Monthly Archives: September 2012

Craigslist Missed Connections: The K Train

I was waiting for the N train. You were waiting for the K train. You asked somebody when the K train would be coming, but the person who you asked must not have spoken English, because he didn’t respond. He just stared at you for a while until you turned away. Somebody else overheard the conversation and informed you that there is no K train. You got defensive. You pulled out your cell phone and showed him a picture of a K train. You insisted that the K train does exist. The man looked puzzled. He eventually shrugged and walked away.

I went home that night and looked up “K Train” on Wikipedia. There was a K train, in the 1980s, but the service was discontinued in 1988. On the Wikipedia page, there was that same picture of the K train that you showed that guy in the subway. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. Were you from the past? Did you somehow wind up in the future, but underground, and you couldn’t figure out how to get back home?

Maybe you were a ghost. Maybe there’s a hidden meaning. But then I remembered that you had pulled out a cell phone, so you couldn’t be from the past, because cell phones didn’t exist yet. I mean, I think they existed, but nobody had them. And they were huge. And they didn’t have screens, definitely no high-resolution screens for showing pictures and stuff. Those didn’t come out until like 2005. And you probably weren’t a ghost, because, while I’m not discounting the existence of ghosts, it’s just that I’ve never heard of a ghost with a cell phone.

If you’re a ghost, is your cell phone a ghost too? Is it a ghost phone? If I asked you to borrow it to make a call, and you said yes, and you handed it to me, and if indeed you were a ghost, would the phone make contact with my hands or would it just pass through me, like I’d expect a ghost phone would? And if it passed through my hands, would it pass through the ground also? And then I’d be really spooked, I’d realize that you were a ghost. If I looked up, would you still be there? Because that’s when I’d imagine you’d probably vanish. It’s always right when the person figures out that the other person is a ghost that the ghost vanishes, and then the person who got spooked gets chills up their spine. I think I just spooked myself a little.

But now that I’m thinking about it even more, why did you pull your phone out underground anyway? What, did you have that picture of the K train preloaded, ready to go? Like you looked it up on the Internet while you were above ground, and you saved it to your phone in case you had to prove to some stranger the existence of some non-existent train?

I wish that you had asked me when the K train was coming. I’d have had so many questions. Well, that’s what I think anyway. I’m saying this all with the benefit of hindsight. How many times do you find yourself in situations where you’re simply at a loss for words? And only after the fact, like much later do you say to yourself that I should have said this or I should have asked that. Maybe if you had asked me about the K train I would have been so stumped that I would have just stared at you like the first guy.

And the more I’m thinking about it, that’s exactly what would have happened. It’s like, I could have approached you and said, “What are you talking about lady?” but I didn’t. Again, I don’t know if this was because I couldn’t think of anything to say, or because when I’m riding the subway, I’m just locked in my own world, somewhat aware of what’s going on around me, but really very conditioned to try to at least pretend to ignore it, like I’m a statue, or a robot. Yeah, a robot, because statues don’t move.

I was waiting for the N train. You were standing there confused, helpless. The N train came and I got on. The doors closed and I looked at you through the windows. You turned around and we made eye contact. I could feel something, a connection, a missed connection. I put my hand to the glass. You maintained the eye contact. Then some guy walked by and bumped into your shoulder, and you stumbled just a little, not too much, it wasn’t that strong of a bump. And so I figured, yup, definitely not a ghost. Unless that guy was a ghost also. Ghosts can make physical contact with other ghosts, right?

I’ve got it all figured out

People always say to me, they say, “Rob, you have it all figured out.” One time I told this to one of my friends, I told this friend how people always say this to me. And this friend said, “Rob, I think they’re saying it sarcastically, like you say something, and then they say that, that you have it all figured out, but they’re not serious.” My friend has a terrible way with words, that’s why that sentence was so long and repetitive, because it was a quote. My friend obviously has nothing figured out, including sentences, including sarcasm, including conversations that I’ve had with other people about which he obviously doesn’t know anything, except for what I just told him, and especially including me having everything figured out.

Because I do. I have it all figured out. All of it. It’s one of the main reasons why I never play crossword puzzles, or Sudoku, or those books of riddles and brainteasers. Because I already know that I’ll just look at everything for a second and I’ll already have had it figured out way before my eyes even have a chance to transmit and translate what I’m seeing into whatever language my brain-cells speak that allows them to turn the light from the visible spectrum into something I can then see. See even that I have figured out, how light works and how eyes and brain-cells work. I have everything figured out.

But yeah, no crossword puzzles. I can never play poker or blackjack because nobody wants to play cards with somebody who has it all figured out. They kick people like me out of places like that. I’m talking about casinos. Maybe you knew that already, maybe I didn’t have to spell it out for you that I was talking about casinos. It’s just that it’s hard for me, a guy who has so much figured out already, everything really, it’s difficult sometimes to relay information to other people, who probably don’t have anything figured out. And so I find myself always dumbing it down maybe way too much. Because if I were writing a blog post for myself to read, it would only be like two or three words, and from those two or three words, I’d be able to extrapolate everything that a regular reader needs a whole page of text to understand.

So I was telling all of this to my friend, about me having it figured out, about no crossword puzzles or dice games, and he interrupted me, he said, “Ha! You can’t do crosswords? What do you do on long plane rides to keep yourself occupied? Looks like you don’t have everything figured out after all!” But my friend doesn’t know anything. I had that problem figured out even before I ever took my first plane ride. I just buy a whole book of word finds. You know, those squares of letters? And you have to find words, like sideways, or vertically, or diagonally, or backwards?

I told this to my friend, about the word finds. And he interrupted me again, “Ha! So it looks like you don’t have it all figured out, because you have to find the words!” I really wish that this guy wasn’t constantly interrupting me. If he’d let me finish I’d explain, and the explanation would be a lot shorter, because it wouldn’t be peppered by all of his annoying “Ha!” this and “Ha!” that. Everybody knows word finds aren’t something to be figured out. They already come pre-figured out. All you’re doing is looking for stuff. There’s no figuring out involved. Any idiot could do them; you could just point your pencil at every single letter until you find every single word.

Having said that, I never do word finds that way. I just look at the page, take all of the letters in as a whole, and I can see every single word on the list. I even see words that aren’t on the list. I even see words in different languages. When I was a little kid I used to love it when the teacher didn’t feel like teaching that day and she’d pass out photocopies of word finds. And my friends and I would find all of these non-listed words, like sex, or butt, and we’d sit there and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Eventually the teacher would come over and be like, “All right, what’s all this noise about? Am I going to have to separate you?” and she’d snatch the word finds out of our hands and look at the words we’d found, like ass, or poo. They were always usually three letter words, very rarely four letters, because, like our teacher used to explain while she was trying not to laugh, trying to act all serious, that these words were mistakes, that whenever you put random letters together, you’re going to get some accidental words.

But I had this figured out too. No way could these be mistakes. The guy who’d been hired to make these word finds probably thought it was the stupidest job in the world, and he probably spiced his day up a little by throwing in some fun words, like pee, or vag. And he’d hand them in to his boss and be like, also trying really hard not to laugh, “Here you go boss, all done with my word finds.”

It’s not that difficult to imagine the guy’s boss only giving it a very brief once-over, even though he calls himself a boss, even though his title is technically editor, even though he has to officially give the go ahead on every word find, before it’s published, he’s not looking for tiny funny words. He’d probably notice if it said penis. In all of the word finds I’ve done, I’ve only seen penis once. And it wasn’t one of those adult word finds. Those take all of the fun out of it.

I had it all figured out, I could see it in my head, this guy, fed up with his job, he wants to get fired so bad, and so he puts penis in this little kid word find, and of course the boss doesn’t find it when he’s checking it, but it comes back to him, all of these teachers, my teacher, calling up the publishing company, complaining about indecency and how she can’t get her students to stop laughing. Not only did that writer get fired, but his boss probably got fired also, for being one of the world’s worst editors. That’s what I would do if I had to make word finds all day, the perfect way to stick it to your boss. Because, and I know I’ve said it like eight times already, but it’s true, and it’s always worth repeating, that I have it all figured out, and my friend actually said that to me, finally, he admitted it, and he wasn’t being sarcastic, he was dead serious.

Baby don’t leave me

Where do you get off? Always talking down to me, treating me like a little kid. Well maybe I wouldn’t have to act like a little kid if you stopped treating me like a little kid. Well maybe you should stop treating me like a little kid first, because I’m already acting like one, so why would I all of the sudden start acting like a grown-up? You treat me like an adult and maybe I’ll start acting like one. Maybe.

Well, looks like that didn’t work out for you did it? You shouldn’t have caved in. You’re never supposed to meet the demands of a child. Now I’m going to act like more of a little kid than ever. That’s all I’ve learned. I learned that you don’t have a backbone, that you fold real easy. That you couldn’t even win in an argument against a grown man acting like a little kid. And I’m just going to keep acting like a little kid whenever I don’t get my way. Because you set the precedent here. I would’ve given up eventually. I can’t believe you fell for that.

And now I’m going to act even more childish. I’m going to start acting like a huge baby. Literally. Just try starting something with me. Just try arguing. I’m going to start screaming, loud. I don’t care if we’re in the grocery store. Sure, people are going to look at me like I’m crazy, but they’re also going to look at you like you’re even crazier, for walking around with me, for putting up with this nonsense. Go ahead and try to walk away, I’ll just follow you. You know I’m faster than you. Where are you going to go? I’m the one who drove here. No way am I giving you the keys.

I can’t believe that worked also. You’re really not getting this are you? You never meet the demands of a little baby. You wait them out. Tantrum energy is not in infinite supply here. How long do you think I could have kept up that level of screaming? Did you even hear me? My throat’s actually hurting from all of those theatrics. And then the running, the chasing after you. You expected me to be able to not only keep up with your running, but to also keep screaming the whole time? That’s pretty shortsighted of you, a quick fix, a fleeting moment of peace, at best.

And where did it get you? Now you’re even worse off then before. Your life is going to get so much more terrible, you, doing everything that I say, me, throwing a ridiculous baby screaming temper tantrum anytime I so much as think that you’re about to do something to disagree with me. You’re stuck. And it’s going to keep coming. Whereas at the grocery store at least I gave you a build up, I pouted around for a little bit, stamped my feet, started throwing cereal boxes off the shelf at you, hitting you, so you had to pick them up, so even though you weren’t the one throwing anything, when the manager came over to kick us out, you were right there, surrounded by all of those cereal boxes, crushed up bits of cereal everywhere.

Was it worth it? You should have let the police come like he threatened. Although at this point it probably wouldn’t have helped. I know just what buttons to push. I know that sooner or later, definitely sooner, you’re going to cave, that you’re weak, that you’ve got no backbone. I would’ve started lying to the cops, telling them that you’re abusive, that I’m locked in an abusive relationship. I can cry on cue. I’m very convincing. Just don’t push it. I mean, you shouldn’t have caved, but it’s your fault for indulging me way back when I was acting like a little kid the first time around.

And now it’s at a whole new weird level. We’re stuck together. Anytime you try to sneak away or leave I just start threatening to walk into oncoming traffic, like a little crazy person, and you have to watch me because you’re too scared that I’ll get hit by a car. Because will I take it to that level? Sure. Maybe I will get hit. And what if I die, are you going to be able to live with yourself? Are you going be OK knowing that I’m no longer alive just because it was so important for you to win? Do you feel like a big person now?

I just drank a whole container of Drain-O. But go ahead and leave, keep walking out the door, I’m sure my digestive system is strong enough. My metabolism can handle it. No you don’t have to stay and call poison control and try to stop me from making myself throw up, even though it clearly says on the bottle not to induce vomiting if accidentally ingested. Yeah, you were just about to leave right? Yeah go ahead, see you later. Yeah it’s not like I wrote a long suicide note to everyone that we know saying how you drove me to drink it, because you were always so argumentative, and hell bent on winning, that it was driving me insane. Yeah, it’s not like I wrote it out and set it to be autosent to everyone on your e-mail contacts by tonight, so if I don’t survive you’ll look like a heartless psycho.

Don’t look at me, I didn’t change all of your passwords. Don’t look at me, I didn’t hand out all of your credit cards. Sure, just go, go ahead, leave, because I’m an infant, right? Always acting like a little kid, right? Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying right now, I’m too immature. Sorry, I can’t understand you when you’re screaming like that, like a little kid, like a huge baby.

Heaven isn’t too far away

What is heaven supposed to be like? A lot of the major religions hang it over everyone’s head, like a prize, like that Chicago Bulls Starter jacket that your third grade teacher buys and promises to give to the student who can go the longest without talking in class. “But when are you going to give it to somebody already?” I’d scream out after two days of sitting on my hands, trying as hard as I could to sit still in my seat and not talk. “Robbie!” my teacher would scream, “Be quiet! You’re not getting any Starter jacket like that!”

So she basically told me that, for me, it’s not available. She would say it without saying it. It had to be theoretically accessible to me, even though there was no way I would win it. Because I’d already asked about the jacket like three times, right in the middle of class. I basically disqualified myself. So fine, if I’m not going to get the jacket, whatever, at least I don’t have to sit here then and pretend to behave. And the next time I’d get yelled at for talking I’d just say, “Well, I thought I was already out of the running,” and she’d say, “Yeah, well you still have to be quiet!” and I’d say, “Why do I still have to be quiet if there’s no shot of me winning the jacket?” and she’d snap back, “Because if you don’t be quiet, you’re going to the principal’s office!”

What a bunch of garbage. So it’s a contest to see who can follow the rules that we’re supposed to be following already anyway? What’s the point of the contest then? It cheapens everything. It cheapens the very rules that we’re supposed to be following. It’s an admission by the teacher that the rules are pretty stupid and pointless anyway, and she’s trying to bribe us into being quiet, please, for just one week, one day.

And it sucks because you know exactly who’s going to win the jacket. It’s going to be that kid that just sits there and never talks, ever. He’s quiet by nature. You’re going to reward somebody for being himself? I at least sat there and tried my best to change the nature of my personality. I actually put an effort into it. Are you giving out awards to inherent tranquility or to the person who tried the hardest? Because I totally tried the hardest.

The game is rigged from the start. That’s what all of that heaven talk was about. Yeah, it took me a while to get here. I got sidetracked by the Starter jacket competition. It still really gets me all agitated, just thinking about that kid, silent even as he put on his jacket, no emotion on his face, no joy. I don’t even think he cared, not about the jacket, not about anything.

Anyway, heaven. It’s held up like a prize. Don’t do this or you won’t go to heaven. Try to be a good person. Why? So you can go to heaven. What if I don’t want to go to heaven? Does anybody else think heaven would be totally boring? I don’t care if it’s the coolest most relaxing most euphoric place ever, you stretch that out to infinity and it’s going to get boring. It just has to.

But maybe that’s the secret of heaven, that you’ll never get bored of it. But that’s a cop-out. It doesn’t make any sense. If that’s the case, that I’ll never get bored, then it’s not really me that’s in heaven. Because the real me, the person sitting here writing this garbage, gets bored really fast. So if all of the sudden I’m in a different spiritual plane and everything’s all heavenly and I’m not at some level just the slightest bit over it, then it’s not me. I’ve been reprogrammed for everlasting enjoyment. The core of my very being has been changed. And maybe that person really will enjoy it, but it won’t be me, because that person doesn’t exist. And if that’s the argument for heaven, tranquility, peace, happiness, bliss, than just hand me my mortar and pestle, give me a few bars of Xanax, and pass me a straw, because that’s what it sounds like.

And now for some really tired arguments, some cheesy dime store philosophizing. What if I go to heaven and I want to see my dead grandfather? Is he going to be an old man or what? Is he going to look like he did in his twenties? His thirties? Will he look young but still have all of the life experience he accumulated past that age? Will he still be scarred by the suffering of a long slow death? A person is never just one person throughout his or her life. They grow, they learn stuff, they get jaded, they cope. Who’s this guy going to be up in heaven telling me he’s my grandfather? And what will I look like to him, a little boy? The adult that I am that he never got to meet?

And what about the person who marries somebody else after his or her spouse dies? Somebody asked this to Jesus once and he didn’t even have a good answer. He was just like, “Will you idiots just shut up will all of this heaven bullshit?” I paraphrased, obviously. Or maybe not. I never trusted that whole Aramaic to Latin to Greek to Slavic to English translation anyway. Google translate can’t even do better than a C plus job at translating English to Spanish. Why would I trust a millenniums-old oral tradition?

No, I don’t think heaven is a real place. And whatever, I don’t claim to have any answers about anything. Maybe it does exist. I have no idea. My whole real point of this piece is really about the people who hold heaven up like a prize and make you do stuff to win it. One, who the hell are you to be holding something up over my head? I’m probably much taller than you, so I can just grab it. Two, you’re probably just as clueless as my third grade teacher, totally out of her element, unable to get a bunch of kids to stop acting like a bunch of kids, and you make up some ridiculous contest as a desperate attempt to exercise some control.

Three, I’ve reread this and come to the conclusion that I made an excellent choice in not picking philosophy as a major. I ain’t no good at philosophizing. I’m trying to end this here on a note of levity. But I’m still so f’n pissed about that Starter jacket. I don’t even think it really fit that kid who won it. It was way too big. Couldn’t the teacher just have returned it and exchanged it for one that was this kid’s size? No, I doubt she even bought it in the first place. She probably found it somewhere and it already had the tags removed, so she couldn’t return it. And she was like, “I might as well throw this out. Wait a second, maybe I can use it to bully my students into submission. Yeah that sounds like a good idea.”

Don’t call me Robbie

When I was a little kid I wasn’t Rob, I was Robbie. It’s my little kid name. Everyone in my family still calls me Robbie. When I was in grade school, I didn’t think anything of it. Sure it was a little kid name, but I was a little kid, and so it wasn’t an obvious problem. Although it was something that I had to be very specific about. Whenever I moved up in school, like when I finished the third grade and went to the fourth, I’d have to make sure to tell my new teacher right away, that I don’t like being called Robert, it’s Robbie. And they’d be like, “OK Robbie, you got it!”

And then they’d be doing some sort of an icebreaker lesson at the beginning of the year, something where they’d be writing down every student’s name on the chalkboard, and maybe one of them would write Robby. And I’d have to raise my hand in the middle of this little game or whatever it was that this teacher was doing to try and make the boring school day go by just a little quicker. And the teacher would usually ignore me. Teachers can’t encourage that type of behavior, that raising your hand whenever you feel like it, expecting the teacher to stop midsentence to see whatever it is you’d have to say. So the teacher would wave to me, a wave without looking at me, a wave that said, “Robby! Put your hand down right this second! I’m the teacher and I’m in the middle of talking here!”

And instead of putting my hand down I would reach even higher, like a yoga pose, reaching from my heart, trying as hard as I could to make it even higher than it was before, and I’d wiggle my fingers dramatically, like, teacher, I know I’m not supposed to interrupt here, but this is important, this is my name here, and you’ve got it all wrong, and maybe all of the other kids, well, they won’t be consciously looking at it, but it’s going to be there, in their memories somewhere, and the next time they have to write out birthday party invitations or Valentine’s Day cards, they’re all going to write out Robby instead of Robbie.

But my new teacher would be so pissed. She’d turn dramatically to me with that mean teacher scowl and say, “Robby! Put your hand down, now!” and yeah, I probably should have just put my hand down, but at least I had her attention now, at least we were in a dialogue here, so I’d say, “But …” and she’d say, “But nothing! Is this how you want to start off the school year? Is it Robby?” and I’d fidget a little and put this helpless expression on my face and I’d say, “But Mrs. …” “That’s it! One more word out of you and it’s straight to the principal’s office! Put! Your! Hand! Down! Right! This! Second! Now!”

And I wouldn’t have a choice. I’d have to sit there and squirm in my seat, Robby written right in front of me on the board, mocking me, taunting me. And when the teacher said, “Is this how you want to start off the school year,” that’s not really fair, because she’s making it like she’s asking me a question, like she’s giving me the option to start off the school year in a different way. But all she cared about was doing her little intro lesson and I interrupted her, twice, so regardless of how I acted for the rest of that presentation or whatever, I’m already a little nuisance kid, one of those students who won’t sit still, one of those kids who, if he has his hand raised, you better not call on him, because you don’t want to encourage his thinking that he can just sit there and raise his hand every time he wants to hijack the class.

But then I got to the eighth grade and I realized all at once that I didn’t want to be a little kid anymore. I wanted to be an adult. I didn’t want my parents telling me I couldn’t buy CDs with the parental advisory sticker on the front. I didn’t want anybody telling me when I had to be home for dinner or to go to bed because it was late. I wanted to be a man. And try as I could, I could never find any real life men named Robbie. They just don’t exist. My dad’s name is Robert also, but he goes by Bob at work. I settled on Rob, that was pretty adultish, definitely to be taken more seriously than Robbie.

Implementing the change was harder than I thought. Sure, I could start writing Rob instead of Robbie on all of my homework assignments, but by this point in school I had already made such a huge deal about being called Robbie to every single teacher that it was a little much to expect them to notice that I’d started writing my name differently on pieces of paper that they probably weren’t really grading anyway. And then trying to get my classmates to call me Rob instead of Robbie, that was impossible. The minute you try to do something like that, it’s an automatic invitation to have everyone call you Robbie at least twice as much as they did before. Why? I don’t know, little kids are all assholes. That’s what I would have done if little Johnny one day came to school and told everyone he was Jack from here on out.

But it didn’t matter, because the next year I started high school, a clean slate. All I had to do was make sure that I severed all contact with anybody from grade school and it would be a done deal. Goodbye Robbie, hello Rob G.

Every once in a while Robbie resurfaces. Like I said, I’ll always be Robbie to my family. I used to try to fight it, but it’s a losing battle. It’s like I’ll never stop calling my little sister Jessie, even though she hates being called Jessie. It’s not even a conscious decision. Those types of family dynamics are hard to shape.

But the rest of the world is totally mine to mold. And I have to constantly be on guard. My life will be going great, I’ll have a good group of friends, no problems, when out of nowhere someone might drop Robbie in, trying to be overly informal, maybe joking around. But maybe somebody else will hear it and it’ll spread. Pretty soon everyone will be calling me Robbie and I’ll be feeling like a little kid, and I’ll call all of my friends in for a group meeting, and I’ll say, “Thanks for coming everyone. The reason I called you all in here is because you’ve all been calling me Robbie a lot lately. I just want to state, for the record, that my name isn’t Robbie, it’s Rob, and I would appreciate it a lot if you didn’t call me Robbie ever again. Thank you.”

Everyone will stare at me and said, “You actually called a meeting over this?” And they’ll laugh and think it a little crazy to go through all of this trouble over a nickname. And it’ll have the unintended effect of actually strengthening the nickname, because now nobody can stop talking about that stupid group meeting I called, and how I really need to get over myself. And then I’ll have to get a whole new group of friends and reinvent myself all over again. It’s taxing after a while.

One time I got my sister Emily’s boyfriend Pete a job at the restaurant where I worked. He didn’t know any better, and because he’s dating my sister, he comes in and says that Robbie told him to come in. And everybody at work is like “Robbie?” And it just grew and snowballed, everybody calling me Robbie. So I thought, OK, if I address it, it’s just going to get stronger. So I pretended to ignore it this time. Like anytime somebody called me “Robbie!” I would have absolutely no reaction. But people must have caught on to this also, because they’d be like, “Hey Robbie, how come you get so quiet and red faced every time somebody calls you Robbie?”

And so I had to quit that job also. And now I’m at another job. I guess it could be worse. Robbie’s a lot better than Bobby. I don’t think I’ve every met anybody in real life who goes by Bobby. It’s like a cartoon character’s name. And I’m not a cartoon character. I’m a real life person. An adult. I’m real life adult man. And my name is Rob, not Robbie, definitely not Robby. Got it? Cool?