If you haven’t left already, here’s another important note: On the off-chance that you’re an Altoids addict and enjoy basking in the mysteries behind those little rock hard pellets, there’s a couple of SPOILERS ahead. If you hate breath mint-based spoilers, no matter how small, I again refer you to A.S. Askkalon’s website. She recently won a Sunshine Blogger award, which is given to bloggers who avoid breath mint-based spoilers yet continue to offer fun content.
Still here, braced for spoilers and ready to proceed? Let’s do it.
On Saturday, I rushed into an American multinational retail store to buy something. I say “something” because I’ve already forgotten what it was; I only remember that I needed the item at that time, I was in a hurry, and all of the registers were occupied with other shoppers. That’s when I saw there was a self-service kiosk open and available, where I could pay for the item and be out of the door within seconds.
To the self-service kiosk I went, scanning and bagging my soon-to-be-forgotten purchase. Feeding a $20 bill into the kiosk’s money slot, I waited for my change. The machine swallowed my currency and then jammed, its overhead Problem Lights beginning to spin.
It’s never a positive event when the overhead Problem Lights begin to spin. It’s never a quick thing, that’s for certain.
The woman who came to assist me was pleasant and reassuring. She knew exactly how to fix the problem – she was, according to her, the only person in the store who knew how to fix the problem – and she was ready to prove it. Opening the machine, she released the money holder that held the currency and straightened the bills. She could have given me my change at that time but choose not to do so. Ignoring the broken plastic clip that lay slackly across the bills, she reached for two tins of Altoids and placed them on top of the money.
“This will do it,” she said.
The weight of the candies, I imagine, was supposed to keep the cash in place. Then she put everything together again, pushed a button, and waited for the machine to respond. When this didn’t work, she repeated the process. The clerk took each step very s-l-o-w-l-y this time, wanting to give the machine its best chance to succeed.
I wanted to ask about the broken plastic clip, but it seemed rather pointless. It was directly in front of us and obviously broken. Rather than fuss at the clerk, I decided to use my cell phone to find what I could about Altoids. This seemed a better use of my time than dropping to my knees and crying.
It turns out that Altoids made their first appearance in London, England in 1780. Wow. Drenched in peppermint oil to create a “curiously strong mint”, these tiny square pebbles used to come in ginger, cool honey, and licorice flavors (all discontinued), were once available as sours and as gum (both since discontinued) and, not so long ago, as breath strips (also, discontinued). Many people enjoy collecting the tins that carry the mints. Stumbling across a site offering 22 Manly Ways to Reuse an Altoids Tin, I later showed it to Glynn. He declared he was too much man to ever reuse an Altoids tin.
Despite the clerk’s use of the Altoids tins, the machine refused to function. The clerk had tried her shortcut, it hadn’t worked, and both of us lost a piece of our day because of it. When I returned to the store yesterday, I noted the machine had an Out of Order sign on its face. Presumably, someone has ordered a replacement plastic clip to go into the machine. Once the new clip’s installed, everything should work properly. Future customers won’t have to research breath mints while they wait for their change.
All of this takes longer and costs more than the Altoids ploy, but I think it's the right call. In my experience, the quick fix is usually a bad idea. When things are done properly, people don’t notice. Try to slide by with something fast, easy and sloppy…someone always notices.
I say this as someone who knew better but tried a quick fix with my ongoing novel, anyway. When I couldn’t find the perfect phrase I needed as a 19th century insult, I decided to fake it. How many 19th century language experts were likely to pick up the next Anne Glynn opus, anyway? So I came up with something that seemed to do the trick, read it over, played with the words, and placed the phrase into the story. Not once, but twice, because repeating a false something makes it appear more true. I was rather pleased with the result.
My theory was, if my first reader (Glynn) didn’t catch my little creation and my editor (TBD) didn’t catch it, either, I was done. Having, in a sense, dropped my two Altoids tins into the self-service novel machine, I decided to sit back and see if my little machination worked.
At least, that's how I felt before my sweetie and I sat down to watch Iron Fist. Yes, the reviews for the show have been terrible, but I wanted to watch it, anyway. Perhaps because the reviews have been so bad, Glynn and I were happily surprised by the first four episodes. As Marvel superhero shows go, it isn’t as enjoyable as Jessica Jones but it is on a par with Luke Cage. It’s not perfect, but what show is? (Okay, this year, The Good Place. Maybe Stranger Things.)
There were a couple of story issues that caught my attention, though. A pair of dramatic events in the t.v. show that didn’t ring true.
Spoiler, spoiler, SPOILER. You have been warned.
Early on in the series, Big Al, a surprisingly well-groomed homeless guy, arrives to give Danny, our hero, a welcome-to-the-park greeting. Shortly thereafter, he brings him a sandwich. This taught us that (a) Big Al was a good guy; and (b) we could quit wondering why Danny never eats, or drinks, or uses a toilet on the show. After all, we saw him eat a sandwich one time. You remember: Big Al gave it to him.
Shortly thereafter, Big Al is found dead. When Danny discovers the slumped body, he notices a bird tattoo on the homeless guy’s arm. As a viewer, I knew this meant the tattoo was significant. It had to be, or Danny wouldn’t have found it. Big Al himself didn’t mean anything, he was as generic as he could be, but that tattoo was going to come into play.
“You know the problem with Big Al?” Glynn asked me.
“We barely met him. If the writers didn’t care about Big Al, why should we? He’s just a tattoo attached to a dead guy.”
We may somehow see Big Al in future episodes, because of the bird marking and all, but I promise you, no one shed a tear when Danny found his body. If people don't care when a character dies, then the writers didn’t make enough of an effort. They wanted to introduce the tattoo, so they did. Even if Big Al returns, I won't forget how little he meant in the beginning.
Later in the show, Danny seeks out Ward, one of the few people still around from his past. Danny wants to be friends with Ward because they grew up together. This is a little off-putting because Ward is a hugely unpleasant human being. When Ward doubts Danny’s identity, our hero reminds him that, throughout their childhood, Ward enjoyed kicking Danny in the testicles at every possible opportunity.
For reasons of his own, Danny chose not to tell anyone about this unpleasant behavior. That’s right. He told NO ONE.
Glynn said, if he had suffered through that experience, he’d have told everyone. I’m guessing Danny wouldn’t have had to say much after the first attack; the screaming should have given it away. And wouldn’t frequent blows to the testicles have resulted in some physical damage to young Danny? You’d think the family doctor would have picked up on it: “Wow, kid, your testicles appear super swollen. Has someone been kicking you there…repeatedly?”
Clearly, the writers wanted a quick way to paint Ward as a bully and a bad guy. They had space in each episode to approach this differently – the show creeps along at first -- but the old “kick ‘im in the balls” routine is golden. They probably assumed if they slipped it in and the story runner let it pass, they managed to get away with it.
It was a quick fix, instead of subtle characterization. Like I said, someone always notices.
“What do you think about the testicle thing?” Glynn asked me at the end of the episode.
“Un-believable,” I said. What I thought was, They could have done so much better.
Me, too, I decided. Leaving the sofa, I went back to the computer. It took longer than I care to admit, but I found a real, guaranteed 19th century insult to put in my manuscript. It’s in there twice, and it doesn’t leave me feeling guilty when I see it. People may never notice, or the editor might have a legitimate reason to pull the words, but it’s enough that I finally did it the right way.
Supper tonight, however, is frozen lasagna from an American multinational retail store. The quick fix. After all, a girl can only do so much.