Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Simple Discourse on Allergies

We’ll call him Webster. Webster suffers from a terrible allergy to dogs. When he gets a whiff of them, his eyes swell shut and his lungs spasm. People without a severe allergy don’t understand how it works and generally react by removing the offensive entity once alerted by a simple and socially viable sentence.

Webster backs away from the Doberman and says, “I’m allergic to dogs.”

This could be the end for his problems, but it isn’t because the owner speaks another sentence. Unfortunately this sentence has the same social viability as Webster’s. It is just as simple and everyone accepts that, just as his sentence means you must get the dog away from him, this sentence means he no longer has a right to avoid the dog.

The Doberman’s owner smiles, leaving enough slack on the leash her dog continues to advance on Webster.

“He’s hypoallergenic,” she says with a plaintive smile.

These socially viable sentence-long excuses allow us to skip conversations that are annoying, boring and one participant never really retains anything from anyway. When Webster uses a sentence like his, he’s defined the conversation as a simple one. The owner has responded in kind, so the brevity of discourse cannot be changed. It does not matter that even if her dog didn’t shed that its inevitable flesh dander would still aggravate Webster’s allergy. It doesn’t matter that all the crap the dog has picked up on its fur will agitate other allergies he has. It doesn’t even matter that Doberman Pinschers are not hypoallergenic. To explain any of this simply would make people think he was odd and downright rude.

If Webster were to back further away and say, “I don’t believe your dog is hypoallergenic,” offense would be registered.

If he says, “I don’t want to risk it,” she’ll think he’s weird.

If he breaches the brevity of discourse and explains how pet allergies work, she’ll be bored and know that he’s weird.

So now Webster is letting the dog lick him. Benadryl probably won’t stop his hand or eyes from swelling in a few minutes, but he’ll exceed the normal dosage anyway.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Mystery Belt

This story has been taken down so it can be submitted for publication. Hopefully you'll see it elsewhere soon. But if you're curious, I'm leaving the link to the audio edition up here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Digital Preservation of Swear Words

One proposal for the new digital brains is monetizing word use. The new mechanical mind will let you browse the internet in your brain; GoogleBooks will let you do a month of research in minutes. Similarly you’ll have every word in the dictionary at your disposal. But the ability to think certain words, and think them strongly enough to form sentences that you can speak, will cost you. It’s a preventive measure against the kind of people who turned “shit” from a word used when the bank foreclosed on your house to a word used when you stubbed your toe. Everyone will be born with an allotment of ten free swears. In your life you may swear up to ten times at no charge at all, with the idea that you’ll save them for when your father is hit by a bus or you discover blood in your stool. Times when swearing is absolutely appropriate. Fur for every swear over the initial ten you’ll have to pay one hundred credits, equal to the wage of a middle class worker for two and a half days. With cussing being so expensive, it will be similarly rare, reserved only for extreme cases, and so will remain associated with the emotional extremes it deserves. The big problem with this legislation is, as one Representative put it, “the fucking wealthy will swear as much as they fucking want while everyone else is fucked.” But new legislation within this bill will bridge the gap. The wealthy will still be able to afford cussing, but any individual who swears will be charged an additional fee for every individual who hears them. So when Paris Hilton the 3rd hops on Youtube to swear with impunity, she’ll pay another week’s savings for every hit the video gets. With digital brains, everyone who hears the swear will automatically be registered with the central database. The math is infallible. Swearing in film is expected to likewise plummet, as no studio wants to spend more for one “fuck” than it did paying the actress to perform the act on camera. So it will be for the millionaire and the bus driver. If you dislike the proposal you can still tell the Parliament to fuck off, but in a few years it will cost you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Anyone Can Do Malaise

Dear Professor Hannaford,

I spent two hours last night trying to co-write a piece with Ed like you assigned. I wrote one paragraph, then he did the second, and so-on. In two whole hours he ruined every story, leaving it unwritable. I cannot work with this man any further. I am attaching our last co-written piece below as an example.

I went first.


The popcorn chicken is too cold. Hot outside, but a squeeze shows it's frozen in the middle. I poke some buttons and add a few minutes to the timer. In the next room some guy who sold me a magic mop that didn’t work is selling something that has to do with X-Rays and hospital visits. Somewhere, someone coughs.

Out of nowhere an armored transport smashes through the wall! It crushes my stupid microwave oven. Popcorn chicken bits get stuck between the treds and fling up at me in all kind of crazy slow motion before the transport totally crushes me! Oh my God, the humanity! Armored commandos ignore my lame emo carcass as they jump out the back to secure the room. Let freedom reign!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: A Beat Passes

[SAMID sits in the booth by the window, wearing a pink tuxedo. A GIANT BLACK CAT sits next to SAMID, drinking from a saucer of milk; she is the only one who has ordered anything yet. GARY sits across from SAMID, wearing a banana yellow tuxedo that is mildly crumpled. ARYANA sits very close to GARY but is looking away from him, wearing nothing noteworthy to anybody who hasn’t slept with her recently. A beat passes.]

Samid: But I don’t understand, Aryana. She’s almost a hundred years old. Alzheimer’s has eaten almost all her brain. Why do you have to be so cruel to her?

Aryana: It’s not cruel. It’s time she stopped believing that crap.

Samid: She can’t believe anything for more than ten minutes. Can’t you show your mom a little more sensitivity?

Aryana: I’m not letting her delude herself. She needs to face the truth.

[A beat passes.]

Giant Black Cat: Why?

Aryana: Because it’s the truth.

[GARY mumbles something.]

Aryana: What was that?

[A beat passes. ARYANA pushes GARY.]

Arayna: What did you say?

Gary: I asked, when did you start caring about the truth?

Aryana: How dare you?

Gary: Oh please. You’ve got heels on that change your legs, butt and height. You’re wearing stockings despite spending two hours shaving your legs this morning. You’ve got a corset on under the jacket, a wonder bra, blush, eye shadow, and contacts that make your eyes look green instead of blue. Since when have you cared so deeply about the truth?

[A beat passes.]

Samid: How do you know she shaved her legs this morning?

[ARYANA and GARY look away, in opposite directions.]

Samid: Ohhh.

[A beat passes.]

Samid: So that’s where you’ve been all this time, Gary? You and… [SAMID trails off]

Giant Black Cat: Ew.

[GARY does not look at SAMID. A beat passes.]

Samid: Great. Now no one’s talking to each other.

Giant Black Cat: We could talk.

Samid: About what?

[A beat passes.]

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: What would happen if a dog met God?

I don’t know what your dog did. Mine ran right up to Him and sniffed all over. I guess she smelled His dogs, and since He created everything, he had a lot of them to sniff. Being patient enough to make a universe, He stood still for most of it, then petted her. She went really stiff, then started running around like she was a one-year-old again. She’d had a bum leg every since I’d owned her. I should have figured that would fix it, though – petting is a form of laying hands. She ran around Him a bit, then was off like He was never there. He was cool. Seemed used to it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Responses to Check Out Time

I don’t know. It’s always been in me. Back in 12th grade this kid used to insult me every Precalc class. Berated my weight, the way I talked, that I didn’t watch the sports he liked. got leukemia. One day he came in and before even sitting down started yelling at me about how ugly my beard was. Middle of the year he disappeared. He was diagnosed with leukemia. Near graduation the Precalc class was full of rumors that he’d died. Girl who sat behind me every day leaned in to tell me with a somber expression, and I responded, “Good.” He’d been asshole! Why was I supposed to be sad? I was never going to run into him again, unless it was in an afterlife, and should be the same dick there that he was here, and he happens to re-die there and go to a post-afterlife, I’ll be happy again!

That hasn’t changed. When somebody I hate dies, I don’t suddenly revere them. It’s not even people I hate. Loved George Carlin’s early albums, but that dude made fun of JFK, Abbott and Costello just for being dead. He had a 12-minute bit on graphically funny ways to execute the death penalty. Don’t shoot me a look for laughing when the fucker dies!

I mourn, and not only for people familiar to me – I get that we project onto famous strangers, and even unfamous strangers. I felt the pang when Aleksandhr Solzhenitsyn died. I felt the pang when I walked over a dead rat in the road, flies eating its eyes. The mourning mechanism is in me. It’s just not always switched on, and there is no manual switch. I don’t think I’m alone in this, and I don’t think it’s healthy to pretend you’re sad, or at a level of response to a death you’re not. No somber cafeteria is actually populated by everyone struck in the identical state of desiring silence. There’s social pressure that may retard healing even more than seeing someone celebrating while you’re grief-stricken.
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