Sometimes, if I’m standing in line at the post office (mailing you a present), and the line is really long (you’re worth the wait),
I pass the time by playing one of my special mental games.
These games range from “Hey, Jaundiced Guy Eyeballing the Birds of Prey Stamp Design, You Gotta Stop Smoking” to “If This Were a Flash Mob, What Song Would We Dance To?”
A particular favorite involves me staring at pairings of people in the queue and asking Self, “Self, would you want to be part of that relationship?”
For Self, 98% of the time, the answer to that question is a screaming nooooooo–sometimes because the guy looks too jaundiced, or too queerly interested in Birds of Prey, or like he couldn’t hold his own in a good, old-fashioned flash mob. If I turn my attention to the partner in the relationship, which is most often a woman–because, HELLO, newly-re-elected Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann tells me men and women belong together (before she hums a few bars from “Love and Marriage,” alights from her horse and carriage, and works the barbeque with more than a whiff of desperation; woe to the quailing Tarleton Twins!)–I also generally find myself uninterested in the female half of the couple, as well, and not only because Bachmann tells me I can’t have a girl.
Rather, I am generally as unattracted to the Female Half of the Pairing as I am Male Half of the Pairing because the woman is wearing this
or because she’s raving about the endless salad bowl at Olive Garden
or because she’s harping on her man partner for parking so far away from the curb
or because she forgot to take out her perm curlers before leaving the house
Even when the pairing is male/male or female/female, I need only spend a few moments gaming out a vision of their lives before deciding I want no part of that dynamic. No matter the gender, there are very few winners in Post Office Episodes of “Would You Want to Be Part of That Relationship?” Invariably, I can’t stand the ugly upholstery I’ve imagined onto the contestants’ couches. As well, I am dismayed by the fear of change that I perceive in both their posture and their orthotics.
When I’m working my mental way through the assembled crowd, plucking off the couples with a “No,” “Nope,” “No way,” “Not in this lifetime,” “Please don’t make me,” occasionally a “Well, I’d take her, but not him,” my dismissive litany lurches to an abrupt halt with a “What ho?!” only if Omar, that Big, Bad Wolf from The Wire, strides in, his trench coat a’flappin’ with every stride, bold cigarette dangling from his fingers, rifle ready to strain all existing definitions of “going postal.”
If Omar comes in, the game is over. Clearly, I could be part of that couple, for, no matter how I line up the columns, Jocelyn + Omar always = Two Serious Badasses Meeting Their Soulmates.
Have I never shown you my rifle collection? The gun vault is hidden behind all the Ayun Halliday and Bill Bryson books.
I’m a stealth badass
…with a long history of deep attraction to every bad boy on the block.
Exhibit B (“B” is for “Byron”):
The downside of adding Omar to the long line of Badasses I Have Known and Loved is the unpredictability of his schedule. Some days when I’m in the queue at the post office (you will love your gift), Omar and his soldiers are busy pulling a heist at a stash house; thus, Omar fails to show, fails to sweep in and extract me from that day’s round of “Would You Want to Be In That Relationship?” On such days, I finish the game, my relationship prospects a wash,
and still I’m standing in line (it’s no Slanket or electric knife, this gift for you).
With more time to pass, I riffle through my mental Rolodex of games and pull out the card for “What’s Wrong with America?”
The problem with this game is that it can veer into the land of Serious awfully quickly, and who wants to think about war and unemployment while attempting to entertain herself at the post office? If the topics are war and unemployment, I might as well be on a date with Omar, eating curry goat and oxtail while we analyze the factors that have contributed to his career choices.
Trying to keep the game light, then, I flit through a variety of less-laden possibilities for “What’s Wrong with America?”
There’s the fact that suburbs are built for cars and not for foot traffic.
There’s the fact that millions of adults guilt themselves with the question “Am I a good parent?”
There’s the fact that millions of people own two homes before everybody owns one.
There are the American Girl stores. A few years back, when my family went to the American Girl store in The Grove in L.A., the friend who was with us observed, “The first time I walked in here, I thought to myself, ‘Okay, I understand why the world hates us.’ Then I looked around and squealed, ‘Ooh, a tiny canopy bed!‘”
No matter how many options I play through in this game, however, I always end up with the same final result. The answer for me with regards to “What’s Wrong with America?” is invariably
The stupidity of it; the sounds; the violence; the idolization of coaches; the money put towards new helmets instead of smaller class sizes; the fans who dress in team colors on game days; the…
You’re with me on this, right?
I mean, you play this “What’s Wrong with America?” game, too, yes? And you always end up with the answer that the problem is football?
Wait. Are we having a moment here, like when actress Mackenzie Phillips went on Oprah to promote her tell-all memoir, a book that notably confessed her ten years of consensual adult sex with her father? Phillips’ attitude during the interview was one of bravely coming forward to name an unmapped problem: the widespread epidemic of the adult daughter sleeping with Dad for a decade, only breaking up with him when she becomes worried that the baby she’s carrying isn’t actually her husband’s (evidence that Dad’s a stand-up guy: he pays for the abortion). Phillips told her story that day, ready to be declared a hero, only to be greeted with the stunned silence of, “Yea. NO. We actually aren’t admiring your courage for coming forward and naming this problem that not a single one of us can fathom. Rather, we are suspended in the breathless catch of the appalled.”
Is that what’s happening here, when I assert that what’s wrong with America is football? Is this me being Mackenzie Phillips and you being Judgmental Oprah and Aghast Audience Members? Do you not even want the present in the box anymore? Should I just step out of the queue and head home? (what I’ll ever do with your gift if you don’t want it is beyond me, though)
Hmmm. We appear to be at an impasse. Unfortunately, there are only two people left in line in front of me–one of whom just said “…have drank…,” which puts him out of the running as a future mate–so we need to resolve our problem sooner rather than later. I really do want to mail this box to you, but if you don’t want it because you’re outraged at my Mackenzie Phillipsing of your cherished football, then I might as well save the postage (your gift is heavy).
Zoinks! I’ve got it. Here we go. I know how to establish détente. Let’s go Good Oprah and tap our inner light to find the energy to heal and repair these relationship fissures. Try this out:
The other week, I experienced something that surpassed even football in the “What’s Wrong with America?” game.
See, there’s this thing called Halloween, which is a holiday when kids put on costumes and go begging; of course, since these kids are products of an entitled nation, their begging sounds more like a demand.
Intimidated by these demanding children, adults in neighborhoods across the country throw food at them. Believing that sweets are the best way to pacify demanding children, the food given to the beggars is enriched with high fructose corn syrup. The occasional intrepid citizen hands out popcorn or pencils, but, fearing retaliation, most stick to heaving junk at Our Nation’s Future. Even if the demanding children aren’t placated, adults can count on the crash after the sugar high as insurance that their windows will remain egg free.
Held hostage by this tradition, the country shells out millions of dollars each year on Kit-Kats, Snickers, Almond Joys, Starbursts, Sweet Tarts, Milky Ways, Tootsie Rolls, Reeses, Twix. Children with fortitude often reap five pounds, seven pounds, nine pounds of candy in one night, some of them proudly managing to fill a pillowcase with packaged body rot.
Don’t get me wrong, People. I love a Snickers as much as the next eight-year-old. Don’t get me wronger: Halloween is my favorite holiday.
So we have a bunch of kids who put on masks and go out and demand loot. Not incidentally, Halloween is Omar’s favorite holiday, too.
Once the begging is over, the American kids go home and pour out their bags of candy onto the floor. Using all the skills they learned in their overcrowded classrooms, they spend some time sorting yummy from coconut-laden and counting how many York Peppermint Patties they scored; they make a pile of “Want” and a pile of “Don’t Want.” Sometimes there is trading with friends and siblings, but the end result is that most kids only want a couple pounds of their haul. Beyond personal desire, nowadays there are also all those allergic peanuts and intolerant lactoses and corn bloatings, which remove another pound of candy from the mix. What to do with the unwanted candy, then?
Well. In recent years, the trend has been for dentist offices to do a “candy buy-back” the day after Halloween. Seriously.
On one level, I can see the logic. The teeth-savers want to save the teeth. They are willing to pay a dollar a pound to children who sacrifice their candy to the scale. Okay. That’s a kind of do-gooder-ism. Tempting greedy children with $$ is fair play in a consumeristic culture, especially if it prevents some tooth decay.
What do the dentists do with this candy? In my mind, it should be consigned to the incinerator or used to spell out, in letters 29-feet high, STOP PRODUCING HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP AND FUNNELING IT INTO OUR CHILDREN.
Some of those words are hard to spell, though, so instead the dentists do this:
they package up and send the candy to that nebulous entity called Our Soldiers Overseas. (explains the tortoise-like pace of the line at the post office today, dunnit?)
Question. Are Our Soldiers Overseas not in danger already, by virtue of their commitment to defend and serve? Particularly for those posted in high-risk areas, how is sending them candy full of chemicals, dyes, and obesity bombs at all a gesture of gratitude?
If I were a soldier in Afghanistan, I know what would feel like gratitude for my service, what would add a splash of fun and joy to my dreary days. I’d be crazy excited if a helicopter landed, and a crew from Chipotle hopped out; I’d be carefully-but-enthusiastically jumping through the landmine field if I knew those Chipotle folks had been sent by appreciative citizens back home and that I was about to get a dinner of something that felt like fast food but was actually made from quality ingredients. Make me a two-pound burrito, Chipotle Crew, and toss in all the brown rice and black beans you possibly can fit without tearing the tortilla. For that, that, would energize me to serve another day.
All right. I’ll concede that flying cooks to dangerous regions is less doable than mailing candy. I hear your objections.
Presuming I can relax about the issues of loading our kids with crap and then offering to buy that crap from them so we can mail it to service people,
I still will argue that this phenomenon is so deeply flawed as to sum up What’s Wrong with America.
Once the kids turn over their candy and collect their cash, they are also given a “sport bag” full of stuff: a bottle of water, a bookmark, a new toothbrush and toothpaste.
A coupon for a free sundae at McDonald’s.
And then, on the way out the door, a nice dental hygienist stops each kid to ask,
“Would you like a lollipop?”
In summary, then:
People buy huge poundages of terrible candy and give it to children who then eat too much of it and sell the rest for profit; this transferred candy is shipped to people whose lives are already at risk, and the children who were being saved from the candy in the first place are handed candy and the promise of future highly-artificialized sweets on their way out the door.
Thus ends another challenging round of “What’s Wrong with America?”
Luckily, I’m at the counter now, ready to post this heavy box to you. If I had to stand here even three more minutes, I’d have to commence my next special time-passing game.
It’s called “Guess What’s in the Box!”