There must be some way I can use this

The past couple weeks, people keep telling me that I look 17. Actually, the record low was 14, but that one was an outlier that was almost definitely the booze talking. I mean, I know you can't really tell what I look like from that picture I put up of me with the Kleenex in my nose, but if you were my Facebook friend or knew me in real life, you'd know that I have a serious five o' clock shadow no matter how closely I shave and the relaxed walking posture of someone who is obviously allowed to buy alcohol in the United States with his real drivers license. I own my own car--not exactly a good example of automotive perfection, that '96 Chevy Lumina of mine, but I proudly have a set of fuzzy Care Bear dice hanging from the mirror, and what 14-year-old would have fond memories of watching that show when he was little?

On the plane home from the Chip Burns thing, I was seated next to this woman who kept poking and making me take off my noise canceling headphones so she could tell me that she was awake or about to go to sleep. I naturally had her figured for a nut right from the start, but she sealed the deal when the plane started its final descent and she woke up and we started having one of those awkward plane conversations where you happen to glimpse the other person's name on their boarding pass but you aren't sure if you can call them by it because they haven't properly introduced themselves. It was one of those. She was being really flirty, and I knew she'd believe almost anything I said, so when she asked me what I had been doing in Atlanta, my world paused. I knew this was it. I had the opportunity to tell a ridiculous, once-in-a-lifetime lie about who I was, what I'd been doing in a strange city, and what I was returning to. My mind raced with possibilities. I've always wanted to convince a total stranger that I do something totally out-there for my job (like dog catching or a that I'm a writer for some unpopular sitcom they probably wouldn't have seen, like How I Met Your Mother), or that I just got out of jail, or that I was a high profile witness in a mafia murder trial. But all that cool stuff tripped over itself on the way out of my head, fell down, and snowballed out my mouth in the form of:

"Uh, business trip."

I wanted to smack myself in the forehead. That was almost the truth! Lifting boxes and making name tags at a trade show for nine days isn't exactly a business trip, but it isn't a sightseeing excursion either. I totally blew my chance to lie my ass off to a stranger on a plane. But it might not have mattered, because a few minutes deeper into our awkward plane conversation, she smiled and said, "So what kind of business do you do?" I told her I was in graphic design, which I guess is more or less accurate, and she gave me this weird, skeptical look.

"I was gonna say, because you look kinda young for a business trip! Like 17 or 18!"

"I'm 22!" I said, semi-defensively, before realizing that to this woman, who was obviously 30ish, I must have sounded like the little kid sucking on a lollipop and insisting that he's seven and a half.

And that's when it hit me; I knew that I look a little younger than I am. I could've used that in my lie! I could've been playing a guy holding a Nerf gun in a Nerf commercial that was filmed in Atlanta. I could've been taking part in a study about how young people are more approachable or something. But the window of opportunity for that had passed, and I had to finish the rest of the conversation using truthful stuff about myself, where I live, the college I attend, and what my cat's name is.

Next time, plane lady. Next time.


A wicked dream and a wicked burn

Everyone dreams every time. Some people just don't often remember, and some hardly ever do, prompting them to believe they do not dream. But they do.

Probably because of this weird summer cold I recently came down with and how I decided to go ahead and assume that it was the onset of Captain Trips, which was the apocalyptic strain of influenza from The Stand, I had a dream last night that was a mix of the book (version of The Stand), the movie version, Life After People, and I Shouldn't Be Alive.

I don't remember much of the beginning, but it eventually became apparent as I was getting off an airplane with a group of other people and walking through a huge, deserted airport, that most of the people on earth were gone. There weren't tons of bodies around, but everything looked to have been abandoned suddenly. Forks stuck in pieces of cake, knocked over trash cans, etc. We wandered outside and were talking about how it must have been the flu that everyone was suddenly coming down with a week ago. Outside was a jungle beach type area with pure white sand and a heavy network of vines serving as the ground near the beach's edge. We walked through the jungle and saw a snake attacking a dog's tail, which naturally offended all of our good senses, so we taunted the snake, which released the dog, turned into a dog itself, and leaped at me. Luckily I had a back pack to knock it out of the air with. This was far and away the most satisfying part of the dream. For some reason, I've always wanted to slam a flying, snarling wolf dog out of the air with something heavy. When we finally reached the end of the jungle, we came out on the beach. Tall, elegant skyscrapers could be seen on the far end; they were white and shaped like Sydney Opera House pieces. Plants were growing unchecked from all their windows, and suddenly I had a helicopter's view of the city, and everything was like that. Cars parked at crazy angles in the street, fire hydrants toppled over and spraying freely, and thick ivy growing through the tops of nearly every building. And the sky was so ridiculously, beautifully blue, which somehow added creepy points to the whole scenario. Then the scene faded to night, and I was out by some mermaid statues contemplating the future of the human race. As far as anyone knew, we were the only survivors of the plague. My boss from work came up to me and explained that we could eat as much as we wanted, because somehow our food supplies never went down, no matter how much we ate. It seemed to make sense to us both, since the only way we could have survived the plague was to have been chosen by God, that our food would also be powered by God and be endless. Then some people who were apparently my friends from before the plague came up and my boss left, and we were walking. And weirdly, my dream self managed to rattle off this giant monologue about what dangers might soon visit us. It was something like...

"There could be more survivors in other parts of the world, or even nearby. They're probably scattered and disorganized, and they might believe they're the only ones left, just like we did. They might trickle in slowly and join us, or they might form their own communities. The problem is that two communities that are large enough to lay claim to the same thing could eventually emerge. And even though we're all humans and have miraculously survived the end of the human world, fossil fuels or some body of water could prove more important in everyone's immediate minds, and there could be war. And since everyone is dead and all the measures of security that were previously enforced are now abandoned, all of mankind's most deadly weapons are just lying around, waiting to be picked back up again. Nuclear bombs could be lying ten feet below the ground, free for the taking, with no one to raise a hand in protest."

As our leader was passing out horribly fitted t-shirts so we'd all recognize one another, I was trying to trade the one I got with the one that had been given to Mya from Just Shoot Me, who also happened to be in the movie version of The Stand. Suddenly I realized that she was looking really good. And then we all looked around and realized that, in fact, everyone was somehow looking much more attractive than before. And it wasn't an "I'm drunk, you look hot all of a sudden" kind of thing, it was a much more legitimate "everyone actually does look leaner, more cleaned up, more bright-eyed and better dressed" type of thing. It seemed to dawn on everybody at the same time that this was probably to encourage us to mate and repopulate the world (and while this would surely be a bonus points part of the dream to many, it creeped me and everyone else on the beach the fuck out). So we took some awesome boats out on the water back to our jungle camp, and they kept scraping against the bottoms of the ivy-owned skyscrapers. This was somehow a tragedy to me, and I cried uncontrollably. When we finally got back into the jungle, there was a repeat of the dog scene (much to my excitement).

Then I woke up.

Total dream length: all night. Total dream estimated length during dream: three days.

TL;DR It was an awesome dream.

In other news: some wiener peeled the registration stickers off my license plate. You know, those '08, '09 things. I noticed yesterday when I was walking back to my car that there was a bright orange sliver of the '07 one laid over what remained of the '06 one. Neither of which, I feel I should mention, is the currently required '09 one. So now unless it's suddenly 2006 again, I'm not even legally allowed to drive to the DMV to get new ones. What a sick, unprovoked burn. It's a good thing I don't have any kids, because I would for sure be grounding them out of spite right now if I did.


The business world

I recently had an experience that made me feel super old. Way too old to play video games or eat Popsicles. Too old to steer with just one hand. Too old even to enjoy Band-Aids that have Peanuts or Scooby Doo characters. For those who don't know, I was just in Atlanta for ten days working as a grunt/peon at a trade show. My basic job responsibilities were to spend 12 hours a day making name tags, laminating name tags, scanning RFID tags to put into name tags, not breaking any name tags, and finally distributing the name tags. The last part required that we dress up nice, so naturally, I put on a tie for the first time in my life. Anyway, I was getting some coffee in the break room, and as I looked down to put the sugar in, I noticed that I could see my tie, dress shirt, and name tag in the same field of view as my hands putting sugar into coffee. And it hit me: I'm at work doing crappy office work, making coffee, and wearing business clothes including a name tag. I am old.

To combat my oldness, which seems to have visited me a bit prematurely at 22, I promptly set to work finding things which are funny. One of the best, funniest things was a name we discovered hidden deep in the name list. That name was Chip Burns. While not inherently all that funny, it did have a sort of Indiana Jones-esque quality. It seemed to us that Chip Burns would wear a monocle, a top hat, have an excessively masculine jawline, piercing eyes, a cape, possibly a jet pack, and certainly the power to throw things with his mind. When Willy picked up the untorn, unfolded name tag paper and said, "Dude, check this one out: 'Chip Burns!'," we all knew that we'd stumbled upon something that was going to get us through the next week and a half. And he did.

The days leading up to Chip Burns' arrival to collect his name tag were tense. We all wondered what he would look like. I drew up a wanted poster of him looking like a burnt-out college kid with a pimp hat and a monocle, but we all knew in the backs of our minds that Chip would never let his hair get shaggy, for he needs to be aerodynamic while jet packing through the Amazon rain forest. Someone suggested we try to get high fives from Chip if he seemed even the slightest bit cool, but I kept quiet during this conversation. Truth be told, I was a little afraid that Chip Burns would pack a high five x-treme enough to permanently cripple any hand unprepared to receive him.

Even our supervisors were amped for Chip Burns. Other sweet names like Dominique Homo, Connie Concon, and John Pimpo, while awesome, were not as consuming to us as Chip Burns. We had just built him up too much and put way too much stock in his awesomeness to trust any other convention-goer to satisfy. We imagined him walking up to the counter playing a full orchestra's worth of instruments with Godlike talent, possibly juggling at the same time, and saying in a booming voice, "TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: THIS... IS CHIP...... BUUUURNS. I BELIEVE YOU HAVE A NAME TAG FOR ME!" He would be able to sink the sun if he wanted. All the women would want him and all the men would want to be him.

Eventually, on the final day that name tags would be available for pickup, he came.

I was reading Nine Stories, which is perhaps Salinger's greatest work, when he showed up. It seemed almost fitting, since I was on the last story, "Teddy," which is about a boy with a startling mental capacity and a rich history of past lives (which we all assumed was also the case with Chip Burns). I remember flipping one of the final pages in the book as I heard a voice, gentle but somehow cunning, say to the girl seated beside me at her booth: "It's, ah, 'Burns.' Need a photo ID?"

My mouth fell open. We knew that Chip Burns would probably be coming to get his name tag today since it would be his last opportunity to do so, but it happened at exactly the right moment. It wasn't busy, so we had all the opportunity in the world to meet and greet. I stood up and looked at him. Although he didn't have a top hat or a monocle, Chip Burns was still somehow exactly like we thought he'd be. He had a massively cleft chin, sparkling blue eyes, a buzz cut, and was just the slightest bit muscular. He looked like someone who might strangle a boa constrictor just to prove he could do it.

Willy approached him. "Excuse me, sir," he said. "This might seem... really weird. But a few days ago, we chose a name to place on a pedestal and think was incredibly awesome. That was your name, sir."

Chip Burns turned to him and smiled. "You guys must be really bored back there!" he roared mannishly.

"We are, sir," Willy replied. "Would it be okay if we got a picture or two with you?"

Chip Burns seemed to ponder this for a moment. Finally, his eyes twinkling, he shouted, "Let's do it!"

I couldn't run around the booths to the lobby fast enough. I thought about cartwheeling over the window, but I knew Chip Burns' cartwheels would probably put mine to shame. Eventually, when we had all assembled behind Chip Burns and the camera was ready, we struck our Chip Burns poses and the flash went off. We took two or three more, and one girl got one of him hugging her, but everything after that first moment when he showed up is a bit of a blur for me. The adrenaline, you know.

We also stole his business card. You were supposed to get one from each convention-goer and staple it to the form they had to sign to pick up their name tag, but we kept Chip Burns'. We also photocopied and laminated it. Now it's stuck in Nine Stories as my bookmark.

Considering this epic office adventure, which might not sound as amazing in writing as it was in person, I think I'm finally ready to grow up. I might not ever be able to kick my Peanuts Band-Aids habit, but I think I can handle the white collar world. With a little help...

...from Chip Burns.