Archive for the ‘ Stories ’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

Seeking Meaning

I’ve been thinking a lot about God lately. What I believe, what’s real, what’s true, etc.

So therefore I’ve been thinking a lot about Christianity and the Christian Church.

Recently, Rick Warren’s son committed suicide. For those of you who don’t know, Rick Warren is a megachurch pastor.

It’s tragic. It’s sad. Suicide is never something that should be taken lightly.

But it’s led me to think about this habit Christians have about assigning meaning to apparently meaningless events.

His suicide certainly had a cause– chronic depression. But was there meaning in his death? Maybe. Maybe not.

We can’t know.

Last summer, I almost died. Two weeks ago, my brother almost died. He was within a millimeter of instant death. (I hyperbolize a lot over here, but that is not hyperbole; I’m being literal.)

Was there meaning in his accident? My friend asked me. He wanted to know that if God is a loving God, why did he let my brother fall off that ladder?

I don’t know.

I don’t know why I almost died last summer. I don’t know what the physical cause was, and I don’t know if there was a metaphysical purpose. I DO know that I’m a better person because of it. There’s something about a near-death experience that puts the entire rest of your life in perspective.

When I die, I’ll probably greet death like an old friend. After facing death, nothing is really scary anymore, except the prospect of losing people you love.

After my brother almost died but didn’t in a crazy inexplicable miracle, I feel like nothing can depress or stress me out anymore, because my life could almost have been so much worse.

Maybe that means that there was meaning. But was there meaning to the bombing at the Boston Marathon today? I don’t know. All I know about that is it’s a tragedy, like so many other tragedies that seem to be piling up lately.

Christians are so afraid to admit that they don’t have the answers to some things, and that is a massive problem with American Christian Culture.

Is it inconceivable to think that maybe, just maybe, God is too big, omnipotent, omnipresent, multi- and pan-dimensional for your little human brain to explain? Is it inconceivable that you cannot possibly look at an event and answer the question, why? Is it so impossible to accept that you cannot know, simply because of the biological limitations to the human mind?

Maybe there is meaning in apparently meaningless events. But due to my extreme lack of pandimensional perspective, I hesitate to assign it.

Sometimes stuff happens and there’s nothing you can do about it but deal with the consequences.

Adventures at Community College

So, as you may or may not be aware, I am a college dropout.

I attended Central Oregon Community College at various levels of intensity from the ages of 15 to 18. I could have earned my Associate’s Degree at the tender age of 19 had I been willing to stay at COCC for one or two more quarters, but I got tired of it, and frustrated at myself after a quarter where I got all Cs (a revolutionary concept in my life of As and a few sorry Bs,) I stopped going.

Instead I chose to focus on working (making coffee is awesome,) playing, and being generally lazy.

I’m only a little bit ashamed.

During the two years that I was out of school, I moved a few times, got a couple of awesome jobs, and generally increased my understanding of who I am and what I want out of life.

So when my dad called me a couple months ago and told me he wanted me to finish my degree, I wasn’t too resistant. He offered to help me sort out financial things, and I applied to Portland Community College online that day.

Unsurprisingly, I was admitted. Since I didn’t want to deal with transferring credits, I haven’t yet. But I perused the class schedule, meticulously choosing classes that both sounded interesting to me and helped fulfill the requirements for my AAOT.

I counted down to registration; since I was a new student, I was in the very last bracket. I wasn’t worried– getting waitlisted is no big deal as long as you’re stubborn.

So when I woke up early to register for my classes online, I was more than a little bit disgruntled to learn that I couldn’t register until I’d seen an adviser. Lovely. Also, the only advising for the weeks of registration was drop-in. Even better. And I tried to register on a Friday and had to work, so I couldn’t see an adviser until Monday.

At this point, I almost said screw it, I’ll try again next term. But then I realized that would be like giving up.

Over the two years I’ve been out of school, I’ve learned something important about me; I hate giving up. I HATE admitting defeat.

So bright and early Monday morning, I embarked in the Starship to North Portland, where my campus of choice is.

I assumed that since it was pretty early in the day, I wouldn’t have to wait too long to see an adviser. But oh, how misguided I was in my sweet youth.

I waltzed up to the desk, took a number, and nonchalantly asked about wait times. I wasn’t worried; I didn’t have to work for another three hours. So I was shocked and disgruntled when the receptionist told me to expect at LEAST two hours.

Fortunately, I had a book with me.

Unfortunately, the campus was giving me such intense flashbacks that I couldn’t focus.

There are certain types of people you find at community colleges. I didn’t realize how universal this seemed to be. (I will be writing about this later, don’t worry.)

Although I was agitated, the two hour wait could have been a lot worse. Everyone else in the building waiting to talk to an adviser or financial aid was projecting crazy stressed out and negative vibes, so while I was observing how much more pissed off everyone else was I felt pretty okay about life.

I obsessively tracked the dragging time. I knew it would take me nearly a full half hour to get from campus to work, and I was worried about getting a parking ticket.

I stood, placing my book in my bag and moving toward the front door, ready to leave, when my number was finally, finally called. I power walked to the door of the advising office, and was ushered in by a small frazzled man in glasses.

He had obviously seen too many people in one day. I had to be at work, and I didn’t want to waste my time any more than he wanted to talk to me.

“Look,” I said, “I’ve been in school before. I have all the pre-reqs. I just want you to clear me to register.”

He looked over the degree evaluation I had printed out, made a comment about how it wasn’t an official transcript which I knew and didn’t apologize for. He cleared me to register, and I left.

I waited two hours for a two minute advising session which I neither wanted nor benefited from.

Anyway, so time passed and finally the first week of classes arrived. I lost my phone the day before classes started, leaving me without a way to contact the outside world.

I showed up to psychology class and was pleased to see a relatively small class size. I approached the teacher after class because I couldn’t remember if I was on the wait list or not.

“That’s funny,” he commented, flipping pages, “You aren’t on my list at all.”

“Oh,” I said, “Well. That’s weird.”

He signed my add slip, though, and I made my way to the registrar’s office.

After waiting in line another stupidly long time, I made my way to the window and another frazzled receptionist. “Hi,” I greeted her, “I just want to add this class and check on whether or not I’m on the waitlist for my other classes. Also I couldn’t log in at the computer lab.”

She clicked and typed and typed and clicked, and said, “You’re not in any classes.”

A moment of silence.

“What?”

“You’re not even in the system for this term,” she continued, “You got deleted for non-payment.”

Frustration and anger boiled up within me, and obnoxiously translated into tears. “Okay,” I said, struggling to remain composed, fighting against the lump in my throat. “Well, I’d like to add this class, anyway. And then reset my password for the computer lab.”

She unsympathetically obliged, and I walked away, seeking refuge in the library. I successfully got onto a computer lab, and sent my mother four or five panicked emails.

Apparently these days when you go to Portland Community College you must cough up your tuition two weeks in advance, which seems stupid to me. When I was at COCC you had two weeks AFTER the start of term to pay your tuition. Maybe it’s just a way to try to weed out people (like me) who are flying by the butt of their pants and don’t get their financial situation sorted out until the last minute.

Still seems dumb to me.

Anyway, long story short I got into the two classes I need the most, despite the initial hassle. So far they’re going well.

Stay tuned for more Adventures In Community College! In next week’s episode, we’ll talk about the People You Always See on Community College Campuses.

My Problem with Classical Music

As you may already be aware, I used to dance ballet. On and off between the ages of 8 and 18 I was enrolled in ballet classes three quarters of the year.

One of the awesome side effects of this was that I was exposed to a lot of fantastic classical music. Most of the time I paid exactly no attention to which composer or piece we were dancing to, instead choosing to fill my brain with whatever it was I filling my brain with at the time. But through the repetition of rehearsals I know every nuance of more music than I even knew was stored in my brain space. Until recently.

Lately I’ve decided it’s a great idea to enrich my brain with some classical composers, and I’ve started with Beethoven, Mozart, and Tschaikovsky. All composers with whom I’m somewhat familiar, and who I know I enjoy.

The other night as I was looking for music to listen to as I cleaned the cafe after closing time, I chanced upon a sound file under the Unknown Artists entitled simply “Beethoven, showcase music.”

The piece was one we learned for Central Oregon Dance Showcase a number of years ago. Apparently at the time I was too busy putting scenes for acting class in my brain to remember exactly which piece of Beethoven’s music it was, hence the file name, but since I’ve mostly forgotten the choreography I put the music on, loudly, filling the cafe with dulcet sounds of piano and cello. I expected and intended to find a new appreciation for the music since it now isn’t intrinsically tied to movement.

As the piece played, bits of choreography flashed through my brain and body. A sense of urgency filled me for a few bars. A very distinct thought popped out at another sound– “Breathe.”

One section left me breathless because I remembered how challenging the choreography was for me. Another portion had me feeling impatient, and I remembered I was supposed to be offstage.

I found it difficult to appreciate the music for what it was because I had such strong associations, both emotional and of the movement.

And that makes me sad.

Fortunately, I’ve consciously sought out other pieces I’ve danced to and have not experienced such strong associations. I think they’re particularly strong with the Mystery Beethoven piece because, for one, it was the longest piece of choreography I’ve ever learned. Also, we re-rehearsed and performed it at least twice over the course of six months, and the choreography is very informed by the music.

So even though one of Beethoven’s 7-minute pieces for cello (or viola?) and piano is ruined for me, I’m pleased at my surprisingly large bank of recognition when it comes to classical music– because even though I can’t name the piece or the composer, I can tell you for sure that I recognize it!

 

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