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2007-04-24 - 12:15 a.m.

I really haven�t been all that happy these past few days. And I�m not talking about Virginia Tech and all that, I�m just talking about my own personal life.

These weeks at work after spring break have been the weeks from hell for me. Work becomes hell when there is too much work to be done. It used to be that I could manage to do about 90% of everything that comes my way. The remaining 10% would just have to wait for maybe half a year or more, or else just never would get done. Sometimes when things are ignored, they pass out of importance. Unfortunately, not all of it does.

But these weeks, it seems that I can do about 30% of it, definitely less than half, and that is not good. And the more behind I get, the less efficient I get, too, because there is no room on my desk (or even on the floor) to pile things, sort things, find things, or handle things--too much incoming work just clogs all the gears. And then I can�t even think.

Also, it seems that everybody is quitting or having a baby or going out on some other medical leave or taking too much sick time. What is going on with everybody these days? Yes, I KNOW Los Angeles really is a horrible place to live. Yes, I KNOW you can�t afford to buy a house and live like a normal person in California. So is THAT why you suddenly developed a desire to try New York, or Chicago, or Seattle, or Portland, or Phoenix, or...North DAKOTA? (All of these are actual, real-life examples.) Well, you know what, I understand, I really do.

So when I left work last Friday, my co-worker whose office is next door to mine said that she hoped I would be able to have a relaxing weekend this weekend, she could see how hard I was working. And, well, I certainly thought that I WOULD have. I imagined doing nothing more than, well, whatever my little heart desired. But instead, I ended up with a toothache. Maybe not a REAL toothache, only I don�t know...but definitely something that would properly be called a toothACHE in that it was an ache, not a burning, searing pain like an electrical cautering iron. (I have had a few of those momentarily, but this wasn�t on that order, not all weekend.) The searing electrical cautering iron pain would have sent me straight to an emergency dentist, but this one kept me either in bed the whole time, or else on the Internet exploring diagnoses and looking for hints of natural pain relief remedies.

I don�t know that any of this was real helpful, though. I sure did see some pictures of teeth more horrible than I had ever imagined. Very scary teeth. My teeth aren�t bad at all (I have never had any cavities, for example) and I really shouldn�t ever have a toothache. But my symptoms (tooth pain localized to one tooth, swollen salivary glands on only the side of the painful tooth) seemed to lead to one thing, abcess of the tooth (which in my case would have to be hidden somewhere down by the root, as nothing was visible on the gums).

Unfortunately not one of the natural/altnernative remedies had any effect at all...not clove oil, not hot salty water rinses, not soaking the area with a tea-bag, not ice packs, etc. What finally DID help (which I finally did Sunday evening) was several thousand milligrams of Vitamin C (to help kill infection) and a dose of Aleve (to stop the pain). In fact, I woke up feeling so good that I went to work (something I went to bed thinking was going to be impossible) and felt silly about all the fuss I had been making all weekend. However, once lunch time came around and I couldn�t chew my food because of the re-emerging pain in my tooth (I guess the Aleve had worn off), I called my dentist and set up an appointment to see him tomorrow. That�s very depressing to me, but tooth pains are not something I want to mess with.

I felt bad the whole rest of the day, and then went grocery shopping for �soft� food items for the next couple of meals. Then, on my way home, I drove down my street and stopped to where I have to turn left into my apartment�s parking lot. I am stopped there with my left turn signal flashing, waiting for the electric gate to slide open. Then cars are coming up the other direction, and, of course, I have to wait for them, too. All of this should be very obvious to a normal thinking, observing person. But a car comes up behind me and the driver starts honking at me. What on Earth is that supposed to mean? Do I not have a right to turn into my own parking lot? All that matters to this person is that I am in HER way and she would like me to be gone. But that really IS Los Angeles for you. While the tendency is for me to say that Los Angeles has the worst people in the world living in it, I suppose the truer statement would be that Los Angeles has more of the worst people in the world living in it than any other city. And I do believe that. I have been to a LOT of places in my life and the low-life people of L.A. take the cake. It is absolutely a city of stupid shallow selfishness and egotism to the max. What makes this hellhole so great? Movie stars? Give me a break. Great weather? No, HAWAII has great weather. California just has �average� weather, and rather boring weather, at that. Maybe a blizzard here would do people some good. Shut �em up in their houses and keep them away from me, at least.

So anyway, I finally get parked and walk up the stairs to my apartment to find an eviction notice taped to my door. Well, not really an eviction notice, but a �Three Day Pay or Quit� notice, which BECOMES an eviction notice if you DON�T pay in three days. The thing is, of course I had paid my rent when it was due and I had the money order receipt to prove it. Don�t ask, but in this low-life apartment building in a low-life part of town (Hollywood), the landlord can�t trust the majority of the tenants to write him a good check, so the lease requires that all rent be paid by money order. Which is a consummate pain. (It�s a sad pathetic statement that one of my �dreams� is to live in a place where I can actually write a personal check for rent, which is similar to my dream of living in a city where I can face a bank teller without having to have six inches of plexiglass between me and her).

I called the manager and explained that I had paid my rent a week ago and could show her the money order receipt. She asked me to come down to her office and show her the receipt. She said that she was so surprised to not get my rent when it was due (after all I have lived in this building over ten years) and I told her I slipped it into the slot in her office window, just like always. So first she checked everything on her computer, looking for the entry of that amount of money but credited to the wrong account, but no, there was nothing like that there. Then she started a serious search of the office while I stood there--she looked all around on the floor, under desks, behind piles of boxes, underneath the vaccuum cleaner and a hamper of somebody�s laundry that had been left in the basement laundry room a month ago, and pulled out every bit of trash that had been there for the past two weeks. But found absolutely nothing that was the envelope containing my rent check.

As she was doing this search, I was wondering if maybe somehow I had neglected to slip the envelope into the window (I had at least gone so far as to tear the money order off of the receipt and I certainly did SOMETHING with it) so I told her I would go back upstairs and look all around my desk to see if there was an envelope with her name on it still sitting there. However, again, nothing. And I really do remember delivering to the office the money order.

I have noticed how easy it would be for some other tenant to slip somebody�s payment back out through the slot, but figured there would be no reason to do so, because anything there would be a money order made out to the building management and you aren�t supposed to be able to change the name on a money order. So while I noticed it, I never really worried about it. But now I think that is what happened...that is the ONLY explanation that makes sense. Especially since this was tax time (the day I delivered my rent check was also tax deadline day). So maybe some deadbeat figured he could snag somebody�s money order and somehow convince some place to cash it. Of course, he would fail in getting it cashed (I certainly HOPE he would fail in getting it cashed, but this being Los Angeles, any crime can happen with amazing ease), at which time he would just throw the useless thing away. No caring or consideration at all with what would be happening back at the OTHER end. The manager was very, very worried about what would next happen since it seemed clear that my money order was not going to turn up. There was no way around it, the landlord would demand the money or I would be evicted, regardless of whose fault it was that the check was missing. Well, I can afford to buy another money order and wait a month or so for a refund--this is a stop-payment placed on the money order (at a cost to me of $12.00), presuming it hasn�t already somehow been cashed--and if it has been cashed, I have no idea what will happen then; but not many tenants here could afford to do that (pay their rent twice in one month) and I certainly couldn�t have myself the first couple of years I lived here.

I don�t even want to think of all the potential implications, what could happen to some people whose rent checks were stolen from them. The fact that such evil entered in my life made me nauseous. Sure, it�s not an evil on the order of the Virginia Tech evil (that�s just a level of monster I can�t even fathom), but evil is evil and there�s no use attempting to rank it. C.S. Lewis wrote of evil as being all-encompassing, being just as lustful to perform minisucle evil as it is gigantic evil. Any harm it can cause is fine with it.

But it all makes me think of a time many years ago when I lived in L.A. and didn�t have a car. I rode the bus everywhere. One day, I was waiting at a bus stop and saw sitting on the bench a fanny pack. Obviously, somebody had set it down and had gotten on a bus, accidentally leaving it there on the bench. At first I thought I should just leave it there, �Maybe they will come back, trying to find it.� But then I realized the safest place it could possibly be would be with me. So I picked it up and opened it to see if there were any identification in it. There was a wallet with an out of state driver�s license...not good...but in the wallet was also a money order made out to such and such apartment management company, and signed by the same name as on the driver�s license. The person also wrote underneath her name an address in Los Angeles. No phone numbers anywhere, but at least I had that Los Angeles address. I decided the only thing I could do would be to deliver the fanny pack to that address. I ended up having to walk about an hour in order to do so, as there were no busses running in that neighborhood. I got to that address and it was a peculiar apartment building, one where each apartment had a �front door� that was a sliding glass door going into a living room from a sort of patio in front. This particular apartment had a woman inside talking on the phone with her sliding glass door wide open--it made it awkward for a stranger (me) to �knock� on it. However, I did so, and the woman put the phone down for a minute and angrily said, �Yes?� I said her name (the name on the driver�s license) and then said, �I found your fanny pack.�

She said to the person on the phone, �Oh my God, somebody found my fanny pack.� Then she hung up and walked over to me with tears in her eyes. I quickly pulled out her wallet and said, �I don�t think anybody stole anything before I found it, it�s got a lot of cash in it, and some change, a new monthly bus pass, and a money order, is this everything that you had in it?�

She gingerly took the wallet from me and glanced through it for a moment and said, �Everything is here, even my MONEY ORDER,� and then she really started to cry and said, �Oh my God, my God, my God, I didn�t know what I was going to DO, this took all the money I had, I was going to be HOMELESS, I was so scared.� Then she started pawing through the cash in the wallet and said, �I have to give you a reward, what kind of reward would be enough? �

I said, �Reward? Just getting this back to you is reward enough for me!�

Then she cried even more and gave me a huge tearful hug, saying, �It means so much to me to know that there is at least one good person in this evil world!"

So now concerning money orders, I guess I�ve experienced the world of evil, where a person is aggressively willing to have happen to somebody what could have happened to that woman. It�s hard for me to imagine that kind of perspective, but of course the world is full of it.

Regarding Virginia Tech, I�ve thought about it and so far have concluded that there is nothing anybody can do to be protected from that kind of thing. It�s not really a fatalistic viewpoint, not a �when you�re number is up, it�s up�, but more what I think of as �a squirrel running across the road underneath your tire.� Sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. This HERE is not the real world; it is only the classroom or the testing ground. What matters is how you play the game. Were you full of love and consideration, or did you participate in evil? It�s those choices and how those scores add up that have meaning, not the �toys� or �longevity� that get racked up here. (Maybe it happens over several hundred different lifetimes, I don�t know, but ultimately, I am certain that a person�s aggregate choices chose the path they end up taking.) Where you end UP, that is the real world.

We have very strict security at our school--which ought to be obvious, concerning the amount of tuition one has to pay in order to go there, and whose kids we have going there (in some cases, the children of billionaires, and in some cases, the children themselves are multi-millionaires). We �brag�, true story, that Madonna was turned away at the Security Gate. She wanted to see the campus, was going to consider it as a school for her kids, and had the idea she could just drop in and drive around. But she didn�t have an appointment so they wouldn�t let her in. She left, pissed, and never made an appointment. Shallow egotist, right? Couldn�t she make the mental leap to �this is how I would like it to be for my kid, here?�, but no, I guess she couldn�t get past �they did this to ME.� Ah, I shouldn�t say that, I really don�t know what her reaction was, but the truth is she wasn�t let in, and we haven�t heard from her since. And there have been others, too, political candidates, for example, calling from their mobile phones in their limosines, demanding entrance--�Do you know who I am? I am running for the U.S. SENATE for this state!� Doesn�t matter. Follow our application procedure, get an appointment, you will be let in then. Otherwise, hit the road Jack.

So despite all this, one day we had a power failure that hit all of Western Los Angeles. Major event. It didn�t help that a few days before we had heard on the news of a heightened threat of terrorist attack in the Los Angeles area. Was this power failure the start of it?

In the midst of the confusion (running around looking for flashlight batteries, lighting candles, etc.), one of my co-workers told me that there was someone here to see me. Someone here to see me? I had no appointments scheduled. Oh well, let me see who it is. And what should I see standing there but a very obvious Middle Eastern man. In all honesty, I figured, �Okay, I�m a dead man. Somehow they�ve shut down the power in half of Los Angeles and now they�ve gotten through our security.� But all I knew to do was be very nice to the man and let him into my office. If he really is a terrorist, maybe my being nice will save my life (it couldn�t hurt). Or, if he kills me, maybe having him in my office will �contain� him and give the others a chance to get away. Or, maybe he�s totally legitimate and our security just failed.

Anyway, he said he was looking for a job. So I treated him like this was a perfectly normal procedure. I asked him if he had a resume, which he did, so I went over it with him and gave him a mini-interview. Then I told him our standard line, that we didn�t have any openings at the time, but I would keep his resume on file and for sure when an opening came up he would be evaluated carefully, and then I added a line just for him, that I would remember having already met him, and that could help. Then I thanked him for his time and said I hoped he�d excuse all the confusion! �We�re having a power failure!" I explained to him, and said, �Here, let me help you find your way back downstairs.�

Of course, the 99.9% likelihood was that he was a perfectly legitimate job applicant who just happened to decide to come PERSONALLY to ask for a job (which NO ONE ever does) and managed to get through security, no problem, but I don�t KNOW this. It is also possible that he really did have every intention of killing off a bunch of us but something in the way that he was treated by me made him change his mind--he just couldn�t go through with it, not that day, not with those people. Far fetched or not, we really have very little control over it one way or another. If that guy wanted to kill me, he could have done so, I had no real protection. And even somebody we have no desire to keep out, one of the students, or a parent, or a teacher, any one of them could plot our murder and successfully carry it off, how could we stop them?

It�s all a horrible tragedy, and so sad, and there comes a point where worrying about it becomes like all other worries. If you can�t actually DO something about it, then what�s the use of worrying about it? Easy for ME to say, not so easy for me to do. But that�s the right philosophy, I think.

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