A Thin Line.

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A few days ago I received some feedback about my blog. I was sharing with my friends how excited I was that I had recently hit the 1,000 followers benchmark, and how astounded I was that that many people were reading what I had to say. (By “reading”, I mean receiving email updates and deleting them, thinking it’s spam.) As I was reveling in this small personal victory, one of my friends told me that he was no longer going to be reading my blog. When I asked him why, he told me that he thought that what I chose to write was mean, as I made fun of people I encountered in order to entertain others. I was really taken aback by this statement, as I had never once considered that I was hurting anyone by trying to make people laugh.

Although initially I was incredibly upset, I took a few days to really think about this critique. Was I a mean person? Were the things I had said too harsh? I sat down that night and read every single post I had ever written, pouring through my words to see if I had been offensive, rude, or petty. What I discovered was that I had been making fun of people. Honestly most of the entries were making fun of myself, but there were also times when I had mocked people for their choices, words, or actions as I sought laughs from other people. So if this is the case, then why am I still not convinced that I am a cruel or judgmental person?

I’ve thought about this dichotomy relentlessly. Some people believe that there is no line between humor and judgment, and others are steadfast in the belief that some things are too sensitive to be joked about. I exist somewhere between these two schools of thought, because I know that words can be extremely painful, even when meant in jest. But does that mean we tiptoe around each other, never poking fun at the ridiculousness that exists in the world? It boils down to whether or not you’d rather exist in world full of both laughter and pain, or one completely void of any emotion. Experience everything. Or experience nothing.

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When I first decided to take a chance and start this blog, my dad gave me the book Forever, Erma, which is a compilation of columns written by a humorist named Erma Bombeck. She has become a role model for me, mostly because I love funny women, but also because of how she makes her seemingly ordinary life extraordinarily funny.  Erma Bombeck was a newspaper columnist who wrote about her life as a suburban housewife during the 1960s to the 1990s. She wrote of her children, her neighbors, her husband, herself. She poked fun at the shortcomings of marriage, motherhood, and society in general. Does this mean she hated her husband? Wished she had never had kids? Of course not. There is an underlying tone of great love and admiration for her quirky family and the peculiar habits of people she had met throughout her life. Her writing encouraged people to stop taking themselves so seriously. To laugh at yourself and to laugh at each other.

Although my writing is nowhere near as eloquent or developed as hers, I hope that the people who truly know me (either in reality or through writing) realize that I share the same belief and outlook on life. Each person is uniquely odd, and to ignore or hide our eccentricities would be a great tragedy. My observations come from the fascination I have with how differently we all approach life, and how seemingly crazy we come across to each other. I suppose that there will always be people who think that me vocalizing this insanity is mean, but I will never stop finding comedy in people, life, or in myself. Without it, life would become far too mundane.

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The truth is that I need these people in my life. I need the man standing in front of me in line at Wal-Mart wearing just a vest with no shirt underneath. I need the woman at the red light next to me plucking her eyebrows in her rearview mirror. They enrich my life, and I hope these people need me too. They need to see me wear the same pair of leggings three days in a row, or witness me running into a door frame because apparently depth perception is an issue. We are all that person, and I would never point the finger at someone else without first pointing it at myself. We all need these laughs and stories to share with each other and get us through the day. There are too many things in life where there is no humor at all, so I think we should find it where we can- in our friends, our family, and in the complete strangers we encounter each day.

Does the line get crossed? Sure. But I would much rather have crossed the line than to never have dared to get near it at all.

Halloweenies.

I don’t understand autumn. It seems as it if it only exists in people’s minds, some sort of illusion to help people transition from summer to winter. I don’t subscribe to the idea, because every year on October 25 I go to sleep naked with my air conditioner on and wake up the next morning with ice that needs to be scraped off my windshield. It’s jarring really, and my transition from one season to the other is very public and very awkward. It’s as if I’m not on the winter mailing list, and everyone else got their notice to start wearing turtlenecks a week in advance. I walk into a room wearing my usual shorts and old navy flips, and everyone scoffs at me from behind their knitted scarves and hot chocolates.

Aren’t you cold? Where is your jacket? You realize it’s 30 degrees outside today. I hear it’s supposed to snow.

WE WE WERE ALL WEARING SUN DRESSES AND EATING A PICNIC LUNCH YESTERDAY.

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Then, when CVS decides their holiday aisle is now autumn-themed, the rest of us jump on board and demand that everything taste and smell like pumpkin. Our coffee, food, candles, mouthwash, detergent- the more pumpkin-y the better. There is no time to adjust, and I am just forced to accept that I am about to be force-fed pumpkin treats for a week until all of a sudden society deems it winter and I need to start smelling like a peppermint. The pressure to smell how society wants me to smell is just too damn much.

Thankfully, there are a few things I enjoy about this season. The first is that it goes by extremely quickly. The moment halloween is over, everyone packs up their carving knives (Assumption: People own knives specifically for carving pumpkins) and turn on their Kenny G. holiday album. The second is watching people make complete fools of themselves on Halloween. It’s really the only holiday where people of all ages are all acting absurd at the exact same time. You don’t have to be part of a certain religion or social class to celebrate- the costumes, alcohol, and fun-size candy bars act as society’s great equalizers. And I love to spectate.

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I would say the majority of the people in this fine country take part in Halloween. Whether you’re handing out candy, taking your kids trick or treating, grinding with a man dressed as a unicorn at a club, or sitting in a jail cell next to Batman, Halloween has a place for everyone. Unfortunately, this is not a victimless holiday. There are always the people who exploit those who cannot control their own costumes- babies and pets. There are so many laws in this country against child and animal abuse, and yet we throw all of these rules out the window on October 31st because forcing a kid into a subway sandwich wrapper is a Kodak moment.

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This child is practically a newborn, and he has paper vegetables taped to his head. Let’s at least give him a fighting chance at life, people. Often you see pictures of kids pop up on Facebook, and you can see the fear in their eyes. They are horrified at what is happening to them, but they lack the brain capacity and motor skills to communicate with anything besides their facial expression. Here are some of the best worst:

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Constipation? Or fear?

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He clearly cannot breathe.

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Bring on the low self-esteem.

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You have got to be kidding me.

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This costume is actually called the Lil’ Stinker. Which is cute, until people are still calling him that in middle school.

I think when it comes to dressing up pets, their facial expressions are usually a little more straightforward than a baby’s. Their look easily tells you to jump off the nearest cliff.

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A good rule of thumb is that if you like the costume so much, just wear it yourself. Don’t force a minor or a harmless animal to suffer for your own amusement. The unfortunate part is that people probably would wear these costumes themselves. While a minority of people put a lot of time into their costumes and are extremely creative, the sad truth is that most girls just wear nothing and most guys just put on anything that will pass as a costume so they can get into the bar where the girls are wearing nothing. Or you’re like me and completely forget to plan a costume, so you wear a blackfit and stick stamps all over yourself and go as “blackmail.” Still one of the most creative moments of my entire life.

With the exception of my college years, I have never really been that big on participating in Halloween. I am not totally against it, and I actually did go out this year. My friends and I went to bar trivia, where we competed in a ruthless game against Wednesday Addams, Stuart Little, and two people in dinosaur costumes made completely of sponges. Even though our team name, the Halloweenies, should’ve given us trivia prowess, we sadly came in last place and I was home before 9:30. I didn’t actually dress up, but I was accosted by an adult baby on the way out of the bar, which was enough Halloween for me.

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Now that Halloween is over and November is upon us, the death of summer has finally settled in. In the time it took me to write this post, autumn has come and gone and it’s time to start unpacking your other set of carving knives (for turkey) and thinking of what you’re thankful for.

I’d love to hear about your Halloween costumes and/or experiences- which is a message I can send out to my now 1,000 followers! It’s flattering that there are 1,000 people who tolerate me enough to click a follow button on a right side bar. Please spread the word!

Tweet Tweet.

Well, it finally happened. After years of having the technological skills of dog with a low IQ, I was finally persuaded to get a Twitter. As if checking my email, using my blow dryer, and owning a printer weren’t enough technology for one day, now this is something else I will check out of guilt with pleasure several times a day.

I actually think it will be easier for me to share my critical musings with the world in less than 150 characters, and I most certainly will be able to update more frequently than I’d like to here. So, to my (ALMOST 1,000) followers, if you have twitter, please follow me at @hka210 if you’re interested in getting hourly updates on whether I am currently laying in bed or laying on my couch. It’s going to be a roller coaster of emotions.

New post coming soon! Hope to see you on the tweet side.

 

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Over the Hill.

Whoa. Has it almost been a month since I last wrote? I remember the good ol’ days when I had the luxury of being able to update every 2-3 days. Unfortunately that is not the case anymore now that my workload for school is kicking my butt. I am trying hard to balance working, relaxing, and going out with my Baltimore homefries, but it can be really difficult. Most of the time if I have to choose between going out on a weekend or sleeping, sleeping is going to win. This decision also might have something to do with the fact that sleeping is a no-pants, no-shoes activity.

When I have forced myself made the decision to leave the comfort of my bed, I have had some pretty interesting Baltimore experiences. This past weekend was the Fells Point Fun Festival, which is- you guessed it- people having fun in an area of the city called Fells Point. The area itself is pretty kitschy, with cobblestone streets, 87 Irish pubs, and a hot dog place that’s open 24 hours. (Honestly, if I’m going to eat a hot dog, it’s not going to be during normal business hours.) It’s right by the water, so it made for a nice setup when the streets were lined with vendors and the bars and restaurants had good food and drink deals. When one of my friends suggested we check out the festival last night to celebrate the end of mid-term week, I forced myself into jean shorts and Toms and made my way downtown.

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If you don’t understand this reference, you are too young to read my blog.

I decided to take the bus because I knew parking would be a nightmare. After waiting the standard 20-25 minutes after the scheduled pick-up time, I loaded the local free bus and took my seat near a transvestite and what I can only imagine to be his/her significantly older life partner. The transvestite, let’s call him/her Chastity, had her legs laying across his lover, let’s call her Marge, as they took up the entire back row of the bus. They appeared to have not seen a shower since the last time the government shut down, and I could clearly see Chastity’s bedazzled thong peeking out of her flared jeans. They were very loud and were making comments about nearly everyone that sat on the bus, but I risked potentially being called out by the dynamic duo in order to take the last remaining seat.

Now I am no stranger to interacting with insane people on public transportation, but I always make a point to never make eye contact. The second you do, they feel like that brief incidental moment was you begging for an invitation into their wonderland of insanity. I knew better this time. I sat with my eyes glued to my phone as I blocked out their conversation with the musical stylings of One Direction. We were all doing just fine for a few minutes until Chastity decided that this was a good time to give Marge an impromptu lap dance. She got up began to move in a way that I can only describe as twerking as Marge sat there with an unphased expression.

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I’m with you, Barbara.

This caused quite a bit of commotion on the bus, so my eyes naturally glanced upwards. That was all it took. Chastity and I made eye contact. Then the heckling began.

Chastity- HAHAHA LOOK MARGE I SCARED THE WHITE GIRL. SHE’S SO SCARED.

Marge- 

Chastity- SHE MUST THINK I’M SO CRAZY. DID I SCARE YOU, WHITE GIRL?

Me– …

Chastity- GIRL CAN’T HANDLE MY TWERKING. MARGE LOOK AT HER FACE! HAHAHA.

Marge– …

It went on like this for the remainder of the bus ride. Her pointing out my ethnicity as well as my various facial expressions. I wonder what Chastity’s end game was here. Does she actually want me to respond? “Why yes, I am a little disturbed that you are a man dressed as a woman gyrating on a senior citizen on a bus that smells vaguely of urine.” Because I’m the odd one in this situation.

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After finally being released from the bus, I shook off the run-in and made my way to the bar I was meeting my friends at. The reason why I like this area is because it is usually college or graduate students or other young professionals, and the bar we were headed to was going to be playing live music. As I neared the entrance to the bar, I started to notice something. Everyone around me was in their 40s or 50s. And they were all wasted.

Apparently most of these people had come earlier in the day for the festival, had a few too many beer samples, and then decided to stay out and relive their youth. Before I even stepped inside the bar, I witnessed:

– A 25 year old guy holding hands with a woman well into her 50s and asking her, “So, do you live around here?”

– A 50 year old man chasing his wife down the street because she was mad at him for taking shots with his friends, who I can only assume were other dads from the neighborhood.

– A woman running into a street sign and then a guy grabbing her hand and saying, “Ugh, come on Mom.”

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I felt as though I had stepped into the aftermath of a frat party gone horribly wrong, except for everyone was 40 years older than they were supposed to be. I’m all for middle-aged people having fun, but I think eventually you have to recognize that the time for shots and clubs has long passed and it’s more appropriate to drink wine coolers in the backyard with other people your age. People in their 20s should not be looking at you and judging you for your choices as they feel like the more responsible one in the room.

Despite the madness outside, I decided to check out the bar to see if the average age had gone down a few decades. I was met with this.

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I tried to make my way to the bar, but I was blocked by this herd of people dancing in the most horrific way I could imagine. Standing between me and a much needed cocktail was this man, probably in his late 40s, giving off what can only be described as a “polygamist vibe”. He was grinding on multiple blonde women at once, each with an equal opportunity to be his wife, as he sported khakis, brown sandals, and a shirt that indicated that he made his own granola.

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You know the type.

The women surrounding him had to be in their 50s, and it was hard to tell whether they had more red wine or Botox running through their veins. They had put on their shortest cocktail dresses for the occasion, and they were snapping selfies with each other as they made fools of themselves. I pulled up a bar stool and paid more attention to the horrific dancing, drinking, and debauchery going on around me than the band that was playing on stage. The good news was that if any of the divorcees ended up going home with the mustached men they were grinding with, there was zero chance of post-menopausal pregnancy occurring.

We only ended up staying for an hour or so because eventually we just couldn’t handle watching how badly these people were embarrassing themselves. In my opinion, these mistakes should be made when you’re young, and it was physically painful to watch someone my mother’s age slip and fall after throwing a dollar bill at the lead singer of the band.

I know there are many people, all of them in their 40s and 50s, who will disagree and say that age shouldn’t matter when it comes to having fun. I actually googled this topic and came across this lifestyle blog with a thread titled “Why do some old people try and act young and cool?” Here are my favorite responses.

#1)

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It’s really not helping your case to mention Atari, VCRs, and cassette tapes. Also, does driving without air bags make you more hip and dangerous than me? I think safety is cool.

#2)

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Yes.

#3)

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I wasn’t sure whether or not you were cool until I noticed that your icon is a bald eagle. PATRIOTISM.

#4)

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I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a book, but other than that this is a really well-constructed argument.

#5)

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You know, maybe tenente is right, and we should just let our elders “do what they do.” Although I’m 25 and I already occasionally feel too old to be out partying with the 21 year olds, I should just look away when I see my 2nd grade teacher doing a keg stand in the corner of the bar. Just don’t get mad at me when I no longer respect my elders.

“Develop your eccentricities when you’re young. That way, when you’re old, people won’t think you’re going gaga.” – David Ogilvy

Without.

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The internet gets weird after 2 AM. I honestly believe that they switch the content that shows up past a certain hour from normal things like current events, pop culture, and recipes to youtube videos of clowns and questionable life advice. I found myself the victim of such advice last night when I couldn’t sleep and decided to “stumble.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this online phenomenon, StumbleUpon is a site I stumbled upon came across my junior year of college. Essentially you just enter in your interests  and they generate random websites that you might enjoy. You can search for sites pertaining to photography, books, exercise, etc. My current interests are humor, bizarre/oddities, celebrities, and pictures of whales. It makes for a lovely time suck.

Occasionally StumbleUpon likes to be rude and throw in a website or two to keep your life in check. There have been times when I have found myself at sites entitled “No Boyfriend? No Problem!” and “10 Tips To Lose That Stubborn Belly Fat.” Just when I am running on a whale-photo high, StumbleUpon has to bring me back down to reality.

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By 4 AM, I had gone through my fair share of celebrity gossip (seriously what is happening to Miley Cyrus) before SU led me to a site with some semi-insightful life advice. The site told me that in order to create a more positive outlook I needed to stop complaining for 24 hours straight. They didn’t really explain what would happen after the 24 hours was over and I went directly back to whining, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least try to challenge myself. I decided I would start my 24 hour period right at that moment and see if I could go the entire day without complaining once.

Now, I’m not sure my sleepy brain fully thought this one through. I was also not given clear instructions. Am I allowed to complain in my head as long as I don’t vocalize it? What constitutes complaining? What if I just make really loud sighs but never actually use words to whine? If I am going to try to be a better person (for a day), I’m going to need a set of laid-out rules. Alas, I forged on with the experiment despite my confusion over how to actually “not complain.”

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To be honest, I’m not really sure I did this correctly. Apparently I am a massive whiner, so I would catch myself complaining pretty frequently. Instead of recognizing the oncoming complaint and stopping myself from saying it out loud, I took a more reactive approach. I would complain and then follow the complaint with “But I’m not complaining”, and then put a positive spin on the situation. Here are few examples:

– I could not for the life of me find this classroom. The layout of this building is so confusing and I would’ve been so mad if I were late to class. I’m not complaining though, it was kind of like a self-guided tour of the building. I’m actually super happy about it.

– Did this person seriously take up two parking spaces? How can anyone squeeze into the space next to them? How unbelievably rude. You know what, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions. They were probably just looking out for me by having me park further from the steps so I would get in some extra exercise. Really they are just promoting heart health.

– Doesn’t this class end at 11:20? Why does the professor always go until 11:30? Yeah, my schedule definitely says 11:20. Totally not a complaint though. I am getting an extra 10 minutes of education each day and I really enjoy the light jog to my next class that starts right at 11:30.

My friend pointed out that complaining and then making up a completely BS rationale for why it wasn’t a complaint was kinda defeating the purpose of the 24 hour self-challenge. I had attempted to stop complaining, but had in turn become a pathological liar. Because I would’ve been mad if I had been late to class, it was rude of this guy to take up two parking spaces, and I would like the opportunity for a bathroom break between classes. Complaints totally warranted.

Later on that day, my friends and I were discussing other things we could try to give up for 24 hours. Someone suggested an entire day without judging people. Another friend suggested 24 hours without peeing. Now, these are two of the things I do most frequently throughout the day, so I really don’t think I would have better success with those options.

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I think I may take a break on the 24 hour experiments for a while, but all this talk of giving up does make me think of the dread I feel when trying to decide to give up something for Lent every year. Granted, I don’t really participate in Lent because of religious reasons, I just do it because all my Catholic friends used to do it and I wanted to feel included. People always make the biggest deal over what they are going to spend 40 days without, and they usually do this while forgetting the actual meaning of why they are doing it in the first place.

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For the past few years I have tried to give up diet soda, which has been huge source of pain for me because of my raging addiction to Diet Dr. Pepper. I have honestly never made it the full 40 days, and I’m not even upset about it. After going 30 hours without drinking a soda, the relief I feel when I decide to give up on the Lent experience and pop open a can of diet cola is so worth the religious guilt. Hey, at least I pretended to try, right?

I am always curious to see what other people have chosen to give up. It seems the most popular sacrifices are sugar, chocolate, alcohol, Facebook, and other vices. You are supposed to pick something you really love so that you can truly feel the pain until Easter when you can eat and drink your favorite things twice as frequently as you were before you decided to give them up. I decided to do some Googling to see what other things people like to give up for Lent. I found a really helpful site called lifeteen.com that had their religious teens write in about what they had given up for Lent. I picked my favorites:

1) “This year I’m giving up shoes as often as possible. I’ll still wear shoes if I’m doing a work project or if I have to fly on a plane. But I’m going to avoid going to places that require shoes.” – Paul

I love that “doing work” and “flying on a plane” were the only two biggies for when Paul requires shoes. 

2)  “I gave up spoons and forks. I learned to use chopsticks. It was funny for my friends and made it easy to talk about Lent in a way that people were cool with. We laughed a lot.” – Matt

People did not laugh a lot. People laughed the first time you made a walrus-face with chopsticks and then it wasn’t funny anymore.

3) “One year I gave up my bed. I slept outside in a tent. And I live in Canada! So it was well below freezing! I even kept a blog on Myspace (that’s all there was at the time!) Another year I made a few shirts out of burlap, and wore one under my regular clothes for all of Lent. Both were hard, but really helped me those years.” – Brandon

I’d really love some clarification as to how wearing burlap under all your clothes helped you through hard times. Apparently I’ve had the wrong idea for a while about how to make myself happy.

4) “Usually during Lent, on top of giving up something we love but don’t need, we say that any money that is found in the laundry, couches, and anywhere else was God’s money and we gave it to the poor. I remember one of the first years we did this, I found a $20 bill in a parking lot.” – Alyssa

That year Alyssa donated $20.07 to her local charity.

5) “Getting to the 3rd floor using stairs not escalator/elevator.” – Francisca

3rd Floor?! Damn girl, your calf muscles must be HUGE!

6) “I’ve adopted a priest in Chile… I offer daily prayers and sacrifices for Father Juan Nunez!” – Tony

Does he get his own room?

7) “I didn’t do it for all of Lent, but for Holy Week last year I gave up my pillow. Honestly, at first it was fun, but it proved to be hard. – Sara

“It proved to be hard.” GET IT?!

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I wonder what I shall give up this year…

Guilty.

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Do you ever wonder what it would like to be a 911 operator? The calls they get must be outrageous- either in a scary way or a just plain absurd way. They are trained to remain calm because the person on the other line is either extremely not calm or a 6 year old at a Dairy Queen pay phone that didn’t understand what calling 911 really meant. I am sure they receive extensive medical training to be able to assist people before an ambulance gets there, but do they receive training on how to work with dumb people when no one is ever going to be on their way to relieve them of their dumb-ness? Example…

Locked Inside:

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One Less Lonely Boy:

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Missing Nuggets:

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Excessive Porn Watching:

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Cougar Alert:

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Now although I’m sure these people were facing intense personal crises, I actually had to use 911 for its true purpose this past weekend. Let me set the stage for you.

Baltimore. Saturday Night. Midnight. My Toyota Corolla.

So, essentially, I was asking for something horrible to happen. I had some friends over to my house for dinner and board games. I’m serious about the board game part, which makes it even more absurd that a 25 year old that just played charades could so quickly be in danger. One of my friends had taken the bus to my house, so I offered to give her a ride home so she could avoid taking the bus back. I was worried about her walking to and from the bus stop this late at night, and I assured her that taking my car would be a safer option (wait for the irony). She warned me that we would have to take some back roads because the Grand Prix had shut down most of the main roads. We didn’t really have a problem getting to her house, and I dropped her off.

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Not your best photo, Pat.

As I entered my address into the GPS, it kept trying to take me on roads that were closed. The detour signs were nonexistent, and I had no idea where I was going. I drove around aimlessly until I finally saw some orange detour signs. I followed them, still not really knowing if this was actually a detour I should take. I ended up stopped at a stop sign, waiting to merge onto a highway. This was a driving situation I had never experienced before- merging from a complete stop. There were quite a few cars on the highway, but I figured I just needed to close my eyes and go for it.

Right as I am merging onto the highway, a car from a far lane is switching into the lane I am entering. We are essentially coming at each other, so she honked and I sped up to get in front of her, avoiding a collision. I kept driving, and didn’t think anything of it. After about a mile, I hear a car honking, so I look in my rearview mirror and see that it is the same car. I have no idea why she is honking at me. I change lanes, thinking she just might want to pass me. She changes lanes behind me and continues to lay on her horn. I really have no idea what she wants and no idea what to do. I start to get freaked out, so I decided its best to just get off the highway and lose this looney toon.

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Has anyone ever actually paid this fine?

I pull off at the next exit, and I see that she is pulling off as well. Now I am really starting to panic, because I know she is definitely following me and apparently out for blood. I start looking around my car for possible weapons. I am fairly pleased to find eyebrow tweezers and a particularly pointy pen, and I feel confident that I could pluck and poke her to death. I stop at a red light, and keep my eyes directly forward, hoping that she will just leave me alone. About a second after my car stopped at the light, I jump about a mile out of my seat as I realize she has gotten out of her running car and run up to my car window, banging on it, and trying to open my car door. By some sweet miracle, my car door had been locked, so she just proceeded to keep banging on my window saying that she was going to kill me and “f&@! me up”. (Edited just in case you read this to your children as a bedtime story.)

As this woman was going to town on my driver’s side window, I stared straight forward, tried to resist peeing myself, and prayed for the light to turn green. As soon as it did I pulled away and immediately called 911.

Nice 911 Man– 911, what is your emergency?

Me– I am pretty sure some woman is trying to kill me.

Nice 911 Man– Where are you?

Me– I’m in my car. I am driving. She is following me. She tried to get in my car and is going to f&@! me up.

Nice 911 Man– Can you try to make her see that you are on your phone? She will assume you are calling the cops and will get scared and drive away.

Luckily, she had pulled up beside me and was still laying on her horn. I waved my phone and the eyebrow tweezers at her.

Me– Okay she is speeding off.

Nice 911 Man– Can you read her license plate?

Me– No, she went too fast. I think I am actually having a panic attack.

Nice 911 Man– Okay if you feel safe, pull over.

This guy then proceeded to ask if I wanted the cops to come, and when I said no he talked me off a cliff for the next few minutes. He reassured me that she was just mad and that I had nothing to worry about.

MAD?! JUST MAD?! What if my car door had been open? What would’ve happened then?

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After a situation like this, your brain enters a very scary place. You start to create these scenarios of what could’ve happened and what is going to happen.

– Did she just pretend to pull away but is really lurking a mile up the road and waiting to follow me home?

– Did she copy down my license plate so she could trace it back to me?

– Did she plant a bomb on my car and use her obscene yelling as a distracter?

– Is she under my bed?

It took several hours to really be able to calm down from all of this and realize that people truly are insane. This woman took road rage to a new level, and her inability to cope with traffic will be filed into the folder where I keep other examples of being the victim of someone else’s insanity. Well, it might be double filed with the times that I almost pooped myself.

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Moral of the story- someone was definitely looking out for me that night. I’m just not sure whether it was the nice 911 operator or whoever made sure my driver’s side door was locked, when all three of my other doors weren’t.

Small Talk.

Making-Small-Talk

Small Talk: An informal type of discourse that does not cover any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed. 

I think this definition, provided by Wikipedia, perfectly encompasses the idea of small talk. It is conversation for conversation sake. I assume that this phenomenon is a recent societal development, presumably within the last 100 years or so. It just seems that the cavemen weren’t sitting around discussing how hot it is or whether or not Miley Cyrus is on drugs. They discussed who’s turn it was to slaughter a goat and then went back to their hut. Were the Romans making casual conversation at the public bathhouse? No, they were discussing what war they were going to start tomorrow. In 2013, other people go to war and slaughter our goats for us, so we are left with nothing of substance to talk about.

I have spent the past two weeks completely engrossed in small talk. My first graduate school class started and I met new person after new person day in and day out. It felt like I was at a speed dating event that would not end, and I really wanted to just record my one minute spiel on my phone and hit play every time I met someone new. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy meeting new people. But everyone has their limit of how much they can talk about where they are from and what the weather was like there. And once you’ve gotten past the usual questions, hopefully someone new has joined the conversation or else you are left with either starting at each other or stating obvious things about your current situation.

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There are also so many nuances to how to conduct a casual conversation. There is a fine line to keeping the conversation going and getting a little too personal in the buffet line. I also never know how detailed I am supposed to answer each question that comes my way.

Question: Where are you from?

The real answer: Well, I was born in Texas and lived there through elementary school. We moved around to different cities in Texas until my dad’s job moved us to Philadelphia, where I went to middle and high school. I attended college in Pennsylvania as well, about an hour and a half from where my family lived. After college I moved to New York and lived there for three years, and now I just moved to Baltimore about a month ago.

What I actually say: I just got back from the bathroom.

It is so difficult when the question is so vague. People are really just asking me this question to fill air time until they can fake an exit to “go get a drink”, so do they really want my entire life story? Talk too much, and you are a self-centered psycho. Talk too little, and you are rude and standoff-ish. Shouldn’t there be rules for this?!

Thankfully, the internet is full of handy advice. As I was searching for “small talk cartoons” (that’s actually what I googled), I came across a guy who gave a list of tips for how to make small talk in new environments. Let’s dissect his advice.

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#1) Research the people you are going to be socializing with.

I can see how maybe this might be appropriate before attending a professional function, but it may be crossing a line to stalk strangers before approaching them in a crowd.

Oh really, you were in Broadway play? Google told me it was a high-school production of Annie.

#2) Find commonalities.

I get this one, but I think this creates an atmosphere of intense game show-like pressure.

DO YOU HAVE A CAT?

No…

A DOG?

No.

HOW MANY SIBLINGS?

1 brother.

Oh thank god, we can talk about that.

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#3) Have a good delivery.

I find this can be very tricky, especially when trying to balance a beverage and a plate of small finger foods. People only ask me questions after I have stuck a cocktail weenie in my mouth, and then its either offend them by not answering or offend them by making your hors d’oeuvres choices public knowledge.

#4) Assess the situation.

If they reach for their phone to show you pictures of their cats, you have three seconds to make a run for it.

#5) Be sincere.

I’m taking this to mean that you shouldn’t lie about yourself or feign interest in what someone else is saying. Except for pretending to be interested is the exact point of small talk. You have nothing else to do for entertainment, so you might as well start your 7th conversation of the night with someone from the south about how they are going to handle the snow in “these parts”.

Now, these five tips are just one approach. There are actually several people who have developed methods of successfully engaging in small talk. The “Art of Manliness” website suggests the ARE method- Anchor, Reveal, Encourage.

Anchor: Make an observation about your “mutual shared reality”.

– Wasn’t that professor really informative?

– Why is it so hot in this room? Are you sweating? I’m sweating.

– Is that guy’s fly down?

Reveal: Disclose something about yourself that is related to the anchor you just threw out.

– I’m intimidated by the credentials that most of the professors here have.

– I guess I should’ve applied a second coat of deodorant during lunch break. Rookie mistake.

– My fly is also down.

Encourage: Now you hand off the ball by asking them a question.

– What other professors have you taken classes with?

– What brand of deodorant do you use? You look really dry.

– Can you give me a hand with this? I’m bad with zippers.

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Just remember, no matter what you say, that person is going to forget your entire conversation the second they walk away and start talking to someone else. Unless you make some sort of outrageous political or religious claim. Or spit cocktail weenie in their face.

Happy chatting!