Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Coworkers: The Video Store (#1)

Almost immediately after I turned 18, I began working full-time at a video rental store chain that shall remain nameless (use your powers of inference), and worked for the same company at three different stores in Arizona and Michigan over the course of the next two years. During my stint, I worked with quite a few interesting people, all of whom I got to know fairly well during our shared shifts together.
Since I love observing peoples' behavior and mannerisms (see here), and often do it without even intending to do it, I'm going to make each of these people their own little psychoanalysis profile-type thing where I describe my experiences with them in a semi-anecdotal manner. I promise that it's a lot more interesting than it sounds. 

The Video Store (#1)

Jason (store #1)

Mail-carrier by day, video rental store clerk by night, Jason was a thick-necked and thick-headed thirtysomething who made every action his meaty body performed look like it was the most exasperating task he'd ever performed. As I'm sure you can imagine, his abilities as anything beyond a warm body to have on-shift were incredibly limited. His other job prepared him for the mundane, movie-restocking half of it, but nothing in his life had prepared him for the other, more social half that involved actually speaking to customers in a coherent manner. He just didn't have the chops for it, to be frank.

But that isn't to say he didn't mean well. Generally speaking, he would at least attempt to weasel his way out of direct questions and film recommendations by making what he considered a joke. Usually these would fall flat, but every once in a great while, his humor would hit its mark and he'd squeeze a laugh out of an unsuspecting middle-aged mom or older gentleman. These moments were clearly his proudest on the job.

Aside #1: He had a habit of flirting with said middle-aged moms, despite being married. His motto was "just because I've ordered doesn't mean I can't look at the menu." In retrospect, he may have known more about life than I cared to admit at the time.

About four months after being hired, his wife gave birth to a baby girl. After what I'm sure was plenty of deliberation, they decided to name her "Abby Rhode _____," an obvious play on the Beatles album of the same name. Proud of what he clearly considered to be a creative homage to the musical styling of the Fab Four, he would never fail to mention her current age and (full) name to any customer that seemed like they would listen. It was nice to see him happy, but kind of obnoxious at the same time. He'd jumped on the weird baby name bandwagon, and was proud of it (as most of them are).
I know it's not that big of a deal, and it didn't make him any less of a person in my eyes. But he was still a pretty sub-par employee.

Tim (store #2) 

Middle-aged and ridiculously, happily gay, Tim was a "lifer" at the second location I worked at, having been there for almost exactly the same amount of time I'd been alive at the time (19 years). He was extremely defensive of every decision the company ever made, claiming that they knew what they were doing (even when our store started selling books that had nothing to do with movies). Considering the fact that he was payed just under $20 an hour for doing a lowly customer service representative's work from his nearly two decades on board, this was unsurprising.

According to other employees that had been there, his small apartment was filled wall-to-wall with hundreds of movies, with the alleged ratio being 90% VHS tapes and 10% DVDs.

Aside #2: He had amassed such a large collection of VHS tapes during the 90's that even ten years after the conversion to the superior format, he was still re-buying most of his collection. Even worse, I met him right around the time blu-rays were becoming prominent, so his collection was slowly becoming even more out of date (a fact that frustrated him greatly).

He (obviously) loved movies. His knowledge was vast, but his taste was not so generous. He was extremely picky when it came to his "yearly top ten," a list he posted around the store every December to alert patrons of what films he'd enjoyed over the last twelve months. He often avoided action films and those involving/catering to children (whom he despised for some reason), but would sometimes throw one of these genres into the mix, just for good measure.

Aside #3: If this sounds really egotistical, and you're asking yourself "Who the fuck cares about Tim's Top Ten?", well...everyone did. He watched 90% of the movies that were on the shelves week-to-week, and the regulars that had been coming to the store for years respected the hell out of him (and his taste in film). I have a feeling that if he took a shit in a DVD case and told a random customer to watch it "because it's great work," nine out of ten of them would go home and stuff said turd into their players, oblivious.

Tim's best quality however, was not his dedication to film. It was his dedication to the store. I am absolutely positive that the place would have burned to the ground a long time ago had he not been there to put out every fire that was started (figuratively speaking). The store ran because he was there, whether we all wanted to admit it or not. The entire store was meticulously organized and categorized correctly, this was something he made sure of every single day before he left. If you messed with his methods, you had to face his wrath. Even our general manager came under fire (and later backed down) at least once that I knew of. He was the most powerful employee, but he didn't let it go to his head, despite the fact that he should have. Our location was ranked consistently in the top 2-5% of the company as far as sales and general customer satisfaction went, and if it weren't for him we wouldn't have even cracked the top 25%. He was that crucial of a member.
One time, Tim came into work with a buzz cut, a drastic change from his usual style. Noticing this the day after as I was arriving and he was leaving, I said something about it. This is the conversation that followed:

Tim, your hair cut looks nice. Short hair suits you.

I hope you're kidding, it looks absolutely awful. The bitch at the salon butchered my head, and we had to chop it all off in order to even it out.

...oh. Well, I'm sorry to hear that, then. I really don't think it looks that bad.

Flattery will get you nowhere. It looks bad, and I know it.

...okay then. See you tomorrow, Tim!

Needless to say, he wasn't very happy with me for a few days after that.
When I left the store, Tim's goodbye to me was much more sentimental than I'd expected it to be. This was someone that had seen dozens, possibly hundreds of employees pass through that door over the years, but he pulled me aside on my last day and said that he'd actually miss me "sometimes." Considering his slightly caustic personality and prickly demeanor, this was about as high of a praise that I think I could have received.

Ed (store #3)

Ed was the most unique general manager I'd ever had before. Easily 6'5 and 250 pounds, he was built like a weightlifter and had the short temper of someone that regularly injects steroids.

Aside # 4: I'm not making any assumptions or accusations here, just being speculative.

Only a manager for a few months before my arrival, I could tell that he was intimidated by the fact that I came from a store that was doing so well, considering his was barely afloat at the time. He'd been trained improperly when it came to the overall "flow" of the store, an unfortunate and deadly side-effect of hiring outside of the company for leadership positions.
Despite this, he set aside his pride and would often ask me how the location I'd come from did things, and actually followed my instructions to the letter. Two weeks after my transfer, the store looked much better than it had when I was hired.

Aside #5: This should not be a testament to my mad movie-slinging skills (ha!), but rather a testament to his ineptitude in that area.

My constant suggestions and improvisations on his terrible organization of the store and the general floor layout eventually started wearing him thin though, and I could tell he was beginning to feel like I was being too critical of the way he did things. I couldn't help it though, ten months at store #2 with Tim had ingrained a sense of consistency in me when it came to matters of the store.
It almost made me uncomfortable seeing how little everyone except for Ed seemed to care about these matters, and I admittedly overstepped my bounds a bit and started politely suggesting that he start disciplining those that weren't actually doing their jobs. He did not take this well at all, and saw this as me trying to take his managerial position away from him; undermining him by trying to do his job.
I clearly wasn't trying to do this. I was just slightly overzealous in my execution when it came to wanting to transform my new location into a "perfect store." I tried explaining this to him several times, but he wasn't having it. But his paranoia got the better of him, and his mind was made up about me. By the time my month anniversary rolled around, he had begun making my life a living hell.
At first it started out subtly, with him making me do the so-called "bitch work." Rather than working the register like I was used to, I was bumped down to movie-shuttling duties. Then he began cutting my shifts, until I was only working fifteen hours a week. Soon after this, during an evening shift, another employee (a manager) showed me several texts Ed had sent her calling me quite a few different names that bore no creativity whatsoever.

Aside #6: These included (but were not limited to): "little fuck," "little fucker," "little shit," "little asshole" and "pipsqueak." Over the course of four messages. Do that math.

Offended and fuming, I asked her to send him a text saying that I was leaving before my shift ended, and never coming back. He immediately responded, calling me another classic Ed nickname and telling her he was going to head over to the store to confront me once he'd finished eating dinner. Not wanting to confront him, but also not wanting to leave my now-former coworker alone, I called three other employees before one agreed to come in and finish my shift immediately. Fifteen minutes later, he arrived and I said my goodbyes to the both of them, apologizing for the inconvenience. They said they understood, and I left.
I walked to my apartment and saw Ed driving to the store when I was less than ten minutes away. He didn't see me in the darkness, though I'm sure he was to preoccupied with coming up with things to call me to notice anyways.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stems & Seeds #2

The Hot Dog Story

In the second grade, I shared an assigned two-seat desk with a boy named Richard. Luckily, we were fast friends, and soon he had invited me over to his house to spend the night one Friday, as all kids do at that age.

Aside #1: The sleepover is like a childhood friendship rite of passage. You knew if you stayed up talking to each other long after the lights were turned off, you were going to be friends for a long time (relatively speaking).

After playing some video games and watching a movie, were both tuckered out and decided to go to sleep. Before heading to his room though, he asked me if I'd like a snack. Of course I said yes, and Richard disappeared into a dark room that wasn't his kitchen, and returned with two sheets of printer paper. Motioning that I should follow him, we stepped into his room as I became more and more confused. Rummaging around in his side table drawer, he withdrew a basic packet of crayons before sitting on the floor next to his bed.

Hesitantly, I sat down next to him as he took out the red and yellow crayons, which were noticeably more worn-down than the others in the box. Methodically, he took one of the sheets of paper and tore the corners off of it, so it was a near-perfect oval. He then took the pieces he'd ripped and crumpled them into an oblong wad of paper, before placing them in the center of the oval he'd torn.

Then he took the red and yellow crayons, and colored in some of the oval around the wadded-up paper. Picking it up like a hot dog, he handed it to me and began making his own. Not wanting to offend him, I nibbled on the edge of the "bun" for a few seconds as he went through the motions again, adding much more of what he apparently considered to be "ketchup" and "mustard" to his "hot dog."

Aside #2: Those quotation marks feel like finger quotes.

Once finished, he picked his up, and took a full-sized bite out of it, looking like a wolf tearing into a piece of beef jerky. Putting mine down, I declared that I wasn't hungry. Shrugging, Richard finished his snack, and we both went to bed shortly after.

We didn't talk that night, or very much afterwards. Luckily, our teacher changed the assigned seats shortly after this for some reason or another, and our interaction was no longer necessary.

The Pot Smoke Story

I was laying in bed one morning after waking up with my now-ex-girlfriend Annie, who was still asleep. Discreetly, and without waking her, I loaded a bowl of weed and took a massive hit, my body shaking from holding in the cough.

Turning around to see if my movements had woken Annie, I continued to hold in the hit as her eyes fluttered open slowly. Smiling and rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she began to speak.

"Hey bab-"

Her sentence was never completed, because I couldn't hold in the smoke any longer. Sputtering, I exhaled a massive, billowing plume of smoke right into her mouth, forcing her to choke. Unable to help myself, I began laughing, and did so for the next two minutes.

Annie joined in, once she caught her breath, thankfully.

The Handshake Story

During my tenth grade year, I worked up the nerve to ask an attractive redheaded girl named Lisa to go to the movies with me, shortly before realizing that I didn't (and still don't) drive. She didn't either at the time, so  we worked out a deal with her parents and my parents where my mom would drop us off, if her dad would pick us up. Both parties obliged, and my mom took us to the movies.

Aside #3: Ah, to be young again.

We reinforced the cliche further and saw a terrible horror movie (I think it was the ridiculously awful Cry_Wolf), doing the high school thing and kissing throughout the entire thing. About halfway through the movie, Lisa decided to lay across two seats, with her head in my lap. There were a few other people in the theater, but despite this fact her hand took mine and guided it into her pants.

At the risk of sounding crude, there was nothing even remotely dry about where my hand went. It was as if I'd stuck my hand into a warm brothy soup someone had thrown a few roast beef slices into.

Aside #4: I am so, so sorry for that one.

Naturally, my teenaged hand spent a ridiculous amount of time down there, and was covered in her...product by the time the movie had ended. Right before it had though, Lisa had received a voicemail from her dad, to let us know that he was there to pick us up. Immediately after the credits began scrolling across the screen, she took my clean hand and lead me out of the theater, into the parking lot where her father's pickup truck was idling.

Climbing into the back of the cab, I positioned myself behind him after saying a hurried "hello" and introducing myself. Turning around in his seat and offering his right hand to me, he said "Well, it's nice to meet'cha. I'm Phil."

Without even thinking, I shook his hand, my fingers and palm still slightly moist with his daughter's semi-pungent vaginal secretion. Furrowing his brow slightly and looking at our interlocking hands, a wave of understanding seemed to wash over him. I pulled my hand away from his quickly after the handshake had ended, but it was too late.

I can't say for sure whether or not Lisa's father knew what my hand was covered in, but he didn't speak during the entire drive to my house and I never went out with her again.

Previously on TFTG: Stems & Seeds #1

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Little Slut

Since my mid to late-teens, I've come to terms with the fact that as far as looks go, I am something of an acquired taste. There are no hordes of women knocking down my door because I am ridiculously handsome, but there have been a few women over the years that have hit on me while "out in the wild," something that I fear I may never get used to.

Aside #1: Secretly, I actually hope I never get used to this.

One time for instance, I was riding my bicycle somewhere to get lunch, when I heard someone wolf-whistle in my general direction. Assuming the catcall wasn't meant for me, I ignored it, and locked my bike up before going into a restaurant and eating. When I had come back out, there was a note left on my bike that read:
You're really cute...text me...for a good time.
Signed, girl who whistled at you earlier
(phone number)
Now, normally I wouldn't have paid any mind to something like this, because to me, this note sounded incredibly promiscuous, verging on skanky. But I'd actually noticed the girl who had whistled, before she had done so. She was definitely attractive, and I was definitely single at the time.

Aside #2: Plus, she'd actually used the correct form of "you're," and that alone is something to marry someone over nowadays.

I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Smoothly, I waited about an hour before I sent her a text message introducing myself and asking her what her name was. "Valerie," she said in her response, before telling me that she'd like to get to know me better. A little too smugly, I sent her a text that read "That can be arranged."

Aside #3: If you haven't noticed by now, my most commonly used method of flirting with members of the opposite sex involves being really awkward and direct, verging on serial killer-esque, intermingled with infrequent moments of smoothness and charm. That really works for some women, I guess.

So two days later, after talking/texting nonstop about whatever it is you talk about with someone you've never officially met, we weirdly met up for lunch at a Taco Bell near my apartment. She was red-headed and quite a bit skinnier than I'd originally thought she was, verging on almost being too skinny, but still managed to have a sort of larger, more intimidating attitude about everything, something that I naturally find irresistible. Her voice was also slightly raspy, but in the pleasant way that isn't quite like like the way a throat cancer patient's is.

Reciprocating my unspoken attraction, she invited me over to her house after we'd finished eating, telling me she wanted to "watch a funny movie" with me. Coyly thinking I was reading between the lines, I accepted her offer, and we departed.

Not long later, we arrived at the house Valerie shared with her father, a small two-bedroom with the darkness of a bachelor pad but the stereotypical tidiness of somewhere a woman lives. Her father was out of town for the week, she explained as we looked over her movie collection, stillness of the house only interrupted by our movements.

Looking over the movies she and her father had collected over the years, I was slightly disappointed. There were half-decent action movies mixed in with the usual comedy fodder; movies like Bad Boys and Die Hard were alongside such "comedy classics" as Black Sheep and Anchorman. Given that she wanted to watch something "funny," it was slim pickings for someone like me, who had seen every chuckle-worthy film they owned too many times to count (on cable, no less).

Aside #4: Because of this story, I am now guilty of writing and consciously publishing a really whiny first-world problem. I don't feel great about myself.

After a rough inner-struggle followed by seconds of tedious decision-making, I decided on Adam Sandler's classic fish-out-of-water story, Billy Madison. If we were to ever be married, we would tell tales at our wedding of the first time we ever laid eyes on a television screen simultaneously, watching the original manchild himself work his way through academia. We'd be that couple.

Nothing unexpected happened over the course of the next two hours. We watched the movie, smoked a little bit of weed, and made out during the parts we'd both seen a million times (read: during most of the movie). There was something very high school about it all, and that was comforting to me.

At least, comforting until things became slightly more adult when Valerie took her shirt off mid-kiss. Not really knowing how to react, I just continued kissing her, until she finally gave up on waiting for me to be progressive and straddled me before she began taking my shirt off.

Aside #5: I am made of 100% pure certified playa. Don't even try to deny it.

Uncomfortable because being shirtless in the middle of her living room made me feel exposed, I asked Valerie if she wanted to go to her bedroom. Nodding, she hopped off of my lap, gathered up her shirt and mine, and lead the way.

The "hooking up," for lack of a better term, continued as soon as we crossed the threshold into her bedroom. We shockingly wound up on her massive, ridiculously fluffy and comfortable bed, with huge sheets that felt like they were stuffed with the finest softboiled cloud fetuses. It was ridiculous.

Apparently, it was a little too ridiculous, as mid-makeout the both of us began to feel incredibly sleepy despite the fact that it was only around four in the afternoon. Realizing that we'd potentially have the rest of the week to do whatever we wanted to each other, we hopped off the Love Train at Sleepytime Station, and decided to take a quick nap before continuing our journey.

Aside #6: That last one is definitely a contender for my favorite sentence I've ever written.

Our "quick nap" however, turned into the both of us sleeping until nearly 9 'o clock that night, the both of us only being awoken when her phone vibrated with a call from her father. Picking it up, she motioned for me to be quiet while she spoke with him. After she'd hung up, she straddled me once more (still shirtless), implying that she wanted to pick up where we'd left off. And needless to say, that's exactly what happened.

Now, I've never been one to go into explicit detail when it comes to the intricacies of my own sex life, but something curious happened during Valerie and I's...passionate lovemaking. At one point, when I was lying on my back with her on top of me, she leaned down and whispered something into my ear. At first, I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly, and asked her to repeat herself. Speaking louder, she confirmed that I had, in fact, heard her correctly.

"Tell me I'm your little slut," she pleaded, hips grinding into mine. "Please, tell me I'm your little slut."

Aside #7: That first sentence right there is probably a contender for my favorite as well, though for an entirely different reason.

I had no idea how to react to this, as I'd never been asked to say something like this during sex before. My sexual history's Weirdest Member's Club only consisted of one girl who liked it really, really rough and that girl that insisted we watch Saw IV during the act, never someone that got off on dirty talk like this. So I did what any self-respecting male would do in the situation. I totally went with it.

"You're my little slut," I said softly, the end of the sentence trailing off like a question. To my surprise, this seemed to work some kind of magic on Valerie, as she went at it more vigorously than before. Slightly more confident, I repeated myself. "You're my little slut!" I half-yelled, producing another burst of energy from her.

"Yeah, I'm your little slut!" she yelled in my face, pulling my hair a little too hard and breathing heavily.

I'd call her my little slut two more times before we finished, and each time I said it, it was as if I had said some sort of sexual hypnotism trigger phrase that was she was conditioned to be turned on by. It was one of the most bizarre things I'd ever experienced, and my internal wonder at this phenomena and the odd urge to test it against other derogatory phrases made it really difficult for me to concentrate when it came to my role in the wrapping-up of our sexy time.

Aside #8: What I really mean to say is, the fact that this effected her so much almost killed my boner.

But as I said, we finished, and then engaged in the usual post-coital cuddling that is required of every guy when they want to impress a female. Something was wrong though, and I could tell Valerie could feel it too.

I don't know what happened between the two of us after we had sex, but I have a theory. We didn't talk directly about her preference in pet names, but I think the both of us felt awkward about it (and she insulted or embarrassed) because of my initial hesitation. For the rest of the evening, our conversation felt stilted and forced, and when I slept over we didn't sleep near one another like we had earlier when we'd taken that nap.

The next morning we woke up relatively early, and she drove me home in near-silence. Naturally, we said we'd see each other again soon, but neither of us really meant it. We kept in touch a little bit afterwards, and less than two months later she was engaged. He seemed like a pretty good guy, from what little she told me about him.

I just can't help but wonder if she's his little slut, too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

This is how I troll

Note: The following is not considered a "typical" TFTG post. I just really wanted to get this out there. Regularly scheduled programming will resume when I feel like it.

Yesterday evening I was lurking Facebook, and I came across the profile of a high-schooler named Clay. In one of his semi-recent statuses, he wrote "Top 10 cutest girls," followed by a numbered list of girls he apparently thought were cute, with links to each of their Facebook profiles.
Now, I'm not one to put my admittedly large nose in other peoples' business, but since the status was public and I felt that these girls were being ridiculously disrespected, I decided to comment on the status and voice my opinion (read: "troll the shit out of him"). This is the shitstorm that followed (slightly abridged, for both length and continuity):

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Friend the Millionaire

A few summers ago, I found myself stranded in downtown Los Angeles after a moving trip from Phoenix to Seattle went awry (which, I promise, will be a story told in a future post). Opting to take a bus from LA to my hometown of Dallas to live there instead of finishing my trip as planned, I bought a ticket for a one-way ride and packed my belongings that I couldn't afford to ship into three differently-styled, overstuffed bags: one messenger bag, one tweed suitcase, and one ten-raquet tennis bag.

Unable to afford a cab from where I was staying to the bus station, a friend of a friend named Joshua that had shown me around the city a few days previously told me he'd show me how to get there on foot. Seeing this as my only option to get to the station on time, I accepted his offer and we departed from my hotel room three hours before my bus was to begin boarding, me carrying my messenger bag and tennis bag, Joshua carrying my tweed suitcase.

For those of you that have never actually been, there are a few small parts of Los Angeles that look like what you'd expect Los Angeles to look like: beaches to walk on, plenty of stores to shop in and attractive people to gawk at. But for the most part, Los Angeles looks like what I imagine downtown Baghdad looked like during wartime if Baghdad was populated primarily by hipsters and hookers. There are injured people lying in the street moaning for help, homeless people or mangy dogs on every corner, and everyone seems like they want to stab you for having an opinion different than theirs. I hate to generalize Baghdad like that (and to a lesser extent, Los Angeles), but it's the truth.

Despite this imbalance, we managed to make it to the bus depot on time and without being mugged, passing by many interesting things on the way.

Aside #1: We passed by the red carpet event for The Expendables, a filming of an episode of iCarly, the biggest Inception banner I've ever seen, and an original Banksy piece, amongst plenty of other things. I know people that live in LA see that sort of thing daily, but shut up. It was neat.

After thanking Joshua and saying our goodbyes, checking my bags in and waiting in the terminal for a few minutes, I stepped onto the large grey bus marked "DALLAS" and unknowingly sat down next to one of the most interesting people I've ever met in my life.

His name was Bruce, and he looked like a short-haired, 50-something Iggy Pop impersonator. Staring at me with his wild eyes, offering up one leathery baseball-mitt of a hand, he introduced himself to me shortly after I occupied the space next to him. Over the next few hours, we would end up talking about everything from our personal lives to literature to current news, and Bruce would tell me the following five things about himself:

1. He is a construction company business owner and millionaire who is deathly afraid of flying, hence him riding the bus. When I asked him why he didn't just buy his own personal bus and hire a driver himself, he scoffed loudly. Apparently, he "really loves" the people he meets on the rides he takes a few times a year.

2. He was visiting his daughter in Waco, Texas, who is a mildly successful blonde-haired, big-breasted supermodel. He showed me many, many pictures of her, and even pulled his shirt down at one point to show me a portrait of her he'd had tattooed on his shoulder.

Aside #2: Before you wonder if it was terrible or not, it was. Sorry, Bruce.

3. In the 90's, he was addicted to cocaine. He told me that he'd been clean from coke for a few years, but still smokes pot regularly to deal with the arthritis he has in his legs from when he used to build houses. We really bonded over this in particular, because that's half the reason I smoke.

4. He's been married three times, and only has the single daughter from his first (from when he was "dumb and young"). He admitted that his last two wives had taken a lot of money from him, though he didn't disclose how much, exactly.

5. He's a born-again Christian. Go figure.

Right around as the sun was setting, Bruce asked me if I'd like to smoke with him the next time the bus stopped to refuel. I gladly obliged, and we did so, shortly after night had fallen behind a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

Aside #3: If you've never smoked marijuana regularly or been a part of the subculture, you probably don't understand how "normal" this is. Just know that his request wasn't weird or creepy at all, and that it was actually sort of a relief.

After putting my smoking supplies away, and making sure they were well-secured on my person before re-entering the bus, Bruce tapped me on the shoulder, staring at me with his big, wide eyes. Stuttering as he did so, he asked me if it would be possible for me to give him a small bit of weed, so he had some when he arrived in Waco. Being the ever-giving person I am (and having quite a bit on me at the time), I happily obliged, giving him a decent-sized nugget that should have more than satisfied him until he was able to find more. This is where things started to get a little weird.

Aside #4: Yeah, things only started getting weird after I gave an ex-coke addict millionaire a gram or so of weed for free.

Immediately after I dropped the pot into his hand, he looked me straight in the face and asked for a "little more." Not wanting to anger the person I'd be sitting next to for the next 15 hours or so, I gave him a little bit more, hoping that it would be enough. Apparently it was, because he immediately removed an Altoids tin from his pocket, turned around so I couldn't see its contents, and dropped both pieces into it. Thanking me, he promised that he would pay me back as soon as we arrived at his destination, telling me that he'd planned to give me a little money anyways for "entertaining" him on the trip. Feeling better about my decision to be a nice person, we both headed back towards the bus and got on.

Night had fallen at this point, so most of our co-passengers had fallen asleep in their seats. Bruce, however, decided to stay awake and keep me up with him. I didn't really mind, because I'm terrible at sleeping in moving vehicles, so all was well.

About midway through the night, during a lull in Bruce and I's enchanting conversation, he stood up and announced to me that he had to go to the bathroom (as if there was anywhere else to go). He stepped to the back of the bus, and remained there for about ten minutes. Right around the time I started to become worried for his safety, he emerged, eyes wider than before, grinning wildly.

"I just did some coke in the bathroom," he whispered to me quietly, an odd, child-like eagerness in his voice. "Do you want some, buddy?"

Aside #5: A detail that I forgot to mention in the list up there is that he always referred to me as "buddy," "pal," or any variation of the word "friend" (without actually calling me his friend). It was very odd.

"No thanks," I nervously smiled, synapses in my head popping. He'd explicitly told me earlier in the trip that he hadn't touched coke "in years," and it made me curious as to the validity of the rest of the claims he had laid earlier in our trip. Needless to say, from this point on, I began taking everything he did and said with a grain of salt.

Of course, this became harder and harder to do as his claims of riches and willingness to share them became more and more extravagant, and I began to wonder if he'd just lied to me about the state of his addiction because he didn't want to scare me off. After all, aside from that and the fact that he asked for more weed after I so graciously gave him some for free, he had been nothing but kind and ridiculously interesting the entire time. He was even offering to let me stay at his beach house in Florida, because he claimed to never use it. I was torn.

By the time we'd made it to Waco, a few stops before mine in Dallas, my mind hadn't been made up about Bruce. I wasn't sure if he was just a crazy, drug-addicted con man that had duped me into giving him free weed, or if he really was just an eccentric, lonely millionaire that needed someone to talk to on a trip to visit his daughter.

My question was answered shortly after we disembarked. Telling me he was going to get his bags from underneath the bus, Bruce quickly disappeared into the crowd at the station after we had stepped off of the bus, his average features and build camouflaging him from me. Assuming he'd meet me somewhere near the bus after he'd gathered his things, I went inside the station to use the restroom and buy food.

Fifteen minutes passed as I sat on a bench next to the bus we'd both stepped off of and ate my food, my belief in the man I'd sat next to waning with every passing moment. I had all but given up on trusting that he would come back, when a familiar, catcher's mitt-like hand tapped me on the shoulder. Bruce had come back. Smiling brightly, he reached for his wallet.

"Miss me?" he grinned, unfolding the old leather fishing a few bills out. Folding them in half, he handed them to me. "Don't spend it all on yourself, okay?" pleaded, sincerity in his voice.

"Okay, I won't," I said, smiling back at him. "Thanks, Bruce."

"No problem kiddo," he winked, and turned around, once again disappearing into the crowd.

I didn't check to see how much money he had given me until I was sure he wasn't looking at me, but when I did, I almost fell over. He'd handed me ten twenty-dollar bills, wrapped up with a small note written on a torn-off piece of paper. It read "Thanks for the conversation + weed."

And that's all it needed to say.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stems & Seeds #1

Over the last few months that I have been on hiatus from this blog, I've written numerous posts that I have (clearly) not published, and some of these unpublished pieces are not exactly long enough to warrant their own post. So I've decided to combine them all into one sort of super-post, as a way to get them out there (and to ease myself back into posting regularly). Each one of these "S&S" posts will contain somewhere between three and six mini-stories, usually anecdotal and pointless, but entertaining nonetheless.
Note: The last two of these four have been published on Facebook previously, so if you've read them before, I apologize.

My Observation (Part 1)

For as long as I can remember, I've been a very observant person. I tend to notice things in peoples' behavior and demeanor that others don't, and because of this, people-watching has become a favorite pastime of mine in recent years.
A few months ago, I was sitting on one of the benches in my local mall doing just this, and my eye caught an average-looking Indian man walking in my direction a few dozen yards away. Seconds after I began watching him, in lieu of nothing, he dropped to his left knee, put his left hand on his right foot like he was tying it, and reached out with his right hand to rub one of the (clearly fake) leaves the mall had "planted" in the mall's medians. I assume this awkward arm-and-foot-crossing was done to check and see if the plants had been real or not, but I'm not certain because the way the action itself flowed so fluidly made me think he'd done it a dozen times before, and I can't imagine someone needing to check that many mall median planters over the course of their lifetime.

Aside #1: To fully understand just how awkward-looking this position was, I suggest you try it out for yourself using the description above as a guide. It really was insane.

Immediately after doing this, he stood up and noticed that I had been watching him the entire time. He turned around on one heel and began to quickly walk in the opposite direction, looking back a few times nervously as if I'd caught him doing some heinous act.
It was only when I watched him fade away into the crowd that I realized that he'd been wearing slip-on sandals the entire time.

My Observation (Part 2)

Another one of my favorite interesting observations came shortly after the "leaf-feeling"one, at that same mall inside of a small furniture store.
I saw a small family walking around the same portion of the store as me, with a mother, father, and two twin girls, aged around eight years old. Both girls had mild down syndrome, and their parents were very patient and understanding with them, a perfect portrait of a family dealing with disabled children.
But something was amiss. As is tradition with young twins, both girls were wearing matching clothing, save for one small detail. The first twin was wearing a red shirt adorned with a large, white circle, with the words "THING 1" on it. The second was wearing the same, but hers said "THING 2."
Now, obviously the girls were wearing these shirts because of the characters in the age-old Dr. Seuss tale "The Cat in the Hat," but did the parents of these two disabled children not realize the implications of these t-shirts before buying them? Their poor planning and execution when it came to their daughters' clothing made me feel like the worst person that had ever lived, as I had to run (not walk) to a different area of the store so I could have a laughing fit without hurting their feelings. I wasn't even laughing at the implication or the fact that the children were disabled, either. I was laughing at the parents' carelessness and blatant stupidity.

The Sun-Visor Story

When I was a kid (around the age of ten or eleven, I'd say), I was driving in the back seat of my mom's car on the driver's side, playing with her handleld vanity mirror that she always kept in her purse. We were in notorious Dallas traffic, barely inching forwards every few minutes. I was playing with the reflection of the mirror, holding it at different angles, watching how the light's reflection changed as I moved it.
I noticed a blond-haired woman with big teeth and sunglasses sitting in the car next to us, in the passenger seat. She had a very mom-ish look about her, and was talking to the man who was driving (presumably her husband). Suddenly, an idea struck me, and I aimed the reflection directly at her eyes. She immediately shielded them with her hand, and turned to try and look at me. I ducked down quickly, and the light was very bright, but I was sure she saw something.
Slowly, I poked my head back up over the edge of the door. She was looking right at me, shaking her head sadly and saying something to her husband. She didn't seem angry, or hurt, just disappointed. She pulled down the sun visor and turned it so no light could be shone in her eyes from my direction. I sat there, and stared straight ahead for the rest of the car ride home, feeling terrible.
Every single time someone around me uses a sun visor in a car, I think of that woman. I wish I could go back in time and apologize for being such a little douchebag. Not only because it was a terrible thing for me to do, but because I'm sick and fucking tired of having to see her horsey-ass face trying to guilt-trip my pre-teen self every single time someone uses an everyday fucking item in a vehicle. That shit sucks.

Fucking With People

Since before I can remember, I've been inventing new ways to fuck with people.

Aside #2: My definition of "fucking with people" is as follows:
fucking with people (slang term) - A blanket phrase used to describe any practical joke-type situation that is harmless and usually leaves the target confused.

When I was in school, I'd practice sleight-of-hand magic tricks on my classmates, often stealing small objects (erasers, candy, etc.) in the process, claiming they had "disappeared." I was and still am a master of slipping any object into my sleeve without notice, a talent I'd often practice in front of mirrors as a child and teen. Now, as an adult, I usually bum cigarettes from idiotic drunk hipsters at keggers whose minds are blown by such simple tricks, and gladly cough up a coffin nail for a short magic show.
Anyways, cheap entertainment aside, I've invented a few ways to fuck with people that I hope others will exercise and spread, to bring a little more confusion and hilarity into the world.

#1: Journey
Description: When listening to 80's rock music with other people in a car or otherwise, referring to every band as popular ballad-rockers Journey. See if anyone corrects you. More often than not, they won't. They'll just uncomfortably shift in their seat and look at the ground, or pretend to be distracted by a bit of fuzz on their slacks. It's delightful.

Aside #3: If no 80's rock is available, use the French phrase "c'est la vie" ("such is life") in the wrong context and see if anyone notices. Even further, when offered something from a friend (such as food), claim to be allergic to something that has nothing to do with what they are offering you. My personal favorite is when someone offers me a cigarette. I respond with "No thanks, I'm allergic to peanut butter."

#2: Toilet paper
Description: When in the bathroom at someone's house, fold the end of their toilet paper roll into a triangle shape like they do at hotels. Also applicable in public restrooms, though they could assume it was the janitorial staff that folded it.

Aside #4: If you don't think this is funny, imagine someone that you didn't know previously (a friend of a friend) coming over to your house and doing this while in your bathroom. Wouldn't your next bowel movement be made a bit nicer (albeit confusing) by this small, polite gesture?

#3: Sneezing
Description: While walking and holding a drink that has some amount of liquid or ice in it, fake-sneeze loudly and throw the drink into the air as if you sneezed ridiculously hard. Swear loudly and pick up your cup. Or don't.

#4: Salt and Pepper Shakers
Description: This one takes a bit of effort to pull off, but the outcome is well worth it. Go to a Goodwill or other such resale store and pick up a pair of generic salt and pepper shakers. After washing them, take them with you the next time you eat at a restaurant and exchange them with the ones they have at your table. Take the now-empty ones with you, to use the next time you go out to eat. I like to imagine the look on the busboy's face when he realizes what happened.

Before I end this, I'd like to encourage you all to come up with your own way of fucking with people. Remember that it cannot be harmful in any way, and must be executed with the utmost seriousness. Fucking with people is an art form that should be appreciated and admired, and passed down through the generations. It makes people's day a bit more interesting, and generates that minute bit of anarchy that all of our lives deserve.