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The Plot Thickens

In my previous post, readers read about my experience at a local auto parts store.  Today, the plot thickened. 

This same auto parts store delivers parts to the mechanics in my town.  Their trucks are seen on these streets daily.  Today, I was stopped at a stop sign and a pickup bearing the store logo pulled up to my right.  He didn't stop.  His exaust cloud billowed as he gave the vehicle gas to attempt running the stop sign.  I had the right-of-way.  So I went.  Like hell I'm gonna yield to this guy.  So, I get half way through the intersection when his truck slides to a halt.  I look over and he's flipping the bird and shouting various swears through his windshield.  I responded with some of my least decent language and drove on.  Once through the intersection, I looked in my rear-view mirror.  This guy with his company vehicle and bad attitude tried to floor it through the icy intersection, slid, and hit a diagonally parked car. 

And people say they don't belive in Karma.

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Customer Service: A Lost Art

A couple weeks ago, I went to Walmart and had an irritating experience with one of its customer service representatives. For those who didn't read my previous blog, I'll catch you up. This woman asked me to wait at the counter while she walked to the cookie aisle, bought Chips A'hoy!, and sat on the bench to eat them. Then she continued to eat the cookies and spit crumbs while helping me.

Granted, that was Walmart. This company has lowered the bar for many things including customer service, common sense, hiring criteria, prices, and standard of living. The problem is, I had an equally terrible customer service experience again today at a non-Walmart affiliated business. I just can't believe that people who have face-time with customers can't afford the effort to pretend being nice.

I was at a car parts store in the next town over. I usually travel to the city for my car parts, but this store shaved 20 minutes off my round trip, so I figured I'd give it a try. I walked in and the woman at the counter looked like she'd slept in an ashtray her entire life. She didn't even look up from her trashy magazine when I walked in. This was the first indicator that I may be writing another blog today.

'After I'd gotten my motor oil, I approached the counter and asked her, where can I find spark plugs? Am I just not seeing them?'

'Behind the counter,' she replied.

'Alright,' says I, 'can you hook me up with eight plugs for my truck?'

'What kind of truck?' I told her the year, make, model, and motor size of my pickup and she punched some keys on her computer before looking up at me and saying, 'Are you f**king kidding me?' Stunned, I stood there trying to determine her meaning. 'Everybody with a Ford decided to buy spark plugs today, so the best I could do is sell you premium plugs for $7.49 apiece.'

'My truck is 17 years old, ma'am. I'd like the cheapest plugs you've got. And a set of plug wires.' She punched a few more keys.

'The only wires I've got are a premium set and they're $59.'

'You're sure there are none of the cheaper wires back there on a shelf?'

'Sir, I told you what I've got in stock. If you want something else, you're s**t out of luck.'

In the end, she added some cheap plugs and wires to her order and told me I could pick them up mid-morning tomorrow. Then I remembered that I needed an oil filter as well. I asked her if she had the oil filter model guide behind the counter because I didn't find one with the filters on the shelf. You know what she told me?

'You don't want those filters. Our brand is better.'

'Ma'am, I want whatever is cheapest. I'm on a budget here.'

'Well its worth spending a little extra,' she says.

'No, it isn't. I'm planning on selling my truck and I'm just trying to get it sale-ready.'

She wanted to continue arguing about it so I grabbed the screen, turned it, and got myself the cheapest filter off the shelf. Since my plugs and wires would be in tomorrow, she agreed to hold everything until I arrive.

But still...

I've worked customer service positions from grocery stores to industrial sales to health care. I would never swear in front of a customer. I would never argue with a customer. With rude people behind counters, rotten kids working in stores, and automated telephone answering services, are the days of quality customer service behind us? Do customers still deserve to be treated with respect, or am I just being unreasonable?

Share your opinions and experiences in the comments below.

More Morons: Another Venting Session by Huyckb04

Incompetence. Its enough to make my gingery little head explode. Whether in life, profession, or menial tasks, people continually disappoint and its coming to the point where I just can't deal anymore. This morning, all I needed to do was go to Walmart. It should've been a simple chore. But no. On the way there: incompetence. While grabbing breakfast from Subway: incompetence. Driving home: incompetence. Maybe the best option is to become a recluse so I don't need to deal with these a-holes anymore.

On the way to the afore mentioned white-trash convention center, it was more of the usual. People just can't drive. Period. Oh, I'm on a bridge. I'd better just straddle the center line so I don't get too close to the safety rails. Hitting a pickup truck head-on is a much better option than potentially coming within two feet of a guard rail. Normally I'd disagree, lady. But for you, a vehicular ejection through the windshield may be for the best.

Then, at Walmart I unsurprisingly encountered people who have no business being in customer service. A watch battery was all I needed. So I stood next to the jewelery counter and waited for an associate. After a couple minutes, a lady comes up to me and said that she'd help me momentarily. Then she goes to the snack aisle and grabs a package of Chips Ahoy, goes through the checkout lane, then sits down on the bench outside the arcade to eat some of her cookies. All while I'm waiting for her. She finally comes back to the jewelery department, shoves a cookie in her mouth, and--with a full mouth mind you--asks me what I want. The whole time she changed my watch battery, she kept shoving whole cookies in her mouth while I stood by in disgust and listened to her whistling nose breathing.

On the way out, I decided to stop a Subway for a breakfast sandwich. Big mistake. I ordered a bacon & egg sub. The guy asked if I wanted it toasted and I said no. He throws my sandwich together and I pay for it and leave. On the way home, I pull out my sandwich and take a bite. The eggs and bacon were frozen. Somehow, this Jackoffasaurus Rex equated not toasted with frozen. Yes, genius. I always order my eggs that way. Two eggs, over-easy. Then, once they're cooked, would you be a gem and pop them in the freezer for a couple hours? Thanks so much.

Any other Subway restaurant would have heated up the eggs, bacon and cheese prior to adding any of the veggies. For this guy, that must've been too complicated. It was the Walmart Subway, after all. The bar has been lowered. Or maybe this guy was expressing his inner Sandwich Artist, taking his title quite literally! The frozen eggs were supposed to be a form of symbolism, with the bread being his artistic medium. Maybe the icy huevos were supposed to represent the bittersweet nature of bringing new life into such a cold cruel world. A very touching lesson! Thank you sir for expressing it in my sandwich. You're a true artist. Or you're an idiot. Maybe both.

So I gave up on breakfast and focused on driving home. A quick ten miles of country driving, then I could try and forget about the whole fiasco. So I'm driving along and ahead of me is a white SUV with the Progressive Insurance logo on the back and sides. Now let it be known: if you're working for an automobile insurance company and driving that company's vehicle, you'd better know how to drive. Nope. This guy's cruising along at an intense 35 mph in a 55 mph zone. What's more, I'm able to see that he's got his cell phone in his hand. His Progressive SUV was swerving from the shoulder into oncoming traffic and back again as if Flo was in the passenger seat giving him road head. But Flo wasn't in the passenger seat giving him road head. He was texting. So much for the safe driving discount.

Why am I wasting your time with all this complaining and narcisism? I dunno. Maybe I'm hoping for one of two things:

1. You're just as fed up with this crap as I am.

2. You're part of the problem, and now that you've read this you will start to use your head.

Sick of Morons: A Venting Session by HuyckB04

I've only been awake for a couple hours and I've already dealt with enough stupid people to cause me to lose faith in humanity as a whole. Jesus, people. How do you survive from day to day without wearing helmets? Seriously?

Encounter #1:

I was taking the kids to school this morning and parked in my lane was a large black pickup truck. It was completely blocking a lane of traffic. Whats more, it was right at the crest of a steep hill. It was impossible to see if there was any on-coming traffic, so I couldn't just swerve around it. I had to slow to a stop right behind the truck to see if there were any cars coming before I could pass. This thing is a head-on collision waiting to happen. The owner of that truck should be forced to stand between two cars as they collide.

Encounter #2:

On the way home from dropping the kids off at the school (not pool), I stopped at the grocery store for a few things. I brought my basket of goods to the checkout counter, but there was nobody at any of the checkouts. So I stood there and waited. After a couple minutes, I noticed the cashier was sitting in a chair behind the liquor shelves talking on her cell phone. She walked over to a register (not the one I was waiting at) and just stood there. No, I can help you over here, nothing. So I load my goods into my basket again and start for her register as she invites another customer to cut in front of me. I'd been waiting there several minutes! What the hell?!

Encounter #3:

I was driving back home from the grocery store and I turned onto a small street. There were some construction workers tooling around, but the road was still open. A gentleman in a green sweatshirt and beanie steps out in front of my truck and signals me to stop. I stop and he approaches my window. He tells me the road is closed. I told him it isn't closed. He asked if I could see the people working. I said, usually when a road is closed, there is at least one large orange and white barricade or a sign that says something like 'Road Closed' or 'You Shall Not Pass' with a picture of a wizard. I see no signs. He told me that I'm an **** I told him that I was going to do him a favor to prove my good intentions. I told him that I would run to Barnes & Noble to pick him up an apology gift: a book entitled Common Sense for Dummies. But since the title sounds mean, I told him that I would use a Sharpie to cross out Dummies and write Construction Workers. He had a few choice words for me after that. Even so, I got to pass.

Encounter #4:

When I got home, I was unpacking my purchases when I realized that the bottle of Coffee Mate I'd bought minutes before had expired three months ago. This one may be on me, since I didn't check the expiration date prior to purchase. Anyway, I had to return to the rude checkout lady to make an exchange. Decided not to take the allegedly closed rode in my return journey.

Encounter #5:

I pull up to a stop sign and there is a van already stopped to my left. She has the right of way, but she is texting. I sit there for a couple of seconds and she looks up, sees me, and goes back to her cell phone. I start slowly moving into the intersection, assuming that she's going to need a minute to finisher her all-important text message. As I enter the intersection, she looks up, floors it, slams on the brakes, and flips me off. I give her the What the hell are you doing gesture. She angerly waves me through. Was I really the one at fault here?

Conclusion:

Days like these are the ones where I think a nuclear holocaust may actually do the world some good. Although, I'd hate to see all those unread copies of Common Sense for Dummies go up in flames.

A Review of Double Dragon Neon **contains spoilers**

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Double Dragon Neon is the latest in the 1980s arcade beat-em-up series staring brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee. While the gameplay, characters, and music give a nod to the game's forefathers, Neon still continues to be innovative and give players something new. The controls have a classic feel, and even the difficulty seems appropriate.

In the classic NES game, there were only two buttons to use for attacking, punch and kick. These could be used synchronously to perform jumps and other special moves as the player's score increased. Now, with the PS3 Sixaxis or the Xbox 360 controller, the button combinations are no longer neccessary. A separate button is dedicated to jumping. Grabbing an enemy has its own button too. But using a combination of the different commands is what gives this game such a diverse system of combat control. The trusty spin kick is available as either a special move, or part of a standard combo. Ducking can still allow the player to dodge enemy attacks, and can be paired with directional buttons to roll, or attack buttons for a counterattack. With a small aresenal of controls, the combat system remains relatively simple and easy to master.

But the controls won't be the first thing a player notices. The most obvious nod is to 1980's culture. From the neon lights to the costumes to the soundtrack, Neon allows no subtlety in its over-the-top 80s style. Plus, the introduction to the game features a familiar scene: the red-skirted Marion standing oudouble-dragon-neon-ps3-xbox-360-screenshtside the Lee brothers' garage as the thugs approach and kidnap her. The game freezes in a moment of black & white, introducing Level 1 as Marion takes a shot to the gut from an a-shirt wearing baddie.

The enemies are very similar in appearance and combat style to their 8-bit predecessors. Williamses enter the screen doing cartwheels, just like they used to. Sometimes they carry knives or baseball bats, just like in past titles. Imposing though they may be, Williams is still the easiest opponent players will face.

The sadistic, whip-toting Linda also makes an appearance early in the game. Like past games, she proves to be considerably more challenging than Williams because her attacks are faster, she has more hp, and is more difficult to stun. The whip she swings makes it difficult to approach her since it has such a wide range both in front, and in back of Linda. She can even hit a player who is on the ground. In later levels, Lindas will begin carrying grenades as well. Just like in past titles, these grenades explode soon after they hit the ground, so picking them up may prove disastrous.

Abobo, the oversized hulk of a man makes a grand return in Neon, complete with spiked wristbands, and an oversized belt buckle proudly displaying his name. He is slow, but packs a wicked punch, just like before. images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS8EQ-YR1Xpq1E6Hi0Nm72Another bit of continuity takes place with Abobo since punches can land on him with quick succession, allowing him to be stunned. This takes Double Dragon fans back to DD2's first encounter, in which repeatedly punching Abobo was the easiest way to bring him down. Kicks were to slow, allowing him to counterattack. The same continues to be the case here.

Some of the music will sound familiar to fans of the series as well. Newly remixed songs were pulled right out of the previous titles to give the new levels a familiar feel. When DD2's Secret Island song comes on, players will be taken aback.

Now, one can scarcely discuss Double Dragon Neon without bringing up its humor. The antagonist is a giant living skeleton named Skullmageddon. He's your worst nightmare. Just ask him. While fighting him, he will make wisecracks such as Damn, I'm 'humerous', or my pelvis! After defeating him the first time, he says Time to make a 'marrow' escape! 'Bone' voyage! In reality, much of the game's humor revolves around Skullmageddon. As the Lee brothers battle their way through their enemy's rocket dojo, they can break the flatscreen televisions mounted in the background only to hear Skullmageddon scolding them, That's a plasma screen! Its expensive! or quit breaking my stuff! At the end, he even performs a musical number and breaks the fourth wall.

Another side of the humor comes from the protagonists themselves. Their over-the-top bro-love is comical as well. When one player is ready to move on to the next area, the character yells to the other hurry up, weiner! Not to mention, a click of the stick allows the brothers to high-five, sharing life, initiating the gleam bonus, or psyching each other by retracting the extended hand. images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRtEFBO6JEye_YwIV8Qau9The most hilarious instance of the Lee brothers' antics is when they are captured by their enemies and imprisoned in the lab. Its worth making a friend IRL just to play this game in coop and listen to the comments.

In truth, the only reason I couldn't give this game a 10/10 was the unbalanced upgrade system. Special abilities are attained by collecting songs that are dropped by the enemies. Additional songs can be purchased in shops. The abilities get more powerful as the player collects more songs of the same name. But there is a limit to how powerful each ability can get. At first, abilities can only be upgraded to level 10. In order to raise this level cap, players must visit the Tapesmith and exchange mythril for song upgrades. This will raise the song's level cap by 10 levels. Each time the song is upgraded, the cost increases. The first upgrade will cost 2 mythril. The second will cost six and the third costs 10. The problem is in the rarity of mythril. It can only be collected after defeating bosses and bosses only drop a few pieces of mythril at a time. This means that players will have to go back and repeat stages to collect the mythril needed to upgrade abilities. While the cash to buy songs is easy to come by, mythril is time-consuming to earn, which results in tedious grinding.

In truth, the game's humor, gameplay, and nostalgic feel make it worth playing, although younger gamers may not fully appreciate all it has to offer. But for an oldschool gamer who remembers pumping quarters into arcade cabinets, this game is going to be a blast from the past (in hd).

Double Dragon Neon is available at the Playstation Store and Xbox Live Arcade.

Weighing in on Resident Evil

After seeing some of the previews for Resident Evil 6, I must say that the game looks ingtriguing. However, how can Capcom expect to get my interest in the series at its sixth installment? Wouldn't the advertising and development specialists realize that a Type A personality like my own will only get interested in a series if he starts at the beginning? Don't they understand that we Type-A's cannot own the sixth installment without first owning the five previous chapters in the saga? What are they thinking?

So what should they do? Well, I suppose that there should be a "special edition" of a game available once it has passed its first title. This edition should contain not only the newest chapter in the ongoing saga, but all of the previous chapters as well. This will allow people with my kind of personality to start the story at the beginning, like it was intended. Starting the series at #6 is like walking into a movie right before the climax. While RE6 may be a decent game in and of itself, starting the story midstream would be the equivalent to buying a ticket for The Dark Knight Rises when there is only 30 minutes left of the film.

That being said, I gave RE a fair shot at the very beginning. Unlike many of you "young-buck" gamers, I was already in my late teens when Resident Evil first came out. I remember sitting in my dark room with my best friend, Steve, jumping out of my chair when those dogs came through the windows. I remember being unsettled by those huge yellow & black spiders. The problem wasn't the concept or the story. The problem was balance. In spite of the game's horrid voice acting (historically one of the worst ever made), players found themselves conserving the little available ammunition for the impending boss fights. Meanwhile, the core gameplay was entirely too difficult to be completed with a simple knife. We needed our guns. But having used said guns, we find ourselves completely outmached by the boss.

To make matters worse, the bosses would often require us to use nearly all the ammo we had. Therefore, when the boss fight had ended and the enemies had become more difficult, the game became nearly impossible. This led to what today's kids refer to as a "rage quit."

I bought Resident Evil when it was still $40. I gave it away, writing it off as an unbeatable game. I got up the nerve years later and picked up the Director's Cut. It still proved impossible. The last time I played Resident Evil was 2003, while I was still in college. My frustrating situation still looms over my head to this day, barring me from another attempt, and keeping this title on the shelf where it belongs.

So where am I going with this?

Well, with a Type-A personality (perfectionistism), I simply cannot jump to any of the following installments without first completing the first. Therefore, Capcom can advertise RE6 until the cows come home. I ain't buying till I beat Resident Evil. And Resident Evil 2. And Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. And Resident Evils 4 & 5.

So stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

College, What a Drag

A year ago, I decided that I was going to give up my blue collar career and go back to college to earn a degree in Nursing. At the time, I'd lost my job (again) and was working full-time at a gas station and part time pumping septic tanks. I wasn't even covering the bills. Couldn't get much lower. So, when I decided to head back to school, I greeted the challenge with enthusiasm. Then, the first semester started.

Immediately, I realized that I had overloaded my plate. While I was only a part-time student, my full-time job, volunteer duties, relationship, and children filled every minute of every day. My life became a balancing act and I could no longer give 100% to any one part. I had to cut back on the volunteer duties, hardly saw my girlfriend & kids, and I was exhausted at my job. Yet, I was pulling down straight A's.

Right now, I'm half way through my third semester and still won't complete the prerequisites until December. This means that I won't be able to enter the Nursing program until January, 2013 (if my grades allow me to bypass the waitlist). The work load and balancing act haven't changed. The stress is brutal.

A while back, I decided that I needed to do something to address the stress. I took advantage of my jobs TAP (teammate assistance program) and accessed some resources for stress management. The one that stuck out was that I should make time for things that I enjoy. That's right, folks: VIDEO GAMES. I took this piece of advice and started filling some of the tiny gaps in my day with games. But since I didn't have any substantial time to invest in my favorite hobby, I began wanting more. Soon, I was ignoring my homework in order to play video games. My grades started to slip.

So, I'm trying to pull myself back up by the bootstraps here, but I still want to be able to play my games. College has effectively drained my pocketbook and I cannot even justify dropping $20 for a Greatest Hits title. Games that came out a year ago are still sitting in my Amazon wishlist, waiting for purchase.

Games I already own still remain incomplete because I become so engrossed in homework that I'll forget about my progress. The story stops making sense. I give up.

Gaming is a large part of who I am. I love gaming and it is my one favorite thing to do. Without it, my life seems boring and my motivation suffers. I need to make time for me, but there simply is no time if I'm going to keep my grades up. Its a long road ahead as a part-time student (another five years at least), but in the end, I'll have a stable career and sufficient income to support my family. The question is this: How much of me will be left at the end of the road, after I've burned myself out for six years straight?

Gamespot Vids

For some reason, all GameSpot's videos are very laggy for me. The voices sound like they are being spoken through a fan and there are so many skipped frames that the videos don't even make sense. I've nearly given up on watching video reviews and series on GameSpot. In one last ditch effort, I thought I'd share this on my blog to see if anybody knows why this is happening, or how I can fix it. Thoughts?

Playfire

I just checked out a website called Playfire and I'm still not sure of its function. Regardless, I went ahead and signed up. Any of my readers who are also registered with Playfire can feel free to look me up under my PSNet ID, Archelaous.

If you can help me understand the function of Playfire, I'd sure appreciate it. So far, it doesn't appear to serve any purpose.

I, Gamer

I am a Gamer. And a Gamer is who I am.

My conversations are often short and meaningless. When the topic of video games is breached, my conversations become enthusiastic. I bleed my passion through my voice.

My knowledge of gaming is massive, spanning over two and a half decades. I can talk about the 'good old days' because I was there. I was there when 'Sega Did What Ninten-didn't.' I was there when dozens of kids muscled for a chance to play Street Fighter II at before it became 'Super' or 'Turbo.' I remember buying my SNES for $99.00 of my saved allowances and it only came with one controller and no games. I remember renting Abadox.

My closest friends are gamers. We identify. We meld. Together, we span the genres. I may play RPG, Retro RPG, FPS while Gunz83 plays Racing, MMORPG, and RTS. My sister's husband covers the Action and Sports. My social circle has the industry covered.

My blog revolves around gaming. The topics may vary, but they share a common root. While my number of gamer friends is low, my gamer readers may someday become vast. My words appreciated, thought upon, and replied to but a worldwide community who shares my passion. And I, in turn, appreciate and relate to their words as well. In this--our hobby--we are one.

I am many things to many people: a man, a father, a fiance, a son, a student, a provider, a redneck, a rocker, a pick-up man, a firefighter, and an EMT. I listen to rap, country, rock, and easy-listening. I watch horror movies as well as dramas. I read books about philosophy as well as graphic novels. I drive a Ford and a forklift. I drink beer. I work and I study and I volunteer. And I game.

I am an American man. These are the hands of a laborer and this back is sore at the end of the day. I take care of business and I take care of my own. But I'm still a gamer.

That's who I am.