Archive for March, 2008

16. Get a papercut.

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Your glance anxiously at the clock. Your fingers fly across the keyboard. You gnaw away at the Dunkin’ Donuts cup that has been sitting at your desk for hours, saliva-encrusted shards of styrofoam littering your harried cubicle. Co-workers drop by every five minutes in an attempt to tear you away from your report, but their innocent pleasantries are met only by primordial grunts or the occasional “I have a deadline, CHERYL!”

Only fifteen minutes left. You save your work, take a deep breath, and hit ‘Print’. You hurry over to the beloved office Xerox WorkCentre, hopping up and down excitedly like a kid on Christmas morn, as if the two-ton behemoth were dispensing Skittles and jellybeans into the air instead of Staples brand copy paper.

There it is. Your pride and joy. Your baby. Those figures have never looked so powerful. The pie chart is breathtaking. Tears spring to your eyes as you delicately grace your fingers over a particularly magnificent bar graph. It’s times like these that make the 97 straight hours of work with no sleep, little food, and peeing in a bucket by your desk all worth it.

Only one thing left to do: fax it to the client. You bouncily punch the numbers into the keypad, quietly humming “Eye of the Tiger” and pausing every so often to punch a triumphant fist into the air. Nothing can topple this high. Nothing can fell you now.

Except an 8.5″ x 11″ leaf of pure evil.

You can almost feel it coming. You expertly place the sheet into the tray, but you’ve become little too careless now, a little too cocky. It slips, ever so slightly, from your fingers. You reach with your other hand to catch it, to rip it from its untimely plummet to the floor, but a week’s worth of sleep deprivation has decided to catch up with you at this exact moment and ruthlessly rob you of any remaining vestiges of coordination. You fumble, you choke, and then…

You’re never really considered the true meaning of the phrase “a fate worse than death”, but its message is driven home with such force at this moment it nearly knocks you out cold. Of course, that could be due more to the massive blood loss. You’re dizzy. You feel sick. You’re absolutely positive that a bazooka to the gut would be less painful than this. You stand there, helpless, staring at your gushing finger and yelling at it, as if this might force the blood to go back into your vessels where it belongs. Because it’s certainly not stopping on its own. You quickly glance at the remains of your afternoon cup of tea. Might a squeeze of lemon juice stanch the flow? Or at the very least ease the pain?

Negative on both accounts. Your animal-like howls of pain increase in both volume and frequency as you hurl the demonic citrus across the room and graspingly attempt to suck the pain away, in an oddly vampiric turn. You hopelessly glance at your report, which now resembles the only surviving piece of evidence from a killing spree of some sort. You damn your clients to hell, screaming in vain to the heavens such curses as “Who uses fax machines these days ANYWAY?” and “MODERNIZE, you ASSHATS!” You desperately look around the room for band-aids, gauze, or anything that could be used as a tourniquet. But there’s no use. You can’t think straight. You literally want to die. You fight the urge to burst into tears. You fail.

So if you want to suck, get a papercut. The sting may last for only a few hours, but the image, sensation, and incredibly detailed sound effects of a razor-sharp edge of paper slicing through your poor defenseless skin will stay with you long into the night, your wretched sobs and tortured screams drowned out only by the incessant thought that you will never again be able to face a copy machine without heavily gloved protection and a healthy supply of anti-nausea medication. Begin stockpiling now!

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15. Dance awkwardly with a stranger.

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You’re walking down the sidewalk, happy and jaunty because you just got a new haircut. You look fabulous! You went to the post office and bought some stamps whose proceeds benefit a nature fund. You’re an environmentalist! Your puppy also did his business on the paper this morning instead of spraying you with feces as usual. Good for him, and you!

So you’re walking around with your head held high today. Nothing can bring you down. Other people bustle by, their lives infinitely sadder than yours. Woe is them, you think. They’re not privileged enough to adorn their mail with endangered pandas. You stare at them all with no small amount of pity, and a maybe a little scorn.

Which is why it’s so surprising, alert and pompous as you are, that one guy in particular is going to be giving you some trouble. You see him coming towards you from a block away, also jauntily walking down the street, and wearing a bowler hat for some reason. You expect to be able to sidle past this anonymous person as well, perhaps with a nod of the head or a little “Quite a fetching hat, good sir.”

But now he’s getting closer and closer, and neither of you are deviating from the path that you’re on, which just so happens to be the very same one. Surely one of you will step to the side when the time comes, right? There is no earthly reason for two people on a wide sidewalk with plenty of room on either side to meet at the exact same spot, forming an impasse that will take several solid seconds to disentangle.

But happen it does, against all laws of physics. You walk right up to each other, as if refusing to believe that the other exists. And so begins the dance. One of you feigns left, but the other does too. He darts right, but you’re with him every step of the way, helpless embroiled in a game of invisible basketball that no one asked to play. A lifetime of failed coordination is being overcome at this very moment, exactly when you don’t need it. Were the director of a Russian ballet to saunter by, they’d hire you both on the spot.

You attempt the awkward pleasantries to save face, such as “Oops,” and “Excuse me,” and the mortifying yet classic “Care to dance?” You do not yell “PICK A SIDE!” as you wish to, but instead just offer a sheepish smile, rip yourself away from the debacle, and continue on your way down the sidewalk, your face a brilliant and seemingly permanent shade of crimson. Under extreme circumstances, you may be forced to throw yourself into traffic or jump into the nearest open manhole. All options are preferable to continuing this impromptu Festival of Ineptitude.

So if you want to suck, dance awkwardly with a stranger. You’ve nothing to lose, except boatloads of dignity.

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14. Pay in change.

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It’s here. It’s really, really here. The day you never thought would come. Everyone laughed at you. They all said it would never happen. But you knew. You had faith. You believed. And now that it’s happening, it almost doesn’t seem real.

New Kids on the Block has reunited and put out a new album!

You need it. You crave it. If you don’t obtain it immediately at the crack of dawn on the day it’s released, you’ll never be able to look in the mirror again. So you wake up at 6:00am, throw on some clothes (no time for tooth-brushing!) and grab your wallet.

But…the wallet is feeling a little, well, light. You tear it open, nearly ripping the stitching in your haste, only to discover that the contents within are not quite as you remember. Sure, you stayed out late at the bar last night, and sure, you had a few beers, and sure, you can’t quite remember how you got home or what happened to your pants or why the word “Cheerio” is tattooed on your inner thigh, but surely you didn’t spend every last dollar? Surely there must be something left?

Alas, no. Your drunken hijinks have undone you once again. But that album needs to be purchased. Your auditory canals will shrivel and die without it. Your credit cards have been canceled, something about a “final notice”, so you begin to tear apart your room looking for change. You begin with your laundry fund, wincing as you stuff the stack of quarters into your pocket. Those jello stains will just have to wait. You move on to the rusty coffee tin that serves as your piggy bank – about three dollars worth of coinage in there. Not bad, but still not enough. You becoming anxious now, desperate, clawing at the furniture and sticking your hands into places that no man or beast has ever dared to go. How about under the refrigerator? Feeling around produces 58 cents, and a jagged and mysterious laceration to the finger. What about the VCR? No harm in looking. Could there possibly be money in the garbage disposal? Only one way to find out.

Eventually, miraculously, you scrounge up enough to purchase a quality American-made compact disc. Now, unfortunately, you must suffer the embarrassment of actually paying with such currency. You head over to the store, marvel at the absence of a line out the door and around the block, and retrieve the album. Kissing it all the way, you waddle to the counter, your pans jingling and sagging with the heavy loads no pocket was ever meant to carry. You get to the cashier, give her a sheepish look, and dig deep. Grabbing fistfuls of crusty, greasy, possibly deadly coins, you slam them down upon the counter, where they clank and clatter and spill over the sides onto the floor. This poor girl is already miserable enough as it is, working in retail, hating every second of her life, and here you come with your little bacteria magnets, demanding that she count them out and handle each and every one of them. She’ll probably die of meningitis now. Well done, you.

So if you want to suck at life, pay in change. Not only will you rid your house of dangerous choking hazards for the brats that you will one day accidentally produce, but your steadfast ignorance of the existence of Coinstar will provide you with the simple arithmetic exercises that your otherwise atrophied brain so sorely needs.

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13. Fail to check toilet paper status.

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You’re not sure what prompted you to eat at Taco Bell. It was probably those commercials wherein they throw all sorts of delicious-sounding words around, like “Crunchy!” and “Cheesy!”, or those even-better sounding words that they themselves make up, like “Crunchtastic!” or “Cheeselicious!” Whatever the reason, you decided that it was time to get your Fourthmeal on. You don’t even know what that is, but the dancing taco told you to do it, so you did.

What the dancing taco didn’t tell you is that along with the Crunchtastic Cheeselicious Chalupa Gordita Supreme Xtreme comes a heaping side of Awesomely Righteous Diarrhea Xplosion. And it naturally hits at the most inopportune time: during a movie, at the library (you’re there to look up all the new fun words you learned from the Taco Bell menu), in the middle of a wedding ceremony (hopefully not yours), while orbiting earth in a Russian space station – all in all, there really is no good time for this to happen. All you know is that you have to get to a facility as soon as possible.

You stagger around haltingly, resisting the urge to place your hand over your buttocks in what most would consider to be a humorous manner, but one that you would instead characterize as “necessary”.  You attempt to ask passing pedestrians where you might find the nearest latrine, but you’re too panicked at this point to form complete sentences, so whatever comes out of your mouth sounds something like: “Muuh…bathroom…go…where?” Eventually you find it, burst in like a maniac, descend upon the throne, and do your dirty sinful business, thereby entertaining the other restroom patrons with a rather colorful soundtrack.

And now look at you. Pretty proud of ourselves, aren’t we? Look at that silly grin upon your face. You feel great, like you’re on top of the world. The moment you leave this stall you’re probably going to be declared President of the Solar System. Only one thing left to do.

Your hand shoots over to the toilet paper contraption, whatever Rube Goldbergian device it may be. You feel nothing. A small tremor of panic shoots through your body as you peer into the abyss. You begin to investigate further, feeling around for quite some time like you’ve been abruptly thrust into a scene from The DaVinci code, desperately attempting to decipher the magical code that will release the invisible toilet paper into your waiting hands. But no luck. You just sit there, staring at the emptiness, totally unable to accept that you’ve gotten yourself into this pickle. But it was your fault. You didn’t check. You didn’t plan. There’s no one to blame for all of this but your own stupid self. And now you’re paying the price.

You sit there, helpless, whimpering like a wounded puppy. Everyone else has left, of course, due to your earsplitting little performance. You’re utterly alone. You try, using only the force of your mind, to unroll the paper in the next stall and have it gently roll over into yours. This does not work, to your surprise. You attempt to reach underneath the partition, somehow deluding yourself into thinking that your arm has become extendible and that you can actually manage to reach it using the superhuman stretching abilities that you just now discovered. When this fails, you begin to lose all hope, cursing yourself for not having the foresight to carry a flare gun or a rescue flag with you at all times. Ultimately, you collapse into a pile of tears and self-loathing until some poor soul unwittingly enters and is forced to take pity upon your bawling soul by passing a handful of paper. You sob with thanks and immediately promise them you first-born child. It’s only fair.

So if you want to suck, fail to check the toilet paper status. You may leave the bathroom muttering murderous threats directed towards the janitorial staff for the next few days, but those precious moments spent in utter desolation and hopelessness will last a lifetime.

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12. Hit head on a table.

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It’s six o’clock in the morning. Your alarm clock is blaring. The sun is streaming in at an angle that threatens to blind you for life. The rooster is crowing, if you live on a farm, or you raise barnyard animals, or you’re the unwitting participant in a high school prank gone horribly wrong. In any case, it’s morning, and it’s clearly time to get your sorry ass out of bed.

But before you do, you have to pick up your Morning Item. This is something that you can’t out of bed without, whether it be a pair of glasses, or a contact lens case, or a stiff glass of whiskey. But it’s sitting right there on your nightstand, and you’re going to summon every ounce of strength in order to procure it. This usually involves a giant sweeping of the arm up into the air and over to the table, arching above your body like a graceful ballerina, if ballerinas were known for eyefuls of sleep gunk and drool-stained pillows.

However, it’s far too early in the day for you to be able to coordinate simple motor skills, so instead of picking up the Item with ease, your sleep-paralyzed claw slams down onto the table as if it the mallet-like weapon in a fervent game of Whack-a-Mole. You blindly grope around the surface, hoping that perhaps the item will actively come to you, recalling with glee that scene from Ernest Goes To Jail when his magnetized body attracted various office supplies and floor buffers.

But now you’ve lost whatever small amount of concentration you ever had in the first place. While amusing yourself with your very best “Know what I mean, Vern?” impression, your stupid hand knocked your Item off the table and onto the floor beside it. You can’t lean over from the bed to pick it up, because you’re clearly in no state to maneuver that tricky little balancing act. Looks like it’s time to finally rise from the bed.

So you do, and eye the Item from above with scorn. It’s all the way down there, sure, but you’ve managed this miniature obstacle course before. How hard is it to bend over and pick something up?

Well, it’s not hard, unless you’ve forgotten that a human head generally juts out a lot farther than the human chestal region. Which you have. So your arms hang down, poised and ready to grip the Item, when all of a sudden they stop short. Why? Because your head has smacked itself directly onto the surface of the nightstand, whose existence you have, up until now, banished from your memory. True, there’s a lamp sitting on it, alerting you to its presence, even going to far as to graciously illuminate it for you, but neither your eyes nor your brain is working well enough to process this. And now you’ve rendered them both useless for at least the next several hours. Well done.

So if you want to suck, hit your head on a table. Now you’re Itemless, dizzy, and bleeding from the skull. All in all, a good start to the day.

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11. Attend dinner theater.

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You’re looking for a fun evening out. You’re going on a date, perhaps, or maybe you want to entertain your parents while they’re visiting, or you’re possibly just so lonely and pathetic that anything other than sitting alone in your bedroom for several hours and crying yourself to sleep would be considered a successful evening. Whatever the reason, there’s a good time to be had, and by gum, you’re going to be the one having it.

So here’s the predicament: You want food, but you also want entertainment. You want something that will not only sate your desperate hunger, but also fill you with mirth and merriment. You want both sustenance and a veritable laugh riot. The answer is clear: dinner theater. Or, dinner theatRE, for the classier folk among you.

The marriage of terrible food and terrible acting are never so pronounced as the kind that populate your standard neighborhood dinner theaters. The evening starts off innocently enough. You mingle, you sip your water, you comment on the set “design”, which consists of a sole wooden panel painted up to depict a living room wall, though it more closely resembles an emergency room floor after a quadruple homicide.

Suddenly, the lights dim and all manner of raucous characters make their way onto the scene. They are loud and boisterous. They are wearing clothes that have most assuredly been rescued from the bargain bin at Bozo’s Discount Clown Supplies. They are painted up like common whores. Fake moustaches abound, as well as feathery boas, Hawaiian shirts, and all manner of fedoras. The improvisation begins, which, as these actors were most likely cast directly out of Larry’s Comedy Shack’s Beginner 1 Improv class, is not good. It consists mostly of yelling, singing off-key, and mercilessly mocking the audience. After a “plot” is established, usually by the commencement of a wedding reception, or a funeral, or a highly improbable murder of some sort, the end of the first act arrives. This is usually signified by a poorly-choreographed musical number and the suggestion that this mystery can only be solved with the diligent help of cunning audience members such as yourselves. So let’s get cracking, gumshoes!

Wait, wait. That festering corpse can wait – the salad course must be served first. The evening continues to abound with surprises, as you had no idea that such classically trained thespians were also versed in the art of food service. Out they come with platefuls of withered greens, moldy tomatoes, and dreaded cucumbers, shouting as they plunk the inedible salads in front of you and brazenly ridiculing your sorry excuse for an outfit. You thought you’d try to look nice for your fun evening. Now you realize that there was really no point in trying, as the man in the muumuu and sequined fedora has just informed the entire audience of your inability to decently clothe yourself. For shame.

The rest of the evening continues on in an endless cycle of deplorable theatrics and prison-grade cuisine. More zaniness occurs. Faces are pied. Ethnic stereotypes are flung about the room with reckless abandon. Perhaps another character is killed, most likely the Elderly Millionaire, the Village Slut, or Tony the Woppy Guido. Unidentifiable pieces of meat arrive as the main course, and you’re sure that if you dropped yours off the top of a building, it would bounce well into the next county. It’s all you can do to hide under the table when the inevitable time comes for people to be pulled up on stage and made to perform some sort of rain dance. Even the bathroom provides no refuge or escape, as those feisty little characters follow you right in, loudly announcing the arrival of your irritable bowel syndrome to anyone who might be listening.

So if you want to suck, attend dinner theater. Not only will you be out forty bucks, but you’ll also suffer a nasty bout of diarrhea, fail to solve the mystery, and end up feeling like more of a disappointment than ever. On the plus side, you’ve learned a thing or two about any and all desires to engage in merriment in the first place. They should never be trusted.

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10. Choke on water.

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Drinking is something that you fancy yourself to be pretty good at. Ever since those memorable days of sucking at your mother’s teat, or the nipple of a bottle, or the swollen udder of the family goat, you’ve more or less mastered the art of consuming liquids. Solids are another story, of course. The golf-ball-sized hunk of sirloin steak that lodged itself in your throat during your dinner date with the Pope certainly didn’t make for your proudest moment. Liquids, on the other hand, you’re fully licensed to imbibe.

Which is why it’s so surprising when both physics and your rebellious anatomy gang up to derail your thirst-quenching plans.

Maybe you’ve just finished eating a spicy burrito. Maybe you’ve just completed a marathon. Maybe you’ve just barely escaped a grisly death by way of a hungry tiger. Whatever the predicament, you’re parched. And what better way to rectify this situation than to take a nice long sip of ice-cold, sparkling-clear, groin-grabbingly delicious water.

So you pour a glass of the delectable crystal nectar (from a Brita filter, of course, because you’re classy), and slowly bring the rim up to your lips, already anticipating how awesome this is going to be and how hydrated you’re about to become. No more saggy skin flaps for you!

But then something goes terribly wrong. True, your mouth is now full of icy, refreshing goodness, but the fun stops there. It’s not coursing down the esophagus to your eagerly awaiting stomach. The ticker-tape parade route set up within your bowels in watery anticipation has instead become a desolate wasteland. Your sphincter has torn down the decorations. Your duodenum has popped the balloons. The microscopic bacteria have punched angry holes in their microscopic hats.

For the coursing river has taken a detour. Instead of surging directly into Esophagusville, the deluge has instead decided take the pipe less traveled into the treacherous frontier known as Trachea Town. Here, it meets a harsh world where it has no business vacationing, full of dangerous organs that were expecting the income of air, rather than the terrifying certainty of a watery death.

On the outside, of course, there is a much graver situation developing: complete and utter humiliation. You cough. You sputter. Your eyes tear up, giving off the amusing impression that said beverage is attempting to escape through whatever facial orifices it can find. You gasp for air. You desperately want to ask for some water to wash it all down, but this seems fairly counter-intuitive. You wonder, as you begin to lose consciousness, what you did to deserve this whole mess in the first place. You consider that maybe you shouldn’t have taunted that tiger with two handfuls of cheeseburgers and a plush gazelle.

At last, a passage opens, and you finally manage to choke out that one key phrase that absolves you from all fault or accountability. “Wrong pipe!” you yell, spraying your colleagues with spittle. They nod with looks of sympathy, or, more likely, pity, as you towel yourself off and run upstairs to change your clothes, which have been copiously drooled upon.

So if you want to suck, choke on water. It may not be the most glamorous way to die, but it will most definitely be among the stupidest.

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