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April 22, 1997
The Gates of Shell

The new exciting hit counter continues to really stick in my craw. I don't know where my craw is, but it's definitely someplace really annoying. At first I thought the problem was that nobody was visiting my humble little terrific column here, which sent me into a deep pit of depression, until I got a report from a paid- I mean, faithful reader who said,

Hey, I keep reloading your page, and the hit counter doesn't work. It's broken. Also, we want more of those horizontal lines, since it continues to be the funniest part of your page, even though I know that you slave for many hours and hours every week trying to come up with interesting topics and funny stuff, and lose several nights sleep tossing and turning trying to come up with different ways of being relevant and provocative without directly referring to your cats.
Yes, it sure is nice to hear from my readers. All of you.

But the hit counter concerns me. I really have to figure out if its working or not. So I'm going to have to ask you all a favor. When you visit this site, reload the page a few times to see if the number goes up. Then if it does, reload the page a hundred more times just to really make sure. It's the only way I can think to put it through the rigorous testing process which it is obviously in need of. OK, two hundred more times if you've got some free time (and really, who is reading this who doesn't already have gobs and gobs of free time lying around the house, getting all moldy with those little blue spots which you cut off when nobody's looking?)

Go ahead, try it now. If it works, the number over there should read "0349281". If it doesn't, keep trying.

Do the line thing first.

OK, here goes.
Go on, keep trying. I wanna see that reload button smoking! I want that little curved arrow to start wriggling around in pain, and I want the little dot to grow legs and try to crawl off of the screen!

That's Netscape. We're using Internet Explorer and don't know what you're talking about.
OK, in your case, I want Bill Gates himself to land his personal private jet right in your living room and start begging you to please, please, please stop molesting his beautiful software, he'll give you anything you want, just let her go!!

I want sixty-four billion dollars, or the hard drive gets it.
"Here, take it!" he screams, pulling sixty-four billion dollars out of his socks, which don't match, by the way.

And a free copy of Flight Simulator.
He pulls an old, tattered version 2.0 Flight Simulator disk out of his shirt pocket. You know, the old kind that they used to say was the only way to test a new PC to see if it was 100% IBM compatible? You install it in a DOS box under Windows NT, and it immediately crashes every program you had running, in addition to a few that it just started up on its own so it would have more yummy applications to crash.

Now I'm hungry.
OK, what this whole escapade has reminded me of is how computer-related humor is (and read this carefully, all of you people who insist on sending out these long, ponderous emails full of Microsoft jokes or whatever it is) not funny. If you've ever received these mails, you know exactly what I'm talking about, and if you've ever laughed at these mails, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave, after you finish reloading the page four hundred times.

They're always attached to emails with these frighteningly happy little subjects like, "Better Back Up Your Hard Drives!!:):):)", and then follow with fifty three pages of geek-oriented jokes, like...

"How many Bill Gateses does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
"None, because he's really rich and can hire developers to do it! HA HA HA!!!"

Of course, then it is followed up by an equally rich, life-sapping joke like...

"OK, then how many developers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
"Seventeen, because they're always coming out with new versions of the lightbulb!!! HAHAHAHAHA! Oh my LORD am I demonstrating that I'm proud of myself that I'm in the most obnoxious field of work available to mankind, and that it's our way of 'sticking it to the man' when we make fun of some middle-aged guy with ugly glasses without whom none of us would probably have jobs! HAHAHA!"

"That reminds me of another one, why does Bill Gates not wear matching socks?"

"Because he's a rich, mean, money-grubbing asshole! Yes! Take that, Mr. Flight Simulator Pants!!!"

I hate that crap. Go protect a pocket.

Of course I'm fairly certain that most of my readers also participate in the above activities, and therefore have gotten angry and have left this page in disgust, probably only after having reloaded ten or twenty times.

Wait! I take it back! Stories about Star Trek characters fighting Microsoft lawyers are awesome! It's really fresh and new! You guys are the man! Look!

Ah, forget it. There go my audience members.

Moving on, I received yet another letter this week, which I feel compelled to respond to, mainly because I have the rest of this column to fill up, and it's the only other letter I got:

Say, you're a respected member of the journalism community, and you have an image to protect. Therefore, it seems rather silly to even ask you this, but did you pull your pants down in the middle of a sidewalk in downtown Boca "We're Snooty And We Like It" Raton, Florida this Sunday evening?
You could have asked that question during virtually any other week, and I swear the answer would have been "no". Alas (a word that means, "I hope my mother isn't reading this"), it's true.

But, as O.J. once said, this requires some explanation.

You see, my lovely companion and I are in a constant state of war to prove which one of us can be nicer to the other one. Sure, some call it a "police action", but we all know that the truth is, it's an all-out frontal assault (at least a couple times a week anyway, heh heh, if you know what I'm talking about, heh heh, huh guys? Heh heh.)

I normally only have to rally my "nice" troops when I screw up, and create the need for a quick air-drop behind the lines. For instance, if I do something stupid (like, for instance, if she's in deep depression because of the state of our society, and fearing about what the future of humanity holds for her and her children, and their children, and I respond in a very caring, sensitive tone of voice, "How 'bout a beer over here, huh?"), then I might drop a bomb full of flowers or stuffed animals or sexual gratification devices, you know, just to "even the score."

But this weekend, I decided it was going to be different. I was going to launch a pre-emptive strike on Friday night which was to level her cities into large piles of niceness rubble. Yes, it was time to do the Romantic Dinner, which of course means dinner where you don't intentional try to dissuade her from ordering the more "elegant" (wallet-sucking) dishes on the menu, by constantly muttering, "I hear the salads here are deeee-lightful!"

Of course, you don't want to overcompensate either. "Lobster tails and filet mignon in a Dom Perignon sauce! That sounds friggin' amazing!"

Anyway, we hopped into her car and she drove me to the place I was taking her. [What?] Don't worry about it. Just because my car's a mess doesn't mean I'm not a romantic person. It just didn't seem appropriate to having her sitting amongst piles of "Burger Outhouse" bags while I carted her off to this place (Wyldewood Restaurant, Boynton Beach, FL - "You'll Pay For That 'Y'".)

You had four punctuation marks in a row at the end of that sentence. Are you sure they're all in the right order?

So my little surprise attack worked pretty well. It even included five hours of bowling after we finally finished up with dinner. Y'ever try that? Y'ever go bowling from 7 PM until midnight? If you're keeping a list of things to do, I want you to move everything else down the list, write "bowl for five hours until midnight" right at the top of the list, and then set it on fire and throw it out the window. I am typing this column with my nose. That's what a good idea five hours of bowling is.

So the rest of the weekend went along smoothly (unless you count not being able to move your arm or hand as a detriment), and I was fairly confident I had struck a major blow in our ongoing struggle for ultimate nice-itude. We just sat around the apartment, watching cars race around and around in a big circle (a major humor column subject candidate), and watching Joe Theismann babble for so many hours that at the end even he couldn't remember which pronunciation he changed his name to. "And in the ninety-second round, the Utica Roadside Motels pick, Jawun Timon El-Muhammed Hirschberg Gates III. And in other NFL draft news, SHOOT ME! SOMEBODY THROW A REFRIGERATOR ON ME! MY LIFE HAS BECOME A CHURNING, BURBLING CAULDRON OF HELL! AUUUGUGHGHH!! For ESPN, I'm Joe Thoyyeeayyzmoon."

Little did I know, that all this time, she had been planning the most massive retaliatory attack that this war had seen, except for that time where she said, "Yeah, you can move in with me. Just keep me out of your silly humor column, funnyman."

As dinnertime approached on Sunday, I should have known something was up, because she was walking around in a fancy black dress while I was still sprawled out on the couch in dangerously mismatched casual clothing. "Put a suit on and get in the car."

Uh oh. Looks like my spies had failed to bring me a vital bit of intelligence. Probably because my spies were also all sprawled out on their couches, having been long since mesmerized by Joe Theismann's hair.

After getting dressed, and getting into the car, I could tell I was in for a torrential onslaught of nice. She wouldn't tell me where she was going, and even pretended to get lost several times so as to "throw me off the scent." That's what she told me later, anyway. At the time, the various nasty words she was yelling were very persuasive in getting me to believe she didn't actually know where the place was.

We finally arrived, and I was amazed to see what a fancy place it was. It's one of those places where they actually have people out front who are legally allowed to steal your car, providing you give them a dollar. The place is called Busch's Seafood ("The Extra 'C' Stands for 'Cmon, pay up, ya cheap bastards'").

You did it different that time.
Anyway, what followed was one of the most phenomenal meals I've ever had, marred only by this thousand-year-old woman at the table next to us berating the manager that her fish was not fresh enough. The exasperated man tried for several minutes to explain to the woman that she had ordered the steak, but it was futile. Personally, I thought mine was the freshest fish I'd ever been in the vicinity of. It tasted like they had grabbed the sucker right out of the river only minutes before, and thrown a refrigerator on it to preserve its fishy goodness. It even still had the tail on it, which proves that "delicacy" actually means "way gross."

So we finished up there, and, as if to rub my nose even further into a steaming pile of nice, she suggested we walk on the beach. We drove up and spent another hour looking for a parking spot along the sidewalk, where we took off our shoes, and headed down to the sand.

I don't know whether it was the glow of the moon, the company of a good woman, or those three vodka martinis back at the restaurant, but I wanted to get my feet wet. So I just went on down there and let the waves cascade over my tired ol' dogs. It felt really good. So I went further down. That felt even better. Keep in mind, I'm still in a coat and tie, white shirt, and black dress pants.

The ocean continued to pull me in. Some call it man's instinctual drive to return to the place of his origin. I call it undertow. But whatever it was, within the next minute, I was out of my coat and tie, and neck-deep in the ocean, swimming gleefully in nature's great pool, floating amidst nature's great collection of gooey, slimey, nasty little creatures which I was sure were all going to eat me, but I didn't care at that point. They probably would have complained I was too dry anyway. Most sea creatures are a thousand years old.

That lasted a half hour, until a lifeguard came to advise me to exit the area. I asked if it was because I was breaking some sort of late-night beach-swimming rule, and he said "No, you just look really stupid."

Not one to quarrel with authority figures, I trudged my soaked, sand-infested self back up the beach to the car. Everything was fine until I heard my lovely companion, the new reigning NiceMonster, say "You're not getting into my car in those pants."

So, your honor, that's how it came to pass that on the evening of April 20, 1997, I took my pants off in the middle of a sidewalk.

But I got the last laugh. Yes, I showed her that I would not stand to be humiliated like this out in public, and that she could take my pants, but it would take a lot more than soggy underwear to strip me of my dignity.

So I caught a cab. HA! That'll teach her to embarrass me!

But that's not the end of the story. Not by a long shot. You'll never guess who was in the cab with me. There was a priest, a rabbi, and Bill Gates. So the priest says...

This page and the contents therein are copyright (C) 1997, by Ben Parrish. Don't mess with it. Or I'll throw food at you.