The Bad Jokes I Tell

I’ve always had a penchant for corny humor. I can’t help it– I am my father’s daughter, and aside from the dry snark my dad tends to favor, there has always been a healthy measure of tacky jokes.

Since I’ve spent time struggling to be ways that I’m not, I’ve spent a LOT of time biting my tongue, not making a stupid pun when it presents itself.

Over the last few months, though, I’ve decided that I can and will embrace my own tacky, strange, punny sense of humor.

Therefore, when I asked after the health of one of my work neighbors and he responded “Just hanging tough,” I jumped at the opportunity. I replied, “But are you staying hungry?” It took him a second to get it, but I elicited a small chuckle.

Then I laughed at my own joke. And then I fired myself from making jokes, forever.

Being self-fired doesn’t stop me though. Whenever anyone says “Halfway there” about anything at all, I’m tempted to respond, “Living on a prayer?” And usually I give in to that temptation.

Yesterday a customer asked me, “What’s shakin’?”

And giggling, I said, “Bacon?”

He gave me a courtesy chuckle, but I’m sure he was internally groaning. Loudly. I couldn’t help it though. A suave response eluded me, and it was just too easy.

My favorite part is that I don’t even care that 75% of the things I say are groan-worthy. I have no illusions– I KNOW that my comments are groan-worthy, and my sense of humor is weird and probably not that funny to most people.

But I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one, ever, will think I’m as funny as I think I am.

And that’s okay. Because at least one person will be laughing.

Living vs. Vicariously

Before I start making points, I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear: I’m writing about this topic because it’s something I’m working on being better at, not because I have anything figured out and want to sit up on my high horse coaching you peasants how to live.

Good? Good.

I write a few weeks ago about how I seem to have a certain quota of input that I can handle before I cross the line from inspiration to discouragement.

In that post, I make the point that spending too much time online leads to me never creating things.

I’ve been spending a lot of time plugged in lately, and while I wouldn’t describe my creativity as at an all-time low, it’s definitely suffering.

And the lack of productivity frustrates me, so I look to the internet for inspiration, still finding none, perpetuating the loop.

However, I find that as soon as I get offline my brain wakes back up. It may take a few hours, but the longer I spend unplugged the more I find I have things to say (that aren’t just the petulant whining that I catch myself defaulting to after a particularly un-creative spell.)

When I unplug, I’m more observant. I remember more. I glean more meaning from the books I’m reading when I’m not constantly interrupting myself to check Facebook or Tumblr.

I always get so angry at people who interrupt me while I’m reading, and yet I interrupt myself all the time. It’s stupid.

The longer I stay unplugged, the more opinions I have, and the better my reasons grow for having them. I find myself more grateful for the little things in life, and I spend less time feeling sorry for myself because I’m not currently travelling or having an adventure.

Unplugging reminds me to live Right Now.

The great thing is that the best adventures I’ve had are the ones which never made it onto the Internet because we were all living too much to bother documenting the moments.

I think that’s what it boils down to– living in the moment instead of living vicariously.

I can spend all the time in the world researching and planning for travel, but unless I get offline and actually go somewhere, it’s useless.

Vicarious living only gets you so far, and if you’re me, it only gets you bummed out.

Responsibility

As I walked upstairs to my apartment just now, I overheard my downstairs neighbor having a conversation with his daughter, who’s probably seven or eight.

He was talking about how there’s always a trade-off between work and family, because as much as he wants to spend more time with her, he has to bring an income into the household.

It made my heart absolutely ache, because I remember having that same conversation with my father (and my mother) so many times.

I don’t think I quite understood, not as a kid anyway. My parents did a great job putting it into concrete terms, but actually grasping the way money and time and responsibility work didn’t start to sink in until I was probably eleven or twelve.

Right now I’m at an extraordinarily luxurious phase of life. I don’t work so much that I can’t have fun, and I’m responsible for exactly one person; me.

The only times I actually get worried about money is when I know I’ve been spending irresponsibly– alcohol is more expensive than I realized– but in reality, the levels of responsibility required of me are extraordinarily low.

Show up for work on time. Get enough sleep. Eat enough, and eat well. Drink water, and when drinking alcohol drink in moderation. Spend time with good friends, and don’t waste time on draining people. Do well in school.

Those are basically the only things I have to think about regularly.

Either I’m irresponsible or I’m lucky. Very, very lucky.

I suppose if I get into it, I could think of more things that I could be worried about on a daily basis, but if I do I usually end up curled in the fetal position cradling a book and my teddy bear to forget.

I’m not irresponsible. I just manage my low-spectrum levels of responsibility well, because responsibility is, like everything else, a spectrum.

My downstairs neighbor seems to be teaching this principal to his daughter in a sane and sensible fashion. Here’s hoping.

Ryan

So I spent Memorial Day weekend in the gorge at Sasquatch Music Festival. It was terrific. So much happened.

Let me tell you about Ryan.

After the Mumford and Sons show, my friends and I had agreed to simply wait in the flat area in front of the stage for everyone to clear out so that we could find one another. The tides of the crowd pushed me to the back, where I waited.

As the mob cleared, I scanned the stragglers. I spotted my group, and started weaving my way to them.

On the course I had chosen stood a man. Dressed in jeans and a hoodie, he was standing stock-still in the middle of the floor, obviously stoned.

As I passed, he called, “Excuse me!” Surprised, I turned, “Yeah?”

“High-five?”

“Okay,” I complied.

“Let me see your hand,” he said, catching my right hand and turning it over. “Ooookay,” I considered pulling away.

Holding my hand like a sinner begging a priest for forgiveness, he earnestly said, “My name is Ryan, and I have no idea where I am.”

I made a sympathetic comment as, still clasping my hand, he continued, “I was with friends, but they left me, and I have no idea where to look for them.”

“No idea like, space, or time, or what?” I asked, jokingly. He just stared at me blankly.

“I’m looking for my friends, too,” I continued, realizing he was too spaced out to understand my mocking. “I think I just spotted them, but if you head uphill I’m sure your friends will find you. It’s a high traffic area. I’m going to go now.”

“Okay,” he said, “Let’s hug it out.”

Since I had already hugged some strangers that weekend, and he really looked like he needed it, I complied. “Ohhhhh,” he sighed, “You’re the best hugger ever.”

“Oooookay,” I pulled back quickly. “High-five again?” Ryan asked. I high fived him. “Give me your hand,” he said, and took it. He kissed my hand, said, “Thank you,” and tenderly, so tenderly, kissed my hand a second time.

I pulled my hand from his grasp, shouted good luck, and ran.

I charged into the circle where my friends stood at top speed, simultaneously whimpering and laughing.

There were no more stranger hugs that weekend.

An Open Letter to Slow Walkers

Today I walked to a coffee shop to do homework. Therefore, I was toting a rather heavy backpack. Despite that, I was still trudging along at a fairly swift clip.

I’m not a slow walker. I’ve had people give me crap in the past for walking too fast (“slow down and smell the roses, Bethany,”) but those people are simply under the wrong impression that because I walk quickly, I’m not enjoying the walk. On the contrary– I find a slow walk to be irritatingly wasteful. Why spend more time than necessary between points A and B?

But I digress.

There was a marathon going by my house today. Therefore, the sidewalk, while not riddled with people, was certainly more inhabited than is usual for a Sunday morning.

As I trudged along, heavily laden, a wide-set middle aged human male bearing a camera stepped from his post on the side of the road right into the middle of the sidewalk. Right into my path.

The thing that’s great about sidewalks is that they’re wide enough for three or more lanes of foot traffic.

The thing that’s terrible about sidewalks is that one carelessly (strategically?) placed human being can effectively block the entire sidewalk.

The wide-set human male meandered, making a speedy pass too awkward too risk. My shoulders ached from my backpack, which felt heavier as each step slowed. Finally, after attempting and failing to pass the wide-set male multiple times in the length of half a city block, the sidewalk opened into a driveway. I hauled ass and scooted around him. He seemed surprised to see me, which indicated to me that either a) he was oblivious or b) my Converse-clad footsteps are quieter than I thought.

This certain human male is, unfortunately, just one example of  Slow Walkers. I call that category the Space-Taker.

Another class of Slow Walker is the Tourist.

Tourists tend to travel in packs of three or more, oblivious to the plight of people who work in the neighborhood they’re ogling. As they slowly travel down the sidewalk, they often abruptly stop to point and comment about something in a window, a busker, a hobo, or anything that seems strange to their innocent Tourist eyes.

Tourists also tend to tote umbrellas. (Worst thing ever.)

As a Local and a Swift Walker, I find Tourists to be the worst Slow Walkers.

Other categories of Slow Walkers are Parents, Partiers, Texters, and Talkers.

I would like to extend a plea to all Slow Walkers, everywhere.

WALK FASTER!!

You can enjoy the sights and sounds just as thoroughly if you’re propelling yourself along at a normal, quick pace. You don’t HAVE to walk side by side with your friends, especially when people are trying to pass you in order to get to work.

(And on a sidebar, people who don’t make room for people coming the opposite direction, forcing them to step into the street, are real douchebags.)

If you must walk slow, please just do humanity a favor and don’t occupy the entire sidewalk with your body. There’s enough room for all of us, people! And if you put your umbrella away we’ll be friends even more.

And a warning: Slow Walkers, every time you Walk Slow in front of a Swift Walker, you risk being punched in the back of the head. Or the kidneys.

That is all.

Gratitude

I love to complain.

As a human being, I think this is a pretty common condition.

Since I don’t want turn into a sour person as I age, I’ve been working on complaining less, and telling funny stories more. But to convert a whiny complaint into a funny story requires a combination of perspective and time.

Even on my worst days, my life is good. In perspective, I have nothing to complain about, even if work was irritating, I got rained on, had no food to eat, fell off my bike, and got scratched by a cat.

Perspective is a weird thing. It only really works if you combine it with gratitude.

What point is it to acknowledge that other people have it so much worse than you if you can’t be grateful for the things that are better about your life?

(“Oh, I know there are people who have to walk five miles a day for drinking water, but this is AMERICA and I shouldn’t have to take a cold shower, like, EVER.”)

For the last several weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed at how incredibly lucky I am. This season of life is amazing. It has its ups and downs, like any season of life, but really, who am I to complain?

I live in an incredible city, have amazing jobs, co-workers, friends, and family. Every day, my life could be so much worse, and it isn’t.

That’s all, really. I’m grateful for my life and the people who are a part of it.

Here’s a cool photo of Portland for you.

Sunset on Hawthorne.

Sunset on Hawthorne.

Two Versions of Me

I don’t know if this is the case with everyone, but who I am in real life is extremely different from who I imagine I’d like to be.

In my brain, I’d like to be this mysterious, inscrutable person. I’d like to be difficult to read, and always keep people guessing. But in real life, I wear my heart on my face, and I have no filter. Whatever I’m thinking, I say.

The no filters thing has been a problem of mine ever since I was a wee child, when I would freely make unsolicited observations about people’s appearances. Through rigorous training, I slowly learned that no-one gives a crap about my opinions, and that I should try to keep my mouth shut unless I have something interesting to say.

Definitely still working on that.

I’m honest to a fault. The times I’ve been kicked out of bars is because I told the truth when people asked me about my age, even without asking for ID. When a quasi-homeless coffee shop regular of mine was prying into my personal life I didn’t tell him to mind him own business because my mouth was too busy telling the truth. It was stupid.

I don’t think people realize that I’m actually not an extrovert. Part of my job is to be sociable. I’m very good at what I do. But I realized recently that I’m very really sociable when I’m not getting paid. Maybe I’m kind of a shut-in. But when I see my customers in the real word, they often want to talk to me and I have to aggressively pretend not to see them because I don’t want to be friends with eighty percent of my customers in the real world.

That’s another dichotomy of me that I can’t figure out. If I’m so good at getting people to like me, why am I so asocial? And why do I spend so much time alone when I equally enjoy spending time with some humans?

I realize that I suffer from a very particular brand of social awkwardness. I find people very easy to talk to. This didn’t used to be the case– learning to talk to people is a skill learned over many years. But an unfortunate side effect of my people skills being learned is that while I find people easy to talk to, I am idiotic at connecting with people.

The jump from casual chat to real talk is almost always terrifying for me. I’d sooner jump a chasm in the real world.

In my brain, I’m smooth. I even imagine myself as suave.

Anyway, I can’t be the only person who has this problem. Just thought I’d air my neuroses to you fine people of the Internet.

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