The Shoe Parade and the World of Confusingness

shoes

As a grandparent-proclaimed “growing boy” during my younger years, I had a tough time staying in the same pair of sneakers. In addition to constant half-size elongation, I absolutely destroyed respective heels and balls and other parts I don’t know the name of on every make and model of footwear. I used to go through like three or four pairs a year. I have decided to call this collective glory period the “Shoe Parade.” I need to be careful because that might be the name of a shoe store.

During the Shoe Parade, I gained a glimpse into the world of confusingness. My shoes decayed (yes, I was very scientific back then) at a much quicker rate kids who seemed to live similar lives and who were going through similar, if not greater, bodily growth spurts (I was always short but my feet grew quickly; admittedly, while they grew taller, I did not measure their feet on a regular basis).

My best friends and I ran amongst golden cornfields, rambled through countless neighborhoods (actually just two or three), circled the bases of makeshift Wiffle ball fields, and protected the streets that held Abraham Lincoln’s legacy while pedaling away on our BMX bikes. And yet in spite of the fact that these friends were roughly one foot (12 inches, not shoe-related) away from me at all times doing the exact same things with their feet, they kept the same shoes for a year or two, and I didn’t.

I couldn’t wrap my ahead around this phenomenon. It made me question reality. I was “spoiled” with shoes, they would say. Then I displayed my soles, and after seeing more white sock than rubber, friends would politely hint that I was a “stomper.” I then walked really softly (to the point of tiptoeing), but nothing changed. Why was this only occurring on my feet? Was there something else going on?

I had no idea how crazy that world of confusingness would get, beyond the shoes I tied every morning. Young adulthood has been really weird. There’s been so many situations where things haven’t gone like I thought they should go, whereas for other people events always seems to unfold in a perfect logical order. I don’t have a name for this period, but it’s a few steps past (a footwear pun) the Shoe Parade.

Sometimes, I get kind of tired of it and want to find a simple place for my feet in the normal-person world. It can be tough living in a land where I expect outliers on a daily basis.

So a while back, I transitioned to the “regular” sort of life, or at least I tried, with occasional success. I told myself it was the right thing to do.

But then I looked down at my shoes, and I realized that they’re like a size too small and they’ll be a size and a half too small by next year. I might as well just shut up and get some new sneakers.

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Just Throw It

Throw me that thing, will ya? Oh, you want to talk? Great, great, great, yeah, I’m nodding, awesome, whatever. Just throw me that circular disc. Oh and, if you can, throw it too high or too far to the side.

Hey, that was a decent toss, but direct is kind of boring. I’m sending it back to you. You like that spin?

Yeah, so I’ll catch a surprising (to you and me) amount of your mistakes and your intentional errant throws. It’s better if I have a lot of flat open ground. No sidewalk, no trees, no weird protruding objects that might cause serious injury. Give me some space. Make me go. Make me run, jump, dive. I don’t want to hear your anecdotes. That’s okay, I don’t want to stop for a break.

No, no, please don’t throw it that wa…it’s over the fence. As we walk over to get it, you’re going to realize you’re tired and we’ll lose our momentum and…I’m not human, don’t you see? I never tire of this activity. Let’s keep playing, come on, please…oh, you’re sitting down. You want to engage in small talk. I see. Well I’m just going to stand here silently with the disc in my hand.

I’m ready to play again. I need to get it out of system. I’ll play all night, all day, forever until I’m done. But right now, I’m not done. Wow, mhmm, your story is so interesting. I’m picturing the…gliding disc in the blue sky as I read its trajectory and run after it unimpeded. I admit, the white plastic disc is making my mouth water. I may or may or may not have an addiction. So please, spare me the human activities at this moment. Take this thing from my hand. I need you to throw it to me, the current object of my affection, the beautiful Frisbee, and I’ll go fetch.

Squeaking Into the Darkness

Here I am at 2:30 in the hot summer Sunday AM, the squeaks from my 300 RMB mini bicycle echoing through the empty polluted streets of Beijing, looking like an idiot, exposing my lean non-Chinese figure with tight work pants and a Banana Republic shirt raised above the belly button to limit further drenchings of sweat, Taobao fake 3M pollution mask aface, bike seat raised to the max and still not high enough. Sanlitun is buzzing as usual tonight, but within a matter of minutes I ride from bright club avenue to dark, desolate road. I’m slightly afraid, yet that feels 5x better than sitting in a noisy gay bar where I feel nothing but pop beats and awkwardness. The late night dramatics of a solo bike ride in a gigantic city kind of hit some special inner escapist note.

Here I am at 3:30 in the hot summer AM, the squeaks of the cheapest possible IKEA bed frame provided by the apartment agency resonating through my small room, capturing ridiculously subtle private movements such as taking an almond out of an almond bag, which I do one at a time, likely audible to my Chinese couple neighbors. Although I just showered, my room’s AC is not strong enough to prevent a further wave of sweat on my lower back and face and annoyingly my hammies, so now it feels like I’m getting a cold as I watch a Chinese soap opera to try to learn Chinese the way many Chinese people learn English, but I’m really just reading the English subtitles. I eventually switch to VPN’ed Netflix, whose original Star Trek episodes are loading excruciatingly slowly, and yet I guess the five whiskey sours I downed and the hookah I hit quite heavily have given me these bursts of energy and patience that are completely unwarranted for such a retrospectively lackluster American 60’s TV show.

Here I am at 4:30 in the hot summer AM, the squeaks of the desk I have switched to painfully audible as I enjoy crunchy Chinese Skippy with stolen hotel chopsticks, for some reason watching another episode of Star Trek with large headphones, which I think amplifies the chewing noise. In no way do I feel sleepy, but I decide it’s time to hit the sack now to avoid waking up in the PM. I watch recaps of American baseball games to get in the mood, and while there are 162 games, seeing the Cardinals’ loss instantly puts that mood into a depression, but more like a childish pout than a full-on adult depression, and I finally fall asleep with bad thoughts in my mind.

Here I am at 7:30 in the hot summer AM, and nothing, something something too tired think squeaks. Please coffee. Wake up. Wish more sleep.

Here I am at 8:30 in the hot summer AM, back at it again with the bike and the squeaks thing, coffee recently imbibed somewhat quickly. Severe lack of sleep and surprisingly only slight hangover aside, I am ready to get up and go on this Sunday, to accomplish meaningful things, to figure out my life before work tomorrow. I park the bike and head inside my first stop, caffeine and I walking in together with a determined smile.

Here I am at 1:30 in the hot summer PM, stumbling out of the bank trying to figure out why it’s so difficult to send $500 home, starving to the point where decision making is no longer possible, no actual meal-serving shops in sight, still many more things on the list, dinner plans being one of them, and what with transit times and the time it takes to digest food and not be in a trance, I realistically will have like 30 actual minutes to get something done, and I really miss living in a smaller city. At this point, I realize the squeaks have probably ended for the day.

Here I am at 10:30 in the hot summer Sunday PM, biking through the streets again, wondering where the weekend went, questioning my choice to live in this city, but as I stop thinking for a moment, I hear the squeaks of this silly bicycle, the ones I thought had disappeared for the day. I laugh, because the squeaks are the reason I’m here. I made the choice to be the person who gets into nonsensical adventures, the person who faces seemingly unnecessary adversity, and this place has definitely fulfilled those whims. For that reason, I will gracelessly, inelegantly, but eagerly continue squeaking into the dark night, wherever in the world that night might be.

A Small Cheese Pizza to Remember

It was approaching midnight on a Los Angeles Tuesday, and I was at danger-zone hunger. There were no open options close to my Super 8, and this was pre- Grubhub or anything like that, so I just called around and finally found a place that was still delivering: Domino’s.

In my hunger haste, I forgot to pay with credit card over the phone.

45 minutes later, the driver arrived at my door, and I was as excited for that delicious cheese pizza as was Kevin from Home Alone.

“Small pizza with delivery fee is…$9.80 please.” In this, I sensed a touch of edginess, maybe because I was flirting with the delivery minimum, maybe because his life had come to delivering pizzas in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning, or maybe because this was his last delivery of the night, but probably all three.

The last thing on my mind was to be a difficult customer, so I quickly muttered, “Oh, can I still pay with card?”

“I’m sorry sir, not at this time. Cash only.”

I opened up my wallet to find nothing but a crisp $100 note. I had one of those annoying ATMs back in Peoria, Illinois that gave the minimum amount of $20s possible, so when I pulled out $300 in cash for this trip, I was given three bills, exactly two of which I used to save like $1.20 each time I filled up my gas tank.

I sheepishly offered him the $100 bill and asked for change. He only had $14 in cash, so that would amount to an $86 pizza.

‘That’s okay, I’ll simply get a $20 from the ATM downstairs.’ I took him with me.

It seems like a purchase on my credit card is blocked every single time I leave the city I’m supposed to be in, but my debit card has been blocked only once. Of course, the once was at this current moment, not in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, or even Kansas, but in the lawless foreign country of California; I never called the card company to say I was taking a road trip to the west coast.

‘I’ll get change from the front desk attendant.’ I walked over to the desk and, preparing to ring the bell, I noticed the sign: “Away from 12:01AM – 1:30AM. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

With panic looming, I looked outside the window for help. I was in a rough neighborhood in the middle of the night, and there were no businesses in sight.

‘Should I just tell him nevermind? Is that possible?’

The pizza guy was clearly annoyed at this point, and I was about to collapse from hunger, so I did what I do best and thought on my feet: I handed him the $100 bill and told him to keep the change. He was somewhat surprised but didn’t really argue against it.

I tried to starve myself the remaining two weeks of the trip by eating only carrots, apples, nuts, and string cheese, but to this day, I’m still trying to recoup that $90 tip.

Fairly Innocuous Pathological Lying

Many of you out there would say you’re honest in person or only tell social lies, but whether it’s out of fear, awkwardness, impatience, or boredom, some of you are profuse liars in situations with strangers you probably won’t see again. Let’s look at driving and buying, for instance.

A pathological driver is an expert in a very fine art; his underlying deceit is seldom seen. The pathological driver’s skill can be best demonstrated in exit only lanes or lane closures. A non-expert tries to pass in the exit only lane because it’s open and he can move up in the line of cars, but the other drivers quickly sniff him out and make it extremely difficult for him to get back in. A pathological driver, on the other hand, is welcomed back into the lane because he “genuinely” didn’t notice he was in an exit only lane. Or, he “honestly” changed his mind immediately after moving over. The story is substantiated through a calculated spectacle including dramatic hand gestures, misdirection, and other exaggerated acts of confusion. Sometimes, even the pathological driver himself doesn’t believe this was just a clever ploy to move up a few cars.

If necessary, further embellishments are added to remove doubt from the minds of onlookers (because said driver believes everyone is watching him). For example, the pathological driver will occasionally end up taking the exit for fear of giving away his true intentions. If the pathological driver has a passenger, the acting job is taken a step further. The driver gets food and gas. The driver gets groceries. The driver subtly mentions the planned nature of this exit on the real or fake phone call he is currently making. The part is played to perfection. The driver acts completely unnerved even though his true attention lies on getting back to the road as quickly as possible.

In the same vein, there’s the “pathological buyer,” someone you might already be familiar with. Instead of saying he isn’t interested in the product a salesman is trying to sell, the pathological buyer insists he will definitely purchase the product later that day when his girlfriend, who of course is the actual end user, arrives from Australia, or notices a stolen credit card or a lost wallet, or has to make a quick phone call but an emergency on the other end leads his surprised self to run to his car, and the whole act is being closely watched and critiqued by the company’s entire fleet of salesmen. Just to prove to the salesman he isn’t lying and to avoid facing the awkwardness of walking out of a store without buying anything, the pathological buyer sometimes purchases the product.

When returning an item, a pathological buyer’s genuine intentions of using the product are never in question. He is only returning the immaculate merchandise because his grandparents coincidentally bought the same item for him without his knowledge.

If your inner pathological liar needs an outlet, I would suggest these alternatives as opposed to lying about important things to people you have some sort of acquaintance with.

 

What are some other examples of ridiculous displays of deception in public interactions?

My Resume

Considering I don’t have a full-time job at the moment, I thought I’d show you the resume I’ve been using to see if any improvements can be made:

Curtis

Geographic location varies arbitrarily and means nothing.

Executive Summary:

Level II frustration candidate with overanalytical expertise and proven proficiency in self-defeatism. Experience in the criticism and cynicism industries. Strong daydreaming skills. Extremely quick learning ability but a failure to follow through on things and a frequent waster of talents.

Experience:

Looking out windows, 1988-present

Making a big deal out of little things, 1988-present

Doing things I don’t care about, 1995-present

Wandering aimlessly, 2006-present

Skills:

Frisbee, Shooting a basketball, Trivia and word games, Algebra, Spelling, Bad puns, Trolling, Driving, Details, Paying bills on time, Betting, Cuddling, Making scrambled eggs, Recognizing songs quickly, Seeing things very far away, Humming, Whistling, Reading to an audience, Deadpan humor, Taking pictures, Playing the trumpet, Picking stocks, Opening and closing doors quietly, Escaping parties, Faking phone calls.

Awards:

Most Likely to Have a Brain Aneurysm, 2013

Best Genuine Social Awkwardness, 2004-2012

Top Game Complainer, 2007-2010

Most Ridiculous Rants, 2006

Worst Girl Skills, 2002-2006

Top Visitor to the Principal’s Office, 1994-1996

 

I’m pretty sure this version of my resume will yield the best results.

A Quasi-Poem

It can be like a phone cable put into an Ethernet jack

 

A queen bed with full sheets

 

Like a crinkle fry in the order of regular fries

A plantain amongst bananas

 

At its worst, like a Hummer in the compact spot

On occasion, it’s a Camry

 

Like a meter stick measuring out a football field

 

A vertical-striped Waldo

 

A trashed envelope for the grocery list

A towel as toilet paper

Viagra for hypertension

 

As harsh as 1x instead of 4G

As subtle as affect versus effect

But when we’re lucky, it’s the difference between mostly sunny and partly cloudy.