Tag Archives: True Story

Who hates chocolate?

One of my really good friends hates chocolate. Whatever, to each his own, right? But I couldn’t stand it, I don’t know why but it drove me nuts, every time I’d be eating snacks, like chocolate covered raisins or Hershey’s kisses, I’d be like, “Hey man, you want some candy?” and he’d ask, “What kind of candy?” and I’d remember that he always asks this, because he hates chocolate, and we’d go through the same old song and dance, me eating chocolate, him saying, “No thanks, I hate chocolate.”

skittles mms

Who hates chocolate? Who hates anything that bad, to choose to completely abstain one hundred percent? It’s like, I don’t really care for cucumbers. It’s not that I dislike them, but they’re just kind of a pointless food, pretty flavorless, they’ve got those mushy seeds, the skin makes a squeaking noise on my teeth. Whenever I cook, I rarely use cucumbers. But if you give me a salad, I’m not going to go picking them out. I’ll just eat it.

And besides, chocolate’s great, one of the shining achievements that defines us as a species. Doesn’t anybody remember second grade social studies? They talk about the Incas or the Aztecs, I can’t remember, but they figured out how to turn cacao into chocolate, it’s a pretty hard process, you have to separate the seeds, leave them to dry and ferment in the sun, crack them open and separate the solids from the oils. Who thought to do that? They attributed it as a gift from the gods.

If God gave me a box of chocolates, I wouldn’t say, “No thanks G, I don’t like chocolate,” no, I’d learn to like chocolate. It’s great, dark chocolate, Milky Way bars, I like all chocolate, the way it melts in my mouth while providing the satisfaction of having eaten something of substance. If there’s one junk food that I could eat as a meal, it would definitely be chocolate.

So I decided to see if my friend really didn’t like chocolate, or if he was just saying that he didn’t like chocolate. Like maybe it was one of those early repressed childhood memories, like he was enjoying some chocolate one day and then two seconds later he got bit a spider, and because he was so little, his brain couldn’t separate the two events, and he grew up convinced that chocolate was to blame, that he couldn’t explain why, but whenever he thought about eating chocolate, his skin started to tingle, like a hundred invisible tiny spiders were crawling across his skin.

That made sense to me, my theory, and so I decided to help undo the damage. I bought a big bag of Skittles and poured them into a bowl. “Hey man,” I called him over, “I got Skittles.” He was like, “Thanks dude, I love Skittles,” and he started grabbing them by the handful and shoving them into his mouth.

My plan was working. Unbeknownst to him, I had secretly mixed in a small amount of M&Ms. Just a few thrown in, just enough to make sure that he’d definitely eat at least one or two. And wouldn’t you know it? He didn’t say a word. Not at any point did he stop his chewing, roll his tongue around the inside of his mouth and say, “Hey Rob, are there any chocolates in these Skittles?” No, he finished the whole bowl.

I figured I’d best stick with the plan for a while, gradually increasing the amount of M&Ms until there’d be no way for him to escape the reality that for however long I’d been providing him with free Skittles, he had been eating and enjoying the hidden M&Ms.

This went on for weeks. Finally, I was at the point where there were more M&Ms than Skittles, and so I was about to let it out, the big reveal. “Hey, there’s something I wanted to tell you.”

“Yeah Rob, there’s something I wanted to tell you also,” he interrupted as he poured another fistful of candy into his open mouth, “I just wanted to say that I appreciate how nice you’ve been to me lately, always buying me candy, I know it’s not a huge deal, but it’s a nice gesture on your part, always lifting my spirits with a huge bowl of Skittles.”

“Yeah don’t mention it,” I replied, “What I wanted to tell you was …”

“It’s just that,” he continued, “You’ve been so great to me, all the free candy and everything, and I feel like I’ve been such a mope, just kind of hanging out, eating candy, not really expressing exactly how happy you’ve made me. You see, and I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this, I’ve kept it a secret for so long, but I have no sense of taste whatsoever. I can’t taste anything. I don’t like or dislike any type of food at all, and it’s incredibly frustrating, not being able to share in the joy of a good meal or a midafternoon snack.”

I looked at him, “But what about the whole …”

“The chocolate thing?” he knew where I was going, “That’s just a story. I’m actually really, severely allergic to chocolate. And so instead of getting into the whole no taste thing, I just tell everyone that I hate chocolate. I hate having to constantly ask, but I feel like people would understand the no chocolate thing as opposed to me getting into the whole inability to taste. I don’t want pity. I don’t want people to not enjoy their food in front of me. It’s just an awkward situation and I get pretty down about it.”

“So the Skittles?”

“Well, it was nice to be able to enjoy a snack without having to ask about chocolate, to appreciate a simple act of kindness on your part without having to make a big deal about it.”

“Well why don’t you just tell everyone that you’re allergic to chocolate.”

“Because I don’t want people to go out of their way to make non-chocolate stuff for me, because I can’t taste it, and so what’s the point? They’ll probably get upset, like I’m being ungrateful, when it’s not true at all. Sometimes it’s really hard to fake the level of enthusiasm necessary to express appreciation for a specially made chocolate-free dessert. It’s just much easier to be a little standoffish about the whole thing.”

I felt terrible. But I also felt vindicated. Because seriously, nobody hates chocolate. Chocolate’s delicious. A chocolate allergy, I guess it sounds possible. But my friend didn’t look like he was allergic to chocolate. Maybe he was mistaken about that also. “So, how are you feeling?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said, “For the past week or so I’ve been having a lot of trouble swallowing, taking really deep breaths. It’s almost like … It’s almost … It’s …”

And then he looked me right in the eye, and I couldn’t tell in that moment if he knew or not, if he even suspected that I’d been spiking his Skittles. But there was definite eye contact, for a moment, he saw into me, into my eyes, we were locked. I think he did figure it out, in that last second he knew just what I had been up to, but he couldn’t do anything about it, because he couldn’t spit out his words, he was struggling, choking. He raised a hand up in the air as if to accuse me, but then his other hand clutched his throat, and then he dropped dead, falling headfirst into the coffee table, right into that big bowl of half Skittles, half M&Ms.

Another true story

Last week I got caught in the rain coming out of work. I didn’t want to get soaked, so I ducked into a bar and sat down to order a drink. It was still somewhat early in the afternoon, and I didn’t want to get drunk right away, but the rain didn’t let up, and I could only nurse my pint of beer for so long. I ordered another. By the third glass I couldn’t really make sense of my magazine anymore so I put it away and took a look around.

The bar was basically empty, save the half dozen or so people that were already well on their way before I stepped foot inside. Outside the sky was black and the streets were empty. I would have thought there’d be more of a crowd, especially considering the rain. I mean, that’s what drove me inside. But everyone else must have made a beeline to the subway. Maybe they all knew something I didn’t. Maybe the rain wasn’t ever going to let up.

I considered taking out my iPhone to do one of those weather checks, but the same inability to focus on my magazine made finding the right app similarly difficult. I put my phone away and thought about a next move. Should I go? The rain was coming down harder than ever. There was a little puddle of water accumulating by the entrance, seeping in through the crack under the front door. I figured, well, I’m already three, four drinks in. This night’s basically over already. I might as well ride it out here. No sense in getting unnecessarily soaked.

“I’ll take another beer,” I had to grab the bartender’s attention because, like I said, the place was all but empty, and he was busy watching the TV at the other end of the bar. “I don’t think this rain’s ever going to stop.”

Who said that? Was it the bartender? He had his back to me, filling up a clean glass. “Yeah it’s coming down pretty hard,” I responded, staring straight ahead.

“Rain like this, it makes you think about all sorts of dark stuff, about life, about the end of the world.”

It wasn’t the bartender. It was this old guy three stools down from me. I hadn’t even considered his presence until now. I had this feeling, I always get this feeling when I’m by myself and someone starts talking to me, someone I don’t know, it’s like a wall goes up, like come on man, leave me alone, I don’t feel like having an interaction right now.

But I’ve had this reaction for so long, so automatically, that a lot of the time I can recognize it as just that, a reaction. And so I get it, that wall, and I make a choice whether or not I want to get past it. I looked toward my magazine, as incomprehensible as it was ten minutes ago. My phone only had like twenty percent of its battery left.

Sure, why not, I’ll indulge this old timer in a little conversation.

“What do you mean?” I asked him, even though I knew exactly what he meant, “It’s got to rain some time. We need it, right?”

And he didn’t look at me, he didn’t look up from his drink, whatever it was he was drinking, a rocks glass, probably whiskey, he started in on this speech, I wondered if he was ever really talking to me in the first place, or maybe he was just talking to talk, to himself, to nobody.

“I know you can’t tell to look at me as I am now, but I used to be a productive member of society. A doctor. A physician.”

I didn’t know if I should reply or not. Really. What kind of doctor? Something like that. But he wasn’t looking up and I didn’t really feel like I had to say anything. He went on.

“One day a young man came into my office. He was complaining about his leg. Apparently he fell off his bike and worried that he might have broken something. He could still walk, not really a walk, but a hobble, he hopped into my office, he couldn’t put any weight on it. I said, all right, let’s get some x-rays and see if we can’t see what’s the matter. We sent him to radiography and twenty minutes or so later I had the results. I couldn’t make sense of them. I wondered, is the machine acting up? Did the technician make some sort of a mistake? Because nothing was where it should have been. Everything was wrong, off. And I looked closer, I looked at his leg, at his bad leg, and I tried comparing it to his good leg. The good leg, well, it looked like a leg, they both looked like legs, like my leg or your leg, but on the inside … I don’t know. The bad leg, something was definitely off.

“And even though I couldn’t figure out what was going on, I could make out right under his thigh what I though was an unusual looking growth. Was it some sort of cancer? Could this explain what was wrong on a more systematic level with his whole body? I had no idea, but I figured I might as well send him in for a biopsy.

“Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but that growth wasn’t a growth at all. It was a little capsule. The young man was just as alarmed as I was, but I didn’t want to scare him any further, so I sat up a little straighter and pretended to act like this was all within the realm of my expertise. I looked the capsule over in my hand and … and I don’t know exactly what I did to activate it, but the top opened up, like a little cigar case. Inside was a tiny scroll of paper, it was a hand-written note. It read:

If you are reading this note, you’ve realized by now that this young man is not a young man at all; rather, he is a highly sophisticated robot. I built him years ago to take care of my day-to-day work so that I might have more time to pursue my scientific experiments while at the same time saving a couple of hours each day for some necessary leisure activities. If this robot is in any way damaged, please look under the other leg for detailed schematics on how to fix him. Whatever you do, I urge you not to let him know that he’s a robot. I’m not sure if his positronic brain would be able to handle the shock.

“And that’s when I stopped. I had been reading that note out loud, and just as I got to the end, I could tell something was happening. It was like he was having a seizure. He twitched around for a little bit before collapsing. My nurse and I tried everything, but we couldn’t revive him. It was over. He was dead.”

The bartender wasn’t paying any attention and the old guy hadn’t looked up from his drink. I settled up, apparently I’d had six drinks, not four, and I wondered if there were any buy-backs I also didn’t know about. “Hey man, I’m sorry about that whole robot thing,” I said to the old guy as I got up to leave. I was out the door, the rain was just as heavy as it was an hour ago, one of those rains where, without an umbrella, I was soaked to the core within a minute.

Someone broke into our house and stole everything

Someone just broke into our house and robbed us blind. I’m only writing about it because whoever burglarized us stole my computer, including all of my blog posts that I had written out for the next month or so. So now I don’t have anything. I’ve been doing this every day for over a year, always with a hefty surplus of essays in my pocket in case I have a day where I can’t think of anything to write about or I don’t have any time to sit down at my computer. I usually back up my work every once in a while, but I guess I grew a little complacent.

This is crazy. I spent the whole morning at work. I came home around six-thirty and everything was fine. My wife was out all day and came back at around eight. It was a really nice night out, so we decided to take the dog for a walk to the park.

We were out a little over an hour. We stopped for ice cream and started making plans for what we’d do for dinner. We made it back to the house and I put my keys in the front door, but it only opened up like an inch before getting caught. On what? It was that chain lock, the kind you find on every hotel room door, a chain that I didn’t even know existed, it came with the house but we’ve never used it, but it’s something that could have only been hooked from the inside.

It didn’t make any sense. It was one of those actions that I do so many times throughout the course of the day, I put my keys in the doorknob and open up. And when it didn’t open my brain just couldn’t provide me with an immediate answer. I was just staring at it for a good ten or fifteen seconds, not really thinking about a break-in, not really thinking anything at all. It was just, “does not compute, does not compute,” in my brain, over and over again until …

And then it was obvious. Someone broke into our house. I said it aloud to my wife, “Someone broke in the house,” and I reached my hand inside that crack, I couldn’t make it to the chain, but I could flip on the lights which, once turned on, they illuminated our living room, totally ransacked.

I immediately thought about my laptop, all of my writing. “It’s not there,” my wife saw our kitchen table, empty. I started thinking about what else might be gone, the XBOX, my guitars. Again, my mind started freezing up, I was paralyzed, and when I finally realized that I wasn’t doing anything, I made it a point to act, to do something, even though I didn’t know what I should have be doing.

Let’s get inside first, I thought. I had never done anything like this before, but I decided that I had to kick the front door open. It shouldn’t be too hard to break the chain, I thought to myself, I’ll just take a step back like they do in the movies and try to put all of my body’s weight into the middle of my right foot as I – KICK. Thud. Nothing. It didn’t work. That was frustrating.

Let’s try this again, I wound up, harder this time and, bingo, the chain came off. I immediately ran upstairs to check if anybody was still inside. I came back down and headed out through the back yard, right past the garage, out into the alleyway that leads to the next street. Nothing. There was nobody around. I started running. I was running down our block, then down the next one.

I’m a good runner so my body automatically shifted into distance mode. I covered all three adjoining streets in every direction, but still nothing. What was I looking for, a bunch of guys running away holding our stuff, right? That’s what I was thinking, I think. We were only gone for like an hour, how far away could they have ran?

But nothing, nobody, nothing. I made it back to the house and got on my bike. But the further I extended my search outward, the more futile I realize my actions were. Maybe these guys were in a car. Maybe there ere a bunch of them and, what was I planning on doing exactly if I did somehow run into anybody?

I made it home, I took a more measured look around the house. They must have jumped the backyard fence, climbed up the gutter, and busted through the bathroom window. The cops came, they filled out a bunch of paperwork. The detectives came, they told us that we can’t clean anything up until someone shows up before Tuesday to dust for prints. All I can do is sit here. That’s it.

Whatever, a couple of laptops, an XBOX, all of my wife’s jewelry, yeah, that sucks, but it’s all just stuff, we’ll replace it eventually. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway as I sit here writing this all out on my old desktop computer that was probably too big and out of the way for the thieves to make off with. It stings though, having had stuff and now not having it. I like to think of myself as this enlightened progressive guy, but stuff like this shows me that I’m just as materialistic as anybody else. But what really hurts is my work, my writing. I was like thirteen thousand words deep into a novel I was trying to write. Like I already said, my blog posts for the next month are gone, and I’m going to have to sit here and wing it every day until I can slowly build back up enough reserve posts. What a setback.

This sucks. I want to find out who did this. I want to kick down their door and steal all of their stuff. Fucking assholes. But what am I going to do? That’s the worst part about all of this, the sitting and stewing, the impotent rage as I wait here totally helpless, I’m not Batman, I’m nobody, and some other nobody just broke into our house and stole all of our shit. Fucking assholes.

Big Tipper

I worked at this restaurant in high school. It was basically a diner, albeit a really good one. Maybe it was a little nicer than a diner. It definitely wasn’t fancy. Not too fancy anyway. One of the cooks was named Francisco, and everyone called him Fancy-Pants Francisco. But that’s about as fancy as it got. And they made homemade gelato, which was pretty cool. And yeah, maybe a little fancy, but mostly due to the fact that gelato is just a fancier, more Italian way of saying ice cream. Italians are pretty fancy in general. In a good way, obviously.

Anyway, every once in a while this guy would come in that everyone in the restaurant called “Big Tipper.” It’s not the most creative name, but it was spot-on and it wasn’t at all an exaggeration. This guy would walk in with his family, all of them draped in their velvet Sunday sweats, and the rainmaking would commence before they even got to their table. We had a bunch of hostesses, a few middle school girls who stood at the front and handed out menus. Their jobs were basically pointless, because most people who dined at this restaurant, if given a table, immediately demanded a different one, probably just to make sure that they could visibly boss around as many employees as possible during a single meal. Big Tipper would get a table a hand each of the hostesses a fifty dollar bill.

That’s huge. That’s like exactly what they would have made after a whole night’s work. Fifty bucks each and this guy hasn’t even sat down yet. Maybe you’re beginning to understand why people got excited about this guy. I would never get to take Big Tipper’s table – he wasn’t throwing around all of that money to impress sixteen-year-old-Rob – but that was fine, because the wait staff pooled all of the tips at the end of the night anyway. So I probably had it the best. There was no work on my part, no chance of screwing up the big tip, and I still got to cash in all of my extra big-tip money for singles at the end of the night and shower myself in dollar bills just like everyone else.

This restaurant is one of the cheapest restaurants anywhere. You could bring in your whole family, get dinner and dessert, and it would still be hard to spend a hundred bucks. When most of the customers are leaving maybe two bucks on the table after a meal, having the Big Tipper come in was like winning a small lottery. He and his family ate, they left multiple hundred dollar tips, and left, handshakes and kisses to all the staff on the way out. It was great.

I never really interacted with Big Tipper personally; I was always benefiting from the periphery of Big Tipper’s generosity. But when I think about him now, and when I thought about him back then, I always loved and hated him equally at the same time. It’s hard to explain. Or maybe it’s not. I loved him because he was just this presence, this giant dollar sign that came in and made my life a little richer, with nothing asked on my part. Maybe he didn’t even know that we pooled tips. But it was just nice to have somebody walk in out of nowhere and give me a lot of extra money.

But if I weren’t a part of that extra money, I would have totally hated Big Tipper. Who the hell does this guy think he is? Everything about it seems so calculated. He picks the most inexpensive restaurant around, I think, on purpose, solely for the fact of inflating the appearance of his tips. If he went to a steakhouse or to any other nice place and ordered the way he and his family ordered, a hundred dollar tip, while I’m sure it would still be welcome, probably wouldn’t have seemed like that big of a game changer. You’re getting into percentages here, like a fifty percent tip versus a two hundred percent tip. The tip itself is the same, so just deflate the cost of the meal to bump up the perceived percentage of generosity.

Which leads me to believe that this guy, this Big Tipper, doesn’t even care about the food that he’s eating. All he cares about is walking into a restaurant, opening the door for his wife and kids, looking out amongst the tables and seeing every employee turn to him and smile. Is this guy’s life so empty, so devoid of meaning that he’s willing to shower a complete group of strangers in absurd amounts of cash just to have a shadow of the feeling that he’s well-liked? And, since I clearly believe this to be the case, he’s OK with all of this? He looks out at the world and says, I’ll just buy whatever I want in my life, cars, houses, other people’s affection, all of it, all of it’s for sale.

I’m still waiting tables, and every time somebody gives me a big tip, like bigger than I deserve, I’m always a little apprehensive. What do I do now? Am I supposed to give a really extra big thank you? Am I supposed to shake his hand? Kiss his ring? Get down on my knee? Twenty percent is totally appropriate. That’s fine. Money for a job well done. Twenty-five percent, OK, I get it, you like being generous. That’s great. Thank you very much. See you next time. Hope you had a nice evening. But thirty percent? Am I really that good of a waiter? I don’t think so. Thirty-five percent? Excuse me sir, but I don’t think you added up your bill right. Anything forty and over and I’m hiding out in the basement until that table is out of the building. No thank you. No goodbye. Just get the hell out, because I don’t know what you’re expecting from such a big tip, and I’m not at all ready to reciprocate.

True Story

One time I was driving my car and I stopped at a red light. While I was waiting for it to turn green, this bum came out of nowhere and starting smearing some sort of grease all over my windshield. I had heard of this trick before – the guy expected me to hand over a dollar or two before he’d wipe the glass clean – but I thought that this practice had been largely phased out years ago when the city started cracking down on these street-side hustlers. Sure enough, the guy came around to the driver’s side window and held out his hand. I said to myself, you know what Rob? You’re not getting pushed around by anyone. Not today. And I told the guy to take a hike. The cars behind me started honking, so I assumed the light had turned green, but I couldn’t really tell, because that guy had done such a good job of greasing up the windshield and obscuring my view. I put my foot on the gas and immediately crashed into something.

Of all the things to crash into, it had to be a police horse. What a mess. I got out of the car. The horse was on the ground, clearly in agony. Its front leg was broken. These two cops were just staring at me, their mouths wide open. One of them started to cry and knelt down to try and comfort the horse. “Biscuit!” he wailed, “Oh my poor, precious Biscuit! You’ll be OK! Everything will be OK! Just hold on, I’ll …”

BAM! The other cop took out his pistol and put the horse down with one shot to the head.

“Joe! How could you?” the first officer was sobbing, “We could have saved him! We could have … Biscuit!”

“Jesus Johnny, I had to! You know police horse protocol. Broken leg. It’s the same as at the races. We had no choice!” the second cop said. Now he was starting to cry also.

“No! I could have saved him! I could have …” and they both collapsed into each others’ arms, hysterical.

Meanwhile, I had found a rag in the back of my car, which, surprisingly, hadn’t really sustained that much damage from the horse. I mean, yeah, there was a dent, but it was totally drivable. I was trying to wipe the windshield clear so I could make a subtle getaway while the cops consoled each other, but the grease was just way too thick and wasn’t coming off.

But then the officers both turned their attention towards me and said, in unison, “You!”

“Listen boys,” I raised my hands out in front of me, “I can explain.”

I turned to point at the homeless guy with the squeegee, but he was gone. The next thing I know I’m in handcuffs standing before a municipal judge. Some court appointed attorney was standing next to me, whispering in my ear something about a plea bargain. I tried to tell him about the windshield, how it wasn’t my fault, but he seemed totally overworked and completely disinterested. If I agreed to a deal, my license would be revoked and I’d have to pay a pretty hefty fine. But I said to myself, again, I said, Rob, you’re not getting pushed around. Not today you’re not.

I told the judge that I’d like to waive my right to an attorney, and that I’d be representing myself. The lawyer shrugged and walked away and I began immediately on setting up my defense. The judge banged his gavel and sentenced me to three months behind bars.

When I got out of jail, I discovered that I had been replaced at work. Since I had no way of paying my rent, my landlord busted into my place and threw out all of my stuff. I found myself wandering the streets, unable to come to terms with how my very normal life had taken such a bizarre twist. The days blurred into the nights and I feared that I was starting to lose my concept of time and date. I had a full beard. My one pair of clothes was reduced to rags. After days of begging on the streets, I finally saved up close to five bucks in spare change. I decided that I needed to turn things around. I used the five bucks to buy a squeegee and some Windex at a ninety-nine cent store. I figured I just needed to clean windshields for a while to save up some money for a new shirt and a razor.

The light turned red and I approached the car. I got the windshield all dirty and then walked around to the driver’s side window. But the guy in the front seat was shaking his head. He whispered to himself, “Not today Rob. Not today.” And I realized all too late what was going on. I tried to clean off his windshield, to get his attention, to tell him to hold on for just a second. There was still time to change everything. But the grease was too thick and wasn’t coming off. Somebody behind him honked, and he ran right through the light, right into Biscuit’s front leg, right into our twisted, broken future.

I freaked out and made a break for it, but I got stopped by some different cops a few blocks away. They told me that it wasn’t the 90s anymore. They told me I couldn’t go around bothering drivers with squeegees. I started freaking out, telling them about the horse, about the car, about the plea bargain, about how my landlord threw all of my stuff out. They told me to stop flailing around, to stop resisting arrest, to stop asking what the date was, to stop struggling so much. One of them took out a taser. I lost control of my bodily functions the second those barbs dug into my skin.