First-World Palindrome Problems

Back in the USA and the first thing I see is The Rats.
   No, not pet-rats, or pest-rats- –‘ Task-rats™’.
Now, living in one of the least ‘banana’ of the ‘republics’ in the third-world Middle East,  how could I not have even ‘heard’ of this revolution?

Quick previous ‘duh’ moment:
    On one of my earlier trips, years ago, I noticed that something mysteriously called an ‘SUV’ was quite the controversy. And since I’d ‘tuned in late’, as it were, neither the papers:
(USA Today: ‘So what does the man-in the street think of SUVs?
 A: Dingbat 1: “I’m fer ’em, a hunderd percent!”
Numbskull 2: “I’m against ’em. big time!)…
 nor the TV, the ‘babbling fireplace’ in the terminal hall offered a clue.
I threw down the airport  paper and watched CNN for a few minutes; A panel show. ‘Pro and Con’ something’. Yeah, ‘something’. Can you believe that after ten minutes I still had no idea what a SUV WAS? Really. No one thought to define it to a newbie. Heard stuff like “My wife has one and she loves it! followed by “They’re ruining the environment!”
No help there. In the end a counter-girl in a quickee-mart explained it all, patiently, but with a hint of ‘What else don’t you-uns know about?’ on her sweet face.
There were no rats doing unskilled labour in those days, otherwise I’d have had an excuse to prolong the conversation.

Forward to 2012: Rats. they’re everywhere.
Loading docks, excavations, industrial assembly, mail-sorting, perimeter security, ‘loss management’ at all the major chains. Genetically engineered and repeatedly cross-bred for the task, hence the generic ‘Task-Rats’. Re-gened, and with their pleasure-centers hard-wired to implanted chips, they just never give up, and a typical model, working in say, earth-moving, will dig to China before even thinking of taking a break, unless switched off.
My buddy Roy Starkey, who works at the Holtwood electricity generating plant down on the river told me over a non-descript American beer that ‘they gone over to treadmill-rats year or so ago, after the perimeter-guard rats proved ’emselves.”

We finished the other 5 beers while he answered some, not all of my questions. I mean, this ain’t like some SUV story; it’s a downright revolting. oops, I meant ‘revolution’.
I’d parked my trusty ’91 subaru in the airplane hangar almost out of gas while I was gone, so my initiation to the brave new first world wasn’t long in coming:
    The instructions on the pump said something like ‘Place the cash in the tray near the base of the pump. Your attendant will ring you up and turn on the pump presently.’
I did as told, half expecting the furry little vermin to grab the dough and run like hell to buy a bag of crack. (One of the pejoratives I’ve heard them called is ‘crack-rats’, probably from their zombie-like single-mindedness.)
But seconds later, after he’d (she’d) crawled through a little hole in the office, the pump sprang to life. I shook my head and laughed a little. No longer a virgin to the new order, huh?

Yet the smell. Ya can’t not notice it. Not a rat smell, mind you, more like…um…phenolic resin.
I mentioned this to Starkey, who knew just what i was talking about.
“Yeah, we don’t go near ’em much without the masks, but they don’t work. Who knows?”
    Well I know. Now. After considerable legwork.
See, the rats do something very unexpected, at least by their developers at Hamlin Solutions®, the giant G-E firm who still holds the patents on the critters, and stands to be the world’s next Microsoft, some say.
I say the next Thalidomide. What Hamlin is obviously not going to broadcast (in fact, they vehemently deny it) is that the rats do what’s called ‘ghosting’. Take trace volatiles from, in this case, the implant chip’s packaging and synthesize them in their musk glands, then release them when worried or upset for any reason. And that’s what I smelled at the gas station as the rat sensed my reticence to feed a fifty to a rodent(!)
Internal documents leaked from Hamlin call the bug ‘Aroma-ghosting’. ‘Aroma’ is better used for a pot of fresh coffee. In the rat’s case we’re talking ‘carcinogenic fumes’. A colleague of mine working at the little-known New York Dep’t of Development in White Plains was on a rare leave in PA and we met in the parking lot of Dunkin’Donuts, just to be safe. He’d quickly changed the conversation when I’d called him at work, so I knew something was up.
“Roger, {not his real name} what’s the bottom line on this, you know, the furries?” I asked him.
He looked over each shoulder then kinda hung his head:
“OK SIR, the headline’ll read: ‘TASK-RATS DO ‘GHOST-AROMA: NYDOD.”
If anyone knew the truth it was Roger, it turned out. They’d had five of ’em working in mail-processing, returned three after jumping bureaucratic hoops with Hamlin, and claimed the other two had died. Yes, they have an excellent forensics lab at the institute.
    I immediately thought of Starkey, wearing his useless dust-mask. Hoping his model was somehow immune to the bug, I asked Roger about the treadmill version:
 “DO DYNAMO RATS?” I inquired, shaking.
He nodded sadly.
“OH GOD! STARK’S AT RISK!” was all I could get out.

I finished my coffee, or what didn’t spill in my lap, at speeds exceeding… well… on my way to Stark’s house.
“Rats!”   I cursed as the hot coffee tried to emasculate me. Are we allowed to say that these days?


Wu: big tail, small dog.
Me: Oh no! Not you again. Who bought you a ticket?


22 thoughts on “First-World Palindrome Problems

  1. murisopsis

    Hehe~ I do like rats but the males are universally easy going yet smelly. If only the females were as laid back. I think Wu had it right but I enjoyed the ride. In the US for a visit? Hope you are having fun!

  2. jsolberg

    @murisopsis – an interesting question, am I having fun? I’m fixing my house and signing farm papers. Only here for two weeks and that’s almost gone.yes, thought of you of course with the rodent theme. wanted to get them into the labour market in time for the next election cycle.

  3. doahsdeer

    One year when Rudolf was ill it is said that Santa borrowed god’s llama to guide the sleigh. And a shopping plaza here in New Jersey decided to include that llama in their Christmas display, Santa’s workshop and petting zoo as it were. Of course, mall management was unable to find a llama. Undeterred, they substituted a St. Bernard. Not a small dog, but a mall’s dog nonetheless.

  4. ordinarybutloud

    They should market an SUV with a palindrome for a name. I would definitely buy it. Well, I might buy it. Our rat is named Coco and she doesn’t smell and she can’t run a gas station but she does have a variety of first-world problems, like boring toys and repetitive treats.

  5. twoberry

    I just thought of a great sandwich board:  Dine at Moe’s.  But the pie-eyed piper would first have to chase out the rats before I’d dine there.  Should I order the ham on rye, served by Hamma Lynn?

  6. jsolberg

    @ordinarybutloud – I’d already thought of suggesting you use Coco’s enthusiasm to charge your phone, at the least.As to the SUV, you should probably choose a RACECAR. Runs in forward and/or reverse, and tastelessly painted, will impress Podvillians unto death.

  7. ordinarybutloud

    @jsolberg – RACECAR. You are so clever. Is Beth letting you use her computer?!? 🙂 Coco has stopped using her wheel. I think it bores her. Maybe she’s depressed. Maybe she’s plotting a cage break. It’s hard to say because she doesn’t say much.

  8. jsolberg

    @twoberry – A dynamic suggestion! The bad news: a random poll of 16 to 25s recently confirmed that 81% of the queried now free-associate ‘Hamlin’ with rats, albeit, but none of them have ever heard of the fairy tale behind it. So it goes, as vonnegut noticed.

  9. jsolberg

    @sleekpunk – I think you ‘shag’ high fly balls… or highly flying balls, something like that there.yeah, NYDOD was a bit shakily included. i needed it for proper functioning of the dynamo.There are also, compounding the fog of words, several DOD’s.Dep’t of Difference. (housed in a building on W.houston St. in the village, it is home to all who ‘beg to differ’Dep’t of Deference: (never funded, in deference to legislators who prefered to defer the launch date.Dep’t of Diffidents (assists citizens who don’t particularly care) and the Dep’t of dissonance, which identifies un-tuned instruments, both in privately-funded orchestras and in the public schools.Just thought you might need to know some day.

  10. jsolberg

    @ordinarybutloud – actually I pigged-out on her excellent chili (imported texas pepper) and then racecar-ed home just now. 75 mph in pea-soup fog. I still got the old steer-by-smell thing going at 62. We had a grand old time.Coco’s probably evolved to the level where they divine that ‘what goes around comes around.’ and wheels lose their primal whiz-bang.

  11. ordinarybutloud

    @jsolberg – poor Coco. I didn’t realize you lived in God’s (other) country, when you weren’t living in God’s chosen country. Maybe I did realize that. Maybe I knew it, and somehow (God forbid!) forgot it. I have such a hard time imagining you in Pennsylvania. That’s the right state, right??

  12. elgan

    This reminds me of doing math problems in grade school where you have to come up with the correct answer and show in your work how you got there. Full marks, JS!

  13. jsolberg

    @elgan – Thanks, many thanks in fact. It is kinda the tale wags the dog; the heavy sub-motif is watching a guy squirming while trying to make the outlandish libretto make sense. Anybody even without a license can play through, say, Bach’s ‘C’ Two-part invention. The trick though is in proving that every note was like, inevitable.Oy, guess this coment defines ‘over-profound’.

  14. Roadkill_Spatula

    Nice to finally get caught up on your posts, after weeks of getting married and moving and stuff. I hope you enjoyed your time in PA. One of my life ambitions is to meet Beth. Another is to visit you in the Holy Land. My wife spent a month or two taking a course in Israel some years ago and absolutely loved it. She would love to get back over there. I was scheduled to help take a tour group nearly 30 years ago, but it was cancelled because of a bomb attack in Beth-something (which hitherto had been a safe place). So I’m still due a trip.

  15. jsolberg

    @Roadkill_Spatula – yes, it’d be a dream to host you, or at least provide a ‘safe house’ base of operations for your look-around. We do have a lot of common interests. If I can get Beth on a plane at the same time it’ll be a troika, a triumvirate to be reckoned with indeed.


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