Monthly Archives: November 2011

Hyper-Sam and the Infinite Potential

Greetings, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Internet.

I am Sam Julian, artist and cantankerous co-editor of the blog Reasonably Ludicrous. First of all, let me thank you for your support of our fledgling blog these past few weeks. It is a great privilege to address you now, this time with words. I post today with very important news, so important that it had to be posted on a Thursday.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a man. That’s not the news. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a man who lives in perpetual fear, fear of a man that I will never meet. I cannot see him; I cannot feel him, but I can perceive him. He exists in a timeline parallel to my own, mirroring my every step, my every movement…

Until that crucial moment, when I’m not quite paying attention, when I think that for once, things are going my way. That’s when he changes things up.

Every time I make a mistake, every time I let a ball slip through my fingers or trip over the finish line or  whatever sports-based faux pas you want to apply,

Every time I miss the apple, my parallel universe self (Let’s call him Hyper-Sam for brevity’s sake) takes a big, juicy, delicious bite of out of it. Hyper-Sam doesn’t balk in surprise when a situation-Hydra rears its hundred heads of branching possibility. Ever confident, he weaves his way forward silky smooth and cuts them all off in an incredible combo chain attack, turning misfortune into opportunity and opportunity into unadulterated win. If life gives him lemons, he will pulp the lemons in a juicer he won from a ring toss at the county fair, and offer it to his guests sweetened with Agave Syrup and Pimm’s. Hyper-Sam is charming and quick-witted, sensitive but never vulnerable. He is eloquent but efficient in his speech, reserved and knowing, but never pretentious. And even though he always knows precisely what he means to say, it doesn’t matter, because his winning smile says enough.

Hey There.

See, I am none of those things. When someone asks me a direct question it takes a moment for me to register that the person is actually speaking to me, and that the phrase out of their mouth was an interrogative, so by the time I sayanything it’s well past the point of spontanaeity, let alone wit. At parties and clubs I have to shout to feel like I’m being heard, and as soon as more than two people start listening to me, I get so self-conscious I derail my fossil-fuel powered train of thought. God forbid someone be anything less that friendly to me, because I will bluster defensively before my brain even registers they were making a joke. And should anyone of the female persuasion engage me in conversation and seem actually interested in what I have to say, I become highly suspicious.

Super'spicion aint the way.

Needless to say, Hyper-Sam excels at all the social situations I’ve grown accustomed to witnessing devolve into massive fiascos of monstrously cruel insignificance. And as I sit in the corner, watching Stacie dance with Yosef, in my mind’s eye I see Hyper-Sam pulling Hyper-Stacie ever so slightly in towards his crisp and not-at-all-wine-covered collared shirt. Hyper-Yosef stands next to me, muttering resentments into his Dixie Cup of Jungle Juice and humiliation.

The other day I was talking on the phone to a very friendly, very tragic government worker who was so happy to have someone call him back that I couldn’t possibly deny him a quick twenty-minute survey, but because he was out buying organic groceries, he said he’d call me back when he got to his office. Thirty minutes later I have to get to work, and naturally Dan Fillin (not a pseudonym) calls me just as I’m getting into the car. I answer and don’t think anything of it as I drive along my easy, suburban commute. I was feeling pretty good about myself, totally making this guy’s day. He was just so happy to speak to someone, and I rediscovered the joys of talking about myself without fear of Judgment. I had fun answering the questions, and we joked about his computer that still ran a MS-DOS program that didn’t have a mouse. Then, just as the program was rebooting after the first crash, I heard the quick clip of a police siren and dropped the phone in angry realization.

The Gentleman Police Officer didn’t even have the courtesy to run the siren for a full wail. He sidled up to my pulled-over car.

“License and registration, please.”

“Here you go. This isn’t my car; I’m borrowing it from a friend.”

“Okay, and the friend?”

I told him, and he began scribbling on his pad. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I thought I’d bring up the elephant in the room.

“Is this because I was talking on my cell phone?”

“Yessir.”

After that I pretty much sat quietly while he input things into his laptop or whatever they use on motorcycles and wrote me up a ticket. I didn’t know what else to say. And staring at my ticket, I knew that Hyper-Sam would never have gone down like this. It would have gone something more like:

Hyper-Sam avoided the ticket and got a great story to tell Dan Fillin when he called back. Me, I pretended to still be enjoying his terrible, terrible 40-minute survey.

Now you might say, “but Sam, if this were true, Hyper-Sam wouldn’t even have been in this situation in the first place. Hyper-Sam would have a Bluetooth headset that he bought at a reasonable price online, and what is he doing borrowing someone else’s car? Hyper-Sam owns a Tesla.” You might say that this is a sloppy metaphor and that it falls apart upon further investigation. That Hyper-Sam is merely a figment of my overly-neurotic, self-flagellating brain.

Scumbag Brain

But no. It’s far worse than that. The reality is that there are actually an infinite number of Hyper-Sams, spawning off of me at every causal juncture. A new one is created every moment, and he goes off to live a life of self-actualization and purpose while I watch him fade off into the extra-dimensional horizon.

The other day I was moving out of my old office. As I left, the cute secretary, the one with the straight dark hair, the one who always smiles with a knowing twinkle, who always seems to want me to talk to her but I never do because what would I have to say to her anyway, asks, “Hows it going?”

“Good,” I say, blushing. “Heading out.”

And as I walk past her I realize that I should turn around and talk to her because I have nothing to lose. I’m leaving the building now, forever. I could be telling her about my awesome, cool-sounding job at a start-up and our fancy new pad that’s just like in The Social Network. I could ask her out to dinner and even if she said no I’d never have to see her again. I could even tell her she was beautiful, and she might even be flattered. I could do anything. I realized I could always do anything, but I just keep getting in the way of myself. Life was about experiences, not obstacles.  This was the dawning of a new era, a day when Hyper-Sam and Sam would merge and become one.

But I just walked out the doors without saying anything.

 

 

 

 


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The Pitfalls of Being a Camp Counselor: Airport Edition

Once a year, young folk are faced with the challenge of finding a summer job, and the last two loops round the sun, I’ve tackled that challenge by being a camp counselor at Stanford, where I spent six weeks nurturing and supposedly educating forty kids whose parents paid thousands of dollars for them to spend their summers sitting in stuffy lecture halls taking college-level classes because they desperately want their children to be accepted to an elite university. And let me tell you, the whole experience is…well, really fun, actually! The kids are all smarter than I am, they’re full of energy and fun to talk to, and most importantly, they’re the perfect dodgeball fodder for my three-time-intramural-champion rocket of an arm.

But it’s not all fun and games at Stanford camp. Well, it is for the counselors, but with the kids, it’s nose to the grindstone from dawn till sort of a late eveningish hour. There’s a highly varied breakfast of pre-packaged pancakes, tater tots, and surprise sausage, which comes in exciting circular and cylindrical varieties depending on the day, then three straight hours of lecture which the counselors get to sleep through. Then lunch, three hours of study session (which I ruthlessly command), and finally a bit of free time to do tomorrow’s reading before lights out, at which point the counselors absolutely do not immediately begin to booze heavily, sneak into faculty hot tubs, or play spin the bottle, because those things would be against the rules laid out in the often-read and ever-cited handbook. All told, the amount of work we put in is about half that of the students, and we’re paid to be there. Who’s the smart one now, poindexters?

But there’s one day each summer that is worse for us than it is for the kids, one day on which we earn all the minimum wage scrill they throw at us, and that’s Arrival Day. We wake up at the ungodly hour of six a.m. and drive to San Francisco International Airport, where, over the course of 8 hours and scores of flights, around seven hundred children ages eleven to seventeen spill out of every terminal all across the airport and run amok. They weave in and out of a roiling sea of adults, cackling as they sneak past us, and all we can do is stand there, ineffectively raising tiny, handheld signs welcoming them to camp, hoping against hope that our charges will notice. It’s very stressful.

To make the experience more bearable, I invent dances which I  sync up with the various announcements. I get down and dirty with the “Please do not leave your luggage unattended. Unattended baggage may be confiscated and searched.” That one’s got a lot of head tosses. If I’m in the mood for some more thrusts and shimmies, I go for the “This is a loading zone only. There is no stopping at any time. Repeat. This is a loading zone only…” It’s got such a good flow to it. I could never write that stuff.

Anyway, my dance moves get me a lot of weird looks from angry airport-goers, the type so fed up with the annoyances of regular travel that any modicum of joy sends them into an apoplectic rage.

I’m a lot more successful when I whip out the sexy-model turn and lock eyes with a stranger. Caught off-guard by my unexpected attention, I have them in my grasp for but a moment, during which I flash the camp sign and give them my most longing and hopeful look.

Then they either respond with an embarrassed Zoidberg scuttle in the opposite direction or say something like “Summer camps are such a delight,” or, “Isn’t that the camp where blind kids learn to read Braille?”

Rather than trying to puzzle out why we’d attempt to catch blind children’s attention with signs, I told her that yes, it was indeed that camp. She was very supportive.

Despite my heroic, deeply shaming efforts, the kids don’t pay the slightest attention. One moment I’m ready to snag a gaggle of children (snaggle!), and the next, all the passengers have disembarked and we’ve only located two of the thirty kids from that flight.

How does this happen?! We’re supposed to keep these kids safe. The moment they step off that plane, we’re their legal guardians, but before the race to prove I’m mature enough to hold down a job has even begun, I’ve dropped the fragile, child-laden baton. So now I’m sprinting up and down the baggage claim area, shouting at the top of my lungs for little kids, all the while doing my best to shrug off the looks of horror from airport patrons shocked that someone would be so brazen. After twenty minutes of extremely loud and less-than-tactful shouting, this one woman (just arrived on the scene), asks her elderly mother (who’s been watching me intently the entire time), “What is he doing?”

“Oh, don’t worry,” she says, comfortingly. “He’s just looking for little boys.”

And before I can control what’s coming out of my mouth, I say excitedly, “And girls!” No filter. Both women shake their heads in mingled shame and terror but thankfully refrain from calling airport security.

I manage to wrangle about six small children, including this one 11-year-old girl who’d been completely lost and traumatized. She’d gotten on a different flight than we were expecting and had been wandering the airport for hours, nerves fraying like the ropes of that bridge that’s always situated over an unthinkably deep chasm. And no matter how much I cajole her with my charm, balloon animals, improvised reproductions of Richard III, or unlabeled candy, she refuses to speak to me. I swear I’m being friendly, but who knows what’s going through her head.

I somehow manage to gain enough control of my six energetic devils to herd them over to the predetermined meeting place. There’s a father there with his daughter, and he strikes up a conversation with me. Turns out his daughter’s taking creative writing, and because of my special mental condition that prevents me from ever learning from past experiences, I say, “That’s great! She’ll spend her summer rooming with me then.” Maybe word spread that I’d been on the prowl for little girls, or maybe the dad just didn’t like the looks of me, but he gives me a glare that could stop a tidal wave, and as I fumble for words—“No wait. I mean, that’s not—I’m a counselor,”—he protectively places his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and walks away.

My first day interacting with the kids and already I’d made a huge blunder. If he complained to my boss, I could be in serious trouble. I needed this job. It was the first step in the grueling process of doing things I could actually put on a résumé, unlike Dungeons and Dragons club, and an English degree and, well, you remember the zombie hunter fiasco. So I’m standing there, pitying myself, when little Ms. Silence pipes up.

“Next time,” she says, speaking with the confident, innocent logic only an 11-year-old can muster, “you could probably handle that better.”

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