Santa And the e-Commerce Mutants

A Christmas story of endurance, exhaustion, dedication, and the hope that just maybe somebody will appreciate these over-worked mutants enough to share a plate of holiday cookies.

We were never seen as superheroes like Iron Man or Thor or Captain America even. And we weren’t anti-heroes like Magneto and Wolverine, at least not until November and December. Most of the year the public tolerated our existence, a necessary evil in a consumer driven society. But in those final months of the year, when a certain sled driving, long white beard growing, red suit and hat wearing, overweight, elderly gentleman relished us more than the children of the country would ever know, we became the most tracked people on the Internet, even more than the jolly fat man himself. And possibly the most vilified mutants the world would ever know if we failed in our endeavors.

The jolly fat man asks us to do unspeakable things to compensate for his inadequecies, to work longer hours and more days than even that band of miniature, miserable little toy makers he keeps hidden away up north. We are his e-commerce face, his face to the Internet shopping public, his face to people who couldn’t wait until December 24th for their gifts. The face the shopping public would hate the rest of the year if little Jimmy didn’t get the latest, hottest toy available on-line and delivered on-time. We often grew sick and tired of Santa and his persona, his tricked-out sleigh (compensating for something he is), those vile beasts he calls reindeer (actually caribou), and it showed in our public faces, in our contempt for the mutant beings that him and these 2 months would turn us into. There’s a reason why Santa’s always smiling and it’s because we deflected any of the potential criticism about his so-called world class distribution system. 

Did you ever wonder how white beard does it? How he could fit all that stuff into one tiny sleigh? How he could get a pack of flying reindeer (caribou) to circle the world in one night? What happens when there’s no fireplace? Tim Allen aside, I don’t know about the fireplace trick, but the answer to the first three questions is…he doesn’t. He has lots of help from the mutants who cover large land areas such as the continental United States. Sure, he takes a lot of the small boxes and bags and poses for the publicity photos, but the backbone of his Yuletide network begins with those elves and their old-fashioned little toys, ( why he feels compelled to keep them around is a mystery; how many kids really want a little wooden train or airplane?), and ends on the backs of us, his merry-making mutants. Oh, and Amazon. And of course, loving moms and dads everywhere who relish the idea of him to kids not quite ready to do the math on the possibility of his existence.

I’ll bet you’re asking, what could send a mutant into a rage that would scare even Wolverine or Deadpool? It’s not just one thing, it’s everything. An unappreciative pot-bellied boss who gets all the credit, which yes I’ll admit, that’s a pretty common thing; a buying public (say this next part with all the disdain you can muster) who starts buying in early November and doesn’t stop until the last of the after-Christmas sales; drivers who lack the skills to drive in the snow, yet jump in the car at the first sign of snow; homeowners who insist on decorating every inch of their home, especially the house number and mailbox; daylight savings time and the ensuing lack of daylight; those high-beam lights people shine on their front doors to show off a Christmas wreath and are absolutely blinding if you look at them; all the hard to see electric cords and tie downs used to inflate and hold in place those cheesy Christmas yard decorations  that can easily take a mutant down to the ground; and the most asked questions of the season,”What’s this?”, “Who’s it for?”, “Where’s it coming from?”, “Will you hide it in the garage under that green moldy tarp for me?“, and “Can you come back later, I don’t want my kids to see you, or see you bringing it up to the house?”. 

And then there’s the worse insult a mutant endures. The fire truck Santa Clause. For weeks we freaks work tirelessly delivering Santa’s e-commerce packages, and on the Saturday before Christmas these wannabe Santas show up, driving their trucks down neighborhood streets, working their sirens, and tossing those awful candy canes to any kid who comes running. And they do come running, often ignoring the mutant walking up the driveway with a box containing something they really want. It makes a mutant want to climb up on that fire truck and rip that phony…

…thank the pretend Santa for his courage and service…he is a volunteer fireman after all. And when one of his also-phony elves, who by the way is not wearing the requisite green jacket, red stockings, brown shoes, and hat with a feather in it worn by the union boys up north, offers me a candy cane while blowing cigarette smoke in my face, this mutant has had enough,”No, I don’t want one of your candy canes, what I want you to do is move your truck to the side so I can continue with my 14 hour day!”

So this year, as you’re busy spreading your holiday cheer; please give Santa’s e-commerce mutants a happy thought; because we deliver the Christmas you so relish, and all that stuff you bought.

HO-HO-HO! It’s not just his laugh…it’s item number two on Santa’s after Christmas list of things to do.

Relish

Mr. Unremarkable vs. The Power of No!

Another historical fiction from South Jersey’s favorite 1970’s SuperHero In Training.

Anyone who has ever participated in Superhero (S.H.I.T.) training or simply struggled to find an answer to a personal question knows the power of this one simple word. The word No can be a bulldozer in training, it oozes with negativity and can often be the final opinion in the daily decision making process. It’s probably one of the reasons there are so few superheroes around. Just like me, you may have experienced this verbal phenomenon early in your own life...

Hey Dad, since I haven’t mastered Fire Manipulation yet, can I soak these cattails in gasoline (not to be confused with cat tails or cat’s tail), imageand don’t you think they would make great torches for running around the neighborhood?” Of course my Dad replied with the one and only correct answer in his mind, “Noooo!” This was followed by a fast trip into the garage to see what fresh hell I had dreamed up. I swear he had developed Teleportation skills. Now as somewhat of an adult I can see why he was concerned,  but as a S.H.I.T. I was disappointed his No put an end to my daring idea.

Like most regular kids in the neighborhood, I spent many weekend summer days winning the imageWorld Series. Unfortunately, unlike so many other kids who had one of those pitch back nets, my bottom of the 9th inning was played out using a tennis ball thrown against a broken mirror propped against the side of the house. It worked pretty good for me once I broke the glass in the mirror, on just the second pitch I’m proud to say. Mom and Dad…not as proud however. And after a wild pitch broke 2 shingles on the house, the power of No won out once again. As in No more balls against the side of the house. The garage then? “No!” It was here that it became painfully obvious, if I was going to pitch in the World Series it would only be by my superpower to change reality, known in the world of S.H.I.T.’s as Reality Warping.

As a youth playing baseball in rural South Jersey in the ’70’s the yes vs. no debate was also a mental altercation I had with my coach during my first year in Little League. While I knew that Yes, I could and wanted to pitch, he felt that No, I wasn’t a pitcher, his son was, and my best talents that first year were to keep the official score book. And I have to give him credit, no matter how much I used my power of Mind Control, he fought it all season.

Unfortunately for my coach, league rules said I had to play at least one inning in each game, meaning someone else had to keep the book. So around the 7th inning of each game I would get up off of my glove (I liked to sit on it so I didn’t lose it) and take my place in right field or wherever he chose to play me. And God love him, he over-managed us all the way to the league championship game. And in that game, all of the double switches and pitching changes he made finally caught up to him. I would have to hit. With a runner on first and one out, down by a run. The air was filled with drama, or the remnants of Billy Zawatawicz’s last flatulent masterpiece, I’m not sure drama ever smelled like that. Happy to be off the bench, away from Billy, I made the most of my at-bat and lined a 6-hopper through the infield into center field allowing the runner on first to go all the way to third.

As a bench player, you would think that would have been my biggest accomplishment and I would be satisfied. It was, but I was not. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has ever coached at the Little League level knows what should have happened next. A double steal. Make the other team throw the ball. Worse case, I might be out at second, but the runner on third would score on the throw to second base and tie the game. It was that obvious. Except to the coach who treated every game like it was Game 7 of the World Series, but was now incapable of that type of second-level thinking. And after no sign from him on the first two pitches, it would be up to me and my Superhuman Speed. When the next pitch crossed home plate, I was off and running to glory. About half way there I looked back to see the catcher had made up his mind to attempt and throw me out at second. It was working, by God my plan was working!

Now, following up on part 2 of my plan, I took a look over to third base, and what I saw shocked me. Not only was my coach there, waving his hands over his head in a, “Who told you to do that?” kind of way, but the runner on third was still there, standing on the base, laughing at another round of commotion Billy had caused on our bench.  As I started my slide, several questions popped into my head, the most critical of which was “Why was I the only one running?”  But as my foot touched the bag, barely ahead of the tag, I felt only vindication for my decision to run. It was up to the home plate umpire, the game’s only umpire, had he actually seen the play, would he make the right call? The answer was No to both questions. And as I laid there in the dirt, I had an epiphany. “When trying to think like an adult, sometimes you remove logic and common sense.” I’m still not sure what that means, but as we stood in line to get our Second Place trophy, my coach questioned my decision to try and steal second base. Would he ever have the logic to see the strategy in what I tried to do? Would he ever question his own lack of vision that stranded a runner at third base? Would he suggest to Billy’s parents a common sense low flatulent diet for Billy? Maybe, but if I had to make a guess, it would be No, all three times.

 

More Origin Tales of Mr. Unremarkable 

More disappointment and underachieving from the one who wasn’t expected to deliver much else anyway.

As I mentioned in the first origin story of Mr. Unremarkable, also known to the super-poweredpowerless and most muggles as, Me, I already had mastered the power to Outswim, as demonstrated by my ability to make it to the egg first. And as I learned in my high school Math class, with two destinations to choose from, the subpower of Probability Manipulation gave me the ability to choose the correct tube the required egg had dropped into, creating the most unremarkable of superheroes. So I also had that going for me.

Yet, for reasons unexplained, it was felt that I needed swimming lessons during my adolescent summers. Were my parents not there during my creation, did they not know of my heroics, what were they thinking? Swimming lessons? And, since I didn’t know how to generate the power of  Superhuman Speed, I was forced to take the slowest, most pedestrian form of transport available to every kid in the summer swim  program, a school bus. And not a good school bus, this was one of the buses they didn’t use during the school year. This was a bus they rolled out when all of the good buses were taking the summer off. A bus with no suspension to speak of, a bus that appeared to be spraying for mosquitoes as it choked and sputtered along the road, a bus where the front appeard to be going to the right while the back appeard to be going to the left.

I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy those early morning swim lessons at Cedar Creek Lake…in the cold refreshing waters of their…well, cedar lake. What I will say is that I would have preferred to have my lessons in the comfort of the heated pool not far away from that cold lake. I really feel like I could have reached my true Aquability with such a simple change to my training venue. But instead, those who taught me, as usual, failed to identify and match my true potential with the proper training environment required for one with my certain set of skills. So, just like every other kid there, I would stretch out my beach towel and learn to overcome another one of the hindrances to becoming my true heroic-self, Sand in my Shorts. Not exactly a battle with a kraken, but truly uncomfortable in many ways.

For some reason, Mr. Forrester, who owned and operated the Creek (my little nickname for the place), along with his staff decided that myself and the super-powered powerlesses needed to learn four different swim strokes. Freestyle, which let’s face it, I already had that one, the Breast Stroke and the Butterfly stroke, and finally, the Backstroke. Master them all and I would achieve true Aquability, if not then I would be just another kid battling Sand in my Shorts. 

There was one unintended distraction that both Inspired and Motivated. It could Elevate young males to swim faster and father than ever before, or Reduce lesser-willed males to something like a cedar lake jellyfish. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed it-a female swim instructor. Complete with blonde hair, a black one-piece bikini bathing suit, and a whistle just in case the first two characteristics didn’t capture the attention and imagination of the older pre-teen boys. I however, still saddled with Balls That Haven’t Dropped, hardly took notice. I was there to achieve Aquability only, anything else would only Distract and Deter me from achieving that goal

These training sessions were hot and grueling early morning tests meant to discourage the super-powered powerless. Or Camp Fishes as I would refer to them. These Camp Fishes all had jobs to do. Some were there to challenge my Swimability, some were sent to simply kick Sand in my Shorts, you know, the kids with the suddenly big feet who felt it necessary to kick sand on you and your towel as they trudged by. These older, usually bigger than me kids, who hadn’t learned to even float yet, also helped me develop the power of Danger Sense, a sense that would serve me well with two older sisters and a little too much attitude for someone my age.

Using my sub-power to Skip the Details, the culmination of all of this training was the traditional Test of Strokes. The annual Ordeal where all of the little Camp Fishes and little S.H.I.T.(s) (this was the acronym the instructors used for those of us SuperHeroes In Training) swam the length of the Creek to the amusement of the instructors…and of course to see who could swim the farthest using the strokes taught us. This is where I would separate myself as a little S.H.I.T. from the simply ordinary Camp Fish. Of course, on my way to growing my legend as Mr. Unremarkable, I failed to achieve my desired result. I did not swim farther than everyone else. I did not swim faster than everyone else. As I sat in the lake, marking my spot for the length of my swim, I watched, as even some of the Camp Fish stroked right by me. Kicking their legs, leg kicks that propelled them further and faster, leg kicks I forgot to employ. And I wondered, why had my instructors failed me…again? And from who or what did this sudden small flow of warm water emanate from?

And in the end, when it was time for my certificate, “Old Man Forrester”, handed me my “has participated in” certificate and not the “has achieved True Aquability” certificate I needed to further my cred as a superhero. But then the Old Man did something that brought the whole Cedar Creek Lake experience into perspective. Along with a coupon for a Famous Cedar Creek Lake Teenie Weenie and a free drink from any water fountain on the property, cup not included, (not redeemable on date of issue) Old Man Forrester gave me a leaflet to give to my parents so they could sign me up for another round of swimming lessons.

Riding the bus home from Cedar Creek Lake, my sisters in the front of the bus going right, me in the back and going to the left, I stared at that leaflet, at that certificate that represented my newest disappointment, and it finally came to me. This whole thing was a simple money grab. Cedar Creek Lake would continue to give me a “participation” certificate until I was too old to take their training lessons. It would be years before I received a “has achieved True Aquability” certificate, if at all. How could I continue to swim in that cold lake water each morning? All so I could end up with a teenie weenie and a certificate?

…No, not me, not this little S.H.I.T.

The Origin of Mr.Unremarkable

Some days unremarkable is the best you get.

I was born they told me, in 1960, to the surprise of no one. There was no foretelling of the coming of a new force in the universe, up until that point the only superpower I displayed was the ability to Out-Swim all around me. Hardly the skill of someone of whom much was expected. It must have been a great accomplishment however, because I often heard my father mumble, “I can’t believe you were the one in a million.”

As the years went by, I developed the skill to Un-Inspire those around me, and to Annoy not just the females in my family, but those who were sent to teach me as well. As I grew into my teens, I thought I once developed the power of Invisibility since I was able to walk past most females without any sort of recognition I was there. I soon learned it wasn’t Invisibility, it was just another display of my skills to Un-Inspire and Annoy females.

The super power to Hide, and it’s sub-set of skills, Duck and Dodge, were developed in my early years. Household chores were beneath someone of my self-importance, how was I to develop all of my skills if I was running a vacuum or cleaning a closet? I soon mastered how to Duck and Dodge my father, especially on Saturday mornings when the grass needed to be cut. Unfortunately, my father had mastered the Power of Patience and he knew all he had to do was keep an eye on the kitchen and the refrigerator, I would show up soon enough.

My sisters were a key part in my development into someone Unremarkable. Not only had they worked on their development of the power to Annoy, but Irritate and Tease, were strong powers in their arsenal as well. And because they were older than I was, their powers were far better than any I possessed. Each and every day could have been a lesson in “Why didn’t I keep my mouth shut?”

After leaving behind my sub-par world of high school, I advanced into the world of blue collar labor. It was this world where I developed and drew on the superpower of Dumb As I Wanna Be. Now here, finally, was something I was good at. How could I have repressed this ability for so long? Combined with my ability to Hide, I was soon on nobody’s go-to list, and clearly Un-Inspiring everyone.

But then she came. She had the power of See Right Through Me. I had never encountered another female with a such strong ability. The short-lived and weak power of Dumb As I Wanna Be no longer served me. She learned the places I went to Hide, and soon Duck and Dodge also became just useless memories. She had the powers Smart and Inspired where I had only Annoying and Un-Inspired. She Inspired me to transform my super powers Annoying and Un-Inspired into Mostly Responsible and Somewhat Reliable. 

And after 28 years of marriage and facing The Trials and The Tribulations of raising two of our own one-in-a-million little swimmers, not to mention a Beagle possessing the superpowers of Always Loyal and Forever Hungry, we can’t wait for the day when they have their little swimmers, who we can teach the super power called Spoiled Rotten…

Some Super Hero stories have only a Mostly Responsible ending…

 Origin Story