Handicapped

The world in which we live is far from perfect. The English and Metric systems of measurements are still fighting it out, the Republican party completely pummeled the Democrats in recent mid-term elections, and the soda I just opened exploded out of the can and soiled my last clean T-shirt. While I like to believe otherwise, I have to admit that Kristin, my significant other, is also a little less than perfect. While many of her personality traits fall into the “quirky” category, quite a few people have asked me, “What’s it like to have a girlfriend who is missing a finger?”

For anyone keeping track of this type of information, Kristin is missing her right ring finger. Actually, I wouldn’t say she’s been missing it, Bob. (NOTE TO SELF: Watch “Office Space” movie later on tonight.) In all honesty, she never had the digit in question to begin with. It all started twenty-some years ago when the stork paid a visit to Kristin’s parents. To save some money, Kristin was ordered unassembled. Her parents carefully unpacked all the baby parts and started reading the extensive directions. Unfortunately, they were too busy trying to locate “slot A” and “tab 3” to notice the dog ran into the other room with part RF-0004. By the time they realized the situation, it was getting rather late and the decision was made to wrap things up before the new episode of “The Love Boat” came on at eight. Perhaps if Ethel Merman wasn’t a guest on the Princess Caribbean that night the situation would have been different.

In some ways Kristin’s life is more difficult because of her missing finger. One problem she constantly faces involves finding a decent pair of gloves. Most glove manufactures only make gloves with exactly five fingers on each hand. When she does find four fingered gloves, they usually are constructed of inferior materials and do not reflect current fashion trends. Also, most department stores will not allow customers to mix and match the four and five fingered gloves. Kristin is currently looking for a “complimentary glove life partner”– another woman with similar hand size that is missing the left ring finger. Despite an extensive Internet search, no such woman has been found.

Another problem Kristin faces on a daily basis is balance. Since the right side of her body has slightly less mass her internal balancing mechanism has to constantly readjust for this irregularity. When I first explained this to Kristin, she did not believe me. To prove my point, we drove to a nearby field to test my hypothesis. I blindfolded Kristin and told her to walk in a straight line back to the car. Sure enough, she started drifting away from the straight line after a few steps. She eventually walked in concentric clockwise circles with a radius of roughly forty-seven meters. To help correct this situation, I suggested that she start wearing a watch on her right hand. While not a perfect solution, it does seem to balance her out.

Having an odd number of fingers can have certain advantages. For instance, Kristin has landed a role in the upcoming movie “The Princess Bride 2.” I don’t want to give away too much, but she spends her adolescence as a metalsmith apprentice. In her spare time she creates a custom four-fingered mace for the climatic battle scene with the mysterious six-fingered man. And Fred Savage, well, he is an evil robot. Unfortunately, the shooting schedule has been delayed because the casting director is currently looking for another eight-foot-tall French wrestler to replace the late great Andre the Giant.

The best thing about Kristin’s missing digit is holding her hand. With most people, this process is usually complicated by the issue of finger placement. Personally, I like my thumb to be on top, but I also like to have my pinkie on the outside. Now I can have it both ways, and the overall situation is a lot less crowded. Four fingers seems like more than enough to establish a positive connection. For this reason, I believe this condition will eventually work its way into the process of human evolution. Four fingered people will be highly sought after for their superior hand-holding abilities. Through the process of genetic manipulation (either by the multiple generation-spanning process of natural selection or through shady scientific DNA meddling of mad scientists) human beings of the future will simply stop growing so many fingers. Which actually makes a lot of sense– I almost never use all ten of my fingers at the same time.

What does Kristin think of all this? Not too much– most people don’t comment on her missing finger. I guess its just human nature to assume people aren’t missing body parts. While most normal people don’t consider her condition to be much of an issue, Kristin did qualify for a disabled drivers license when she lived in the state of New York. (NOTE TO READERS: No, I’m not making that part up. The only exceptions to that rule are people who lost fingers through illegal offshore wagers or in the making of “Jackass” style home videos.) Of course that does little good since she hasn’t lived there for more than a decade. So until Kristin decides to drive 2000 miles to renew her driver’s license, I just like to think of her as the woman who puts the “hand” back in “handicapped.”

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Mouse Problems

Sixty passengers on a Disney cruise have fallen ill on the ship’s latest voyage, prompting officials to bring aboard the former head of the Centers for Disease Control to oversee the cleanup operations. The Disney spokesman described the sickness as “like the flu” and said the symptoms are mostly vomiting and diarrhea. The outbreak started after the ship’s Muzak system jammed and played twelve consecutive hours of “Its A Small World.”

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Caged In

Less than four months after getting married, Lisa Marie Presley and Nicolas Cage have filed for divorce. While Cage only issued a terse comment on the matter, Michel Jackson held an elaborate press conference where he proudly announced, “I knew that if I cranked up my freakiness she would be irresistibly drawn back to the house of Jacko. Lisa and I will remarry, and the bones of the Elephant man will be happy once again.”

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Word on the Street

Paramount Pictures recently announced plans for a motion picture based on the 1980s Fox television drama “21 Jump Street.” Plans call for the return of some original cast members and a heavy dose of computer-generated effects to turn Richard Grieko back into an undercover high school student.

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World Peace

Intense riots in Kaduna, Nigeria were sparked by a local newspaper article regarding the upcoming Miss World pageant. The front-page article claimed that if he was alive today, the Islamic prophet Mohamed probably would have chosen a wife from among the contestants. The developing African country won the right to host the competition last year when Miss Nigeria was crowned Miss World 2001. When asked about the situation, the current Miss Nigeria commented, “I’m pretty sure I’m not going to win this year.”

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Living It Up

A recent study found more pedestrians died on California streets than any other state in the nation. Last year, 731 pedestrians were killed in the Golden State. North Dakota came in dead last with three pedestrian fatalities. The study noted, however, that the rankings were reversed for the number of people who died of boredom.

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Getting Jerked Around

The Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case brought by William Reno Gerber. Currently serving a life sentence in a California prison, Gerber fought for the right to ship sperm to his wife. California’s state Attorney General commented about the decision, “The law recognizes that individuals who commit serious crimes forfeit many rights that law-abiding citizens enjoy. That, and none of the Supreme Court justices would touch the physical evidence presented to the court.”

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Secret Agenda

Four protesters with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recently disrupted the taping of Victoria’s Secrets Fashion Show by rushing the catwalk with protest signs. The event continued after security whisked the women off the stage and out of the building. After the show, a Victoria’s Secrets executive commented, “I’m not sure why how we became a target for PETA– our written company policy is to provide a daily 600 calorie meal and sixteen ounces of bottled water to each and every one of the models.”

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Need for Speed

A supercomputer in Yokohama, Japan recently claimed the number one position in the Top 500 list of the most powerful computer systems in the world. The system, which simulates climate and other aspects of the earth, consists of 640 machines connected through a high-speed network. The machine performs more than 35 trillion operations per second and only needed minor hardware upgrades when installing the latest version of Microsoft Windows.

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Getting to the Bottom of Things

This week the Supreme Court heard opening arguments in a dispute between Victoria’s Secret and a similarly named Victor’s Little Secret. At issue is the Federal Trademark Dilution Act passed by Congress seven years ago. Lawyers for the lingerie giant claim Victor’s Little Secret, a single Kentucky store that sells lingerie and adult-only novelties, is infringing on Victoria’s Secret trademarked name. The proceeding were delayed, however, when the Honorable Clarence Thomas opened up a Victoria’s Secrets catalog and requested several specific lingerie models meet him privately in his chambers to help him “identify with the product in question.”

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A Sure Thing

An offshore gaming company recently stopped taking bets on the final outcome of ABC’s “The Bachelor.” Since taping the final episode, a highly disproportionate number of bets were placed for one of the two remaining candidates– leading officials to suspect the outcome of the show was leaked to the public. As a result, the company is also no longer accepting bets for previous lottery numbers, WWF Smackdowns, or the results of the 2002 midterm elections.

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Office Aids

Bill Gates recently announced two large monetary investments in India. The founder of Microsoft is donating $100 million to fight AIDS and investing another $400 million to promote Microsoft products in the developing nation. Critics point out this action will do little more than eliminate one virus and replace it with another.

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Cellular Damage

A California report that blames cell phone use in 913 highway accidents in 2001 is being revised because officials believe the figure should be about seven times higher. Governor Gray Davis returned the report to the California Highway Patrol after performing some rough calculations on his cell phone calculator on his drive to work.

Working Man

I must start out here by admitting that, by any objective measurement, when it comes to being a productive member of society, I haven’t been “giving it my all.” First off, I’m not exactly sure how to calculate “my all.” I don’t want to run the risk of giving too much and not having any for later. But on the other hand I don’t want to be stingy and only contribute half of what I am capable of producing. And now that I think of it, who exactly do I give “it” to once it’s ready? Can I do it on the web? Despite all of these legitimate questions, I actually got up, put on “going outside” clothes, and found myself a job.

Everyone who follows my web site knows that I have spent a considerable amount of time writing about various aspects of my life. Most of these aspects revolve– either directly or indirectly– around my continual unemployment. With the exception of doing some web design consulting work, I have been unemployed for a period of almost two years. While I like to recognize the effort I put into writing as “making the world a better place,” the general goodwill I generate can not be converted into more tangible concepts such as “rent” or “biweekly excursions to Taco Bell.” Perhaps if my marketing skills were as finely honed as my ability to surf the Internet I would be able to make a living through my writing.

Not that I’m giving up on my dreams (especially the one about building a time machine to travel back to the 1960’s so I can replace Larry Hagman in the “I Dream of Jeanie” situation comedy), but I have come to realize that having a job is a great way of keeping myself busy until my writing career skyrockets. While being a world-famous writer first would have been a lot easier for me on several levels, I recently started working part-time at UPS.

On September 25, 2002, I started working at the UPS sorting facility in Loveland, Colorado. Each morning I wake up at 3:30, get dressed, and drive to work. Yes, that is 3:30 A.M. Once I get there, I help load delivery trucks with packages. Not exactly rocket science, but there are a lot of challenges.

I had some difficulty adjusting to the physical nature of my job. Before working at UPS, I generally slept in my bed from 3:30 to nine in the morning. The most intense function my body was responsible for was to breathe in and out and produce a constant supply of drool for my pillow. I would hardly ever lift heavy boxes during this time. Now that I am working five days a week I move somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 boxes of various sizes and weights from a moving conveyor belt into two different delivery trucks. When I first started, it was a lot of work. It still is, but after a few weeks I don’t feel as though I will die of exhaustion at the end of each four-hour shift.

The other aspect of my job is to make sure that only certain boxes get loaded into the delivery trucks. While my job would be considerably easier if I could just take random packages from the belt and load them haphazardly, it turns out this would create much more work for the drivers. So not only do I have to get very specific packages into the trucks, I have to load them in very specific spots. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also rules about how to load packages in general. If there is a box marked “Glass– FRAGILE” I have to be very careful about what NOT to place on top– like an anvil, for example.

Yes, I said anvil. No, I’m not kidding. UPS will ship just about anything that weighs less than 150 pounds and isn’t very radioactive. In addition to the aforementioned metalworking equipment, I have loaded a variety of large and cumbersome objects. Tractor tires, large pieces of metal, and countless spools of various wires get shipped every day. One day I saw an anvil in a cardboard box. (Note to all anvil distributors out there: There is no need to use protection when shipping your anvils through UPS. In case you weren’t aware, these devices are designed to endure countless impacts of scalding hot metal on a daily basis. This will cause a lot more damage than will occur during the typical shipping process.)

The novelty of loading large heavy objects wore off after a few days on the job. The more interesting packages are generally of more average size. For example, a few weeks ago I loaded a box that said “live crickets” on the side. Upon closer examination, I noticed another sticker on the top that said “Caution– Live Animals.” Below the text was an outlined image of a dog, cat, and turtle. While I didn’t actually open the box, I really hope that there wasn’t a puppy dog inside. And while I haven’t personally witnessed this, I have been told that large shipments of live bees are shipped towards the end of the summer.

So while it may not be my dream job (especially since it lacks Barbara Eden in her prime walking around in a Jenie costume addressing me as, “Master”) I am pretty happy working at UPS. I get a good workout, a steady paycheck, and I get to wear a cute brown outfit to work each day. Just kidding– only the drivers get to wear the company uniforms. I just wear shorts and a T-shirt on most days. Which is just another benefit for me. So until further notice, I am no longer unemployed.

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Bursting at the seams

Actor and director Kevin Costner recently underwent surgery to remove his appendix. In addition to being inflamed and irritated, the organ in question cited “artistic and personal differences” when it formally requested to be removed from Mr. Costner’s abdominal cavity.

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Twenty-five

The non-traditional action series “24” is back for another season on the Fox network. The first season documented a single twenty-four hour period of the main character’s life that included, among other things, foiling an assassination attempt on a presidential candidate. The first ten episodes of this season are focusing on Kiefer Sutherland enjoying a decent night’s sleep.

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Spice Rack

Police in London arrested five people on Saturday for allegedly plotting to kidnap Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and hold her for a $7.8 million ransom. In a related note, authorities are still investigating the theft of the group’s music career.

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Election Coverage

Republicans accused Democrats of turning the memorial service for Paul Wellstone into a rousing political rally. When asked about how the unexpected death of the Minnesota Senator is going to effect the upcoming election, one Republican looked around suspiciously before speaking in a calm and controlled tone, “Yes, it was an accident.”