"Honestly, no," I told him, which was the truth. I had taken the ramp off the highway and stopped at the light at the end of the exit. As soon as the light turned green, they turned on their disco lights.
"Where are you headed?" he asked, staring at my license.
"Home. I just got off work."
"Where do you live?"
"Where do you work?"
"At the university."
"The university, huh? Doesn't it seem like you're a little out of your way?" he asked, sneering.
"Do you know a better way?" I asked, genuinely curious. If there was a faster way, I sure didn't know about it.
"Well," the cop said, ignoring my question, "the reason we pulled you over is because you took an unnecessary detour through a high drug traffic zone."
"The highway?" I asked.
"Do you have anything I should know about? Anything you shouldn't have?"
"Do you mind if we take a look?"
I did mind. If a cop asks for consent to search, it's because they don't have a real reason to search. You're legally allowed to say no, but cops always have more tricks up their sleeves. I remembered that I had just received my new license plate in the mail, but hadn't put it on. If the one on the back was expired, and I said no to a search, the cops would more than likely write me a ticket for that and anything else they can find. I had no choice but to allow them to toss the car. Every time the cops had ever searched a car I was in, they had made a mess. Once, they even dumped a bag of potato chips on the floor of my friend's car during a fruitless search. I hoped if I cooperated they wouldn't be such assholes.
I got out of the car and one of the cops patted me down.
"What's this bulge in your pocket?"
"Uh, I don't know, can I feel it so I can tell you what it is?"
"Can I just pull it out? You don't have any needles or anything do you?"
"No, go ahead."
He pulled it out, and it turned out to be a handkerchief I had forgotten about.
"Oh, snot rag," I said.
"Gee, thanks," he chuckled.
The cops went through the van, finding nothing of interest except for a pill on the floor.
"What's this pill?"
"I don't know. I assume a pain killer of some kind."
"A pain killer?"
"Yeah, over the counter," I told them, which was the truth.
They let me get back in the car and I waited for a couple minutes while they talked. Finally one of the cops came and gave me my license and registration.
"Is your license plate expired?" he asked.
"I don't know, it might be, I just got the new one in the mail."
He walked to the back of the car and then back to the window.
"Yeah, it's expired. Put that on tomorrow, alright? You're free to go."
I went home, and wondered where it was that I could buy drugs on the highway.
There were plenty of places to sit, but she walked to my table and sat down next to me. I stared into my book, pretending I somehow didn't even notice her arrival.
A couple minutes passed, and she began to sing.
"Bam bam bambam, buh bam bam bambam, I wanna be sedated!" she sang. The Ramones. My heart fluttered. She was singing a song from the fucking godfathers of punk rock. Within seconds, I suddenly found her even more attractive than I had before.
She kept singing while I pondered what I should do. Should I join her? I know this song, I thought, I should just start singing, too.
I tried to make my voice work, but I was gripped with the kind of terror you feel in nightmares when you realize you can't even open your mouth to scream. She finished singing, and my mind raced thinking of things to say. Sitting next to me was a girl I had always been into, and I had a great excuse to talk to her. She liked the Ramones, I liked the Ramones. It seemed perfect. I just had to think of what to say.
I sat there until the bell rang, just thinking. I never said anything. I don't think I ever ended up talking to her.
"It's not right, those people are sick, they shouldn't be allowed to be gay in public!" ranted one of the baggers, a pock-marked, greasy teenage boy.
"I don't see why you should care at all," said the girl bagger.
"I don't want to see them holding hands or making out! It's disgusting!"
"You know what?" interjected the cashier, an older woman. "You can't judge people. Only God can judge."
"That's exactly right," said my mom .
"Well, they just better not hit on me, that's all I'm saying! I might have to punch somebody!"
My mom paid for the groceries, and we started walking out. When I passed the bagger, I looked him directly in the eyes.
"You're really hot," I said.
"You're. Really. Hot," I told him, saying each word slowly so he'd be sure to understand.
His jaw dropped open, and he just looked at me. He had absolutely no idea how to react. I smiled at him and savored the shocked look on his face as we walked out.
Sometimes, I just can't help fucking with people like that.
It was still earlier in the morning, and I left my work area to go take a dump. I took the stairs to the next floor down, because I figured I was less likely to have people I knew smelling my waste should they need to use the facilities. The restroom was empty, so I took my place in one of the stalls and hung my coat on the stall door.
A few seconds after I sat down, somebody else came into the restroom. He took the stall next to mine, and I noticed his red sneakers. I heard him spit a couple times, and then I began to hear a vigorous rubbing sound coming from his stall. It sounded like he was rubbing his hands together very quickly and rhythmically, occasionally stopping and spitting.
There's no fucking way he's doing what I think he is, I thought.
This continued for about a minute, and then he confirmed my suspicions when I heard him speed up his rubbing before abruptly stopping, grunting loudly.
"Uh, unnh, yeah, unnnhh, yeah!"
I hoped he would leave so I could finish pooping, but I heard him spit and start doing it again a few seconds later. I quickly wiped my ass, rinsed my hands, and got out of there. I went down another flight of stairs to the bottom floor. I did my business in the restroom down there and then left to go back to my job.
When I got to the stairwell, I looked back for some reason. Entering the restroom I had just been in was a young guy, probably in his mid or late twenties. He wore a baseball cap, flannel shirt, and a pair of jeans.
And a pair of red sneakers.
What fucking planet do you have to be from to think this is acceptable? If you need to study the menu, go inside. I don't understand how some people have absolutely no problem inconveniencing others.
I don't want to unfairly judge people, but based on this woman's girth, I think it's safe to say she was no stranger to fast food, so it was pretty unlikely that this was her first visit to Taco Bell. They only have a handful ingredients that they slap together in different configurations, so you're going to get the same thing no matter what you order. If you need more than a few seconds to decide what you want, you're probably stupid enough that you shouldn't be allowed to leave the house by yourself, let alone drive a car.
"I'm gonna get a job," he told me one day.
"Yeah...well, not today, maybe tomorrow. I think I might look for some construction work."
I didn't really believe him, but I wished him good luck. Even if he really was going to look for work, he looked like he was in pretty poor condition to be doing much of anything.
Another time, he told me, "You're a real good guy," and held out his fist for me to touch mine to his. I obliged, momentarily concerned about his filthiness, but falling back on my old dumpster-diving habit of being confident in my immune system. I didn't give it much thought.
A few days later, I noticed some weird little bumps on my hand, where my fist had touched his. They were small but very hard, like warts, and had tiny white spots in the center. Some were grouped together, so the bump would be larger than the rest with several white spots in the middle. If I poked or scraped at them enough to break them open, the white spots would come out. Once removed from under my flesh, they looked like eye boogers and had the same semi-solid consistency. I have eczema on my hands sometimes, and I assumed this was just some new manifestation of that condition. I used my normal medicine on it, and thought nothing of it.
More than a month later, the bumps are still there.
Last night, I did a google search for 'eczema warts,' hoping I could find something about my weird bumps. I found information on a certain kind of eczema that caused wart-like bumps, but all of the pictures showed that the bumps were much larger than the ones I have, which are pimple-sized. I kept poking around the sites and learned about a condition called molluscum contagiosum, which are tiny wart-like tumors with little white spots in the middle. Bingo. A Google image search confirmed my suspicion. I'm not a doctor, but I'm 90 percent certain that's what this shit it.
It's harmless, but gross looking, and the lesions may take up to 6 months to go away by themselves. Kids often get it because they have poor hygiene and a lot of skin-to-skin contact. In adults, it's usually sexually transmitted and affects the naughty bits. It's endemic among the really poor, dirty people, like my friend who waits at the stop light.
I'm going to be a lot more careful about who I touch from now on.
"Hold on a minute," he said, not even looking at me or my card as he took it and walked away.
When I saw him coming back a few minutes later, he was shaking his head and looking back and forth between my ID in one hand and a small magazine in the other. He set them both on the register and I saw the magazine was a little booklet showing the drivers licenses of different states. He shook his head.
"No," he said, "The numbers and everything match the ones in the book, but I don't believe it. It looks like somebody copied and pasted your picture onto there."
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
"Well, if I have any doubt...you can talk to the manager if you want to."
"Yeah, I want to."
He called somebody on the phone, and I waited a few more minutes. I had a feeling the manager was just going to agree with him, as I've had similar experiences before. If they had any doubt that the ID was real, they wouldn't sell the alcohol. At the age of 24, I still looked young enough that people who hated their jobs and wanted to take it out on customers could give me a hard time. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that I had an out of state license, due to my laziness after relocating.
After being denied alcohol a few times, I had figured out a few rules for picking cashiers if I was buying beer. Whenever possible, I chose a line where the person working the register wasn't white. I'd been denied by one black girl, one Indian guy, and probably 10 white people. Particularly troublesome were overweight white girls. I'd had at least three of them deny me alcohol. Angry looking cashiers were always to be avoided. Young guys were usually alright. I'd had a few tell me they me that they thought it was fake but didn't care. I assumed incorrectly that this young guy would be cool, too.
The manager who appeared was a very effeminate man who spoke with a high pitched lisp. He was the stereotypical flaming homosexual, and had the most ridiculously huge unibrow I can recall seeing.
"What's the problem?" he asked.
"Well, he wants to buy liquor, and his numbers on his license match up, but it looks like somebody superimposed his face on there."
"Mmm... I'm sorry, but if there's any question about the authenticity of the ID it's our policy not to make the sale because it's a liability," the manager told me. I was expecting this, but this time I was going to have my beer, dammit.
"This guy didn't even look at my ID when he took it. He stared at the book and couldn't find anything wrong with it, so he made up a ridiculous story."
"It looks like somebody cut his face out and pasted it there. You see this little shadow?" the young guy said, shoving the license in the manager's face.
"I have my work ID right here," I told them, pointing at the photo name tag hanging from my shirt, "You can see the name and the face match up on that, too."
"I'm sorry, we don't accept those, anyway," the manager said. "We're going to decline to sell you alcohol tonight."
"Let me talk to your manager, then."
The effeminate guy disappeared and I waited some more, fairly aggravated at this point. A few minutes later, a very angry looking woman in a black dress appeared. She looked me up and down like I was a criminal. The young guy explained the situation to her and she told me the same thing that the other manager had said, except with a lot of venom in her voice. They weren't treating me like a customer who didn't understand the policy, they were treating me like I just been caught stealing.
"Let me talk to the store manager, then."
"I am the store manager."
"Look," I said, "I shop here all the time. This is where I do all of my grocery shopping. This guy was never going to sell me alcohol in the first place, so he made up a completely crazy story to deny me. You're treating me like a criminal, and you're about the lose me permanently as a customer. I do a lot of business here."
The lady hesitated. I had said the magic words.
"You can buy it this time," she said, clearly pissed off, "but we can't guarantee that this will work in the future."
She left and I expected the guy to key in my birth date so I could finish my transaction. Instead, he got on the phone again and asked somebody else to come do the sale, because he wasn't going to. He still wanted to be a dick and make me wait some more just because he could.
I had been hanging out with this kid who was bigger and older than I was. He always had a thick trail of snot leading from his nostrils to his gap-toothed mouth.
"Come on," he told me one day, "Let me show you something!"
He brought me to the fence, where we could see a class of students moving through the alley. He put his face up to the fence.
"Fucking assholes! You fucking assholes!" he yelled. I had never heard the term, but I started shouting it with him.
A few weeks later, I was hanging out with a different kid.
"Come on," I told him, "Let me show you something!"
Wanting my turn to be the cool kid, I lead him to the fence and started calling all the kids fucking assholes. He looked at me like I was crazy and refused to partake in the exercise.
At the end of the procession of kids, their teacher scolded me.
"That's not nice," she said.
I honestly didn't realize I wasn't supposed to yell "You fucking assholes!" at a bunch of older kids. The look on her face when she told me it wasn't nice made me feel bad, and I slunk away from the fence. I never did that again.
These are the words that Brett spoke to my sister shortly before threatening to kick my ass. I don't know exactly what lead up to this statement, nor did I hear it with my own ears. My sister had a class with him, though, and it was there that he said it.
Brett was an excessively tall, goony-looking kid who was in 7th grade, as was my sister, when I was in 8th grade. His face looked smashed flat, like somebody had hit him cartoon-style with a shovel. Given his facial deformities, he had the most tragically ironic name I've ever encountered. His last name was Flat.
My sister was a big Tupac fan in 7th grade, which was one of the reasons she and Brett didn't get along. He had just died, and Brett said he was in Hell, getting whipped and picking cotton. The fact that my siblings and I are white and Filipino half-breeds probably didn't help make Brett like us, either.
The day he threatened my sister, I approached him in the lunch line. He towered over me, but I wasn't scared of him. He seemed vaguely retarded, and thus unintimidating.
"What the fuck are you saying to my sister?" I asked him.
"Tupac is dead!"
"So the Klan is going to burn down our house?"
"Yeah. You little Fill-a-peen. You should be out in the fields, picking beans."
"Fuck you, you fucking retard hillbilly. Don't talk to my sister."
I wandered off to find my friends. I told them what happened, and then looked for Brett to show them who he was. We found him sitting by himself, eating his lunch.
"This is the guy," I said, "The fucking hillbilly who is saying the Klan will burn down our house. Hey, fuck you, inbreeder."
Brett lifted a leg into the air, exposing a cowboy boot.
"You see these boots?" he asked.
"I'll kick your ass!" he told me.
"No," I said, "I'll kick your ass."
It was a pretty empty threat. Brett was much bigger than I was, and I didn't really imagine we'd ever come to blows. As soon as I said it, though, Brett got up and walked out of the cafeteria. The rest of us got some food and sat down to eat.
A few minutes later, the vice principal appeared at our table.
"Are you Paul?" he asked me.
"Come to my office when you're done eating."
I finished my lunch and walked to his office. Brett was sitting in there.
"What's this about you threatening Brett? You're going to kick his ass?"
"No. Brett has been harassing my little sister, saying that the KKK is going to burn down our house. He told me I should be in the field picking beans, and then he showed me his cowboy boots and said he was going to kick my ass."
I never referred to my sister as my little sister. I knew in this case it would probably add sympathy to my side, though, so I used it. I also conveniently left out the part where I said, "No, I'll kick your ass."
The vice principal turned to Brett and started yelling at him.
"Don't you ever make threats against people, and especially don't ever make racial threats or use racial slurs!"
"But...but..." Brett tried to say something, but just broke down in tears. I was excused from the office, and suffered no repercussions from the incident.
Brett never said anything like that to my sister again. He vanished from school a couple years later, but from what I understand, stayed in the area.
Roger was a masturbator.
My friend Lew claims to have actually seen Roger doing the deed, while another guy I knew in junior high claims to have made it up just for the sheer hell of it. In truth, I think most of the anti-Roger stigma was related to his status as a really poor kid, rather than his supposed indecent proclivities. He always gave off an awful stench, and I used to believe it was because he was so poor he couldn't shower, which I now think is fairly unlikely. People called him a "dirty" and he had no friends, so his uncleanliness was probably the result of a sad case of self-fulfilling prophecy. People called him "Roger Doger, dick massager," but they probably wouldn't have been his friend even if he hadn't been caught getting the job done in the restroom.
There was this other kid in my gym class named Matt. He dressed, in the mid 90s, like he had stepped out of an after school special from the late 70s. It was intentional, though, and everybody thought he was cool as hell. Kids would gather around this guy in the locker room after class, listening to him tell these drug stories, always looking really bored so everybody would know just how awesome he was. One time we listened with rapt admiration as he told us about his VW bug, the trunk of which was stuffed with "one hundred kilos of rock cocaine, bro."
One day our class went outside, and the teacher left all the boys in a field, unsupervised, to play flag football while the girls ran around in circles. Roger, not wanting to bother, decided to sit the game out. Matt immediately went up to Roger and started yelling and cussing, inches from his face, telling him he had to play. He was doing the fighting dance that so many adolescent boys do, puffing up his chest and trying to look intimidating. Roger just stood there, quiet and uncertain, but unwilling to play football with a bunch of people who didn't like him. Everybody cheered Matt on, hoping the fighting dance would bear fruit. When he was finished verbally abusing Roger, he punched him the face and walked away. Roger stood there, his face a mixture of anger and humiliation, while the rest of the boys congratulated Matt on a job well done.
"I get vicious when I do shit like that!" he bragged, beaming.
After class, Roger made the mistake of leaving the padlock on his locker unlocked while he took a shower. One of the vultures took it and put it on top of a paper towel dispenser. When he got back to his locker, he asked where it was. Everybody just made fun of him and pretended they didn't know where it was.
When the bell rang and it was time to move to the next class, I gathered my things slowly. Everybody scurried out, leaving just Roger and myself.
"It's on top of the paper towel dispenser," I told him.
"Your lock. They put it on the paper towel dispenser."
Not wanting to risk my name any more than I already was, I left as quickly as I could. The act I had committed was probably enough to get me blacklisted.
Matt disappeared that year. I later heard he had had a drug overdose and was almost dead, or was in jail. Neither story would be a surprise. Roger dropped out of school as soon as he could and was never heard from again.
UPDATE: Lew just wrote up his story, and apparently Roger is now a convicted child molester.
The goods possessed by young traders like ourselves were always in a transitory state. Most things brought to school were not held on to long by one person. It was only natural that at some point Marty would want my knife. He traded me a sack of ninja turtles for the folding blade.
On the day our transaction occurred, Marty also acquired another piece of contraband from another of our friends, Wayne, who offered Marty a cigarette lighter. Again, another incredibly useful item should one find themselves in a situation where death is on the line.
Death is seldom on the line in 5th grade, though, so Marty did what he could to utilize both items to the best of his ability. He went into the closet in our classroom and called my name in a hushed voice, signalling for me to watch him. He was about to perform an act of ultimate bravery. Marty set the handle of the knife on fire with the lighter.
"What's that?" the teacher's aide asked. "It smells like something burning!"
We were all inconsistent back-stabbers back then, occasionally defending our friends, and occasionally reveling in their misfortune. This would be one of the latter. I jumped from my seat and ran to the closet. Marty had thrown the knife under a pillow and was fanning the air, trying to make it less visibly smoke-filled. I picked up the pillow and grabbed the knife, which had partially melted into the floor.
"Marty set this knife on fire!" I shouted, gleeful.
Without hesitation, Marty pointed his finger at me and screamed that I had done it.
The teacher's aide had seen me run into the closet after she had smelled the smoke, so I assumed there was no possible way she would believe Marty. I was wrong. She brought us both down to the vice principal's office, and gave him the burnt knife and the lighter, which she had found under a coat in the closet. Marty was already sobbing like a little girl, while I was simply angry. Marty tearily continued to claim that I had done it, while I continued to tell him what really happened.
"Maybe I should call the police and have them fingerprint the knife. Is that what you want? Do you want me to call the police?"
"Please! Please!" sobbed Marty, "Please don't call the police! Oh my god, please!"
Even in 5th grade, I knew he wasn't going to call the police. I told him that he should.
"Oh my god, please, please, no!" pleaded Marty.
"Please, call them, Marty set the knife on fire and I shouldn't be in here. Call them so I don't have to be in trouble for something I didn't do anymore."
We sat in the office for the entire remainder of the day. Marty never confessed, and the vice principal never called the cops.
A week later, I got called into the office again. The vice principal said he had interviewed Wayne, and "I know the whole story now, I just want to hear it from you."
I stuck to my story, though I never told him that the knife was at one point mine, and before that it had belonged to Wayne. That didn't really seem necessary.
Neither one of us ever got in any trouble besides the day in the office. I stopped being Marty's friend, though, and he wasn't allowed to trade stuff with us anymore.
My memories of 4th grade seem to indicate every guy I knew back then was a pathological liar. The only girl liar I've ever known was also in my 4th grade class. Her lies were tales of being a backup singer and dancer for the New Kids on the Block, and having their babies nightly. The guys all used to regale each other with tales of their relatives with access to secret knowledge and technology. I remember the military theme being a wealth of amazing lies. The funniest part was that one kid would hear a lie, and then claim to have known about it, and then add a new lie to the original one.
"Your dad worked on the machine-guns-mounted-on-spy-dogs project? Dude, my uncle's dog kept winning all these dog shows for being so smart, and then one day these government guys knocked on his door in the middle of the night and recruited his dog to be one of those spy dogs. I swear to god."
Good lies shared some key elements. A classic technique was the inclusion of a citation from an unverifiable source like an uncle, anonymous friend, or "this guy I know." Many lies had an element of truth to add to their legitimacy. Other times, 'facts' were invented simply because they sounded like they might be true to an uninformed audience.
"The daddy-long-legs is actually the most venomous kind of spider, but it has no fangs to bite with."
As we grew older, most kids stopped telling lies. I remember my transition from liar to non-liar quite well. I came home from a friend's house, and made a comment about how they made their own glue traps to catch flies by smearing honey on the windowsill.
"At least he's creative," my mom said to my dad. I knew I was busted, and that was the end of making stuff up for no reason.
There was some amount of lying in middle school, but the real compulsive liars were starting to disappear by that time. Usually, middle school lies were to save face. If you didn't want to get in a fight, you could make up a story about beating up some kid nobody had ever heard of. Everybody would want to leave you alone if they believed you were a badass. I also remember kids like Jimmy Harrison asking kids like me if they were virgins. We were all virgins at that age, but there was still no correct answer to the question. A yes would get you mocked for being a virgin, and a no would get you mocked for being a liar. I tried to claim to have had brief sex with a girl during the summer, but Jimmy and his pals made fun of me, calling me a liar, before launching into a bunch of lies about the women they've had.
In high school, there were still kids who were compulsive liars. My theory is that nobody ever called them on their shit. I've also noticed personality traits that all of compulsive liars I knew in my later school years had. Every single one of them, when not telling outlandish lies, would kiss your ass all day long. If you hang out with a liar, they'll laugh hard at your every joke, hang onto your every word, do whatever you say, and think absolutely everything you do is the coolest shit in the world. Another thing I've realized about them is the fact that every single one of the liars I knew in high school, without exception, was either the only boy or the oldest boy in a family. My theory is that having an older sibling around would have prevented a kid from being a compulsive liar by calling them on all of their lies.
A friend of mine recently ran into one of the guys we knew from school, and he was still telling crazy lies. I guess if a person is still telling lies in high school, it shouldn't be that shocking that they're still doing it as adults. I still can't get over it, though.
UPDATE: Lew has posted a brand new story on the grown man telling lies in the comment section for this post.
Jimmy sat behind me in health class. When the teacher was telling us about the effects of AIDS, he referenced me as a random example.
"If Paul got AIDS, he would eventually die from it."
"He's probably already got it," whispered Jimmy. I didn't respond, so he said it a few more times. I didn't figure out until later that his implication was that I was gay.
Another time, our gym class went out to the football field to play soccer. On the way out there, I heard Jimmy say, "Hey, a frog," and then saw him pick something up. He held it in an outstretched arm and drop-kicked it. It went flying, and he chased it, only to do it again. He repeated this a few times, and then walked away. I walked over to object to see what it was.
It was a limp, bloody toad.
After 7th grade, I went to a different school. I never heard anything about Jimmy again until senior year of high school. A girl who had gone to school with Jimmy and I filled me in on recent events in his life.
Jimmy had humped some girl. Generally, one would consider that a good thing. In this case, however, Jimmy's girlfriend thought it was a bad thing, and Jimmy would have to make amends for his actions.
To set things right, Jimmy and his girlfriend severely beat the girl, slamming her head repeatedly in a car door. The victim had to be hospitalized, and the other two upstanding citizens had to be jailed.
"Look," I said, "I have crack."
Everybody looked at me incredulously. The general consensus seemed to be that I didn't actually have crack. I decided to prove them wrong. The problem was that I had no idea how crack was used, nor what its effects would be on the user.
I opened the bag, pulled out a pinch of the fancy salt, and put it in my mouth, trying not to visibly cringe as it overpowered my taste buds. I chewed it up and swallowed it.
"Yeah," I said, "This is some good crack."
There are bad blogs out there, though. The html scams intended to get search hits and collect the ad revenue are kind of annoying. I really despise the MySpace-style illiterate attention-whore blogs. They're like PDF files: landmines of the internet. I usually spend about a second at each blog before I click next, but when these pages come up they hog up all the memory with extensive and obtrusive graphics (but zero actual content) and I'm forced to spend a few seconds waiting for the computer to catch up. I really preferred the internet of my high school days, when idiots couldn't figure out how to get online, much less have their own page on the web, and you had to be at least somewhat of a nerd to stick something on the internet. It guaranteed a certain level of quality, as your average illiterate person was unable to figure out how to get their incoherent ramblings onto the web.
Short rant aside, after clicking through hundreds of blogs, I have found three that are genuinely enjoyable:
The 4th Avenue Blues is a blog about the author's interactions with various homeless people where he lives. I've befriended a couple of homeless people, which may contribute to my appreciation for this blog, but the writing is good and the stories are interesting. I think a lot of people try to imagine they're invisible or don't exist, but I'm always wondering about them.
Behind the Counter is a blog about working the returns counter at Wal-Mart. I hate to say it, but sometimes stupid people are very entertaining. The author documents his encounters with layaway addicts, scammers, and foolish Wal-Mart shoppers of all stripes.
YOU'RE WALKING TO DENVER!? is "a blog following the wanderings of an anarchist drop-out." This is the closest thing I've found in the blogosphere to the punk zines that used to occupy so much of my time. This guy is walking/hitch-hiking from (I'm guessing) Arlington, TX to Denver, CO, and documenting his adventures on the way. This is fascinating to me because it reminds me of myself before I stopped being so idealistic, sold-out, washed the glue out of my hair and got a job. I picked up a similar character who was hitch-hiking years ago, and thought he was a great and inspirational guy. I ended up accidentally leaving him in a town when I got lost trying to find where I let him out to look for his friend while I got gas. I still feel horrible about that, even though he was homeless. I always wanted to go on an adventure like this, but the closest I've ever come was a mere 20 mile journey. (Short version: I went to a party, got kicked out for being way too hammered, and then tried to walk home but was too drunk to realize where I was. I went the wrong way, and by the time I sobered up I realized I had no clue where I was. Nobody would pick me up because I was a filthy, spikey-haired punk rocker, and when I finally realized where I was, I was way the fuck out of my way.)
In other blog news, my good friend Lew has started a blog of his own, and I've started another one, full of nothing but blatant lies.
In February, I purchased something that was so big and so far away that the only realistic option for me to obtain was to have it delivered to me in a big truck. Before I ordered said merchandise, the shipping quote I was given was $150, but turned into $175 when I actually did the ordering. The company I was buying from was supposed to handle the freight charges on their end, and charged me accordingly.
When the freight guy showed up in front of my house in a semi-truck, he told me I owed him $172.30. I wrote him a check, he dropped off the crate, and I immediately emailed the buyer about being charged. They said that they accidentally forgot to write PAID on some form, and that's why I was charged, but the immediately gave me a refund of the money I gave them for shipping.
A couple weeks later, I got an invoice from Watkins Motor Line claiming I owed them $172.30. Since I had already payed the driver, I figured there was some mistake and didn't bother dealing with it. After all, they wouldn't have left the crate with me if I hadn't paid, right?
On Saturday, I got a letter from them saying that they had "tried to deal with this reasonably," but that my account was being turned over to their collections department. If I don't pay within 10 days, the account will be turned over to an outside collection agency, and I will be charged 35% more.
I sent an email to the address given in the letter, explaining the situation. I told them that I was willing to check my records to find the check and see if it had been cashed, but that they should check their records first and make sure that's even necessary. I pointed out that they wouldn't have left my giant crate at my house if I hadn't given the driver a check. I received a one-sentence reply from a lady in the High Risk Collection department, asking, "Do you have the check number?" In other words, it's on me to go through all my records, call the bank, and do whatever else is necessary because they're either a bunch of idiots or criminals.
It's completely outrageous how large companies are allowed to operate. If you have enough money, you can afford legal protection to do basically whatever the hell you want. If you're a rich person, you can get away with killing people, and if you're a rich corporation, you can get away with stealing from your customers. Even if this thing works out with me not losing any extra money, I'm still being taken for my time. If I were to send them a bill for wasting my time, it wouldn't be taken seriously. On the other hand, if they can't keep track of things like a responsible business should, they can just send me a threatening letter that I have no choice but to take seriously.
Watkins Motor Line sucks. Maybe once they become part of FedEx next year they'll get their act together, but in the meantime if you need something big delivered, I highly recommend anybody to find a different carrier. If you're bored and want somebody to waste your time and not compensate you for it, though, Watkins Motor Line is the way to go.
I had been hanging out with this kid, Jimmy, and he had taught me this cool trick where you go inside of this wooden playhouse thing and pee all over the walls. I guess it wasn't much of a trick, but it was an excellent way to get urine on everything. One day we went in there and were getting ready to pee when this other kid came in.
"You have to get out of the way," Jimmy told him, "We're going to pee here."
"I don't have to," the kid replied.
So Jimmy peed on him. The kid instantly started crying, but for some reason didn't try to get out of the urine stream.
I still laugh whenever I think of it. That probably makes me some kind of an asshole, but I can't help it. It's funny when people get peed on.
I found their ad in the paper claiming I could make money as an activist fighting for justice. I called and set up an interview.
At the interview, they sat me at a table with 3 other applicants and handed us questionnaires to fill out. They weren't typical job applications, and included questions such as "What do you think the biggest problem with our country is?" One of the applicants, an older woman, took a brief look at the questionnaire before quietly leaving, leaving me and two young girls. After we had some time to write answers, one of the guys who worked there sat down to discuss them with us. He was roughly my age, and a total douche bag. He was smiling and friendly with the girls, saying "Right on" to absolutely everything they said, no matter how ridiculous, and then he would roll his eyes and look at me like I was crazy whenever I said anything. I thought he was about to send me on my way, but then he told us that we had passed the first part of the interview and it was on to the second.
For the second part of the interview, this short girl took me in the hallway to talk to me. She was a lot friendlier than the guy, and seemed to like me. She hired me within 5 minutes. The job would start in a couple days.
On my first day, I was introduced to the people I was going to be working with. It was all nice girls, the only other guy was the asshole who had interviewed me, and I wouldn't be working with him. They were going to spend the first few hours teaching me what to say to people when I knock on their doors, and then we were going to go knocking on peoples' doors, begging for cash.
One of the things that initially struck me about my co-workers was that they didn't seem to fit the activist mold. It could have been that having just moved from a rural area, my entire experience with activists had been either grubby punk rockers or the old Marxist professors I had in college. These were preppy college girls who seemed more motivated by their desire to pad their resumes than their desire to change the world for the benefit of others.
The short girl taught me the spiel I was supposed to give. She had me say it over and over again, all the while moving closer and closer until her face was literally inches from mine. It made me really self-conscious and worried about whether my breath smelled fresh or funky, and so I kept speaking with less and less volume, which would prompt her to tell me I needed to be louder.
"Hi, my name is Paulo, and I'm with HRC, The Human Rights Campaign! We're America's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group! We're out here today to fight discrimination..."
I was supposed to knock on the door, give the spiel, and ask for money. If they declined to give money, but sounded vaguely in favor of the cause, I had another, shorter speech ready to try to get cash out of them. When the short girl was confident I had my lines memorized, she brought me back into the main room for a pre-begging pep rally.
We gathered in a circle, myself and the 4 girls I was working with, while one of them whipped us into a frenzy.
"We're gonna go out there, and we're gonna do a good job! 'Cause we're good! And we're doing a good thing! And we're awesome!"
I felt awkward as hell trying to act even half as excited as everyone else. I let out a couple of wimpy cheers that were drowned out by the excited screaming of some girls about to go out panhandling.
Before we left, they sent me into the office to ask that asshole for a clipboard. He sighed loudly, indicating his annoyance with me, and then grabbed one off of a shelf. He sneered when he handed it to me and told me in a condescending tone not to lose it. I guess I must have looked like a completely inept monkey. Or maybe he was just a stupid fucking dickhead.
Out we went, armed with maps of our route and clipboards to write down the addresses of the houses we went to. Everybody went into the neighborhood we were canvassing on their own, except for myself and a girl who was going to help me with my first day on the job. She showed me the ropes, delivering the spiel and collecting money. She made it seem so easy.
At one house, she convinced the guy inside to give her $100. The guy obviously thought it was going to be a tax write-off, because he asked for a receipt.
"Yeah, no problem," she told him, and then gave him some HRC promotional materials instead. When I asked her later what we're supposed to do when we get asked for a receipt, she told me that nobody had ever asked her for one before, and that I didn't need to worry about it. This was my first sign that something wasn't right about this.
Throughout the course of the night, I did most of the knocking and talking, and she would only say something if I ran into trouble and didn't know what to say. Together, we raised $160. We also got yelled at by an angry homophobe who was convinced that gay guys are out every night actively trying to rape people, and that the solution would be to enact legislation so that these acts would be considered hate crimes.
When I went home that night, I looked over some of their promotional material. I noticed DONATIONS ARE NOT TAX DEDUCTIBLE written in small print on the back of one of their newsletters. Not tax deductible? So that means it's not a non-profit group, right? Still, I needed to make some money, so I put the thought aside and hoped I could get paid. They still hadn't told me how I was going to get paid, but the ad had claimed $300-$500 weekly, so I wasn't particularly worried.
The next night, I was sent out on my own. I did significantly worse, this time only earning $60. I also had some asshole fratboys invite me inside to give my spiel while they drank 40s and played video games. I knew damn well they weren't going to give me a cent, but they made me go through the whole thing before saying "Nope."
When we went back to the office that night, the girl who was the boss told me she wasn't going to ask me to come back. That was fine by me, because I had already decided I didn't want to do that shit anymore. She told me I could come back in a week and get my check. I still had no idea how much it was going to be for.
When I came back in a week, they told me I was wrong and would have to come back in another week.
When I finally got my paycheck, they explained to me that I got paid half of what I brought in, so my check was $30. All together, I had spent 12 hours working there.
The section of the newspaper under which their ad was listed said that none of those jobs were commission-based, but that turned out to be false. Just like the claim that I could make any kind of decent money doing that crap.
Where exactly does the money donated to HRC go? Supposedly it goes towards lobbying congress and shit like that. Half of it definitely goes to whoever you handed it to. A chunk of it goes to weekly parties at places like Mongolian Barbecue. The Wikipedia entry says this:
Sometimes referred to as "Headed by Rich Caucasians" or the "Human Rights Champagne Fund", the HRC has often been the target of critics who claim that the HRC and HRCF do not produce any significant policy advocacy, and only serve the interests of a select minority of wealthy, white gay men. In the same vein, it is heavily criticized for its national, top-down structure instead of a local, grassroots focus.
The HRC is considered by some to be too cozy with the Democratic Party establishment. For example, during the 2004 elections, the bulk of the organization's time and funding was focused on the unsuccessful effort to elect John Kerry ("George W. Bush, You're Fired!" became the group's heavily merchandized signature line). As a result resources were not spent to defeat state ballot initiatives that sought to ban same-sex marriage — all 11 of which passed overwhelmingly on November 2, 2004. Given that Kerry was a supporter of such state ballot initiatives, many questioned why he had received a "free ride" from HRC, and why more effort wasn't made to defeat the marriage initiatives.
I see people driving around with their logo on their cars, and I just want to yell, "Hey, you've been scammed!" Whenever I'm downtown, I notice their fliers everywhere. ACTIVIST WORK! MAKE MONEY FIGHTING FOR HUMAN RIGHTS!
If I have a writing instrument on me, I write SCAM on them.
The Human Rights campaign is bullshit.
My experience with them was limited, but noteworthy in the fact that I feared them. After high school, I never saw any of them, and I heard very little. This is a documentation of what I knew about the brothers, ending with the last thing I ever heard regarding them, which was that one of them ended up dying of a gunshot wound to the head.
The oldest brother was the meanest. He was a few years older than I was, but only one grade ahead. When I started school, there was a hallway my friends and I would avoid because if we went that way, old mullet and his buddies would either knock the books out of our hands, or shove us into lockers. Technically, they'd never really shove us so much as they would shove one of their huge friends into one of us smaller guys, and it would be our bodies that went crashing against the lockers.
I once had in-school suspension and had to spend the entire day in the corner of a math teacher's class. At some point, old mullet had that teachers class. When he saw me in the corner, unable to even get up without permission, he picked up two chalkboard erasers and started hitting me with them, covering my clothes and hair with chalk dust. Being a tiny little guy, I couldn't do shit about it.
The middle brother was quiet, and by any measure the least mean. He was in the same grade as his older brother, and was once in my biology class. He hung out with the same group as old mullet, but as far as I can recall, he never did any of the shoving or book-knocking. In fact, I only ever heard him speak one time. Standing in a lunch line, I once heard him to remark, "Crack some fuckin' skulls."
There was another violent redneck in my homeroom named Derrick who liked to regale us with tales of horrific animal abuse. He was also good friends with the mullet brothers, and once told us a story illustrating a day in the life of these loving characters.
In the rural area where we lived, there were this things called sandburs. They were like tiny balls of vegetation velcro whose barbed hooks made them attach easily to skin, and were painful to remove. They grew on stalks so that passing animals would inadvertently pick them up and deposit the seeds elsewhere.
Derrick, laughing so hard he could barely speak, told us how the brothers would hanging out, shirtless in the summer heat, when the oldest mullet had taken a stalk of sandburs and smashed it into his unsuspecting youngest brother, embedding lots of them deep within his back. A good laugh was enjoyed by all, save the guy with hundreds of tiny barbed thorns buried in his flesh.
The youngest mullet was few years younger than I was. By the time he arrived on the scene at my school, the oldest one had dropped out, but the new one was ready to take his place as the meanest mullet around.
Young mullet hung out with a crowd I generally identified as the Nazi stoners. They were basically the same crowd the older mullets rolled with, only younger. They were loud, they liked getting trashed, and they were total assholes.
On the way out to the bus one day, the Nazi stoners were spitting into the wind. Young mullet spat and it came dangerously close to me, prompting a laugh from the whole group. One of them yelled, "You fucking faggot!"
"Faggot!" echoed young mullet.
"Yes," I told him, figuring I might get my ass kicked but wanting to piss them off, "I'm gay!"
His smile dissolved into a sneer. He curled one hand into a fist, and then punched his other hand, growling.
Needless to say, I was very impressed.
I don't know what ever became of old mullet or young mullet, but I do know what happened to middle mullet after high school.
Middle mullet graduated and joined the army. The war in Iraq was still a couple years away, so they cleaned him up and sent him home.
He was a changed man. He once lived for no reason other than to get fucked up. Now he didn't do any drugs.
One day he got into a huge fight with old mullet. They fought like they had never fought before, trying to break each other's faces as if they were strangers.
When it was over, middle mullet cleaned the kitchen floor with a toothbrush.
And then he went to his room and shot himself in the head.
Christine Blossom, 36, of Ypsilanti Township, was the 87th person to enter the new IKEA store in Canton Township just before 9 a.m. today.
As Blossom rode the escalator up into the store, she and others were surrounded by throngs of cheering and clapping employees.
"This is amazing. What a welcome. What a welcome,'' said an emotional Blossom, as she wiped away tears while riding the escalator.
And here's a blog dedicated entirely to preaching the gospel of IKEA sucks!
We picked up Kenny on the way to her job, where she was to be dropped off and picked up hours later. In the meantime, I was supposed to hang out with Kenny all night. When Kenny lumbered out of his house, I was in awe of his girth. He was a hulking figure, nearly as wide as I am tall, and towered over me. He also dressed to impress, wearing a button-up shirt printed with a graphic of a dragon and smelling of urine and heavy perspiration.
We dropped the girl off at the strip club, and then it was just us guys. Kenny held his seat belt in place in case the cops were out, because he couldn't make it actually fit around him.
"So, what is there to do around here?"
The problem was that Kenny had absolutely no life. He had no friends. He had no job. He was a 20 year old high school dropout who did nothing but sit at home playing Evercrack, eating, and reeking of stale pee.
We finally decided we'd hit the video arcade first. On the way there, Kenny tried in vain to impress me by telling me he could rap all the lyrics to a Limp Bizkit album. When I wasn't interested in hearing him rap, he went on and on about Everquest, filling me in on all the most mundane details.
"Well, you have your bronze pieces, and you get 10 of them and it's worth one silver piece, and then you get 10 of them and it's worth one gold piece. Oh man, do you realize how much a horse costs in Everquest? I've been questing for hundreds of hours a week, and I'm not even close! There are these monsters, and..."
Since he seemed into computer RPGs, I asked him if he ever played oldschool paper Dungeons and Dragons. He told me he and his older brother had tried it, but couldn't get into it. I assume it wasn't visual enough, or took too much thought. They were, however, avid fans of Yu-Gi-Oh.
Yes, a 20 year old and his older brother collected and played Yu-Gi-Oh.
We got to the part of town where the arcade was, and there we ran into another problem. Kenny didn't know where it was. This would be a recurring theme throughout the night. Kenny, despite having lived there his entire life, didn't know where fucking anything was, and he was going to be my navigator for the night. Wonderful.
We found a structure to park in and wandered some streets looking for the arcade. While we walked, Kenny bragged about how all he needed was a thin denim jacket, while I was freezing my ass off in a big coat. We ended up asking somebody where the arcade was.
"Across the diag," she said.
I asked Kenny where the diag was, and if it was a long walk. Apparently we were right next to the diag, but it was an incredibly long walk and we needed to go back to the car so we could drive to a different parking structure. I later found out that the diag is a very short walk, probably less than the equivalent of two city blocks.
We got to the arcade, which was Kenny's idea, where he told me he didn't have any money. Annoyed, I decided we'd spend 10 bucks and then leave.
When we left the arcade and went back to the structure, I asked Kenny if he minded taking the stairs instead of the elevator, because it was closer. I may have asked because subconsciously I knew he would have a hard time with it, and I was already really annoyed with this guy. He told me he didn't mind taking the stairs, he did it all the time.
On the way up, he paused, panting heavily, and pretended to wonder what some unintelligible graffiti on the wall said.
We started driving around again, trying to figure out what to do next. Kenny was really thirsty, and wanted me to stop at a gas station and buy him something to drink. What's a guy like Kenny drink, you ask? A two-liter bottle of Coke, and a two-liter bottle of cream soda. Hell, if somebody is nice enough to agree to buy you something to drink, you need to take advantage of it. When Kenny got back in the car, he made a failed attempt at opening the cream soda, spraying it all over my car. Moments after the soda explosion, there was a loud breaking noise, and the seat Kenny was sitting in snapped backwards from his girth. This would be the first of no less than 3 chairs of mine that Kenny broke. He would later go on to break a recliner and a papasan, the latter of which I was always scared of breaking, and I'm a really skinny guy.
Predicting that Kenny would want me to buy him food at some point, I decided we should go dumpster diving at some pizza places, which he was easily able to direct me to. If you're unaware, most pizza places have a policy of throwing away full pizzas in the box if the order is somehow messed up. The boxes are used to keep track of how many pizzas are made. I asked Kenny if he had any problem eating some free, clean, dumpstered food, he said he didn't. When we found pizza, he ended up eating a whole pepperoni pizza and a full order of cheese bread, minus the two or three pieces that I had. He later went on to tell somebody that this was "the worst thing" he ever did.
Unsure of what to do next, we decided to go to one of the many 24-hour superstores surrounding us. We wandered around the store aimlessly. At some point, we passed the books, where I noticed this book I had seen there before and briefly glanced at. It was a book written by a supposed child-abuse victim, but the entire book, from what I saw, read like some kind of twisted internet torture fetish fan fiction. I told him I thought the book was bullshit written to capitalize on peoples' morbid curiosities.
"No," he said, "It's all true. That guy was on Oprah."
"Do you honestly think somebody would go on Oprah and lie?"
"Yeah, to sell books."
"No, no. They had a police officer there to back it up. Do you think a police officer is going to lie?"
"Are you serious? You don't think cops lie?"
"You can't just go on TV and lie! I saw him on Oprah! You're so cynical!"
I was awestruck. Not only did this guy watch Oprah, but he believed every word she or anybody on her show ever said. He didn't believe it was even possible that somebody would lie on TV, and I was just an incredibly cynical bastard. No wonder the guy loved that Eminem movie so much. He was convinced it was the true story of his life. I had to ask him about that, and once again I was told I was very cynical for not believing some story about a famous person.
Bored, we drove off to another 24-hour superstore. At this one, we walked to the furniture section and sat down on a couch. A few minutes later, a plainclothes security guy came and told us we had to move. Kenny got up, and I moved to the adjacent couch. Rent-a-cop glared at me.
"Come on, man," Kenny pleaded.
"If I'm going to buy a couch here, I need to know that it's comfortable."
Rent-a-cop said nothing, he just kept glaring at me while Kenny continued to plead with me like a little baby. I finally gave in just so he would shut the fuck up.
We went back to visit my girl, hard at work selling sex dolls and rubber vaginas to guys who all claimed they were novelty gifts for friends. I perused the pornography selection while Kenny went to the counter to talk to his only 'friend.' He thought I was out of earshot when he started bitching about the music we were listening to in the car the whole time.
"He just kept playing it!" he said.
I was going through a death metal phase at the time, and so the music was loud, abrasive shit that most people, including the current version of myself, cannot listen to for very long, if at all. The thing is, though, I had asked him what he thought about it, and he had told me that he really, really liked it. What the fuck?
When we left, I turned the death metal up louder as we drove to yet another 24-hour superstore. We wandered around the store, and I tried to get him to stop in the furniture section to just relax. He was too scared of security, even when I told him they couldn't do anything to us for testing out furniture we might buy.
When it was finally time to pick up my girl and drop him off, I was so relieved.
A person reading this might think I'm being excessively hard on Kenny. Sure, he was an idiot and a huge loser, but so what? It's sad, and we should feel sorry for people like Kenny. I shouldn't be talking shit about him on the internet, giving people actual quotes from him like, "Sometimes when I eat a whole pizza, I feel fat."
I used to feel that way about Kenny. I felt bad for him after hanging out with him, and I felt bad for him for pretty much all of the time I knew him, despite his attempts to make moves on my lady. I thought he was a pitiful excuse for a human, which he is. I feel fully justified calling him a goddamn motherfucker, though. Allow me to explain why.
At the end of my relationship with that girl, she was living in my apartment and contributing absolutely nothing. She wouldn't help pay the bills, she wouldn't help pay rent, and she wouldn't lift a finger to help keep the place clean. She would hang out with Kenny all day while I was at work, letting that sniveling worm kiss her ass and make her feel great all day, and then she'd come back and sleep at my place. She didn't work. She didn't go to school. She did spend all of my money, though. And she was an mean, evil, and completely crazy fucking bitch on top of that.
When I told her she had to move out, the two of them had me arrested on false charges and then robbed my apartment while I was locked up. I was eventually cleared of the charges, but being cleared of charges doesn't mean you get back all the time or money you lost because of them.
I hadn't seen Kenny in a few years, but he was working at a store where I went to buy something. I left as soon as I saw him and never went back to that store.
Jewelry generally serves no real purpose, with the exception to the rule being widely-used items like super secret decoder rings or the more common time-keeping device. Most necklaces, rings, and earrings, particularly pieces with precious metals and gemstones, serve no purpose other than conspicuous consumption. People wear bits of shiny expensive stuff so that people know that either that the wearer is rich enough to throw money away on rocks, or that somebody cares enough about the wearer to throw away money on rocks. In the case of males wearing monster rocks in their ear, the former is more likely.
Suppose this guy has a real giant diamond in his ear. Working part time for minimum wage, he would probably have to work his ass off for a year to get that thing. Is that what he wants to imply? That he's capable of working incredibly hard simply to be able to say, in the end, that he he was able to buy a rock? Does that get you chicks? Or does he want to imply that he has a side business, perhaps selling drugs or some other high-profit activity? If that was the case, why the fuck would he be handing people greasy bags of french fries? It's more likely that his earring is a dirt-cheap cubic zirconium that he bought with less than a week's pay, but that just leads me to wonder who he thinks he's fooling. I think he's one of those guys who doesn't mind girls who are stupid as hell, because one would have to be pretty dull to be impressed by a fake diamond from a guy who's asking if they want fries with that. I've always been under the impression that if you give a girl a diamond, and it's fake, she will be mad at you, despite the fact that it looks the same and serves the same function. Maybe there's a double-standard I'm unaware of, and the ladies find fake precious stones more appealing when it's the men wearing them.
I guess it's possible that a guy working for minimum wage in the service industry is only wearing bling-bling because of his love of hip-hop culture in general. After all, most gangsta rap fans are not gangstas, even the ones who go to great lengths to look like they are.
But I still think it's fucking stupid.
I kept thinking about how these kids could spell words like this, and it dawned on me that there are two likely possibilities. The only way I could imagine them getting these words right was if they were autistic and could memorize everything, like Rain Man, or they were high-IQ kids who had studied language extensively, and knew the rules of spelling words in foreign tongues.
As the competition intensified, one girl finally got momentarily stumped on a word. She spelled it correctly, and then one of the commentators said, "I think we finally had a guess there." They had the words memorized! That put a few points towards my autism theory, as I couldn't imagine anybody memorizing a huge list of random words, hoping those words would be called.
A few words later, the same girl got stumped on another word. She asked for the pronunciation, definition, and country of origin repeatedly, and stared at her hand and drew on it with her other hand for a good 30-40 seconds. I wondered what the hell she was doing. I took this weirdness as more points for my autism theory. She ran out of time, and asked to use her bonus time. She was trying to spell Weldtschmerz, but she used a V instead of a W because of the German pronunciation. When she got it wrong, the other girl was visibly shocked. She was probably spelling it the same way in her head.
This morning I did a google search for 'national spelling bee autism ,' and it brought up many results of autistic kids going to spelling bees, but I couldn't find anything about the winner of this particular competition being autistic. This article, about the winner, says this about how she won:
Kerry's key to victory was memorizing 99 percent of the 23,000 words on a master list used by contest judges, she said. Learning them over five years, despite earlier setbacks at the contest, taught her the value of persistence. Kerry tied for seventh last year.
Every day, according to her mother, Paula, the straight-A student would come home from school, have snacks and milk or sometimes her favorite mint-chip ice cream, walk the dogs, do her homework, listen to music or relax, and study the word list for an hour or two.
Kerry said the trick to memorizing so many words was constant repetition and regular spelling drills by her parents. Such methodical practice, along with the steadfastness under pressure that comes with experience, allowed her to remain calm and composed throughout the contest.
Instead of just taking my word for it, though, you can go download or stream a show for free. They're as tight live as they are in the studio. Here's another one here. If you're even half-interested, what do you have to lose? These guys are great.
"I'm serious, like Bob Marley. You like Bob Marley? That's reggae."
"Dude, I'm just talking about reggae, I want to know if you like Bob Marley. You know, reggae."
"Miss Sharon! He's calling me gay!"
Sharon, my bus driver in 6th grade, told me to shut up.
"There's no such thing as reggae music," she told me, "I know you just made that up to make fun of Ray. If you keep talking about it, I'm going to write you up and you'll get kicked off the bus."
This was the same bus driver who also knew, for a fact, that I was a Christian and not a Buddhist, as I had claimed when she tried to alter my disruptive behavior by playing the Jesus Card. She knew this to be fact because "Buddhas have dots on their heads." The truth was that I was neither.
Ray was this guy who was older and bigger than I was, and had a mullet. He once puked on the bus, on a day when the driver made me sit with him for lack of seats, prompting me to jump over our shared seat. It smelled like dog food, so I'm pretty sure it must have been corned beef hash. I was friends with this guy for a while, but then he got caught fondling a retarded girl, and I didn't like him anymore. It wasn't that I really cared whether or not he liked Bob Marley, it's just that I thought it was a way I could push his buttons and not get in trouble for it. I wasn't calling him gay, I was just asking a simple question about his musical preferences.
After I was told I couldn't speak of this imaginary music form, I went to a teacher to write me a note to give my bus driver. She did, and I gave it to Sharon that afternoon.
"That doesn't say ray gay! That says re-jay! And you're still not allowed to talk about it!"
In the cafeteria the next day I was discussing my defeat with my friends, telling them about how Ray and the bus driver don't believe that reggae is a sort of music.
"What'd you say about Ray?" asked some random kid walking by. I explained the story to him.
"You better not be talking about Ray Milhouse!" he said.
"No, I'm talking about Ray Watson, who rides my bus and doesn't believe reggae is a kind of music."
"Oh, man, you're calling Ray Millhouse a fag? He's gonna kick your ass!"
A week later, during gym class, the boys and girls were segregated. The girls had to go do some girly exercises or something, and the boys had to play dodge ball, shirts vs. skins. Ray Millhouse and I were both put on the skins team.
During the first game, I was hit by a ball pretty quickly and I had to wait on the sidelines. Moments later, a shirtless, mulletted Ray Millhouse appeared at my side, along with the kid from the cafeteria who told me Ray would kick my ass.
"I heard you called me a faggot."
"No," I told him, trying to explain the situation about Ray Watson and Bob Marley. Halfway through a sentence, he punched me in my bony chest. I groaned. The other kid laughed.
"You're sorry, aren't you?" he asked me, pushing me against the wall.
"Yeah," I said, and got punched in the chest again, his knuckles bouncing off my sternum.
"Ok...now...we're...settled..." he said, punctuating each word with another punch.
Then the two of them walked away. I never spoke to either one of them again. I did find a paperback book about monsters with RAY MILLHOUSE written on the inside cover, though, and I kept it, 'cause fuck that guy.
After high school, Ray Millhouse had a job working at local campground. He parked a company pickup truck at the top of a hill, and left it in neutral. He got fired when it rolled into the lake at the bottom of the hill.
The last time I heard Ray Watson even mentioned was towards the end of high school. Apparently he had a mean pitbull, and rode a Harley around harrassing people until they wanted to kick his ass, at which point his mom would call the cops.
Until the bus broke down in front of his house.
There was another kid on the bus, Mike, who was a pretty cool guy, but not nearly as cool as Matt. We'd talk to him about Nintendo occasionally, but he didn't seem as interested, and certainly hadn't
played or owned as many of the games as Matt, so he was obviously inferior. Matt was friends with him, but I always assumed that I was Matt's better friend because we were the ones who were always hanging out and talking on the bus and at school. One key difference about the Mike and I surfaced when the bus broke down and we had to wait at Matt's house for a while. It turned out that while I had never seen Matt's house from anywhere but the bus window, Mike had actually been inside before. This fact played a critical role in what turned out to be the downfall of our friendship.
There were only a small handful of kids on the bus when it broke down, so it was decided that we would wait inside Matt's house while the adults involved took care of the bus situation. Matt immediately ran through a door at the end of the living room, into a smaller room where he had his Nintendo. Mike followed, and I tried to follow, but Matt's mom stopped me.
"I know Mike. I don't know you. You have to sit on the couch."
Mike seemed to feel bad for me being in such a predicament, but not Matt. Matt found it absolutely fucking hilarious that his mom was a crazy bitch. His chair was situated near the door to his Nintendo room, and while I sat there, he would periodically turn around, controller in hand, and point and laugh at me for not being allowed to play. I didn't understand how my best friend could be such a dickhead.
At some point I tried to get up and make a move for the Nintendo room, but his mom grabbed me by the arm. I tried to tell her she couldn't tell me what to do, but she raised her other hand like she was going to slap me. I cringed, she didn't slap me, and I spent the rest of the time waiting on the living room couch, enduring Matt's laughter while my rage grew.
By the time we were able to leave, I absolutely despised Matt.
Following this incident, I would harass Matt whenever possible. I learned that while I was friends with him, a crucial fact about his personality had escaped me: the child was prone to angry outbursts and temper tantrums for damn near no reason. I soon began to delight in tormenting him, as the slightest insult would send him into a violent rage. He was bigger than me, but he was never able to hurt me when he'd attack. He fought like a girl, and would scratch me and try to pull my hair.
I had always known that he had a huge crush on this girl at our school who had downs syndrome. Even as a third grader, I found that completely bizarre. I tried to tease him about it on the playground, calling out in a taunting voice, "Yoooooouuu'rreee iiinnn looooovveee wwiiitthh Saaaarrraaahhhh!!"
"Yes, I am!" he proudly confirmed, foiling my plan to provoke a temper tantrum.
So I punched him in the neck.
His face immediately turned bright red and he started screaming that he was going to kill me. He flailed his arms and kicked the air while I ran from him, laughing maniacally. Some teachers saw what was going on and took us both inside to miss the rest of recess.
While I sat at my desk while the rest of my classmates played outside, I fumed. Why should I be in trouble? All I did was make fun of some jerk and then punched him in the neck to make him go crazy. I racked my brain trying to think of the best way to get back at him.
And then it hit me.
The next day I came to school prepared for delivering the ultimate payback. I waited all day for the right moment, and I was excited as hell at the end of the day when I asked my teacher if I could go to the bathroom. She escorted me down the hall, but not before letting me get my coat from it's cubby-hole. I had told her I was cold.
I went into the bathroom stall and reached into my jacket pocket for my weapon of choice: a thick, green magic marker. I went to work and scrawled by revenge in foot-high letters on the wall of the stall.
MATTHEW WOODS IS A FUCKING ASSHOLE!
I pocketed my marker and left the bathroom, satisfied about my job well done. School let out shortly afterwards, and I went home, happy enough that I didn't even have to try to get Matt to throw a screaming fit on the bus.
The next day, when I got to school but before it was time to go to class, I brought my friend Jeremy into the bathroom.
"Check this out," I told him, leading him to the stall where I had left my bulletin to the world.
I was shocked to see that somebody had cleaned my message from the wall, but luckily I was still prepared. I took out my marker and left another one. This was a message that had to be heard.
MATT WOODS EATS FUCKING SHIT!
"Cool," Jeremy told me, and we went to class.
As soon as I sat down in my desk, my teacher came up to me.
"Paul, we have a problem. A message was found in the bathroom."
"How do you know it was me?" I asked, trying to seem incredulous but not realizing that I was admitting I knew what she was talking about.
"Well, we know you and Matt don't get along, and you put your jacket on before going to the bathroom yesterday afternoon."
"It wasn't me."
At that moment, another teacher came in and said that I had done it again.
They made me clean up the bathroom as punishment for my behavior. I maintained my innocence, even as I was scrubbing the walls down with a sponge. I don't even know if Matt ever heard about my attempt to defame his character, rendering the whole thing a failure.