Friday, May 05, 2006

The birth of an existential badass or How to get to work and kick ass at the same time

Today at Starbucks, I laughed hard with someone about the validity of driving a Hummer; specifically, the one parked right outside. Those things are ridiculous. With gas at 3.19 a gallon, I mused that it would cost them two bucks to get out of the parking lot.

The glory days of the SUV are over. It used to be a reach to mention those big fat vehicles as something that were a total waste. They used to have some sort of power over the masses.


That fool driving that Hummer is tossing his cash in the commode. He should be rolling in the Salinas Vanpool.

So since I started working with the company that helps me make the tests that you fail, I have become an avid vanpool rider. It started with the purchasing of a punch ticket. The next thing I knew, I was riding home every day through Monterey's wasteland, Fort Ord. I purchased an Mp3 player and proceeded to black out on subsequent trips. I would ride Ferdinand in once or twice a week, but the vanpool became my central mode of transport. I became a relief driver, and then I didn't even have to pay to ride. You know what? Bottom line is that in a lot of ways, the vanpool is fun.

There were issues when I started. Put a grip of people together in a close space, and you will have these issues. Someone will fart. Once we had to pull over so someone could puke. We were supposed to leave at 4:30 every day...but someone was always late. Some days we wouldn't leave until 5. There was an extremely talkative woman who would get in the way of my sleep. She had a little bit of ranking in the company, so I suffered her noise because she brought the good gossip.

Then Rich started to drive. Rich is a badass. I dig the Richard. He is a guy who put in several years in the Navy, and now he just does reserve work. I now know what it means to cuss like a sailor. Rich got on and was the relief driver, and that is when the attitude kicked in. Forget these late people, they could be left on the side of the road. What is said in the van, stays in the van was another thing. This amped up the gossip exchange. About a thousand people work in my building, so there is always some level of trash to talk. Then Debbie the librarian sent out a questionnaire for all of us vanpool drivers to respond to. That is when I stepped up to let the Salinas vanpool have an edge I could appreciate. Here is a paste job of the infamous email that made its rounds a little over a year ago:


I have held off getting these to you. The reason is that they are all true and they expose the intrinsic nature of the individuals of the riders of the Salinas Vanpool. But I think I am finally ready to tell you what is really going on around here.

What is the meaning of unacceptable behavior on a van?

*If you wake someone up, you could very well find yourself on the side of the road.

What if I am late getting on the van to go home?

*You are getting left behind, POINT BLANK. We HAVE to be the first out of [the lot] and any straggler that can't figure that out is dead weight. I have personally left everyone behind at one time or another. I would expect them to do the same for me. If you can't follow time, then you should be on the side of the road.

What are the rules on using cell phones on the van?

*That is a touchy one. Cell phones are permitted, HOWEVER, the details of the phonecall must be discussed afterward. For example, I am on my cellie talking to this guy about some serious work gossip. Well, everyone is entitled to the gossip after I get off the phone. The deal is that anyone can ask you anything after you get off the phone. This works along with another code that we have which is, "WHAT IS SAID IN THE VAN STAYS IN THE VAN". People who betray the code get tossed out of moving vehicles. They tend to find themselves on the side of the road.

What are the rules for smells on the van? This is not just cleanliness and perfume. This includes people who smoke in their cars before getting on the van and people who eat food that is smelly and causes allergies as well, like citris.

*This hasn't been an issue yet. I am sure someone will come in sometime after a really rowdy, smelly drunk the night before, and that person will probably find themselves on the side of the road.

What are the rules for food on the van?

*Riders tend to black out in the first 5 to 10 minutes of the ride. Our riders are sleeping too hard to eat. If they are eating they had better share. If they don't share they will find themselves on the side of the road.

What are the rules for music on the van?

*There is a subtle level of classical music in the morning. This is strictly for lullaby purposes. I personally use my MP3 player for a jolt of death metal in the morning. If someone shows up with a boombox or something, I really hope they enjoy using it on the side of the road.

Is it true that one of the vans has singing?

*Some fool mentioned bringing a Karaoke machine and a disco ball. That fool now walks to [work] from Salinas every day. We have no time for such shenanigans. If you bust out into song in our van you are likely to get shot, stabbed, knuckled down or find yourself on the side of the road.

Is there internet access on the vans?

*Complete hookup. T1 lines brace the frame of the van. We take our connections seriously. But you'd better share that laptop, or you are gonna be surfing the net on the side of the road.

What happens if there are no seats on the van I show up to ride?

*We haven't had that problem yet. When it happens though, I guess someone will be on the side of the road.

Peter, it sounds like you are running a real tight ship. Tell me more.

*More than once I have had to pull the van to the side of the road and take a vote on whether we toss an obnoxious rider out. If I get to that point, well, you know that the vote is going to be pretty much unanimous. That being said, I have the coolest bunch of people that I have ever vanpooled with PERIOD. These people are soldiers. They are people who know about respect and keeping what is said in the van in the van. There were some weak links, but after they walked home a few times, they learned and got with the program.

Peter, these people that find themselves on the side of the roadÂ…do they fight with you as you toss them?

*I've got Venkat for that stuff. He is a vicious van bouncer. He is always talking about "The measure of a man is how far I can throw this punk" stuff like that. All I have to do is snap my fingers and fools get tossed. Violence? I call it intelligence.

Peter, I am sure other vanpools will want to emulate your standards.

*I don't see why they would not. Our van OWNS the road. Get the heck out of our way, we have to get to Salinas by 5pm PERIOD. No time for slackers in this vanpool game. And this vanpool game is THICK. If you have any questions about this, email me. But don't expect an answer after 4:27, because I have a van to either drive or co-pilot, and late emails get fools parked on the side of the road.

As you noticed, there was a lot of attitude in that email. Rich and I have fostered this "badass" thing and lately it has gone to the next level. Understand that there are four other vans. Two go to Santa Cruz, one goes to Hollister and one goes to San Jose. The vanpool parking lot is always busy.

There is no reason why I put this picture in here. But damn, it is something to behold.

Enter about a month ago:
One of the Santa Cruz vans beat us out of the gate. One of my superiors who rides on that van called our van cellie and started to talk mess. All of this "Are you on the side of the road?" kinda trash. I started to talk mess back. I told her that she was always on the phone and doing emails and I made mention of the fact that she was pregnant and needed to slow down. She asked who I was.
"Steve." I said.
"Steve who?" she demanded.
"Uhhhh...Steve Balls." I responded.

POW. Birth of a legend.

Now when Santa Cruz calls, my people in my van can't wait for me to pick up the phone and adopt the Steve Balls persona. Steve is getting rougher and rougher.

Fast forward to yesterday:
I was pulling out of the parking lot. We were the first to leave as usual. But hey, I figured that I might as well nudge the Santa Cruz van a few times, so I bounced off of their bumper about 3x. They were rattled and laughing. One new guy even jumped out of the van and pretendes to cite my lisence plate number down. Last night I had a brainstorm. The brainstorm needs context, and here it is:
Rich has had to step down as primary driver. I am now primary. I have Venkat (who was mentioned in the above email) as my backup driver. Thing is that I am going to Missouri on business next week and Venkat is going to hold the system down. I needed to justify my bouncing off their bumper, and I needed to kick Steve Balls into the bigtime. Within the microcosm of the vanpool, we have some terminology that Steve Balls uses when he answers the phone.
"Steve Balls here."
"Steve Balls, how do you like me now?"
and so on. But I feel that there could be more. What I did last night was hatch a master plan that will get our ridership up and bring the existential Stephen J. Balls into reality.
Before reading the email, you need to understand that Venkat was the original vanpool enforcer, and I am warning him. Neal is a guy who always calls you on your cell phone. Hyson is a guy who takes a hike around the building every day at lunch. One 20-punch card gets two punches a day. One for going into work, and one for leaving. Gloria is the sweetest older woman that ever walked the face of the earth and that Victor is serious about his lunch. You also must realize that I copied A GRIP of people on this email. The Steve Bawls name is out there, and I firmly believe that there are going to be some funny ripples as I continue to make this individual a reality.

First thing needed was a name adjustment. He is now "Steve Bawls". The second was that I needed an internal vision of what I think the guy looks like in order to make him work. Its all about Frank Rizzo, Jerky.
This is the email I sent:

Look guy, I know you are out this week from that injury you sustained when Steve Bawls brought his pit bull to work on "bring your child to work day" but I really felt that I needed to get an email out to you in regards to Mr. Bawls.

The man is a complete lunatic. I am not sure what department he works in, but it has something to do with hitting people with a rubber mallet. That is what he told me before he clocked me four or five times in the face with one this afternoon. I was supposed to drive the Salinas Van home today, but Steve rushed me with a mallet, while screaming "Outlook!" and I woke up on the side of the road. Neal Tanna called my cell and told me that the van made the Salinas K-Mart stop at 4:37. I don't even know how that is possible, seeing as I was behind the wheel at 4:32. Neal also told me that Steve threw my unconscious body into the back seat and proceeded to drive into the Santa Cruz van repeatedly for a solid three minutes before he lifted off out of the parking lot.

Venkat, I woke up in a bush in a puddle of my own blood and urine in the middle of some Fort Ord mine field. It is a wonder that I even made it home. I stumbled out to the road in time to see the Santa Cruz van blast by, but that was well after 6:00 PM so I am not suprised that they didn't stop for me.

I guess the purpose of this email is to tell you that Steve Bawls is a menace. During the all-staff meeting last friday, I walked into the men's bathroom downstairs to find Mr. Bawls extorting money from some poor kid who works in technology. This was actually more of an armed robbery, seeing as Mr. Bawls had a gun to the guy's head. On the ride home, I asked Mr. Bawls if the gun was a toy. He cocked the hammer, pointed it to my crotch and told me to "hurry up and get us to Salinas". I have neverstress so much stess in all of my life.

Hyson told me that he ran into Steve while he was out taking his lunchtime constitutional. Hyson said that he greeted Steve with a "Hey, how's it going Steve." and he received the strongest blast of profanity that he has ever heard in his life in return. Hyson told me that while he was down on the ground, holding his ears Steve stepped up and took his 20-day punch card. I have since notified Debbie of the incident.

It doesn't even matter if that lunatic has a card though. Steve throws darts from the local pub at me each time I ask for his card in the morning. I had one stick in my back and another behind my ear the other day. His retort was "I guess I have two holes punched, so I am clear for today." He then promptly went to sleep. I lost so much blood that morning that I am amazed that I remember the story.

Venkat, I am going to Missouri on business next week and you should be back and driving after your pit bull groin injury. I need to warn you that Mr. Bawls is completely out of control and to exercise caution in your dealings with him. Just the other day he kicked open Rich Thorne's new office door and beat Rich within an inch of his life with a tire-iron. Rich told me at Curley's BBQ yesterday that Steve was muttering something about not liking the "Hippo" radio station that Rich has on in the mornings. This is fine, but Rich hasn't driven in the morning for some time now.

Just be careful as you drive the van with Mr. Bawls. The man is completely insane. He tried to rob Gloria of her purse, but she administered such an absolutely violent display of "death-fu" on him that he backed off. He turned to Victor and took his lunch instead. These things are happening WHILE I AM DRIVING, Venkat. You need to be aware of the danger that Mr. Bawls presents.

Steve has demanded that he be the primary vanpool driver because he feels that you and I are "pansies". I don't know what to do about this situation. I feel that it has approached such a level of extremity that I need to call the armed forces in.

Do you know who Steve Bawls' manager is? Is the individual still alive? I need to talk with this person and see if we can get some control on this situation.

Get back to me,


I got some laughs. One person in particular laughed so hard that I knew I was onto something.
I went to Anne who works in research and rides the Santa Cruz van. I asked her if she's seen the Steve Bawls email. She had not, but she mentioned that he's heard of Steve Bawls. It is starting.

I went down to Rich's office to tell him some blistering work gossip, he turned his computer monitor and showed me his project. He was working on getting Steve Bawls an active company email account. It is really starting.

When I get back, I will continue with the creation of Steve Bawls. Ridership is down on the Salinas vanpool. I am going to slather the building with signs that say things like this:

"Since I started riding the Salinas vanpool, I can afford an extra chicken pot pie every night!" - Steve Bawls, another satisfied Salinas Vanpool rider.


"I used to watch Jerry Springer once in a while, but now I get to see it EVERY DAY." - Steve Bawls, media jockey and Salinas Vanpool rider.


"By 5:15, I am in my drawers, my La-Z-Boy and I have already clicked through 126 channels with my remote." - Steve Bawls - TV conneseuir and Salinas Vanpool rider.

I'll keep you posted on it all. I must say that in it all, I am having a lot of FUN. I'm telling you, this is how legends start. 10 years from now, I could be somewhere else...but they will still be talking about Steve Bawls. I am sure of it.