You should go tell on us.

I was about 19 or 20 years old, eating at Burger King with my friends, Lew and Doug. At the time, we were still in the habit of taking too many condiments, so my tray and Lew's were both piled with mountains of ketchup packets, napkins, and whatever else they had to offer.

"Hey, Doug," I said, "You should go tell on us for taking too many condiments."

To my surprise, Doug got up and walked to the counter, coming back and sitting down a few moments later. Following shortly behind him was the manager, a middle aged woman. She stood at our table, staring at our condiments and looking angry, but not saying anything. She shook her head.

"That's a real waste," she said.

"Sorry," Lew said, "Do you want us to put it back?"

"No," she answered, "but when you're done eating you can leave!"


Crackheads, stay off of my porch!

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I were sitting on the couch in the front room. It was hot out, and we had the windows open. I was playing some video games, and she was playing with her laptop.

"What's up?" I heard, coming from outside.

I turned around and there was a somewhat dirty guy with dreadlocks on our porch, walking towards the door.

"What's up?" I said through the window.

He said "What's up" again and stood at the door for a moment. When he realized neither of us was going to get off the couch, he came to the window.

"What's up?" he said once more.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Hey, let me tell you about my situation. My car is broken down, and I'm here from out of town. I'm from north of here. I have my mom with me, she's from south of here. Now, my mom is a diabetic, and..."

"Sorry, man, I'm broke," I said, cutting him off.

"OK," he said, "I'm sorry for bothering you."

"Good luck," I told him as he walked off my porch.

When I'm out, I almost always give money to whoever asks me for some. I know a lot of those people are going to spend it on feeding a habit, but who am I to judge? Ideally, they should be getting help somewhere, but life isn't so ideal. If I can help somebody make it through the day, I'll do what I can, even if they give me a line of bullshit about their car being broken or out of gas (I can't count how many times I've heard that one). My contact with these people is enough that for a brief period, I even contracted a case of the dreaded bum disease.

I draw the line, however, at people coming to my home and asking for money. I don't need mysterious people showing up at my door asking for money, and I sure as hell don't need them coming back again because it worked before.

Later, at around 2:00 AM, we went to the 24-hour laundromat and dropped our clothes off. When we came back, there was some lady sitting on the little strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street directly in front of the house, right next to our driveway. We walked in through the side door, like we always do, and avoided having to walk past her. When we left to go back to the laundromat, she was gone.

I'm sure it was probably a coincidence, but two random weirdos in front of our place on the same day makes me kind of uneasy.

Maybe the dude with the dreadlocks heard the reggae coming out of the stereo and thought it was some kind of invitation to come beg for money. Maybe the lady sitting on the grass was taking a midnight stroll and just happened to stop in front of the house.

Or maybe the dude with the dreadlocks was scouting for places to rob for crack money, and when he saw the various gadgets and toys we had, he told the lady to hang out and see when we're home and when we're not. The rational part of my brain tells me that's it's kind of blatant and stupid, but the paranoid part tells me I should be on my toes. The paranoid part of my brain tells me that crack heads tend to be blatant and stupid, but the rational part of my brain tells me that it's difficult to even look out the window without seeing a cop drive by, which hopefully makes it unlikely that somebody is going to get away with stealing my stuff. I don't have a lot of faith in the police, but I think their heavy presence in my area, right next to a college, should make my home an unattractive target.

Crackheads, stay the fuck off of my porch. You make me paranoid.


Celebrity news is not news.

I was watching the news last night, catching up on what's been going on in the world. There are a couple of wars going on in the Middle East, a heatwave is causing blackouts, some kid has been shooting random people, and some pop singer came out of the closet. Guess which one of these items isn't news.

This is the kind of thing that convinces me that at any given moment I'm surrounded by complete fucking idiots. It blows my mind to know that enough people care about the trivial details of a stranger's life enough that they can report on that sort of bullshit night after night, taking valuable airtime away from actual news. I'd like to have a higher level of detail in the stories of actual things happening, or hear more real news in general, but instead I'm treated to "news" about which celebrity is getting married today.

Every time I buy groceries, I can't help but notice the magazines at the check out line. It's incredibly rare to find any reading material of any substance there. I was wondering aloud if only idiots buy groceries, because there are only shallow celebrity gossip magazines where you pay for your merchandise, and my friend Lew pointed out a key fact: the kind of moron who cares about celebrities is the same kind of moron who makes impulse purchases at the cash register.

There's a particular celebrity whose name will never grace my page, but whose superstar status disgusts me to the point of rage. She has absolutely no discernible talents, but we've been hearing about her antics for a couple years now. If she makes a public statement that she's going to eat a fucking sandwich, it will make the news. People eat this garbage up. When "news" about her is posted on fark.com, it's usually with a tagline making fun of her, but it doesn't matter: even mentioning her name keeps her in the public eye, and extends the length of time we're going to be hearing about her. If the people posting that shit really were tired of her, they wouldn't post it. So it goes with all celebrity news. It serves as advertising. Instead of continuously entertaining us or fading into obscurity, many celebrities opt to do a little bit of entertainment and a lot of staying in the public eye, carefully crafting public personas that are probably completely different from their actual personalities.

And it works. Because people are fucking idiots.


The trail of blood.

In the morning before school began, myself and all of my sixth grade classmates would crowd the edge of the hallway where our lockers and classes were. We weren't allowed to enter the hallway until the bell rang, so until it did, the area would become more and more crowded.

One morning I was having a conversation with some friends, when one of them pointed out some blood on the floor. A lot of blood. There was a trail of large splatters of bright red blood, and we followed it.

The trail led to the bathroom, where a stoner with a Playboy bunny earring was making a feeble attempt to stop the blood from gushing out of his nose. The floor was covered in blood, and he stood at the sink, which was also covered in blood.

Moments after we walked into the bathroom, a teacher walked in. He had probably followed the trail, too.

"I fell!" the stoner said as soon as he saw the teacher.

"Alright, let's go," the teacher said, escorting him out of the bathroom.

"I fell!" he repeated.

Apparently, he wasn't in much of a fight, but there was one blow thrown, and it turned out to be pretty effective. He was a big guy with plenty of blood to spill all over the place, and to this day I don't think I've seen more human blood in one place.


Mr. Lame loves Jesus, hates nerds.

Mr. Lane, my sixth grade science teacher, was incredibly popular. When an assignment was given in my English class to write a letter to any teacher, the vast majority of them went to him. He was considered to be way cool by most of the students, the exception to the rule being any social outcasts or people smart enough to see through his bullshit. He hated me, and I hated him.

He loved to tell awful jokes that the cool kids just ate up. I didn't find him particularly funny, and he once booted me out of class for laughing too loudly at one of his wisecracks. I guess I wasn't subtle enough in my effort to make fun of him and everybody in my class who thought he was a real laugh riot.

"I told you before not to do that," he said as I was walking out. It wasn't true.

He loved using his clout to push his self-righteous moral guidance on the class. There was a poster on the wall that was a montage of people involved in various outdoor activities. He loved to point out how he had conspicuously used a marker to black out a cigarette that one of the people on the poster was holding. There was also a story he told, which I later realized was probably entirely made up, about how he had never broken a single law, except for one isolated incident. He was driving with his wife and kids, and was the only car stopped at a light at an empty intersection. Somebody approached his car, offering him handfuls of drugs, and Mr. Lane had floored the accelerator, running the red light and saving his family from certain doom.

Mr. Lane liked to talk about God, and even though I was at a public school, he got away with it because we were in the middle of nowhere, and nearly the entire student body consisted of a mix of Christians, other Christians, and some more Christians. Oh, and me. This may have been where his distaste for me originated, as he was a member of one of the bat shit crazy denominations of Christianity that considered Dungeons and Dragons to be the work of the devil. I was an awkward nerd, and my handful of friends I had made by carrying around my D&D books with my school books.

"Is this for a class?" he asked me one day, spotting a hardback tome emblazoned with a picture of a guy fighting a dragon sitting on top of my science book.

"Uh, no," I said, wondering if there was some awesome class that somehow involved Dungeons and Dragons.

"Don't bring it back to my class," he said.

I sat, dumbstruck, wondering what his problem was. I asked around later and found out that many people there honestly believed that Dungeons and Dragons was completely "Satanic", though nobody could explain exactly why. Annoyed, I began stopping at my locker before his class to drop off my D&D books, and stopping again after his class to pick my books back up. Prior to that, I carried most of what I needed with me all the time to minimize the number of trips I made to my locker.

One day I had a small paperback book sitting on my desk. It wasn't a Dungeons and Dragons book, but it had a picture of a guy with a sword fighting some kind of monster on the cover. I learned that day that the "Satanic" label applied to basically all fantasy fiction.

"I thought I told you not to bring that stuff to class anymore," he said, pointing at my book. He made me go put it in my locker.

Every day, students that didn't have band or choir practice had an hour-long study hall to work on their homework, or read if they didn't have any. The teachers all took turns doing study hall duty, which consisted of sitting there and making sure nobody acted like an idiot. In Mr. Lane's case, it also included making jokes, flirting with 12 year old girls, and harassing nerds.

I had just made a new friend, when this guy I had never spoken to saw me hauling around a Dungeons and Dragons book. He didn't have any homework, or just didn't feel like doing it, so I let him look at a couple of my D&D books during study hall. He sat towards the front of the class, and when he unfolded a big dungeon map, I knew Mr. Lane was going to see him and say something crazy. Moments later, my prediction came true.

"Is that for a class?" he asked.

"No," the kid said.

"Put it away and don't bring it back," he said.


Burning down the toilet.

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I locked myself in the bathroom at my grandpa's house and went through the cabinets. I looked for anything that said FLAMMABLE on the label. When I had collected a few cans and bottles with this warning on them, I began trying to start a fire in the toilet. I figured since I was doing it in the toilet, it would be safe, because the toilet was full of water and could be flushed.

I'd spray or pour a flammable product into the toilet, and then drop a match into the water. Each time, the match would go out with quick sssst sound, and I'd repeat the process.


I did this a number of times in a few minutes, each time with the same result. I decided to give it one more shot. This time I would go all out. I dispensed a very large amount of shaving gel into the bowl, and then to that I added more of each of the other products. I lit a match, and dropped it into the toilet.


A huge fireball shot out of the toilet and into my face. I jumped back, spun around, and looked in the mirror, sure I was going to be hideously deformed by burns that must have been too intense to hurt very much. Instead, I found that I looked the same, though a tiny bit of my hair had been singed into tiny brown lumps. I was shocked that such a huge fireball to the face did so little damage, and kept wondering if the Freddy Krueger burn scars would appear as I stared into the mirror.

And then I smelled the smoke.

I turned around, and saw the toilet paper on the dispenser near the toilet was burning. Worse, my grandpa had shag-carpet cover on the lid of the toilet, and it was also in flames. Panic hit me, and I grabbed a towel and began frantically smacking at the flames. I was terrified that everything adults said about fire was going to come true, and I was going to burn down the whole house. Relief hit me when I put the fire out, but then terror struck once again: what was I going to do with the evidence? I took the cover, the ash-covered towel, and the toilet paper all outside and threw it over the fence, into my grandpa's front yard. I knew they would find it eventually, but there was heavy foliage where I threw it, and I hoped it wouldn't be found soon.

Then I went back to the living room, and sat on the couch watching TV with my cousins as if nothing had happened.

A few minutes later, my grandpa appeared.

"Who was playing with matches?"

Nobody said anything.

"I know somebody was playing with matches, because I can smell it in the bathroom."

My mom and my aunt came in, and my grandpa told them that one of us was playing with matches. We were supposed to go to the pool that day, but they told us if we didn't confess, we wouldn't get to go.

"You won't get in trouble," my grandpa told us, "I just want to know who did it. That's very dangerous."

"It was Ruben!" I said.

"No, it wasn't!" shouted my shocked cousin.

I continued to lay the blame on my cousin for the rest of the day, and he continued to deny it. We didn't get to go to the pool.

A few days later, when I was getting a haircut, the lady cutting my hair asked if I had burned it.

"No," I said, looking at my mom in the mirror and wondering if she could hear us.

"It looks like you burnt it," she said.

"No," I said, "That's just dry hair stuff."

"Oh," she said, almost definitely not believing me.

Maybe it was some sort of cosmic payback when, a few years later, my friend blamed me for setting a knife on fire in the closet of my fifth grade class.


I was a teenage communist.

"Do you realize that the majority of the world's population lives in poverty?" I asked the girl pushing the broom at Taco Bell.

"No, I guess not," she said.

"Well, they do. And get this: while the majority of people are poor as hell, the richest people own the majority of everything. That is why capitalism must be smashed!"

"You're really good at preaching this stuff," she said.

Under the influence of radical zines, punk rock, and youthful idealism, I had embraced the ideals of communism in high school. I could trace all the ills of society back to the very structure of the capitalist system, which forced people to live shitty lives so that a handful of rich white men could own everything. I fought the powers that be day and night, organizing and mobilizing a powerful resistance movement, determined to make a better world for my working class comrades. By that I mean we took excessive amounts of condiments from fast food restaurants.

My friends and I were jobless high school students, so when we ate out it was invariably at a restaurant that was part of a large chain. The large chain joints were the perfect target, because their very existence signified everything that was wrong with the system. Mom and pop couldn't open a restaurant because they couldn't compete with the global empire that is McDonald's, and people in poor countries were starving because all of their farmland was owned by these same giant corporations. Every time we'd eat at one of these places, we'd walk out with our pockets stuffed with salt and pepper shakers, packs of ketchup, plastic silverware, and the like. This was our ultimate plan to create a worker's utopia, as we felt our theft of condiments would irreversibly weaken the fast food companies, and the capitalist system as a whole, to the point of defeat.

Being not just a commie, but a vegetarian commie, I always wanted to go to Taco Bell, so I could fill my belly with bean burritos before smashing the system. The acquisition of all of their Fire Sauce became our main goal. Every time we'd go to a Taco Bell, we'd completely empty the restaurant of all of the Fire Sauce they had out for their customers. We had so much of it that I ended up with a giant box of it at home, and my friend Radical Ryan had filled the vegetable drawer of his refrigerator with it. He was the only one of us who actually used the stuff outside of Taco Bell, and he had filled a ketchup bottle with it.

"This ketchup tastes weird," his mom said one night while they were eating hamburgers.

"That's not ketchup, Mom," Ryan said, "It's Fire Sauce!"

In the end, the plan to destroy capitalism by stealing their sauce didn't work. Our condiment heists began tapering off until we weren't doing it at all anymore, and then I grew up and realized people are too stupid and mean for communism to work, anyway.


I still hate my second grade teacher.

After I was deemed too disruptive to attend second grade in a public school, I got sent to a small, private school for kids who just couldn't attend public school for various reasons. Some kids couldn't attend public school because they had seizures all the time. Three kids in my class had been hit by cars, and it had messed them up enough that they couldn't function like normal kids. Many of the students, myself included, were there just because we didn't feel the need to do what authority figures told us to do. My parents were repeatedly told that they should drug me into submission, and I'm grateful they never did, though it may have kept me in public school.

The school had one gym teacher, Mr. Lombard, who was the husband of the vice principal, herself the daughter of the principal. He was a mean, gruff guy with a big, blotchy, blue tattoo on his forearm. Nobody was ever able to figure out what it was. He used to walk into my class, stand next to a student's desk with his chest puffed out, and then punch them in the face. I would sit, terrified that he was going to come punch me next. Only later did I figure out he wasn't actually hitting them, and was making the smacking sound by thumping his chest with his free hand while swinging his fist at them. The thing that made it really scary was the fact that there was no element of humor to it. He would make a mean face, and the students he was pretending to punch never smiled or laughed, they just sat there quivering in fear.

Ms. Amador, my teacher, seemed like a nice enough lady, but liked to deal out completely ridiculous punishments. One time she made myself and another student put our heads down on the desk the entire day. When it was time for lunch, we were allowed to eat, and then had to put our heads back down. My desk kept becoming incredibly wet from the condensation of my breath, but there wasn't much I could do about it.

"Oh, gross," she said one day, holding up a piece of construction paper, "Look at this nasty green color!"

"Snot green," I said.

"That's inappropriate for class!" she said, and made me write a couple pages of the same sentence over and over, which was one of her favorite punishments. The green construction paper incident really stands out, because the only thing I can think of that would make somebody think a certain green is gross is the fact that snot is also green. I was agreeing with her, and I was punished for it. I think bodily functions offended her greatly, as she had once yelled at me for breathing too loud, and another time for going to the bathroom too many times. That day, my mom was picking me up after school for some reason, so she waited with me and then informed my mom that I had been using the restroom too much. Luckily, my mom wasn't crazy like her, so she felt sorry for me instead of angry with me.

"Aww," she said, "Did your stomach hurt?"

My mom once sent me to school with a lunch that consisted of an egg salad sandwich, a thermos of juice, and some little snacks. Having been made fun of twice in first grade for eating eggs, I left the sandwich in my lunch box and only took out the other items. Ms. Amador picked up my lunch box, pulled out my sandwich, and put it in front of me. She told me I had to eat it, even if I didn't want to, so I started crying and put my head down. She pulled my chair away from the table, and I kept my face hidden with my arms. She took a photograph of me in this position.

One day, coming in from recess, my friend dropped a can of soda in the lobby. It exploded in a spray of cola-flavored mist.

"Holy cow!" I yelped. Ms. Amador smacked me in the face with a rolled up magazine. I remember being completely shocked by the force of her blow, which made my eyes tear up from the impact to my nose.

Another time, I was punished for something by being stuck in a closet that had been converted to a 'time out room.' It was completely empty except for a place to sit. I waited all day for her to come get me out, and when I heard everybody leaving, I was sure she was going to release me. I should have just walked out, but I was scared I would have gotten in more trouble. Ms. Amador remembered me after everyone had left and all the buses were gone. She put me in a taxi and sent me home. When the taxi pulled up in front of my house, my parents were getting in their car, about to come looking for me. Ms. Amador hadn't called them to tell them why I wasn't on the bus.

I finished second grade, but third grade at that school turned out to be too much for me to handle. I think I only lasted a couple weeks.

On my last day of school, my third grade teacher was, for some reason, encouraging the entire class to make fun of me. Humiliated and helpless, I did the one thing I knew would get me out of there: I acted the fool. There had been a girl who was in my second grade class for a couple weeks, but was removed from school because she kept swearing at teachers and throwing stuff, so I started swearing and throwing stuff. The teacher emptied the class, leaving me alone, and I hid in the closet until my mom came.

When my mom came in for a final meeting about what was to be done with me, I came with her and sat outside of the office on a bench. At some point the vice principal walked by.

"You're a nasty, nasty boy," she told me.

I recently Googled that place, and as far as I can tell, it no longer exists. I'm really happy about that, because it really sucked.


Mr. Bayling hates certain white people.

Prior to moving out to the middle of nowhere in the fourth grade, I didn't even know that normal people were ever racist. I was shocked to hear people actually use racial slurs. By seventh grade, I had grasped the fact that racist attitudes were very widespread, but I hadn't yet caught on to the idea of white people being racist against each other. When a teacher casually called me a Polak, I had no idea what it meant, and had my friend not caught it, I'm sure I wouldn't have even remembered the incident.

Mr. Bayling was my seventh grade music teacher. He was a douche, to be sure, but I was also an incredibly obnoxious kid. I would laugh at any spoken word that could be construed as sexual in any manner, and that was probably a nightmare to deal with for a teacher who needed to talk about beats all day long. I don't remember what other sorts of shenanigans I used to pull in his class, but I recall being in trouble in his class basically every day. He would make me sit in the back of the class in a desk facing the wall, and while I was sitting there I would have to copy a letter he had written specifically for the purpose of punishing students. It was a letter to the copier's parents, explaining that they were a rotten trouble maker in class. Mr. Bayling, being the douche that he was, would make me write it over and over again until it looked nice enough. Supposedly, if I got in enough trouble, the letter would be sent home. It never was, despite being written nearly every day.

"This looks like hieroglyphics!" he told me once, crumpling up my copied letter and throwing it away. "You're going to have to copy it again!"

I copied it again, this time taking great care to make sure it the whole thing was printed immaculately. When I was finished, I drew some hieroglyphics along the margin. He crumpled it up and made me write it again.

This continued for the majority of the grading period. Music was one of the classes we were rotated into briefly during 7th grade, so I think I only had him for six weeks. For probably four of those weeks, I spent a good deal of time in the corner. During the last two weeks, though, things changed dramatically.

I was being bussed into the school district from another one, and that meant I had to leave a few minutes early so I could catch my bus. Music was the last class of the day, so it was Mr. Bayling that had to dismiss me when the time came.

One day, as I was leaving, somebody asked why I got to leave early.

"If he wants to ride the Polak bus, that's none of my business."

Polak is the Polish word for "Polish man," but is usually used as a derogatory term for anybody who is Polish. In high school I would wind up hearing a lot of Polak jokes, all of which had a punchline suggesting Polish people are all complete idiots. I'm not Polish, and in seventh grade was not aware of the slur or the stereotype, so I didn't even notice what he said.

My friend Gordon, however, did notice.

That night, Gordon told his mom what he had said, and she had called him.

During the rest of my time in Mr. Bayling's music class, I didn't get in trouble even once.


Ricky bleeds to death.

When I was in seventh grade, I had my first experience with a friend abruptly ceasing to exist.

Ricky Duncan was the first friend I made when I had moved from a big city to a tiny, middle-of-fucking-nowhere podunk town in fourth grade. I was riding my bike around and ran into Ricky, who was also riding his bike around. He was a year younger than I was, and we hit it off and began hanging out all the time. Nearly every day, I'd ride my bike to his house, where we'd usually sit in the basement playing Nintendo for hours. Our favorite game was a two-player co-op game where both players had a little army guy at the bottom of the screen, blasting away waves and waves of enemies. The game would only let you continue so many times after dying, but I think we were able to finish the whole thing at least once.

I've never been religous, but I once went to church with Ricky and his family for some reason. I think that they didn't normally attend, but a relative was in town visiting them and he wanted to go, so they all went. I had spent the night at Ricky's, so I was already there. I rode my bike home and asked if it was alright, and then came back and we all went to church. Even as a little kid, I thought it was stupid. I remember there was a lot of singing, but I'd make up my own words or just pretend to sing when everybody else was getting into the spirit of the Lord. I don't think Ricky was very excited to be there, as he had made some negative remarks about seeing the elementary school principal there. At some point, they called all the kids to sit in the front and talk about good uses for the Bible. A few kids talked about how it was great for learning lessons about life and God. Ricky and I just sat there.

One time Ricky told me I needed to stop swearing around him, because he was finding himself swearing more and more. I asked him what was wrong with that, and he told me he thought it was wrong. I told him words weren't harmful, but he disagreed. On at least one occassion after that, he told me I had to leave his house for the rest of the day because of my foul mouth.

I can only assume it was mainly Ricky's parents that had given him the impression swearing was wrong. My parents didn't allow it, but their attitude only taught me that swearing was something you shouldn't do in front of authority figures. Swearing hurts nobody. I tried to convince Ricky of this, but he wouldn't believe me. To him, swearing was always wrong. Perhaps it was because I had always questioned authority, and maybe Ricky was one of the ones who never did. It's a trait that I notice in people now that I'm older, but probably didn't when I was ten years old.

Thinking back about Ricky, I find his attitude on swearing to be completely bizarre when contrasted to other things his parents instilled in him. Mainly, I find it mind boggling that they convinced him that swearing was always wrong, but they gave him guns. Guns kill things. What does swearing do again?

Ricky had a B.B. gun when I first met him, but my parents wouldn't let me play with it. Later, Ricky's parents bought him real guns.

In 5th grade, I moved across town, and rarely saw Ricky after that. The last time I saw him was when I was in seventh grade, during some kind of school event where they invite all the parents to come to the elementary school in the evening and watch the kids sing or some such.

"Hey, Paul," he said, passing me as everyone was leaving.

"Ricky, hey!"

After that, I kept thinking I should give him a call. He was, after all, the first friend I had made when I moved. I thought it would be nice to hang out again.

One day, I arrived home from school to find myself greeted by bad news.

"Hey, remember the first friend you made when we moved here?" my sister asked as I walked in the door.

"Yeah," I said, "Ricky."

"He's dead."

Ricky, while home alone, had accidentally shot himself. He bled to death. He was in sixth grade.


Been caught stealing.

When I was 20, I picked up a young hitchhiker. He was only a couple years older than me, a college drop out, and an anarchist. He told me that in 1999, he had only spent $99, and he was incredibly proud of that. He had been on the road for a couple years, "mostly partying," but occasionally stopping to do activist work. The majority of his meals were shoplifted from grocery stores.

"It's all about being confident, man," he told me, "If you just walk in there like you're not doing anything wrong, and stick something in your pocket, nobody will know. I've never been caught. I've been doing this for years."

"Maybe I should try that."

"Yeah," he said, "It's a great way to say 'fuck you' to the system."

Encouraged by his words, I decided to give it a shot. I went to a grocery store, selected two fine avocados, and walked through the aisles with them. It took me a few minutes to gain the courage to stuff them in my pockets, and when I did, I could practically hear my heart thumping in my chest.

Be cool, I thought, be confident. Remember what the dude said.

I started walking out of the store, ears ringing from the high volume of blood being pumped through my body. I was sure somebody was going to stop me.

They didn't.

Shoplifting turned out to be an incredible thrill. After getting away with stealing avocados, I found myself stealing from grocery stores regularly. My friends and I would go into a store, swipe snack size bags of chip, box drinks, and other convenient items, and go have a picnic. Shoplifted food, even when not very good, was excellent because it was free. Soon, we began stealing other things. We didn't steal anything big or valuable, only silly little knick knacks and novelties. I liked to steal paperback books. I think the most expensive and large item I stole was a giant fighting robot model kit. My friends were sure I was going to get caught when I walked out of the toystore with it under my sweatshirt. The adrenaline rush from that heist was incredible.

We never felt bad about it because of the anarchist's smug rationalization: stealing from big chain stores is OK, because they are The Man, and they are always stealing from you and oppressing the working man. Filled with righteous (if not overly idealistic) indignation, my friends and I continued to steal stuff unabated for about a month after I picked up the hitchhiker.

And then I got busted.

I was on my way to visit a girl who lived a couple hours away from me. I was hungry, and had money, but knew there was free food at any grocery store. I picked a superstore in a chain that I had had luck with before.

I should have known they would be watching me. I was out in the middle of nowhere, and stuck out like a sore thumb. It was like being in the twilight zone, and every single person was whiter than myself and a little bit deformed. The first people I saw when I walked in were a pair of what I assume were brothers, because they shared one key feature. One was an incredibly obese man, the other was abnormally short and stumpy. Both had the exact same face.

I walked the aisles and picked up a can of pre-cooked macaroni and cheese with a pop-top lid, a pack of juice boxes, and a box of plastic silverware. The aisles of food were crowded, so I started perusing their other items. As I walked, I ripped open the silverware box and took out a fork, leaving the rest of the box in a pile of toys. I kept walking and removed one of the juice boxes from the pack, dropping the rest on a shelf. Going back to the toy section, I briefly considered stealing a yo-yo before I decided I didn't have enough time to work the package open. I stuffed the macaroni, juice box, and fork in my pockets and began to walk out.

As I headed for the door, I heard a numerical code announced on the intercom.

Fuck, I thought, I wonder if that's for me. Do they know? Should I put this stuff back?

I shook off my fear. They never know, I thought.

Seconds after I walked out of the store, I heard somebody behind me.

"Excuse me, sir, we need to talk to you about some merchandise that wasn't paid for."


I turned around and was escorted back inside by three large guys. They were very calm, and seemed to be making an effort to keep what was happening from being known to other customers.

"There's a hallway on the right," one of them told me as he walked a few feet behind me, "Go into the first door."

They took me into the security office and asked if I had any needles or anything. I told them I didn't, and they frisked me down, finding the stolen goods. They asked me if I had done anything like this before, and I told them that I hadn't. I told them I was a college student (which was true) and that I had a little money (which was true), but not enough that I wanted to spend it on food (also true). They ran a quick background check and found that I didn't have any kind of record.

"It's store policy that shoplifters will be charged ten times the cost of the stolen merchandise, but no less than $50 and no more than $250. The total cost of your items was $2.32, so we have to charge you the minimum, which is $50."

The guy explaining the situation to me didn't seem angry, and actually seemed kind of sad to be busting me for it.

"It's our option to call the police or not," he told me, "but given the understandability of the situation, we're not going to call them. However, if you get caught stealing in any of our stores again, it is our policy that the police will be called."

He wrote a number on a piece of paper and handed it to me.

"If you have any problems coming up with the $50, you can call this number and they can help you work out a payment plan."

They let me go, and I sent them a check about a week later. I never stole anything again.

Around the same time, one of my friends was caught stealing a toothbrush from Wal-Mart. They prosecuted her to the fullest extent of the law.


FTD completely sucks.

I hate the very idea of buying flowers. You buy them, you look at them for a while, and then you throw them away when they die. Unfortunately, girls are trained from a very young age to want "romance," which often translates into blatant materialism: they want useless, expensive rocks, or they want useless, expensive plants that will die not long after they are acquired. Until this point, I have resisted ever buying flowers for the most part, but I finally gave in and ordered my girlfriend some useless, expensive roses to commemorate our third anniversary. I kept asking her if I could buy her something that does anything, but she was bent on the useless, "romantic" stuff. I didn't want to buy them, but I wanted to make her happy.

I ordered her some flowers from FTD.COM. They were scheduled to arrive yesterday, July 11, which is the day that they are meant to commemorate. When I was placing my order, they even asked for her phone number, which implied that should there be any trouble reaching her, they would call.

The flowers never showed up. They never called. They never left a note.

I looked at their website, and it said that if the recipient is unavailable, they may leave it in a safe place or they may attempt to deliver it the next day. That would be fine, but it should have been stated on the order page. This isn't the kind of crap you order and receive whenever it arrives, this is the kind of crap you order to be delivered on a specific day. What really pisses me off is the fact that they ask for the recipient's phone number, which implies more effort on their part to make the delivery on time.

This morning, I took a look at my confirmation email and clicked on the customer support link. I filled out a delivery inquiry request. A few minutes later I got an email saying they received and processed my order, scheduled for delivery on the 11th, and they would let me know when they received delivery confirmation. Gee, thanks.

About an hour after the email, the flowers showed up in a soggy box.

"The bottom is really wet, so don't put it on carpet or anything," the delivery lady told me.

Flowers are a perishable item. A very expensive perishable item. A company in the business of selling silly sentimental shit knows that the people receiving it are sentimental about particular dates. One day late is not only the wrong day, it's one day less that she can enjoy her flowers before they die.

FTD sucks. If you want flowers delivered, look in your phone book. There's a flower store down the street from my place, but I'm such a lazy bastard I just used the internet. I've learned my lesson, though. I'll never buy anything from FTD again.


John and the cap gun.

If you buy a cap gun, or any kind of toy gun, it will probably have a bright orange plug stuck in the tip of the barrel. The manufacturers put those there so that they're easily identified as toys; they are there so nobody sees a kid holding a toy gun and shoots them with a real gun. When I first got my license, my friends and I would drive around with a cap gun, pulling drive-bys on kids, usually ones we knew. Our cap gun was fairly realistic looking, and we had popped the little orange plug out of the tip, but I'm fairly confident that nobody we shot with it ever thought the gun was real. Our intent wasn't to seriously terrorize people, and only one person ever reacted like they thought the gun was real.

As teenagers tend to do, we were driving to the mall for absolutely no good reason. We had nothing to buy, no real money to spend, and we never got chicks when we went. Still, it was a destination, and that's really the only important thing when you first start driving. When we had almost reached our destination, a car quickly veered in front of me directly before a stop light. I stomped the brakes, coming to an abrupt stop behind the guy who had cut me off, who was now waiting at the head of the line for the light to turn green.

"Motherfucker!" I said.

John, who was in the passenger seat, leaned as far as he could out the window and began firing the cap gun at the guy in front of us. He had unloaded the clip (or ring of caps, as it were) before the rest of us could even react.

A lady in the car next to us on John's side saw what he was doing and freaked out. She floored her accelerator and took off into the intersection, nearly smashing into another car before turning and speeding away.

"John!" I shouted, "What the fuck, man?"

"Yeah," said one of the guys in the back seat, "you can't do shit like that."

"I'm sorry," John said, "I wasn't thinking."

The guy in front us didn't react at all. When the light turned green, we went on our way.


Steven rats me out.

I was in trouble for disruptive behavior in my first grade class, so the teacher filled out a disciplinary form and sent me to the office. She sent along a classmate, Steven, to make sure I got there.

"Let me see that," I said on the way to the office. Steven handed me the form, and I folded it up and slipped it under a cabinet in the hallway.

"You have to go to the office," Steven said.

"No," I told him, "It's alright now. Let's just go back."

We went back to class, where Steven promptly told the teacher what I had done.


Mrs. Dunn and my Nintendo.

In fifth grade, I brought my Nintendo to school. It became something that the students would get to use as a reward for various things, like doing well on a test or acting like a decent human being.

One day, I got in trouble and had to sit in the corner by myself. I sat and watched as two of my classmates played my Nintendo. It reminded me of an earlier experience I had, when I had to watch a former friend play video games while I was forced to sit on a couch in the next room. Aggravated by this memory, and the fact that it was my Nintendo, I decided to take action.

I got out of my desk, walked over to where my classmates were sitting and enjoying themselves, and turned off the Nintendo.

"Hey!" said one of them.

"It's my Nintendo," I told them, "and I don't want you to play it anymore." I unplugged the wires, picked up the main box, and started walking back to my desk in the time-out corner. The only authority figure in the room, a teacher's aide named Mrs. Dunn, saw what was happening and came after me.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"It's my Nintendo, and I'm doing whatever I want with it."

She tried to take it out of my hands, but I resisted. I turned and tried to run, but she grabbed me from behind. I squirmed out of her grasp, but not before she dug her fingernails into my chest, leaving long red scratches that only bled a little, but stung a lot. Shocked that she had assaulted me, I relinquished the video game system.

When the real teacher came back to class, I tried to tell her that Mrs. Dunn had attacked me. I showed her the gouge marks on my chest, and was told that I must have made them myself. When I went home, I told my parents, who also told me I must have mutilated my own body.

In retrospect, I think it's entirely possible that she didn't actually mean to claw me like a crazy homeless cat woman, but there's absolutely no way she didn't know she was responsible. She certainly never admitted to it, though. This was the same woman who knew I hadn't set a knife on fire in the classroom's closet, but didn't do anything to help me when I got blamed for it.

Sometimes I wonder why I have such a problem with authority figures, and then I remember shit like this.


Coolmongous - I Draw Cartoons

You think you're all cool and stuff, well, Tommy draws cartoons.


The humorless, stupid coworker.

I was working as a clerk, keeping track of a bunch of items that always went to the same group of people. We would hand out the goods in the morning and throughout the day, and then take them all back in the afternoon. I had one coworker who was my age, and the rest were old ladies. I think the youngest one was in her fifties.

I got along with the old ladies pretty well. They all seemed to like me, except for one: Alice. Alice hated me. She thought I was a slacker and had a poor attitude, and would always get on my case about how I needed to take incredibly trivial things incredibly seriously. I thought she was humorless, work obsessed, and just plain old bat shit crazy. There was no parking where we worked, so on a few occasions I rode in with her and another old lady in the morning. Each time, she would talk incessantly about what she was going to do that day at work, which would invariably be the same exact things she had been doing every day for the many years that she had worked there. She'd also conspicuously hide her purse every time I got into the car.

Alice would always try to get me in trouble for silly little things. Any time I didn't do things exactly by the book, she would go to my boss's office and tell on me. In nearly every instance, my boss, who loved me, would either not care, or think I was just awesomely efficient with my methods. There was only one time when she succeeded in getting me in any trouble at all, but it was so minor that I was entertained by the event.

Bored out of my skull one day, I wrote "Bill McDonald has Slavinizer #639b" on a sticky note and stuck it on the side of my computer monitor. It followed the format of other notes we'd make when somebody was in a hurry and/or the computers weren't working correctly. We'd write something like this down so we could enter it into the computer as soon as we could. I don't know what motivated me to write this note, but Bill McDonald did not exist, nor did an item called a Slavinizer. I assumed the note would either go unnoticed or get a couple laughs. If anybody made any effort to look for Bill or his Slavinizer, they would quickly see that neither was in the computer or in the books, and was obviously made up.

The day after I wrote the note, the phone at my desk rang.

"Second floor dispensing, this is Paul," I said.

"Bill McDonald has Slavinizer #639b," a voice said. It was my boss. "Does that ring any bells?"

"Yeah," I said, "I wrote that yesterday."

"Stop. I want you to stop," she said, her tone firmer than usual.

"Uh, OK," I said, wondering what the problem was.

"Alice said she spent three hours looking for Bill and the Slavinizer yesterday," she told me.

"Uh, oh, alright," I said.

Immediately after I got off the phone, my boss came to my desk.

"Are you OK?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I said, confused.

"I'm sorry for yelling at you, but I had to," she said quietly, "Alice was really mad."

"Yeah, you told me."

"Don't do that anymore, OK?"

"Yeah, sure."

My boss walked away, and I told the rest of my coworkers that Alice is stupid. I made sure everybody knew that I wasn't going to apologize to her because she had to go to the boss instead of talking to me directly. The old ladies gossipped constantly, so I know it got back to her.


Everybody freak out: a minor may be trying to purchase alcohol.

I was at the local corner store, affectionately dubbed by neighbors as "The Stop and Rob." After waiting in line for a minute, I got to the counter, separated from the clerk by a sheet of bullet proof glass. She was a teenage girl who I had never seen before, but looked like she could be related to the guys I usually see, one of whom was taking another customer at his own window a few feet away. I put my lone item, a forty ounce bottle of beer, in the revolving portion of the window, expecting her to swing it around to her side so she could bag it and take my money. Instead of acknowledging my presence in any way, she picked up a fluorescent orange card and held it up, staring behind me. I turned and saw that the only person behind me was a guy pushing a broom. He didn't notice her, so she started pounding the glass and waving the card frantically.

"Do you have some ID?" asked the guy with the broom when he noticed the card.

"Yeah," I said, handing it to him.

He glanced at it and said, "He's 23."

By this point, the other clerk behind the glass had noticed what was going on, and was laughing.

"We know that guy," he said.

"I've never seen him before," said the guy with the broom.

"He's in here all the time, we don't card him anymore," laughed the guy behind the counter.

The girl put my beer in a bag and took my money. I never understood why she didn't even ask for my ID if she thought I was underage. Everybody who has ever denied me alcohol had at least done that.


The eighteen year old eighth grader.

Jeremy came to my school when I was in twelfth grade and he was in eighth. I was 18 at the time, and so was he. He was a tall, skinny kid who the loud racists would always harass for being "too black", despite the fact that he was a pasty white kid. I never talked to him, but he seemed like an alright guy.

Dave was a guy from my grade, who I had never gotten along with. I met him in eighth grade, when he had told me that seventy five percent of all black people were in jail. Another time, for no reason, he had grabbed me by the shirt and yelled in my face that he was going to kick my ass. Dave was among the most vocal critics of Jeremy, and had apparently been trying to start a fight with him since he began attending our school. Jeremy always declined.

One morning while waiting for school to begin, I saw a huge crowd of people run towards the cafeteria. Very few things can make teenagers swarm in such a manner, so I assumed somebody must be fighting. I got up and ran, following the crowd.

The cafeteria was silent except for the packing sounds of Jeremy pounding Dave's face. The fight, as far as I could tell, was entirely one sided, with Dave covered in his own blood and trying to block Jeremy's blows. The fight was very brief, and was broken up by the principal. I later heard some students claim that Jeremy had punched the principal, but I certainly didn't see anything like that.

Dave was hustled off somewhere to be cleaned up, and Jeremy was being lead to the office.

"You fucking racist people. You fucking racist people. I never wanted any of this shit," he said, walking slowly, his hands dripping with Dave's blood. He looked genuinely saddened by what had happened. I felt bad for him because the Nazi stoners used to mess with me, too, but I was never big enough to smash one of their faces in. He was going to get kicked out of school basically because of their constant harassment.

"Come on, Jeremy, let's go," said one of the teachers who had shown up. He spoke very softly in a manner that made me wonder if he was sympathetic to Jeremy's plight.

"I didn't want any trouble...all you fucking racist people..." he said, walking into the office.

Jeremy was 18, so the police came to school and arrested him. I never saw him again, but Dave was back in school the next week.

A few years ago, Jeremy was charged with bludgeoning two people to death with a hammer during a robbery. He was found not guilty. He has three tear drops tattooed on his face that people say represent three lives that he has taken.


I got fired, so I have to work.

Megan was neither intelligent nor physically attractive. In fact, I had previously thought that she looked somewhat deformed; she lacked a proper chin and had the slightly droopy eyes of a burnout. She was racist in an ignorant but innocent country girl way, and had a boyfriend who was racist in a mean redneck way. Megan had no problem lying to him constantly as she fooled around behind his back with any guy willing to talk to her. I know I never would have started talking to her at all had I not been really drunk at a friend's party. She sat with me, completely sober, and listened to me ramble on for hours, and then wrote her phone number on my hand before she left. I probably never would have called her had I not just broken up with my girlfriend of almost three years, but some female company sounded nice.

For several weeks, we hung out all the time. She would get off work, go hump her boyfriend and clean up his apartment, and then come see me. I didn't feel guilty about anything I did, because her boyfriend was a Nazi. I was worried he might find out and kick my ass, but she assured me that he would never find out. Sweet girl. It didn't bother me too much that she would give her phone number to guys when she was out with me, or that she fooled around with nearly all of my friends, because she wasn't mine to begin with. I was happy to have a girl to make out with, and I thought she looked hot when she'd wear my jacket, covered in patches and spikes and safety pins. She was my fake punk girl.

"Do you want to go to a punk rock show?" I asked her one day, "The Queers are playing with Screeching Weasel in a couple weeks. It's going to be great."

"I don't know, I'm kind of scared. Do girls go to those things?"

"Yeah, lots of them. It's going to be a lot of fun. The Queers are the best."

"Alright," she said, "I'm in."

I had been having bad luck going to shows only to learn that they were sold out, so I bought tickets as soon as I could. I wasn't going to risk missing my chance at seeing The Queers and hanging out with Megan on the same day. It was going to be great.

The night before the show, I called her.

"Hey, you ready for that show tomorrow? It's gonna be so fucking great."

"Well," she said, hesitating, "I got fired yesterday, so I have to work."

I didn't care that I had bought her a ticket she wasn't going to use. I ended up selling it to some kid outside of the show when we got there. I did, however, care that she couldn't even be bothered to make up an excuse that made any sense at all. Fucking bitch!

I never spoke to her again.


The failed classroom riot.

My eighth grade math teacher was this little old lady who was putting in her last year before her retirement. My friends and I were needlessly mean to her, probably only because we were assholes and we figured out that we could get away with all kinds of tomfoolery in her class.

One of my staple gimmicks for her class was to swear loudly, but leave out the last consonant of a word so that I could get laughs without getting in trouble. I usually did this when she gave an assignment, indicating my displeasure with the work load.

"The assignment for tomorrow is page 42, problems 12-36."

"Shiiiiiiiiiiihh! What the fuuuuuuuuuuhh? Motherfuuuuuuh! Shiiiiiiiih!"

Some of my friends were in her class earlier in the day, and would always ask for blow jobs in class.

"Whoever solves this extra credit puzzle first will get a prize."

"What is it? A blow job?"

The kids would all laugh, and she would laugh, too. She must have asked somebody what it meant, though, because one day they said it and she started yelling at them never to use language like that again. This was one of only two times I had ever heard of her yelling at somebody, and yelling was the worst punishment she ever gave out

The other time I remember her yelling was when my friends came up with a way to make fun of her name in a particularly juvenile way. Her name was Mrs. Berenda, and somebody figured out that you could say "Mrs. Bare-end-a" for a cheap laugh. As soon I heard that, I had to go to class and say it to her. She started yelling at me and threatening to write me up, but I don't think she ever sent anybody to the office.

I had been obsessed with the idea of a schoolhouse riot, and one day when she stepped out of the room for a moment, I figured I'd give it a shot. The room was quiet immediately after she stepped out, because we were supposed to be working on an assignment. I got up from my desk.

"Riot!" I yelled, and flipped the desk in front of mine. Everybody just looked at me for a few seconds, and then the door opened. I sat down quickly as Mrs. Berenda came back into the classroom. She saw me sitting down, and knew I had flipped the desk.

"Paul, what happened to the desk?" she asked.

"I don't know," I told her, "It was like that when I got here."

She asked me politely to put it right side up, which I did. I was really disappointed, though, because I had envisioned everybody going crazy and smashing things up, but instead I had just gotten crazy looks from the entire class.


Drive safely.

I wrote this song a few years back. This is a cover and animation by Tommy. Fuckin' sweet, dude.