Employee Action Report

Brad chose his moment carefully, during the mid afternoon lull, to call Cody into the office. Misty couldn’t be left in a busy store alone even for a moment. The pressure of even two people in line would be too much for her. She’d heat up and seize like an oil-starved truck motor. So Brad waited until mid afternoon. The lull. Then he called for Cody.

Cody sloped into the office and sat down. Brad sat down too, and sighed.

“We have to have a face-to-face because you protested formally. So let’s read the complaint.” Brad read from the card.

Boy did not help. Brought many shirt but no fit. Boy also step on tail. I think fire boy.

“I think don’t fire boy,” Cody said, emphasizing boy because he was a grown man of fully 19 years.

“Want to tell me what happened, in your words?” Brad asked.

“Have you reviewed the video?”

“In cases of a customer complaint the manager isn’t requi-”

“You should just watch the video.”

Brad thought about it. He did have the managerial power to review tape, although he usually only did so when he suspected theft or lackadaisical shirt folding. He turned in his swivel chair, being careful not to bark his knees against the little filing drawer, and faced the tape recording equipment. It was older than Cody.

On the screen were four quadrants from cameras around the store. One looked out over the entrance from the mall walkway. On it people walked by holding shopping bags and looking at their cell phones. Two others pointed at the rear and side displays, and a third looked down at the register area. Brad could see Misty near the front of the store, staring off into space. Briefly he wished he had a camera view of her thoughts. What could they be?

Brad used the machine’s controls to switch the view from the recording deck to playback, then pulled the TUESDAY tape from the rack. He chunked and whirred it into the machine. An image of Tuesday Misty appeared, assuming her position at the front of the store. Brad fast forwarded the tape. Misty in fast forward was eerily still.

Yes, still, until the customer who had filed the complaint walked into the store. Then she gave a visible start. The head was massive. The body was enormous. The shoulders barely dipped low enough to let the customer through the entryway, and the powerful tail knocked a walkway trashcan lopsided as the customer walked past.

“See?” Cody said.

Brad was speechless as he watched the customer nosing through piles of tee shirts with various ironic sayings. Finally, the customer seemed to want to try on a shirt that read “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green,” a slogan which had been slightly modified from the original “It’s not easy being green” to avoid copyright lawsuit. The customer was not able to lift the shirt over his head. His arms were disproportionately small relative to the size of his body and head.

Cody stepped over to help the customer, but it was no use. The XXXXL size shirt, known to store employees as the “circus tent,” fit over the customer’s head, but then looked ridiculous on the customer’s body, giving him the impression of an enormous green table lamp.

The sight made Cody smirk, and even Misty, who had been looking on in terror, gave a giggle. It was clear from the customer’s face that this had enraged him. He opened his massive jaws and gave a bark of frustration, then made flailing motions with his tiny limbs, trying to get the shirt off. The flailing made Misty giggle again, and in the process of trying to help the customer, Cody stepped on his tail.

The customer roared, and in his menacing reptilian eyes Brad could see the customer calculate whether or not to bite Cody in half. Instead, once the shirt was off, the customer stomped over to the register area — Brad could see the customer exit one video quadrant and enter another at an odd angle — and filled out a comment card. The customer then slammed his comment into the comment box and strode out of the store with a snort, his tail whipping angrily from view.

Brad paused the video. He turned to look at Cody.

“There will be no further action on this matter, Cody. Thank you.” he said. Cody nodded. Once the office door closed again, Brad allowed himself a heavy sigh. Another day in retail.

Book Report: “I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like” by Todd Snider

51QoYsfD9cL._SL250_ There are some things to like about this book by Todd Snider, a songwriter. For instance, Mr. Snider’s feeling on hecklers at his shows is that they paid to be there and they can heckle if they want to. According to him, a heckler might go too far for the venue’s liking, but never too far for his.

And he spends quite a lot of time talking about the importance of sharing your real self in your work. Not just the self you want to show, but the self that you actually are. That’s great advice, and a hard thing to do.

But he also appears to subscribe to the notion that in order to be a real Artist (capital “A”), you have to do all the drugs, drink all the booze, and occasionally act like a jerk to people who are trying to help you. I’ve had the privilege of working with a couple of my heroes. Unfortunately, they also subscribed to this notion, and it quickly un-heroed them for me.

You don’t have to do drugs to be an artist. You don’t have to be late or difficult or drunk. You just have to be as honest as you can, which you can do with short hair, in khakis and a polo, at 8:00AM, on a Tuesday, in an office brightly lit by fluorescents.

It annoys me that Snider realizes he has some problems, and seems proud of not changing them. What’s the point of examining our lives if we aren’t growing as a result? It’s okay to have shortcomings. We all do. But reveling in them is another thing.

I’m glad I read this book, and I hope Todd Snider has great success. I think I might have enjoyed it more if he weren’t quite so proud of his antics. I’d prefer that he didn’t perpetuate the myth of the Difficult Artist.

But it ain’t my book, so those particulars are not my purview.

George R.R. Martin Wheezes F You to Fans

Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin was interviewed this week and asked for his thoughts on fans who are concerned that he will die before he finishes the series. Double R was flustered by the insinuation that his health might not be tip-top. So much so that he made a rude hand gesture any teenager would recognize as a “nerd bird.”

Here’s the video:


I think we can all understand why RR was offended. The very idea that white-haired obese people just drop dead is absurd. But I don’t think that is the source of concern.

Mr. Martin, I don’t think anyone’s nearly as worried about your health as they are about a successful author’s propensity to elongate a popular series indefinitely. After all, we have been burned before. Remember Robert Jordan? I sure as hell do. And I’ll never forgive him.

Wheel of Time went on so long that when Jordan expired and Brandon Sanderson stepped in to finish the last book — the twelfth book in a planned series of six — he, Sanderson, decided that the last book should actually be split into two volumes.

Say what you will about J.K. Rowling, but at least the Harry Potter series ended. I mean, you know, she did release a Potter short story this week, but mostly ended.

Let’s just hope Sanderson’s health is strong enough that he can wrap up Double R’s GoT series, and maybe even wrap up Rowling’s post-Voldemort scribblings if she can’t resist revisits. Hell, if he has time, he can polish off her Robert Galbraith stuff too. Why not? I’m enjoying those.

Somebody get Sanderson a large water and a salad with vitamin crumbles. And make sure he’s hitting the treadmill. We’re gonna need him.

Book Report: “The Stench of Honolulu” by Jack Handey

jpegMy friend Travis Broyles told me about this book, and his description made me laugh so hard that I purchased it immediately. Of course I am familiar with Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts work from Saturday Night Live, but I didn’t know that he is an actual human. I thought “Jack Handey” was a fake name someone made up. Although, to be fair, it is kind of a name his parents made up.

Here’s how Travis made me want this book: he read me the first sentence.

It goes like this:

When my friend Don suggested that we go on a trip to the South Seas together, and offered to pay for the whole thing, I thought, Fine, but what’s in it for me?

There are very few humor writers in the world. Lots of standup comics. Lots of humorous TV show writers. Lots of improv people. But very few straight up humorous writers. Jack Handey is a humorous writer.

I loved all of “Stench of Honolulu.” In some ways, it’s like the lovable, dumb younger brother of “The Rum Diary” that you’d rather hang out with, maybe for no other reason than Johnny Depp isn’t likely to accept a role as anyone in it.

I liked it so much that I’ve bought another of Mr. Handey’s works, “What I’d Say To The Martians and Other Veiled Threats.” I can’t wait to read that. What a title!

Get this book. Read it. Laugh. Remember that I told you to buy it. Think of me fondly.

How to Install a Flyin’ Miata Header, Midpipe, and Exhaust, a Mostly Serious Guide

If you want your Miata to sound better and have a little bit more power, drop a few bucks on a system from Flyin’ Miata. It took me a couple of days to get the whole system in my 1999 1.8L, but it would have been lots faster if I’d known then what I know now, which is: Sasquatch is real, and he’s one hell of a mechanic. Kidding. He’s just okay.

Here’s the new exhaust, ready to go in. Ooh, fancy!


Unencumbered by training, experience, or the proper tools, I managed to get the system installed in my car. It’s a nice upgrade. Like one of those guns with a trumpet on the end of it, the Flyin’ Miata exhaust both sounds great and looks cool.


The biggest stumbling block I encountered during the process was the removal of the EGR (Exhaust Gas Return) tube. Here’s a video on how EGR systems work, if you’re interested.

On my car, the EGR tube is a metal pipe that, when off the car, looks somewhat like a bicycle handlebar. It runs from the rear of the exhaust manifold behind the engine block to the intake where it does, uh, science. Whatever that science is, the tube has to come off to get the stock exhaust header off your car, and to do that you’re going to need one of these things: a 22mm flare nut, or “line,” wrench.


Now you might be thinking, hey, Jimmyjams, couldn’t I just use a regular 22mm box wrench? And the answer is, well, maybe. And also it’s “James” because I don’t know you. There are two heater core hoses directly in the way, though. And your fitting is most likely rustier than Ringo’s drumming. And it’s been getting hot, then cold again for the life of your car, also like Ringo’s drumming.


There’s a danger as well that you might snap off your dipstick, which is a weekend ruiner in anyone’s book. If you use a regular wrench and even one of the EGR fitting’s corners is a teensey bit rounded, you’re gonna be left standing in your driveway with a shiny new exhaust still not installed, and maybe worse, your dipstick in your hand. So get the right tool.

f425dd0b-872e-43cd-aa90-4a8d5637331f_400Secondly, use a liberal amount of PB blaster or other bolt loosening agent. Users on the Miata forums I frequent recommended mixing up a concoction of 1/2 acetone and 1/2 automatic trans fluid, but I elected not to do that because I didn’t want to accidentally make methamphetamine, which would force me into a life of crime as Albuquerque’s drug kingpin. Sounds like a hassle.

I did spray pretty much everything in the vicinity of my car with enough PB Blaster to let a semi trailer back up a cat’s butt. You’re going to want to do this in a well-ventilated area unless you have brain cells to spare, or you want one of the neighbor kids to asphyxiate. Turn on a fan and save everyone’s health, I say.

Even with all that penetrating agent, I still couldn’t get the EGR tube off, though, because I was using one of these.


“But Jimothy, that’s a regular wrench, you complete teat. It ain’t a line wrench!” Yes, I know. But no one sells a 22mm line wrench even in a booming top 10 US Metropolis like Atlanta. You have to order it. Who has that kind of time? And it’s “James,” damn your hide.

It turned out that I needed a regular 22mm wrench anyway because the two O2 sensors, one pre-cat and one post cat, need a 22mm wrench to come off. Okay, fine, a line wrench would have worked there too. If I’d had one. Which I didn’t.

I got around the EGR problem by doing what the experts do: I Dremeled it off and bought another one from a Miata guy down the street. Cost me $30. Pretty sure the experts do that. Well, Sasquatch does. He told me.


The Dremeling didn’t end with the EGR tube, though. I also used it on the bolts on what Miata calls the “front” pipe (haha, front pipe). The fire extinguisher is for if Sasquatch gets mouthy with me. One clonk on the melon and he settles down real nice.


The stock exhaust has four pieces: Header, front pipe, mid pipe, and exhaust, whereas the FM system only has three. In the FM system, the front pipe is part of the header. The bolts between my stock header and my front pipe were beyond even the magical powers of PB Blaster, so I cut them off, being sure to shoot a generous amount of hot sparks directly into my eyeballs.


Once that was out and the EGR tube was sliced, getting the rest of the stock system out wasn’t too bad. The exhaust hangers are no match for a strong squirt of PB Blaster and a large pair of channel locks. I have a pair of these and they’re pretty fancy.


That done, all I had to do was stick the new header in, hook up the EGR tube, and bolt up the midpipe and exhaust. All of that was straightforward, and I was glad to be using new hardware.

My install was helped a little bit by the fact that I’ve replaced my stock airbox with a cone filter, which gives me some extra room in my engine bay, not to mention an added .0001 horsepower at the flywheel. It also sounds real nice, and it lets other car enthusiasts know that you aren’t afraid to throw money at a problem that doesn’t really need fixing.


Ain’t she shiny? This thing is going to look so good when people climb under my car, which is, well, probably never. But a neighbor cat might wander under there at some point and give it a gander. Or if I flip my car at the track, a corner marshall might be able to see himself as he runs over to laugh at me.


The only stumbling block during the FM system install was I didn’t know what to do with this little piece of science.


This is a gasket that comes with the Racing Beat header in addition to a couple of diamond shaped gaskets. The stock header has one in it too, so I didn’t know whether I needed both gaskets at the join between my new header and new midpipe, but I called Flyin’ Miata support on Monday morning, and they said that I did not need it. It’s just for putting the Racing Beat header into a car where you intend to retain the stock midpipe.

So that’s that! I took my car to the track for an event the very next weekend with this new stuff in it and I’m proud to say that I was last in my class just like I usually am. My car did sound better, though. No question about that.