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Two students, James and John were given a grammar test by their teacher. The question was, “is it better to use “had” or “had had” in this example sentence?”

The teacher collected the tests, and looked over their answers.

James, while John had had “had”, had had “had had.” “Had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.

welcome to the english language

Piece of a story I wrote a while ago: Johnathan’s Flight

November 29

     I’m not afraid to fly as much as I am afraid of all the situations that could happen as I’m flying. I did my research.

     29% of all plane crashes since 1950 were caused by pilot error. All I could picture was a fat slob behind the “wheel” of an airplane, my airplane, eating a donut and not quite paying attention to the air in front of him. 16% were due to pilot screw-ups during bad weather. 5% were due to pilots messing up with the mechanics of the plane. “Other human error” counted for 6% - whatever that means. 12% were supposedly caused by bad weather. This was good for me because it was supposed to be stormy that weekend. 22% of crashes were caused by mechanical issues themselves. 9% were caused by sabotage. And a whopping 1% were caused by “other causes”.

     This stressed me out. I began to wish I had never looked in the first place. I started breathing heavily and shaking a little. Panic attacks are the vein of my existence. And my panic pills flow through those veins. I took three today including the two I took when I almost exploded over the whole “airplane crash probabilities” thing.

     Surprisingly, I was more worried about what “other causes” meant than sabotage. They couldn’t give examples of “other causes”? Was this another conspiracy?

     I am worried about terrorists being on my plane and taking it hostage. They aren’t just the Arabic-looking people anymore. They could be anyone. I am even afraid to take trains for fear those could be taken hostage too.

     I was pretty busy tonight. It’s about 11:00 at night and I just had time to sit and write about my day and how absolutely shitty it was. Yes, there was shittiness other than my finding out the world’s leading causes of plane crashes.

     First, my boss comes in to tell me that I shall be taking another business trip in his stead – just when I thought I was going to make it through the whole year without going on one of those. Business trips were not in the job description. And I am not happy about this, not happy at all. I will tell him this as soon as I can.

     Secondly, at the end of the day, he comes in again with a rather large stack of paperwork that needs to be done by tomorrow. It was, as I said before, at the end of the day. So guess who had to take a rather large stack of paperwork home with him tonight to try to do on my personally slow computer? I did.

     My ending thoughts for the night: I know most people don’t write in their diaries formally, with paragraphs and spell check on a computer, but it’ll bother me if I don’t.

 

November 30

 

      I probably own the world’s oldest living computer. It’s stuck in the past. When everyone else’s computer would be able to buy instant Starbucks Coffee from their very own monitors, my computer would still be dialing up the internet (quite slowly, might I add).

     I saved up enough to buy two new computers plus a nice little lap top, but I didn’t want to deal with the stress of changing devices. One lost file here, a missing mp3 there. It would be enough to drive me to suicide. I wouldn’t be able to handle it, which is a quality my wife despises.

     I brought that up because I’m not able to pull up my flight schedule on the pile of technological junk I own and I had to call the airport for a rough sketch of it. The lady who answered chewed her gum too loud and had that annoying nasally voice that I hated. I despised it because it obviously wasn’t her real voice; it was her trying to sound polite. In reality, she was probably a bitch – a big bitch.

     I heard a loud, cackling female laugh in the background. I pictured a call room. A loud room filled with desks and telephones and people being paid by the hour to answer any stupid questions people may have.

     I remembered when I was young and home alone and heard noises outside. I was so scared, I called the police. It ended up being a false alarm, but I was increasingly scared and pissed off as I was on the phone. I heard people laughing in the background then too.

     They knew where they worked. They knew that when the phone rang, someone somewhere was getting raped or was locked in a white van or is hearing noises outside of his house. And they are laughing. Their laughing wasn’t the problem; it was that I could hear them.

     Laughing about that episode of Family Guy last night. Or that insane party last weekend, were you there? It made me want to hang up and face my fate.

     At the time I believed that my fate was that a burglar was going to finally pick the lock and come in and realize that I was there. I believed my fate was that I would die a painful death at the hands of this sleaze-bag.

     But I stayed on the phone and told the man my situation and they sent someone out. The officer found that it was only my neighbor working on his car, inconsiderately, in the middle of the night. He did that when he couldn’t sleep. But he was slightly drunk and stumbled around and dropped his tools loudly every once in a while and he was sorry.

     The cop could have easily saved my life if it was a burglar. But I lost respect for the law that night and everyone that had to deal with that department. They treated their jobs as if they were answering stupid flight questions for confused fliers.

 

December 1

 

     When my boss told me that I have to take the trip to New York City for the important company meeting, I wasn’t quite sure how I was supposed to feel. Correction, I had a pretty good idea of how I was supposed to feel. He probably wanted me to be excited for the opportunity to meet those people in our company that are so high above me that they probably regard me as an ant. My boss already makes me feel like an ant in his presence so perhaps I’m a fallen skin cell that the bosses of my boss barely even know exist. My boss probably expected me to jump for joy (internally, of course) at the prospect of me being able to visit a new place.

     But I’m not. Nor was I excited to visit Colorado to see the new office being built in some God-forsakenly cold ass town in the middle of winter while his family when to Bermuda or something. Nor was I too happy about going to Washington State to see the new warehouse. So what on Earth would make him think I would be excited to go to New York to take his place at a business meeting because it fell on the wrong long weekend? That year, they were going to Hawaii. Thanks, and he’ll be sure to send me a post card.

     No matter where the meeting happened to be, I just don’t like them. The reason I was forced to go to these particular ones is just icing on the cake. My boss doesn’t like them just as much as I don’t, and probably for the same reasons. I have to kiss the ass of the guy above me, which in my case is everyone. At least when Mr. Gregg goes he only has to really answer to three people. All the other hundreds of people are either below him or at his level. That is an exaggeration, of course. There never really were hundreds of people at those meetings.

     But every time I go it is always the same. Step one: kiss ass. Shake hands with this person, pretend to remember that person and ask about their children, hope they actually have children, greet the owner of the company with the firmest handshake possible and look him straight in the eye, pretend he doesn’t intimidate you, and sit in your seat and fight the urge to eat all the donuts in the center of the table. We all know the rule about the donuts in the middle of the conference table: don’t be the first the first one to take one. And also don’t take the last one. And don’t cut the donuts with fillings. Unless, of course, you are the boss himself – only then can you break these rules. They are rightfully yours in that case.

     After the introductions, everyone has to sit there for a good two hours and listen to the owner’s assistant (or sometimes the owner himself) talk about some new ideas for the business and suggestions about changing the logo because the logo is so terribly important when the economy is in ruins at our feet. If you were one of the grubs sent there by their bosses like me, you had to frantically take notes. Basically you had to write down everything except conjunctions because you never knew what your boss would decide was important from the meeting.

     I can always tell who was new to the meeting because they brought only a notebook and a pen or a pencil. They either wrote everything down and couldn’t shake your hand afterward or they wrote very few things down and you never saw them there again, probably fired from their position because they didn’t write down every little mundane detail of the power point glowing on the owner’s screen. The more experienced ones like me bring a company laptop with them and type rather than write every single word that came out of the owner’s mouth. One person even brought a video camera and taped the whole thing. It wasn’t “against the rules” but it was frowned upon.

     I actually got to a point in which I can sort of zone out and go deep within my thoughts and think of other things. For instance I could be thinking about my wife at home in northern California and still be typing exactly what the owner was saying without skipping a beat. I went into robot mode. My body knew it so well. That’s the mode I would slip into at work in the cubicle as I typed meaningless numbers. The day seemed to go by much faster and less stressfully.

     Is going to these business trips for my boss at least once a year worth it for a raise for two months in my salary? Yes. Yes it is. But I don’t necessarily need it. I am a married man in his thirties whose wife works at a morgue. We make plenty of money. But the extra is put away into a joint savings account. One never knows what could come up.

    Perhaps I could die due to an airplane crash (if I die while on a business trip, my wife gets double the insurance money). Maybe the meaning of “other causes” will present itself and I can at least die with that bit of knowledge. I believe it a peaceful way to die: falling thousands of feet to the ground, high on the oxygen they make you breathe with my head between my knees. Not necessarily peaceful as much as satisfying.

    It means that I did it. I got through somewhat of a life without killing myself. Something else did it for me. I would feel fulfilled and I probably wouldn’t be the one screaming all the way down (and those who would scream all the way down would annoy to me no end, by the way). It would also mean that I would be significant to everyone in America for a few seconds when they read the deaths and my name comes up. Only then would I mean something to the world. Because people like me only mean something if they die – but not just die, they have to die extravagantly, such as falling thousands of miles to the unforgiving Earth. If there are enough deaths in the crash, my name would be put on some flag somewhere.

 

 

December 2

 

     I never, ever, in a million years, thought I would ever know what a sardine feels like. The thought probably never crosses anyone’s mind. And, of course, I’m talking about after the sardine is dead and packed like a (for lack of a better simile) sardine in a tin can with a bunch of others like himself.

     I’ve never liked sardines, but now I respect them a bit more for the atrocity they have to deal with. That is absolutely no way to be expected to live…or die. Pigs and cows get better packing treatment than that.

     Airports are the dreaded tin can of every human’s existence. It all starts with the parking.

     I don’t know about other airports but the one I’m forced to use has really small parking spots. I mean really small – like I have to do a two-point turn every time I park, assuming there are two people on either side. So my poor car is subjected to its personal space being invaded by other cars and people.

     I can see it now. The fat husband rolls out of the car heaving and the even fatter wife squeezes out of the passenger’s side, all the while her giant tits sliding on the window and her even larger ass brushing the door handle (where I put my hand) as she closes to door. I must remember to wipe that off before returning to the car next time.

     Then I have to wait in line for my tickets or to check my bags. The lines are long and the person behind me is always too close. It’s the vicious cycle because everyone wants to move forward and squeeze the person behind him out of his ass.

     The only seats with proper personal space planned are first class: what my boss would have gotten if he was to go on this trip. No, I have to take business class, which has just a few extra inches of room than coach. I have to get to know the person next to me or else I will be rubbing arms with a complete stranger for two and half hours. If I don’t, I eventually will.

     I mean, I am literally so close to the person that you can probably hear every burp, fart, or gurgle and see all there is to see of him. I feel I have to run to the bathroom to release potentially noisy or smelly gas to avoid awkward moments.

     By the way, why are normal bodily functions considered embarrassing? If someone rips one in the middle of the meeting, I wouldn’t care. But everyone else will have something to say about it.

     Anyway, I would prefer my neighbors’ view of me to be positive, even if they would only be in my life for three hours. That way when they get home, they can tell everyone at home how shitty their trip was. But by the way, there was this wonderful man who sat next to them from California to Nevada. He let them have the arm rest!

     No, I will not enjoy the ride there just as much as I will not enjoy the meeting.

 

December 3

 

     I know I’ve been harping on my complete dread of having to take an airplane to a meeting that I absolutely don’t want to go to a lot lately, but that’s not all this “diary”, this “journal”, this whatever is going to contain. It was just bad timing. My doctor caught me at a bad time. He just picked the absolute worse time to tell me to write my thoughts down every single night of my stupid life. Is it sad that this is the high point of some of my days?

     Some days I just don’t want to live anymore. It’s quite sad actually, when you see all I have to live for. I have a wife, no kids as of yet (but thinking about it), and quite a bit of money to my name. I don’t really have any other family but I think I’ve done well for myself regardless. I guess I just have some days in which I feel like not living. It seems easy to be me, but it’s not…it’s just not.

     My meeting is scheduled for 14 days from now.

CHAPTER 11

     I always knew that something was weird about Mr. Margel. He looked and carried himself like a giant sleaze-ball – giant describing not only the amount of sleaze but also the size of his body. At an rate, Will found out why Pearle was so surprised and concerned to see certain people entering the bar, especially after 1:00 am.

     Mr. Margel was at the bar a lot. He rarely did any work, but he was there nonetheless. However, he would disappear completely for days at a time two to three times per month. Pearle said that he was out of town, which Will accepted. If he had looked closely, he would have noticed what was really going on.

     About a week into his late-night (or early-morning) shifts, Will spotted Mr. Margel approaching one of the guests sitting quietly sipping his rum. The two did a swift and sneaky exchange quite literally under the table, which Will wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t really paying attention. He didn’t know what Mr. Margel gave to the man, but he knew that the man gave him money in return.

     “Hey,” Will whispered to Pearle across the bar counter.

     “’Sup?” Pearle said in a silly tone.

     “Did I just see Mr. Margel sell drugs to that man at table five?” Will asked, still using a hushed tone.

     Pearle’s head snapped up from her work when she heard this. She quickly scanned the area for eavesdroppers. Then she looked Will directly in the eye. “I’m sure you did. But don’t mention it to anyone, even me.”

     Will silently nodded his head and got back to work.

     A few weeks later, Mr. Margel got so bold as to send Will on one of these exchanges.

     “Hey, Fritz,” Mr. Margel said, beckoning to Will from the break room.

     “Yes, Mr. Margel?” Will asked, following him into the empty room.

     “I gotta ask you a favor.”

     “Sure! What is it?”

     Mr. Margel revealed a something covered by paper bag folded into a small bunch from his pocket. “Can you take this to table five?”

     Will looked at the bag in the man’s large hand. He didn’t give an answer.

     Mr. Margel didn’t wait for one. “Now, he’s gonna give you some money – a large amount. I know how much is supposed to be there so don’t try nothin’ funny.”

     “Is this,” Will began and then paused to make sure he was choosing his words properly, “what I think it is?”

     “Yes, yes. It’s whatever you’re thinking.” Mr. Margel sighed and rolled his eyes.

     “I mean absolutely no disrespect, by why aren’t you doing this yourself?”

     Surprisingly, Mr. Margel didn’t take offense to Will’s question. “Because this dipshit decided to come when we had a lot of customers. No one would suspect a thing if you did it.”

     Will nodded. He must have shown obvious signs of being uncomfortable because Mr. Margel continued with, “Now, I’m not sure if you noticed yet, but I’m not really asking you. I’m telling you, at this point.”

     Will gaped at the man.

     “And don’t you try that ‘It’s illegal’ shit,” Mr. Margel added, changing his tone to one of mockery at the end. “’Cause you and I both know you got something to hide, too.”

     Fritz’s rage was instant and loud in Will’s head. He tried to hide his physical reaction to Fritz’s uncontrollable anger, but he didn’t do so well.

     Mr. Margel took Will’s expression as one of concern. “You didn’t think I’d figure out? I come across as just another idiot hick, but I knew right from the beginning something was up with you. You come from Virginia in some piece-of-shit car and get stranded here in this tiny, shitty town. But you don’t want to go home. No. You want a job that pays under the table, no taxes, so that it won’t go into an account. You’re running from something. I don’t give or care to give a shit what you’re running from, but something tells me you don’t want to go back.”

     Will said nothing – couldn’t saying anything through all the effort it took to bottle up Fritz’s rage that was threatening to boil over.

     “If you keep your mouth shut, I’ll keep mine shut.” Mr. Margel slapped the bag into Will’s hand and grabbed him by the shoulders to turn him around and guide him out of the break room. “Don’t worry,” Mr. Margel’s hot breath on the back of Will’s neck made him cringe, “I trust this guy like I trust every single one of the people I sell to in this town. Now get out of here.” Mr. Margel gave Will a slight nudge out into the bar before pulling him back into the hallway by his arm. He sighed. “Put that shit in your pocket, kid.”

     Will put the bag in his pocket as Mr. Margel released him into the buzz of the bar. He tried to get the physical signs of Fritz’s presence under control before he sat across the man at table five. The last thing he needed was the sick expression on his face drawing attention to them. Even though he was getting used to Fritz being there in his head, there was almost no controlling how he reacted to the animalistic wrath Fritz could unleash inside of Will.

     Will felt that he succeeded in crossing the bar to table five without drawing attention to himself. He sat down in the seat directly across from the man just as he saw Mr. Margel do before. The man looked up at Will with a panicked expression on his face.

     “I’m…the guy,” Will muttered quickly to reassure the man. He didn’t know what else to say, so he went with the cliché.

     Will scanned the immediate area to make sure no one was looking. Then he retrieved the paper bag from his pocket  and held it out to the man under. He felt the man gently take the bag out of his hand and pause there, seeming to be mentally weighing the contents. When the man was content, Will felt something slide into his hand and he instantly pocketed it.

     The man gave Will a slight, almost invisible, nod and Will returned it. Then he got up from the seat and quickly made his way back to the break room. As he did so, he caught someone’s eye.

     Pearle was watching Will with a concerned expression as she mixed a drink for a customer seated at the counter. Will averted his eyes as quickly as he could and disappeared through the doorway of the break room.

     He approached Mr. Margel who was sitting at the table. When he saw Will he stood up and held out his hand for the money. Will instantly gave up the money and tried to leave, but Mr. Margel stopped him.

     “Now, did you make sure this was actually money before you put it away?”

     “No,” Will said. “But it felt like money.”

     Mr. Margel shook his head and sighed, putting his arm around Will’s shoulder. You’ve got a lot to learn.

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