Monday, January 30, 2012

A Burden to Society

Every time I take a leak, it costs the state of Illinois 38 cents. The state pays $11.50 per hour to the people I hire to help me take a leak. That’s about 19 cents a minute. I guesstimate that on average, each leak takes about two minutes, from unzip to zip. If I leak four times daily, on average, that’s $1.52. Extrapolate that out over a year and that’s $554!

Each time I sit on the crapper, that’s about 20 minutes. So that carries a price tag of $3.80 a day or $1387 a year. That’s $1941 of taxpayer money eaten up by one man’s bodily functions!

And that doesn’t even count all the other stuff my workers do for me, such as putting on my pants ($208 a year), brushing my teeth, ($244) and making my armpits smell like a cool sea breeze ($226).

There’s no doubt about it. The numbers don’t lie. I am a burden to society.

And just look at the fallout. People like me are stretching state budgets to the limit. Thus, foreclosures are at an all-time high. Hardworking Americans are losing their jobs. Small businesses are collapsing.

This can’t continue. Times are tough. We all have to sacrifice. The golden days of cripples wearing pants seven days a week are over.

I could argue that I am a taxpayer too. But who am I kidding? I paid about $800 in state income tax last year. That only covers the cost of all the leaks I took plus 65 days of sitting on the crapper. That means 300 of my shits are being paid for by someone else.

It’s clear I’ve got to give something up. I’m trying to figure out what. I could take a leak just thrice daily and sit on the crapper once every 36 hours instead of every 24. But this only saves the state $337 a year. And curtailing my time spent eliminating bodily waste would have a severe negative impact on my quality of life. I’d have to give up two of the things that make life most worth living: beer and Mexican food.

So let’s see, if I also reduce my daily crapper time to 15 minutes (I’ll put an egg timer in the bathroom), that saves an additional $347. If I stop wearing socks, there’s another $139. But the state legislature will demand a whole lot more than that. I could, I suppose, challenge their methodology. I could reasonably argue that since my taxes fund all my leaks plus nine weeks of sitting on the crapper, those costs should not be considered when calculating the weight of my burden

As a further concession, to demonstrate good faith, I could have my pits washed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and deodorize on Tuesdays and Thursdays to tide me over. That adds up to an annual savings of---.

I’m sorry but I can’t continue writing this. My calculator just overheated and exploded.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Feeble-Minded Football League

Well I guess I feel better now. At least I didn’t go to a school for the feeble minded.

Like I’ve said, the state-operated cripple boarding school from which I obtained my high school diploma is called the Illinois Children’s Hospital School. I called it the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT) because I hated the hell out of the real name. What college admissions department was going to take me seriously when my diploma said I was not just a child but a child who needed to be hospitalized?

But there used to be a whole bunch of state-operated schools called schools for the feeble minded. My favorite is the Massachusetts School for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Youth.

So first off, what the hell’s with the judgmental names? Feeble minded? Idiotic? As if any human isn’t at some point. They could have at least had the decency to call them schools for the feeble mindedest and idioticer. Are those even words? See how feeble minded I am?

But when you’re hung with a label like feeble minded, it’s like being skunked. It’s pretty damn hard to get rid of it. By some miracle (or computer glitch), my diploma got me into Southern Illinois University. But if I went to a school for the feeble minded, even the University of Phoenix wouldn’t take me. I wouldn’t even get into that fashion design school I see commercials for when I watch the Three Stooges. (I suppose this is a moot point. Schools for the feeble minded don't sound like places from which anyone ever graduates anyway.)

We crips at the cripple school didn’t have any of the big extracurricular stuff high school students get excited about. We didn’t have a high school prom. You can argue about whether that’s good or bad, but we didn’t have one. I’m sure the same was true for the poor feebs at the feeble minded schools. Who in the outside community would step up to provide a venue for such an event? Would the local Holiday Inn be willing to have WELCOME PROM FOR THE FEEBLE MINDED posted on its marquee? Charity only goes so far.

At our cripple school, we didn’t have a yearbook. And we didn’t have a football team either. I hope they at least let them have football teams at the feeble minded schools. Hell, there were once so many schools for the feeble minded across America that they could have formed the Feeble-Minded Football League. Just about every state also had a “Lunatic Hospital” so if they too had their own football league, there could have been an annual championship game: Loonies versus Feebs. As grand a tradition as Army versus Navy.

I know it’s pie-in-the-sky to think the inmates at the schools for the feeble minded were allowed any extracurriculars. Their curriculars probably consisted of playing checkers and Go Fish and drinking warm milk laced with knockout drops. When you’re hung with a label like feeble minded, it’s like there’s a cowbell surgically attached to your tailbone. It clangs whenever you flinch, warning the villagers that the feeble minded might be on the loose.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Legally Crippled

A curious reader writes:

Dear Smart Ass,

How do I know if someone is really and truly crippled? Is there a legal definition? You know how some people are legally blind? Is there such a thing as legally crippled?

Yours in Wonder,
Mr. Inquisitive

Dear Mr. Inquisitive,
One thing that really pisses me off is how we smug, homocentric humans laugh at dogs when they sniff each other’s ass holes. But I think dogs get the last laugh. We see butt sniffing as crude, but it’s really a sophisticated form of mammalian communication. To humans, all dog butts smell alike. Try an experiment. Put on a blindfold and sniff the butts of five dogs. Then take off the blindfold and try to figure out which dog was which. You’ll fail, because when it comes to olfactory evolution, humans are the primitive ones. When a dog takes a deep, savory sniff of another dogs butt, it’s like a sommelier sloshing wine in his/her mouth, trying to discern the delicate bouquet, the full body, the fruity finish. I bet dogs' butt holes are like human fingerprints or DNA in that they are all unique. No two smell alike to another dog. Dogs' butt holes are the windows to their souls. But only other dogs are advanced enough to know this.

There used to be a big dog in my building named Bob. He liked to sniff people’s butts as well as dog butts. Bob and his human were in the elevator one day when I entered with Andrew, one of my assistants. Bob snuck a sniff of Andrew’s butt before his human yanked him back. Andrew didn’t notice a thing. He faced front, his mind drifting, his eyes fixed on the descending numbers above the elevator door. So later, when he was driving my vehicle, I said to Andrew, “Bob was sniffing your butt!”

Andrew was shocked, indignant “What! When?”

“A little while ago,” I said. “He does it all the time.”

Andrew kept shaking his head in disgust. He couldn’t get over his indignation. He seemed so violated. But it was just a damn dog. Then I remembered Andrew was also an assistant for a quadriplegic, whom he helped that morning before he came to help me. The quad’s name was Bob. So I quickly cleared it up for Andrew exactly which Bob it was that sniffed his butt. He felt much better after that, his faith in humanity restored. Good thing, otherwise Andrew might have sent Bob the quad one helluvan embarrassing resignation letter.

But anyway, for a legal definition of crippledom, most people turn to the Americans with Disabilities Act: “ a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.“ But that’s all bull shit. I’ll tell you how it really works. Every year, there’s a secret meeting of every cripple in the world. It’s called the Every Cripple in the World Meeting. This year it was held at the Holidome in Sandusky, Ohio.

I’m probably going to be killed for divulging all this. But I love you so much, my dear readers, that I’m willing to die for you. The main purpose of the Every Cripple in the World Meeting is for us all to get our secret official cripple stamp, which makes us legally crippled. It’s just like how they stamp your hand when you go to a bar or a concert. Except cripples get their tongues stamped. Because the stamp has to be in a place where cripples can easily show it to other cripples when they meet. But not all cripples can raise their hands. Some cripples don’t even have hands to raise. But nobody’s so crippled that they can’t stick out they’re tongue, unless they’re in a coma.

You have to get your official secret cripple stamp renewed every year or you’re not allowed to be crippled any more. You have to sit it out for a year. Only cripples with up-to-date stamps have the ability to see other cripples’ secret stamps. So, the secret official cripple stamp works on the same principle as butt sniffing in dogs. To the outsider, when two cripples stick their tongues out at each other, it just looks stupid. But those of us who are legally crippled know exactly what it means.

There is a way, however, for an outsider to determine if someone else might be legally crippled. Every cripple who receives an official secret tongue stamp also receives a free gift. This year we all got a brand new four-slice toaster from our good friends at Proctor Silex. So if you suspect someone you know of being legally crippled but you need hard evidence, try to get a look at their toaster.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Smart Ass Cripple’s Good Old Fashioned Down Home Brace Burning

When I think about torture, which I do often, I think of Connie Francis and Milwaukee. It’s not their fault. They’re a fine enough pop singer and city, respectively. It’s just that I can’t help but associate them both with torture.

As for Connie Francis, it’s Wheatley’s fault. He was this guy with cerebral palsy who was my first roommate at the state-operated boarding school for cripples. His most treasured possessions were his two Connie Francis albums. Those were the only albums he had and he played them over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over… I can still hear her voice echoing through the dark, haunted corridors of my psyche:

“Lipstick on your collar

Told a tale on you-woo.

Lipstick on your collar

Said you were untrue-woo.”

And Wheatley played it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over… And he sang along, too, except it was more like a howl. And I’m 13 years old and here I am trapped in this place! I’m slowly morphing into an axe murderer. Everyone has experienced this form of torture and the insanity it induces. It’s like when you’ve got a song stuck in your head and you can’t beat it or shake it out for the life of you. The songs that get stuck in your head are always profoundly annoying songs, like jingles from car dealer commercials or anything by Kenny G. You never get Mozart stuck in your head. And the song burrows in deep like a brain-eating parasite and taunts you with increasing delight until you start searching the internet for the nearest 24-hour lobotomy lab. And if you can’t get a lobotomy on demand soon, you’ll give yourself one through the ear with a knitting needle. Anything to make it stop!

And Milwaukee reminds me of torture because it is the birthplace of the Milwaukee brace. I wore a Milwaukee brace throughout my teens. Here’s a picture:

For those who can’t see, it’s a plastic girdle that fits around the pelvis and hips. A vertical metal bar runs up the front to just under the chin, where a padded perch rests. Two similar bars run parallel up the back to behind the skull, where there is a padded headrest. The idea was to prevent scoliosis.

I remember when I was fitted for my Milwaukee brace there was a sling hanging down from a little crane above my head and the brace maker secured the sling under my chin and cranked me up until I dangled just above the exam table. And then he wrapped plaster around my trunk. I felt like a fucking piƱata! I kept expecting kids to burst into the room and beat me with sticks.

When you wear a Milwaukee brace, you feel like you’re wearing a barrel. You feel about as sexy and attractive (and agile and nimble) as a guy wearing a barrel, too. And you’re supposed to wear it 23 hours a day every day forever, only talking it off to bathe.

When I went away to college, living on my own in the dorm, I ditched the Milwaukee brace.

Generations of cripples have experienced this form of torture. It gives me a notion to start a new annual ritual: Smart Ass Cripple’s Good Old Fashioned Down Home Brace Burning. I’ll build a huge bonfire. Cripples from all over the universe can come, bring all their old albatross braces and throw them in. Then we all dance naked.

It will be intensely therapeutic. It will help me exorcise those nightmares of an adolescence spent squeezed into a Milwaukee brace, listening to Connie Francis.

Friday, January 6, 2012


John, one of my assistants, said he had to get up off his ass and finally go renew his driver’s license. He’s put it off because he dreads waiting in the long line at the DMV.

Just then, a bold, superhero voice in my head bellowed: “This is a job for Rent-A-Cripple!”

Rent-A-Cripple is my imaginary temp employment agency for cripples. There are times when having a cripple hanging around can be very advantageous for a “vert” (which is short for vertical, which is slang for people who walk.) These are the times when verts should make an SOS call to Rent-A-Cripple.

John could get through the DMV in a flash if he hired me to go with him. Because for some reason, whenever I show up there they wave me right on through, right up to the service window. And the frustrated verts corralled in the queue look at me with a combination of resentment and alarm. Half of them seem to think I’m being hustled ahead because I’m a bitter cripple who thinks the whole damn world owes him something. The rest seem to think I’m being hustled ahead because maybe I’m contagious.

Disney World was once a great place to hire Rent-A-Cripple. Like the DMV, being crippled was often a free pass to the front of the lines. My friend Marca, who’s a paraplegic, took her kids to Disney World way back when they were small. And it sure seemed to her that there were an awful lot of people rolling around in Disney loaner wheelchairs. And then she overheard a family in the guest services line have the following discussion:

Dad said, “Now remember, Suzie, it’s your turn to act like you need a wheelchair.”

And Suzie said, “I don’t wanna do it! Make Billy do it!”

And Billy said, “I did it last time! You do it!”

And sure enough, later on, Marca saw Billy pushing a pouting Suzie in a Disney loaner wheelchair. I’m told Disney World is a lot more accessible these days so cripples often wait in line with everybody else, thanks to that fucking Americans With Disabilities Act!

Rent-A-Cripple provides employment opportunities for lots of people with Down syndrome. If your reputation needs to be repaired or reframed, it can be very advantageous to have someone with Down syndrome on retainer. Because when you see someone with Down syndrome, what’s the first thing you think? You think “Special Olympics,” right? Good! Stop right there! That’s as far as you need to think! Down syndrome people have this image of always being warm and cuddly. Of course they’re way more complex than that, but that’s the image they’re all stuck with until one of them goes out and robs a bank or something.

So when you’re seen in public with someone with Down syndrome, you proclaim that you are a friend to someone with “special needs.” This is always a PR goldmine, especially if your special someone with “special needs” is a baby. Remember Sarah Palin at the ’08 republican convention? She’s up there giving her speech and whenever they showed a shot of her family, there was her special needs baby in someone’s arms. And the baby was always asleep. All around, 30,000 republicans screamed their fool fucking heads off. A brass band blared. And through it all, the baby remained passed out like a drunk on the subway. Either that baby was chock-full of barbiturates or that was really a stand-in stunt baby someone found in the prop closet. Either way, it got the point across.

Rent-A-Cripple does not come with a money-back guarantee. I can’t promise that having one of us hanging around you will always achieve your desired result. That’s a good thing; otherwise Sarah Palin would be vice president.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sarcoma? Hooray!

Once upon a time, not long ago, there lived a woman named Madame Curie (Smart Ass Cripple alias). Madame Curie lived in the United States. The state she lived in was the state of Dysfunction (another Smart Ass Cripple alias).

Madame Curie lived in a modest house with her husband and their adult son, Popeye the Sailor (one last Smart Ass Cripple alias). Popeye the Sailor had what the people who wear white medical coats now call an “intellectual disability.” His parents loved Popeye the Sailor very much and treated him very well, but he didn’t want to live in their house any more, for the same reasons most 27-year-olds don’t want to live in their parents’ house any more.

So Madame Curie set out in search of a small, community-integrated group home where Popeye the Sailor could live with a measure of autonomy and independence. But she soon learned that in the state of Dysfunction, this was a futile quest. She learned that loving her son and treating him well had been a major tactical error on her part. Because in the state of Dysfunction, such community-integrated housing opportunities were as rare as steak tartare and only available to people like Popeye the Sailor if they were being abused or neglected or were homeless or in an “emergency” situation like that!

So Popeye the Sailor was stuck in his parents’ home for who knows how long. He could be there until he was 90 years old, as long as his parents didn’t abuse or neglect him or throw him out in the streets.

But this tale has a happy ending, thanks to the merciful intervention of cancer! That’s right, Madame Curie was diagnosed with sarcoma. With chemotherapy, the doctors said, her chances of survival were 50-50.

Sarcoma? 50-50 chance of survival? Hooooraaay! That’s how a big part of Madame Curie reacted to the news. Because in the state of Dysfuction, people like Popeye the Sailor were also potentially qualified for an “emergency” designation if their parents or guardians were dead or dying.

This was Madame Curie’s lucky break! She reported her cancer diagnosis to the authorities in the state of Dysfunction. It was Madame Curie’s intention to beat the sarcoma and survive, but she didn’t tell the authorities that part. She played up the grim part. She knew that was the game she had to play if she wanted to get what was best for her son in the state of Dysfunction.

Today, thanks to sarcoma, Popeye the Sailor lives in a small group home. He’s relatively happy and free. And Madame Curie is seven-years cancer free. I give them aliases because I don’t want to risk shattering their tranquility. Because who knows, if the authorities in the state of Dysfunction read this and find out Madame Curie is alive and well, they might feel duped. Human Services budgets are tight and getting tighter and they can’t have people using things like cancer as an excuse to scam the system. The authorities may decide they have no choice but to make an example of Popeye the Sailor by extracting him from his community home and involuntarily relocating him back with his parents. And then, if Madame Curie truly loves her son, she’ll have to abuse him.