I very nearly ended today’s earlier post with a suggestion that I might take a couple of days off. I deleted it on account of no I fucking won’t, so of course here I am a few hours later with a second post for the day.
We are doing a vegetarian week this week. This is not as big of a deal as it might sound; while I am very much a fan of meat and remaining a vegetarian for my entire life is not really something I’m interested in doing, I’ve been eating veggie burgers for lunch for like two weeks and I enjoy eating damn near everything vegetarians eat. So a week of being a vegetarian is really not a terribly difficult thing to do.
At least, when I’m paying attention.
The boy wanted McDonald’s for lunch today, and I couldn’t think of a good reason to tell him no, so we went. I toned down what I usually get on account of I’m trying to pay more attention to eating better in general (yes, I know McDonald’s is not progress in the “eat better” department, but at least I had less of it) and I swear to you that it took until well after I was finished with my lunch to realize that a McDonald’s Daily Double is made of meat.
Which, you need to understand here, this is a category error on my part, and not me just forgetting that I was a vegetarian this week. There’s been at least one vegetarian week where there was pizza at work and I absent-mindedly had a slice of pepperoni without thinking about it. This isn’t that. This is a McDonald’s Daily Double does not process in my brain as a cheeseburger, and it did not even occur to me to think that those two delicious, peppery patties were meat. What the fuck are they? They’re Daily Double patties, apparently. Made of what? Love and cholesterol. Sure as hell not meat.
I’m a lot of things, but “bright” ain’t one of them.
7:45 PM, Tuesday June 16th: 2,134,973 confirmed cases and 116,854 Americans dead.
My wife and I have watched the six-episode McMillions documentary over the last week or so. If you’re not familiar with it, you may remember the McDonald’s Monopoly game that they used to run; turns out that the game was basically rigged from the start, with one single guy taking most of the high-end winning pieces and selling them to a network of people that really wasn’t as spread out or sneaky as it should have been. Something like $24 million in prizes was diverted until an informant clued the FBI in, and then a lengthy investigation ensued, resulting in a whole bunch of people getting indicted, most of whom pled guilty.
The documentary itself is … okay. It’s probably twice as long as it needs to be– certainly an episode or two could have been cut out without really harming anything– and damn near every single person that they talk to over the course of the documentary is some variety or another of douchebag, loser, or both. There’s one guy who they try to make out as a sympathetic victim of the whole thing, which doesn’t really work because he’s just as much of a dick, if not more, than everybody else involved– and, frankly, as far as I’m concerned he might actually be the worst human being to actually take part in the documentary. But more on him later.(*) This will be diverting if you’re home on quarantine and you need something to watch, but it’s not gonna change your life or anything.
And, well, I don’t think this was the intent of the filmmakers, but by the end of the documentary I was pretty well convinced that nothing in the documentary was actually a crime and that no one should have been prosecuted for this.
There is a point, late in the documentary, where one of the defense lawyers points out that his client is being prosecuted for federal mail fraud because he broke a hamburger company’s rules for a promotional game that they made huge amounts of money off of. There is another point where an actual journalist points out that like three or four of the big winners lived in the same zip code and that no one ever noticed.
You know why no one ever noticed? Because they weren’t looking, because no one gave a shit, because no one even conceived of this as a crime until someone tipped off the FBI, who only paid any attention to the case because, as one of the lead douchebags investigators points out, they had been working on “health care fraud” and were bored.
Seriously, this man’s dress shirt is three sizes too big for him for the entire goddamn documentary and it was driving me insane by the end. But I suspect health care fraud probably involves actual victims? And this “crime” does not. Literally no one was hurt by this except for the people who didn’t realize that if you give the dude from the mob half of your winnings and the taxes on your winnings are 40% then you’re not going to actually get a whole lot of money out of it, and I don’t feel bad for them.
McDonald’s was gonna give that money away anyway, and remember they’re *profiting* enormously off of this game. No victims.
You could make a case that someone out there in the world was supposed to be the real winner of the money, or the car, or whatever, but it’s equally likely that those winning game pieces get accidentally thrown away, and at any rate we have no idea who that person is. No victims.
There’s a big deal made about how the marketing company and the “secure” printer went out of business and some people lost their jobs, but as it turns out the only thing they did wrong was hiring the guy who took the pieces, and at any rate they only lost their jobs because the FBI did the investigation. No investigation, no job loss.
You could make an argument that, yes, dude stole the game pieces– but that’s basically stealing office supplies, which isn’t a federal crime, and no law enforcement agency anywhere would ever take it seriously. If I can get you to give me a million dollars for a post-it note that I wrote “ONE MILLION DOLLARS” on, that doesn’t mean that I can get anyone else to give me a million dollars for that post-it note, and no one would argue that you have stolen a million dollars by stealing the post-it. Should McDonald’s have sued the guy? Sure, why not? But it’s not a crime.
They basically openly admit that the only reason they used mail fraud as the main crime they charged these folks with (apparently at some point you have to mail the winning game pieces in for verification) was because they really couldn’t get them on anything else. Because, again, this is breaking the rules of a hamburger company’s marketing scheme, not an actual crime. Crimes have victims. Some danger, either to individuals or society. This has neither. Literally no one anywhere was harmed by any of this, at all, except for whatever cases the FBI was ignoring so they could pursue the “more fun” french fry case.
The biggest bullshit? The longest prison sentence anyone served from this was the main dude, who did 37 months, which shows you how seriously the judge took the case. Three people mentioned having to pay restitution (I assume there were more; a whole bunch of folks pled guilty) and of those, two actually mentioned the amount.
One guy, who has to repay something like three and a half million dollars, is paying about $170 a month. And the ringleader of this entire thing, who diverted $25 million in winning game pieces, is paying $370 a month, or about 2/3 of the amount that I’m paying on my fucking student loans every month, and this is the point where I’m actively fucking angry now, if you were wondering. Because it’s abundantly fucking clear that this money is never getting paid back, so they don’t even care enough to actually pretend that’s going to happen. And McDonald’s didn’t care about the “crime” enough to do even the slightest amount of due diligence on the winners– like the journalist pointed out, several of them lived in the same zip code, and a bunch of them turned out to be related, and no one noticed or cared until the “informant” tipped off the FBI, and– this is great– it turns out that the reason the informant called the FBI was spite.
Because this wasn’t a crime. It was breaking the rules of a hamburger company’s marketing scheme.
I really do enjoy the idea that getting an education fucked up my finances worse than “stealing” twenty-five million dollars, well over three hundred times as much as I borrowed, would have. Tell me again why I’m paying this shit back?
(*) OH RIGHT I FORGOT: they go to some length to make one of the people who took the game pieces look sympathetic, right? And this guy does end up eventually getting acquitted on appeal. But the reason they let him go? Is because instead of being told “Hey, these fell off a truck” or whatever ridiculous justification they used for the other end-user people, this guy is told that the game piece was found by a guy who is going through a divorce, and he wants to secretly sell it so he can hide the assets from his wife, so that she doesn’t get any of the money. And, as he says, he’s been through a divorce himself, so he “gets it,” and he coughs up fifty grand or a hundred grand or however much money they asked him for so that he can prevent a woman who he doesn’t know and as it turns out isn’t real from getting half of the prize.
In other words, the sole “sympathetic” character in the entire documentary is a misogynist piece of shit, and fuck him a lot. As far as I’m concerned he deserves jail more than anyone else in the documentary, because he’s the only person who thought he was hurting someone, and he was just fine with it.
10:35 AM, Sunday, April 19: 735,366 infections and 39,095 Americans dead. It’s early in the day; we’ll be comfortably over 40K dead by the end of the day.
Had an awesome couple of minutes as an educator this morning. I was up at the front of my classroom (which is at the opposite end of the room from the only door) teaching my kids during first hour when one of the 7/8 language arts teachers skipped (literally!) into the room and grandly waved a gift at me: a McDonald’s apple pie. I smiled and nodded and she left it on my desk and then skipped back out again without saying a word. I mentally filed “eat tasty treat” away on my List of Shit to Do and went on with my class.
Skip ahead forty minutes or so and my kids are (mostly) seated and (mostly) quiet and (mostly) working on their homework/end-of-class assignment and I decide that it would be a good time to eat my tasty snack treat, which was probably still warm and thus should be expected to be edible.
Allow me to pause here: as a reward for doing well on a test we took last week, one of the paraprofessionals in my classroom has agreed to bring Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to the kids in my room. He has produced said Cups this morning; the kids know they are on my desk and have been told that they will be distributed closer to the end of the period.
(If you are inclined to now begin a conversation about whether Rewards with Candy are appropriate for the middle school setting, be aware that I hear you, and that at the moment I don’t much care. This is the least of my various inappropriatenesses. Which is a perfectly cromulent word.)
I pick up my apple pie and slide it out of its cardboard box (all good food comes wrapped in cardboard) and take one single bite. A student sees me do this and asks me, rather loudly, why they don’t all get apple pies and why I get to eat in class.
I have my back to the door.
“Because I am better and more important than you, my dear,” I say. “It is my great specialness that entitles me to this tasty treat. Watch, while I eat it right in front of you.”
(Yes, I talk like that. Not always, but when the mood strikes me.)
And then I turn around.
And discover that the director of math instruction for my corporation has somehow ninjaed her way into my classroom, is standing right the hell behind me, and has a giant, shit-eating grin on her Ph.D-havin’ face.
My kids, by the way, have no idea who she is; they have about as much understanding of the higher echelons of our corporation as you did at that age. They just know an adult has busted me. Now, I’m not in trouble, mind you; I have a good relationship with this person and she wasn’t in the room to bust me or anything like that. But it was a lovely “Oh, you have got to be kidding me, November” moment to add to the tree that killed my fence and my mother-in-law’s stroke and my cat nearly dying. November fucking hates me, people, and getting fired for mocking my kids while eating preservative pastries woulda just been the icing on the cake.
She thought it was hilarious.
We talked for a few minutes about the various things she’d come to talk to me about, and then one of my kids interrupted us to ask when the hell he was getting his damn candy (okay, he didn’t swear, but it came across in the tone) and well that didn’t help either, now, did it? And since my Big Lord High Muckety-Muck Boss was in the room (as opposed to my regular boss, who I will happily threaten children in front of) I couldn’t really do anything about it.
Let me remind you that I am literally on a committee that helps retrain struggling teachers on how to do their jobs right, because I am a professional.
Oh, also I was wearing jeans. Which I do every day, but still.
(Later that day, during third hour, my assistant principal also managed to ninja her way into my room without me noticing. I had a better excuse this time, as I was crouching next to a kid helping her with something, and wasn’t doing anything embarrassing this time, but I seriously thought about hiring Sven again.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Spoiler alert; I don’t die at the end, and neither does anyone else.
Also, I’m literally making dinner while typing this, so I may be slightly less coherent than usual. I’ll be stopping every couple of sentences to stir and it may distract me a bit.
Also also: the last time I made this dish I forgot the goddamn avocado. Don’t let me forget the avocado!
Anyway. Every Wednesday, without fail, I go to the comic shop after work, because Wednesday is New Comics Day and us nerds need our comic books. I left work today kinda weak and dishevelled; it was a pretty damn good day for the most part (needed, after Monday, and I even have another nice story or two I might type out later) but I wasn’t feeling well again this morning and I needed something to eat. I found myself with the rarest, but hardest to deny, of cravings: Chicken McNuggets.
So I got some. I’m a grown-ass man; if I wanna play to stereotypes by buying Chicken McNuggets to eat in my car while I drive to the comic shop, that’s what I’m gonna do. Also, sweet tea, because why would I pass up sweet tea? No damn reason at all, that’s why, and you’re a filthy Communist for even asking.
(This kind of thinking may be one of the reasons my ass is… well, grown.)
(Before I get any farther: yes, I know exactly how stupid every part of this is, especially the part where I deliberately eat Chicken McNuggets and french fries as a fucking mid-meal snack like some sort of animal, and I’m making a goddamn vegan dinner to make up for it.)
So, yeah, picture this: I’ve dumped the fries and McNuggets out of their original packaging and into the bag to make them easier to eat while I drive. The bag is in my lap, and my tasty beverage is in a cupholder to my right. I scarf a McNugget or two and a couple of fries and then, pulling out into traffic on what I should point out is a fairly busy road, reach down and to my right and pick up my beverage. By the rim of the cup, around the lid.
Note that I have performed this maneuver dozens, nay, hundreds of times in my life without incident. No more!
I lift my delicious iced sugary beverage to my mouth to partake of its loveliness and the fucking lid falls off. Well, not quite: the lid stays where the fuck it is. The cup falls off.
A number of things, as they say, happened very fast.
I may have said a swear.
I yanked my knees up to catch the cup and leaned forward. Now, this seems as if it should be impossible, as I’m typing it, but if I’m lying to you at least the lie is entertaining: I somehow pinned the cup in between my upper body and the wheel before it hit my lap and exploded, losing only a miraculously small amount of liquid. Of course, this wasn’t terribly helpful, as the car was moving and the act of yanking my knees up removed my foot from the accelerator and also took it away from the brake.
This is bad. There was traffic.
Somehow– in a feat requiring either ninja reflexes or the will of God or incredible bloody-arsed luck or, most likely, at least two of the three, I managed to get the cup away from the wheel, into the cupholder, and my car out of oncoming traffic and flowing properly with no more than a couple of tablespoons of liquid ending up on my coat and in my lap. I decided to stop pressing my goddamn stupid luck and waited until I got to the comic shop to eat the rest of my disgusting, fat-laced calorrific “snack.”
And then had to text my wife to be talked out of buying the incredibly awesome Hulk statue pictured above, where– I swear to God this is true– part of my justification process for trying to talk myself into it was “Fuck it, I already spent a grand on the cat this week; I may as well blow some money on myself.”