If they do give you a name it is usually made up so when you call back to speak with Beelzebub in Accounting, you are informed they do not exist, a variation of "he is not here right now", would you like to speak to Esmeralda? So, despite what Beelzebub said, he isn't here. He is there.

Another minion of the people who are not here but are there, dancing the cha cha to a live band near the pool by the ocean with other people who are not here, is the person who apparently listens to conversations with the other minions on the telephone. This call may be screened, you are told. This is not true. They don't screen calls because if they did they would hear your sputtering incredulity and cut into the conversation to ensure you are pleasantly agreed with. The only thing they are screening is their game of poker on their iPad. No, Nothing ever happens when they screen your calls. They just want you to believe this so that when you go off the handle they might have a witness that you called someone a foul-toed freaking moron. No, sadly, despite concocting some of the best righteous rhetoric of rage you've ever spouted in your life, nothing ever gets screened or recorded.

By far the most important minion left behind to handle things for the people who are not here but there, watching a live show of hula hoop dancers beneath the full silvery moon listening blissfully to the crashing surf, are the clerks. Clerks are deeply important minions because they have extra protection. Now this person has a face and normally a little happy tag with their first name on it. Ebenezer will be happy to help you but usually they have to pretend to be on the telephone with a very important person first. They learned this from working the Information desk. They then go to their computer. This is their extra protection to ensure they don't actually have to do anything. "I'm sorry," they say, "the computer does not have that information on it." This is a variation of "the computer can't do that," or "the computer isn't working right now," or "the computer doesn't know who you are." If the computer then can't do anything, they can't do anything and you and Ebenezer are left awkwardly staring at each other. Eventually they express their apologies and happily go back to doing nothing after sending you to some closed door with a giant waiting room behind which there are people who are not there so you wait for hours and hours until you start to cry and go home.

Receptionists are also minions of the people who are not here but there, having their green clay full-body facials and eating pineapple with blue cheese nibble bits while planning their boat tour of the outer islands. Receptionists whole purpose, beyond pretending to be on the phone, is to get you coffee. They get you coffee to keep you occupied in the waiting area and then they disappear into the bowels of the building until you eventually cry and go home. That's when they come back out.

You will never win against the people who are not here. They are there. And you are not.

Next week we will be discussing the specialized Bankster minion and how to keep your sanity which might actually be possible during retirement planning sessions.