Stare.
 
2000 Notebook: Transition XVIII
 
   
25 May 2000
Those Incredible, Fabulous Schiphol Toilets
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport never fails to entertain, and today is no exception. The champagne in the Rich Bastards Club is rather unambitious, but that’s business as usual. It doesn’t matter, though; nothing much does after the first bottle.

The big news, however, is the toilets. As I’ve said before, Schiphol Airport has some of the most entertaining urinals I’ve ever seen. And, as I discovered today, Schiphol continues to lead the way in toilet technology.

I stepped into one of the stalls in the Rich Bastards Club’s toilets, and noticed that the seat was wet. I went to two others; both of them also had wet seats. When I went to the fourth stall to discover the fourth wet seat, I resignedly cleaned it with some toilet paper.

Before I could leave the tiny cubicle, though, I witnessed an amazing site. As soon as I stood up, I heard electric motors whining and gears meshing and grinding. I looked behind me, and saw the amazing cleaning clamp. The clamp had emerged from its hidey-hole in the plumbing; it held the toilet seat firmly in its mechanized jaws. The toilet seat clamp was rotating the seat cover between its wet brushes; it was moving the entire seat though its slobbering jaws!

I watched the seat-cleaning machine in amazement. When the show was over, the cleaning clamp retreated back into the plumbing spaghetti. There was no evidence of what had just transpired, except for a wet toilet seat.

If you can find it in your heart to do so, pity the rich bastards. First, they pay a lot of money to be in an exclusive club (unless they too forged the required entry documentation, as I did). Then, upon visiting one of the most exclusive seats in the entire airport, they find their throne is disturbingly damp. I’m sure that must be an executive disappointment, but for a peasant like myself, the mechanized Schiphol toilets represent a remarkable entertainment value.

26 May 2000
Jet on Jets
I had an illuminating lunch with Jet Johnson today. Jet’s a commercial airline pilot I met during my Greenpeace days; he can do anything. (When asked if he could land a Boeing 747 on the ice in Antarctica, he replied, “Yeah. Once.”)

“So, Jet,” I began, “I got really bored by the time we were over Greenland yesterday, and ...”

“Everyone gets bored over goddamned Greenland,” Jet interrupted.

“... and so anyway,” I continued, “I decided to go to the toilet, listen to some Black Flag, and jump up and down.”

“And so?” asked Jet.

“And so nothing happened,” I replied. “I jumped up and down and up and down and up and down and nothing happened. I tried bouncing off the walls, but the plane didn’t respond.”

“Let’s see something,” Jet said as he furrowed his brow and pulled out a calculator. “I figure you bouncing around like an idiot in a 747 was roughly equivalent to having a couple pennies shift in your pocket while you’re walking down the street. Try it.”

Jet flipped a couple of pennies across the table. One penny landed in my pasta, the other splashed into my wine glass.

Another day, another lesson learned: what more could I want?

27 May 2000
Flying With Ani
I met Ani when I was flying last night. It was one of those nights when flying was difficult; I had a hard time ignoring gravity. When I mentioned my problems to Ani, she suggested that I try closing my eyes.

“I think you’ll find it easier to bypass gravitational fields if you avoid the visual distractions,” she advised.

“What’s the point of recreational flying if you can’t appreciate the height?” I asked.

“Well, you can open your eyes once you’re at a decent altitude,” she explained. “I usually only keep my eyes closed during difficult takeoffs.”

I tried her approach, and it worked. Ani’s technique was not only more effective, in some ways it provided for a more pleasant flying experience.

28 May 2000
A Carless Decade
It’s been exactly one decade since I owned an automobile. Ten years ago today I was driving off the ramp from the Golden Gate Bridge in the mist when I hit an oil slick. I then entered accident time. Almost everyone experiences accident time, but I’ve never heard the phenomenon explained. (That may be because I’ve never sought an explanation.)

The instant I knew I couldn’t regain control of my car, I entered into a completely different state of consciousness. I remembered every part of every second before I smashed into one car, spun violently, then stopped abruptly when a third car smashed into the back of mine. All three automobiles died, but all the humans walked away unhurt. (After being killed in a previous road accident, that was quite a relief.)

I decided not to buy a replacement car immediately, a bit of procrastination that proved to be extremely rewarding. Not only did I have to work less—admittedly a difficult thing to imagine—but the move didn’t really affect my mobility. Most of my friends still have cars, and now I get chauffeured everywhere.

29 May 2000
Missy at the Hush Hush Club
Missy’s band is playing at the Hush Hush Club, a trendy bar for young people in San Francisco’s Mission district. The Mission has been the center of Hispanic culture here for quite some time, but all that’s rapidly changing. Lots and lots of people with lots and lots and lots of money are moving to San Francisco to cash in on the Internet gold rush, people like some of the musicians on stage tonight.

Missy’s music doesn’t really interest me, so there’s no point talking about it. (I will, however, repeat the malicious comment of the critic sitting next to me: “I’m going to have to listen to loud punk rock for three days in a row to recover from this.”)

There’s another show at the Hush Hush Club tonight. Eight Hispanic men have colonized the bar’s pool table. Maybe “colonized” isn’t the right word; the men in the cowboy outfits were probably playing pool here long before some entrepreneur transformed the neighborhood drinking hole into the Hush Hush Club. I feel sorry for them. They’re holding on, but for how long? The bartender doesn’t even speak Spanish.

It’s a sad show.

30 May 2000
Corporate Faith, Rewarded
I have many more faults, shortcomings, and outright failings than I’d care to mention. (I don’t have to mention them; I have many friends who do that for me.) One of my most embarrassing traits is my faith in corporations.

Stick a Leica logo on a cheap Minolta camera (as the boys from Wetzlar did in the 1970s) and I’ll buy it, even though a poorly made Minolta with the Leica nameplate broke just as quickly as any other Minolta. When Apple Computer tells me to install new software on my computer that I later discover prevents me from installing a faster processor, I just go out and buy a new, faster machine instead of enhancing the old one. And so on.

What is it about a logo that turns me into a gullible consumer? Advertising and marketing are two answers that come to mind, but that’s too depressing to consider at a moment like this. Right now, I’m in a very, very good mood, for my faith in corporations has been restored, if only for the day.

Last year, I noted with shock and deep sadness that the chemists who concoct Rainier Ale had twiddled the alcohol content down from 7.2 to 6.6 percent. Scumbags! I shrugged my shoulders; there’s not much more a consumer serf can do in a world ruled by accountants.

Imagine my delight, then, when I examined a minor design revision on a can of Rainier Ale, and discovered that my favorite adult beverage once again contains 7.2 percent alcohol!

Let heaven and nature sing!

31 May 2000
Big Gun Go Bang
Although I don’t usually follow developments in military technology, I read about some encouraging news from England.

In the navy, sailors have stopped firing live shells during their training. Instead, gunnery school recruits yell “BANG!” into a microphone after they’ve targeted their shore-to-ship guns.

The sailors don’t like it, not one bit. According to one, “You sit in a gun and shout ‘Bang, bang’. You don’t fire any ammunition. It’s a big joke and the sailors are disgusted. It is just like being back in the school playground when you shouted ‘bang’ to shoot your friends in a game of cowboys and Indians.”

That pretty much sums up what I like about the new practice. No one ever got killed on my playground. I think it would be wonderful if planes dropped dye instead of bombs, if soldiers fired paintballs instead of bullets, if “dead” combatants had to sit on the sideline until the battle was over, and so on.

I realize I’m terribly na•ve, but who cares? All my battles have been relatively pleasant, and I can still enjoy a drink with most of my former enemies.

1 June 2000
Rabbit Rabbit
The first thing I said this morning was, “Rabbit, rabbit.” That’s because a friend of mine advised me decades ago that “rabbit, rabbit,” should be the first words out of my mouth on the first day of every month. She told me it would bring me good luck, and she was right.

I’m having a very, very lucky life indeed.

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart