by Frank Baugh
Enjoy Tennessean Frank Baugh's musings
about the trials and tribulations of pursuing his
shower dream of becoming a professional philosopher.
This man will crack you up!
My shower is my oracle of Delphi. I don't know what it is about taking a shower, but it is here that I get my best thoughts. Honestly, it is amazing. It was in the shower that I chose my profession so long ago; it was in the shower that I decided to ask my wife to marry me; it was in the shower that I had the insightful flash that the astronauts really didn't land on the moon, but that all that was done in a studio in Hollywood--and all other truths that I have come to live by. If it had not been for shower thoughts, well, my life might have been okay. But there are showers and there are thoughts, and here I am.
One morning recently I was taking a shower preparing to take the kids to school and go to work. I heard the kids listening to some cartoon show that, of all things, was talking about philosophers. That, in and of itself, was odd and attention getting, until it became obvious that the philosophers were being denigrated. Anyhow, I had of late been somewhat disappointed with my profession, and as the steamy water dashed over my furrowed brow it dawned on me that I am a philosopher!
A pursuer of Wisdom! A person whose philosophical perspective enables him to meet trouble with equanimity, is the way philosopher is defined in the Dictionary.
"Yeah, that's what I am! I meet trouble with equanimity! Yeah, that's my true calling! I'm gonna be a philosopher like Plato, or Socrates, or Kant, or Marx, or Mark Twain! But how, I asked myself, do I become a professional Philosopher? Im sure the novice has to study for it. Hey, I know! I bet the Government will make me a loan to commence this new profession, kind of like a small business loan!"
So I resolved to call the Feds and pursue the matter.
After depositing the young ones at school I tracked down the phone book and delved into the blue pages under Federal Government. After an hour of confusion I finally found a listing in there under some obscure agency that simply said "information." This I called.
"Hello," a suspicious voice answered.
"Yes, is this information?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"I want some information about Government Loans."
After a pause the voice asked, "Where did you get this number?"
"Out of the phone book."
"The phone book, huh?"
"That's pretty smart, sir. Hold a moment." Then I hear all this clicking on the line. "Are you still there, sir?" Beep.
"Please speak clearly into your receiver, okaybeep.
"Oh, no reason. Sir, what is your name and social security number? Please speak slowly, clearly, and spell your name." Beep. I did so. "Sir, what is your gender preferencebeep?
"What is your gender preferencebeep?
"You mean like I have a choice in the matter?"
"Uh, no. Just a preferencebeep.
"I'm a male. If that is what you're asking?"
"Meaning you prefer to be a male and hold yourself out in society as a malebeep?
Does it help me to get a loan if I don't prefer to be a male when I was born that way? Does it get me preferential loan treatment? Is it preferable to not be male, even if I am?"
"I can't comment on that, sirbeep.
"Okay, this is confusing. Let's keep it simple even if it hurts my chances: I'm a male."
"Uh, that's good enoughbeep.
"What's that beeping noise?"
"Uh, what beeping noisebeep?
"That beeping noise."
"Pay no attention to that, sir... Uh, our phone calls are sometimes monitored to insure uh... good servicebeep.
"Well, it's sort of annoying."
"Sir, are you white, African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander American, Native American, Arab American, Disabled American" and so forth, ending with something like "or Mammal Americanbeep?
"Uh, I'm white."
"Humphbeep,said the voice with a tinge of disgust. "Sir, here is a number that may be able to help youbeep,and the voice hung up.
I dialed the number and got a familiar recording, "We are sorry the number you have called has been disconnected or is not longer in servicebeep.
I called the original number assuming the voice had mistakenly given me a wrong number. "We are sorry the number you have called has been disconnected or is not longer in servicebeep.
So, I scanned the blue pages again and decided to call the Office of the Federal Loans and Grants, General. After about thirty minutes of beeping suspicious voices forwarding me to other beeping suspicious voices I ended up with a local beeping suspicious voice. This one, after proceeding through the aforementioned litany of questions finally said, "Sir, I can schedule you for an appointment with one of the Loan Counselors at 11:55 this morning. Please be prompt because the Loan Counselors go to lunch at 12: noonbeep.
"Does that give us enough time?"
For you sir, yesbeep.
While I sat pondering all this, the phone rings.
"What's that beeping noisebeep?
"I think it's a wire-tap."
I arrived a bit early for my meeting with the Loan Counselor, which was a good thing because the Agency for Federal Loans and Grants, General, was well disguised. It took me a full thirty minutes to locate what I suspected was the street address by the process of elimination, using surrounding property addresses. I had to walk up to the door and try to read the Braille, the only markings on the sign, which of course I could not do. A man in sunglasses and a trench coat appeared from seemingly nowhere and asked me what I was doing fingering the sign by the door.
"I'm looking for the Agency for Federal Loans and Grants, General."
"I have an appointment."
He appeared startled and looking me over thoroughly said, "Really?"
"Yes sir. Is this the place?"
He chuckled and said, "Second floor, third door on the left."
As I walked up the steps, I looked back at the trench-coated man and thought I saw him speaking into his lapel pin, then he turned and disappeared into the shrubbery.
I had all of about five minutes to spare, so I had a great opportunity to observe the office.
First of all, the receptionist looked as if she had not seen the sun in years. She looked me over thoroughly and said, "You must be the 11:55 appointment. Your loan counselor will be with you briefly." So, I sat in a Government gray metal chair. There was absolutely nothing on the wall save a picture of the President. All the furniture was Government gray. There were really no offices, just a bunch of Government gray cubicles with Government gray chairs, desks, telephones, computers, calculators, pens, pencils and employees, all the later of which seemed preoccupied with looking suspiciously at me. I felt this great gray herd of eyes boring into me as I tried to look through a Government gray magazine.
Finally, one of the employees who had been alternating starring at me, then at his watch for the last five minutes, opened a drawer and took out what looked like a gray dictionary, got up and came over to me. He handed me the dictionary-looking thing and told me he was my Loan Counselor. I looked at this large bound volume in my hand and it was titled "Federal Disclosures, Number One."
As I sat in the gray chair at his desk, on which I noticed an extremely thin, blank loan application, he handed me a triplicate form that he asked me to sign saying I had received a copy of, read and understood the "Federal Disclosure, Number One." I signed it and handed it back to him. He gave me the gray copy off the bottom.
"Okay, sir, how can your Federal Government be of service to you today?"
"I want a loan so I can change careers."
"Really?" he asked looking at me closely, and then checking his watch he put the large file up and clicked on his computer screen calling up a questionnaire.
"Yes, I want to change careers."
"I see. I have a few questions first, sir."
This questionnaire was fairly simple, as Government questionnaires go. What I could see of it through the reflection of my Loan Counselor's glasses appeared to have a bunch of questions on the left side corresponding with four columns of check boxes on the right with notations at the top of check boxes. As best I could tell, it looked as if the more your answers fell in the boxes toward the left, closest to the questions, the better it was, cause the headings above the columns read like, from left to right: "sure thing, maybe, doubtful, not a chance," or something like that.
"What is your name address and social security number?" I told him and he input the information.
"What is your gender preference?"
"Your gender preference, male, female or other."
"Uh, male." Then he proceeded to ask me whether I was white or some other kind of American, as I had been asked before by countless suspicious voices on the phone. "Uh, I'm white, I think.
The Loan Counselor looked up a little testily, "Don't you know?"
"Well, I have been asked so many times that I'm beginning to doubt my manhood, origin and lineage," said I, smiling. He didn't get the humor. After he typed in the "white" response, I noted in the reflection of his glasses that in the top right hand corner of the computer screen a red colored REJECT appeared.
Then followed a bunch of questions about whether I was disabled in any way. I replied I wasn't that I knew of. The red REJECT remained. Next followed some questions about my credit.
"Well, I have had some slow times because I have been a full commission salesman and had some trouble." He tapped in a response that made the red REJECT turn into a yellow MAYBE.
"Okay, sir, what do you want a loan or grant for?"
"Well, I decided this morning that I want to pursue becoming a philosopher."
"A philosopher," I replied, smiling again. The Loan Counselor dove into the bowels of his desk drawer for one of several gray manuals marked "SOP." He leafed through a section of guidelines, which sent him to another section. He ran his finger down the page and said, "We do not have that category. What is a philosopher exactly, and how will you use the money."
I told him what a philosopher was and did, and that I would use the money to pay off all my debts and go back to school to study Philosophy. He typed all this in the other category. Immediately the page jumped to another questionnaire page, which prompted the Loan Counselor to dig into his gray metal credenza and produce another gray phone book sized pamphlet. This he handed to me without comment. The cover simply said "Federal Disclosures, Number 17, for the Mentally Challenged." He also got me to sign another triplicate form saying I had received the Mentally Challenged Pamphlet.
"Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental disability," he asked proceeding with the new screen.
"Yeah, once when I was having a hard time I was sent to a psychologist who told me I was depressed and anxious."
"Have you ever taken any of the following medications," and he rattled off an extensive list.
"Yes, my Doctor once prescribed Prozac for me when I went in for an ingrown toenail, along with Epsom salts and some antibiotics. But then again he gave me Prozac for my sinus infection and for my chronic prostate infections. Come to think of it, he gives me Prozac for just about everything."
"Prozac? Anxiety attacks?" The Loan Counselor busily typed everything in and a big green APPROVED popped up in the top right hand corner of the computer screen. He was in a hurry now cause all the other Loan Counselors were herded at the door preparatory to depart for lunch; it was becoming obvious they were waiting for him.
"How much money are you requesting? $100,000.00, $200,000.00, $300,000.00?"
I didn't know what to say. "How about $100,000.00. That's a good start" I didn't want to be too greedy. He furiously typed it in.
"Read your disclosures, fill out this application," he said, producing the large file back out of his desk, "and bring it back in for final approval. Have a nice day, and goodbye," he said, guiding me to the door.
To make a long story short, it took a week to fill the thing out and I was about to take it back when an IRS SWAT team showed up at my door. Apparently, inputting my social security number had set off some kind of alarm in the Federal computer system that alerted the IRS, to whom I owed taxes, who descended on me like the wrath of an angry god. They had come to tell me I had been declined for my loan. I told them I had not submitted the final package yet, but that made little difference. And for the record, the IRS doesn't go for mental disability, any kind of disability or any of that politically correct mumbo-jumbo. They don't care if you are poor and down on your luck. They are a law unto themselves. They take no prisoners. You can go nuts and hold a Post Office hostage, blame the whole event on your mother bathing you in lukewarm water as an infant and that will be understandable, but if you can't pay your taxes, you're toast.
So, I endeavor to become a philosopher on my own. I thought about going to see my friendly banker for a loan, but one night at a Chamber of Commerce mixer I ran this idea by him in jest--you know, folly is the cloak of knavery--and, well, he thought that was an excellent joke.
I guess I'm just a natural comedian and shower-stall philosopher. It is obvious I have to be a self-taught philosopher, complete with the debt and problems I amassed in my former life.
Perhaps that is what fate has dealt me in the way of trial and lesson in my preparation to become a great philosopher. After all, a philospher is "a person whose philosophical perspective enables him to meet trouble with equanimity." I really like that.
See what I mean about the shower? The truth is, it is a dangerous place!
I wonder what equanimity means?
For more great stories, visit Frank at www.ffbaugh.com
Frank Baugh writes: I was born in Nashville in 1956 and grew up in Franklin, Tennessee. I am a graduate of Battle Ground Academy and the University of Mississippi. I have worked all my life in Real Estate and Finance. Currently I still call Franklin, Tennessee, my home, and I work for the State of Tennessee. I am married and have two children. Readers may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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