Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Very Considerable Danger of Going at Work

Wow, look at all this stuff. It has been a long time since I have been down here to the basement. Any readers still subscribed will probably be amazed to see this addition to their feed. The astute reader with a good memory (or one who has read back through all these humiliations just now) will have detected a marked aversion in my psychological makeup for using the restroom at work.

In short, I hate it.

That fear has refused to diminish with time becuase of occassional events like the second post of this blog and increasingly intense experiences such as the one I have just had.

I was sitting on the jakes about to engage in some paperwork (by far the most vulnerable phase of the whole undertaking) when the door booms open, a person is heard to stomp in and then stops - I can only assume- staring at my closed stall door.

"I don't believe it!" he declares.

He stomps back out, sighing dramatically. Then in wide-eyed hesitation and held breath, yet about to relax, I hear him stomp back in. The paper towel dispenser rattles as he replaces the roll. He noisily wipes down the mirror. At this point I am trying to finish the task I had before me in a manner concurrently hectic and discrete.

He goes to replace the TP in the two unoccupied stalls to my left and I hear him mutter, over his breath.

"I'm going to strangle your neck!"

I, of course, sit stunned in mid-swipe. Kind reader, please understand that I loathe using the restroom for the very fear that in my worst moments I may offend someone's delicate sensibilities with an unfortunate sound or inavoidable odor, and suffer the silent comments I imagine their interior monologues make in my judgement. Horror if they should commit to some audible signal of their repulsion, such as an indignant sniff, or an embarrassed cough. A comment from them would be grounds for resignation, change of residency and a new identity in much the same vein as the Witness Protection Agency affords. An irrational part of my mind is convinced that someone will poke their head over the stall wall and say, "oh you do it that way? Nobody but you does it that way!"

It just figures that I, who am already overly concerned with such things according to some, would get the one person who becomes so mad at me for doing what was only excusable to do in that very room that he threatens my life.

A death threat.

As if I was just doing that to spite him. As if I couldn't wait to race him to the bathroom, just so that I could be in that predicament when he came in to clean it.

So he left again and I crept out to wash my hands, tilting my head foward to look over my shoulder, the way that you do. It was quiet. I had no idea if he were waiting just outside the door, clasping his hands in preparation for my neck-strangling. Mentally I went through some of the moves I had learned over a year ago in HapKiDo. The door creaked open and I poked my head out, swivelling it from side to side like a bunny that has heard a hawk.

He was gone.

Later in the day I saw him in a hallway, just looking like a normal janitor (if it's the guy I think it was. Remember- I did not attempt to look out through the crack in the stall door for fear that his face would be RIGHT THERE like in some Twilight zone.)

I found that I was unable to stop staring at him as I walked by.

I'll probably dream of him tonight.

I'll try never to go at work again. . .I will hang onto it until I go toxic.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Sorry for the long hiatus. Hmm, I wonder if a hiatus has ever caused a hiatal hernia? Anywho I have been writing a fantasy story lately for my buddy Colter, and that has consumed much of my writing focus. You know, swords and magic. Not, er, the other kind of fantasy. He'd never speak to me again, I'm certain of it. And I would probably be exceedingly bad at writing that manner of thing anyway.

The embarassing moment that happened to me yesterday went thusly:

I was walking down the long hallway at work and there was a man walking in front of me. He had a paperback in his hip pocket. I was scrutinizing the cover trying to make out the title because it looked like a scifi novel. I couldn't get a fix on the book because the guy was really walkin'and the gluteal flexor that was supporting the book heaved it about enough to blur the writing. Just then a guy and gal walking the other direction catch me, only from their angle they can't see the paperback. So here I am looking like I'm following this guy down the hall just to stare intently at his situpon. There is no time for explanation. The judgement falls instantly and finally, like the blade of Madame Guillotine.

I'm a bum-looker, Cheeky Monkey, full member of the Audobum society. Maybe there is something to books driving one crazy like poor old Don Quixote.

Anyway another reason I have been a wee tardy lately is that I am self conscious of my typing. I have attempted to switch to the Dvorak keyboard layout and I am not yet up to full speed.

Hang in there Basement Dwellers, more Jonnyten to come!

Monday, April 10, 2006

First Impressions

Okay Depresso McDownerbummer, make with the funny! Alright, alright already.

In my former post I mentioned a suite. That is the Siamese twin of the dormitory, or if you prefer, two dorm rooms conjoined at the bathroom. Here is an example I drew from a rough memory of the layout of our room. The four of us guys decided to put all of the beds in one room so that the other room could serve as a commons area for fellowship and outreach. The desk opposite the couch had a Television and a Nintendo as well as a Playstation attached to it. Also the beds were single sized, but bunked one atop the other, not queen sized as the Visio graphic would have it. Those arrangements are not necessary to this tale, but pay specific attention to the bathroom array as this is where the humiliation manifested itself.

Particularly notice the advent of not one but two means of entry into the bathroom as well as the horribly inadequate "privacy wall" that does not even cover the entire toilet, much less the occupant.

It was the first few days of the year. We had moved into the dorm rooms, but classes had not yet begun. We were getting comfortable in the dorm, but had not yet had time to purchase a shower curtain and rod to hang beside the toilet. I was making use of the toilet at the time and not in the standy-uppy way either. As I sat there the little wall came about to the point a pair of briefs would on my leg, leaving almost the entire pale hairy length of my thigh and my subsequent calves and the pants and underwear bunched around my feet open to view.

As anyone who has read this far in my blog knows, I tend to have privacy issues in the bathroom. If you have missed that defining characteristic, I redirect you to my first post, Wash That Stylus. That being the case I had made sure to close both doors to the site of my necessary activities in the hopes that in such a manner I might avoid mortification. Just as I was getting comfortable my roommate Eric entered the bathroom.

"Hey man, you don't mind if I brush my teeth real quick do you?" he said.

Actually I did mind, but I said nothing and so he started. Though I was in place to do what I came there for I held it until Eric was done brushing and I heard him leave. Finally in my safe cocoon of silence I started to go.

About halfway in I heard voices outside of one of the doors. If you will refer to the graphic, it was the door on the left side provided your monitor is sitting upright on your desktop and you are not lying on your back as you read this or anything. You will notice that this is the door that is all the way across the bathroom from me.

I peered around and saw my other roommate, Jason talking to two very attractive Freshman girls. (Both Jason and I were single at this time.) There names escape me now so let's just call them Ashleigh and Chelsea. Nobody looked toward me and I tried to beam the imperative into Jason's mind to shut the door without drawing attention to myself.

"You want to hang out? Come on in!" Jason said and they all went in to the commons area. I sat there frozen with fear. My first instinct was to jump up and hop to the door to shut it, but I could hear them and they hadn't sat down, they were moving around, checking out the room and talking. The horror at having one of those pretty girls coming around the corner just as I hopped, hobbled by my pants around my ankles, and naked from the waist down toward her was enough to keep me riveted to the seat. I did not want to pull up my pants yet for reasons which are both obvious and unmentionable, but I dare not take care of the problem because with no wall covering it would be even worse if they rounded the corner to that than to see a half naked man hopping towards them. There was nothing to do but just hope to wait it out. Then I heard Jason say this-

"Woah. That definitely smells not-so-fresh."

"Is someone in there?" Ashleigh asks, and before I can scream or run or take my life both of them poke their heads around the corner. Jason appears next laughing and rubbing the back of his head.

"Oh. Ashleigh, Chelsea, this is Jon."

"Nice to meet you. Could somoene get the door?" I say. Jason gives me a quizzical look--as if to say whyja' start pooping with the door open?--and closes the door. I could hear Ashleigh and Chelsea apologizing to Jason that they really had to get going, but maybe they could all hang out again sometime.

Aaaaahahaaaah! I love to make a good first impression!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Woe

Most of these reminiscences have been humorous, and there is plenty more of that to come. But not everything lying around in this basement is safe. There are places down here where children shan’t play. Where rusted edges jut, splintered corners lean, dank pools form and shadows seep. Why, oh why would I direct your attention to one of these areas?

Because there is a line we must walk, you and I.

Whether you think the stories I have shared so far are funny or not you must sense by now that I think they are hysterical. Know then that if my perspective were just a bit different each one of these events could have been tragedies. Each tale could have been a brick in a fortress of bitterness, shame and anger; each instance an exhibit in a court where I plead my life’s unfairness. If that were the case I should be such a person as would have no joy, worrying slights and turning them over in my hands as Gollum did the one ring. Happily that is not the case. My life has been unfair only in that I was given joy instead of the anguish that I deserved, mercy instead of justice. And so though it is cliché, the ability to laugh at one’s self truly must be retained. Herein lies one side of the line: the temptation to take every slight personal. It leads to an obsessive unhappy state. Celebrating your own indignities is a great way to keep the sense of proportion that we call humor.

The other temptation is the reason I bring you this tale today. The opposite temptation is to take nothing seriously. The reason it is tempting is because it seems like a way to escape pain. The person who laughs heartily at hard calamity is less human than the one who fixes their gaze unwaveringly on their own accumulated sufferings. Humor truly needs a sense of proportion, the ability to wave off the trifling against knowledge of the truly dreadful.

And so, I burden you with this woe. Please note that like the light stories before it, it could be told in a comedic manner. But I like knowing that you would feel the same unease in its inappropriate manner that you would if I attempted elicit sympathy from my funny stories as if they were horrors. Laugh at what is funny, cry at what is sad and keep walking that line.

My second senior year at college I moved into a freshman dorm with three other upperclassmen. (It’s okay to laugh at that part) The other guys were in Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship with me and two of them were the presidents of the two halves of our chapter. For this reason we referred to our rooms as the Presidential Suite. On a happier day I will tell you of a horrible embarrassment I suffered in the bathroom between the two rooms. The other non-president resident was my good friend Joshua. Josh lead a small group Bible study in the lounge one night a week and I helped out. There was a really good turnout as we had posted flyers and personally visited the dorm rooms of the students who were good enough to fill out a card indicating interest at Bronco Bash. Among those attending was a short, pretty Japanese girl named Akiko. As Providence would have it Jason, one of the Presidents, was also in the Bible study and was pretty fluent in Japanese having spent some of his schooling abroad. He was able to communicate with Akiko when the language barrier got above knee height, but Akiko had pretty good English.

Her prayer requests often focused on dealing with depression. She had recently converted to Catholicism and was excited to take part in the study of God’s word. One night Jason got a call from Akiko. I was the only other roommate there and he indicated that Akiko might be in trouble. I put my shoes on and we went down the elevator and to her room. When we got there she was sitting on the floor by her bed. Another Japanese transfer student was with her and he had put a large shirt on her. He looked worried. She brightened when we came in the room but she looked really out of it. She started talking to Jason and tried to pull the left sleeve of that big shirt up on her arm, but the guy (his name might have been Kenji or Kenshi) tried to prevent her. I saw blood on the inside of the cuff. She told Kenji/Kenshi that we could be trusted and took off that big shirt. There was blood on her dress from her arm. Her arm looked like it had been chipped. It reminded me of the big turning spit they use to make gyros at a Greek restaurant, only it was red and white instead of gray.

Japanese antidepressants aren’t as strong as those in the US. They come in powder form. No antidepressant should be consumed with alcohol. But I think Akiko had been accustomed to getting away with one glass of wine with her old meds. When she tried that with her American scrip she went mad. She had gone into the bathroom and found a razorblade that belonged to her suitemate. She had gone to work on her left arm with that blade trying to die. I guess she had attempted suicide on earlier occasions. She told me that cigarettes were poisonous if you tried to eat them. Jason stayed with her and I went for the Resident Advisor, a girl named Jamie who couldn’t have been more than a sophomore. She was one cool cucumber though. She assessed the situation and contacted the Hall Director. The decision was made to call the ambulance. Jamie had to explain what was going to happen and why to an increasingly alarmed Akiko. It wasn’t until the EMT’s arrived and took over that I saw how scared Jamie had been. Seeing that made me more impressed with her, not less.

Akiko started freaking out when the Med-tech’s got there. She had to be restrained on the gurney. When her arms were strapped down she stopped struggling. She gently called my name and said:
“Can you do me a favor?”
“What do you need, Akiko?” I said. I will never forget her eyes when she responded. She held my gaze. Her voice was calm, frank, sincere.
“Will you please kill me?”

They wheeled her away and she started struggling again. They told me she was going to the ward where she would be on suicide watch for a while. They said we could visit her at the hospital later. When we got back to our room Jason and I prayed for our friend.

The next night Kenji, Josh, Jason and I and perhaps a few others from the Bible study went to visit Akiko. She wanted us to be there when her father arrived. She was nervous. She wasn’t looking that great when we got there, but her arm had been bandaged and she was happy to see us. I had her Bible and asked if there was any Scripture she wanted to hear. She wanted to hear the first part of the fifth chapter of Mark.

Here it is in the NIV from
Mark 5
The Healing of a Demon-possessed Man
1They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil[b] spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" 8For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"
9Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." 10And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." 13He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 20So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[c]how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

The fifth verse struck me when I read it to her. I asked Akiko what she thought of the whole passage and she gently wept.
“I try to believe.” she said, “I try to believe.”

As the evening progressed word came that her father was on his way. I only include this next bit because it happened that same night and it was so bizarre, but I am not sure what connection it had to what was going on. I feel that it was part of it, but can’t quite say how. I went down to the hospital entrance to meet Akiko’s dad and guide him to the correct floor. When I got to the entrance it was dark. It looked closed. There wasn’t a sound. There were no door guards, orderlies, nothing; just the antiseptic lobby floor shining in the glow of the arc sodium lamplight streaming through the automated glass sliding doors.

“Oh, there you are!” came from my left.
A woman was walking toward me out of a dim hallway. She had graying straggly hair hanging on either side of her face. She had no teeth, but her eyes were lit up.
“I was wondering when I was going to meet you.” she said.
“You recognize me?” I asked.
“I have seen your face in my dreams. Sometimes I see monster faces, and then I throw a fireball in their mouth.”
I don’t know why I said what I said next. I guess I might have still been in some shock over the events of the night before. Everything was so weird and surreal. Maybe part of it is my non-confrontational nature. Who knows? Enough excuses, I’ll just tell you.
“Well please don’t throw a fireball in MY mouth.” I said.
She laughed.
“I wouldn’t do that to you. I’d know the difference.” and with that she walked past me and into the gloom of the hallway to my right. I looked around but there were no people around to help. I felt like I should probably tell somebody that this woman was walking around loose, but I didn’t know if that was part of her routine there or not. Maybe they let her take walks or something.

Anyway Akiko’s father arrived and we boarded the elevator. I don’t remember whether he came to my entrance or if Josh found him first, just being in the elevator with Josh and him. He worked for Fuji Film. Josh told him he used Fuji film and he told Josh that he was a good customer. That made all three of us smile. When we got there Akiko and her dad embraced and spoke in Japanese. I didn’t understand a word, but I saw the love and concern that was communicated. Akiko’s father told us that he was glad she had friends to come visit her and look out for her.

Akiko had to drop out of school that semester. The next semester she went to school in England. We got a letter from her saying that she had made some good friends there who had taken to calling her “Kiki.”

Friday, March 03, 2006

This gift of speech

Some have a face for radio and some have a voice for writing. I have come to the conclusion that it might be profitable to restrict my permission to address women.

My wife and I were enjoying a day at the beach with other couples. Lake Michigan's waters were surprisingly warm that day and the ripples were so inspired they aspired to oceanic wavelengths. So we were out there battling the crashing waves, moveable dunes heaping themselves up with the sheer joy of the day. One of the lasses that was there, let's call her Sarah, was floating on her back and as the wave crest lofted her she rolled over flinging glittering droplets from her outstretched fingers. The positioning of her arms, held out straight, struck me (not physically, but in reminiscence) similarly to the positioning of flippers, on some sea creature, as it would play. And so I said:

"Sarah, you rolled over just like a Manatee."

I don't need to tell you that the aquatic life form I chose (based on the positioning and usual movement of its flippers, mind you!) was not a flattering choice of image as a whole. You see, it is hard to explain the delicacies of comparative armature movement amongst mammals to a lady whom you have verbally and publicly just likened to a sea cow.

Wednesday, I proved once again why my interaction with females other than my spouse should be strictly monitored. We had just returned from our trip to the Cleveland Clinic. When we got a call from a dear friend who had sent us an encouragement just before we left and who is able to relate because of her own experiences, let's just call her Sara. My wife was feeling terrible so I got to be the one who told Sara how the trip had been and what tests and such we could look forward to in the future. One of them is a colonoscopy. Sara also has to have one and an endoscope too! And so I said:

"Wow! Like a barbecued hog on a spit."

I immediately realized what an awful inappropriate thing that was to say and apologized.

"I am so sorry that was a really horrible metaphor." I said.

"Yeah." she said.

She was very gracious to continue talking on the phone to me and the fact that she was able to remain polite is an indication of what a great person she is. I looked at my wife and she was shaking her head at me. She had that look on her face that she gets when I have screwed up so bad that all she can do is laugh but she is trying not to.

And now, a final example that takes me all the way back to junior high. My buddy Josh and I were in a youth orchestra at church. We played trumpets and there was this cute girl who sat next to me and laughed at some of my jokes, let's just not call her anything. There was only one problem. She wouldn't tell me her name. I really got on her case about it one time but she flatly refused. I decided humor might be in order to break the ice. And so I said:

"What? It's not like you have some ridiculous name like GERtrude or something!"

I never saw her again. Her cousin played trombone. You already know what he told me the next week.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Just curious

Okay I know I am way overdue for another tale. But this will be another quick post. I am just curious who all is tuned in to this basement in my mind. If you feel like it, click on comments below and just leave your name or screen name, and if you are a cyber-friend or know me in meatspace. For the name thing there is no need for a full name, just your first or last. This could be a lot kewler if I were savvy like Nick and knew how to attach polls to my site. I'll go first:

Jonnyten meatspace

Friday, January 13, 2006

Never, never

Okay this won't be a full on post, just some advice.

No matter how funny you think it is, or what a good joke it would be do not casually refer to your wife as "Nanny McPhee." She won't think it is funny and you will waste a lot of time trying to explain yourself.

"Nanny McPhee"

A cheeky rebuttal that cracks me up

Gratefully, not all of the embarrassing tales are mine. Since he was good enough to leave a comment I will now tell one of my favorite Mike stories. This should be fun. I can enjoy all of the hilarity of the situation without any of the anguish that comes from my own memories. Anyone who has spent much time with me in meatspace has probably already heard this one. The conversation probably went something like this:

Anyone who knows me (AWKM): Jonnyten, why are you laughing so hard? Nobody said anything.

Jonnyten: Sorry, sorry nothing.

AWKM: Nobody laughs that hard at nothing! What happened.

And then I say:

Okay. When I was in high school my buddy Mike got tickets to go see the Star Wars movies for his birthday. And no, by the way I was not in high school from 1977 to 1984. This was before George Lucas screwed up his original Star Wars films. They were as they had been created, you know, perfect. Studio 28 in Grand Rapids was having a showing of the entire trilogy, back to back, in theater 1. I was so geeked to see them all on the big screen!

So we’re sitting there, towards the back. Mike was sitting on my left and he was talking to someone on his left. So his head was facing away. Well this rather large woman went to sit down behind us. She took off her jacket and was trying to set it in the seat or something. I am not sure what she was up to, but she was working pretty hard at it. It consumed all of her focus and she forgot her surroundings.

As she worked, her prodigious rear end pushed its way into my field of vision like a sunrise over my shoulder. I stared, incredulous. Her derrière was almost resting on Mike’s shoulder and mine. It was huge and it was covered in her navy blue sweatpants. (They were in fact blue although to this day Mike remembers them as being black for reasons which will become obvious as I continue.)

I started to laugh and couldn’t believe Mike hadn’t noticed it yet. He was happily talking away to his friend next to him as the Globeous Maximus hovered by his ear like a vagabond moon. It was too much. I thought it was hysterical and I wanted Mike to see so that he could laugh with me. I tapped him on his shoulder.

Upon retrospect that might have made me partially responsible for what happened next. In my defense, however, I should first note that I could not have told him what was happening without letting the poor unfortunate owner of that caboose overhear me and thereby become embarrassed. I should further note in my continuing defense, that I had expected his head to behave normally when his shoulder was stimulated. When I say normally what I mean is that I expected his head to swivel upon the top of his neck thereby giving him a view of the gently intruding badunkakunk. What I had not expected was that he would pivot at the waist, swinging his head in a wide arc to face me.

The arc terminated by inserting his face well into the cheek closest to him. Only that cheek compressed, while the other remained bulbous. I think that is why it looked to me like Mike had only half a face as he screamed.

That was so funny. I am cracking up as I write this 6 or 7 years later. He just stuck his face right in her butt! I can’t stop laughing at it. Every time I remember it I crack up.

OK! Deep breath. Whew.

OK so that’s it. He stuck his face in a big old be-sweat-panted butt that had more than a passing resemblance to the Grand Canyon for all it’s nooks and crannies. I can only imagine what it felt like from Mike’s perspective. It probably was suddenly night. I don’t know if it was warm or cold or which would be worse. I will leave it to Mike to fill in what detail he recalls as he is able to overcome his defense mechanisms to remember. The only way it could possibly have been any funnier is if she had cut one right across his mouth as he was screaming.

If you are worrying about the poor woman I will just say that she didn’t react in the least. She continued to work at her seat and finally sat in it without making a sound. This either means that she was aware and felt too embarrassed to say anything, or that Mike’s face hit in a spot between nerve endings and she did not feel his impression upon her hiney.

I forgot to mention one of the funniest parts. Mike was still grinning from his conversation with his buddy on the other side when his face entered the buttock. I got to watch the unfolding emotions across his features as he suffered a complete failure of composure. They went thusly: The cheese eating grin fell off his face quickly as it was replaced by confusion, this flowed quite naturally into the open mouth of shock and then as realization crept in horror and acceptance as signified by the scream. It took a while to read all that but it happened with hilarious speed while at the same time each individual expression was distinct. Or maybe it was instinct. Or maybe her endstinct.