Monthly Archives: November 2011

On Tattoos, or A Really Awesome Practical Joke

It has recently come to my attention that there is a woman, somewhere in Ohio, with this tattoo actually existing on her back.

Flies swarming around a steaming pile of shit tattoo

The story, as it evidently goes:

Once upon a time, Rossie Brovent was dating Ryan Fitzjerald, a tattoo artist.  For whatever reason, Rossie cheated on Ryan with one of his friends.  Rossie did not tell Ryan, but Ryan knew this.  He chose not to confront her immediately, though.  Instead, when Rossie asked him to tattoo a scene from the Chronicles of Narnia on her back, he took the opportunity to permanently brand her with a steaming pile of shit.  Rossie became very mad and tried pressing criminal charges against her now ex-boyfriend.  She found herself legally unable to, though, as just prior to the tattooing she signed a consent form stating that the design was “at the artist’s discretion”.  Rossie claims that Ryan tricked her into drinking cheap wine and taking tequila shots before signing the form and getting the tattoo.  I don’t know Ryan personally, but this doesn’t seem like an outlandish accusation.   At the time of this writing, Rossie is suing Ryan for $100,000.

So far, I’ve got this bout scored 3 points to Fitzjerald and 0 points to Brovent.

Point 1 goes to Fitzjerald for completely commandeering the Googling of “Rossie Brovent”.  It’s one thing to take away her right to choose a tattoo, but taking away her right to an unbiased Google search is a whole other level of mean.

Point 2 goes to Fitzjerald for the same reason.  You might be thinking, “Say what!?  If you Google “Ryan Fitzjerald” you’ll read all about what he’s done.”  Well, you’re right, but think about it this way.  When faced with the fact that his girlfriend was cheating on him, he remained cool, calm, and collected until the timing was right.  This means that he stays composed under pressure.  To come up with the idea of tattooing a giant pile of shit in place of the Narnia request means that he is smart.  He got her drunk and made her sign a consent form which means he covers up his tracks.  The fact that he actually went through with the whole thing tells us that he is relentless.  So, let’s summarize.  If you Google “Ryan Fitzjerald”, you will learn about a composed, smart, and relentless individual that knows how to cover up his tracks.  These seem to be highly sought after qualities in the corporate world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a job offer after all of this.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would often play the “How much?” game.  This involved asking each other how much we would have to be paid to do completely ridiculous things.  For instance, I would ask my friend, “How much would I have to pay you to chew on tin foil for ten minutes?”  Or, “How much would I have to pay you to stick a Q-tip in your pee hole?”  The point of discussing this is to show that even at the tender age of 10, we knew better than to ask for a measly $100,000 to have a pile of crap tattooed on our backs.  Point 3 goes to Fitzjerald for managing to get off with such an unambitious lawsuit.  I’ve been trying to figure out why Rossi would ask for so little.  It seems to me that, in the back of her mind, she knows she’ll be crawling back to him.

And so it’s scored: Fitzjerald 3, Rossi 0.

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The Understander, an Award-Winning Blog

It seems that I was recently nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award, by Fishin’ for Chuckles, as I noticed in one of the comments of my last posting, and by Topiclessbar, as I noticed through reading his site.  I am new to the world of blogging and am therefore going to consider this – whether accurate or not – as the Academy Award of blogs.  I am, therefore, honored and would like to thank my nominators and the rest of you that have become enlightened enough to realize that this isn’t just “some stupid blog that I waste my time on when I could be trying to go out and get a real job.”  I think we can all agree now that it is, in fact, genius and that it is only a matter of weeks before I am paid exorbitant sums for a few weekly witticisms.

This award is dedicated to all the teachers that told me I'd never amount to nothin'. It's all good baby bay-bee.

From what I’ve gathered, there are some stipulations to wearing this badge, though.  The fine print:

1.  Nominate 15 fellow bloggers

2.  Inform the bloggers of their nomination

3.  Share 7 random things about yourself

4.  Thank the blogger who nominated you

5.  Add the Versatile Blogger Award pic on your blog post

Ok, so, anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m a rebel and an outlaw.  I can’t be controlled.  I’m like a wild stallion, except no wimpy kid could ever tame me.  (Yeah, I just referenced The Black Stallion, what you gonna do about it?)  Normally, I would scoff at such a disdainful attempt at authority.  But in the face of such flattery, I suppose I will oblige.

1.  As I mentioned earlier, I am new to the world of blogging and, therefore, don’t know 5 bloggers, let alone 15.  So, I’ll just nominate as many as I know that are deserving.

  1. Boom for Real (Music stuff)
  2. Rejected Book Plots (Self explanatory)
  3. Jacob’s Elevator (Random stuff)
  4. Too Soxy for my Shirt (I am not a Red Sox fan, but I can appreciate her passion and humor

2.  Ok, I will do that.

3.  Hmm …

  1. My left foot is a size 11 and my right foot is a size 6.5.
  2. I once ran a 4 minute and 36 second mile, holding my breath the entire time.
  3. People say I look like a younger, more physically fit Brad Pitt.
  4. For a practical joke once, I sprayed Mace in my friend’s contact lens solution.
  5. I have eaten this gummy bear in a single sitting.
  6. I can fly.
  7. I hold a patent for clear tissues.

4.  Thank you, Fishin’ for Chuckles and Topiclessbar.

5.  Already done.

Well, there you have it.  Let the fame and fortune begin!

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On Indelible Memories, or When to Give the Homeless Man a Buck

When a baby sea turtle hatches from its egg – buried in the sand – it will climb its way to the surface and immediately head toward the water. If something should block its path, it will find a way around it.  It must.  Or it will die.  The turtle has only one goal in this world, and that is to make it to the ocean.  It knows to do this purely from its instincts.  All of the decisions that it makes to reach this end are based on this drive, which has been given to it by genetics over millions of years.  This is one of the ways that an animal will make decisions.

As an animal grows older, it will accumulate experiences and store them in its brain as memories.  When it comes time to make decisions, this more experienced animal has the ability of accessing these memories to use in their decision-making.  Sometimes the animal will do this consciously, like when you decide to stop picking your nose after remembering that you just wiped down the toilet seat at the gas station restroom and didn’t wash your hands.  And sometimes, this is an act of our unconscious mind, like when you use the highest pitches of your voice to scream, “Aaahhh” when you happen to look down and see a spider in your lap.  Regardless, this is another way that an animal will make decisions, and it is the type that I would like to discuss today.

Every now and then we will have an experience that leaves an impregnable impression on our long-term memory.  These moments are special not only because we can return to them throughout our lives, but because they change us.  They provide us with a greater basis for making decisions, and for better or worse, this allows us to grow.  It is at these times that we truly build our character.

What does it take for an experience to have a lasting impression on our minds?  What sorts of experiences make the cut, and which fall short?  I haven’t quite ironed out the answers to these questions yet, but I do think I can give an example of one.

Recently, I was walking down the stairs to my local subway stop when I saw a homeless man asking for money.  This isn’t too out of the ordinary, and I wouldn’t have taken much note of it had it not been for his condition.  It was sad and astounding and intriguing all at the same time.  It seemed he must have been breaking some laws of nature by still being alive.

He only had one shoe on, which made sense after seeing how abnormally swollen one of his feet was.  I only knew of one shoe in the world that might fit him and Ronald McDonald was already wearing it.  He was sporting gray sweatpants with an obvious pee stain on the front and caked in shit on the back.  When I say “caked in”, I mean that it was not just a stain, i.e. a permanent discoloration.  It had texture to it, which makes me believe that it squished through the fibers of the cotton and solidified as a sort of paste. I knew this was shit and not just mud because flies were literally swarming around him.  His hair was short with the exception of a random dreadlock coming out of the side of his head.  It reminded me of an asymmetrical version of the blue, opera singing woman from The Fifth Element.  I never imagined a living thing could smell this way.

Opera woman from The Fifth Element

So, I was pretty relieved when I saw him approach the woman in front of me.  Next time, I would help him out, I thought.  For now, they were doing business, and I didn’t need to interrupt them.  I quickly shuffled past them, swiped my card, and spun through the turnstiles to safety.  I must make a note here, that the turnstiles at this stop are not the horizontal ones you find at most stations.  They are the vertically spinning full body ones, more akin to a small revolving door.

HEET Turnstile

I felt terrible for this man, of course, but this is NYC.  These are the sorts of things that you encounter on a daily basis, and the unfortunate reality is that they exist and we can’t always do something about it.  I realize now that I sound like a defeatist, and I don’t like that.  But it’s true.  Besides, this man didn’t need a dollar or a subway ride.  He needed a hospital or a time machine.

The woman was dressed professionally.  She was probably on her way to work, at some place important enough to require a dress code.  I heard her apologize for not being able to help him as she rummaged through her bag for her MetroCard.  She should have had it out and ready.  This just gave him all the more time to haggle her.  Which was really her fault, as she should have had it out and ready.  What if there was a bunch of people waiting to swipe?  Now, that would just be inconsiderate.  I was sort of rooting for him now.  Com’n, lady, just give him a buck or two.

The train began to approach and I heard her tell him one more time that she was sorry, she couldn’t help him.  I felt bad for this man, but I understood.

The train pulled into the station.  She found her MetroCard, swiped it, and you wouldn’t believe what happened next.

The man, with a quick, elegant, and gentle motion – like a father ushering his son through a busy crowd – pushed his way into the turnstile with the woman!  It was like some type of magic or gymnastics trick.  Just when she thought she had lost the guy, he was squeezed right up behind her, pee-stained sweatpants to Barneys skirt.  If I hadn’t known better and he wasn’t in such appalling condition, it could appear that they were just some frivolous couple flipping the bird to The Man.  But I did know better, and I thought she was going to burst into tears.  Whether this was from sheer terror or disgust, I couldn’t quite say.  I tried to catch some glimpse of this man’s expression, but his face was hidden, nuzzled too snug with the woman’s head.  I wondered if he had gotten a boner.

Once through, without any acknowledgement of the affair that they just had, the man hobbled his way through a door a couple of cars down.  She at least deserved a, “Thank you” I felt.  “It was a pleasure sharing a metro fare with you!” or “Thanks for the ride!” would have been even more appropriate.

Through it all, she was a fairly good sport.  She didn’t scream bloody murder or turn around and curse him out afterward, or anything like that.  Although obviously disturbed, she seemed to have accepted her place in this situation:  She had made the decision to not help this man out.  This man made the decision to help himself out.  This meant that, for a brief moment, they would be in intimate physical contact.  This was the risk she didn’t realize she was taking.

As the doors to the train closed and we began to pull away, I couldn’t help but think that this would be an experience forever etched into this young girl’s memory.  How could she ever again encounter a homeless man in the subway station, refuse to give him money, and not think that he might slide right in beside her anyways? No, I’d be willing to bet that from now on, she will make room in her budget for situations such as this.

And what about the homeless man?  How much easier that must have been than to sit around all morning waiting until his pennies added up.  I’d also be willing to bet that from now on, this will be his strategy of choice for situations such as this.

And for me?  Hell, I’m with the woman.  He won my money.

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On the Origin of the Bass Face

Everyone likes music. If you are going to disagree with this statement, then I must immediately psychologize you to be an obnoxiously argumentative person. Just relax for a moment and go with it. Pretty much absolutely everyone likes music.

Music, or as I like to call it, organized sound, has been around since basically forever. Although I couldn’t find the article, I think I remember reading that archaeologists found it buried near the campsites of Neanderthals somewhere. Regardless, it is ingrained into our souls and is as much a part of the human essence as our fear of public humiliation or the urge to spit off of high elevations. It possesses a strangely unique power over our spirit. Unless you’re watching some sort of audio visualization program, music is something that we cannot see, smell, taste, or touch, and yet, we feel it. We feel it inside of, us gently massaging the tenderest parts of our hearts. Music has the ability to alter our mood, and it can even stimulate the physical movement of our bodies, which for most people is termed “dancing”. It has been reported that some people have become so overcome with dancing that they wouldn’t stop even in the face of death. If, for whatever reason, you have exceptional control over your body and refuse to let music overpower you, you become “such a boring person that never wants to do anything.” This stark reality is pretty unfair because kids are taught to control their impulses in school.

Every person will feel music differently, and people will seek out the conditions that allow them to gain as deep a connection as possible to this special place in their hearts. You might find one person putting on a tuxedo and sitting silently in a tiny wooden seat for three hours, while his neighbor might be in a Midwestern cornfield drinking malt liquor and spreading STD’s while wearing a scary clown mask. For many, though, the ultimate way of feeling music is to become musicians create it themselves. Of this group of romantics, no faction feels the music quite as intense as the player of the bass guitar.

The bass player is known for their role as the keeper of rhythm. If you listen closely, you can even hear their input in some songs. Because their job as musicians is pretty much the easiest one around, they have a lot of extra concentration and energy they can devote to making impressively silly faces to express just how intense their connection to the music is. This facial phenomenon is known as the “bass face”, and no self-respecting bass player will shred the instrument without one.

There are all sorts of different bass faces. Some of the more common ones include:

The trying to kiss you on a roller coaster face

The I'm going to chop you up and bury you in a swamp face

The taking my first shit in 8 days face

The sunlight in my eyes when I just got up face

The hey little girl, want some candy face

The having a root canal face

The sucking on a lemon face

The I'm so going to date rape you later face

The what the fuck is that face

The I'm coming face, as seen on the standup bass

The I'm totally sleeping face

The I'm not even going to pretend like I'm playing this thing anymore face

The cooling down my soup face, as seen on the standup bass

The Night at the Roxbury face

The motorboating face

The "Noooooo" face, as seen in movies when the villain does something awful to the hero

I don’t play the bass, but I have one. Someone left it at my apartment after a party and didn’t see it worth a return trip to my place. It’s old and crappy and one of the strings is broken, but it does make sound. With my bass guitar in hand, I set out to discover the cause to this curious condition.

I recorded a series of videos of myself making nonsense noises with the instrument. In each video, I intensified the contortions of my bass face, with the last one resembling some sort of exorcism on camera. I then posted them to YouTube, and awaited feedback on my skills.

Unsurprisingly, people loved my videos. They received thousands of hits, and it seems I even inspired others to do their own research as “response” videos came pouring in of people doing their own bass face. What is important to note, though, is that there was a direct correlation between peoples’ appreciation of my playing with the amount of deformity on my face. This led me to an astounding scientific breakthrough:

Whether they know it or not, musicians, and especially bass players, make extraordinary faces while feeling the music as a result of an evolutionary adaptation to convince people that they actually know what they’re doing on stage. Subject to the rules of natural selection, the players with the most outlandish faces will be the ones that are the most convincing.

In the end, it is a dog eat dog world out there. In the life of a bass player, this means that you better get your bass face ready.

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On Food, or How to Eat Hair

There’s a group of people in this world that are courageously un-picky with what they eat.  They are not to be confused with the less impressive and less exclusive group of genetically un-picky eaters.  Before moving further, a distinction must be drawn between the two.

A genetically un-picky eater is one that was born with dysfunctional taste buds, and their un-pickiness is therefore a result of reproductive lottery.  You can know these mutants by the way that they never show any preference in matters of food.  If you ask them what they want to do for lunch, they will say, “Eh, I don’t care.”  If, when you get to the restaurant, you ask them what they’re going to get, they will say, “Hmm, I don’t know. It all looks good!”  Then they’ll browse through the menu and make some game-time decision based on money or portion size.  When the waiter takes their order, they’ll never make any little interesting changes to the dish, and they’ll almost always finish their plate.  And then, under no circumstances, will they complain about their meal.  Even to their friends who are all complaining about it.  They are often misdiagnosed as polite.

It is true that, at times, I have envied their gifts.  How easy they have it on Jewish holidays!  But as useful as their faculties are, I have never respected them.  After all, they couldn’t change their condition if they wanted to.  As an (amateur) psychologist, I am interested in the way that people behave, and the type of person that intrigues me is one that will voluntarily gobble down of truly dirty, rotten, and/or inedible things.  These are the courageously un-picky eaters.

To fully appreciate this chivalrous group, one must understand the inner workings of the human body.  One must realize that it is a complex machine designed to maximize our chances of survival.  We come fully equipped with mechanisms that ensure we don’t ingest any harmful materials.  This intrepid group, though, does not play by the rules of nature.  They have developed some secret system of techniques allowing them to overcome tremendous psychological barriers to eat just about anything.  I needed to know how they managed to manipulate the mind like they did.  Over the course of several months, I studied this group intensely.  Here are my results:

Within this group, there are varying degrees of courageousness.  Just because someone will drink from a glass with dried lettuce glued to it does not mean that they will eat a piece of grilled chicken that falls on the carpeted floor of a senior citizens’ home.  But, that gross chicken person will almost certainly drink from the lettuce cup.  I have concluded that courageousness in eating follows a strict hierarchy, with the more advanced levels fully encompassing the abilities of the ones before it.  With this breakthrough in mind, I borrowed the belt system used in Taekwondo to better organize my research.

White Belt – White belters never wash their fruit, even if substantial adhesive remains after they peel off the little identification sticker.  They’ll eat fruits with significant bruising.  If they see someone preparing their food without gloves, they won’t bother to ask if they had washed their hands.  They’d prefer to just take their chances; it doesn’t bother them that much.  Most grandfathers hold at least a white belt.

Yellow Belt – Yellow belters will eat severely bruised fruits.  Bananas that are up to 95% brown are completely edible to them.  They will also have no problem with eating half of an apple and then returning to it hours later after it is all brown and slimy.  So long as they can safely swallow a seed or pit, they see no problem with it.  People with unclipped nails and obviously dirty hands are allowed to prepare their food.

Orange Belt – These individuals place little trust in institutions like the Center for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and widely accepted news sources.  They completely ignore expiration dates and headlines.  They do not refrigerate after opening.

Green Belt – To make it to the green belt, one is ok with eating significantly moldy food.  Mold is “just mold” and can easily be scraped off to reveal “perfectly good” food.

Blue/Purple Belt – There’s a growing movement called Dumpster Diving.  These people raid the dumpsters of supermarkets to find discarded food that is “still good”.  If you want your blue/purple belt, you better get your swim trunks on.

Brown Belt – All reasonable people adhere to the five-second rule.  This is the rule that states that food that is dropped is still good to eat if it is picked up within five seconds of hitting the ground.  But all reasonable people also understand that this rule only applies to reasonable surfaces.  Among others, gravel parking lots and restroom floors are exempt.  Brown belts have no interest in making these distinctions.  To them, a floor is a floor is a floor.

Red Belt – If a red belter finds food they are lucky, no matter the circumstances.  The food can be hanging out of a trashcan for all they care.  If it can provide them with calories and it’s free, they’re all over it.  There’s usually one of these guys in every fraternity house.

Black Belt – The distinguished rank of black belt is reserved only for individuals with the muscle to consume inedible parts of other peoples’ bodies.  They do notice that there happens to be a fingernail in their food.  They also notice that you’re a whiney little wimp.  “It’s protein, whatever.”

Despite the range of this group’s abilities, they all operate under the same strategy.  Last week, I had the opportunity to dine with a fourth degree black belt, and I finally learned their secret.

One of my not so close friends was having a birthday get-together at some Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, NYC.  I had nothing better to do and he’s Asian, so I figured what the heck, at least it will be at an authentic place.  It was not at an authentic place, though, unless there’s some hidden village in China where they only serve gross and disgusting food.

I knew I was in for it when we arrived and there was a gigantic “C” pasted to the window, the lowest grade the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will give before immediately shutting a location down.  The last time I ate at a “C” restaurant was at a pizza joint.  I actually witnessed the server drop the slicer on the ground, wipe it on his apron, and then cut our pizza.  Let me clarify here.  This was the same ground that his old and sweaty army boots stood on.  Army boots!  They’re built for traction.  Do you have any idea the type of crap that can get stuck in their soles?  And this guy was wearing them for style.  He had probably been in mosh pits with those things.  And this was just what I happened to see!

Army boots, built for traction.

So, I was not happy to be eating at this place.  But I’m a respectful person, and I didn’t want to offend my friend.  It was his birthday, after all.  I figured that I could probably handle something safe, like fried rice.  Again, I had figured wrong.

If Ashton Kutcher popped out of the kitchen and told me I’d been Punk’d, it would have all made sense.  But he didn’t, and so I was left to figure out on my own how my dinner was not a practical joke.  I had ordered fried rice, and to their credit, there was fried rice on my plate.  But, by any standards, this was a meal of fried hair.  In fact, there was so much hair in my meal that I seriously considered alerting the police.  It seemed quite plausible that someone in that kitchen had been murdered and they were little by little mixing their remains in with the food.

I gently pushed the plate a bit to my side and pretended to enjoy the water.  As the night wore on, one gentleman at the table whom I had never met made the astute observation that I hadn’t touched my meal.  He said, “What’s wrong?  You don’t like it?”

I responded, “Dude, there’s so much hair in there it’s ridiculous.”

He looked at my food and pushed it around a bit with his fork.  I said, “Dude, be careful!  You’re going to get some on your fork!”

This seemed to make him laugh.  He asked me, “You’re not going to eat it?”

I said, “Are you serious!?  Oh my god, are you actually going to eat that!?”  I began to get that nervous and excited feeling, like I was the one being dared to do something.  This was so amazing.  This guy was going to voluntarily eat some random guy’s scalp for absolutely no money at all.  And I had front row seats!  “By all means, be my guest!”  I pushed the plate over to him.

He sensed my interest.  He chuckled and said, “It’s not that big a deal, man.  It’s just a little hair.”

Just a little hair!  First off, he was wrong.  It was a whole lot of hair, but that’s beside the point.  This guy had no problem with eating hair!!  For a second, I considered his stance.  I wondered, was I simply being a wimp?  Is it really not a big deal?  

And then it hit me.  I finally realized how the courageously un-picky eaters work.  You see, he will look at hair and simply see a harmless thin black string.  However, I look at hair and see someone’s reddened, dandruff flaked scalp.  I see sweat dripping from their acne-ridden forehead.  I see an obese man with open sores.  I see a skinny man wiping his runny nose with his forearm.  And then I see that forearm hair fall in my food.  I see hairy chests, hairy backs, hairy pubic regions being scratched by hairy hands.  This man has sacrificed his imagination for the sake of eating hair!    How romantic this group truly is!

With a humble gaze, I watched him shovel the last bits of my meal down his throat.  He took a sip of water, glanced over at me, and said, “Thanks.”  I said, “No problem,” and felt my respect for this group grow even deeper.

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On Sneezing, or Feelings of Hopelessness toward Humanity

The other day, I was on a crammed subway car when the lady next to me sneezed.  We were face to face with each other, both holding onto the same pole, and I couldn’t help but notice how insufficiently she covered herself.  She put her hand up to her face, but it was up and down in less than a second, her fingers were all spread out, and her palm was scrunched together like she had arthritis.  It looked more like she was trying to shoo a fly away from her nose than protect the public from her potentially lethal evacuations.  Her second and third sneezes confirmed this to be no fluke – she was a grossly inadequate sneeze blocker.

What a rude and selfish person I psychologized her to be.  I began to feel a sense of defeat and hopelessness toward humanity.  Was I really going to follow in Michael Jackson’s footsteps and cloak my children in veils and surgical masks?  How much money was I going to have to budget for antibacterial hand sanitizer?  One by one, I examined the world’s problems and discovered that they all led back to this obnoxious and disgusting woman on the train.  I had all but given up, but then I noticed her doing something peculiar.  She began to groom her eyebrows with her fingers, like she was looking for something buried deep within them, like a monkey picking bugs out of its fur.  She made her way to their junction and then proceeded to pluck – with minute jerks of tremendous intensity – the hairs speckling the area.  With a quick rub of the fingers, she dispensed them to the subway floor.  It became evident that I was dealing with a somewhat unconventional specimen, and so I decided to reanalyze my analysis.

Monkey picking bugs out of fur

Further Inspection revealed that this woman was simply not equipped with the brain material to be held accountable for her actions.  Her crappy sneeze block was not a result of laziness, spite, or any derivative of them.  On the contrary, she was barely cognizant of it!  Never in her life did someone teach her why one would cover their face when sneezing.  Instead, she picked up the habit through pure observational conditioning.  It actually must have been quite an accomplishment for such a challenged intelligence.  At some point in her life, she noticed that people put their hands up to their face when they perform this curious act.  She then, again acting with monkey-like brilliance, came to conclusion that she too should probably do this.  Lacking any sort of higher-order cognition, she never thought twice about it!

I resolved to help this unfortunate woman.  Because I am a thoughtful person that does not enjoy offending or embarrassing people, I decided that I must do so indirectly.  I must make her aware of the consequences of her actions without specifically calling them out.  Generally, I advise against such passive aggressiveness, but like I said, it was not her fault.  She deserved to be handled delicately.

And so secretly, I spit on my forearm a little bit.  Perhaps if she noticed that my arm was sprayed with saliva, she could make the connection that it came from her sneeze.  I pushed a bit closer to her, indiscreetly advertising my arm to her field of view.  Hey, look at me; I’m covered in spit!  As time elapsed, I increased the obviousness of my arm being directly in front of her face.  To a bystander, it might have looked like I was a tango dancer, formally inviting her to the floor.

I waited for my apology.  And waited.  And waited.  But it seems I overestimated her abilities.  She was simply not programmed to ask questions.  I surrendered to the inconvenient acknowledgement that this strategy was not going to work.  I must provide her with an example of the proper way to block a sneeze, I concluded.  Perhaps she would find it curious and begin to mimic it.  I set forth to stage a sneezing fit of colossal proportions.

As I began my pre-sneeze – taking in air like a vacuum – I took the collar of my shirt and brought it all the way up to the top of my forehead.  Have a look at this, kind woman.  Do you see how this method of sneeze blocking will completely catch any bodily fluids that escape me?  You see, it is inconsiderate, gross, and even dangerous to fail to block your sneeze.  Can you understand, now, why you need to make some changes to your method?  Don’t you think this way is cool and interesting?  You should try it yourself and see what you think.  Three, four, five times in a row, I sneezed with astoundingly exaggerated violence.  I took a short pause.  Six, seven, eight, nine times in a row!

I emerged from my cocoon, anxious to see what my new friend had to think about the way that I sneezed.  But as I looked around, she seemed to have disappeared.  What the heck!?  We definitely did not stop yet.  The only possible explanation was that she moved away from where we were standing, possibly even going to another car on the train.  Did I gross her out with my completely covered sneezes!?  Was I being too considerate!?  Oh, that stupid bitch.

I sighed, and again began to feel a sense of defeat and hopelessness toward humanity.  Why do I go to the lengths that I do, I wondered?  Why did I feel the need to intervene?  I psychologized myself and found that I am a person of innate generosity, intimately concerned with the welfare of others.  In this line of work that I do, winning some and losing some is simply a part of the day .

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On Flossing, or More Evidence that I am a Genius

Genius is a funny thing.  It will grace you when you least expect it and disguise itself in an assault of really mean and stupid feedback from your friends.  The key to success is coming to terms with the fact that your friends are just mean and stupid and that they couldn’t possibly understand a genius like you.  Such is the story of my life, and last week’s brilliant idea will provide you with a perfect illustration of my case.

It was nighttime in my bathroom and all of my teeth were brushed.  This will usually mean mass genocide for unwanted blemishes* and renegade hairs that push the boundaries of the Homo sapiens beard line, but this night was different.  I hadn’t flossed in a while, and something deep in my gut was telling me that this was some sort of treason.  So I rummaged through my medicine cabinet, found my mint flavored sample size floss, and went to town.

Flossing is great because it’s so tangible.  You can literally see your impact splattered all over your mirror.  You might think that this would encourage its routine engagement, and for some people you might be right.  But it must have been two weeks since my last floss.  As the ribbon worked its magic in my mouth, I felt my tail droop between my legs.  Why couldn’t I just do this every night?  Was I some strange breed of hoarder?  To these questions, I needed answers.

After an intense 20-minute psychologization of myself, I decided that the most obvious possibility for my lack of discipline was the physical ambivalence involved.  Flossing is one of those strange activities that nebulously blend the boundaries of pleasure and pain.  Women often talk about “it” hurting their “first time”.  I don’t think I had any examples of this phenomenon in my life until my dentist told me to slip a thin piece of string between my teeth.  But I think I get it now.  I think I know what it feels like to be an adolescent girl on the verge of womanhood.  But, I don’t think that this is the root cause to my irregular flossing patterns.

I dug even deeper and found my issues to be even more obvious.  Flossing is a lonely, monotonous activity, involving only the most basic of tools.  It’s barely challenging and leaves almost no room for creativity.  It is quite simply not fun.  And on top of that, it follows another not fun activity of brushing your teeth.  When it’s nighttime and I’m tired, I just can’t bring myself to take part in another boring custom.  If only there was a way to make flossing fun …

And that’s when it hit me.  Battle Flossing!

Battle Flossing is a game/sport/competition/festival/nonprofit with the mission of getting people to floss more regularly.  It is fun for all ages and can be played with two or more participants.  Here are the rules:

  • Participants choose between a one, two, or three round match.  Each round is two minutes long.
  • Each participant stands face to face with each other armed with their choice of floss or flossing device.  If there are more than two players, stand in some sort of geometric pattern where participants are equally exposed to each other.
  • Participants begin flossing.
  • At the end of the match, the person with the most debris on their face is the loser.  If there are more than two players, the second loser is the person with the second most debris on their face.  And so on.

There you have it!  Being a dentist just got a whole lot easier.

*You might have asked yourself, “Aren’t all blemishes unwanted?”  The answer is no, not always.  I had a friend who once had a gigantic blackhead on his cheek.  He refused to squeeze it out because he thought it made him look like Colin Farrell.

Colin Farrell

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