I want to provide you with a mariner’s chart of my character: the contrasts and topography of my chipped, flawed personality. What the hell, you ask?
Well, this is based on that narcissism that all writers have – or ought to have. Maybe it also has something to do with the fact that I’m besieged by academic deadlines and need something to laugh about.
But the main reason? I’m sitting in a class that I am having trouble caring about (we’re watching a movie on bowel diseases. I just looked up, and was greeted by the sight of a very charming endoscopy).
Some of these tempt me severely, and some of these just make me cry:
Wikipedia: As you may or may not know, this is a growing collection of all the world’s knowledge. It’s a giant, unaccredited reference site that is almost certainly responsible for about 50% of the undergraduate research papers turned in for a grade in the last 5 years.
In fact, I would say that between Wikipedia and Google Scholar, about 75% of undergraduate TA’s were rendered worse than obsolete. After all, when you’re asking a TA a question, you can’t simultaneously message your friend about how you’re going to get 400% drunk tonight, can you? (Actually, you can. But this is frowned upon.)
The greatest and most terrible feature of Wikipedia is that each reference page contains links to other (usually) related(ish) topics. I click on all of them, and store them in different tabs, so that I can read one, after another. After another. And I will almost always do this when I am under a deadline. And all of a sudden, I will have pissed away hours reading about the Cuban missile crisis or the entire publication history of Swamp Thing.
Wikipedia makes you lie and bargain with yourself. I convince myself that neglecting my thesis is alright because Wikipedia is so educational. I can’t possibly be wasting time if I’m still learning things, right? Incorrect, incorrect. There is such a thing as useless information, and I gorge myself on it like a fat man trying to escape a pancake avalanche.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Wikipedia is an unbelievably nerdy way to waste time. It’s not like I was outside being really muscular, wearing a wife-beater, and building a motorcycle with my bare hands. I wasn’t playing soccer with my friends, or painting a beautiful mural. I was reading about all the release delays that have kept “Chinese Democracy” out of our hands. Dammit.
Students that Cannot Shut It: There’s always at least one in every class. They’ll respond to any and all questions the teacher asks. Even the rhetorical ones. Naturally, they have questions of their own, questions specifically designed to achieve 3 simultaneous goals: a) try to stump the teacher, b) show the rest of the class how very smart they are, and c) make me reach for that emergency .40 of malt liquor I tucked away in the knapsack.
Often, when a student goes off on an irrelevant and esoteric tangent, I imagine that I can communicate with animals. Because if I could, I’d convince a troop of gorillas to kidnap them, carry them off, and feed them to a giant whale named Charley.
At the very least, I’d provide an elephant with a boxing glove, and convince it to trunk-punch them. Sycophantic, self-aggrandizing behavior is a pet peeve; it bothers and biases me. For instance, this student could be awarded a Nobel Prize for inventing a delicious soft drink that burns calories and cures cancer, but I would still want to land a plane on them.
See? They’re ruining my karma.
Peanut butter: I sure do like peanut butter. I don’t have an addiction, you know? This shouldn’t even be on the list, haha! It’s something I like to indulge in, from time to time, but I definitely don’t have this “obsession” that I’ve been accused of. I make the casual sandwich from time to time. Sometimes, I just eat peanut butter plain. Lots of people do that.
I mean, sometimes I start hyperventilating when my entire hand gets stuck in the jar, and then I start swinging wildly, and… well, one time, I ended up licking peanut butter off my living room wall for about 20 minutes. So yeah, there was that one instance, but it’s not a big deal, right? I’m just a little eccentric! Ha!
You know, I’m in school. School comes with a lot of stress. I mean, one time I was at Kroger, and this lady wouldn’t move her buggy, so I couldn’t get to the peanut butter. I asked her nicely, but she still wouldn’t move and I don’t really remember the next part, but all of a sudden I was holding a shattered bottle of olive oil by the neck, threatening her with the jagged end, and shrieking like a mother baboon.
I was just stressed, though. And I probably just dropped the olive oil anyway, it’s hard to remember. Also, I sat under a checkout counter for about 40 minutes, ate the entire jar of peanut butter, and hissed at anybody that came near me. But it was probably really all just stress. Right?
Who am I kidding? I’m like a cross between Winnie the Pooh and an unrepentant heroin addict. I can’t stop. I don’t even want to. I refer to peanut butter crackers as my “little pick-me-ups” and rub the crumbs into my gums. Sometimes, after finishing a good peanut butter sandwich, I want a cigarette. I once yelled at my girlfriend for not being made out of peanut butter, and then burst into tears. One day, this stuff’s going to be the end of me.. and what a delicious end that will be.
Stairs: I hate going up stairs. I don’t like being slowed down. I don’t like the repetitive motion. I don’t like the way that gravity – which is already the smuggest force I know of – is given a hugely unfair advantage just because I happen to need to get up there. Stairs are basically an annoying series of tiny cliffs. The first few aren’t so bad, and the middle ones are boring. But by the end, you’re just spiritually exhausted and emotionally empty.
Coming down stairs is just as bad. At best, it slowly degrades the cartilage in your knees. At worst, you slip on a patch of treacherous black ice, and are treated to a sudden and terrifying journey that ends in a splintered tailbone. If you have friends like mine, your tailbone becomes infinitely more vulnerable. Even in the summer.
How would I travel between floors without stairs, you ask? Trampolines, smartass. Trampolines and waterslides. Now, everybody go and speak with your congressman.
A really good cinematic ass-kicking: Generally, I am very critical of movies. In fact, if a movie wins an Oscar, I actually think a little less of it, since Oscars are usually given to emotional pap. I cannot stand films that attempt to blatantly teach me some vague banality, such as “love is real,” “racism isn’t cool,” or “war causes frowns.”
A good fight scene will make me forgive all of that. I don’t care what the combatants are fighting over. I don’t even care who the good guy is. All I want is to see two or more individuals pulling ridiculous stunts just to deliver the most spectacular ass-kicking possible. And I love the lengths that movies have gone to, just for my sake.
No more simple upper-cuts or right hooks. No, now we have action heroes that run up walls, turn double cartwheels in mid-air, and kick their enemies through walls. Somersaults, impromptu sword fights, and critical amounts of head trauma simply abound, while I clap my hands like a child, or a particularly delighted seal.
I think what I love the most is just how unnecessary it all is. Just punching a guy, or maybe bonking him with a pool stick is generally enough to win a fight. Hell, push him down some stairs or give him a swirly – either of these is usually enough to settle an issue. But in movie fights, it is vitally important to jump into the air and start spinning in slow motion before kicking the other guy in the head hard enough to kill a panda in a bike helmet. Also, there’s usually fire in the background.
Why do I love these scenes? Maybe because I’m really a 6-year-old with a driver’s license. Maybe I’ve been horribly desensitized to violence by the media. Maybe I just get bored easily. But I do know this: watching “Atonement” wouldn’t have been so emotionally castrating if James McAvoy had done as he should at the beginning of the movie – that is, started breaking legs and collarbones until he got his hands on the lying 13-year-old with the horsey face, and then proceeded to slow-motion throw her through every window in the mansion. And all the chandeliers.
With all the slow motion involved, the movie would have been roughly 4 hours long. But I would have waited. I can be very patient.
The “Y’all University – A few degrees south” t-shirt: Just imagine this shirt. It’s incredibly corny. Additionally, it’s being worn by this guy in class that I find aggravating. Every time he asks a question, it’s as if somebody beamed Chumbawumba directly into my brain, and poured about a pint of indignant fire ants down the front of my pants.
Ha! “Y’all!” It’s like Yale, but with a touch of the sort down-home country charm that gets this region of the country accused of in-breeding so often. Though, I guess I ought to be grateful. I didn’t even know I didn’t like this shirt, until this guy wore it. But it still makes my soul quiver unpleasantly.
Cool, sunny days: See, they’re perfect, because it’s bright enough to want to be outside, but it’s also one of those rare days when that bastard sun hasn’t managed to turn the atmosphere into an oven. Unfortunately, these are also the days when I go to a bookstore, get something interesting, and spend the entire day reading outside, neglecting everyone and everything else that I might be responsible for. Seriously, somebody could walk by me while actually being on fire, and I don’t think I would notice.
If I did, I would roll my eyes, mark my page, and then push them into a lake. But I wouldn’t be happy about it.
Opening a 2-liter bottle of anything carbonated: I’m sure you’ve done this. When you first twist the cap loose, the entire bottle hisses as carbonation escapes, and the bottle short of shrivels. You can feel this weird, bubbling sensation on and through the wrapper, just because you unleashed some tiny miracle of physics when you twisted that bottle cap.
Every time I open a 2-liter bottle, I think to myself, “this feels like science!” Then I begin to reflect on how I never really got to run with the in-crowd, somehow.
Additionally, I fight for my right to open the bottle. I’ve dived over counters and slid – baseball-style – on tiled kitchen floors just to be the one to pour the beverages. I’ve called shotgun, and gotten puzzled looks. Once or twice, I’ve cried.
Political junkies that “can respect your point of view”: People that disagree with other people – especially at my school – say this “respect” phrase a lot. It’s supposed to mean that they’re a terribly understanding person, and that they respect your right to be ignorant. They completely accept the fact that your opinions are wrong, and that you’re about as intelligent as the average drunken baby.
I tend to get a little overwhelmed by their respect early on, and end up being employing the strategy of the mighty turtle: tucking my head into my shell until all danger has passed. I’ll start responding to questions with things like “Hillary? Nope. Never heard of her,” or “What do you mean, when you say ‘health care?’ ”
I see politicians as a necessary evil, and I tend to despise them all equally. I can’t really pick one that I dislike less than any of the others; I do feel this default position of baseline disgust allows me to view them a little more objectively. I could be wrong.
One thing I do know, though, is that Obama supporters are by far the most emotional group. Supporters of other candidates might believe in their champion on an intellectual level, but Obama’s supporters know that he’s the right choice. They know it with their hearts. They remind me a lot of Harry Potter fans. And that’s why I’m kind of hoping that he’ll lose – because Harry didn’t die in book 7, and because I’ve never seen a candidate that so many people would actually cry over.
Taking off shin-guards: Have you ever played a really long game of soccer in shin guards? They become sweaty, itchy, abrasive, and more or less disgusting. But for me, it’s worth it.
The longer the game, the better, because taking these babies off is one of the greatest sensations life has afforded me thus far. Frankly, if I were to clone Jessica Alba and then proceed to have the world’s greatest threesome, I’m not sure that it would feel better than removing a pair of shin guards.
Granted, considering the sheer circumstances of my daily life and an ankle that seems just waiting to snap like a luggage cord worked over by beavers, I don’t play much soccer. And when I do, I can’t say that I’m terribly good – a bit better than average perhaps. When fouled, I hit the ground like a bag of hammers, and immediately start clutching a knee, just like the guys on television. If I ever score a goal, I pull my shirt up around my head and run around making airplane noises. Once, I slide tackled a 7 year old.
He didn’t know we were playing at the time, and there wasn’t really a ball involved, and I seem to remember that he may have compared my head to dog poop. I put it on YouTube anyway. But I digress: the main draw of soccer, for me, is the shin guards. And while I realize how incredibly strange that is, I simply cannot care.
Q-tips: I can’t exaggerate how much I love the feeling of cleaning my ears with q-tips. Not the generic brand of “ear swabs,” but actual, downy, plush q-tips, forged out of noonday clouds by Zeus himself, and handed down to man.
Every time I use these things, I feel like I’m having a tiny, minute-long affair – the only difference being that I don’t care who knows it. I don’t see why people would even bother with cocaine, and I absolutely sneer at heroin junkies. All I need is $3 and a trip to the grocery store, and I can hole up in my apartment to ignore my friends and loved ones for almost a whole week!
I can transport over 4 lbs. of q-tips in my trunk and not worry about being pulled over – and I have. Sometimes, I stand around near playgrounds with a q-tip tucked behind each ear, and I’ll offer q-tips to kids. I tell them that “only the first one’s free, shortie.” And my ears? They glisten.