Nine Items From the Sky

I’m on an airplane.

Usually, being on an airplane comes with an immense feeling of satisfaction for me. A sensation of victory. Usually, sitting in the runway, I feel like I’m sitting in the locker room after an incredibly close, gutty win.

Because usually, I got to the airport with 31 minutes before takeoff, got my boarding pass with only 30 seconds to spare before the cutoff, stressed out mightily in the security line, ran through the terminal to the gate (where the lady says, “Are you Timothy?” and then says to the other lady, “Okay, we’ve got everyone.”), walked through the aisle of the plane and made eye contact with 85 people, moved someone’s coat to find space for my carry-on bag, and collapsed triumphantly into my seat. Nothing feels better.

Today, though, was different. I’m leaving Washington, DC, where I spent the last four days (in 130 degree weather—good old DC summers), and someone who I thought was a friend had told me that the cab ride to Washington/Dulles could take up to an hour and a half. Foolishly trusting this advice, I got in a cab around 4pm (for a 6:10 flight), only to arrive at the airport at 4:40—ninety minutes prior to my scheduled departure time.

It’s like being all geared up for a big, anticipated boxing match—only the other guy never shows up. So they hand you the victory belt—but it doesn’t feel like a victory. It feels like a letdown.

So here I am on this plane. Not a winner. Not a champion. Just another guy on the plane.

At least, I thought, there are good sports on. During my time in the air, the Red Sox are playing the Yankees (en route, as it turns out, to a hilarious 8-0 record against them this season), and the NBA finals are coming on.

I started flipping around and quickly realized that the Yankees game was gonna be on the YES Network and I would be out of luck there. But at least I had the NBA. At least I could spend the flight rooting against Kobe Bryant. But wait-- did JetBlue carry TNT??? I flipped through the stations nervously and yes! TNT. Except there was Will Smith, and I was watching a movie. Oh yeah—the finals is on ABC. Okay, no problem. So I flipped to ABC…and apparently…JetBlue carries every station in existence except ABC. I started thinking of possible explanations—some weird legal reasons why an airline would have to leave out a major network, and then got extremely bored with this internal topic of conversation and out came the laptop.

Indeed, the only solution would be items. Nine items.

I went to my five-year college reunion last weekend. Damn, I gotta say, life moves damn fast. I was just at my five-year high school reunion and now I’m at my five-year college reunion like two days later. How did that happen? And suddenly people are saying things like, “I graduated college in ’09” and I think about how people used to gasp at how young I was when I’d say I graduated high school in ’00 and now ’00 is kind of a long time ago.

But there I was, at my reunion. Reunions are very silly events. A few notes from the weekend:

-I had forgotten how unattractive the average Harvard student is. Harvard really has a knack for that.

-When the night starts, the percentage of people you end up talking to that you genuinely want to be talking to is about 10%. After three drinks that number moves to 25%. After six drinks it’s up to about 50%.

Still, that leaves a lot of people you don’t really want to talk to. As you interact with the 500-person crowd in the big tent, the key is to avoid eye contact with those people. The problem is, you also really want to look around and see who’s there, so eye contact is inevitable. Upon making eye contact with someone you don’t really want to talk to, one of three categories of interactions takes place:
  • Category 1: You barely knew them. Maybe you had a class with them but were never really friends. Maybe you hooked up with them one random night and both of you want to pretend it never happened. In a Category 1 case, you can get away with the smile and wave from afar and you can move on. But you have to be careful. If the smile or wave or eye contact goes on for even a second too long, you blew it and this suddenly becomes a Category 2. You must look away after one or two seconds to preserve the Category 1 interaction.
  • Category 2: You were kind of friends with them but not really. Maybe your friend was friends with them. Maybe you went out on a date with them but nothing came of it. Maybe they lived down the hall from you and for that year you got to know them a little bit. But one thing is for sure—you knew them too well to get away with a Category 1 interaction. In this case, that would be dickish. You have no choice but to smile with the “Hey! You’re here! What a pleasant surprise!” look on your face, walk over to them, and give them a hug or handshake. And it is at this moment that you must have all your wits about you. This is the moment of truth. Because Category 2 interactions can transform into hideous Category 3 interactions in the drop of a hat if you screw this next moment up. What you need to do is say, “Great to see you!” or “How’ve you been?” and then start moving onwards. If done correctly, a Category 2 interaction should last about 10 seconds and no one’s feelings will be hurt. Of course, there are many pitfalls—like saying, “What have you been up to?” or “Where are you living?”—that will immediately land you in a Category 3 interaction with no escape.
  • Category 3: Sometimes you’re here because you have no choice. Sometimes you’re here because you botched a Category 2. But you’re here and there’s no escaping—for at least three minutes. Some people you simply knew too well in college to have a Category 2 interaction with. With these people, that would be dickish. Maybe you were good friends freshman year but not really after that. Maybe you dated them for a month. Maybe they lived one door down from you in the dorm and hung out in your room a lot one year. But two things are for certain: You don’t want to catch up with this person, and you have to do so for at least three minutes. And that’s just the minimum. Sometimes a Category 3 can drag on for upwards of ten minutes. The whole time, you’re trying to figure out where the friends you were just with went, and where that girl you wanted to talk to has now disappeared off to. They’ve all drifted elsewhere, but not you—you’re not going anywhere. You’re gonna hear about this person’s job. You’re gonna hear their feelings on their current city. You’re gonna give them the compressed summary of your life that you could say in your sleep by now. Fake laughter will make an appearance. You're in a Category 3 interaction and that's that. There are two possible forms of exit—1) a natural wrap-up like, “Cool, great seeing you” and 2) the active escape—something like, “I gotta run to the bathroom,” or “I’m gonna get a drink” (you have to make sure they don’t also need a drink), or sometimes you can just mutter something like, “Okay wait a second, I’ve gotta run over there for a second and see if the thing is over there, but I’ll see you in a minute.”
Of course, the plus side of all this is that it’s wonderful to see one of your friends in a Category 3 interaction. If you’re really good (and I am), you can actually swap Category 3 interactions with an unsuspecting friend. If you catch a glimpse of one of your friends walking by—someone who also knows the person you’re stuck talking to—you can pull the old, “Hey! Come here for a second, you’ve gotta hear this story she was just telling me.” Your friend knows what you’re doing but they can’t escape now—you’ve got them and they know it. The three of you stand there for 15 seconds until you take your phone out of your pocket, hold it to your ear and say, “Hey. Oh yeah. Wait, what?” and then you say to the other two, “Hold on, I’ll be back in a second,” and you’re out. You’ve successfully passed a Category 3 off to your friend.

When I first purchased the rights to Winston in 2005, I was made aware of a very troubling truth: there was a chance—a 50-50 chance in fact—that Winston was…a female.

I spent most of the last three years trying not to think about this twisted possibility. Put yourself in my shoes—imagine you have a life partner, and ever since you have known this person, you have known him or her to be of one particular gender. But you had been told long ago that at some point down the road, it may become clear that your life partner is, in fact, of the other gender. This would bother you, would it not?

You see, I am a homosexual pet owner. That’s right—a homosexual pet owner. By that, I do not mean that I am a gay man who owns pets. Rather, it means that I prefer to own male pets. If I cannot, in good conscience, say “Good boy” to an animal, I would prefer that animal to be banished from my awareness. When I come across other people’s pets, I will invariably say “Good boy” to them. When the pet happens to be a girl, the owner gets extremely rattled and upset and says, “It’s a girl.” I’ll then pretend I didn’t hear anything and say “Good boy” once again.

But other people’s pets are one thing—the thought of owning a female pet is unfathomable. You can’t fake it forever with your own life partner.

Anyway, the guy at the pet store had told me that after a few years, the bottom of a male tortoise’s shell will curve a bit inward (for mounting purposes). So, he said, after three or so years, I’d be able to determine Winston’s gender by observing whether his shell had curved in or not.

Until recently, I had been too nervous to look—the thought of three years passing and seeing a flat bottom left me too afraid to investigate. Then, last week, I took a deep breath and clutched Winston’s shell in my hand and prepared to lift him—it was time…

And I noticed an undeniable curve to his shell! Winston is, and will continue to be for the next 140 years, a dude. Phew.

I moved apartments last week. It was one of the top five worst experiences of my life. Of course, everything was as difficult as it could possibly have been—from going through hell to get a city permit to reserve street space for my pod, to buying boxes but not enough and tape but not enough in the same trip, to the elevator breaking halfway through my moving day (with my friend Chantal trapped inside, hilariously).

Stuff is the devil. At some point, I strive to be able to fit every possession of mine into two suitcases (right now I’d need about 30).

On the topic of the city permit—anytime I have to interact closely with a bureaucratic process, it makes me want to desperately move to Tuvalu, get a bungalow on the beach, eat only coconuts, and never come back. Planning to set up a branch of my company in New York in three months, I may at some point be forced to disappear forever. If so, don’t fret—I’m simply in Tuvalu, never to return.

I’ve seen two movies recently—Earth and Up—and they were both phenomenal. It made no difference that I had seen all the footage in Earth before (it’s all taken from Planet Earth)—seeing it on a big screen with big music is pure glory. As for Up, I was both drunk and wearing 3-D glasses—basically the pinnacle of existence.

I will say—having to go to the bathroom during movies is one of the most stressful experiences I have. It leaves me with two terrible options—hold it and spend the whole movie miserable, or step over everyone and sprint to the bathroom, followed by stepping over everyone again and then trying to figure out what I missed. The only thing worse than that is having to go to the bathroom on a flight when you're in the window seat and the other two people in your row are sleeping. The absolute worst are the times you finally gain the courage to wake them up, you go to the bathroom, come back to your seat, and then have to go again 45 minutes later because you had coffee and coffee makes you have to go twice in an hour span. This happened recently and I was too fearful and abashed to wake them up again so I stepped over them. You heard me—I’m a 27-year-old man and I stepped on the armrest and walked over two strangers. They didn’t wake up—but nearby people were staring intently. Then when I came back the aisle guy had woken up—undoubtedly baffled as to how I had gotten out of my seat.

I finally learned what Twitter was. And I started “tweeting” (I feel like a d-bag saying "tweeting"). I enjoy it, because I’m weird and I like typing random things and posting them on the Internet and because I love finding new ways to procrastinate. But I must say—I’m not really sure why everyone else likes it. It’s like, you go on and read the last few tweets by other people and you’re like, “Uh huh.” Then you write your own and post it and you’re like, “I guess that’s it,” and you shrug and go do something else. Again, I like it because I’m weird, but I can’t quite figure out why it has caught on.

Last year, I wrote about an extended honeymoon phase I had with a silly putty I had come across. Eventually, we went our separate ways. But I have recently found myself enamored once again—this time with a green “sticky hand.” There are few things I enjoy as much as a good old fashioned sticky hand.

If you missed NBC’s recent “Inside the White House” special, you can watch it here. It was really fun to watch. At one point, Obama decides to head out and pick up burgers for everyone for lunch. So he goes in a low-key motorcade to a "Five Guys" restaurant and just heads in, unannounced. Of course, everyone starts screaming and convulsing and taking cell phone pictures, and he’s like, “whatever” and orders 10 burgers for himself and his staff back at the White House.

How shocking must it be to be sitting there on your fat ass, eating a burger, and in walks the president, unescorted. More so, how incredibly weird must it be to be the president. You’re like an alien, or God, or Michael Jordan, or some combination of all of them. I like that Obama seems to have a higher awareness and appreciation than other presidents of the fact that he’s the president and that that’s mad cool. Like, he definitely pulled this whole burger thing because he knew it would be aired on NBC, and wanted to be like, “Okay, so, I’m just gonna go get a burger—because I can—and watch how much everyone freaks out. Cool, right?” P.S. I’m deeply obsessed with Obama.

There are hard tasks. There are monumental challenges. And then there’s ironing. I found myself in a quandary the other day. I was on the road. I had four shirts, and all of them were ridiculously wrinkled. And I was about to interview people—and what kind of dick interviews someone with a wrinkled shirt.

So I took out the iron. It went something like this.

(I actually wrote out in detail what happened before remembering that I had been here before on this blog. It's frightening how similar what I wrote just now was to what I wrote over three years ago. Basically identical ironing experiences. Good to know I learn.)

Apparently the number zero didn’t really exist until recently. And then apparently in the 9th century the Hindus were like, “Oh yeah, duh,” and invented zero—and it revolutionized mathematics. Wait, really? How? Why did it take thousands of years of humans doing math before someone figured out that a symbol for zero was important? That’s like someone saying, “For over a century since the invention of the light bulb, people suffered from the bright bulbs hurting their eyes, until the revolutionary invention of the lampshade in 2002.” Or, “After decades of people painstakingly carrying their luggage, in the 1990’s suitcase manufacturers invented the suitcase with wheels, revolutionizing the way people transported their luggage when traveling.” Oh wait, that actually happened.

Alright, enough items—I have to go to the bathroom. And I’m in the window seat. And the aisle guy is sleeping. Shit.


Emperor Paolo said...

Thanks for this post. You're funny.

Emperor Paolo said...

what's your twitter account????

I wanna start following you and your wit.

Anonymous said...

I don't I'm good ,following
this is like being a fan of
a weekly article appearing
every month.Rather be a fan
of you and your wit instead
of you and your twit ,don't
know what they call it.

aisle guy helmed

aisle guy's idea

aisle guy ...

Anonymous said...

Do you realize that Christ is being glorified thru the changes in your life?

Anonymous said...

no, i didn't realize. interesting

Anonymous said...

So enjoyable and funny. If you write a book I'll buy it.

Anonymous said...

Don't play this:

Unless you're as masochistic as I am. Then play it until your fingers hurt. I thought it couldn't happen either.

Anonymous said...

Your depiction of grandma and grandpa had me laughing so hard I needed kleenex and a run to the bathroom so I didn't pee in my pants. All old people are somewhat alike but I could hear them and picture this so it was hysterical to me. What was even funnier was the realization that Grandpa would forget that he left his teeth at home and during the whole week at the cape panic when he noticed he didn't have them and start searching. Also, the reason you were left to drive them is because you are the only one patient enough to do so! Thanks for the laugh I needed it!

CoolAsLemonade said...

Reminds me of this plane ride where I was in the aisle seat (I hate aisle seats!) and woke up just in time to see this dude swing over my head in an attempt to escape to the restroom! Needless to say, I was very confused for a couple of seconds.

That couldn't have been you, could it??