I once had a brush with what proved to be a fascinating case study of human behavior.
It was ninth grade. I had a locker. I refused to lock my locker, probably out of some strange sense of teenage rebellion and/or laziness. A friend of mine—we shall call her Beth—asked if she could share my locker because it was closer to her classes than the one she had been assigned.
“All right,” I said, “but I don’t lock my locker. And by now I’ve lost the combo, so that’s never going to be in the cards here.”
Beth said she understood the law of the land. So I agreed to grant her asylum.
But what I really should have passed on was the warning that I thought went unsaid. You see, Lockerville was a dangerous land. It wasn’t that I had any illusions that people wouldn’t try to steal the crap out of my stuff; it was that I only kept textbooks in there so that no one would bother.
Beth seemed to have a sunnier view of human nature. And in her absolutely unwarranted faith in the human race, she decided to leave her CD player on the locker’s top shelf.
That thing sat there for no more than seven measly hours before it was gone with the mother-lovin’ wind.
This, in and of itself, did not surprise me at all. Here’s what did surprise me: in the center of the top shelf, in the exact spot where Beth’s CD player had once sat, was an unopened package of chocolate chip cookies.
These were not Beth’s cookies. They were not my cookies.
There was only one logical conclusion: someone had broken into my locker, stolen Beth’s CD player, and replaced it with cookies.
What a weird honkin’ thing to do.
Seriously, think about what this act implies. The thief opens the locker, sees the CD player, knows that he is going to take the CD player, but must also on some level understand that this is a nasty, unethical thing to do. However, instead of letting that stop him, he thinks, “Wait a tick, I know what will soften the blow!,” and then he leaves us cookies.
Never in a million years did Beth think someone would steal her CD player. I totally did, but never in a million years did I think a thief would be considerate enough to swap in cookies.
We handled the situation accordingly.
Beth was livid. “MY CD PLAYER!” she shrieked to the heavens.
I was pleasantly surprised. “Hey, free cookies!” I exclaimed to no one in particular.
Beth did not appreciate my positive attitude. “Fuck the cookies!” she barked at me. “I had a CD in there!”
I paused for a moment. “So… do you not want the cookies?”
“No, I don’t want the cookies!” Beth screamed. “Why the fuck would I want the cookies?! What I want is my mother-fucking CD player! Who the fuck would steal my CD player—”
This went on for some time. At the end of the day, Beth went home with no CD player, disillusioned with human nature, and I went home with free cookies, feeling a little confused but mostly just impressed.
To be clear, I’m not endorsing criminal behavior. All I’m saying is, if you have to go there, you might as well go there considerately.
You know what people love? When you make their dreams come true. Now, it’s not always in one’s power to do so, but when a good friend of mine comes to me with a dream that I can help them achieve, you’d better believe I’m going to do everything I can to help.
Case in point: One fateful morning, my roommate Katie comes into the kitchen with a long face.
“Why, what’s the matter there, O beloved friend of mine?” I ask.
“Well, Ann, I’ve just had a dream,” Katie says. She then proceeds to explain how in her dream, there was a serial killer after her. She knew because when her phone rang, the caller ID said “Serial Killer.” But then, when she answered the phone, it was her mom on the other line. And that’s when Katie realized that her mom was the serial killer all along.
“That sure is strange,” I say.
“Yes,” says Katie, “it sure was strange.” Then she mosies off to the bathroom to get ready for work.
This is the point where I do what any good friend would: take her phone and change her mom’s listing so that the name reads, “Serial Killer.”
And then I sat back and waited.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, Katie’s mom decided to call her that day. Katie’s phone rings. Once. Twice. Three times. Katie picks up her phone and looks at the screen. And what she sees is: “Incoming Call: Serial Killer.”
For just a moment, Katie thought her dream had come true.
There was a lot of screaming after that.
I think it was mostly Katie expressing how excited she was that I’d made her dreams come true.
Granted, shouting, “Ann, you vindictive lunatic, what the HELL?!?!?” over and over is a funny way to say, “thank you,” but I think that sometimes when people’s dreams come true, they get too choked up to express their gratitude clearly.
That’s okay, though. I’m not doing it for the recognition. I’m doing it because I’m such a good friend.
Today, I’ve been reading about Siri, the awesomely creepy assistant programmed into the new iphone, who can talk to you and follow voice commands. Naturally, I’m endeavoring to create as intimate a relationship as possible with Siri to build up the terrifying illusion that my phone is a sentient robot who knows and understands my every wish.
Apple seems eager as ever to assist me in my mission. In my research, I discovered that you can tell Siri about your relationships with contacts in your phone to be able to say, “Call my brother,” for instance, instead of “Call Shawn.” Never mind the fact that it would clearly be more efficient just to say, “Call Shawn.” That is entirely beside the point.
So I tried to put Grant into my phone. Here’s how that went:
Siri: What can I help you with?
Ann: Siri, Grant is my boyfriend.
Siri: I’m not sure what you mean by, ‘France is my boyfriend.’
However, after I learned to annunciate, I soon discovered that I could abuse this feature wildly by plugging whatever the hell I wanted into the formula:
Name of Contact is my XXXXX.
Case in point:
Siri: What can I help you with?
Ann: Siri, Maia is my evil badger.
Siri: Do you want me to remember that Maia is your evil badger?
Ann: Oh, yes, please do.
Siri: Ok. I’ve added this relationship.
<Lists Maia as: Evil Badger: Maia.>
I’ve never been so happy.
I don’t really like Twizzlers. I mean, I like them okay, but that’s just not how you’re supposed to feel about a piece of candy. If you’re not excited about it, then what’s the point? But at the same time, it technically is candy. You can’t just throw out a piece of candy. Hence, every time I somehow acquire one of these little red sticks of disheartening mediocrity, I get stuck in this terrible stalemate with myself—unable to eat it, unable to throw it out, able only to regard it with a disdainful, “Eh.”
That’s why, when someone gave me a Twizzler two years ago, I didn’t eat it. I didn’t throw it out. Instead, I stuck it in the pocket of my winter coat to forget about. Last winter, a year ago, I noticed it was still there. Once again, I faced a familiar dilemma—couldn’t eat it, couldn’t throw it out. I just went, “Eh,” and tucked it back into my pocket.
This winter, I found it again. I took it out of my coat, looked at it with quiet disappointment, and was about to stick it back in there, when it suddenly occurred to me! The answer to my two-year stalemate:
FEED IT TO SOMEBODY ELSE.
Of course! Why hadn’t I put it all together before?! It was the perfect way to get the accursed rod of licorice out of my pocket, while also proving an opportunity for a small bit of hilarious evil.
The only problem was, no one was gonna want to eat a two-year old piece of licorice. I could’ve omitted the two-year-old bit of information when I was offering it to potential victims, but that didn’t seem right. I had to tell them what was wrong with it at least once before they ate it. Otherwise, it would hardly be sporting. Plus, where was the challenge? Hence, I knew this would have to be a long-term project. My winter 2011-2012 goal: to tell one of my friends that this piece of licorice is two years old, and get them to ingest it for me anyway.
So, I offered Katie the licorice in late November and told her it was two years old. She declined to eat it.
I offered Grant the licorice in mid-December and told him it was two years old. He, too, declined to eat it.
But there I stopped my search for potential victims, and lay in wait like a patient spider who had just finished spinning her web. Before the winter was out, the flies would come. It would be Katie or Grant. They would get hungry, they would be drunk, they would forget just how old it was… One or all of these factors would unwittingly lead one of them right into the licorice trap.
This brings us to this past Monday, January 9th, 2012. Katie and I were walking to meet a friend in DC. She was hungry, it had been over a month since I had offered the licorice to her… She wasn’t drunk, but still, things were falling into place. The following scene shortly took place:
Katie: I’m so hungry! Where is Jamie? I want dinner!
Ann: How hungry are you?
Katie: I’m really freaking hungry!
Ann: Well, in that case, do you want a piece of candy?
Katie: Candy? Yes! Give it to me now!
Ann: (Offering Twizzler from pocket) Here you go.
Katie: (Hesitating) Wait. That Twizzler. What’s wrong with it?
Ann: What do you mean?
Katie: I can’t explain it, but I feel like something’s wrong with that Twizzler. Did you tell me something was wrong with it?
Ann: Well, it’s a Twizzler, so that’s what’s wrong with it.
Katie: I dunno… (Pause as she vacillates between common sense and reckless abandon.) Well, okay! (Taking the Twizzler) Thanks!
Ann: You’re welcome.
Katie: (Biting into it) Oh, sweet Jesus! It’s rock hard! What’s wrong with you? How old is this?!
Ann: TWO YEARS OLD! IT’S TWO YEARS OLD! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I’M FREE! I’M FINALLY FREE!!!
Ann: Do you hate that I’m your best friend?
Katie: YES. BECAUSE YOU’RE TERRIBLE.
She got over it, though.
Now, for the sake of those I love, no one had better give me any more Twizzlers.