notes from a man who spends too much time playing video games

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This is where you stick random tidbits of information about yourself.

A Few Points Shy of the High Score
Friday, February 27, 2004  
I quit today. Gave notice. Two weeks and I'll never set foot in this place again. Wasn't necessarily premeditated. Felt almost...automatic. Not unlike a biological function. No more discussion, no more thought was needed. No angst. It felt...inevitable. It was going to happen, whether I wanted it to or not.

Had originally planned on doing it the first of the year, but I'd managed to find reasons to stay.

Today, I ran out of reasons. It was my time.

Couple things worked as catalysts, I believe:
Joelle (who despises her current job) got a call-back for a job this week. "When I got the call, I got really nervous," she said. "And the office I was sitting in, this place that I've actively hated for years, suddenly felt like the safest place on earth to me."

According to the cliche, the prisoner gets so accustomed to his cell that it's impossible to even imagine leaving. Hearing Joelle articulate this for herself articulated it for me. Made me realize how--despite my contempt for this place--completely comfortable, how safe, I feel here.

Was in the men's room yesterday when I noticed on the broadside of one of the stalls a series of strange black markings. I realized that *I'd* made those marks several years ago, with my shoe. I'd gotten upset at something--I don't recall what exactly--and gone into the men's room and started kicking the stall as hard as I possibly could. The stall has had a slight tilt to it ever since (I really got into it). Those marks reminded me that I've been sick and tired of this place, fed up with this place, for a very long time. A lot longer than I think.

Was reading the Brad Land memoir Goat last week when I came upon the following paragraph: He's pushing himself away from them. From everything. Because he can't stand himself anymore.

That's me, I thought. I can't stand myself anymore. Can't fucking stand it. (As Merle Haggard once said, "I disagree with the way I've been living.")

I feel pretty good. Worried about money, about not having health insurance, but otherwise, god, I feel like a weight has been taken off my chest. I feel a nervous giddiness, I feel excited, for the first time in many years.

I like the way my co-workers are peering at me. I feel like a celebrity, like I'm glowing.

Don't have much in the way of personal effects here. Only thing I'm taking with me is the white ceramic cat. It's one of those one-paw-up cats that you see in dry cleaners and Chinese restaurants. I bought it in Chinatown a few years back.

This afternoon, I ceremoniously took it down from the shelf above my desk. I dusted it off, then carefully wrapped it in newspaper. I put it into my shoulder bag.

That's it. That's all I'm taking with me. The cat.

Everything else the wolves can divvy up once I'm gone.

3:11 PM

Tuesday, February 24, 2004  
Last Thursday I met with a man who calls himself a "personal and business success coach." I'm in the market for a job, and a friend of mine thought the meeting might help things along.

The coach's name is Will Loale. I phoned him to arrange a meeting. We agreed to meet for lunch at Pershing Square, that cavernous restaurant directly across the street from Grand Central. Says in the front window "BEST PANCAKES IN NEW YORK."

I wore a sport coat and collared shirt--a far cry from the jeans and T-shirt I normally wear. Though I'm not successful in any tangible way, I thought it best if I attempted to *look* successful. Will walked in wearing a mashed pork pie hat and a knee-length overcoat, the sort of outfit a Staten Island vacuum cleaner salesman might wear. He was in his 70s, and moved with the deliberate gait of an older man. He had a white pushbroom mustache and slightly effeminate eyeglass frames. "You must be Scott," he said, putting out his hand.

The hostess led us to a table in the back. After the waiter took our drink order, Will placed his large hands flat on the table, then tilted his head forward until his eyes were peering over the tops of his tortoise-shell frames. He was silent, but clearly gathering himself for something. "So tell me," he said. "Tell me your wildest dreams. Let's have it. Maybe all the talk shows are calling, the newspapers are calling. Oprah wants you. You can be anything you want in the what's that going to be."

I had no idea how to answer this. I fidgeted in my seat. I looked out the window at the people passing by. I'd prepared myself to tell Will my story--guy moves to New York, gets job as pornographer, six years later still has job as pornographer, etc.--but I wasn't prepared for *this.* "Well..." I said.

"Come on," he said, bracing himself against the back of the banquette as if I was about to blow him down with the gale force of my dreams. "Give it to me." Then he leaned forward, as if against that powerful Nor'easter and said, his voice low, "Be fucking out-RAY-geous."

I said that I wanted to be a writer.


"That's it. That's as far as the dream goes."

He stopped bracing himself against the banquette. Clearly he was disappointed by the smallness of my response. I'd consulted Galvin before the meeting, and he'd urged me to be forthright with the man. So, I tried being forthright. "My girlfriend lives upstate," I said, trying to flesh things out for him. "Every weekend I take the Trailways bus to see her. Last week, on the way back to New York, the bus was going down Route 17 in New Jersey when we passed a cemetery. I looked at the cemetery and wondered what would become of me if I died. You know, idle thoughts. I wondered, What sort of headstone would I have? Where would I be buried? Would I be cremated? Who would make these decisions for me? Then a comforting thought occurred to me. If I could maybe write something, if I could finish a book, then I wouldn't care about headstones. I'd have the book. That's the...residue I'd leave behind. That book would be the residue."

Will scratched his stubble-covered chin. The waiter appeared and rattled off the day's specials. I took a peek at the menu. Pretty pricey, certainly more than I'd been planning on spending. Will ordered the crab cakes. I ordered the Waldorf Salad, though I had no idea what a Waldorf Salad was.

3:58 PM

Wednesday, February 11, 2004  
Dad waged another campaign--this one was actually semi-successful--against socks with holes in them. No kidding. According to him, a sock with a hole in it was extremely low class. At dinner one night he told us a mournful story about going to the doctor's office, taking off his shoes in the examining room, and realizing he was wearing A SOCK WITH A HOLE IN IT. "I was...mortified," dad said. When he got home from the doctor, he promptly took the sock off and put it in the garbage. The garbage, he said, was the only place where a hole-y sock belonged.

My brother and I were, of course, completely oblivious to holes in our socks. It wasn't in our nature to check for holes, so on several occasions dad caught us wearing socks with holes in them. It made dad visibly angry to even *see* a sock with a hole in it. His face would redden, and he'd point his finger and demand that we take off the sock immediately. So, we'd peel off the offending sock, drop it to the living room floor...and inevitably the sock would wind up in the laundry and back in our sock drawers.

Once dad noticed that the hole-y socks were getting recycled, he devised a new tactic. He'd spot the hole in our sock, wouldn't do or say anything about the hole, but would make a mental note of it. Then later, when we were relaxing watching TV, he'd sneak up on us and suddenly put his fingers into the hole in the sock and RIP IT TO SHREDS. He'd leave it hanging by the elastic band from our ankles. That way, with the sock destroyed, there was no possible way we'd ever be able to wear the sock again.

The first time he did this to me, it scared the hell out of me. I was watching Gilligan's Island, my feet up on the ottoman, when suddenly there was a flurry of violence taking place down around my legs. "WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?" I thought.

I heard a tearing sound. Felt cold air on my foot. I looked down at the sock, which now was reduced to pathetic rags.

"There," dad said, surveying his work.

Mom got the same treatment, too. "JESUS CHRIST, BOB," she said as he crept on her one night and obliterated one of her socks.

When mom started babysitting, taking in some of the neighbor kids during the summers for extra money, dad even terrorized them with his sock-tearing tactics. Some of the kids burst into tears when he did this.

Whenever I see dad's parents (my grandparents), I want to ask, "Just what the hell did you people do to him to make him like this?"

4:05 PM

Tuesday, February 10, 2004  
Quick thing about my dad.

For years my dad waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign against my brother and me for taking off our shoes while leaving the laces tied. For some reason, nothing angered the man more than the sight of a pair of still-laced shoes near the backdoor. Dad lectured. He cajoled. "It takes one goddamn second," he'd say, demonstrating for us, "to bend down and pull the lace." Then he'd bend at the waist and untie one of his work boots. "One," he'd say, counting on his way down. "See? One second." Then he'd bend again and again, bobbing up and down, saying, "One. One. One."

My brother and I endured these lectures, arms folded, skeptical expressions on our faces. He told us that not untying the laces wore out the shoes faster, though he was never terribly clear on exactly *how* that happened. "I can't afford to buy you new shoes each week," he said. "Money doesn't fall from the goddamn sky, you know." The lectures always ended with the same question from dad: "I just don't understand why you two can't you two be bothered to untie your laces?" He'd look at us, clearly perplexed, waiting for an answer.

I was the older one, so I was the one to speak up. "We'll try, dad," I said. It was the answer he was looking for, and I gave it to him. He was always visibly relieved to hear these words.

Then a few days later, he'd come home from work and there would be our shoes, still laced up, at the backdoor. I honestly did my best to follow dad's guidelines, but it always seemed like I was in a hurry when I got home, to pee, or get a snack or a drink, or watch a show on TV. So I slipped off the shoes, with the intention to go back and unlace them later on. But I never did go back.

One morning my brother and I went to the backdoor and discovered that our shoes were missing. Mom began searching everywhere for our shoes, rooting through the hall closet like a maniac. Dad was sitting calmly at the kitchen table eating his eggs and sausages, and chuckling to himself. Mom asked him if he knew anything about our missing shoes. "Of course," dad said. "They're outside. On the lawn. Where I threw them. That's what I'm doing from now on whenever I find the laces tied--throwing them out on the lawn." Mom was about to go out and get them for us when dad stopped her. "Let the boys get their own shoes," dad said. "It's the only way they're ever going to learn."

It was April, and the lawn was damp with dew. My brother and I scampered across the grass towards our shoes, taking huge, leaping steps. My socks soaked through immediately, sending a chill up through my heel. I grabbed my dew-covered shoes and ran back to the house.

For several weeks things continued like this--dad throwing our still-laced shoes out on the lawn, Sean and I scampering out there each morning to retrieve them.

Eventually dad got preoccupied with some money problems, and he forgot about his unlace-the-shoes campaign. The shoe-throwing stopped. Things went back to normal for awhile.

4:24 PM

Tuesday, February 03, 2004  
Not sure the following story belongs here--or anywhere for that matter--but I *feel* like it does, though I may come to regret putting it here. Sorry in advance if I offend anyone.... Here goes.

Last Tuesday morning I was in the men's room here at the office having a pee when I felt a bit of gas trying to work itself out. It suddenly became clear that the gas was more than gas, and before I could take any preventative measures, boom--pants filled.

I locked myself into one of the stalls and tried--in vain--to get myself back together. Went through two rolls of TP. And my underwear was completely shot; I stepped out of them, tossed them into the waste basket.

Whole time I'm in there, I'm kind of in shock, laughing a little, unable to believe this was even happening to me. Muttering "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," to myself.

I washed my hands about a million times and looked at my embarrassed face in the bathroom mirror.

My day clearly couldn't continue without underwear. There's a 24-hour Duane Reade downstairs which has a small Hanes section (I love drugstores in New York; they literally have everything), so I pulled my jacket on, took the elevator to the street.

I tried the double doors of the store; they were locked for some reason. I peered through the glass. I could see people inside, but they weren't customers--they were all employees. That's when I noticed the handwritten sign taped to the doors: REGISTER SYSTEM DOWN--CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

Unbelievable. In the seven years I've worked here never once has this Duane Reade been closed. Not one goddamned time.

Suddenly, my plight for new Hanes had taken a vaguely Kafka-esque turn. The sky was low and gray and looked like impending doom; it might snow at any moment. I stood in the middle of the sidewalk on Park Avenue, in the cold shadows of nearby buildings, underwear-free, people pushing past me, despairing as much as I've ever despaired.

There's another Duane Reade over on Lexington, about three blocks away. I struck out for there....

Thankfully, this one was open. I was unfamiliar with the layout of this particular store, so I had to do a fair amount of hunting before I found the Hanes section (it was under a sign that read HEALTH, BEAUTY). I also bought a travel-sized pack of Huggies and a box of Imodium. I realized as I set these items down on the register counter--Hanes, Imodium, Huggies--I might as well have had a sign taped to my forehead that read YES, INDEED, I'VE SHIT MYSELF.

For some reason the woman running the register chose to squeeze these items into the smallest, least opaque shopping bag Duane Reade offers. "Don't you have any of those bigger shopping bags?" I asked sheepishly.

The woman was clearly more interested in the Chaka Khan song playing on the store sound system than she was in tending to me. "We ain't GOT no more shopping bags," she said. End of story.

Back at my office, I locked the door, then proceeded to change into my new Hanes. Mid-change, I suddenly realized I was standing half nude in my office, something which has never before happened in all my years of working here. How many occasions does one have to get nude in his office? Not many. I felt terribly vulnerable; a slight chill ran up the backs of my legs. I quickly stepped into not one but TWO brand new Hanes. (I reasoned it would be best to two-ply it for the rest of the day.) I pulled my pants back on, ate a couple of the chalky-tasting Imodium, then tried to go about my day, business as usual....

...But it became clear that I couldn't function in any sort of normal capacity any longer. The day was over for me. The trauma of the whole shit event had derailed me. And I worried, quite honestly, that I might smell a little. There was nothing to do but go home.

I couldn't imagine trying to explain this to anyone, and I really didn't feel like making up some lie about my stomach or something (I'd taken a phony sick day just the day before), so I bolted, just shut down my computer around 2 and headed for the train. Nine out of 10 times, I reasoned, no one would even notice I was gone....

Went home, showered, changed, was relaxing, recovering, feeling better, when my telephone rang. I didn't pick up. No message. A few minutes later, it rang again. Again, no message. When it rang a third time, I decided to *69. The calls, to my dismay, were all coming from the office.

Around 5:30, voice comes on my answering machine. It's Mr. Traverson--the big boss--from work. "No one knows what happened to you," he said. "I've been trying to reach you all afternoon. You'd better have a VERY good reason for leaving, or else I'm going to be really upset with you. Call me as soon as possible. I need to know what happened."

Getting a call from Mr. Traverson at home--a man who I rarely ever see, and rarely ever speak to when I do see him--was an event. This was obviously getting serious. It struck fear in my heart.

I tried to put the whole thing out of my head, kept telling myself that I'd deal with it in the morning. Took me two hours to realize that I couldn't do this, that I was far too preoccupied. I phoned my co-worker Piffty on his cell, to ask his advice. Told him what happened, the shit, the whole deal. He started laughing. "That happens to everyone," he said. "Happened to my father once at hunting camp...."

"Really?" I said. Was a great comfort to hear this....

I said, "You know, nine out of 10 times no one would have even noticed I was gone."

"Well, this was the 10th time," Piffty said. "Today wasn't your lucky day." Piffty told me that Mr. Traverson was indeed very angry with me. "The thing to do is call him at home," Piffty said. "If you want to save your job, that's what you have to do. Call him."

"When?" I asked.

"Right now," he said. "He's probably just sitting there, watching some dumb TV program...."

I started laughing.

"What's funny?" Piffty asked.

"I'm laughing because you're right, that is what I have to do," I said. "And I'm laughing because I can't believe I'm going to actually do this. This is so goddamned surreal."

"It's really for the best," Piffty said, then gave me Mr. Traverson's private cell phone number.

I dialed. Took several deep breaths. He answered on the third ring. "Hello?"

"Mr. Traverson," I said, my voice shaking a little. "Sorry to bother you at home.... It's Scott. From Editorial."

"We were all wondering what became of you today," he said ominously.

"That's why I'm calling you, Mr. Traverson. You see..." I said, pausing momentarily to gather myself. "I was standing at the urinal peeing this morning. I felt a little gas moving along, and before I knew what was happening, I'd shit my pants. And that's why I left. I ran out of the office because I was too embarrassed to try to explain this to anybody."

Mr. Traverson didn't say anything. A space yawned between us, for one second, two seconds, three seconds. I felt it my duty to fill these empty moments with nervous chatter of some sort, but I managed to restrain myself, counseling myself with the thought that I'd said my piece, now let it stand, and let him react to it however he was going to react to it.

Finally, he spoke. "This is obviously a delicate matter," he said. "You know you can always come to me with these...private things. You can trust me. But the bottom line is, we're running an office here. Communication is the key. We need to know where everyone is at all times, or else the whole system breaks down."

"I know," I said. "You're right. I'm sorry."

"Well," he said, "I'll see you in the morning." And he hung up.

I hung up the phone. I was exhausted on a core level. I couldn't believe all the shit--literally--I'd been through the past 12 hours. What a day. What a motherfucking day. After I got off the phone, I drank. To use one of Galvin's phrases, I moved through all the beer in the house. The beer helped. It burned off some of the tension, calmed me down a little.

I can tell you this much: I've become much more respectful of my bodily functions. And the simple act of peeing is slightly more stressful than it once was. I'm doing it with a great deal of caution these days....

A week has passed since this happened. "Today's your one-week anniversary," Joelle wrote in an email this morning. She suggested I celebrate by buying myself a brownie. Everyone's a smart-ass, I guess.

3:29 PM

Monday, February 02, 2004  
Amount of time spent watching the Super Bowl yesterday: 0 mins.

Amount of time spent searching the web this morning for photos of Janet Jackson's nipple: 4 mins. (before having a what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here moment.).

4:29 PM

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