bardo

"Nothing bad ever happens to a writer; everything is material." — Garrison Keillor

Conquer the Entire World

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“I was in a room of forty people, and I was unprepared to pitch my book. Mostly because I didn’t have a book.” READ THE REST HERE.

The world keeps going


About losing good people:

The World Keeps Going

Settle

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Read “Settle” here.

Six months ago I wrote a post about quitting my job and following my heart to become a famous and wildly successful writer. (People really resonate with that idea.) After six months of following my heart into extreme boredom, I quit that, and I went into the corporate world. (People resonate with this less.)

Tekno101 Part2: How an internet comment cost me my sanity

Back in January, a guy commented on my Tekno101 post. He was not happy with what I wrote, and he proceeded to tell me so. My friend wanted to write a response to this guy. I told him that, as it turns out, I just so happen to have a blog where he could write that response.

Also, my friend worked in the Rhetoric Center at my college — you know, the people who enjoy correcting papers? Enjoy.

PART 2

So then I tried basketball

Because I enjoy telling embarrassing stories about myself, I decided to play basketball at X-Sport Fitness. [my take on X-Sport] I’m getting better at b-ball, but it’s in the same way that I’m getting better at kite-boarding, pogo-sticking, goat-milking, or anything else that I never practice. Surprise: I’m not good. Here’s the thing: not everybody on the court knows that. They see a thin, 5’10” white guy wearing white Champion calf-high socks (the kind with gray toes and heels), white high-top Nikes, blue shorts that don’t come below the knees, and they think, maybe he is an exchange student from Germany. Trapped in the 1970sWho hasn’t seen the sun….

We should give him a chance.

So I get a chance.

Queue Remember the Titans theme song. I know what you’re thinking (because I think the same thing): Ohhh I wonder if the story ends with Bart tearing it up out there!? Like John Stockton! I bet he grows ten inches and Larry-Birds everyone! (My uncle likes to tell a story about Larry Bird: “when Bird was in his prime, some guy was trash-talking him at the free-throw line. Larry stares at the guy and says, ‘you’re trying to get me off my game?’ and then sinks the shot still looking at the guy!”And because my uncles tell the punchline twice, this is said again: “He’s still lookin’ at the guy!”)

Right before I lace em’ up, I think, maybe…just maaaaaybe… I haven’t practiced ever, I didn’t grow up playing, I can’t jump more than a foot in the air, I’m not a good shooter, not a skilled dribbler, and I don’t really know where I’m supposed to stand or run on the court…but maybe this time I’ll be amazing!

Spoiler alert: amazing doesn’t happen. X-Sport is a diverse place, racially speaking, and if I was smart I would end the story here. Instead I’ll continue with this: I was the only white guy on the court. Now if you’re racist or you’ve seen me play basketball, you’re saying, “Bart doesn’t stand a chance.” There were twelve people out there—five black guys shooting on one hoop, and six Latino guys plus me, shooting on the other. These particular Latino guys were not particularly good…and I knew that because I was the best player on that end of the court. When it came time to choose captains, one player from each ethnic group, minus me, shot a three-pointer for who would be the two captains. A black guy effortlessly swished his shot. A Latino guy, with one of the more unnatural deliveries I have seen, banked his shot hard off the backboard and in. Oh boy, here we go.

The two new captains picked the teams. It was to be blacks vs. Latinos. If you pay attention to ridiculous stereotypical garbage that in this case was extremely accurate, or you’ve been reading anything that I wrote in the prior paragraphs, you can guess the outcome: the Latino team got smoked.

There were two people not picked. The first was an awkward-looking guy who could have been in eighth grade. One of those my-body-is-growing-faster-than-I-can-control guys. He was wearing huge jean shorts. “Jorts,” as the kids are saying. The second person not picked was the whitest guy you’ve seen, wearing Champion gray-toed socks. (Me.)

Because Jorts and I sat out, the unwritten rules are that we get to pick our team. We then had a tri-racial team. Here’s how pick-up basketball works: you get two chances to prove yourself to your teammates and then you’re done. Usually, I’m the guy who is wide open, and who no one passes to because they figure I’ll miss the shot or throw the ball out of bounds or take out crayons and start coloring on the court. One time, I was playing in an “important” basketball game. Here’s how I knew it was extremely important: because I had the ball in the last minutes, and when I wound up for a three-point shot, I heard everyone on my team say, “NO!” Nothing inspires confidence like your own team yelling at you to not shoot. So I threw the ball out of bounds and started coloring.

Today, I was going to prove myself. “Oh, you guys didn’t pick me? SEE WHAT YOU MISSED?” SLAM…LAY-UP!

Early in the game, I found my chance. I sprinted to open space under the hoop, caught the ball in stride, and looked behind to see a guy on the other team at about half court. Plenty of time to prove that I’m worthy of a pass. I dribbled once, jumped for an easy lay-up, and felt a hand slap the ball, that I was trying to put into the basket, right out of my hands.

There were remarks from the other team about how good that block was and how I got swatted and how I was made to look like a fool. My face turned more red than usual and the game went on. The thing is, the other team thought I was good enough to trash talk! Chalk that up in the win column.

A few minutes later, because of my insane speed and the fact that nobody cares about defense in this game, I find myself all alone, again, under the hoop. I have the ball. I go for another lay-up because I didn’t want to show off the dunk. At the height of my jump, about four inches from the ground, with victory in sight, my head goes into some dude’s armpit as he swats the ball away. Have you ever tried your best and felt like a big pathetic loser? Me neither.

This was a discouraging moment, not because I got swatted in a more embarrassing manner, but because no one said a thing. Now, It was expected that I would get swatted, and it would be weird if I somehow put the ball in. I don’t like to be bad at things.

No one likes to be bad at anything, but some people are better at not caring. Some people, on the other hand, care way too much. I like to think that I’m in the middle of the pack. I’ll try hard, but I’m not going to turn into a psycho. [I only fight if I’m provoked.] I don’t yell at my co-ed soccer teammates to “PICK UP THE FRICKING TEMPO!!!” which are actual words from a team that we faced.

Whenever I start performing poorly in pick-up sports, or any activity that I thought I would be better at, I justify my lack of skill. But only in my mind. I think: man, if I was playing these guys in hockey, I would destrooooy them! And then when I’m playing hockey and I’m losing, I think: man, if I were playing these guys in Up and Down the River, I would dooooominaaate them! And then when I’m getting smoked in Up and Down the RiverI think, if we were having a competition to see who could cook pasta to al dente, I would anniiiiiiiiiihilate them!!!

I Work Out

If Hollister, Spandex, and tank-tops had a baby, the result would be my gym.

I found a gym. It’s $450 for two years, which works out to $18.75 per month. I’ll try anything once — which is why I had to dig out a huge black peppercorn from my nose when I was six — but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this place was cheap for a reason.

The gym is called X-Sport Fitness. Pretty sick, right, bro? Once you go through the revolving doors you reach an island desk where they beep your tag. Beyond the desk there are about a hundred ellipticals, treadmills, and stairmasters. Walk to the left, more running machines followed by cable-machines. The place isn’t big. They sacrificed walking space for machine space. Look to the left again and there is an indoor swimming pool with a hot tub. In front of the cable machines, there is a space the size of a pushed-over fridge, and that’s where many people work on sculpting their abs. I prefer to sculpt on the ab machine called the “abcore”, which I like because you know what it’s for without having to look at pictures.

Upstairs is where the big dogs go to work. (Read: upstairs is where I go.  (You don’t get to 160lbs by typing on a computer all day.)) There are benches, free weights, machines, cycles, two punching bags, and a larger room with wooden floors for workout classes.

I understand what most of the equipment is for, but this keeps happening: I wait for a dude, who is more accurately described as a gorilla who could bench-press four of me, to be finished with a machine. I make sure that the gorilla is done by gesturing to the machine, then pointing at myself, then pointing at him.

When he gives me the nod, I make sure the weight is manageable, which means taking off multiple plates. Then I climb into the machine and get comfortable, adjusting the height of the bench for someone who is under six feet tall. Then I get mentally prepared, put my hands on the bars, make sure they are spaced equally, then push with all my strength. Nothing happens. I take more plates off and then I push with all my strength. The bars go straight up. I look at the picture on the side of the machine: it has a guy’s shoulders painted red, indicating a shoulder-press machine. Because shoulder-pressing isn’t on the agenda for today, I promptly exit the machine after completing one rep. I stretch my shoulder and I make a face, as if to say, “If there is anyone watching, I just hurt my shoulder trying to do this and that’s why I’m not continuing. It’s definitely not because I’m in the wrong machine and I feel like a lost puppy in a land of giant bros”.

It’s obvious though — I look like a lost puppy. I don’t wear what the cool kids are wearing. I go with a cotton t-shirt and and normal shorts and I’m wildly, outrageously overdressed. If X-Sport was a movie, it would be rated PG-13, but it would be that PG-13 that’s really awkward to watch with your parents. It’s filled with strong language, partial nudity, and suggestive themes.

Strong Language:

“This man doin’ curls with a f***in’ strained bicep! Your arm is hurtin’ because of the f***in’ biceps brachii, which is a tiny f***in’ muscle that can’t handle all that f***in’ stress from the curls!”

Okay, it’s rated R. And yes, that’s a real conversation I heard last week.

Partial Nudity:

I saw a massive guy, who had muscles growing out of his muscles, wearing a tiny tank-top that said: “Does it Look like I do Cardio?” It did not. I saw a more-tan, less-massive guy walk in front of a huge mirror, lift up his shirt to his collarbone, and flex his abs. He made a face. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I felt queasy. The women who work out upstairs tend to wear brightly colored yoga pants or spandex booty-shorts. They tend to do squats. There tends to be about four guys, whose eyes are tending to her every move. Class, class, class.

Suggestive Themes:

There’s a weird guy who does suggestive ab and hip-flexor exercises, and that gets pretty uncomfortable.  …They’ve asked me to stop, but strong hip-flexors are very important to me.

R.I.P. AIM (Part 3)

The guys started yelling at us. “HEY! Come out here you [insert awful swear-words here] WE’RE GOING TO FIND YOU!” “WE KNOW YOU’RE IN HERE.”

Dear God, please don’t let us get caught. Dear God — wait, did Laura seriously just hide behind a tree?

“HEY YOU LITTLE [insert awful swear-words here] WE’RE NOT LEAVING TILL WE FIND YOU!” “I KNOW YOU’RE IN HERE.” “Get the flashlight — I got one in the car.”

Dear God, please don’t let us get caught.

COME OUT NOW AND IT WON’T BE SO BAD FOR YOU [insert awful combination of swear-wo]”—

“—Excuse me…”

Oh no. I heard Laura’s voice. She was turning herself in.

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, hello.”

“Hi, my family is trying to sleep — you guys have to leave.”

Laura! This was straight out of a movie! What a great idea. She pretended to be from one of the houses that bordered the hill, and the guys bought it. “I’m sorry — there’s just some [insert awful swear-words here]’s in the woods who egged our car, and we have to find them.” Laura kept it up.

“No, you have to leave now. You’re keeping everyone up.” Wow, if this works, I’ll be so— I felt the flashlight on me in the brush. “FOUND YOU, YOU LITTLE [insert awful swear-words here]’s!”

Damnit. I felt a hand grab my neck and pull me up. “GET UP.”

“Okay, okay.”

I stood up and walked with them down the hill. The grip on my neck was hard. “Dude, you got me. Relax.” “Don’t call me DUDE you little [insert awful swear-words here]!” I don’t respond well to people grabbing my neck, which has happened more than you might think.

Jack, Andy, and I were lined up on the sidewalk in front of the wall. “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.” The guy took a drag on his cigarette. “Look at me, I’m outta shape and smoking and we still got you.” I agreed with him.

“Give me your shirt.” I didn’t know why this guy wanted my shirt. I wore two shirts, one said my last name on it, in huge letters, the other said “Lexington Lacrosse”. I figured both of these would result in bad reports to their respective leaders, so I was very reluctant. “Just give him your shirt”, Andy said. I did, and he wiped the egg off the car and gave it back to me.

“Who are you guys? Maybe if we know one of your older brothers we’ll let you go.” We all made up fake names. Andy told them his name was Charlie Murphy. They didn’t know us, so they were going to call the police. “Will you guys just punch me in the face and let me go?” Andy wanted to avoid the police. They didn’t oblige.

The police showed up. “Where are you guys from? Name and Address.” Jack went first. “Jack.” “Where you from?” Pause. “…Massachusetts.” “Yeah no sh**”

Jack gave him the rest of his information.

“There was a fourth guy with you. Who is that?” Oh damn. Here’s what I know, you never rat someone out. He got away and ran through half the town to make it back home, he deserved freedom. So we turned him in. We all piled into the back of the cop car and he drove us to Sam’s house.

This was awful to watch. All the lights were off. The cop knocks on the door. A single bedroom light goes on. The outdoor porch light goes on. Door opens. Sam’s dad is squinting at the officer with a confused look. We betrayed Sam. The police officer threatened us with putting us away in juvenile detention if we didn’t tell him. Which I knew wasn’t going to happen.

“What are you here for?”

“I broke a man’s legs and arms and stole his Rolex. And that was my fourth offense. You?”

“Me? I, ah… I egged a car.”

“That’s it?”

“And killed a guy. With another egg. That I had with me. Did it with cold blood–in cold blood. His blood was cold after that…Once I egged him to death I mean. You know how it is.”

The officer got back into the car and we drove to my house. “I’ll go around the back and wake up my parents.” “If you try to run, we–” “–know where I live? I’m not an idiot.” I get a little sassy when I’m in trouble with the police. I walked in through the same door that I had sneaked out of hours earlier. I went to my parents room, and knocked on the door.

“Hey…are you guys awake?” They were both foggy.

“What-what-what is it?”

“Dad, uh… the police are… here and they want to talk with you. They are downstairs.”

“What? What? Tell them…tell them to come back tomorrow.”

I sort of left out the part about it being because I had egged cars… but my all-knowing mom put the pieces together: “No, John! They’re here now! Bart left tonight!”

“Go downstairs and wait.”

I went downstairs, opened the door for the cop, and waited for my dad. He walked down the stairs and they talked about what had happened. The officer explained the guys finding me and all that, and I tried not to laugh when he brought up juvy again. “We’re not going to take him to Lowell or anything…” I EGGED A CAR, MAN. This is something that every 15 year-old boy has to do. My dad assured the officer that he would deal with it, and thanked him for coming by. He closed the door behind the cop and turned to me. For a half-second I thought I detected a quarter of a grin.

“Did those guys hurt you at all?”

“No. Grabbed my neck but other than that–.”

“–You get up to your room, and you stay there.”

“Okay.”

“You know, Bart, I can’t believe I have to say this stuff to you.”

Turns out my dad said that last sentence more than he thought he would.

R.I.P. AIM (Part 2)

AIM made me do it. (Part Two)

This story ends with me waking my parents at 3:50 a.m., in order for them to talk to the police. It begins at 12:30 a.m. with me talking to my friend Laura on AOL Instant Messenger.

lolzypop8771: we’re all meeting up by the museum

barticusillonius: why?

lolzypop8771: we’re egging cars!!

This was a shocking message coming from Laura, mostly because she is not someone who would egg cars. She wasn’t nerdy, introverted, or a goody-goody, but she was a girl. And yes, I believe girls can do everything guys can, except have a penis, and even there I’m hazy on the details, but I had never heard of a girl wanting to egg cars. “Egging-cars” is every dumb teenage boy’s middle name. I knew it was dumb and I knew it was ridiculous and I knew it was something that I needed to be a part of.

barticusillonius: I’ll be there in twelve minutes.

While in high school, here’s how I made decisions: I imagined myself ten years in the future. I then imagined myself looking back at my current self as a fifteen-year-old and saying, “when I was young and stupid, I really took advantage of being young and stupid.” Once you do that, making poor decisions is easy.

I tip-toed down the stairs, out the side door, jogged down my street, turned right, and kept running to join the other four. Every time I heard a car, I Chuck Norrised into bushes or Jackie Channed behind a telephone pole. Sneaking out of the house was badass. I hadn’t even heard of it until I started public school. I didn’t know it was a thing. Apparently guys would sneak out to girl’s houses and they would make out until lips fell off. I remember the first time I heard about this phenomenon. “We had a sleepover on Friday at Robby’s. We all snuck out to Katie’s”

“WHAAATTTT?!?!?” [Head explodes] “What did you do? How did you get there? That’s like a 45 minute walk! …And isn’t the correct past-tense of ‘sneak’ ‘sneaked’?

Don’t worry about it.”

“Oh, come. on. Dude.”

“Dude, don’t even worry about it.”

“Dude. I’m worrying about it! Tell me.”

“Second base.”

[Head explodes]

…“Wait, which one is that?”

“Don’t even worry about it.”

“DUDE!”

I met up with everyone on Mass Ave, near the Museum of our National Heritage. There’s a wall that goes up about four feet from the sidewalk, and a hill that goes for about 100 yards into trees, bushes, and thick brush. There are houses that border the hill, near a Revolutionary War-era tavern.

“Bart! Man! You just missed it. We hit a truck, he stopped—we ran to the bike path, just booked it, he was yelling at us the whole time, just so pissed off, it was awesome.”

That  doesn’t sound awesome, I thought. You got chased? What if you get caught? I kept my concerns to myself and acted like I knew about egging cars. I had, after all, thrown snowballs at cars. I knew about that. I had thrown water balloons. When we were young, my brother and I loaded super-soakers, set up plywood next to our mailbox, and hid behind it while shooting cars as they passed our house. We thought we had a perfect hiding spot. In hindsight, it wasn’t too covert—one of the trucks that we sprayed stopped, reversed, and the guy in the passenger seat held a tennis ball menacingly, looking ready to beam us. (This just in: you can hold a tennis ball menacingly.) So I knew a thing or two about hitting cars with other things.

Laura, Sam, Andy, Jack, and I gathered ourselves and took hiding places behind a few large trees just beyond the wall that rose from the sidewalk. We were about twenty feet from the road. A car started down the street towards us. Heading east. “Not this one—looks like a nice car. Let’s wait it out.” Ok. Another car passed the opposite direction. “Hold, not this one either.”

Okay, I thought, there’s a science to this. We waited about five minutes. A truck came. “Don’t do it, the last guy got really mad.” Man, are we going to do this or what? Five more minutes. “Hey guys!” I heard myself say. “It’s a Toyota Camry!” “Nice.” Andy and Sam were in. We waited for the Camry to come closer. “Don’t throw too early because they’ll see us and stop the car.” The car was right next to us. “NOW!”

We all came out from behind our trees like were were ambushing the Redcoats and let our eggs fly. CRACK CRACKCRACK. Three out of five, not bad. The driver pounded the brakes and the car skidded and screeched to a stop.

Oh no.

We started running up the hill. All four doors opened and guys poured out, jumped the wall, and smelled blood in the water. I’m a pretty fast guy, but my legs literally turned to Jello. Literally. My torso toppled to the ground and we all ate my literal Jello legs and laughed about the good old days when legs were literally made out of human parts. (Rant on the use of the word literal to follow.)

I was not prepared for this. I figured I could outrun any old fogie who would jump out of their car. Sam ran to the left, Laura ducked behind a tree, and I followed Jack and Andy into the brush. We dove head first and stayed silent with our faces buried in our shirts to muffle our breathing

Dear God, please don’t let us get caught. I’ll never do anything bad again.

END PART 2

R.I.P. AIM

R.I.P. AIM

A lament for AOL Instant Messenger

I miss the good ole days when you could sign into AOL Instant Messenger, add someone to your buddy list without their knowing, and say things to them that you would later regret when you see them in person. I miss being about to type LOL and still feel okay about it. I miss the away-messages, the profiles, and the thrill of receiving a new IM from someone I didn’t know. I’ve asked out girls, been rejected by those same girls, yelled in all CAPS HORRIBLE THINGS AT GIRLS, and strategized with my guy friends about how to talk to those girls in real life. I don’t miss that.

The Buddy List.

Remember the buddy list? It was called a Buddy List. You knew friends on your buddy list who didn’t even have screen names that resembled their real names. I had just over one hundred. It’s not like Facebook where you have a thousand friends and half of those people you don’t know. How many times do you catch yourself saying, “wait…who is this person again?” If you have to click on someone’s profile and look at their information to figure out who they are, then you are not friends with them.

I still remember some of their screen names: MIDGYJ1, DMX33, Sggirb, snowflake88, molzypop, zozypop, nutterbutter, krizybabe87, VitotheHero, GrimsonGrimson25, etc.

The Away Message.

When someone walked away from their computer, but still wanted to receive IM’s that came, they could put an away message up that would automatically respond. How fun were those?! Things likebrb, or a line from a popular song, or a confession of your love for your boyfriend or girlfriend, or something awesome like that. My favorite were the really dramatic ones — everyone knows at leastsomeone who would throw something like this up: “I’m so tired of fake people and dealing with their crap”. Ooo juicy! Who is this about? There are no initials there! I remember one away-message I had was: “There’s a log on the fire”. I remember this, because a girl said, “what does your away message mean?” “Nothing, it’s just from a song.” But really, it must have had some secret meaning about how I liked her and wanted to be more than friends because it was from the critically acclaimed 1997 hit from Eagle-Eye Cherry called “Save Tonight”. (You know that song. Save tonight, fight the break of dawn, come tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll be gone, this line repeats about a million times.)

The Profile.

This was a place to voice your opinions, proclaim your love, write more song lyrics, and most importantly, declare your friendships. In 8th grade, every girl’s profile looked like this:

*We might be laughing a bit too hard, but that never hurt no one.* [in a crazy, bold font in hot-pink writing with a black background. Or turquoise-colored font.]

OR

“Life is a highway, I’m gonna ride it all night long. Luv 2 my grls!! *LBcrLMzrLS*”

OR

“Live. Laugh. Love.” These girls grew up and started working for Pottery Barn.

It was really cool to put your significant other’s initials in the bottom of your profile. That was how people made it official.

xo<3RC<3ox **2months**

Give me a break! How lame is that?! It is so lame, in fact, that it’s all I wanted in middle school.

The Unintentional box-close.

It was so exciting getting new messages from someone you didn’t know. That new message sound came up — the one that turned you into Pavlov’s Dog every time your speakers were on — and off you ran to see who hit you up. That excitement quickly turned to mourning when you accidentally closed out of the box before you saw the full screen name. You have to put up an away message saying, “Whoever just IMed me, I closed it by accident!”

Blocking.

If someone annoyed you, you could block them. So easy. You didn’t have to de-friend anyone. Granted, blocking was the most severe form of excommunication.

My Screen Name.

My screen name was barticusillonius. It was some random thing I made up after hearing the nameSparticus from the film That Thing You Do with Tom Hanks and nobody else famous. (Yes, that was made in 1996 and I watched in on VHS. I have older siblings, okay Lo?) My big reveal was that when I had a girlfriend, I would change the illonius ending to illustrius. Why change it? I don’t know. illonius was like alone-ius, except cooler, because ill meant cool at the time. What. A. Loser. When I was in middle school though, it was freaking sweet.

There’s a temptation to look back on everything that I’ve done and say, how foolish was I? Or how dumb did I look then? The problems seem so small and the period of time that those problems existed seems miniscule in comparison with real grown-up problems. In contrast, I’m sure the middle school version of me would look at me now and say, what the hell happened? You didn’t become a professional scuba diver like we had planned. Your professional race-car-driving career is non-existent. Shouldn’t you have made the Boston Bruins by now? …And you’re telling me that you got rid of all your baggy Lee Pipe jeans? What a loser.

Lessons Learned from AIM.

I learned the wrong way to type fast.

I learned how to ask out and break up with girls. The absolute wrong way.

I learned to hate Comic Sans.

I learned to make bad decisions.
On deck: one of those bad decisions. that happened the summer after my freshman year of high school.

P.S. Did you have a good screen name? Tell us. Tell every one.

Beer Me a Job

Anyone else tried to get a job at a brewery by asking them in the “comments” box on their website? No? Just me?

 

About a month before graduating from college, I thought it would be a good idea to start looking for jobs. My favorite jobs to apply for happened to be jobs that didn’t exist. This story takes place a little over two years ago when I tried to get a job at Bell’s Brewery. I wrote this whole thing, word for word, in a comment box big enough for two sentences on their website:

Subject: Writing…

Comments:

 I’m a fan of Bells. I like your beer and I like sticking it to the boring, tasteless domestics. However, I was a little disappointed when I picked up a six pack of Oberon–the beer was fine, but the description on the side of the pack was generic, boring, and to be honest, poorly written. I’m graduating from college with a degree in English (and a minor in business) at the end of may and I’m looking for a job. I’m interested in the beer industry and the brewing process, but I also have a passion for writing. I’ve been reading the website, and although there aren’t any egregious errors or obvious mistakes, it feels dry. Little things could be done to make a smoother and more cohesive website experience–the “About” section for example. “Bell’s Brewery, Inc began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15 gallon soup kettle.” Change this to: “Bell’s Brewery began in 1985 with a soup kettle and a quest to make better beer.” A small change, but it makes it simpler, smoother, and more powerful. Or take it out of the box a bit and tell a story: It’s July 1983. Larry Bell takes a drink of Sam Adams and says to himself, “I could make this stuff. I could make stuff better than this stuff.” Two years later, with the help of a 15 gallon soup kettle, Larry sold his first bottle of Amber Ale… (I don’t know if you guys had Sam Adams here in 85, but I’m from Boston so Sam was my dad’s alternative to Budweiser.) I didn’t find anything about an internship or hiring on the website, but if you feel that having someone with a writing and marketing background would be an asset to the Bell’s team, shoot me an email. Thanks for reading and thanks for making great beer, Bart Tocci

About three weeks later I received a response:

Mr. Tocci,

I sincerely apologize for the large delay in returning your email. I always appreciate constructive criticism from our drinkers and am glad that you took the time to share your thoughts with me. You are more than welcome to forward along an official cover letter and resume to me for review should a position in our department open up. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions or comments. (PS, for what it’s worth, we were open before Sam Adams…Bell’s is the oldest craft brewery west of Boulder, CO).

Cheers!

Julie

*           *           *           *

(That’s not her real name. I wouldn’t do that to her. But I will tell you that her last name rhymes with “zells”.) A few days later I sent her a response. I thanked her for getting back to me and I attached my resume and cover letter. I thanked her again, and then in a move that some might call “stupid”, I said this exact thing:

PS Thanks for setting me straight on the Sam Adams. …For what it’s worth, Michigan is east of Colorado. 😉

A few weeks later I received a form letter from Bell’s telling me that they were not hiring. “Why would you do that, Bart?” Good question. I figured that if they had a good sense of humor (what I deemgood), they would laugh, and think, hey, this is a good guy! And if they didn’t like it, and couldn’t laugh at their own little mistake, that I might not be the best fit for that position that I had just made up.

Dear Bells, don’t worry. Things worked out for me in a big way. I’m currently a thousandaire living in Chicago. Consider the hatchet buried. Unless you want to send me a free beer for life coupon or something — that sure would go a long way in digging a deeper hole for that hatchet.

DMV part 2: Cart People

While I was waiting at the DMV for my newly printed driver’s license, a cart-guy picked up his. I call him a cart-guy because he had a ton of crap in a cart, and it’s shorter than saying, a guy who is probably homeless but I can’t jump to that because he has some new things in that cart.

You’ve seen these grocery cart folks. They never have three or four things in their cart. It’s never half-full. They never have a pair of rollerblades and a pillow and a box of cereal. These guys could fit a full home-gym in their carts and still have room for a gallon of milk and a 36-pack of toilet paper. (Ever buy toilet paper in bulk? When I buy it at Costco, I want to explain myself to people: “I’m just a regular guy. Nooo not like ‘regular’ in that sense, I mean, I am, but I mean a normal…I’m not using all this stuff at once!”) Our cart-guy has stuff clinging on to his vehicle by hooks and ties, he has plastic bags and other paraphernalia squeezing through the metal grids, but somehow everything is staying on. He goes to open the door to exit, which means he has to leave his cart behind him, pull it, and open the door at the same time. (Keep in mind this is at the Chicago DMV. I’ve never seen a DMV with more people in it, or one that was smaller. (Also keep this in mind: I’ve only been to two DMVs, so I’m not some expert on DMVs.) This guy brought the fifteen-passenger-van of grocery carts in and he was maneuvering it around.)

Me: Want me to grab that door for you?

Him: I got it.

Cart-Guy keeps going, obviously about to have a trial opening the door and getting his stuff out. I figure that I probably would have said “I got it” too, but whenever people have ignored my response and helped me, I’ve been thankful. Like the time I was carrying six things in Costco with no cart and they started to fall one by one in front of a pregnant lady with two kids. “Oh here let me get those for you!” She was an absolute sweetheart. I wanted to say, But you’re preeeegggggggggnannnnttttt! Are you even allowed to be moving? I’m supposed to help you with your groceries! She stacked them back in my arms and assured me that she had done so much worse. (What you’re thinking: does this guy talk about anything other than Costco? Yes. Pregnant women. Ugh that sounds weird. But not weird enough for me to delete!)

I walked over to Cart-Guy and opened the door for him. He stopped moving and looked at me. “Isaid”, he raised his voice a bit, “I got it.” I waited for a moment, kept holding, and then said, in my most upbeat tone, “Okay”. I sat back down, in shame, after my failed attempt at helping. I’m mostly serious about the shame part — it’s weird that something as small as offering to open the door and having him shut me down felt bad. This guy was proving a point — “I don’t need your help or anyone elses. I’m just fine on my own. Except for the fact that I have this huge freaking cart that I have to take with me everywhere I go and I apparently need a license to drive it.” …That would be an interesting test:

Where is an appropriate place to have a grocery cart?

A) The grocery store

B) Downtown Chicago

C) The DMV

D) All of the above

I kept thinking, life is too short, man. Life is too short to do everything yourself. Life is too short to scorn help from strangers. I’m sure someone with a degree in Social Work will tell me that I’m being insensitive, that there is a particular name for Cart People, that the correct term is a “Mobile Urbanite”, and that most of these folks have psychological disorders that can be traced back to them having a life that has been about a hundred times harder than mine. I tend to over-simplify huge problems by asking the question, Why is this person not nice? To which, reader, you’re probably saying: Bart, you’re not being particularly nice to the Cart People. I’ve got news for you, reader: they prefer the term Mobile Urbanite.

P.S. The other time I think “life is too short”, comes from one of my inherited pet-peeves. When people tell you their name and you shorten it, and they are NOT okay with that. “It’s DANIEL, Bart. Not Dan.” Life is too short for that nonsense. And also, this is not a game that you want to play with me. “Oh… in that case, Daniel, I’d prefer if you called me Bar-thol-o-mew. Say every. Last. Syllable of my eleven-letter name. (Most mom’s yell their kid’s full name when they are mad — my mom never did because she knew that by the time she finished saying Bartholomew, she would forget what she was mad about.)

License to kill (time waiting in line) Part 1

During the six years that I lived in Michigan, I used my Massachusetts driver’s license. Some people might call this “illegal”, but I prefer the term… well illegal I guess, but it sure helped with the police. It was worth the baffled looks from waiters and waitresses while they searched for my birth year and commented on my weirdly large head. (I must have been standing too close to the camera, because my dome takes up half of the ID.) It was finally helpful when I got pulled over after rolling through a stop sign in a shady area. “I’m sorry officer, I just graduated from college here and I got a little lost…” (Just is a great word because what does it really mean? For me, it meant two years ago. I wasn’t lying about being lost, though. I have a horrible sense of direction.)

My Illinois friend told me that not having an Illinois license after living here for a month is an arrestable offense. So off I went to the DMV for my class D and M (for motorcycles) and R (for Rental Truck). That last part was a lie. And so is this next part: It was such a simple process.

All I had to do was bring in every single piece of identification that I’ve ever had in my entire life in order to get rejected and sent home. The DMV is similar to being killed by a Sarlacc. Remember the creature in Stars Wars: Return of the Jedi? It’s the pit that Luke Skywalker is supposed to jump into on the planet Tatooine, where he’ll “discover a new definition of pain and suffering while being slowly digested over a thousand years”. It takes so long to kill you because you become part of the biological make-up of the Sarlacc, with the help of stomach acid and biotoxins that produce hallucinatory effects that paralyze prey and enable the creature to access the minds and intelligence of whoever is caught. The Star Wars Wikipedia page will tell you that very few people have ever escaped from the inside of a Sarlacc. So the parallel to the DMV is obvious.

Note: The good people in the Midwest call the DMV, the Secretary of State, but I don’t want to write SOS all the time because that could be misleading to the Coast Guard.

My Passport, current driver’s license, Birth Certificate, and 7th grade baseball jersey with my name on the back were not sufficient without my social security card. Once I got that social card in the mail, I went back to the Sarlacc’s execution ground.

Woman who took my card to her co worker: Ever see a social card this blue?

Co worker: Think it’s a fake?

Woman: Naw, it’s just blue.

Me: [slams head on the counter]

The second time I dominated the pre-line and found myself in the real line. The real line is a strange mix between Bingo, deli-counter, and the depression ward of a psychiatric hospital. My number was E-214, and when my number was finally called, I wanted so badly to throw up my ticket, start fist pumping, and yell out, “WINNER! So long suckaaaaaas!”

I walked to the counter for the next trial. “We can’t take this.” My AT&T mail disguised as a bill didn’t work. I brought extra mail because I know that the government doesn’t like me. I started making it rain on this woman’s counter. “How about another fake-bill from AT&T? How about a UPS envelope? How about an old movie-ticket stub?” “No, that won’t work.” “How about renter’s insurance?” (Yes, I learned from being robbed three times that it’s worth paying $200 for the whole year.) I gave her a huge packet. “Tell me, where on here it says that this is renter’s insurance for your property.” She had a little sass, which I appreciated. It meant that she hadn’t gone all soft and cheerful working at the DMV, which is usually what happens to those employees. I looked at the front page and pointed to the first line: “is this it? Where it says Homeowner’s insurance?”

She stapled a few things, gave me a paper and told me to wait in line to pay for my license. I waited to pay, then I had to wait in line to take two tests that I didn’t study for. Which isn’t entirely unfamiliar to me.

The motorcycle test was hard, because it was so subjective.

“If you have to slow down while turning, but there is sand ahead, which part of your lane do you want to ride in?”

A) the left

B) the right

C) the middle

D) none of the above

Can I have a follow-up question? Where is the sand!?

I kept shaking my head, mouthing the question over and over, and putting my arms up, which foiled my attempt to look really cool in front of all my line-dwelling peers — who I was getting to know.

The car test, in contrast, could have been completed by a piece of wood.

“What is true about double yellow lines on the road?”

A) There are two lines parallel to each other

B) They divide the road

C) They are yellow

D) All of the above

I wanted to stand up and say, “Hey everyone, I’m taking two tests here, which is why it’s taking me so long — I know I looked confused, but that…that was with the motorcycle—”

“—THERE’S NO TALKING.”

“Okay, but I wanted to explain–”

“–QUIET”
Thankfully I passed. I was then told to go wait in line to get my photo taken. And then wait in line to get my card. This place is obsessed with lines!

How to Buy a Car

This is the story of how I bought a car, and made a car salesman feel used.

I’ll spare you the boring details, but we found a three bedroom apartment. It has exposed brick (like any hip Chicago place should), surprisingly large rooms, and an updated kitchen that is really an updated kitchen. The price difference between Grand Rapids and Chicago reminds me of jumping from a warm, smooth, rock heated by the summer sun into a frigid mountain pool where mountain-pool-dwellers are waiting with tridents to stab you. That is to say, it’s shocking. We signed the lease and waited to move in. In the meantime, I needed a car.

HOW TO BUY A CAR

“You know what, Bart… I want to stop before I say something that I’m going to regret.” Pause. “But you know what…” Apparently he wanted to not stop before he said something that he was going to regret. “I just…I feel used.”

This is the story of how I bought a car, and made a new and used car salesman feel used.

Rewind to January, 2013. I drive with Ben to the VW dealership and I test drive a new, white, TDI golf. These are the cars that run off diesel fuel and get around 42 MPG. It’s a fun car, small, handles great — all that jazz. But it’s white. It looked very boring. The guy who gave me the keys called it a “standard grocery-getter”, which made it sound sexy. He introduced himself as Chip. (Which is similar to his real name)  “Chip, I’m thinking about a TDI Golf six-speed.” “OH, what a great car! I probably don’t need to tell you anything about the car, you TDI guys do so much research.” Interesting approach. Chip proceeded to not tell me anything about the car.

When I finished driving around, Chip asked, “So what’s your timeline?” “I’m moving to Chicago in June, so sometime before then.” I was intentionally vague because I didn’t want him hounding me before I was ready to make a decision. As turns out, I didn’t have to worry about that.

I had six months to work with, so naturally I decided give Volkswagen an offer they couldn’t refuse: I wrote them a letter asking them to give me a new car. I waited. I received a tweet back from their social media people who said, “nice post, you thousandaire”, quoting my blog. Because social media folks aren’t in charge of giving away cars, I waited for my letter to make its rounds among the top VW executives. It must still be making its rounds. I’m expecting a VW any day now. In fact… it’s probably sitting at my old address! How could I HAVE BEEN SO FOOLISH.

After putting all my eggs in the free-car-basket and losing that basket, I had to make a decision. I called Chip in June about trading in my beloved Crown Vic, which he said I could absolutely do. I drove that beast in, and they told me that I would get $2,500 for a trade in. (This prompted me to write an ad for the Vic on Craigslist, that was promptly removed.) While I was there, Chip drove out the same exact white TDI that I took for a test-drive back in January. It was dirty, and had just been hosed off in an attempt to make it look less dusty. Hmm. No one seemed to want that thing.

I told them that I didn’t want to do the trade-in because I’m not a moron and I don’t feel like throwing away money. Chip called me later and asked what was holding me back. “I’d like some more for the trade-in. I know that I can get at least $4,000 for the Vic, and I know that you guys have had that TDI hanging around for a while and I’m guessing that you want to get rid of it.” I figured we could work out a good deal. Chip got a little defensive:

“You know, Bart, we have a saying in the car business. ‘A seat for every seat’. Which means that if you don’t buy it, someone else will — now I hope you’re the one who buys it! But someone else might like white, while you don’t. It’s a preference thing. Besides, these TDI’s aren’t going to be around forever. The next model year doesn’t come out for a while…” blah blah blah

“Ok.”

Note to those of you who are thinking about buying a car: These car guys love to raise the urgency level. If you don’t buy today, LOOK OUT. Who knows? Maybe all the Volkswagens will disappear by noon tomorrow. I mean, I don’t know, I haven’t been able to sell this thing for a year, but maybe…maybe a tractorbeam takes these things up to space! Hell, I don’t know! What I do know is you need it NOW!

He gave me more reasons about why I didn’t have a leg to stand on and then came back with,

“So what do we have to do to make this happen?” I told him I needed more for the trade-in.

“I’ll see what I can do for ya, Bart! The Crown Vic isn’t exactly a hot commodity right now, with gas mileage and the size… The sales manager and the car appraiser are both at a classroom session and they are the ones who make the decision.”

Me: “Ok.”

A day or two later, Chip called.

“Well Bart, I was able to get a little more, but not much, but it’s still something!”

“Alright, how much are we talkin’?”

“I was able to get you $2,600 for the Vic”.

Stop traffic. You got me one hundred dollars more. I spent $100 at Costco last weekend by mistake. (I’m not proud of this — I went in for hummus and saw five other things there, thought I was getting away with murder (murder being a good deal on groceries) and then found out that I was getting away with $100 less than I had when I walked in.) This is a big investment, man. Offering an extra hundred bucks sounded like this to me: “You’re an idiot, right? Aren’t you? Well here’s an extra hundred. Take it and be happy, you dumb kid who doesn’t know anything.”

I’m a little frustrated at this point. On facebook, I notice that my friend Nick works for another VW dealership in town. I send him a message. “Hey Nick, I’m having some trouble dealing with the folks over here.” I told him what I was looking for, and he talked to the sales manager, told me that they could get me a deal. Just bring the car by and we’ll see. A few minutes later, I got a call from Chris, the sales manager at the first dealership (Chip’s boss). “Bart, what do we need to do to get you this car.” “I need more for the trade-in.” I felt like a broken record. Remember when I told you guys this three days ago? Same thing.

“Bart, if I can get you $3,000 for the Vic, do we have a deal?” Pause. “Because I don’t want to go to my car appraiser and ask him for this favor and then have you not take it, because then the next time I ask him for a favor, he won’t give it to me!”

Your car appraiser? The guy who works with you and for you? You don’t want to ask him for a favor? At the time, I thought, “Oh gosh, he’s right. That would be really too bad for him. Maybe I should make this decision based on what is best for this car salesman and not what is best for me.” Looking back now, the manipulation there was pretty fun. He asked again, “If I get you $3k, do we have a deal?” The one thing I regret about this whole process: I said “Yes”.

He sends me the sales invoice, I see the numbers, and I get a call from a guy at dealership #2. Nick’s boss. “Come on by with the Crown Vic, we’ll give you a good deal”. I go, and without any drama they offer me $3,300 ($300 above what dealer #1 offers.) The car they have is newer, it’s the color I want, updated rims, comes with more stuff. Also, the dealership is cleaner, looks more professional, and the people were good to me. Then there was the hard sell.

Me: “Great, I like the numbers, I want to go home and sleep on it.”

Sales Manager: “It’s a good deal. We did right by you, don’t you think?”

Me: …Yeah, and I appreciate it — I just don’t want to make a sudden decision.

SM: Ok, no problem. We’re just talking, no pressure.

Pause. Reaaaally.

SM: So what’s holding you back?

This guy doesn’t want me to leave without signing papers. When I realize that people are giving me the hard sell, or trying to convince me of something — even when I know that it’s the better option — I shut down.

Me: I just want to think about it.

SM: That’s fine…just know that it gets really busy in here tomorrow so it might not be easy to get you this car by the weekend.

Me: No problem.

SM: And you know Murphey’s Law! You’ve got a good deal for that trade-in now, but you leave that lot…

His last resort was telling me that JUST MAYBE I would get in a car accident on the way home. He really did not want me going back to the other guys and getting a better deal. I laughed and thanked him for his concern for my car’s safety, and took off.

I called them the next day and told them they’ve got a deal.  I felt like I should let the other guys know, so I called dealer #1 and told them that I wasn’t going to buy from them.  Chris did not handle it well.

“Hey Chris, I just wanted to say, thanks for all your help. I’ve really appreciated everything, but I’m not going to go with you guys”

Bruce: Who beat my price.

Me: Wel—

Chris: –Who beat my price.

Me: dealer’s name

Chris: [Sighs] I knew it! I knew it! It’s the kiss of death whenever I send the sales paper out!

What the hell am I supposed to say to this? Dangit Chris ya shouldn’t have given it to me then! And for that matter, if it always happens, shouldn’t you know better?

Chris: Because the competition knows exactly what I’m offering.

Me: …They offered me a car in a color I actually wanted and I didn’t have a hard time—

Chris: –You told me yesterday that we had a deal. You agreed. You said…

He started questioning my character, which wasn’t awesome. I did tell him that we had a deal a day earlier. I did not feel good about that, but that I felt more comfortable with the other dealership. He said something about me not keeping my word, and not being a good person. What I didn’t need was life lessons from this man. This whole conversation was worse than breaking up with a girl. It was worse than cancelling DirecTV (because they are a bunch of fine-print scammers. They still send me mail: “We miss you” “Come Back” “Was it something I said?” They now send me letters in faux hand-addressed envelopes).

 

Life lesson continued:

Chris: What would it look like if we agreed on a price and then you came in and I changed the price on you?  You said that we had a deal.

What kind of a jackass example is that? I’m the customer! Of course you’re not going to change the price on me. I didn’t know what to say. At this point I was just walking around my house listening to his complaints.

Me: …Yeah.

Chris: Chip worked real hard on this, and I’d like to make this happen for him.

Me: And I appreciate what he did, I just don’t—

Chris: —We were talking about a white model, do you want a gray? I can get you a gray.

Me: I was talking about the white model because I thought you guys wanted to get rid of it and that you’d give me a good deal on it.

Chris: I had no idea that you wanted a gray one. If I get you a gray one, for the same price, do we have a deal?

Me: …No. Sorry.

Chris: [Big Sigh. Long pause.] You know what, Bart… I want to stop before I say something that I’m going to regret. [Pause.] But you know what, I just…I feel used.”

Me: Look, I don’t feel like I owe you guys anything. I didn’t sign anything for you. If you hadn’t jerked me around with the trade-in, maybe we’d have a deal. This is my first time buying a car. I didn’t go to this other dealership and give them your sales invoice and say, “beat that!” They told me they could give me a good deal on it and they did. With no hassle.

We finally ended the conversation and he wished me well with the new car. There was no talk of “just being friends” when this was over. “We can still hang out in the same friend groups, right?” “Will it be awkward if I see you?” “See that guy, right there? That was my ex-car-dealership-guy.”

What. A. Nightmare.

Nightmares aside, I have it now and I clocked 51 MPG the other day.

Now that I have my car, It’s time to move my stuff to Chicago. For that, I’ll need a rental truck.

For next time: “How’s My Driving? Call 1-800-I’m-Driving-A-Freaking-Budget-Rental-Truck.”

Tekno101: How a Free Lunch Cost Me My Sanity

Tekno101: How a Free Lunch Cost Me My Sanity

I walked into large room with about thirty other admissions counselors representing various schools around the US. We were greeted by five men in suits. Four of them looked like bouncers, and one of them looked like a member of some New York organized crime group, who was also a bouncer.

http://wp.me/P2m2lG-8c

How to Lose a Stalker in 10 Days

When a guy stalks someone, it’s creepy and scary and illegal. When a girl stalks someone, it’s cute.

 

I’ve been waiting almost a year to tell this story — before I could, a few things had to happen: 1. I had to unfriend a girl on facebook. 2. Let’s be honest, she probably unfriended me. 3. That’s it.

I was traveling in the great state of Texas last year, going to college fairs and visiting high schools for my job. The rumors are true, Texas is huge and the objects in Texas are massive as well. I’ve never seen so many flags that are larger than New York City skyscrapers. Like most states, though, Texas has it’s share of quaint towns. One of these is just outside of San Antonio.

I had just finished visiting a high school when I decided to go into town to get a sandwich. Post-sandwich, I saw a trendy-looking frozen yogurt place and I thought, far be it from me to avoid froyo. Hun-cal froyo, perchance. I walked in and saw yogurt dispensers on the wall. Across from the wall was the cashiers desk. Behind the desk was the cashier. Beneath the cashier was tile floor. Enough. We strike up a conversation about frozen yogurt, as you might imagine. Weather comes in for a bit, then work. Then she asks me what I’m doing in the area. “I just finished visiting a local high school… The Concordia School”, I told her. We talked a little about my job, a little about what she was doing and where she was attending college.

It’s important to know that she was quite attractive but not incapacitatingly so.
It’s also important to know that while traveling, one gets lonely. I spent about a week before this driving around Texas by myself, eating at restaurants by myself, and staying in hotels by myself. I learned to enjoy unexpected conversation — with myself, but found that talking with another human was a real treat.

I finally start browsing the various flavors of froyo and find a few that interest me. “So how does this work? Can I try these?” “Yeah, you can try all of them! Just take this cup.” She came out from behind the counter and helped to serve me self-serve frozen yogurt. “Which is the best one? Which is your favorite?” I ask for her opinion.  I have a habit of asking the staff at restaurants what they would like to eat instead of telling them what I would like to eat. “This one.” She pulls the lever and some blueberry pomegranate or strawberry razzledaz or some other really girly flavor comes out. I didn’t like it. I settle instead for the most manly option available: Sorbet called “Mango Tango”.

It’s worth noting that when I first came in, the place was empty except for the cashier and a woman in her early 50’s sitting the corner. Cashier and I continue talking as I sit down. The older woman looks pleasant enough, sitting a few seats away from me.

Chatter continues, we’re joking with each other when a group of six high school girls walk through the door. She greets them and they start talking. She seems like the kind of girl who knows everyone in town. Suddenly it feels like I’m eating frozen yogurt, alone, listening to high school girls discuss the latest drama. It felt weird, mostly because this was Wednesday and I do that on Saturdays. I shovel the rest of my Mango Tango into my mouth so fast that my brain feels like I’ve been wearing a tiny fitted-hat for longer than advisable. I look up to see if we are going to say bye, which we are not, and I take off.

That was a nice conversation with an amiable girl. –My only thoughts on the discourse.

I packed up and drove to Austin that night.

The next evening, as I was checking my email, I came across something from the secretary of the Concordia School that I visited. It was titled “Found Item”. Serenity Now! What have I forgotten!? I opened the email and read this:

Froz Yogurt called yesterday to say they had found a phone book that had been left by a gentleman who was going to visit Concordia School.  By their description, we have narrowed the search down to you.  If you truly have lost some type of phone book, please call the business at bla blah blah or Sharon at yada yada yada.

Phone Book? I haven’t seen, let alone used a phone book since 1998. What could I have lost? I called the business number. No answer. I called Sharon. “Hello, Sheriff’s office.” You can imagine my surprise: “Uhhhhhhh this is about the farthest thing from an emergency that I can imagine.” I managed to spit out a quick response before she pushed the imaginary panic button that teleports police cruisers to wherever people in real emergencies are, and levies large fines on those who are in fake emergencies. “I think I have the wrong number. Is there a Sharon there?” “Yes! This is Sharon. How can I help you?” Thank goodness. “I left a…phonebook at the Froz Yogurt and I–” She interrupts me before I can finish. “Ohh! I’m Zane’s mom! I saw you in there when you two were talking. She has your phonebook.”

I’m trying to put all the pieces together. “Zane is the one who works at Froz?” “Yes, and I’m her mom.” So the woman who was sitting in the corner of the froyo place, observing my conversation with Zane, was Zane’s mom. And Zane’s mom is a Sheriff. I kept thinking, it’s a really good thing that I didn’t say anything that would have put myself in jeopardy. Like I usually do. “I’m wanted in 35 states… But I’m only needed in one.”
I don’t know what that means.

Sharon gave me two numbers: one was the actual frozen yogurt joint, which I called to no avail. The other turned out to be a cell phone. I call it, and a girl picks up and says hello through a lot of static. “I’ll call you back on another phone”, she says just before she hangs up. Twelve seconds later I got a text:

“Who is this?”
“My name is Bart – I came to Froz and apparently left my…phonebook there?”

Long Pause.

“I finally know your name.”

Chills tickle my spine and my eyes are wide in disbelief. “Ohhhhhhhhhh”, I say aloud to myself as I shiver in my hotel room. I slowly close the curtains as I peek out the window. I look under the bed, in the closet, and I check my pockets. She’s not there.

“There wasn’t any phonebook, was there?” I text back.
“No…”

The dot, dot, dot! There’s something that is left unsaid! This girl had to call the high school that I visited earlier that day to get my information — which they wouldn’t give. She had to have them email me. As a contact, she listed her mom, AKA the Sheriff. The Sheriff had to be on the lookout for a nonexistent phonebook and direct my call back to her daughter, named Zane. I’m not making this up.

“I’m sorry, I know this is weird but I never do this!”

“I never do this” usually means “I do this”.
Guy: Oh I never golf.
Me: Really? Cause you’re making me look like a child.
Guy: Yeah, never.
Me: How often is ‘never’?
Guy: Oh man, like rarely do I make it out here. Two, three times a week. Tops. Ridiculous huh?
Me: That’s what I was thinking.

Let’s be honest though, it’s flattering. She went through a lot of work to get my name. Hard work and perseverance. Good qualities in any girl or quarterback.

She facebook friended me, and of course I accepted — I didn’t want to make her feel bad, duh. Turns out she was very attractive in her photos. Which I inspected thoroughly — I had to know who was after me duhh. One good stalk deserves another. (See facebook peeking)  She also is one of these chronic status-updaters who apparently has about 200 dedicated status-readers ‘liking’ and commenting on everything she says. Stuff like “Feeling Tired” had 20 ‘likes’ and 19 comments: “Oh, get some sleep hun.” “Have some coffee :)” “Yipee, me too!” In addition to these insights there was always a creepy guy saying things like “If you were my girl, you’d never be tired.” I started looking around the room for an object to knock one’s self out with. What does that even mean, guy-who-is-trying-to-pick-up-a-girl-via-facebook-comment? If you were my girl isn’t some catch-all phrase that women go for. I know because I’ve tried it so. many. times.

One of her status updates was this: “The most handsome man just came into my work today. But he left before I could find out his name :\” Yaaayyy my stalker thinks I’m attractive yaayyyy. Being called handsome is a huge step up from being called “the Fawn from Narnia.” I had to check the date to make sure that the post was, in fact, about me because if my stalker wrote this about some other guy she was stalking… SO HELP ME I WOULD LOSE IT! Another 14 comments followed from her minions who were undoubtedly wise in the ways of stalking. They were saying things like, “Don’t give up hope!” and “Go get him!” and “STALK HIM!”