Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If 'Playing Hooky' was an Olympic Sport

When I was a kid my parents wanted to raise me so I’d grow up to be a good person. Poor parents...they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

To help turn me into a good person they enrolled me in a youth program at our church called “Bible Quizzing” to help socialize me and give me a solid moral foundation.

Bible Quizzing involved getting a whole bunch of awkward teenagers together and interrogating them on facts about the Bible. Seems simple enough, right? Problem was I had no desire to learn stuff about the Bible. Or talk to people. Or be put into situations that were in any way anxiety provoking.

And quizzing provoked all kinds of anxiety in me.

The way quizzing worked is that you’d be put on a team of four people (all the same gender) and you’d be pitted against another team to find out who knew more stuff about the Bible. When you were being quizzed by the Quiz Master, you had to sit on a motion sensor pad which would trigger a button if you moved. If the button went off you had to immediately stand up and answer whatever question the Quiz Master asked. If you got the question wrong they penalized the entire team and everyone hated you.

My winning strategy involved a lot of sitting and sweating.

Given the fact that no one on my team ever studied, the average match looked something like this...

1) Quiz Master asks redonkulous theological question.

2) I have no idea what the answer is to said redonkulous question.

3) I wait for someone else to answer.

4) No one does.

5) Time is running out. Anxiety is eating away at my eyeballs. I am on the verge of a mental breakdown.

6) I panic and shout out the only answer that could not possibly be considered wrong.

But it is wrong. It is always wrong.

My church took quizzing very serious and every couple months our quizzers would pile into the church bus and drive to another state to compete with other quizzers from other churches.

It was as fun as it sounds.

What made this all worse were the few extroverted personalities on my team who insisted we have some kind of jazzy team theme to make things more interesting. While other church teams had uniform shirts or wore fedoras to instill team spirit, our team settled on a theme with a little more flair.

A few pink feather boas later we became the...

Somewhere in-between peeling off my zebra skin pants and yanking out my pigtails I realized I needed to get out of the quizzing lifestyle. Even if it meant taking drastic action.

To my credit, I actually did try the practical, intelligent approach first. I went to my mom and begged her to let me quit before the last big meet. But she told me I needed to stick it out until the end of the season so I could learn the importance of work ethic and good moral fiber.

I was screwed…or so I thought.

But then, something occurred to me. The most fabulous of schemes. Something I'd accidentally done to myself when I was eight years old and it'd gotten me out of school for three days. I knew if I were to do it again, it just might get me out of quizzing forever.

So I sauntered into the kitchen, casually grabbed a big plastic cup from the cupboard, ran up to my room, shut the door, put the cup over my mouth, and took a deep, deep, DEEP breath.

The cup created a tight vacuum seal over my face. And, breathing through my nose, I kept sucking.

And sucking.

And sucking.

When I no longer had any feeling in my lips I finally released the suction and hoped for the best.

I looked in the mirror I couldn't believe my genius. It was…

I’d created the most atrocious purple hickey that covered half my face. It was awesome.

With all the confidence of Fred Flintstone I waltzed into the kitchen and let the chips fall.

My plan couldn't have worked better. Instead of going to the quiz meet I got to stay home and revel in my antisocial tendencies all weekend by eating ice-cream and building a TV in our basement by myself.

And this is why if playing hooky was an Olympic sport they’d have to hand out crowns instead of medals because I would be the queen of champions.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Stupid Days Are The Worst

In college I was dating a guy (who eventually became my husband) that lived 2500 miles away from me. I was going to school in Washington State at the time, and he lived in Michigan. Because of the distance, I only got to see him once every twelve weeks or so; and the time we had together was little and very precious.

For Christmas, I decided to drain my bank account and buy a ticket to go spend the week with him and his family. I looked forward to seeing him for months.

The day finally came and I packed up my stuff and headed to the airport. My first flight from Spokane to Denver went without a hitch, but as soon as I stepped into the Denver airport a blizzard blew in and grounded all the planes.

I checked the monitors and noted that my flight to Detroit had been delayed for at least two hours. I shrugged it off as no big deal. At this point in my life I’d been to seventeen countries and maintained the cocky attitude of a seasoned traveler. While all the other holiday travelers were getting upset about the delays, I decided to play it cool. So instead of getting caught up in the frantic mass of people that swarmed my gate, I walked across the way and took a seat in the calmer, emptier gate parallel to the one for my flight. I settled in for a long wait.

Being the cool college kid that I was, I plugged in my headphones and swayed to my indie tunes as I read a book on philosophy. I made the point of holding the book up just high enough so all the passersby would know that I was an intricate, deep thinker that didn't get worked up over trivial thinks like blizzards.

I flipped through the pages, soaking in all the wisdom of Kierkegaard and Plato as the chaos ensued around me and the snow continued to blow. I got sucked into my book, and didn't notice how much time had actually passed. Eventually I casual looked up from my book and glanced toward my gate.

It was totally empty.

In a panic I ran to the ticket counter and demanded to know where all the people had gone. The ticket lady gave me a disgruntled look as she told me she’d called my name a million times over the intercom before the plane took off twenty minutes ago. When I frantically asked her how I was supposed to get to Detroit she shrugged and pointed me in the direction of the customer service center.

Feeling so very sad, and exceptionally stupid, I trudged my way to customer service.

When I got there, the line had exactly one ZILLION people in it, and it was moving at a glacier pace.

After standing in the same spot for half-an-hour, the reality of the fact that I probably wasn't going to see my boyfriend for Christmas became all too real.

I didn't have the money for another ticket to Detroit.

I didn't know anyone in Denver who I could stay with.

I had no idea if the airline would cash in my round trip ticket so I could fly back to Washington.

My prospects were looking bleak.

And with every passing second, the possibility of emotional hysteria began to mount.

I tried hard to hold back the floodgates, I really did. But little by little, I started to cave.

It started with a whimper, and then a few sniffles. And then without warning it jumped straight into heart wrenching sobs.

Now it wasn't the kind of sobbing that really warranted the situation. Oh no. It wasn't an appropriately mild “I-missed-my-flight-cause-I’m-a-total-moron” kind of crying; rather it was more like “rebels-killed-my-entire-family-and-left-me-for-dead” wailing.

It was loud, unrelenting, and most likely obnoxious.

The woman ahead of me couldn't help but notice. And after a few awkward glances in my direction, she turned around and said in a sweet Southern drawl:

I sniffled, and pulled myself together just long enough to convey the cause of my distress.

My anguish was so complete that the sweet Southern lady started to cry too. Taking pity on me, she told me I could go ahead of her in line. I mumbled my gratitude through snot and tears and slogged ahead.

And then true magic happened.

My loud cries made everyone within fifty feet of me extremely uncomfortable. And the harder I cried, the faster people continued to step aside and let me go ahead of them in line. Three minutes later, I was nearly at the front of the line. Through my tear-blurred vision, I looked up to see the only person that stood between me and the customer service lady. And to my total surprise, it was…

Now, I realize that my somewhat crude drawing looks like every old, white guy you’ve ever seen; and you have no idea who he’s actually supposed to be. But considering the fact that picture took me well over an hour to draw, it deserved some screen time.

Anyway, it was Alan Alda. You know, the guy from M*A*S*H that played Captain Benjamin Pierce? Yeah, that guy (you can go ahead and Google him now).

Truthfully though, I’ve never seen M*A*S*H, and the only reason I recognized him was due to the fact that he hosted a PBS series called Scientific American Frontiers. One of my psychology professors loved the series, and would show snippets of it in class all the time.

In fact, I’d just seen Alan Alda in an episode about the brain earlier that week, so I recognized him immediately.

I quickly took a stance of confidence and composure to impress him.

I struggled to keep my emotional hysteria at bay as I said in a bold, almost accusatory tone:

He gave me a weak smile, an uncomfortable half wave, and then took a full step back.

Determined to say something intelligent and memorable to ensure that I’d be a fan he’d remember forever I said:

Alan took a breath to say something, but the incredible excitement of the day had taken its toll, and I was officially a depleted bundle of crazy. So like any overwhelmed and exhausted two year old, I just stood there and cried a lot.

When the customer service lady finally called “Next”, Alan stuck out an uncomfortable, tepid finger and pushed me in front of himself.

I was so happy to be at the front of the line that I didn't even bother to thank him.

The lady at the counter took incredible pity on my situation, and handed me a free ticket to Detroit (with a layover in Chicago).

Three hours later, I’d made it to O’Hare airport where I had a ten hour wait until my flight to Detroit. The sun had gone down, the snow was thick outside, and aside from a few airport employees I was the only one in the terminal.

As a reward to myself for overcoming incredible stupidity with a gross display of emotion, I bought a giant quad-shot latte. It juiced me up with jazzy energy, and I spent the night listening to my indie tunes and dancing in the O’Hare psychedelic tunnel of light.

Merry Christmas everybody, I wish you all safe and non-stupid travels.

And to Alan Alda, if you ever end up reading this, please consider this to be my formal apology. I promise I’m not quite so ridiculous on a day-to-day basis.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shankshgiving and the Exishtenshial Crishis

It was Thanksgiving! Or, at least, it was the week before Thanksgiving.

It was 2008, and I was living the high-status life of a psychology graduate student. Two of my closest friends were also my roommates, and we lived in a romantic little townhouse in the suburbs of Chicago.

Life was good.

Just a couple days before our Thanksgiving break, my roommates and I were "Bacheloretting" it up when we suddenly got the hankering for Rice Krispy treats.

Even though it was around nine at night, my roommate, Adina, and I decided to make a quick trip to Target to pick up the necessary goods. And since Target was was only a seven minute drive from our home, it didn't make much sense for me change out of the comfy lounge pants I was currently wearing.

My lounge pants also doubled as my karate pants. I took a karate class in undergrad (which I sucked at), but the pants were fabulously comfortable, and I wore them all the time once the class was over.

On the way out the door, I put on the most conveniently accessible shoes, which just happened to be my platform sandals I’d bought from a street vendor in Jerusalem when I was fourteen. They still fit when I was in my twenties because I have dainty squirrel feet.

I was ready to go.

Adina and I made it to Target and collected our marshmallows, butter, and Rice Krispies. We made it out of the store in record time.

Now this is where the story gets interesting.

As I was walking, I had my wrists looped through the handles of the grocery bags, and the hem of my karate pants suddenly got wedged underneath the toe of my shoe. Not noticing, I kept on walking.

And then physics took over.

Stupid physics.

As I fell, the bags swung backward and kept me from catching myself with my arms.

Don’t worry, though. My face broke the fall.

Ironically enough, my head landed smack-dab in the middle of the Target emblem etched in the cement.

I wasn't unconscious for long. Maybe thirty seconds or so.

When I finally came to, I stared at the cement in a state of confusion for a while. I honestly could not figure out how my face had gotten so close to the ground.

Finally, I lifted my head and, through the haze of my unsteady vision, saw Adina’s horrified face.

I sat up, and once my mind registered the fact that I still had a body, I answered Adina's question.

I pressed my fingers against my numb face, and was glad to find my lips were still there.

I stuck my finger in my mouth to check my teeth. Right away, I could tell something was missing.

I opened my mouth so Adina could get a better view.

She didn't have to say anything for me to know the news wasn't good.

I wanted to get home right away, but Adina was feeling woozy and grossed out by the sudden turn of events. She sat on the curb, in the glow of the red Target sign, and took a few deep breaths to steady herself.

"I don't think I can drive home," she said. "I'm too shaky."

"No problem," I said, eager to get out of the parking lot. "I'm good to drive, let's go."

We got into the car, with me behind the drivers seat. I put it into drive and pulled onto the main road.

Adina watched me closely.

A few minutes into the drive, the reality of the situation began to sink in for Adina. She worked to fight back the overwhelming sense of vulnerability that was threatening to consume her.

I just focused on driving.

Adina stared at my unsightly "scrape-n-dirt" goatee, and the tears began to brim.

I was still hyper-focused on the road.

And then Adina experienced a full-blown existential attack.

I could hear the shuddering sniffles from the other side of the car; and I looked over to see Adina gazing wistfully out the passenger window, tears rolling down her cheeks.

I reached over to pat her shoulder in a somewhat consoling manner, but it only made things worse.

By this time, I had pulled into our driveway. We sat there in silence for a moment as my sluggish mind worked on trying to come up with something deep and comforting.

So I gave her a sweet little smile and mustered up the most enthusiastic jazz-hands that I could.

We walked inside and I called up the stairs to our other roommate, “Heeeeey Sarah! Guess what? We got Rice Krispies, and marshmallows, AND I broke my face!”

Sarah was, understandably (and probably appropriately), upset. She demanded that we all get back in the car so she could drive me to the emergency room.

Now the emergency room wasn't all that far from our house. In fact, it was probably only about three-hundred feet away. So, in all probability, we really shouldn't have gotten lost driving there.

But we did.

We drove around for fifteen minutes until we decided to park in the parking garage and walk to the main hospital.

As we got out of the car and started walking, I could hear muffled snickers coming from Sarah's direction.

I gave her a funny look as I said in a huff, "What're you laughing about?"

She covered her mouth with her hands as she said, “I’m sorry, it's probably too early.”

“Too early, for what?” I asked.

She struggled to keep from bursting out laughing as she said...

And, indeed, it was not too early. The three of us sang a couple rounds as we made our way to the E.R., where I was diagnosed with a concussion, a dislocated jaw, a cracked sternum, and a spine that looked like a Picasso painting.

Once they discharged me, I went home and made Rice Krispy treats.

So, all this to say, I hope you all have a happy Shankshgiving. And don’t forget to be thankful for your teeth. You’re probably gonna need them.

Picture from Thanksgiving 2011.
My front tooth composite popped off
when I bit into a croissant during
Thanksgiving dinner. I shouted all
kinds of colorful expletives and made
everyone feel exceptionally thankful
when they finally got to leave the dinner table.