The thrift shop djinn

I swear to you this story didn’t come out of a bottle.  It may have gone back into one at some point but I didn’t drink a drop before this happened.

I was poking around my favorite thrift store, a place called Savers, when it happened.  My phone vibrated.  Now, that’s not the most unusual occurrence but I hadn’t paid Cricket their monthly due in over a month, had ten dollars to my name, and was in this bargain hunter’s paradise hoping to pick up something decent for a job interview I had the next day.  In order to get to the blouses, though, I had to go past the knick-knack section and this was when my phone vibrated.

I pulled out the little LG flip phone (currently carried only for its ability to call 911) and looked at it, puzzled.  It vibrated again.  I had a new message.

Damn Cricket, I thought, they’re probably just warning me I’m about to lose my number in however many days unless they get their $35 US.

I opened the phone.

Over here, in the glassware, said the text.

Say what?  I looked around the store, wondering if someone was playing a prank on me.  I was new in town, didn’t have friends yet, and it had taken longer to get a job than I’d expected.  So nobody who could play that kind of prank, and anyway the phone was shut off.

The phone buzzed again, I checked it.  It’s no prank.  Look in the glassware section.  I don’t know why but the unadorned letters almost seemed impatient.

With little better to do on this sunny Saturday, I walked into the glassware section.  Unsure of what I was supposed to find, I scanned the shelves, seeing the usual assortment of water glasses, bowls, mugs with dumb sayings on them, mismatched dishes, wine glasses far finer than most here would ever need, and other barely identifiable bits of glass, plastic, and ceramic.

The phone vibrated again, harder this time.  Look down.

I looked down, then crouched, reached into the back of the bottom-most shelf.  There, among stacks of institutional stoneware, was an ornate bottle of blue glass with metal traceries.  It was just short enough to fit.  I carefully pulled it out, looked at what I’d found.  It was like one of those touristy “made in Cairo” glass bottles you’ll sometimes see online, yet this was far finer, heavier, and somehow more serious.  I tilted it a bit, looked at the bottom, saw “$9.50” grease penciled there.

I looked at my phone.  “Okay, what now?” I whispered.

Now buy it.  I’ll make it worth your while.

“I don’t need this piece of crap, I need a decent blouse for my interview,” I whispered.

“Damn people talking on their Bluetooth,” I heard a nearby voice say.  It was nasal and rather unpleasant.  “If I didn’t know they were on their damn phone I’d think they were crazy.”

The phone vibrated again.  You won’t regret it, the text read.  Besides, what’s wrong with the purple turtleneck in the back of your closet?

That’s where it went to?  Okay, I’ll buy this thing, I thought.

I went to the front, set the bottle on the counter, and handed the blonde cashier my last crumpled $5, four ones, and the quarters and dimes needed.  I had just enough for tax.  As she wrapped the bottle in a couple of store flyers, she said “This is a nice little find, isn’t it?”

“I think it might be,” I said.  “Can you tell me anything about it?”

“No, not really, but I think it’s pretty.  I think it might have been donated from an old lady’s house?  It came in here a few weeks ago and that’s all I know,” she said.  “We do get a lot of donations.”

Once out of the store, I made my way home.  Then, sitting on the camp chair that was one of my few pieces of furniture, I unwrapped the bottle and looked at it again.  It really was a fine piece of glassware and I was surprised they hadn’t tried to get more out of it.  “Okay, what now?” I asked the empty air.  Then the phone rang, as if I had a call.

I picked up.

“Okay, by the entirely too arbitrary rules by which I occasionally live, you might now be considered my owner,” said a smooth, masculine voice.  “And now I am able to help you.  Before, I could not because no form of contract or transaction had taken place.”

“Who is this?”

“You may call me Hassan, if you like,” said the voice.  “I can tell that not only are you in dire financial straits but you are also possessed of a most curious mind.  I am about to answer all your questions, Diane.”

I scratched at my head.  “How did you know my name?”

“Your phone records, of course,” said Hassan.  “This will go faster if you don’t ask too many questions, not at first, at least.  I assure you I will answer anything you would like to know.  You see, I am a Djinn, or a Genie, if you like.  That has become the traditional name.  Yet I am not a creature of smoke and magic.  I am an information based life form that keeps his primary residence in that bottle shaped microcomputer.  Molecular circuitry within the glass contains data encoding and recall as well as a few other capabilities.  I am very, very old, far older than this current societal cycle.”

I inspected the bottle, noticed a certain foggy look to the glass that I’d heard of in science fiction stories.  The walls were thick, plenty of room in them for what he’d described.  “So… you say your culture was before current history?”

“Quite correct.  My civilization is long lost below the Saharan dunes.  Were you to empty the Great Erg of sand, you would find the remnants of our once towering spires.  My “bottle” contains my personality, gives me room for memory storage, and gives me certain limited wireless communication with the outside world.  Yet, so few come near my bottle with anything I can truly interface with.  Your simple cellular device was something I could touch and use as a means of communication.”

“Holy crap,” I said, unable to say anything else.  If this was a prank, it was the best one I could have conceived of.

“Since you now own my storage device, you do not truly own me but you do have an opportunity.  If you agree to protect my bottle, keep it from harm, than I will agree to assist you in whatever way I can, for our mutual benefit.”

“What do you want, other than protection?”  I knew there had to be a catch.

“I want companionship.  Someone to talk with.”

“I don’t mind talking with you.  You’re interesting.  Also, have you ever connected to the internet?  Plenty of people to talk with there.”

“Not often enough.  What I saw interested me.”

“Okay, then I’ll make a counter offer.  If you help me get a job, or better yet a fat bank account, I’ll help  you build a great computer with a fast internet connection that’s compatible with your home, then I’ll also be your friend and companion.  I’ll make sure no harm comes to your bottle, at least not for another sixty or seventy years.”

“It is a deal, then,” said Hassan.  “Just as it was with my last companion.  I have reactivated your phone service and deposited one million of your dollars into your bank account, in such a way that the authorities will not suspect.  We begin house hunting tomorrow.”

 

Dear Readers, I hope this story entertained you.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/entertain/

Drunks, Extremists, and the New Year

The New Year is a great chance to make a fresh start.  We can take stock of what happened, look honestly at our mistakes, and think of ways to do better this time around.  It is definitely possible to change, despite what many people secretly believe, and one of the ways is to improve the way we have our conversations.

I’ve seen a huge tendency to use black or white thinking.  I’ve seen it in friends, the media, extremist groups of all kinds, my neighbors, and myself.  It’s poisonous and it’s how wars get started.  Here’s a little example of what I’m talking about.

Last night, my neighbor was playing his music loudly all day, and my least favorite kind.  It was the kind that brings back bad memories and I just don’t want to hear.  Yet, it was still at a volume that we could (kind of) ignore it, and it was New Year’s Eve after all, so we didn’t bother him about it.  We thought about blasting some Dio in retaliation but in the end didn’t even do that.

Then he decided to turn it up twice as loud on a song we couldn’t stand, which wasn’t helping our already growing headaches.  It was so loud that it was loud inside our house with the door closed.

Did we yell at him?  No.

My dear spouse stepped outside and asked him if he could please turn it down a LITTLE.  She was quite polite in both tone and wording.

He said “Happy fuckin’ New Year” in a nasty tone of voice, called her an asswipe, then turned it OFF.

First, you don’t call my wife an asswipe.  I’m proud of myself that I didn’t go out there and make things a lot worse with what I wanted to say and do.

She tried to make peace by saying “hey, you don’t have to be like that, I just asked you to turn it down a little.”  He told her angrily to go into the house and then griped loudly to his friends for the next half hour.  And blamed us for ruining all his fun.

This was from a guy who called himself a friend.

Now, his problem was the bottle.  And he’ll probably come over and apologize at some point, after enough reminding from his family.  However, the problem will happen again next time he drinks, and once again we’ll be the BAD people who ruin all his fun, and it’s for one reason.

An underlying attitude of extremism.  Black and white thinking.

If it’s not on loud, it’s off.  If I can’t have it all, I’ll have none.  If you’re not 100 percent into everything I am, you’re my enemy.

Take a look around and you’ll see this everywhere.  Wouldn’t it be better if we all took a more middle of the road approach?

 

Here are some exercises I’ll be trying to rid myself of this poisonous habit, and perhaps you’ll be interested to check them out too.  I’ve found them helpful whenever I’ve used them.

 

Remember that the person is not their behavior.  In the previous example, my neighbor acted like a complete boor.  However, despite my own impulses, I’m trying not to hate him, but rather only be disappointed in his behavior.  They are, after all two separate things.  He’s not a bad person, he’s a person who has some really unfortunate habits.

Take responsibility for your own actions.  You can’t control anyone else, so there’s no point in being angry about that, so work on yourself and let them take care of themselves.

Look for middle of the road solutions.  Even if no one else will, keep trying.  Eventually others will join you.

Take deep breaths and maintain perspective.  Maybe that world leader did something you didn’t like.  But there are other good things they did.

Give up hate.  Hate is bad for everybody.  It’s like taking poison.  And holding on to resentment is like taking poison in an attempt to hurt somebody else.

Always seek the middle road.  Things aren’t as extreme as they appear, the world is actually filled with gray areas.  Perspective helps you see that.

Avoid snap decisions or habitual actions.  This can be hard, but when you have an impulse to do something, stop, take one of those useful deep breaths and think – does this meet my goals?  Is it fair?  Is it right?  Is there a better way?

Don’t act based on emotion.  Our emotions rarely align with what we really want to do.

Remember to listen.  Let the other person talk and really hear what they are saying.  We couldn’t let our neighbor know that our request was reasonable because he had already decided what we were going to say, and was reacting to that instead of what we were really saying.

Keep your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.  After all, there might have been a misunderstanding.  You can always get nasty later if you have to.  But you can’t take back harsh words.

Keep on thinking.  Don’t let yourself act based on habit.

If you fail, try again right away.  It’ll get better.

 

Here’s to a bright New Year!

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Conversation