The following are excerpts from Maybe Boomer.


Chapter 2 “Boys”

CH 2  Self Image squareAll students sat on the floor along the periphery of the room, its air devoid of humidity, made hot by a long row of forced air heaters below the locked windows. The air was also tinged with a smell, something almost sickly semisweet, but like rubber, too. I leaned my nose closer to the floor where the source became unmistakable: the large, rubber-foam wrestling mat.

“Am b-e-r-g, you’re up first,” Mr. Geinger said. “Sparacino, too. Go git ‘em, men.”

Fortunately, being in the slight seventy-five to eighty pound weight class, Sparacino and I were practically mirror images of each other. My real enemy wasn’t Sparacino, but the mat. The old, wrinkled, grayish-yellow rug I stood on now looked like it’d absorbed every wrestler’s body fluids for the past thirty years. Sooner or later, I’d have to roll all over its decades of germs, not to mention wrestle Sparacino and whatever viruses he carried around.

“All matches are three minutes, men. Are you ready?” When Sparacino and I nodded to Mr. Geinger, the clock started.

Round and round my thoughts went, repeating the phrases, “Keep moving. Don’t go down. If he can’t catch you, he can’t get you down there.”

“C’mon, Amberg. Git in there!” Mr. Geinger cried out.

“He’s stalling, Mr. Geinger, he’s stalling,” a student said.

“Be a man, Amberg. Git in there. You can’t avoid your opponent!”

Like a boxer sizing up his foe, I circled the mat. It wasn’t exactly bona fide wrestling technique, but I didn’t care. Disqualification was far better than germs, even being pinned.

“Wadda ‘ya doin’ in there, Amberg? Git goin’. You can’t avoid your opponents in life.”

More circling, hopping and bobbing.

Eventually winded from my third rotation of no contact wrestling, I was caught by Sparacino, brought down like a branded steer and pinned in mere seconds. Or was I flattened so fast because my nose was pinned to his armpit too long? Either way, I’d been laid into a disgusting, soiled, scatter rug of contagious bugs.

“Am b-e-r-g …. Where were all the moves I taught ‘ya, the steps, the placement?”

Out of breath, my chest on fire, all I could muster was “Wha? … I was supposed to be where now, doing, what when?”

“Am b-e-r-g!”


Chapter 9 “Artistry”

CH 9  Artistry sq MAUREENOf course, the only way for me to look smart attempting a science fair project was to build an incredible three-dimensional display, one that – in this case – would graphically show how a tanker survived rough sea turbulence. Constructing such homage to science would get Mom and Dad’s attention, and show everyone at school I was smart. In essence, surrounding my ten percent scientific research with ninety percent flashy art, I’d blow other kid’s shoebox constructions out of the water.

I’d always been the kind of kid who lost at contests and competitions. But, hopeful of receiving recognition from this contest, I sat anxiously in home room the day all winning science fair contestants were announced. I dreamed of holding up a ribbon, proudly saying to everyone, “Look, look at my honorable mention award!”

Over the PA system, honorable mentions were broadcast first. While listening, I chewed the tip of my Bic pen, then sucked on the top of it. Out from the dusty cloth cover of the old PA box came many names, but none of them mine. I sucked even harder.

Third place winners came next. Who cared now? Then the second place winners – nerds and cheaters alike. As the first place victors were being announced – super brains and social misfits alike – I felt the strange sensation of disgusting, thick ballpoint ink rushing into my mouth. Through considerable gagging and coughing, I thought I heard my name called, but figured I was becoming delirious from the sure-to-be fatal pen ink.

Suddenly, my home room teacher approached me, saying “Congratulations, Michael. First place,” then “Michael, are you all right?” then “Michael, your lips are blue!”

Embarrassed, I asked to be excused and ran to the bathroom. But even there – in our most unceremonious schoolhouse room – nothing could put the lid on my joy. I’d won first place. I was a man of science now and soon, every nerd in school would know who I was.

Not only that, but Mom suddenly saw my science fair project as … truly worthy of … something. Never putting it exactly into words, she nonetheless pulled out a Brownie camera and took a picture of my winning achievement (now that was an achievement). Perhaps her impression of me was changing now. Her appreciation for something I’d done well made me feel good. I wondered what she was going to do next.

Chapter 1 “Competition”

Ch 1  CompetitionBy the time I reached the dorm, I hopped to walk, made nearly impossible when my good leg’s shoe cleats kept sticking to the dried beer and daiquiri mix on our dorm’s floor. 

A commotion of spirited voices grew louder the farther I peg-legged the corridor. At the end of the hall, taped to the wall, I read a photocopied flyer: “CHARLES HALL MIDTERM BLOWOUT PARTY. COME BLOW YOUR MIND. SATURDAY NIGHT. 5 PM TO ?” Through increasingly thicker incense and marijuana smoke, I turned the corner.

And there it was, middle school all over again: boys, 100 pounds heavier now, sporting beards, long hair, red eyes, and many wearing only underwear and flip-flops. And here I stood in my yellow and black rugby jersey, dressed like a giant bee about to walk through a gaggle of smiley, squint-eyed Timothy Leary associates engaged in a Human Be-In gathering. Most were polite to me as I passed through, but a few stoners looked bug-eyed, as if they’d just seen a yellow jacket the size of Sammy Davis Jr. walk by on its two hind legs.

Once in my room, I closed the door and crashed to my bed. As beer started to flow and the party picked up steam, normally reticent dorm mates shouted; some even screamed. Inanimate objects came to life, then died – when a chair took flight, it smashed apart on the sidewalk; when a trash can caught fire, it, too, became trash; when a fire extinguisher “whooshed” everywhere, it wound up snuffed forever. Human bodies were abused, too, and I knew tomorrow morning’s trip to the bathroom would include choosing the only stall left without puke all over the floor. This is why I never drank. I never wanted to lose control of my insides, not to mention the safe boundary I’d established to keep people from discovering the real me and my unforgivable outer flaws. 

I stared at my room’s ceiling and the paint peeling in the corners, then took a wider look at my surroundings. Greg, my roommate, had used his posters, blankets and curtains but failed in trying to veil our twelve by fifteen foot cell made of indestructible cinder block complete with non-flammable metal window frames. Sound, however, moved freely from one cell to the other. Traffic’s “John Barleycorn” blasted out from one of the inmate’s cubicles down the hall and brought back the memory of hearing the song for the first time, the day I met Greg.


Chapter 7 “Responsibility”

CH 7 Responsibilty sq SHOVELAt first, the entire situation appeared hopeless. I knew the jobs assigned each day were simple, but I constantly worried what Mr. Martin was going to say if they hadn’t been done right. After a few weeks, I learned many tips about how to stay alive on the job with a mean boss. I’d really done my homework, putting together a collection of tips so all-encompassing they were universal in scope. The best tips of my collection I called the Big Seven:

1.      Always carry something with you at work. Otherwise, bosses will surely yell, “Hey, why aren’t you working?” Carrying something suggests you did something important back where you got it and that you’re about to do something important where you’re going.
      Pretend you know what’s going on. Nodding – even casual but confident shrugging – works to fend off future attention and unwarranted consequences. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

      Make noise while you work. It insinuates great effort is being made and implies manliness. Doing this, bosses often don’t even check to see if you’re working, which is the whole point.

     Choose tasks that cover the most physical space. Performing them highlights how much you’ve already done, especially in the morning when first impressions are crucial.

      Always walk fast. You’ll come across as engaged, and walking is easy to do. Bosses naturally prioritize things and will scrutinize other workers who haven’t moved an inch for twenty minutes and will go to hassle them, not you.

      Focus intently on objects. Even if it’s only a spot the painters missed, this makes you seem intelligent and insightful. But make sure bosses don’t actually come over to inspect your useless discovery. They’ll only badger you with comments like, “No. Get away from that. Jesus.”

      Flaunt anything you know you’ve done right. As a result, superiors often assume everything else you’ve worked on has been done right as well. However, be sure that whatever you flaunt was done right, or this tip could backfire on you to no end. 

Some might call the Big Seven avoiding responsibility; I called it fantasizing a better world.


Chapter 9 “Artistry”

"Maureen," 18 x 24. Conte stick on paper

“Maureen,” 18 x 24. Conte stick on paper

 I could care less to learn the science of how a kidney worked, only that I cared to draw it very, very well – perhaps appearing to the world I had a scientific mind.
 I had no idea how DC stadium stood without falling down, only that I must find a material somewhere to recreate its sleek beauty with my own hands, hoping, too, that Dad might think I was smart enough to be an architect like him.
 I had little aptitude to synthesize meaning from a poem, only the interest to find the beauty in the calligraphy of its words, thereby showcasing not only my artistic talent, but literary depth as well.
 I had no idea what qualities made a good portrait, only the desire to express my experience of that person with whatever media I could find, which, in Maureen’s case, further impressed her, fostering hopes of my actually having a girlfriend.
 I had no aptitude for understanding music scales and tablature, only the ability to create splendor from notes, melody, and beat, and with these elements of music, hoped to share inner thoughts and feelings with people in perhaps the only ways I felt comfortable.
 I had no interest in art as an ad, as that was about money, not beauty, but hoped one day my talent could be shared with others who, like me, were getting paid for artistic skill.
  I had no cause to decipher how a motion camera worked, only the facility to marvel at what it could do because when all else failed, what better way to become known and appreciated than by being a famous Hollywood director?

But in the end, with each moment of self-expression, I genuinely felt lucky there was not only something in me to come out, but the passion to release it into something satisfying and beautiful. At first, art felt good because it provided moments where I felt like I fit in with me, an important step. But, as the years moved on and I drifted further from the world, I realized art was a way to bring the world of people back to me.


Chapter 8 “Education”

CH 8  Education sq OH CAPTWhen the curtain closed on my failed Dead Poets Society classroom experiment, time came for the inevitable hangover dealing with teaching my old way. Weeks passed, and my lesson plans seemed commonplace, my students less involved, causing me to wonder: Had I always been like this, or was I just now becoming – ordinary, the very person Mr. Keating warned his students not to be?

Picking up school art supplies in downtown McLean one afternoon, I looked around at the rest of the working world, folk who weren’t teachers or students. To me, they seemed the real world – of richer people, quicker thinkers, successful dressers – while I remained stuck in a circus making peanuts as a high school art teacher. I craved being a more engaged person, and seen as something more mainstream and adult. Couldn’t I at least look like a baby boomer?

So, one morning, I got up an hour earlier, and went straight to Starbucks.

This was the place where all hip and respectable people of my generation came to drink coffee and look important. I settled into my little table and read the New York Times. I ordered steamy beverages. I swizzled stir sticks. I ate Danish (giving me a stomach ache, but I did it anyway).  I wore ties. I paid with twenties.

But I also parked my old car far away. Avoided my students that came in. And eventually drove around the back when leaving.

Starbucks worked for about a month. I couldn’t afford it.


Chapter 10 “Girls”

CH 10  Girls sq WOODY IN HOLEWriting my girl gripes list has been SO cathartic. I take a hefty gulp from my Manhattan and toast to my accomplishment.

No wonder I have so much trouble dating. Women are complicated. Relationships are complicated. I can’t keep up with all the information coming in, the female signals, the flood of emotions – it all never ends. Reading the book on the female mind for me is like … reading a book. Too dense and too much. So, here, here. Take another swig.

But it can’t be just about that, my cognition slowness, that’s getting in the way of love. Could it also be my oversensitivity that’s creating problems for me? What about Mom and Dad. Are buried truths from childhood really the primarily root of my predicament?

Whatever corruption has been going on in my once young and guiltless soul, the truth is – I really do want love.

“You’re such a good man. Why aren’t you married yet?” If I’ve heard my stepmother, Joyce, ask me that once, I’ve heard myself ask it a million times; and two million for, “Why don’t you at least have a girlfriend?”

I choke on the cherry in the bottom of the glass. I thought the luminous red garnish was going to be
sweet, but it’s sour. I ask the bartender for the tab.

After all is said and done, like a thinly sliced lemon wheel that floats tirelessly on the surface of a cocktail, one question has risen to the top: How on Earth does anybody live happily with one person every day for the entirety of a lifetime? It’s unfathomable to me how.

I know it might take the rest of my life to answer that question (which, of course, defeats the purpose if I’m really serious about ever meeting someone). So, in the meantime, I’ll have to navigate life by myself.

Yeah, but, SO much more could be worse.


Chapter 11 “Jobs”

CH 11  Jobs sq LADDERThe office receptionist, Sherri, who also became my “personal employment agent,” quickly sat me down in a lobby chair to fill out a long form detailing any and all qualifications for work.

Taking a good half hour to stretch the truth about skills I possessed, I finished the paperwork and handed it to Sherri.

On the phone with another client, she casually scanned my pages. Thirty seconds later, she held her hand over the
phone and whispered, “But do you know Excel?”


“It’s written nowhere on your form.”

Two minutes later she came back with, “What about Publisher?”


“Any kind of desktop publishing? Quark?”

What the hell was Quark? Was I still on Earth?

“If you don’t have those skills, I do have someone looking for help with Quick Books. Power Point demonstrations,

Her phone conversation finally ended. As she was about to read the last page of my application, the phone rang

I refused to be ignored. I lingered. She looked away. I lingered closer. She put her hand over the receiver and
said, “We’ll be sure to call you if anything comes along.”

I walked out. Sherri probably tossed my aptitudinally-challenged, Excel-omitted file into the trash the moment I
left the office. Who could blame her? With my skills, I couldn’t help her, and she couldn’t help me. But I knew with the workload and pressure she was under, it was only a matter of time before she – who once held the power to get me a job – would be hitting the pavement herself, wandering the street in a daze, Quarked-out, disillusioned about life, career, and fulfillment in general. Just like me.


Chapter 14 “Relativity”

CH 14  Relativity sq CHART 'LOW AVG HIGH'“Knowledge is power, Michael. Now you know. After being evaluated in a total of eleven different areas, you realize what your special abilities for doing certain things are, and what abilities you don’t have. Remember, with aptitude tests, a low score is as significant as a high one. In fact, in some occupations, low scores in certain aptitudes are preferable because unused aptitudes can cause restlessness.”

“What? I don’t get it … certain aptitudes are preferable in some occupations … if some are unused … and others
are … restless ….”

“Don’t worry about that for now. All I want to say is there’s much to study here. Much. Remember –  your clerical speed was twenty and analytical reasoning five, so you might want to take some time with these results. A lot.”

“A lot?”

“Yes. For you, you need to let them seep in gradually. Over a long period of time.”


“Yes. Long.”

“What?! Ninety-five percent of people my age taking the same damned tests scored better than me on both
inductive and analytical reasoning? What?! And I have three college degrees? What?!”

Then I remembered I have Lyme disease and the whole rage thing. It was time to slow down. Breathe in deeply.
Take it easy. Everything would be all right.

“It’s okay, Michael. These are merely tools to help you find your strengths.”

“Yes. Right.”

“Don’t worry. Learn to have fun with what you know. Be creative.” She pointed to my sheet of scores, first to the
finger dexterity mark and then color discrimination. “I mean, just look here. Your marks in these two areas when combined suggest great success with something like hair styling. And there are plenty of jobs in that field, too. Be open-minded.”

She was really pushing the limits of rage management now.


Chapter 5 “Friendship”

CH 5  Friendship sq PAULAs the two of us watched TV in the basement one afternoon, Mom entered the room. She chitchatted with Paul until finally throwing out the question I feared she’d one day deliver, “Well, Paul, would you like to have dinner with us some time, maybe next Saturday evening?”

What? Was she trying to undo all the progress I’d made with Paul in just one night? Wouldn’t Paul be stupefied sitting in our basement with a menu prepared from the Safeway frozen meat case and seating assignments arranged around the Quasar TV set, our maitre d’? I worried Paul’s experiencing My Dinner With the Andbergs would blow our new friendship to smithereens.

Paul, being the courteous gentleman, accepted Mom’s invitation, having no idea what he was getting into eating at our place on any given Saturday night.

As Mom, Dad, Cathy, Paul and I descended into our subterranean dining facility that evening, Paul spotted the semi-circular arrangement of TV trays around the Quasar.

“Wow,” he said.

Oh, no. I can tell already he can’t deal with this place.

“So, which TV table do I sit in, Mrs. Andberg?”

“Oh, any one.”

“It’s nice to have such a choice.”

“And you can see the TV equally from any seat, so, whichever you’d like, Paul.”

“Thank you.”

“Yes, yes, please, sit down.” (Gee – why didn’t Mom talk like this every night at dinner?)

If the Quasar was considered home plate, Paul sat in what correlated to a right field bleacher seat, while I took the adjoining foul pole location.

“Of course, we usually have six tables when Donald and Douglas are here.” (Who? Donald and Douglas? Did she mean my brothers, Don and Doug?)

Every tray was arranged with a napkin, silverware set, and dessert bowl filled with canned fruit cocktail. The screaming red cherry on top was held afloat by heavy syrup thick enough to hold our eight foot freezer case on it.

“Now, tonight we have a choice between chicken and Salisbury steak TV dinners. Which would you like, Paul?”

“The Salisbury steak sounds really good, Mrs. Andberg.”

“Are you sure?” I asked Paul with a slight gag reflex.

“Well, which do you have more of? I’ll take whatever you have more of,” Paul said.

“We have three chickens and two Salisbury steaks. So, would you like ketchup with your chicken dinner then?”

A few seconds passed before he replied, “Yeah, sure, ketchup would be fine.”

“I’ll have the chicken, too, Mom,” I blurted.

“Now, Michael, be polite and ask Cathryn and your father what they’d like first.”

Cathy and Dad confiscated the chicken banquets like live chickens around feed.

“So, Michael, would you like ketchup for your Salisbury steak, or just pepper? And Paul, what would you like to watch?”


Shamed, I handed Paul a TV Guide magazine.

“Oh, whatever you all do will be fine with me.”

“What does your family like to watch, Paul?”

“During dinner?”

“Or doesn’t your family watch TV during dinner. It’s McHale’s Navy around here.”

“Oh, the McHale’s Navy will be fine, thank you.”

When was Mom going to stop hammering on about the TV aspect of our little carnival?

But, to my surprise, with each passing minute, I noticed Paul recline a little further back in his seat, relaxing to McHale’s Mardi Gras of costumed humor. He even seemed to enjoy eating the TV dinner’s Tootsie Pop-sized drumsticks and potato-substitute mashed potatoes.

Or – was he faking everything? Our crash filled bike rides were all about faking. But, if he was feigning tonight, being kind while having to eat leathery chicken, wrinkled peas and apple-less cobbler, not to mention watch television during our version of family hour, then that seemed a true sacrifice for a friend.


Chapter 3 “Revenge”

CH 3  Revenge sq ME AT 19 CAMPINGFrom that moment on, Mom discontinued her self-imposed role as Andberg family martyr and began a campaign to show everyone she was right and justified to her feelings. No longer interested in just venting discontent, she reinvented herself as – Woman Emancipated.

It all started in the kitchen. Suddenly, “cooking” boiled down to just three concepts: Swanson’s, Chef Boy-ar-dee, and Chun King. There was no longer a need for clunky double boilers or heavy-duty sauce pans to cook dinner when modern-day TV dinner and pot pie meals were as close as the nearest freezer. Directions of “Preheat to 375 and cook for 45 minutes” basically replaced the entire Joy of Cooking recipe book she’d relied on for decades. Every spice was eliminated and replaced by pepper. Ingredient lists were scratched and replaced by chemical equations. Cool! Even though our palettes were being reduced to mashed potatoes, the change was fine with me. In fact, in time, the entire family felt the same way. Finally – some family unity.

Of all the new meals, TV dinners were the most preferred. From our Scandinavian heritage and being naturally organized, we created entire theme nights around them all summer long: Tuesday Salisbury Steak night, Wednesday Chicken night, Thursday Turkey night, so forth and so on. Swanson’s Chicken Dinner was my favorite, although their drumsticks seemed small. Dipping them in the apple cobbler added some nice bulk, not to mention a little needed seasoning (the burned sugar that spilled over from the TV dinner’s cobbler section into the meat stall was plenty of spice for me). As far as I was concerned, TV dinners ruled the world and eliminated Spam sandwich dinners forever.

Even Dad got in on the gastronomic act and bought little folding tables called TV trays. These fancy collapsible units were compact enough to form a tight semi-circle around the TV set where each of us ate his or her TV dinner in privacy and in direct line with entertainment. In fact, eating our dinners in the basement during the summer meant I could go all day without leaving my seat in front of the TV. Everything was working out just great.

But, as with anything good in our family, there was a catch. Because aluminum foil and tin-encased dinners weren’t cheap, we couldn’t afford them anymore. By autumn, Mom had almost broken the food budget with her sinful trips through the land of excess and luxury living, causing Dad to put his foot down about the cost. In response, Mom put her heels down, suggesting Dad’s off and on income as a freelance architect wasn’t enough help to make ends meet. With their points canceling each other out, Mom threw her hands up in frustration and returned to her Depression-era Minnesota farm cooking, probably more as punishment than any cost-savings.


Chapter 7 “Responsibility”

CH 7 Responsibilty sq SHOVELWalking through the shadowy entranceway just below the basement steps, I paused, realizing the room I was about to penetrate was Dad’s sanctuary, the unfinished, dank, corner chamber of the basement he declared as his own to work on carpentry in solitude. I’d not seen other family members venture much further from where I stood right then so I crossed the line into the actual work area very slowly.

“Hi, Dad.”

He nodded, but his attention went immediately back to the wood cabinet he was assembling on the workbench. I looked away, then gazed at the huge collection of tools hanging on the wall above me.

“What’s this hanging up here?”

“An awl.”

“An owl?”

“No, an awl. And it’s sharp. Don’t touch it.”

“And what are these?”

“The rest of my tools. Never use them without permission.”

I slowly walked out of the room.


Why was Dad so touchy about tools? Regardless, I fantasized how neat it’d be to act as his assistant while he worked. Maybe I could learn to be a carpenter, too. No wonder Dad had lost patience with me. I called it an owl? I was ready to regain Dad’s respect by showing him he could trust me and that I could be depended upon.

The next time I walked into Dad’s prized woodworking chamber, I stood erect, pulled my hands out of my pockets and looked him in the eye longer than the customary two seconds before looking back down. I asked if there was anything I could do to help him, but he hesitated. I waited him out so that before long, he was already reaching for the broom to put an end to the day.

I grabbed a hand brush and helped sweep sawdust from the workbench. Spotting a few tools lying on it, I realized a better way to win his confidence was to demonstrate I could put the tools back correctly for him.

I stood before the wall of Dad’s longtime, family held assortment of instruments, each resting neatly in place by strategically bored screws and nails that held each tool in a specific place in a particular way. With each of the workbench tools I attempted to hang on the wall, none fit right: the shears took too much space, the hammer looked far too tilted, and the saw was forced in so hard it made a frightening “bo-o-ing” sound before sailing several nails across the room.

Hearing them hit the wall, Dad turned around and glared at me. Like a machine-powered drill, his penetrating gaze bored clear through me, creating a devastating hole I immediately filled with guilt and worthlessness. I was scared as hell.

I tried to say something, but was reduced to such a terrified state I could only utter useless, pathetic mumbles. I thought such things only happened in cartoons.

But then, as if sent from heaven above, I heard the sweetest words screamed down from Mom in the kitchen: “Michael, get up here now. Dexter threw up!”

Never had vomiting been such a call to paradise. Dad figured it was Mom’s work to clean house puke of any kind – especially pet puke – but since Dexter was my responsibility, Dad knew I was free to leave, and so did I. Running upstairs, I walked right by Mom, and hugged Dexter. Pet responsibility really had its rewards.


Chapter 11 “Jobs”

CH 11  Jobs sq LADDERThe problem with taking a courageous stand at the workplace is that the act usually leads straight to unemployment. In the case of my landscaping job, I was a hero one minute, a bum the next. Now my full-time job was reading the want ads. I had no choice because I had to work. I had to. Having saved little money, I could be on the street in three months time without family or friends’ support. The new scenario at hand now seemed less about what kind of job, but finding any job at all. Being stuck in my condo was torture. I looked at every activity I did in terms of what money I wasn’t making per hour. Assuming minimum wage, washing the living room rug by hand was worth at least $30 in pay; cleaning the oven – $40; watching The 3 Stooges Marathon – $95. And time spent reading the ads – hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As for reading the ads, I didn’t know what to even look for anymore. I had to consider what jobs my brain and body wouldn’t be able to handle on a regular basis, whether from stress or other factors. What kind of jobs would be left? I plodded through postings daily, applying for anything that might be a possibility.

Two months passed. I dwelled over all the personalized resumes I’d written tailored to specific companies that never bothered to get back to me. Worse was the cumulative effect of reading want ads, constantly reminding me about all the things I couldn’t do. There were hundreds of positions for which I had no training, a demoralizing realization considering most required about a fourth grade education. They were jobs I either wouldn’t do or couldn’t do,

The creation of all these ads and the response to them seemed moot anyway because, after all, what clear-headed employer actually believed applicants in Santa Fe would pass their compulsory pre-employment drug test? What a waste of time and energy. For everybody.


Chapter 14 “Relativity”

CH 14  Relativity sq CHART 'LOW AVG HIGH'Driving from Santa Fe to the aptitude testing center, I thought of all the important things to ask the camp host at the campground, my low-cost lodgings for the next two nights. As a result, I filled the 380 mile drive to Denver with acronyms.

“Don’t forget to ask the campground host what their cancellation policy is if you decide to camp somewhere else the second night. Make that ‘C’ for cancellation policy. Don’t forget to ask where the closest restaurant to the camp area is – make that ‘R’ for restaurant. And what’s the driving time from the campsite to the testing center? That’s ‘D’ for driving time. So we’ve got ‘C,’‘R’ and ‘D.’ What’s easiest to remember? ‘RDC?’ ‘CDR?’ ‘RCD?’ No, ‘DRC – make it ‘DR’ for ‘doctor’ and … C for Caligari, that weird silent movie we saw in film school, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari whatever. There’s no way I’ll forget ‘DRC.’”

Then there’d be an acronym for things to ask the testing people. And another acronym, and another. But the most crucial acronym on the trip, or any car trip I took, was the one for road instructions. Any new information coming into my brain at high-speed was always a problem; while on the road – quite possibly, deadly, so acronyms had to be clear.

Having made only two minor wrong turns navigating the secondary streets of Denver, I commended myself on such efficiency. And, at the campsite, all the ABCs of my ‘DRC” went smoothly. But, of course, paranoia set in about how I might get lost trying to find the testing center in the morning, so I left camp and drove the exact roads to the facility’s front door. Only after that was I ready for tomorrow’s tests.

Some twelve hours later, just before entering the shiny glass doors of the center, I stopped and looked down at the sidewalk beneath my feet. I speculated what I might see after taking my two-day battery of evaluations – a person jumping with joy from all he’d learned about himself, or white chalk lines around a dead man on the cement. What if I had no aptitudes other than to stock shelves at Blockbuster?


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