Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tales of Subway Confrontations

Since moving to New York I’ve had an impressive amount of defeating experiences on the subway. Like that time an affectionate homeless fellow gazed up at me from his stolen shopping cart and started pantomiming a jack off to ejaculation in my direction. Or that time the heroine addict sneezed in my ear. Or that time the couple in love decided to dry hump on the bench across from me.

These types of events are certainly unsettling, but are in no way traumatizing or damaging to my tender soul simply because they are disturbingly expected to happen on public transportation. But today something happened that gave me the overwhelming urge to throw myself in front of an approaching F train.

The subway was crowded in an early morning sort of way, but I was lucky enough to wedge myself onto a free area of bench. My delicate early morning concentration was fully focused on what had quickly become an intense game of Temple Run. Then I felt someone staring at me.

I looked up slowly and indirectly (any person who has been in New York more than fifteen minutes understands this sort of eye contact protocol) and met eyes with an impressively angry lady who was projecting ocular beams of hate directly toward me.

I was a bit thrown. What had I done wrong? Did I unknowingly yell “Fuck You” after losing a round of Temple Run? I’d definitely had outbursts like that before, so I couldn’t in good faith say it wouldn’t happen again. Did she hate my new jacket?

My spiral into a never-ending hypothetical dwindled to a low twirl when the announcer on the subway informed me that my stop was next.

But the lady continued to stare at me. It was seriously starting to freak me out, so I decided that I’d get a head start on my escape by getting up and moving toward the exit before the train came to a complete stop. The angry lady foiled by plan by blocking the only path to the exit with her arm.

I nervously muttered “excuse me” because for some sick reason I needed this complete stranger to back the fuck off and just approve of me. That didn’t happen. She responded to my politeness with a, “Listen, bitch, you can just wait until we get to a complete stop,” and blocked me in the corner.

So I did what any mature adult would do. When the train stopped and new riders started to file in I ducked under her arm swiftly. As soon as I was a safe enough distance away I turned back and yelled, “Have a nice day, ASSHOLE. And I hate your ice cream face.”

FYI, I have no idea what an ice cream face looks like. And clearly I’m immature.

Five Minute Observation: Heels and Cab Driver Hatred

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to work as a taxi cab driver.

OK, I lied. I’ve thought about what it would be like to work as a taxi cab driver once. It was a moment of introspection born out of a harrowing and impressively athletic cab chase down the streets of New York’s Third Avenue.

On this particular occasion I was in the city for an interview, or so I thought. The interview ended up being more of a humiliating rejection session and impersonal cattle call that was made only slightly bearable by an arsenal of free tacos and strange beer. Before I embarked on my blind journey to hell I had already decided that I would take a cab there. The expense of the trip outweighed the likelihood that I would end up sweating, lost and covered in a film of gross feelings after taking a subway or bus. I was certain this would be easier.

I quickly found out that it was in fact not easier.

Everything started off great in terms of getting a cab to notice me. I reached out my gloriously large hands with marvelous technical proficiency and beckoned a yellow transportation vehicle. My calls were heard and one came barreling toward me.  Much to my surprise, the driver didn’t stop. He slowed down, took a hard look at me and then sped off. I was slightly offended, but chalked that cab request up to a misfire and threw my hand up for round two.

A second cab quickly followed, but also did not stop. Instead the driver slowly rolled passed me. As he did a soul-crushing realization that I was incompetent when it came to wooing cab drivers invaded my head. However, when he was about ten feet in front of me he rolled his passenger side window down and angrily hollered, “Where you going, girl?”

I was the only person around who had a vagina, so I took the liberty of assuming that his unnecessarily angry question was directed toward me. I’m not one to reciprocate rudeness, so I hustled to catch up with him. This proved to be difficult as he had continued to roll, which meant that I had to shuffle ahead alongside his car in a pair of remarkably uncomfortable heels.

In between breaths I choked out that I needed this fellow to take me to SoHo. He stopped abruptly. I tried to open the back door, but found that it was locked and that this cab driver was more of an asshole than I could have ever comprehended. I was unable to relay this thought to him due to the fatigue brought on by chasing a cab down the street in heels, so I poked my head around to the open window and gave him a moody look that said, “Let me in, bitch.” His response: “That’s out of my way.” He then sped off, leaving me standing on the streets of New York in a sweaty, irrationally angry mess.

At that point I thought about what it would be like to be a cab driver, but all I could think was that he better hope he doesn’t see me if I ever have tennis shoes on, especially if I’ve had a couple gin and tonics.

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Why I Can’t Play Sports for Fun: Part II

My previous post began with an expression of doubt about my own ability to play sports for fun. I talked about how my experiences as a college athlete birthed a competitive side of me that simply doesn’t play nice with other kids (unless you count ripping other kids’ heads off and carrying them around on sticks like little head trophies as playing nice). In the end of the post I voiced my relief that a scheduled game of flag football was canceled due to rain. This meant that my inner ogre never had a chance to rear its ugly head.

I was then presented with another opportunity to play some good old two-hand touch football a week later. This time Mother Nature didn’t hand me any game-canceling gifts, which is a shame because what happened during the game was a sight for sore eyes. I’ve been told that one person can’t lose a game for the team, but I suspect this time was an exception as I was most certainly the reason why our team lost by 50 points to a bunch of no-talent ass clowns.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m just being hard on myself, I’m exaggerating, but I tell you I am not. You see, the girl I was marking was half of my height, double my weight and definitely looked like her running speed topped out at 5 m.p.h. I’m willing to bet a kidney and one of my dachshunds that she hasn’t played a competitive sport since her middle school gym days and that even then she probably took herself out five minutes into the game and shamefully ate all of the halftime oranges at end of the bench. These are all reasons why I chose to mark her. She was everything that I wasn’t and was absolutely going to make me look like a rockstar.

Turns out judging a book by its cover means that the book will make you look like an idiot by scoring 100 touchdowns without moving more than ten feet at a time. She exposed all of my flaws as a flag football player and made it clear to everyone that years of competitive lacrosse experience don’t mean shit if you have a body like a barrel and the ability to be in the right place at the right time.

My uselessness didn’t stop at the defensive end. I proved to be completely inept as an offensive threat before I even had a chance to step on the field. While warming up on the sidelines I invited a team member to toss me the pigskin as I ran some practice routes. I overcompensated in my attempt to make the catch and instead fell flat on my face in front of the rest of the other team’s sideline. And I didn’t catch the ball.

I will say though that the worst part of the game wasn’t the fact that we lost because I didn’t have the agility to mark the most un-athletic person on the field. It wasn’t the fact that I fell down during warm ups, thereby securing my place as “the useless girl on the team.” It was the look of disappointment from my teammates. It was the realization that my extreme competitiveness isn’t what prevents me from playing sports for fun. I can’t play sports for fun because I’m just plain awful at them.

My Shoulder Is Not a Window

The Society for the Strange and Obnoxious must congregate at Starbucks. I know for certain that their meetings are scheduled around one thing and one thing only: my physical presence in the store. Normally, I tend to deal with the minor offenders. You know, the ones who stand too close in line or who take a millennium to figure out their order. Last week, however, I had the pleasure of meeting the head honcho of the club.

I was sitting in the corner, quietly guzzling my coffee and writing away in one of those briefly wonderful caffeine-fueled rages when I sensed someone sit down in the chair behind me. I paid no attention to the new presence and continued to write in a self-absorbed haze. I only took notice once I felt uneven breaths firing on the back of my neck.

I quickly jumped around to find a middle-aged, finely tanned man in a clean-pressed, white shirt looking at me with a smile that would also make sense on either a serial killer or Beavis. He spoke first. I felt he owed me this much as he was the one who initiated the heavy breathing. “Oh, hello, dear, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to sit here and spy on you,” he stated, rather presumptuously if I do say so myself.

I did mind. I really, really did.

“Well, OK, but I’m not writing anything very interesting.” It was true. But, if I were writing something interesting I’d rather share it over tea with Mitt Romney’s butt cheeks than with that jabrone.

I smiled and turned around so as to passive aggressively kill the conversation. He didn’t get the hint and unleashed a merciless verbal assault on me, asking all sorts of inane, prodding questions. I don’t get that. Can’t you tell when someone doesn’t want to engage in a conversation with you? Like, should I install a mini alarm system on top of my head that goes off when I reach the breaking point in an unsolicited conversation?

As I began bleeding out I looked around at the untouched Starbucks patrons with desperate eyes. I was going to die, damnit, why weren’t they helping me? They thought I was a willing participant, they thought I was also a lonely fool who sought comfort from strangers in Starbucks.

I must have forced myself into a blackout because I forgot the rest of the conversation. I only remember the first sign of dead air, which I used as an opportunity to get up and scram. Before I could escape fully the man called out to me, “Thanks for letting me use your shoulder as a window.” To which I replied, “Good sir, it was never meant to be a window.” I hate Starbucks.

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Last First Day of School

Few things in life are as subtly disappointing as the first day of school.

From elementary school to graduate school, I have always approached the first day of school with the greatest of intentions. The night before school starts I am eager with the hope and promise of new courses, professors and classmates. As I lay in bed I feel comfortable knowing that my backpack is replenished with an arsenal of fresh pens, highlighters and notebooks. There’s an appropriately packed lunch in the fridge and my outfit is next to my bed. I am a maven of preparation, an archetype of organization. At the gentle hour of 9:30 p.m. I slide into an agreeable slumber and wonder why I ever wanted school to end in the first place.

The buzzing of my alarm at an unfamiliar hour the next morning serves as the first reminder. Despite being awake as such an uncomfortable time, I remain confident that I’ll get used to it as the quarter goes on. I delightfully rip the tags off my new clothes, dress up, grab my lunch and float off to my first class.

When I walk into class I begin my initial evaluations. I predict who the classic over talker, know-it-all will be. I identify the silent and questionably dangerous one, the smelly kid (generally the easiest task, for obvious reasons) and, perhaps most importantly, the one who I will wind up wanting to punch in the neck. My ocular radar has a 46% success rate so I sit as far from everyone as possible anyway, just to be safe.

After a couple minutes of awkward small talk and forgettable introductions the professor enters and forces us to tell our life stories for the class. My introduction speech goes a little something like this: “Hello everyone, I am Chelsea Parks. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland…well, not the Baltimore you see in “The Wire”, it’s a suburb of Baltimore, but I just say Baltimore so that people can get an idea of where I’m from. I’m not ghetto and I don’t kill people, I promise. Seriously, I’ve never killed anyone. I also have three dachshunds.”

The class looks at me uncomfortably. Because of my speech impediment about half of what I said was understood, which works on my favor. The professor waves me off nonchalantly and starts combing through the syllabus. As I review the assignments I seriously think to myself, “I’m going to dominate the shit out of this quarter.” I’m going to do my reading ahead of time, hell, I’ll even take notes and organize them alphabetically in a glass container protected by rottweilers. No more all-nighters and coffee binges, nope, not this quarter.

As the weeks pass on and the workload increases, my green hopefulness proves to be ephemeral. Any and all reading assignments are pushed back until they are eventually abandoned. I quickly begin consuming coffee as quickly and as rapidly as a pterodactyl masticating a pile of fresh meat. Lunches goes from well-rounded food pyramid homages to naked pieces of dry wheat bread (which have been separated from their moldy counterparts) and cough drops. The 9:30 p.m. bed time soon becomes dinner time and sleep becomes something enjoyed in sets of four to six hours. Outfits that were once planned ahead and politely ironed soon come from my dirty laundry bin and start to liken themselves to an ensemble a homeless person and/or Mary-Kate Olsen would wear. I slowly and methodically morph into a grosser, bigger asshole than I started out as.

This past Monday was my “last” first day of school (barring I don’t fail any classes this quarter or suddenly pick up the urge to become an occupational therapist in a couple of years) so I was understandably sensitive about promising myself the world. That’s why I decided to do something incredibly difficult for a neurotic, anxiety prone control freak such as myself. I decided that I will approach this quarter one day at a time. I will do all that I can to avoid over analyzing the raison d’être. I’m not going to think past the pack of Big Red I’m eating by the piece or the Ke$ha music video I’m unashamedly watching instead of finishing this post. I’ve spent every quarter at SCAD being worried about the future and things I can’t control and I’ve only ended up a cracked out, generally miserable human being, which is no way for a gal to live.

This quarter I’m going to focus on finding a job, doing work that I’m proud of and finishing that Jumbo Bag of Pretzel M&M’s. Some will happen sooner than others (I’ll be done with those M&M’s in about an hour) but I have to trust that they’ll all happen eventually. If I don’t I have no doubt that I’ll end up like Ichabod Crane: old, alone and unaware of how horrible my top hat looks on me.

The Perils Of Sleep Eating

I’m alone in my bed in a hotel room. Although, actually, it sounds like I’m not alone. There’s someone else in here; I know this because I can hear them snoring. (I use that term loosely, however, as the sound I hear is more closely akin to that of a congested boar or garbage truck ungraciously emptying dumpsters during adolescent Saturday hours.)

Anyone who has spent time in a hotel room understands their capacity to become impressively dark. This attribute works splendidly for someone looking to sleep until 3 p.m. Unfortunately, it’s utterly useless for someone trying to stealthily locate bedroom perpetuators/congested boars/garbage trucks. I quickly curse blackout curtains, ill-placed light switches and the human race for failing to pick up echolocation somewhere along the evolutionary road. Instinct tells me to grab my cell phone. It also tells me that this will not suffice as a defensive tool, but I bring it anyway, thinking that at the very least I can throw it at the intruder.

As I approach the edge of my bed my mind races. Who could be there? Did a maid sneak in here to take a power nap? Perhaps another patron mistook my room for theirs. I shine the light from my iPhone onto the ground and find none of these sorts of people. Instead, I see something much, much worse. I see George Lopez, “famed” talk show host and generally annoying human being.

Holy shit. I sprang up in my bed in the sort of “what the fuck is going on” bewilderment that comes with being jolted awake by a horrendous nightmare. I flipped the light on and was relieved to discover that George Lopez was not actually on my floor. It was only a dream.

I tried to fall back asleep. Except, of course, I couldn’t. At first I thought it was because of my subconscious encounter with George Lopez. This was understandably unnerving and unsolicited. No, it was something else. It was a sudden insatiable hunger. Fuck. It was happening again, I was going to sleep eat.

Sleep eating, in the most unscientific terms, occurs when one eats in their sleep. Those who sleep eat operate at the same level of consciousness as a sleep walker or one who has quickly consumed six stiff whiskeys. Unfortunately, I have been a sleep eater for years. Many of my past roommates have stood witness to me walking into the kitchen to methodically shove 100 or so cookies into my mouth. Aside from a bad taste in their mouth and scattered crumbs in their beds, sleep eaters have faint recollections of their late-night meals, which is why they must rely on others to fill in the blanks.

I have never had a sleep eating experience outside of my home, so when I woke up in the middle of night in my hotel room craving french fries and other salty delights I was understandably frustrated.  The only food-like objects I could find were Tic-Tacs and a suspicious piece of gum, s0 I grabbed my room key and a couple of dollars and hustled to the nearest vending machine.

At that point I was walking down the hallways of a very crowded hotel in polka dot pajamas and a truly appalling gray T-shirt. I neglected to put on a bra and shoes and failed to brush my hair so I assume I looked a bit like a half-assed crack addict. When I failed to find a vending machine on the first floor I remember thinking, “Go back to sleep, Chelsea. Just go back to sleep. Do not, under any circumstances, try and find a vending machine on the second floor.” Of course, I went to the second floor. And the third, to no avail.

I absolutely was not ready to accept that a full-service hotel didn’t have a vending machine. Surely this was a sick joke. Just as I was about to give up I walked by the front desk and noticed a glorious spread of tasty indulgences. Fooooooooood. I can’t recall with confidence what happened next, all I know is that I woke up the next morning to an empty King-Size Butterfinger wrapper, a bad taste in my mouth and a dusting of sweet, delicious crumbs. Some sort of transaction must have occurred and I’m quite confident it was awkward, which is why I maturely left through the side door as quickly and quietly as I had come. Just another peril of sleep eating.

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Five-Minute Observation: Shall We Not Dance?

It’s no secret that I am helplessly inclined to be awkward. If it is a secret, it doesn’t stay that way for long, as my persistent awkwardness insists on revealing itself almost immediately upon coming in contact with another human being. Its evolution is unpredictable and mercurial, especially when it comes to dancing.

Unfortunately, while I have done a lot on the dance floor (slipped, stood and lost a small fortune worth of cell phones and loose dollar bills), I can’t think of a time that when I’ve ever actually danced with serious intentions. I usually just “joke dance”, which involves me doing “the sprinkler” and other 80’s-era dance moves. Sadly, it’s really not a joke because I still put a lot of mental and physical effort into these moves.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to dance normally, because I have. It’s just that for some reason, when I dance I look like a delirious penguin on LSD. No matter how hard I fight it, my body moves at awkward intervals that are completely independent from the rhythm of the music. What’s worse is that my perception of how I look when I dance is vaguely disconnected with the painful reality of what my body is actually doing. In my mind, I’m seducing the crowd with a sexy hip swivel but in reality, I look like a rusty Tin Man trying to unsubtly dislodge a wedgie without his hands.

A couple of my close friends here at SCAD hail from Puerto Rico. Said friends are more evolved when it comes to the art of dance and when they dance, they do it for reals and they look good. So, I was understandably apprehensive a couple of weeks ago when they suggested that we go to a local club to dance. I didn’t want to them to be embarrassed by me, but I knew my dancing limits so I figured I would just default to my joke dancing. However, after walking in and witnessing the seriousness with which the beautiful and scantily clad people there were getting their groove on, I soon realized this method wasn’t going to fly.

If ever there was a time to abuse alcohol, this was it. I went with my gut and started investing in several cups of rum, hoping that the calming effects of these spirits would simultaneously reduce my anxieties and help me find some sort of rhythm. Unfortunately, after five minutes of awkwardly swaying back and forth and running my massive hands through my tangled hair in what I imagine was not a sexy manner, I had effectively scared off everyone within a three-foot radius of me. At that point, I unintentionally became living proof that alcohol has no apparent positive effect on ones ability to look cool while dancing in a club with other people who are actually good dancers. I tried to do a real dance and I failed. I never felt nerdier, for lack of a better word. In my rum-fueled haze, I vowed that I would never try to dance seriously again and if the people around me didn’t like it then they were just going to have to deal with it. I marched right back onto the dance floor and did what I’ve always done on such a floor: I lost five dollars.

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Five Minute Observation: Hail No

I was riding in the very front row of a charter bus headed north to Athens, T.N. to coach the last lacrosse game of the season. I like sitting up front because the big windows make me feel like I’m on one of those weird trains that ride around the food courts at malls during the holidays. Everyone you pass gives you a condescending smile as their way of expressing how happy they are to not be you. While I find the condescending smiles from the people in the RVs annoying, and a bit ironic, I’d still rather be up front because this means I’m not in the back next to the toilet, which, more often than not, smells like what I imagine the inside of a warthog’s poop shoot smells like.

 As I stared out the window and thought about all of glorious things I was going to do once lacrosse was over, a cloud blacker than Lady Gaga’s soul rolled authoritatively over the pale blue sky. Then, like a big, fluffy machine gun, the soulless clouds started firing bullets of hail at our bus. The wind picked up ferociously and with it, it brought any loose sticks, rocks and small cats crashing into the front, side, top and back of the bus.

 I looked over at our bus driver who suddenly became my savior. To my dismay, my newfound savior was un-heroically fumbling around on the control panel like a blind man. I assumed he was looking to activate the windshield wipers since we were knee-deep in a tornado and he had yet to turn them on. After about five minutes he gave up and decided the windshield wipers weren’t necessary to our survival.

 I took a mental note of his short-lived perseverance before I accepted that I was going to die. I was going to die on a charter bus with a bunch of people who I yell at everyday. The paramedics were going to find me after the storm and simply shake their heads in pity when they saw that I was wearing an awkward fitting Under Armour tracksuit and tennis shoes. One of them would probably sacrifice their own garments so that the last image my mom saw of me wasn’t one where I looked like an 80-year-old synchronized swimmer. In order to do that, though, they’d need a crane to lift up my lifeless body, which I assume would weigh more than my living body, if that were possible.

 Just as I was throwing together a mass text detailing my last goodbyes the storm cleared up. Our bus driver used this as an opportunity to pull into a rest stop and investigate the windshield wiper situation. He called corporate headquarters to “troubleshoot” the problem. I can’t say for sure what was said on the other end of the phone, but after he talked to them he turned a knob near the steering wheel and the wipers fired right up. I heard him say, “Oooooooh,” and then, without an apology or explanation, he whipped the car into drive and we continued our trip.

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Five Minute Observation: Old Man at Starbucks

I’m going to start a daily (but probably semi-daily) post called “Five Minute Observation”. In these I’ll briefly describe an encounter I had during that day in just five minutes so that I only have time to include the meat of the experience. I need to start listening more and observing the world around me (even if it means having to look at ugly, fat people, I’ll have to suck it up) and this is the perfect way to do it. We’ll see how this turns out. The first one is titled, “Old Man at Starbucks”:

I sit down at a table in the Starbucks next to the Publix on Abercorn.

Behind me there’s an old man. He’s sitting at a table for two but there’s no one with him. He’s reading the New York times with a white, plastic magnifying glass. Something tells me that magnifying glass isn’t really helping because he’s still hunched down to within two inches of the paper, his eyelashes even touch the magnifying glass. He seems deeply enthralled in the Business section until a customer walks in. At that point he becomes the unofficial greeter of Starbucks. He welcomes each guest with a, “How’s it going today, you fine young man?” and a “Good morning, my dear.” He talks to each customer as if he knows them but the looks on their faces make it clear he probably doesn’t.

He comes here everyday and reads the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, he says to my back. As I turn around, I notice he has one piercing blue eye and one eye that looks like a cloudy beach day. His long, wrinkled face contorts into a smile and he asks me what I want to do with my life. “I want to be a writer,” I respond. “Good, well now, I can say I talked to you before you got famous,” he says confidently as he decisively hunches back down to his magnifying glass.

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