I had this science fiction vision once. It’s the farthest corner of the universe. Two humans find themselves in an alien jail. The jail is overflowing with multitudes of strange creatures, life forms and aliens. They all have differing numbers of eyes, noses, mouths and faces. Some are sticky to the touch.
Humans are extremely rare in that part of the galaxy. But, against all odds, somehow there are two of them in the very same jail. The jail is enormous, like eight times the size of the Death Star. That’s because it’s operated as a for-profit enterprise by some alien corporation. But that’s another story.
One day the two isolated humans happen to bump into each other.
In that moment, I imagine they’d find some thread of a shred of humanity and commonality that they would cling to like a life raft in that alien sea.
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To me, there’s very little “uncertainty” about crosswalks.
You clearly don’t know who you’re driving over, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skywalker. I am the danger. A guy puts the pedal to the metal and someone gets plowed and you think that of me? No. I am the one who stalks!
–Heisenberg Crosswalk, Braking Bad
In the local news of late there has been a lot of discussion about “dangerous crosswalks.” That got me thinking. What is it about the crosswalk itself that makes it dangerous?
The fact that it exists? That it leaps out and surprises pedestrians? That it has a concealed carry permit? That it lulls pedestrians to sleep with a false sense of security? “Come to me,” it whispers in the wind. “Tread upon me. I will protect you. I will keep you safe. You can trust me.”
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One ordinary American has volunteered to participate in a very unique experiment. He’ll be stranded in small town America with the task of getting out alive.
He will travel six of the harshest miles on the planet in an effort to make it back to Civilization. (A game on his home computer he sometimes plays when he’s not busy with Minecraft and/or World of Warcraft and/or many other forms of crafting.)
It’s a punishing test and will take at least 2-1/2 hours over the period of an entire month. He’ll battle hunger, fatigue, personal embarrassment, slippery footwear and an unforgiving assortment of assholes in vehicles that will make getting out alive nearly impossible.
To give him a fighting chance he’s been equipped with basic resources and three minutes of survival training.
His only lifeline to the outside world is a GPS beacon. If he can’t hack it on the streets, he’ll push the button summoning no one on Earth who gives a shit.
This is not a contest. There is no million-dollar prize waiting for him at the end of the journey. The naive fool has no idea how long it will take, or how far he must travel. He must rely on his own inner will if he has any chance to get… Out Of The Chair.
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Last Sunday was a beautiful day. Sandwiched between overcast, cold, windy and rainy days was a day that felt almost like summer. The sky was crystal clear, the sun was shining, kids were outside playing and you could hear lawn mowers echoing throughout suburbia.
Aside from the chill, it could have been a typical summer day.
Ever since I picked up an iPod (more about that later) I’ve been on a podcast binge. I grabbed the thing, stuck the ear “buds” in my head, and took off, on foot, for the grocery store.
This is the story of that trip.
The trip to the store was strangely uneventful. I didn’t just fall of the turnip truck yesterday, though. I knew this was the calm before the storm. Something big was coming my way. Still, I resolved to enjoy the moment, enjoying the walk, the warmth of the sun and listening to TED audio podcasts. I was traveling under the power of my own feet and listening to TED. God, I felt so alive and so enlightened, a true member of the modern “I care about my planet and everyone on it” community!
In the store, I did some quick shopping. This was also uneventful.
Then it was time for checkout. This is the part that really makes my tushy pucker up. Yeah, I’ve done this before.
I’ll do my best, with my limited writing skills, to explain how it all went down. Crime scene photos, if desired, can be obtained from my local police department.
My local neighborhood grocery store is basically a shit dump. It’s pricey yet run down. Most of the employees seem to feel the same way about their jobs that I do about mine. (Like it isn’t the best thing to happen to them all day.) But the store usually isn’t too crowded and you can get in and out with only a modicum of pain.
As I approached the front of the store I saw a bunch of people in Lane 1 even though the light was off. I cruised in that direction and saw the “lane closed” sign was out.
Looking around, I noticed that Lane 4’s light was turned on. “That must be where they want me to go,” I surmised. But when I got to Lane 4 no employee was in sight.
I was conflicted. Should I wait in Lane 4 for an employee who may or may not ever show up? The longer I waited the greater the possibility that new people would get in Lane 1 and I’d be bumped. If that happened I’d become angry and show great magic.
After what felt like an eternity (in grocery store time), I opted to go back to Lane 1 and get at the end of a line for a lane that claimed to be closed. Right after I did that, an employee magically appeared in Lane 4. Remember, based on the “lane closed” signs and the status of the lights, I still believed Lane 4 was where I supposed to go.
The checker on Lane 4 began helping a lady before I could get back there. I got in line behind her.
The checker gestured wildly at me to go away. “This lane is closed,” he hissed.
This is the moment that people tell me I should be more assertive. I felt like saying, “You disgusting maggoty piece of shit motherfucker! Your goddamn light is on and Lane 1’s is off. Fuck you!!!” Instead, like always, I accepted this piece of pure concentrated evil as additional weight on my shoulders and moved on. Head down, I shuffled back to Lane 1.
Fuming now, on the edge of a great storm, I stood in Lane 1 and gave the checker in Lane 4 the stare-down of death. He stared right back. It was game on. I found myself wondering if NASA had yet reviewed my volunteer application for the one-way mission to Mars.
And so, like this, I waited in the long line in Lane 1.
But not too long. As soon as the guy on Lane 4 helped that lady, something interesting happened. The two checkers gave each other a nod and they both simultaneously left their work stations. WTF?
They crisscrossed in front of us. They had just changed lanes.
Suddenly Lane 4 was open for business and before you could say “anal sex” was full of shoppers.
I was standing in Lane 1 which still had the “lane closed” sign out. And indeed, as if it was any surprise, I was directed back to Lane 4 where I assumed my position at the end of the line.
I wish I could say I’m making this up. I’m not. I don’t know why shit like this happens to me. At no point was I pushy. At each step of the way I tried to follow their little rules. Yet I was the one person they singled out to take a massive dump on. It truly boggled my mind.
Finally it was my turn. She asked, “Paper or plastic?” and I handed over my reusable bags. In an extremely unlikely fit of assertiveness, I started a conversation with the checker. “What was that all about? Your lane had a closed sign and the light off and this lane was open with the light on, yet …”
She cut me off. Ah, nothing more refreshing that me-oriented communicators when you are the customer and they are the employee. Isn’t that the best?
“[The other checker] had to run upstairs and we had to switch lanes for a minute.”
Uh huh. Whatever. Thanks for listening, bitch. That wasn’t an apology and it has absolutely nothing to do with what I was trying to ask. Shrug. More evil on my shoulders accepted. Fuck it.
I helped her load my shit into the reusable bags. It was time to go. I picked up the bags and KERPLUNK!
One of the bags had the bottom blow out and my shit was all over the table. This was actually the best part of the whole trip, though. She double-bagged my shit in plastic and I was on my way. It would have been worse if the blowout had occurred half-way home. I quickly said a quiet prayer of thanks for this surprisingly positive development.
The rest of the trip was pretty much uneventful except for one little bit of icing on the cake. I was about five houses away from getting back to my house when I happened to look down. There, scratched out in the sidewalk, was a fucking swastika. Five houses away from my bloody home! One and/or all of my neighbors are fucking assholes.
And some people actually dare to wonder why I don’t like to leave the house. It usually ends up being the worst thing that ever happened to me.
Someday all of the evil I accept from others onto my shoulders is going to reach critical mass. I just hope I’m not there when it happens.
Reality kicked in yet?
For a lot of us, New Year’s Day packs a lot of mojo. (Or so I’ve heard. I’m not one of the “us.”) Still, sometimes I like to think big. “I’m going to be on Survivor,” I like to say quite often. It’ll never happen, of course, but what if it did? Wow. Even being the first one voted off would be one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I say “one of” the greatest things because I’m one of the lucky people who married for love. What else did I have to bring to the table?
So yeah. There I was on New Year’s Day, calculator in hand, calculating the what ifs.
I punched in some numbers. “Oh hell yeah. I’m going to walk 3,000 miles this year. Totally. That’s only 10 miles a day and that still leaves me 65 days to goof off. Not too shabby.”
My old friend Reason was no where to be found. If he was, he would have smacked me upside the head and said something like, “Hey you friggin’ obliviot. 10 miles a day? Wake up! Even if it didn’t kill you, which it totally would, at three miles an hour that’ll take you over three hours a day! You don’t have that kind of time. Duh.”
Day One. January 1, 2011. Things got off to a pretty good start. I walked about a mile. There’s nothing quite like walking to the grocery store and bringing home groceries under your own power. I’m not sure why, but that’s just so cool. “I don’t need no damn car!” Still, that was only 10 percent of my daily goal. But better than nothing, right?
OK, so Day Two wasn’t quite as good. I was too tired and sore from the previous day’s excursions and took a day of rest. And that day of rest has been extended all the way to today, about three weeks later.
Oops. Time to grab the calculator again.
10 miles a day? What was I thinking? That’s insane. Plan B is three miles a day. With about 330 days left, I can still log 1,000 miles if I push it. That might work.
The point is to have fun and revise your goal each and every month until you have something realistic and workable.
On March 1st, I’ll be doing another revision. “Okay. One mile logged so far. About 300 days left. If I can manage two miles a day, I just might make it to 500.”
On April 1st it will be one mile logged, 270 days left, and at one mile I day I just might make it to 250 miles.
I think you see where this is going, right?
… fast forward to December 31, 2011 …
It’ll be early in the morning on New Year’s Eve. I’ll be holding a calculator in my hand. “Let’s see,” I’ll say. “If I can manage to walk 50 feet today, that’ll be, hmm, what? Oh yeah, the overall total for the entire year will be exactly one mile and fifty feet.”
That actually doesn’t sound quite so bad. So I got that to look forward to.
So, how are y’all doing on your New Year’s resolutions?
Music: 500 miles (get it fast before YouTube pulls the plug)