Thursday, March 12, 2009

Story Time

So I've got all these fancy blog posts planned. More than planned, actually — they're well underway. But it's also been a busy couple of months, so nothing's really ready yet.

To make my schedule even worse, I kind of sort of got myself a little bit addicted to the writings of this one blogger. Normally I can't frigging stand blogs, including my own. Everyone always asks me what blogs I read, and I reply: "Um... do books count?" Which of course is greeted with blank stares, since nobody seems to read books anymore these days. Such a shame.

Anyway, recently I tried another fling with reddit. I'm always getting addicted to reddit for a little while, and then coming off it cold-turkey for a month or two while I reassess whether I want to be spending my life reading pun threads and upmodded lolcat pictures and conspiracy theories.

Not to mention the comments, which can individually sometimes be quite cool, but in aggregate only make sense when you read them aloud with the voice of the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons: "I upvoted you for the appropriate uses of 'its' and 'their' in the link title, but downvoted you because your link actually appeared on a little-known German social networking site several hours ago. I feel it is important that you understand that this is not a zero-vote of abstention, but rather a single upvote and a single downvote cancelling one another out." If you read the comments with CBG's voice, a lot of them make a whole lot more sense.

No matter how many times I quit, in the end I always wind up sneaking a peek at the reddit home page in a moment of weakness, and before long I'm hooked again, following the adventures of memes about narwhals and how is babby formed and all this other stuff I have zero context for, but occasionally it's hysterically funny. I'm guessing this is more or less what heroin is like. Some days I don't even shower.

In any case, my latest reddit flirtation ultimately led to a secondary and more severe addiction to the writings of some dude who goes by the name "davesecretary". Yeah, him. He's a fucking genius. I started reading his old re-posted stories, got hooked and basically blacked out and lost about three days where nobody knew where the hell I was. Eventually I made my way to his stories about his trip to China. At that point I became actively envious of someone for I think the second or maybe third time in my adult life. I'm just not the jealous type normally, but damn that guy can write. He has a real gift.

So now I'm flat-out jealous. I'm not going to make a secret of it, either, and pretend he's started some trend and I'm just a bigger light jumping on the bandwagon or some lame shit like that. No, he writes way better than I do, and I'm just going to copy him blatantly, like Terry Brooks rewriting Lord of the Rings line-by-line badly as Shitstorm of Shannara.

I had actually already been thinking of publishing some true stories. In fact before I stumbled on davesecretary's tales, I had written down the story below about my brother Dave taking out the garbage, and I had been planning more. But Dave Secretary's stories were like the Great Pyramids next to the mud pueblo of my own ambition. He's like a force of nature; stories just surround the guy like gnats, and he spews out the funniest, most interesting possible versions of them imaginable.

So while I work on my more technically ambitious blogs-in-progress, I thought I'd kick off a series of light reading. It's all true stories. None of it is anywhere near as cool as trying to find a box bigger than Kyle's goddamn cereal box, and nothing in them is anywhere near as funny as the line "Iodine, Dave." But at least these are my own stories, and they're kinda fun to write down once you get going on them. I probably have about a hundred stories like the ones here. I'll start with nine random stories that managed to get themselves written first, in no particular order.

I hope you like at least one or two of them. If not, well, I'll read your complaints out loud as CBG, so we'll be even.

So this one time I'm when in my early 20s, a fragile time during which I'm as fat as a walrus, I'm spending way too much time thinking about the name of the Star Wars character "Dash Rendar". He's some random Star Wars dude, except he's not from one of the actual movies. He's only in the aftermarket books or games or toys or whatever.

I have no idea where I'd heard the name "Dash Rendar", but I can tell you I absolutely loathed it. Lucas names are always a little hard to believe, but this one was just too much. I guess when you're that fat it's easy to get irritated by little things. At that point in my life I was genuinely annoyed that the famous one in the family hadn't been little Pete Rendar or Floyd Rendar or whoever else with a normal name. No. It just had to be frigging Dash.

I'm telling you all this so you can understand my frame of mind for what happened next.

I'm coming up the elevator from the underground garage because I'm too obese to take the stairs, and I'm in a surly mood on account of this stupidly-named character Dash Rendar. I'm trying to understand basic human nature here: how could anyone, even a nine year old, suspend disbelief for such an idiotic name?

I'm all alone in the elevator, so on the spur of the moment I decide to pretend to be a nine year old and see if it makes any difference. So I make this muscle pose and say in my most ominous nine-year-old voice: "I am DASH RENDAR!"

Right then the elevator doors open and fucking Dash Rendar walks in. I am not making this up. If you lined up ten thousand guys and asked a hundred people to point to the one whose name in real life was most probably Dash Rendar, they'd all point to this dude.

He of course witnessed my little announcement, pose and all, and all I could do was stand there slack-jawed, trying to think of a clever and succinct way to say: "I was just sort of trying to understand what kind of idiot would call himself Dash Rendar, and itjustsortofrequiredmetoawfuck." Dash was staring at me with a look like he'd just stepped in dog shit, except when he lifted up his foot he'd found me there instead. I was embarrassed enough to wish I would die spontaneously, but not quite enough for it to actually happen. So instead I just walked out of the elevator and never came back there again. Ever.

Afterwards I definitely established some new rules about what kinds of things I'll try in elevators.

My brother Dave used to work as a waiter at Applebees. This was back about 2 years after he'd graduated high school as a varsity football player, after which he'd settled into a life of comfort and no small quantity of pizza, and he'd blimped up to about 260 pounds. But it happened so fast that he wasn't entirely in touch with how much he actually weighed.

One day before the restaurant opened they were having the usual employee meeting in the back room, where everyone stood in a circle while the manager ran them through the day's specials and whatever else waiters need to know for the day. Dave was sweating and getting a little fidgety, so he found a chair and sat down.

The next thing that happened was a loud BANG, and everyone looked over at Dave, who was sitting on the floor with his mouth open in a big round 'O'. He had completely flattened the chair. It had once been a strong industrial solid metal chair, but now all four of its legs were sticking in different directions like a baby deer crushed under a UPS truck.

Everyone was a little stunned, and the boss felt like he needed to say something to break the awkward silence, so he said delicately: "Gee, Dave, looks like it might be time to start cutting back a bit, eh?"

Dave said later (after losing like 100 pounds) that at the time he didn't know what the FUCK the boss was talking about, and all he could think was: This chair is DEFECTIVE!

So that reminds me of this time I was watching the Seattle Seahawks play at their (at the time) brand-new stadium. We had sweet seats on the 50 yard line, in the second row back, and we were watching a pretty awesome game between the Seahawks and I think it was the Bears or the Giants. I forget which, but it was definitely one of the two. Probably the Bears, so let's go with that.

Anyway, the row of seats in front of me was occupied by some Bears fans. There were about twelve of them, and every single one looked to weigh well over four hundred pounds. It was seriously the fattest row of people I've ever seen. They were squeezed up against each other in this tangle of arms and legs because they couldn't fit in their assigned seats that had been designed for ordinary three-hundred pound fatass football fans.

Every time the Bears had a good play, they would all stand up and roar "YeaaaaAAAAH!!!!", and then they'd all sit down at the same time, on account of their arms being interlocked due to the aforementioned fatitude. They did this little act over and over for the first half of the game: leaping up, bellowing fiercely, then crashing down again as a unit.

Finally I think just after half-time the Bears executed an especially good defensive play, and they all stood up and screamed wildly as usual. But this time when they crashed their asses down, they ripped the bleacher right out of the fucking concrete.

There was this horrible thundering tearing noise like an earthquake, and the whole row of whales spilled forward onto their faces, with their twelve giant asses sticking up at the rest of us. It looked like a bomb had gone off. There were like twenty iron girders that had been ripped right out of the concrete. To say it was the most wonderful thing I'd ever witnessed would be a gross understatement. I think even now, ten years later, it might still be my favorite whale ass sticking up scene in my whole memory.

To make it all even more sublimely beautiful, our beer splashed all over them in slow-motion because the cup-holders on the backs of their seats were thrown forward with the rest of the wreckage.

Anyway, after a few seconds of general shock and hilarity, the ushers ran over to see if the herd were all OK. They had finally managed to extricate themselves and wipe most of the beer off, and they all stood up and started screaming: "This bleacher is DEFECTIVE!"

Once my family all went to this Chinese restaurant in Seattle's Chinatown. It was one of my favorites, and on this particular occasion I was there with my at-the-time girlfriend Stephanie. Stephanie just happened to be mainland Chinese, from Beijing. But unlike everyone else I've known from Beijing, who by and large seem like pretty laid back people, Stephanie was unusually sensitive to race and culture issues, and she kept a keen eye out for any perceivable slights or offenses. (Everyone else said she was just plain nuts, but I'm trying to be charitable here.)

Steph asks my brother Mike what he's ordering. He ponders the menu a while and answers: "Fly lice." Stephanie instantly blows up at him: "What do you mean FLY LICE!!!1!!?? You're insulting our culture? We have 5000 years of Chinese culture and you Caucasians are always insulting us! I can't believe you made fun of it and called it fly lice! That's very rude! That's not how we pronounce it! I can't believe I'm so offended!" and so on in that vein. Everyone else in the family, including me, suddenly becomes tremendously preoccupied with trying to figure out how to do origami with our chopstick wrappers.

Mike listens patiently, since let's just say this sort of outburst isn't wholly unfamiliar territory when Stephanie's around, and after she finally simmers down a little he says gently: "Uh... ok. Sorry."

So the (Chinese) waitress comes around and is taking our orders, and when she gets to Mike, Stephanie starts hyperventilating a little in case she'll have sudden need of some extra screaming oxygen. Mike says in his blandest and most American possible voice: "I'd like to have the fried rice, please."

The waitress nods happily and says "FLY LICE" really loud and writes it down on her pad. Mike, always an excellent poker player, manages to keep his face pretty straight, but I can tell his eyes are sparkling just a little. Meanwhile Stephanie's eyes have grown to the size of large saucers, and she hisses loudly: "She said FLY LICE!!!!!! Hee hee hee hee hee hee HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE!" Mike just shrugs, like, "hey man, I just want to not get yelled at anymore."

We don't call it fly lice now, though, since you just never know.

When I was growing up the holidays were always crazy because I had over 20 aunts and uncles, and seventy or eighty first cousins, and of course we had to do a massive holiday family party at my grandparents' teeny house every year. Every family would bring a few friends, so there would be well in excess of 100 people running around in pure holiday chaos for a day.

We used to do this secret-santa gift exchange where everyone would put their name in a hat a few weeks in advance, and then we'd all draw names, and that was the person you had to get a gift for. It wasn't split into adults and kids or anything like that.

With an extended family that big, it's kinda hard to keep track of everyone, especially the new additions. It was also kinda hard to know what people actually wanted, and some of my uncles weren't too big on preparation. Uncle Harold was pretty much the worst at it. We loved him to pieces, but he just couldn't get the hang of the holiday party or the secret santa exchange.

To give you the basic Uncle Harold flavor, one year he didn't show up because on the way to the party he decided to stop in a bar down the street, and he stayed there drinking bloody marys until midnight. Another year he was tasked with bringing the turkey, and he showed up at dinnertime with a frozen-solid turkey. And one year his secret santa target was Aunt Celie, who was infamously religious and pretty much nothing else, just religious, so Harold, totally at a loss, got her a picture of Jesus and taped fifty bucks to the back of it. All the adults were pissed off and all the kids thought it was pretty much the funniest goddamn thing in history. Either way, Uncle Harold just couldn't win at Christmas.

But this one year he really outdid himself. I think I was about 11 or 12 years old, just old enough that I was no longer running around screaming like the next generation of cousins. So I got a chance to sit back and watch the party unfold. I'm sitting there watching Uncle Harold give his secret santa gift to one of my cousins, one of Aunt Diana's kids. For some reason Harold looks embarrassed.

My dad had 11 brothers and sisters, all married with like 6 or 8 kids each, and there was no way any of us could really keep track. Usually we'd get in touch with an immediate family member and try to get some direction, but Harold, as usual, just winged it. I don't remember which cousin it was, but last time Harold had seen him, he was a baby, so Harold, thinking it through with his usual clarity, got him a jar of Gerber baby food.

Unfortunately it turns out it's been like six years since Harold had last seen him. So my cousin opens up his present and I hear him saying to my aunt Diana: "Mom. Uncle Harold got me baby food." Diana was busy with two other crying kids, and she's not feeling particularly merciful, so she says: "Well go tell him thank you."

So my cousin walks over to the tree where Harold is sitting, and he says: "Thank you for the baby food, Uncle Harold."

This story is more grim than funny, but it's a story. With sequels, no less!

In college I lived in a big four-bedroom apartment with 3 roommates for about a year. It wasn't air-conditioned and during summer it was hotter than hell, and we all kept our windows open most of the time.

I was just starting to drift off to sleep one night, laying on my back, when I heard this loud clicking noise. It sounded like snapping a ball-point pen out of its plastic cap, and the clicks were coming at roughly one per second in irregular bursts.

The clicking noise was coming from between my eyes. Not, like, a foot away, or an inch away, but from directly between my eyes, near the bridge of my nose.

I remember thinking: "That's odd. Whatever could be making that loud clicking noise coming from between my eyes? I've never heard anything like that before."

Part of me was falling asleep, and was thinking "mufbmlflfsleeep go sleep go sleep mblfjust don't worry abouuuuuut it", or something like that.

But there was this other little part of me, a tiny voice, that was busy thinking out loud to its tiny self: "It could be a spider."

My falling-asleep part woke up a little at that point, and pondered it for a few dozen clicks. Then it replied: "No. No, it's not a spider, because that would just be TOO horrible to contemplate. So that's not what it is."

And the tiny voice was like, "Well you come up with a non-spider explanation then. You can't just ignore loud clicking noises coming from BETWEEN YOUR EYES, dude."

Falling-asleep voice: "Spiders don't make noise. So there."

Tiny voice: "Small ones don't. Medium-sized ones don't. But we don't really know what BIG spiders do, now, do we? I bet a really big one could make a noise just like that."

At this point, opinion-wise, I'd say I was coming down solidly on the side of falling-asleep voice, but neither the clicking nor the tiny voice would shut up, so I rolled over onto my side so I could think about it from a different angle.

As I rolled over I felt something huge jump off my face. It landed on my arm and started dragging itself along with what felt like a dozen scrabbly legs, and of course I was like WAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!! and I jumped out of bed faster than any human being has ever done before, and turned on the light.

Falling-asleep voice and tiny voice were both, like, "Oh, shit!" Sitting there next to my pillow was the biggest fucking wolf spider I've ever seen in my life. It had a good four inch legspan, and it was very specifically glaring at me. There was no mistaking its expression. It was really pissed off. At me.

So I do the only thing I know how to do in Large Spider situations, which is to scream for help. "AAAH!!! A FUCKING SPIDER CRAWLED ON MY FACE!" My roommates' doors all started opening and they came out in their bath robes, all keenly interested to see the spider that had crawled on my face.

Jacob is first to arrive. He takes one look at this massive glaring spider and says: "Holy shit dude, that thing's as big as a horse!" and leaves as fast as he came in.

Dave shows up next. "Holy crap, that thing crawled on your face? You must be psychologically damaged!" Dave opts to stand and goggle at the giant spider, from a safe distance.

Then Eric comes in and says: "Oh, it's just a hobo spider. I'll take care of it." He walks into the bathroom and grabs ONE square of toilet paper. Not a whole handful, no, just one teeny slice, like he's going to wipe the spider's butt with it or something, and he goes and grabs the spider with it. We can clearly see the spider's legs waving around outside the toilet paper, and Eric says: "I'll just put it outside your window."

I of course was having none of that crap. "How the hell do you think it got on my face in the first place? Flush it! Now now now! Flush!" Eric, clearly disappointed, flushed the thing, and I'm certain that it now lives in the Seattle public sewer system, feeding on rats and stray dogs and plotting its revenge on me.

My actions that day clearly angered the Spider God, because over the next few years I had several more spider-on-face incidents, at least one of which was way more dramatic than this one. It's a bit traumatic to tell both stories at once, though, so I'll wait a bit on that one.

When my brother Dave was around 14, our family lived in a house in Southern California. It was kinda rainy at the time, which is sort of unusual for where we lived. On this particular California winter day it was Dave's turn to take out the trash.

Our city-issue trash bin was out in the carport, this sort of concrete alley next to the house where our big Dodge van was parked. The trash bin was on the other side of the van, next to a six-foot brick wall separating us from the neighbor.

Dave grabs the trash bag from the kitchen and heads outside. He walks over to the trash bin, opens the lid and sees that it's completely full. There's a plastic garbage bag right at the top, and the lid just barely closes over it. Dang.

It's starting to rain pretty hard, and Dave just wants to get his bag into the can and get back inside, so he figures he'll do the old Human Trash Compactor trick. He puts down his bag, climbs up on the brick wall, aims for the bag on top of the bin, and jumps.

Usually this works pretty well, right? Your plummeting body weight smushes the bag down just far enough to make room for another bag, and you hop out unharmed.

Unfortunately for Dave, it turns out that this time the bin was completely empty except for the bag on top. That one bag was full of trash, but it was so bulky that it hadn't fallen down into the bin.

So Dave jumps off the wall, plunges all the way into the bin, and the lid slams shut on top of him. His momentum makes the bin tip over, and it wedges itself solidly between the van and the wall, trapping Dave inside with the garbage.

Dave's no more claustrophobic than the next person, but the whole thing caught him a little off guard. In his mind's eye he'd been envisioning some sort of heroic plunge that would compress the garbage about a foot or so, followed by a dashing bounce onto his feet on the driveway. Instead, in just under one second he'd materialized sideways in a dark stinky fallen-over garbage can getting pounded by rain, and the lid wouldn't open.

So he did the first thing that came naturally to him, which was to panic and kick and scream and thrash and flail and try to claw his way out. Pretty much what you or I would have done.

However, he was really stuck in there pretty good, and nobody could hear him because of the rain, so it took about ten minutes of violent side-to-side heaving before he finally rolled the can out from between the van and the wall.

So we're all sitting in our nice, comfy living room, watching TV. Dave has gone to take the garbage out. Ten or fifteen minutes later, after we've all totally forgotten about him, the front door bangs open and Dave barges in, wild-eyed and soaking wet and yelling at us at the top of his lungs. He's completely covered in garbage: coffee grounds, smears of leftover food, pieces of dirty paper, part of a banana peel on his shoe, brown slime all over his head and arms and legs and clothes, and he's screaming: "DIDN'T ANY OF YOU HEAR ME? I WAS STUCK IN THE GARBAGE CAN!"

Back when I started working at in 1998, the company was in this little building in downtown Seattle in kind of a bad part of town. I mean it wasn't terrible, but there were definitely some issues. There was a needle exchange across the street, which was cool and all, but a fair number of the drug users did their thing in the alley behind the building we were in. So you didn't really want to walk out the back door, or you'd run the risk of stepping on some dude with a syringe dangling out of his arm.

The nearest place to eat was the Scaryaki joint across the street, next to the needle exchange. It was this teriyaki place that we all called the Scaryaki, since even though the food was pretty good almost nobody ever went there because it was scary. Usually we'd walk a couple blocks past it, which took us to Pike Place Market, which is also scary in its own way but is much less overtly threatening. Plus there's more culinary variety.

One day my friend Jacob and I left the 'zon premises to eat at Matt's in the Market, which was this really awesome hole-in-the-wall joint that was Zagat rated and nobody knew about it and it was delicious.

On the way back to work, we're crossing the street in front of the Scaryaki, and I can't help but notice Jacob's doing an unusual amount of looking at my ass and my legs. We're both straight, and as a consequence we usually try to avoid staring at each other's asses as a general rule, so I'm a little annoyed. But he's definitely checking me out with waaaay too much interest.

I finally give him the Glare, and he says: "Where'd you get those pants from?"

I shrug. "I don't know."

Jacob is now really keenly eying my pants, which are these dark blue cotton slacks I've been wearing to work on and off for at least a few months now. He starts being more demanding. "No, really, where'd you get those pants from?"

I'm like, "Dude, I don't know! Stop looking at me!"

Jacob suddenly announces, in a really loud voice that everyone within a block or so can hear: "You're wearing my pants!" A couple of people in the vicinity, including some druggies and some coworkers, perk up with some interest as the argument unfolds.

Me: "No I'm not! What are you talking about?" <walking faster>

Jacob: <running to catch up, pointing at my ass> "Those are my pants! Where'd you get them from? Those are mine!"

Me: "I don't know where I got them! I just had them! They're mine, OK? Leave me alone!" I'm now running full bore for the doors, since I want to get back to work and out of this sudden surreal nightmare.

And all the while I'm thinking to myself: "Where DID I get these pants? I never buy blue slacks. I found them in my closet one day, so they MUST be my pants. They fit pretty well, even though they're a little long. So they're mine! I must just not remember buying them!"

We burst into the lobby, where everyone in the frigging company is on their way back from lunch, and Jacob is running after me yelling: "I recognize those pants you're wearing! Those are MY PANTS!" There was chaos for a while. It was pretty messed up.

The funny thing is, it turned out they actually were his pants. He and our mutual friend Jeff and I had all gone out to El Gaucho earlier that year. It's the awesomeest steakhouse in Seattle, arguably in the whole country, and we all dressed up after work one day to eat there. I drove, and they threw their work clothes into the trunk of my car, which was almost completely filled with random crap. When they got their clothes out later, Jacob didn't see his pants or something, and I must have thrown them in my laundry when I finally cleaned my car, months later. One day I started wearing the pants without really thinking too deeply about their origins, and the rest was history.

He probably could have picked a better way to tell me, though.

I remember when I was 23 years old, my dad decided to have one of those Dad to Son talks. He'd clearly thought seriously about it, because he sat me down and gave me one of those This Is Important looks. He said: "You know how sometimes they lose your file?"

"Uh... what?"

"You know, like when you call up to make a dentist appointment, and then when you get there they have no record of the conversation? Or you set up an account with the cable company, or whatever, and they can't find it later?"

"Er... yeah, sure. That happens to everyone sometimes."

My dad is like, "Nope. It happens to us way more often. And when it happens, tell them to look under 'W'."

"What? 'W'?"

"Yep. Ask them to look under Wegge instead of Yegge. 9 times out of 10 they'll find it."


"Yep. It's weird. But when you spell our name, Y-e-g-g-e, a lot of people write or type 'W' instead of 'Y'."

I'm thinking, "You waited until I'm 23 years old to tell me this?" But I'm also thinking: "Damn, are people really that stupid? And if so, how the hell didn't I notice this myself?"

"Uh, thanks Dad. I'll keep an eye out!"

So I watch. And listen. And sure as shit, he's absolutely right. The percentage is pretty high, like maybe 10% to 20% of the time. Someone (in person or on the phone) will ask me to spell my name, and I'll say 'Y', and they'll enter 'W'. A lot of the time I'll actually be in a position to watch them as they do it -- I'll be looking over the rental-car counter or whatever, and when you're looking at a keyboard upside-down from the side, you can see the 'W' as they type it.

I have no idea how many years it took my dad to figure this out, but he's a pretty perceptive dude, and he was 43 when he told me. So we're talking about half a lifetime of watching people fuck up, and eventually realizing there's a pattern to it. Bravo.

Nowadays I'll say "Yellow Echo Golf Golf Echo" if I'm on the phone, since it slows them down just enough to think about what they're typing. In person, when I can see what they're typing, I still say "Y", because I'm always dying to know if they're one of Those People. If they get it wrong, I'm like, "No, 'Y', not 'W'", and they always say: "Gosh, I have no idea why I did that!"

Me neither. But I think it's because when you pronounce the letter Y, it starts with a W-sound, as in "WHY"? Sometimes it even seems as if the slower and more deliberately I say 'Y', the more likely they are to get it wrong, because my lips started off with this big 'W' sound.

Anyway, the best one ever was at a Jiffy Lube. The Lube Supervisor Dude was asking me for my personal information and writing it all down on a form on his clipboard. He apparently felt he was better qualified to write my personal data on the form than I was, and to be fair, he had pretty good handwriting.

He asked me to spell my name, and I said: "Y". He wrote "W". So far, so good. I really didn't want these fuckers to have my personal information just because they gave me an oil change, anyway.

I said "e", and he wrote "i". Wow, this was new.

I said "g, g" and he wrote "jj". Cool!

I started to get kind of excited to see if he'd get every letter wrong. I said very carefully: "e", and he wrote "i", completing my last name as "Wijji". It was Jiffily Lubriciously Awesome. I told him "THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT!", like he'd just won on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and he gave me this big shit-eating grin with several missing teeth. It was nice to make him feel happy.

But check it out: I told this story to my friend Gayle, whose last name has a bunch of doubled letters in it, including ending in "nn". She said that she'd found empirically that in order to get people to write "nn" at the end of her name, she had to say as many as four or five N's. She's gotten into the habit of spelling it with "enn enn enn enn enn" at the end so they'll write two of them.

Go figure.

OK, last story for today.

I've been a snowboarder for almost 20 years, but waaaay back in the old days I actually used to ski. I learned in my late teens, and I spent 2 or 3 seasons skiing, mostly using Navy rental equipment. I have all sorts of Navy stories to tell, but they'll have to wait for another day. Suffice it to say the Navy provided the rental equipment for this story.

This was back when I was at the US Navy S5G Nuclear Reactor Prototype training plant in the middle of Idaho. "S" was for "Submarine", 5 was the reactor model number, and "G" was for General Electric, who had made the reactor. Hmmm, maybe I should tell some of my reactor stories someday... they're definitely interesting. Anyway, the reactor was at a Department of Energy site in the desert in the middle of Idaho, with a 60-mile bus ride from the nearest city, Idaho Falls. I'll leave it to your imagination as to why they located the experimental and training reactor facilities out in the middle of a desert, but your first three guesses are probably all more or less correct.

Anyway, the downside to the program was that we were in Idaho, where the fun thing for residents to do is follow potato trucks in their cars, trying to hit dislodged potatoes. That's pretty much the pinnacle of entertainment in that fugging dustbin wasteland. The upside was that there were some really nice ski resorts nearby, so during winter we got to do a lot of skiing.

This one time we were either at Jackson Hole or Grand Targhee. Both of them are in Wyoming, but only about 2 hours from town, so we usually went to one of them. The way the Navy Nuke program works during the prototype training phase is that you work 7 days on, 1 day off, 7 days on, 2 days off, 7 days on, 4 days off. This is actually a pretty doable schedule, and the once-a-month 4-day weekend was always something you planned in advance, since that's a lot of days for screwing around.

A lot of my friends were skiers, and snowboarding was still pretty new back then. There was one dude, I think his name was Lundberg (everyone goes by last names in the Navy), who was learning to snowboard, and he pretty much spent all his time falling on his ass. So I decided to ski. The Navy pretty much takes care of all your needs, including ski rentals, so I went to the local Navy ski rental place and got hooked up with some rental skis, boots and poles.

Unfortunately this one time, which was probably no more than my seventh or eighth trip ever, the rental guy adjusted my bindings too loose. Bindings are the things on your skis that hold your boots in place, and you don't want them to be too tight or you could break your legs in a bad crash. You want them to be tight enough to hold during an aggressive turn, but loose enough to pop out in a crash. And mine were way too loose.

We ski for a few hours, and I've warmed up a little, so I want to work on my turns instead of snowplowing down steep stuff like a sissy. So I follow my friends to a black diamond. When I was skiing I would actually follow my friends pretty often, which was completely idiotic because they've been skiing since they were in the womb, and they look like frigging Olympians, and they're always dragging me off to slopes I have no business being on. But for some reason I still did it.

This slope is a pretty steep black -- nothing for me today on my snowboard, but back then it was way out of my league. But it doesn't hurt that much to fall, so I went ahead and tried a real turn. Of course as luck would have it my binding popped out and I went flying straight down the slope on my face. It was so steep that I actually started picking up speed, and I wasn't experienced enough to know how to stop myself, so I just started sliding faster and faster downhill, face-first on my stomach.

I remember being vaguely aware of people stopping and looking at me and pointing as I accelerated by them, but after a hundred feet or so I had picked up enough speed that I couldn't really do anything except this emit gurgling screaming noise. The snow was bunching up in my face and going in my eyes and up my nose and down my throat, not to mention down my shirt and pants, but all this plowing wasn't really slowing me down, so I wound up sliding about three hundred yards on my face. I didn't have any really good ski gear at the time, though. I was actually wearing baggy jeans, if you can believe it. So when I near the bottom stopped I was caked in snow and ice.

Someone was nice enough to bring me my ski from way up the slope, and I hobbled into the lodge to grab a beer. I was sitting there and everyone was laughing and having a great time, but I was FREEZING. I went and sat by the big fire, but it wasn't helping. I started shivering badly. Finally I stood up and lifted up my shirt and about ten pounds of snow fell out, which sort of explained it.

My brilliant friends told me that I should go back up for another run before we left for the day. They said you stay warm on the slopes, which is more or less correct if you're actually skiing and not being a human snowplow. I really wanted to warm up so I went back up for one more run.

At the top I took a cat-track between slopes -- just a road, basically. The cat-track was running along the side of a steep roped-off drop-off with a bunch of trees. The cat track headed for the drop-off, then made a sharp turn to the left. When I got to the turn, I turned too hard, and my right binding snapped open and my ski shot out from under me, and of course I wiped out.

I'm laying there on my back, thinking "man, I'm just not sure about this whole skiing thing", and an older guy skis up next to me and asks me if I'm OK. I'm still laying on my back, with my right leg bent awkwardly under me, trying to catch my wind. I tell him I lost my ski, and that I think it went over the edge. I ask him if he can see it.

He skis over to the ledge. I lay there, sun shining on my face, snow on my back, freezing my balls off, just kind of trying to enjoy the moment as best I can while he assesses the situation. I look over and he's at the ledge, scanning the mountain. A bird flies by. Some time elapses -- probably no more than 30 seconds, but it seemed like eternity.

I finally ask the guy, "Hey, can you see my ski?" He looks at me, then back down the mountain. Then he takes a deep breath as he decides how best to tell me. Finally he speaks.

"Yep. She's still on the run."


Blogger Satish Srinivasan said...

So stevey's still alive. First Post lol.

3:39 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Manrico Corazzi said...

Well... I'm seriously overweight myself (6.2ft/265lbs), but not in the least touchy about the subject (as your Beijing "flend"). That's to put this comment in the correct perspective.

If we were talking about software we'd agree that the computer illiterate user clicking the wrong button and making the application badly crash would qualify the application as "defective".

Talking about chairs and fat people it seems like the culprit for the failure should lay on the "whale".

I know, these are intended as fun stories, not as software engineering essays, but it's interesting how chair crafting and software crafting show the same defect when used not as intended by the designer/tester.

PS: sorry for my rusty English...

3:48 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Rik said...

Nice stories man. Made me laugh a good number of times.

4:31 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Thomas Colthurst said...

Steve, I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to choose to interpret all of these stories as thinly veiled allegories about programming languages.

Let's see. "Dash Rendar" is "ECMAScript", obesity is static typing, "Fly Lice" is design patterns, the cousin Uncle Harold got baby food for is Javascript, ...

4:50 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Bondscoach said...

Nice stories, but next time, don't copy Dave's style. Your own is better - really.

4:53 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger ferruccio said...

Great Stories! The one about names is pretty familiar to me. I have an uncommon first name (Ferruccio). There have been many occasions when meeting someone new, I would carefully pronounce my name (Feh-rroo-cho)and, at least 1 time out of 10, the response was "Hi Bruce!"

5:01 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

I never understood the whole spider phobia thing. Maybe I didn't grow up in a house with enough scary photos in medical textbooks.

5:31 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Joel McCracken said...



6:39 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Craig Andera said...

The one about your brother in the garbage can had me laughing until I cried! Keep 'em coming. :)

6:53 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Joel said...

Fantastic! Love a good story.

I wish I could have been there to see the Fatitude Fall.

Interestingly, it seems like skiing, and other slippery, frosty activities, are a gold mine for great stories. I have a bunch of 'em from the time I went skiing with a group of Japanese tourists...

7:38 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Hexstream said...

"He asked me to spell my name, and I said: "Y". He wrote "W". So far, so good. I really didn't want these fuckers to have my personal information just because they gave me an oil change, anyway.

I said "e", and he wrote "i". Wow, this was new.

I said "g, g" and he wrote "jj". Cool!"

The guy's first language was apparently French and wasn't good at English.

letters with the same sound in French and English:

French English
é a same
i e same
f f same
g j similar (in french we don't make the implicit D sound)
j g similar (in french we don't make the implicit D sound)
l l similar
m m same
n n same
o o same
q q similar (in french we say "ku" instead of "kiou")
r r similar
s s similar
t t similar
v v similar (vé instead of vee)
w w similar (double-V instead of double-U)
z z similar (zed instead of zee)

8:01 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger lahosken said...

When you post personal reminiscences instead of programming stuff, do fewer people post comments saying that they disagree with you?

8:06 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger leoboiko said...

@Bondscoach: Copying the style of a writer you like, once, is both a good exercise and a temptation impossible to avoid, methinks.

8:48 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger leoboiko said...

You guys should just learn IPA.

On second though, every-damn-one should just learn IPA.

8:49 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Mike said...

The bleacher story is definitely the most amazing. It actually tops the garbage can one in the "I can't believe that really happened" factor.

Uncle Harold's baby food moment seemed more awkward than funny. I'm embarrassed for your uncle I've never met, wow.

But by far the funniest part was the reveal of Wijji... priceless.

You know who else is great at telling real life stories in a consistently humorous way? Scott Adams. His blog posts in that vein are hilarious.

9:49 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger fogus said...

Uncle Harold would be like the smartest guy in my family! LOL. narwhals!


9:59 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger leoboiko said...

As someone who isn't fat, was never fat, never had to think about fat, will never get fat, and didn't fattened even during my time in Google, I find all these stories about fatness to be completely uninteresting.

10:49 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Mart said...

More spider stories please! :D

10:59 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Did you ever read any waste-o stories? Might be before your time, but from back in the '80s. Unfortunately I can't seem to find them on google groups.

Fucking funniest thing I ever read

11:25 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

I haven't read any DaveSecretary stories but these are great! Thanks for the laughs.

1:04 PM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Eric3 said...

With you with the last-name-mangling syndrome. I can't count how many times people have, for some reason, put an "L" in my last name where none exists, spelling "Knibble".

5:09 PM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thoroughly enjoyed these...can't wait for the follow up 'spider on face' stories...:)

6:58 PM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

My last name starts with a Y and I've known this fact for years. A lot of people write W when you say Y. In fact, my credit report has different variations of spelling my last name and there's one staring with a W.

It used to piss the crap out of me but now it will make me laugh every time, knowing that it's not just my last name!!!

7:12 PM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Legend of Angband said...

The baseball seat story had me laughing so hard I cried. Then I got to the garbage can one, and laughed and drooled (literally). This is some funny shit.

- Legend of Angband

10:11 PM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Chopmo said...

Excellent stories, Steve, thanks! Can't wait for the next batch :-)

6:53 AM, March 14, 2009  
Blogger Rory O'Kane said...

After I read your stories, I was all excited about davesecretary's stuff, and I thought, "wow, they'll be even better than these!" I have read about ten of them now, and I am stopping, because frankly, they are boring. They seem to have even less of a point than yours (yours have just enough to make them interesting), and writing in all caps doesn't seem cool or anything – it makes him look like an illiterate. All caps means shouting, and I do not like being shouted at. I used a third-party Service on my (Mac) computer to convert the stories to sane capitalization before I read each one, so the capitalization isn't to blame: his stories are just boring, though they seem to pretend otherwise. Steve, your stories are way better.

9:10 AM, March 14, 2009  
Blogger Илья Казначеев said...

I was always curious how your last name is pronounced; because my imagination stiffles; my internal text-to-speech just coredumps.

I guess I've heard it when I've looked some conference talk, but I still don't remember, it seems it just doesn't fit in my head.

4:25 PM, March 14, 2009  
Blogger Goto Hell said...

Any CSI writers here? The garbage can story has potential :-)

It's pretty sad that we're forced to revise U.S. engineering standards to support a "larger" population... I'm not kidding!

8:59 AM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger J. Aaron Farr said...

Speaking of great stories, I found these treasures by "lustfish":

9:38 AM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger Xelaie said...

I am sorry, Stevey, these stories just sucked. I guess it's just me though, since everyone else seemed to love them.
1)Embarrassing situation with some coincidence mixed in. Happens to all of us - not interesting.
2)Fat person story? Really? That's just plain boring.
3)And another one?! I think a squirting flower would be more entertaining.
4)Oh boy, a girlfriend with an attitude and people with accents. What else is new?
5)A person who is knows to give bad gifts gives a bad gift. Wow.
6)You didn't feel that thing crawling on your face?

I am going to stop here, because I think I made my point. All those stories require the "you had to be there" component, which makes them bad stories. Also, they happen to everyone all the time. They are not interesting to anyone outside the circle. Just enjoy them personally and keep them to yourself. Now can we please get back to programming? Thank you.

5:34 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger Orin Bishop said...

Wow, reading the negative comments out loud with the Comic Book Guy voice really does work.

I think your tip has suddenly made the internet a little bit more entertaining to me.

1:12 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

They made me laugh, I guess I'll have to search out this secretary guy now to see if he does the same thing only better.

Also, glad someone else feels that way about Shannara. What absolute bollocks.

4:23 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Kirby Files said...

Steve, you gave yourself a task which fairly screamed for brevity, and yet managed an EPIC FAIL nonetheless.

Seriously, give yourself some time to write your next Great American Blog Post by posting one of these vignettes each week. That'll be just enough to leave people wondering if your narrating style is improving from week to week, rather than shotgunning them in one read.

7:23 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger dormouss said...

I want more sea stories! Especially the ones that start "This one is no s***..."

Keep 'em coming!

6:07 PM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger kathy said...

Sounds like you need a green beer Steve

5:20 AM, March 17, 2009  
Blogger B said...

Good stories (and I'm not in the inner circle).

Now that I know you were in the Navy it all makes sense. A large group of the programmers I've met (or read) whose worth a darn more often than not has a military background; can't be coincidence.

Anyway, great stuff and using the CBG voice is the best tip ever.

7:55 PM, March 21, 2009  
Blogger Ben Atkin said...

Great stories! You've inspired me to look back at my past and dig out similar stories. I know I have some deep down in my memory, but I haven't recalled them for a long, long, time.

3:48 PM, March 27, 2009  
Blogger Nathan said...

Awesome stories, man! I laughed a lot, and I think my neighbors may think I'm crazy now.

I actually read a few of the stories before reading the introduction, and was thinking "Wow, Yegge can write!" (Which I knew before, but I just hadn't been exposed to this side of your writing.)

You don't need to be jealous of anyone's ability; you're friggin' awesome. Thanks again for the stories, they were great!

7:03 PM, March 29, 2009  
Blogger mo.stoneskin said...

On the whole, I don't believe 'walrus' and 'fragile' should go together in the same sentence, with the exception of this sentence of course.

10:31 AM, April 08, 2009  
Blogger Rich said...

You forced davesecretary's writing style into your own, and it didn't work.

7:24 AM, April 11, 2009  
Blogger Samantha Joy said...

My father was an alcoholic and was prone to pulling these kinds of stunts.

My father's name was Harold.

One year, on my fourth or maybe my fifth birthday, my father showed up late to my birthday party and gave me a jar of Gerber's baby food as my sole birthday gift.

What are the odds that we're first cousins? I am amused.

2:39 AM, April 13, 2009  
Blogger gimptress said...

oh here´s the comment box

hi steeve i was compelled to read your clog because i was clicking on ROR stuff and i liked reading it. then i read some more around here and there. see unlike you, my attention got all dstorted after all that marijuana i smoked. your post about it was boring.
but i loved your stories.

please post the link to the blog that you mentioned you liked reading, that had the stories about china (unlike its mandarin then nm) because for some time it seemed like copypaste.
then you bragged about being smart, so i knew it was you and not cp.
so typical of you nerds not to give credit. unless its gpl then youre ok. url please

2:34 AM, April 15, 2009  

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