Tuesday, June 17, 2014

**The Secret Life of Olof

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published June 19, 2014]  © 2014 

I’ve known my husband Olof for a long time, so it was somewhat of a surprise to learn that he was masquerading as someone named Giselle who does outcall services. Fortunately he’s recently retired as I do think this could have impacted, and not in a positive way, his security clearance.

It’s actually Olof’s retirement that got him into the outcall biz in the first place. On his last day of work, he handed in his company phone, and after a brief but deliriously happy period going cell phone commando, he ultimately wandered into a Verizon office and acquired a new one.

When you get a new phone, you gotta wonder where the number has been before you, especially when you start getting a lot of calls and texts really late at night.

We were initially not sure whether Olof’s phone number was previously owned by someone named Giselle who does – or did – “outcall services” or whether her number is just really close to Olof’s and the guys who call her are so excited about Coming Attractions they can’t actually dial.
In our demographic, no one calls you in the middle of the night unless somebody died. Literally the night he got the phone, it rang at 2 am. We both sat up in bed, panicked. Olof quickly picked up.

Guy in sultry voice: I’m lookin’ to spend some money!

Olof (puzzled): On what?

Guy (pauses): You kiddin’ me, man?  (Hangs up.)

One Saturday night a few weeks later as we were watching an On Demand movie of my selection around midnight, text messages for someone named Giselle were coming in hard and fast. At first Olof was ignoring them but I suddenly noticed there was a whole lot of texting going on from Olof’s side of the bed. He showed me his phone.

“Olof,” I said, “I can’t believe you’d rather be a hooker impersonator texting some horny lowlife in the South Bay than watch the adorable romantic comedy your wife picked out.” 
His reply: “Is there a question here?”

Transcript from Olof’s Droid:

11:58 p.m. (Incoming text): Hey Giselle you free?
12:27 a.m. “Giselle”: Baby, I’m never free.

12:29: Ha! I mean you able to come out to Chula Vista?
12:31 “Giselle”: What you got going on?

12:32 Having some drinks and yay. You down?
12:34 “Giselle”: Where to?

12:36: Chula Vista    hanging with my boy want some company…cruise over.
12:38 “Giselle”: Dunno. Meet you where?

12:40: (Gives address). House.
12:44 “Giselle”:  Just me or should I bring friends?

12:44: You mama. How long?
12:45 “Giselle”: Maybe 30. What should I bring?

12:50: Ummsomething sexy and your fine self. You are going to be pleasantly surprised. I’d like to see a pic of your face darling. Can you come sooner? 
12:54 “Giselle”:  Baby, I gotta free up, ya know?

12:58: Where are you coming from girl?  I am up. Can I see a pic of your face?
1:01 “Giselle”: Working in La Jolla.

1:05 a.m: Ok not too far. If you left now id say about 30 min. Not seeing your phone number so need a pic baby.
1:08 “Giselle”: There’s a link on my ad. Don’t have a pic on my phone.

[Guy is starting to get suspicious]
1:12: I am not seeing this # as the girl I reached out to, so what ad honey?

1:14 “Giselle”: Where’d you get my #?
1:23: BP  [Back Page on Craig’s List?  Or…?]

1:26 “Giselle”: Yeah, that’s me. On my way.
1:27: Are you sur   f--k  [He actually spelled it out]

Too bad he never got to find out he was actually chatting it up with a Medicare recipient in La Jolla.
What worried me after the fact was just how good Olof was at this. I mean, “What you got goin’ on?”  Not exactly engineer speak. But what I really want to know is: what was he planning to wear?



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Campaigning Against Robocalls

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published June 12, 2014] © 2014 

Every election, I conclude that robocalls are God's way of punishing people who still have land lines.

In 2010, eBay CEO and Republican Meg Whitman spent 140 million dollars of her own money to run for California governor against Jerry Brown.  One-hundred-thirty-nine million of that was spent calling us.

The money might better have been spent annoying someone else.  I'm a Democrat.  Olof has been a life-long Republican albeit disenchanted with his party for some time.  We both vote across party lines.  We're also absentee voters and usually have our ballots in well in advance so the 25 robocalls a day (yes, really) that we received prior to that election were totally wasted on us.

Desperate to reduce future roboballs, I actually changed my party affiliation to Decline to State.  I begged Olof to do the same, as it was not lost on me that while both parties are incorrigible telephone harassers, the Republicans are the real robo-felons.  Sure enough, dumping the Dems has only reduced our robobcalls by, at best, 25%.

But Olof refuses to abandon his affiliation, holding out hope that the party will regain its former glory. And as I love to say to Olof, good luck with that.  (Smirks Olof:  "Spoken by a woman who spent her entire career in a university welfare environment where firing someone for cause would be considered 'mean'.")

My favorite robocall was on May 22 from local Republican Party chairman Tony Krvaric exhorting us to ignore all other Republican robocallers and fliers we had received for this open primary and vote only according to the Official Republican Voting Guide which had been mailed to us. I love it when they eat their own.  At the end, he says, "Thank you for being great Republicans!"  Sorry, Tony.  We're your worst fear.

I even registered us for a site where one can opt out of political calls for a year at a time.  Like that worked.  I fear I gave our phone number to the only two political agencies that didn't already have it.

Here's the puzzling part of it all though: As I understand it, the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) allows "auto dialing" to land lines but prohibits them to cell phones without prior express consent.  (Like anyone's going to sign up for robocalls to their mobile.)

Somebody explain to me why this makes any sense.  Unemployed lawyers of America, have I got a job for you!  This is a class action suit begging to happen.  Could the Civil Rights Act be extended to include discrimination based on telephonic preference?

Even more to the point, where, inquiring minds want to know, is the research that shows that harassing people into homicidal rage makes them more likely to vote for you?  I can only lament that the "send bazooka to caller" app is still in its infancy.

During the 2010 gubernatorial election, in my worst fantasies, I imagined someone in a voting booth looking at the ballot for the first time.  "Well, let's see. That nice Meg Whitman called us 500 times so I'll vote for her!" 

Unfortunately, I think Meg Whitman did call us 500 times.  Even Olof was sticking pins into Meg Whitman dolls by election time.

One of our adult sons, who was surprised to hear that land lines were still legal, said that the solution was to dump the land line and become cell phone-only users like the rest of the planet.

But we like our land line.  OK, I like our land line.  You can't drop it in the toilet.  It never needs recharging.  It doesn't annoy me with upgrades. Besides, it's been my number for decades (even if the area code has changed about six times.)  I'm hoping it will be able to be transferred to the Alzheimer's facility with me because it will probably be the only thing I'll still remember.

Meanwhile, the candidate of my fantasies is the one who lets you opt out of political contact in any form, blocks all those perfidious political ads from your TV, doesn't send fliers to your mail box, and never calls unless you flat out beg them.  I don't care what you're running for.  You've got my vote.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hail Caesar - But Hold The Fish Sauce

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published June 5, 2014] © 2014 

As a single working Mom, I couldn’t spend much time at my kids’ schools during the day, which is probably how I got talked into organizing an authentic Roman feast for my son’s classically-ennuied 7th grade Latin class. An end-of-the-school-year celebration, it was an evening event so I really had no excuse.

I would like to say that a lot of authenticity gets lost between the ancient Romans and the version suitable for modern middle school students. It was going to have to be held indoors in the gym so chariots were going to be problematical but I still thought we could have Olympic-style games, wear togas, and stage a feast using only ingredients available during Roman times.

Fortunately, a cookbook had come out which translated recipes of ancient Rome into English, and more importantly, into ingredients found at your local Vons. Well, mostly found. It had an admirable selection of dishes, but unfortunately no section on Junkus Foodus, the category most likely to appeal to our target audience. The foods we associate with modern Rome didn’t exist then and the ancients, I discovered to my dismay, tended to slather a salty sauce of desiccated fish on pretty much everything. I couldn’t imagine that a group of kids whose sense of adventure didn’t extend to eating the fish sandwich at Jack in the Box would go for anything icthyologically  encumbered. For the same reason, we nixed the lamb brains with a side of olive paste, and a host of similar delicacies.

In my research, I was intrigued by a banquet dish made of flamingo tongues, which sounded from the description like ancient Flamingo McNuggets. Problem: flamingo tongues were not available, even at Jonathans. There was always Plan B, but the Zoo would notice they were gone. Fortunately, the Romans were also big on pig parts wrapped in pastry dough. Ecce!  Several pork products were purchased and the recipe tested for the relative merits of phyllo dough versus Lady Lee Refrigerator Roll mix, which we assured ourselves the Romans would have had if they thought of it. We finally had our main course.

Back in Roman times, if the gods were willing to let the feast commence, they would send favorable signs (secunda) and the guests could be seated. As it turns out, this sometimes involved examining the entrails of a sacrificial victim. Personally, I thought this would be a GREAT incentive not to be the lowest scoring student on the mid-semester declension test.

In the Roman tradition, we were going to have games before the meal, and “volunteer slaves” (an oxymoron if there ever was one) would serve part of the meal. I was pleased to read that most table slaves in ancient Rome were male, a thought that appealed to my feminist sensibilities. I rather liked imagining those ancient Roman housewives complaining about how hard it was to find a good Macedonian cleaning man.

Indoor competitive events turned out to be more problematical than I had anticipated. The Latin teacher, who had gamely volunteered to be the object of an extremely popular wet sponge toss the year before, maintained he was still recovering from the eye infection. Fortunately, most of the new ideas we came up with were nicely unisex, including the discus throw, which some might have confused for Frisbees. Hoping to winnow out the teacher population, one student submitted a game idea called “Gladiator Fights to the Death” then listed various teacher pairs. That idea went the way of the flamingo tongues.

Instead, a largely-improvised play, extremely loosely based on Julius Caesar which none of the kids had read, was staged while the male members of the audience lay Roman-style on pillows on the floor at their low tables emitting lifelike imitations of intestinal gas. Afterwards, it occurred to me that that might actually have been the most authentic part of the evening.

And so a reasonable facsimile of a Roman feast took place. As a strictly weenie Mom observation, I would like to say that the students all looked incredibly cute in their togas and laurel wreaths. The banquet food was well received, especially the dry ice from our ice cream dessert which was dunked into the grape juice for amazing special effects. We forewent the secunda. Gaudeamus Igitur, a staple of my East Coast upbringing, was sung, apparently for the first time west of the Mississippi.

And I went back to being the working mom, who, alas, wasn’t available for big school projects. Hallelujus.