Author Archives: fnrotton

GUEST BLOG: One Flew into the Cuckoo’s Head

On Monday night I was driving to Fayetteville, N.C. to deliver my boyfriend’s work computer to him. He’d brought it with him for his weekend visit and neglected to take it home when he left at 4:30 a.m. that morning.

Fayetteville is a two-hour drive from Wilmington and on some of the roads the speeds drop to 35. At the moment of impact, however, I was topped out at 65.

There I am, about 6 p.m., an hour into my journey. I’m listening RISK!, a storytelling podcast. Some dude it talking about growing up in the city and how the kids in his neighborhood used to play in medical waste tossed into a dumpster behind the clinic.

The story teller was reminiscing about climbing in the trash to retrieve what they called “needle darts,” when

BAM!

Something bigger than a pebble, but smaller than a breadbox, hit the partially open window and window frame, then slammed into the left side of my head just above my ear.

“What the fuck!”

Instinctively, I shot forward in my seat. I was practically hugging the steering wheel as I slowed down and pulled the car onto the shoulder.

Tiny feathers were floating around inside the car.

This bird is a more "tradtional" bird death scene. Very different from what I had going on.

This is a more “traditional” bird death scene. Very different from what I had going on.

I sat frozen for a moment and took inventory. There was blood on my shoulder and blood on my upper left chest. There were feathers and blood stuck to the window frame. With every movement I made, little tufts of feathers wafted about. Fortunately, the window was intact.

I hopped out and sheepishly looked into the car. There on the driver’s seat was a dead headless bird. After thudding me good, the bird’s head popped off and its body fell between my back and the seat back, I surmised. Sick!

If I didn’t have a long shirt on it would have fallen into the back of my pants.

I muttered WTF a few dozen more times as I contemplated my options.

How the hell am I going to get this bird out? I sure as hell ain’t touching it. Should I just keep this shirt on and finish the drive? What’s in my overnight bag? I don’t want to put on my work shirt for Tuesday morning because I don’t want bird guts on that.

Oh right! I have pajamas.

Now, whenever I’m not at work or out socializing, I’m in “pajamas.” But my pajamas generally consist of super-sized sweatpants and sweatshirts. That ensemble is easily worn in public in case I need to make a quick trip to the store. Recently, however, I’d decided to treat myself to actual pajamas. So I had a real honest-to-goodness pajama shirt.

Had this been my pajama top I probably would not have been driving because I would not be getting laid any time soon.

Had this been my pajama top I probably wouldn’t have been driving on the night in question because I would have been a spinster with cats.

Fuck it, I’ll just put that on, I thought to myself. I popped the trunk, and after three cars passed and no more were coming, I whipped off my blouse and put on my pajama shirt.

Now to deal with the bird…

Look, I’m not the least bit squeamish EXCEPT when it comes to animals. I’d already glanced at the headless bird carcass so I was not looking forward to examining it up-close-and-personal. But I had to get it out of the car! If the bird had ended up anywhere else, I probably would have left it and finished the drive. Tim would have had to remove the body. But in this case that wasn’t an option. The bird was in my seat. Son of a bitch!

I considered using my tripod to flick it out, but quickly dismissed that idea because it would take too much maneuvering. It would have been like moving a soft ball with a pencil. I would have had to keep readjusting the tripod to effectively get the bird out. That would entail needing to actually look at it to get the job done.

Then I spotted a dust broom I kept in the trunk. Perfect! It was wide enough.

I climbed in the backseat, and with my view hidden by the seat back, I reach around and took some blind swats at the driver’s seat. The bird corpse unceremoniously plopped out of the seat and landed on the motherflipping goddamned door frame.

I recommend everyone keep one of these in their car. I use it for all sorts of things: snow, sand, dusting, dead bird evicting.

I recommend everyone keep one of these in their car. I use it for all sorts of things: snow, sand, dusting, dead bird evicting.

You’ve got be kidding me! The bird had already defied odds by flying into a 4-inch-wide window opening at 65+ miles an hour, now the effing thing lands perfectly on a 2-inch-wide ledge? I’m going to have to actually walk up and look at this thing. And to top it off, even when I finally get the body out, its fucking head will still be somewhere in this car! I had another hour’s drive to my destination, so the thought of a bird head as a passenger was mighty creepy. Ater a half-hearted glance in the back seat, I drew the line at scouring the car to find its fucking head.

I mustered up my courage and skulked up to the casualty. As I groan the international word for GROSS, “Eeeeeeeee,” I give the body another swat. It flies (pun intended) into the road.

Upon landing, the head appears. It was only tucked underneath.

For the remainder of my ride I did not touch the door because I was unsure if it had gore on it. I also didn’t touch the side of my head which I imagined was covered in bird brains (Spoiler alert: It was not). And anytime I had my window cracked I could see in my peripheral vision the bird feathers stuck to the frame flapping in the breeze.

How was your Monday night?

~Fran

Steal this blog — 5 things about shoplifting you might not know

Had A Few Beers: This is an interesting article about shoplifting written by a friend that once worked at catching shoplifters at a department store.

Steal this blog!

Take this five-fingered discount on crazy shoplifting stories, just in time for the last minute holiday shopping rush.

5 Stories about Shoplifters You Won’t Believe.

I spent a year-and-a-half working part-time in loss prevention for a retailer that will remain unnamed. This meant tediously monitoring live surveillance feeds for hours, watching shoppers interact with merchandise, and scoping out babes shoplifting.ju.topin low cut tops, punctuated by a few minutes of heart-pounding adrenaline rushes that could make you feel invincible … or just sick. Few rushes compare to catching a shoplifter in the act and then confronting them outside the store. It’s a thankless job. If you do your job right, nobody notices. If you screw up, it’s a black eye or worse, legal liability for your employer. But it gives you insight into a subculture we don’t spend much time acknowledging: Theft. There’s another great blog post out there that explains the rules of shoplifting which would I recommend if you want some more background info on how retail chains handle this phenomenon. Below are the most bizarre stories I encountered in my time with loss prevention.

1.    They never do it out of necessity

I did my time as a loss prevention associate in a military community with a lot of brass. This meant spouses and dependents who were well taken care of and military officers with plenty of disposable income. Supposedly, not the dregs of society. More often than not, it was the lonely housewives or kids looking for a rush that we’d have to pull in and separate from stolen makeup, cheap jewelry, or other frills. They definitely were not stealing items required to sustain basic life.

2.    They’ll hide things anywhere. ANYWHERE!!!

One detective I knew had to stop a woman in her mid-30s or early 40s when she took some cheap jewelry into a dressing room and came out without it. The dressing room was searched and the merchandise was nowhere to be found. He pulled her into the security office and told her she’d been observed taking the item without paying for it. She denied it up and down so he left the room to go into the surveillance room. The woman must not have bothered to think there might also be a camera in the security office with her. She reached down into her pants … deep down … fished around and pulled 20131223-144207.jpgout the jewelry. Then, she took the jewelry off its cardboard backing, ditched the backing under the desk of the security officer and proceeded to swallow the jewelry.  It was all recorded on camera, of course. My friend, the security manager, was dumbfounded. Since they hadn’t actually seen her conceal the item (it happened in the changing room, out of sight of the cameras) they would have had a tough case to prove to authorities. But now, they had her dead to rights. She didn’t see it that way. After the manager rejoined her and picked up the cardboard backing from under his desk, he let her know what she’d done was all on tape. She refused to admit any wrongdoing. It took the authorities’ threats of taking her in for an X-ray to finally get her to fess up. Afterward, the security manager took the soiled cardboard backing back to the surveillance room and flicked it into the hands of the loss prevention associate who’d first suspected the theft, saying “Nice work detective. Now catch another one.”

3.    Shoplifting is a small fraction of the loss that happens every day in retail

The amount of money retail businesses hemorrhage on a daily basis is astounding. The lion’s share of it, though, comes from employee theft. Think about it: You’re on the inside, you work there day-in, day-out, you see the weaknesses, you know when you can get away with it without anyone knowing … or so you think. Another loss prevention manager I knew busted a employee-theft ring for around $22,000 in the course of a couple of months. This one was ingenious. Some kid working back in customer service figured out that if you loaded money onto a gift card, then quickly unplugged the terminal, the money stayed on the card but the transaction would be wiped out of the store’s records. It was like creating free money. Soon word spread and employees started hooking up their friends. How did they get caught? A loss prevention detective got lucky when interviewing an employee for misconduct completely unrelated. The employee rolled on his buddies. If it wasn’t for that dumb luck the store could have lost hundreds of thousands or even millions before anyone were the wiser.

4.    Shoplifting is easy but it’s getting harder

They say, “You never get caught your first time.” Big stores can have hundreds of people shopping and in the security office you have maybe 10, maybe five, maybe one guy watching them all. Or maybe no one is in the security office at all. Then, you have to factor in the places where cameras can’t reach (dressing rooms  or out-of-the-way areas) and the detective’s ability to use the cameras to stay ahead of the customer and get a good shot at the moment of concealment. Catching shoplifters is an art because, well … it’s hard. By the time someone is caught shoplifting, we would assume they’ve done it many times before.  As a security xmasshopliftingofficer you get burned a lot more times, than you get lucky. Now, though, the playing field is leveling out. Advancements in technology are getting down right scary. I once told a shoplifter we had “facial recognition software” to get him to confess to previous shopliftings that had gone undetected. He bought it and owned up to stealing on five other occasions. I thought he was a real mouth breather for believing my line of bullshit, but now I think we’re probably not far off. If I found some pilfered packaging on the sales floor, say a pack for Pokémon trading cards, I could roll back the surveillance video log and figure out when the disposed packaging was left or concealed and get a good picture of who did it. Then I could follow that person around the store and see if they made a purchase. Then, if I saw a purchase was made with a card, I could go into the sales logs and pull the credit card number. Then I could run that through a system called Fraud Watch and pull every transaction made using that card. I could use those transaction logs to go back months and look at video of  every time that person shopped with us, to see if he stole anything else. From there I could build a case to turn over to the authorities — or maybe I just let him keep coming back so I could build a better case and inflate the total dollar amount recouped once he got busted. And this was back in 2009. Today, it wouldn’t surprise me if some stores are looking into facial recognition or any other kind of spooky Big Brother-type stuff in the name of “security.”

5.    Have I emphasized enough that they will put things ANYWHERE?!?!?!

We’d been watching these two women for awhile. Their favorite thing to do was peel discount stickers off clearance items and stick them onto higher value clothing items. This, of course, is illegal. We in the industry called people like this “Sticker pickers.” These two were smart about it, though and they burned us a few times. We kept watching them when they came in and, as usual, they started getting bolder … and sloppy. Sloppy enough for one of them to try to shopconceal some cheap jewelry right in sight of the cameras. So we pull her and her friend into the security office, let them know they’ve been observed taking merchandise without paying, and leave them alone after they deny any wrongdoing. Not a minute after we left the security office to go to the surveillance room where we could watch them on a live feed, the one with the jewelry takes the missing item out of her pocket and down it goes into her pants. Again, we’ve got her on camera, and again the authorities have to threaten to go in after it, but this time the perpetrator decides to call their bluff. A police officer had to take her into the bathroom and step-by-step, instruct her to open up, so the police officer could go after the item with a gloved hand. As the female officer recounted to us after the thieves had been taken away, that was easily the most disgusting call she’d ever been on and yeah, the jewelry thief had been menstruating.

Always underestimate the power of a hummingbird

A friend recently told me a story about a biker he met in a bar once who had an electrolarynx (one of those thingamajigs you hold to your throat when your voice box is damaged by cancer, disease, etc. I had to look it up, otherwise I’d have called it a thingamajig).

He said the biker told him he used it because of a tragic hummingbird accident.

Some Dutch dude tried to smuggle hummingbirds into French Guiana in September 2011! He apparently didn't know those little peckers near his big pecker could really cause some damage.

Some Dutch dude tried to smuggle hummingbirds into French Guiana in September 2011! He apparently didn’t know those little peckers near his big pecker could really cause some damage. (Source: Daily Mail)

A group of us were standing around at the end of the night saying our goodbyes and began telling weird animal stories. I shared the time I hit a wild turkey and then a mile later had to dodge a turtle. (That poor turkey was trying his damnedest to make it across the road, saw a car coming in the other direction and ran into my back tire — while the slow-ass turtle survives? That’s one for Aesop or something.) Another person talked about hitting a deer. There was some discussion about the fact that kangaroos can’t jump backward so if they’re mid-jump and a car comes, its lights out.

And then Mark (name changed to protect the gullible) pipes in with the hummingbird story.

“I met a biker once who had a thing in his throat and he got it because he hit a hummingbird when he was on his bike,” he said with awe.

Everyone oohed and aaahed.

“Wow, that’s crazy,” my boyfriend said.

And then “Fran” happened. She’s a real cynic. An ass, if you will.

“What!,” I screeched incredulously. “That is NOT true.”

Mark froze.

“Huh? No, he told me. It destroyed his voice box,” he said, his face turning crimson. “I believe him, he was a big old biker dude.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly why you shouldn’t believe him,” I said, laughing (like an ass). “A big old biker dude who was sick of people saying, ‘Hey man, why ya got that thing?’ so he comes up with the tragic hummingbird story.”

More on the hummingbird story. I'm fascinated. I wanna smuggle hummingbirds now.

More on the hummingbird story. I’m fascinated. I wanna smuggle hummingbirds now.

Now, I don’t know if a hummingbird can actually hit a big old Harley riding biker dude in the precise spot on his throat that his larynx is irreparably damaged. I’m not a throat doctor. But I do know  that when I hear something that seems too incredible to be true, I suddenly develop Tourettes and yell, “Bullshit!”

I’ve looked people – strangers even – right in the face and said, “You’re fucking lying.” Then were stare at each other for what seems like four days until they begin to backpedal, because I sure as hell won’t.

I’ve had conversations with schizophrenics on the phone (I work for the Fourth Estate, they call all the time) who  tell me the feds have implanted a tracking device in their nostrils and I’ve replied unsympathetically, “Listen, you’re nuts, you need meds.” I had one guy sigh sadly and say, “Ya think so?”

When bullshit starts floating about, I cannot help myself from saying, “Not true! Not true! Not true!”

blog

Which brings me to the point of this blog. The world is full of people who believe EVERYTHING.

Look at Facebook. People constantly post alerts about missing kids who aren’t missing, viruses that don’t exist, eloquent quotes attributed to celebrities who are barely literate (when did Marilyn Monroe become Confucius?) and pictures that insist if you type “1” in the comment section something real exciting will happen.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people type “1” in the comment section and I guaran-fuckin’-tee the only thing that happens is they instantly become a douche.

What is going on? Are there no critical thinkers left in the world? Is the line between fact and fiction so blurry these days that it doesn’t matter? Is it too much to ask people to actually read something, consider it and then decide whether they believe it? Or are we now a people who just take it all at face value and move onto the next bullshit story?

I’m not. I never will be. I spend most my time on Facebook Snoping crap and posting the links so people stop perpetuating untruths. And then the next day I come online and find a snarky reply from the original poster telling me it’s not who said it, but the principal ( I say that’s bullshit too) — and I discover that another friend has posted the same crock

Stop the madness.

If more people actually listened to what they were saying, I could stop getting into staredowns with idiots. And if I stop getting in stare downs with idiots, I can stop – at least in that respect – feeling like an ass. Consider it a public service.

And, if you lost your voice box because a 2-gram hummingbird didn’t realize it preferred nectar over whiskers, then I’ll type “1” in the comment section when you provide the proof.

~Fran