Tuesday, August 31, 2010

love the way you lie

I generally have no problem with lying, fibbing, embellishing. I'll say I "need to get ready for dinner" to end a phone conversation; I'll tell the dude with the clipboard on the sidewalk that I'm "on my way to a doctor's appointment"; I'll tell my doctor I eat three meals a day. This is pretty standard stuff, I think/hope. Recently I've noticed though that, when I'm prompted to lie, I almost always inexplicably clam up.

A few months ago, when I was buying a new laptop with my brother, the Mac "genius" (you know him: shaved head, goatee, strange teeth) asked if I was a student.

"No," I said.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm not a student. I graduated from college two years ago."
"I am going to ask you again," he said.

I turned to my brother, who was looking at me the way everyone looks at that oldest daughter on Modern Family: half-pitying, half-incredulous. I got it.

"Oh... yeah... I am a student!" I exclaimed, a little too loudly, causing the genius to make some sort of ostrich-like movement with his hands. And then, to really show him that I got it (?), I added: "Yeah, I study history."

A few days ago I found myself in a very similar situation at Starbucks. In for my daily venti iced coffee (watch out for my "healthy lifestyle" diet book in stores this fall), this dude who isn't even my usual Starbucks guy recognized me and started to make my coffee (are there other things to be achieved in life once ALL the baristas have memorized your coffee order?). When he went to ring me up, he said, "This is a refill, right?"

"Uh, no."
"You didn't come in earlier?" he asked with this devilish grin.
"No... I - "
"I'LL RING YOU UP for the refill price of 37 cents then."

It dawned on me, ten seconds later than it should have, that not only was this dude doing me the pretty awesome favor of saving me three dollars, he was doing it in spite of the fact that I was actively working against him.

"Oh, thank you so much," I said. "I will... enjoy this refill." (You would think I live in that weird-looking Ricky Gervais movie where no one can lie.)

I guess there a few things I've learned here: (1) I am always going to be innately distrustful of people who want to just cheerily hand over free iPod touches and student discounts and iced coffees, (2) once you're removed from it, the charms of the caffeine-addicted, college student life become much more evident and (3) lying is so much easier when you're the only one who knows you're doing it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

philosophy of the hat pan

I was playing hangman with my 8-year-old cousin Julia at dinner earlier this week while we waited for our entrees to arrive. (I suppose it says something about my maturity level that I will ALWAYS pick hangman and tic-tac-toe with 8-year-olds over discussing the weather outlook and what good books everyone's read lately with the adults.) Julia had stumped me twice, employing a smart strategy of choosing three or four-letter words ("May," "five"), and she managed to solve my two ("pineapple," "firefly") without too much difficulty. But I took my game to the next level for round three: Julia wrote down six blanks separated by a space and I got it to "_at _an" within four guesses. It had to be "bat man." When I guessed "b" though, Julia twitched and laughed nervously, shaking her head as she avoided making eye contact. When I eventually ran out of guesses and faced the guillotine, she filled in the words as "hat pan."

"That's not a thing," I said.

She paused. "Yeah, it is," she said. And, just like that, she drew a top hat with a protruding handle. "See."

It was, unequivocally, a hat pan.

There's something about this Philosophy of The Hat Pan that's stayed with me. It's about creation and imagination, for sure, and about expunging limits, all of that. But it's also about flexibility: when you've had your sights set on "bat man" all along - so much so that it's all you believe exists out there - it can be depressingly easy to forget that you're capable of making your own "hat pan." All you have to do is draw it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

moments that are awful

1. You're driving with your friend and you're in the middle of telling a story that you've been building up for a while now ("let's save it for dinner tonight" you gchatted earlier that day) and for whatever reasons (maybe it's the heightened expectations you've created?) the story isn't popping like you thought it would; you find yourself adding in a few adjectives here and there and embellishing some details. Suddenly your friend interrupts you with a "Wait, which street are we looking for?" and you say "Oh, I'm not sure" and offer to look it up on your phone. So you do that and then there's about a minute of silence while you figure out where you are. And then, once you've found the right street, you say "So, should I... finish the story?" and your friend says "Oh, yeah, sure."

2. You're waiting on a street corner to meet a casual acquaintance. Neither of you was bold enough to suggest an actual restaurant or bar for drinks, so instead you're just meeting at Broadway and Spring and "finding a place." You're there a few minutes early, and you feel especially unsure about the snug fit of your t-shirt as you hover near a mailbox.

3. An old friend has sent you a long e-mail which, while a generally enjoyable read, is also, woefully, peppered with enough questions to necessitate a response. You put off responding until a few weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon when your other options consist of calling your parents or dealing with the pile at the bottom of your closet. You churn out this awful, stale e-mail - with sentences like "I'm slowly adjusting to it though!" and "How are things with the new roommates?" - and you click "send" without even re-reading the e-mail once.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Logging into Gmail or Facebook or Twitter and noticing there has been a change to the layout or the addition of a new feature is like returning to your bedroom and finding everything has been strewn all over the place so you can't find anything AND AT THE SAME TIME realizing all your stuff has been dipped in strange-colored paint. Just like that. I know, I know, I'm resigned to the fact that in three years Gmail as it is now will look positively archaic and I've just got to get with the program or whatever, and I know I've written about this kind of thing a hundred times before, but I just gotta VENT for a moment.

Twitter, believe me, I've been long aware of all of these people whom you are suggesting I follow (in fact, I'll tell you a secret: I check many of their feeds on the regular!); the effect of having them watch over me at all times is that of being continually judged by the snarkiest panel of internet-famous people ever. Don't want! Facebook, I am probably the only person in the world who LIVED for the "View all Photo Comments Made On This Album" feature, and now that you've removed it, I have, consequently, ceased to live. And Gmail, Gmail, Gmail.... I don't even know where to START with this redesign. I have been accidentally clicking on the "Contacts" tab for two days now and, every time, I feel the visceral panic and anguish of a guinea pig trapped in a confined cardboard box.

Monday, August 9, 2010

goofus and gallant

Two times in the past few months I have found myself in the undesirable position of arriving to a group dinner first. In both cases I have told the hostess, "I'll just, uh, wait... here," and then moved to stand to the side. The hostess will occasionally glance at me with bored condescension that makes me feel like I'm waiting for my mom to pick me up in the carpool line at elementary school. I'll take out my Blackberry and send out completely unnecessary texts ("Can't relate 2 people who don't know who Joan Rivers is"). I'll fidget and (alert: Kardashian-esque style tip coming up) try to discreetly check how I look in the reflection on the wall.

Now, the first time I was in this position, a few months ago, it was for a birthday dinner of 14 people, some of whom I didn't know. Standing a few feet from the hostess' station, I watched as a girl in a black dress entered and told the hostess she was there for the party that I was. I couldn't quite hear what the hostess said next, but I saw the girl turn to look at me and shake her head. She then turned away from me somewhat abruptly and took out her iPhone. I debated approaching her to introduce myself, but her head-shake and back-turn had frozen me in place. A few minutes later, the birthday girl arrived and we were introduced. "Oh, god," the girl said to me, "How rude of me. The hostess asked if I was with you... but I thought you were a waiter." I nodded and smiled. This was clearly the kind of girl who is just able to get away with delivering excuses that make absolutely no logical sense. "Oh, of course," I responded. Needless to say, a Facebook friendship was not in our future.

Meanwhile, the Gallant example to Black Dress' Goofus occurred this past weekend. I was early for a dinner with a visiting college friend and one of her friends I had never met before. I was waiting outside the restaurant when I got a text from the college friend ("On my way - should be there in five"). A few seconds later, a girl seemingly appeared from out of nowhere and tapped me on my shoulder. "You must be Josh," she said. "Yeah!" I responded, "Wait, how did you know it was me?" "Oh, I saw you pull out and check your phone at the same time I got a text from Cari," she said. I was immediately infatuated with this Modern Day Nancy Drew. "Damn, that was smart," I said. And by the time Cari arrived, the two of us were already past jobs/neighborhoods/roommates and on to making fun of the bickering couple sitting on the bench near us. No surprise, we became Facebook friends the next day.