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My 5th Grade Field Trip (or How I Nearly Started a War with Spain)

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The last thing I ever expected to do on a fifth-grade field trip was instigate a trans-atlantic war. Then again, I doubt very many people are thinking seriously about intercontinental politics at age 10. Most of them are just thinking about cookies or something. At the start of this adventure all I was thinking about was hardtack biscuits.

Perhaps I should explain a bit of backstory. At some point, myself, my dad, and a bunch of friends joined an overnight trip to Baltimore harbor to stay aboard the U.S.S. Constellation (accidentally called the U.S.S. Constipation by a younger friend of mine who didn’t understand why that was funny.) The plan was for the ship’s crew (volunteers from the historical society) to show us around and teach us various nautical terms and concepts as well as fill us in on the history of the ship and its interdiction of illegal slavers. Then we’d pile into hammocks and cram together just like the real crew (there were like 200 people doing this, so it really was as cramped as if we were the actual ships crew.)

We started our misadventures immediately. My friend Gabriel unpacked his overnight gear in the hold where we were told we would be staying and then took it upon himself to sign our group up for night watch. Each group on the field trip had to take an hour up on deck to record random happenings in the logbook as some form of sadistic attempt to educate us about how much being a sailor in the old days sucked.

It got worse when they got to the part about having to put up with Kiera Knightly trying to seajack your boat.

Now, to explain the hardtack thing. My dad is a Civil War re-enactor in his spare time, which means that on weekends in the summer he dresses up in period-appropriate uniforms and goes camping with his buddies and their guns. Wait…that just sounds like he’s from Kentucky. What I mean to say is that he sort of takes on the part of an actor in a movie and steps into the role of a Civil War soldier for a weekend. As a by-product of this, one weekend my dad made “hardtack” a sort of bread/biscuit/cracker thing that served as rations for soldiers in the Civil War. In order to let it get to the appropriate level of authentic staleness, he let it sit in the garage for a week or so and then brought it back inside and stashed it in bags, and he always let my sister and I have one because we were young and thought that breaking teeth was fun as long as we got to eat something in the process.

When I arrived for the night on the boat, I got ahold of one of the schedules, and saw that dinner was “hardtack and stew.” I thought that meant I could finally stand out amongst my peer group as “hardcore” because I’d learned how to successfully eat the stuff without requiring hospitalization. All through the history lesson, all through the knot tying, and all through Gabriel’s sheepish admission of when we had to wake up, the only thing on my mind was the manly display of my chewing ability I’d get to show off at dinner.

Use your molars, ya pansy!

After bearing through all of the “educational” stuff people always ruin field trips with, we finally got to dinner. They brought out styrofoam bowls of some kind of beefy soup that came from a can and… saltine crackers? What the crap is this?! Saltine crackers. Oh, no buddy, this is NOT hardtack. I became very offended at the sheer guts these supposed “historical authorities” had in trying to pass off saltine crackers as the manliest cracker in the world. Not only that, but there is NO manly way to eat a saltine cracker! They embody “light tapas” and other words that don’t sound macho. My plan to impress my friends was ruined!

Hardtack. Bah!

After a few more nautical vocabulary lessons it was time for bed. Each of us had been assigned a canvas hammock hanging from the ceiling. Mine was near the aft of the ship (nautical vocab lesson: remembered. Oh yeah…) and unfortunately for me my immediate neighbor was some other kids mom, who slept with her head at my feet and the most unholy stench emanating from her feet, which she stuck in my face all night. Imagine if a fish was rotting, and then someone put lysol on it. It wouldn’t make it smell better, and after a while the lysol would smell like it was rotting too. That was what this woman’s feet smelled like. I tried to move so that my head was no longer near her feet, but by this point I was so crushed in by all the other people sleeping that I couldn’t move. I was trapped in a prison of stink.

By 1:00 in the morning, I was so thankful for my dad arriving to fetch me for watch that I fell onto a coil of rope in my excitement to get out of the hammock, scattering it across the floor and waking up a good fourth of the ship. Oops. The hour we spent on deck was pretty uneventful. Gabriel had a broken arm in a cast, so he spent most of the break writing what I’m sure was a novel in the logbook because he didn’t want to lean his arm on the rail. I took pleasure in making a nearby couple making out on the dock feel extremely awkward by peeking over the side of the ship at them every time they thought I was gone.

To the couple’s great relief it was soon time to return to our hammocks. I rebelled at the notion of a return to my prison of olfactory torment, so I instead opted to sleep on the floor of the ship (or, as the pros called it “the deck”) Several uncomfortable, but thankfully odor-free hours later I awoke and was treated to more saltine crackers and some oatmeal for breakfast. Whoopee.

By now you’re sick of hearing about my tiny woes, and instead are aching to hear how exactly a 10 year old boy managed to nearly start a war. Well, it began at about 10:00 that morning as the crew was teaching us how to load and fire the “parrot gun” or tiny cannon at the back of the ship. You may begin to see where this is going. Previously, they’d made the mistake of not wadding newspaper into the barrel to muffle the sound and had broken several windows on the Hyatt Hotel across the street. This time, they taught us to carefully pack lots of newspaper  into the barrel to prevent the sound from becoming too loud. This also had the effect of creating a giant flaming ball of newspaper that disintegrated before it hit the ground, but nonetheless looked like an enormous fireball had been fired from the cannon.

Pictured: 5th Grade History

This is normally ok, but in the excitement of the crew to shoot the cannon (apparently they’re as much pyromaniacs as historians) they forgot to look where the cannon was pointing when it went off. There was a (still) deafening “BOOM!,” a fireball went arcing through the air, and 100 Spanish dignitaries went diving under the luncheon tables on the Ambassadorial ship immediately in our line of fire. Plates spilled, exclamations of surprise were shouted, and suits were gotten dirty.

To my 10-year-old mind, we’d just declared war. Every story I’d ever heard of ambassadors getting shot at had ended in beach landings, bombing runs, and old people in congress giving impassioned speeches about everything. This was not exactly how I saw my field trip ending, so I spend the remainder of the trip worrying about the best ways to dodge the age requirements from the military. Not until years later did I realize that if I had joined the army I would have been killing people for something that was totally my bad. Oops.

Maybe using this would mitigate the problem?

 

 

Pre-Adolescent Street Cred: Whatever the Cost

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Some of you may remember my previous post about criminals, which I opened with the words “Criminals are dumb.” Since writing that post I have come to quite a serious conclusion. This decision is the product of a lot of thought, and a lot of soul-searching, but here it goes.

Little boys are even dumber.

I know I’m classifying myself for a lot of my life as being dumber than people who roll joints in front of a SWAT van but I can’t in good conscience let the little blighters off the hook. My primary reasoning for this comes from the way in which the two groups choose to build up proof of their “street cred.” Criminals generally have a wealth of tattoos detailing what prisons they’ve been to, what gangs they’ve run with, and in some cases the sorts of crimes they’ve committed. No hardcore criminal is going to believe you’ve done time in Sing-Sing unless you’ve got the tat.

This one started young.

Admittedly, this is really stupid, since one of the easiest ways for the cops to ID you is if you have a sign literally etched into your skin declaring “I’M A FELON!” (note that I’m not saying all tattoos mark you thusly, just specific ones that you are hopefully unlikely to accidentally impose upon yourself.) Despite the inherent stupidity of this system, however, little boys have them beat cold on the stupid-o-meter. How do they do this? Little boys refuse to believe a story is true unless you have a scar to prove it.

Think about that for a second: the “pics or it didn’t happen” of the prepubescent and even adolescent boy is “bodily disfigurement or it didn’t happen.” You literally have to have injured yourself to the point that some part of you couldn’t grow back right to obtain credibility with these gremlins. And that presented a major problem for me, because I don’t scar.

The tribulation inherent in being a boy who does not scar plagued me all the way through my younger days. In fact, I think I ended up being even more self-abusive than most little boys in my reckless quest to kill myself just to prove I’d done it. No matter what I did, I couldn’t raise so much as a little skin discoloration to prove that I had, in fact, caught a metal drainage pipe with the lawnmower and sent shrapnel into my shin.

Over time, I developed a strange sort of background psychological complex bent on sabotaging me to the point that I just had to get a scar. I started at about 8 when within a week of moving into a house with brick stairs out front, my legs tripped me up and slammed my forehead straight into the corner of one of the stairs. Huge gash, no stitches, perfect conditions for scarring. The doctor even said it was going to scar up quite nicely. What do I get? A little tiny crease in the corner of my forehead if I crinkle my face up just right and the humidity isn’t too low.

Later in life I somehow managed to not notice that in attempting to remove some cornbread from the oven I had somehow pressed the inside of my left arm against the extremely hot metal side of the oven and burned an ugly little crescent into the side of my arm (it was the really bad kind of burn). Doctor’s opinion? “You’ll have a scar there pretty much for life. Three years later I had a tiny patch of slightly lighter skin and the first time I got a suntan it disappeared completely.

Since when does ultraviolet radiation heal you?

Over the next few years I ran the gamut of physical imperilment. I got myself hit in the face with an aluminum baseball bat going full speed, I slashed my foot with a metal grate, I even shot myself in the foot that only days earlier I’d had a 2 inch piece of wood removed from! (A good story, for another time perhaps) Nothing worked. No matter what I tried the boyhood equivalent of street cred eluded me. I’m like the convict who always gets caught by the guards every time he tries to start inking himself.

My absolute worst attempt, which I was positive would work, requires a little set up. You see, partly out of my masochism and partly because it was absolutely awesome, I was an avid street hockey player all through my childhood. We even lived in a cul-de-sac where not only did we have the perfect place to play, but also an abundance of kids and adults as into it as I was.

This next part is completely disconnected from the previous paragraph. When my mom was a kid, she was late for some sort of important event and so was running down the stairs of her house toward the front door. Unfortunately, what she thought was an open door was actually a plate glass storm door, which she managed to get her entire arm through before she realized the damage she was doing to herself. She was now stuck in the storm door, and began to try and pull her injured arm back into the house to get treatment. At the sight of this, my grandmother, in a moment of panic, screamed “NO! Go outside, you’ll bleed on the carpet!” My mother has never quite forgiven her for this.

So, back to me, one day I was out playing street hockey sans any kind of padding because I was a cocky little snot and was too good for any of that stuff. It just got in the way of my style. For the most part I actually was good enough that I didn’t fall down and since we didn’t have any kind of boards to check against, I was safe from being smashed up against anything. However, this day God decided I needed a good humiliating to make up for all my smirky smugness. While going as fast as I could the tip of my roller blade hit a tiny little pebble, which sent me flying. I landed on my (bare) shins on the asphalt pavement and proceeded to skid for around ten or fifteen feet. My legs were literally hamburger, but somehow I staggered back inside my house. I limped gingerly into the kitchen and started to make my way toward the living room, where my mom and grandmother were having a conversation.

“Mom?” I ventured, weakly.

“STAY THERE! DON’T BLEED ON THE CARPET!” she responded.

Immediately upon realizing what she’d said she turned as white as a ghost and clapped both hands over her mouth.

Rather like Macaulay Culkin, actually.

My grandmother, in spite of herself, busted out into uproarious gales of laughter at my mother that she couldn’t control for at least  five minutes. After bandaging myself, I started to silently rejoice. Here was finally an injury that couldn’t help but scar. For good measure I even accidentally got the injury dragged through a patch of poison ivy by my manic dog a few days later, which developed nicely into a tormentuously itchy, skinless patch of pain. The only thing that got me through all of the pain cheerfully was the surety that finally I’d have that longed-for cred amongst my peers, who would no doubt examine my mutilated legs and nod sagely to each other in admiring approval.

Nope. Nothing. Not even a little change in skin color. Heck, the hair even grew back after the new skin did. After failing to scar yet again I decided to give up on my insane quest and just accept that none of the awesome stories I had to tell would ever be believed by anybody in my peer group.

I’d love to say that I moved past that and realized how dumb the whole thing was. I’d love to say that the wisdom age has brought me has allowed me to renounce this frankly stupid form of validation. But then I realized that I just wrote an appeal to the internet to believe all the stories I tried to get my freinds to beleive as a kid.

And no, I still don’t have the scars to prove them.

How I Went to Extreme Lengths Not to Touch the Floor

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One of the things you expect when living in an apartment that was never actually intended to be permanent housing is that things will go wrong. What you don’t really expect is to have your kitchen floor inflate like a balloon when the air conditioner turns on. Such was my experience with my apartment and after attempting to feed myself within this culinary moon bounce several times I called to get a new floor put in. What happened next is a cautionary tale, demonstrating the dangers of poor prior planning, combined with an irrational respect for the power of police tape.

Monday morning I decided that before any workmen arrived, I needed to give my abode a serious cleaning. Months of accumulated papers, electrical gadgets, power cords, plastic cups, and books coated every horizontal surface and several of them that were nearly vertical (I impress myself sometimes with my ability to make my own life both more interesting and vastly more difficult simultaneously). The majority of the day was spent tidying things, re-organizing the bookshelves, vacuuming (or “hoovering” for all you quaint British readers out there), and doing my long overdue laundry. At the end of a long day I was finished, and quite satisfied with the results.

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Like this, only far more masculine and bereft of pink rubber gloves.

Within twelve hours it was all for nothing, however, since the men replacing the floor needed to get all of the kitchen appliances out as well as clear out the closet I use to store things that I may (but probably won’t) ever use. This meant that the apartment I had so thoroughly cleaned the day before was now covered in first aid kits, plastic bags I wanted to re-use in a vain attempt to be “eco,” and assorted miscellany I threw in the closet to avoid having to decide what to do with.

All this leads us back to the kitchen floor. Previously, the floor had been covered with a sort of vinyl faux-lineoleum which looked like wallpaper for the floor. This time, however, it was being replaced with actual tile, which meant that I was going to be banned from the room overnight while the cement-mortar stuff they use to stick tile to the floor (obviously I am not a very “handy” person, or I’d know what it was called) dried. At this point it would be a good idea to mention that all of my food is stored in a closed that is almost as far away from the door as you can get along the wall to your left as you come into my kitchen. Now, any normal person with a fully functioning whatever-the-part-of-the-brain-is-that-controls-prior-planning would have simply thought “I should get out all the food and dishes and such that I need to eat for the next day and a half before the workmen get here.” I, instead, thought “I should grab some grapes.” And so I did.

The next morning the work crew arrived and began dismantling the kitchen. My refrigerator was moved outside and plugged in on the porch, like the way rednecks do when they want to have a refrigerator used entirely to store beer. The stove and table likewise ended up outside and any food left in the kitchen was either in the closet or on the counter (also on the far side of the room) in the case of things like bread. At no point did the thought cross my mind that this was a problem. Instead, I sat happily on the couch and munched on grapes like a Roman Caesar.

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With exactly that facial expression.

Several hours later, the majority of the work was done and the workmen began to pack up for the night. However, the floor seal was still wet, so to remind me not to walk around on it, they put police tape across the door to the kitchen. About the same time they left, I ran out of grapes and it began to dawn on me that I was an idiot. Over the next several hours a small voice began to nag in my head, reprimanding me for not bringing more food out of the kitchen before I let the workmen in. This small voice gradually evolved until it became exactly like this herd of condescending cows.

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"All 5 food groups, fool!"

I began to contemplate ways to retrieve food from my kitchen. The problem was, all I could conceivably get to was the food on the counter, since the closet was likewise sealed off (to keep the food from walking on the floor?) I surveyed my options. A sack of potatoes? Useless without something to cook them in (or on). A bunch of bananas? No more fruit, I’d had enough of that. What I was really craving was…yes! There, on the counter was a loaf of bread. And right next to it, unplugged, was the toaster. A plan began to form in my mind…a really stupid plan.

I grabbed the longest thing I could find, which was a stubby broom handle about 4 feet long, and to this device I affixed a paperclip, which I had bent into the rough shape of a hook. Thus armed, I approached the tape. Prying two strands of the police line apart, I stuck my head and one arm through and began to reach for the bag containing the loaf of baked goodness. Due to the shortness of my tool, however, I failed to reach it. Thus began about a ten minute process of doing everything within my power to reach the bread. It was pretty much one of those moments any good film editor would just relegate to a montage.

Finally, I snagged the bread on the tip of my paperclip and managed to wrangle it through the tape and into my arms. I took a moment to celebrate quietly by silently dancing (after making sure all the windows were shuttered) and then set about retrieving the toaster. By now I’d worked out a strategy by which I could reach the counter with my hookbroom. I leaned up against one side of the doorframe and propped myself up in the air by pushing my leg against the opposite side of the frame. I then held on to the top of the frame and leaned as far as I could into the kitchen. On the first try I snagged the toaster and yanked.

I had forgotted about the crumb tray. Toast crumbs spilled everywhere as I pulled the toaster into my arms. The workmen would think I’d been in the kitchen. They’d send disapproving glances in my direction the next morning when they came back! I had to act. I snagged my vacuum cleaner from behind me and began shoving the hose through the police tape to suck up all the crumbs. The last two feet of floor space I had to use the hookbroom to sweep the crumbs close enough for the vacuum to get them, but in the end, I managed to get all the crumbs.

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"Phew!" is right, you odd little skunk-reindeer thing.

The next morning, happily munching on unfortunately butterless toast (you take what you can get, I guess.), I greeted the workmen, who were none the wiser to my bizarre adventure the night before. They put the kitchen back together, and now I’m free to eat once again.

I got another bag of grapes and went back to Caesar-ing.

This Post Will Flood This Site With Tween Girls

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Yesterday I was intrigued by an article scrolling across my ReTickr feed which declared “Justin Beiber Did Not Invest With Steve Nash.” Intrigued, I perused the article.  The point of this is not that Justin Beiber is either a poor or an excellent investor, the point is that Fortune Magazine felt his investing choices of enough note to devote an article to. In a world where every aspect of celebrity’s lives are examined and picked apart, from their love lives to their go-to ethnicity for adopted children, one of the last places America has not turned to those least qualified for advice is in the world of finance.

Finance is a complicated field. Stock traders and financial analysts spend their days poring over sheets of data and information regarding the state of the economy (though today more of them spend their time hunting through the plumbing to find where it went after its flushing.) More importantly, the people who choose to spend their lives picking investments and stocks that they expect to perform well in the future do so using a lot of math. How did Beiber apparently decide not to invest with Nash? A pickup basketball game.

Presumably while screaming "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"

This is a dangerous precedent. Among the people in the world who could possibly be entrusted with your money, celebrities are probably the absolute worst people to allow anywhere near it. Think about it. Would you let this person near your money if they walked in off the street and said “I’ve got the best investment lined up for you!”

And this one was KNIGHTED!

Celebrities are generally famous for having acting talent, having musical talent, or having attractive physiques. Notice that none of those things were “being fiscally responsible.” Financial analysts are generally not spending a lot of time entertaining people, singing, or working out. Why? Because the financial world is so complicated that they have to spend all day watching the news, watching stock prices, and frantically yelling into the phones “SELL SELL SELL!!!” (or since everything is automated I assume now they frantically yell that into an ethernet cable or something.) Point being, celebrities don’t have the time to become highly knowledgeable in what a good investment is and when to invest in it. Asking a celebrity for advice on where to put your money is like asking ZZ Top to instruct you on shaving.

“Now wait a minute!” I hear your voice exclaim. “The article you linked to said Justin Beiber has a team of financial analysts telling him where to put his money.” True. However, the article also says that his advisors are trying to make him the next Michael Jackson. Clearly these people have no idea what they’re doing. That is quite possibly the worst plan ever concocted. Not only did Michael Jackson nearly lose his huge ranch in a loan default after nearly going bankrupt, but just think about what Michael-Justin Jackbeiber would look like!

I'm so sorry.

THIS is what will happen if you start listening to celebrities or their financial advisors. They will use the money for horrifying plastic surgery on Justin Beiber to turn him into Michael Jackson.

A Brief History of Pasta

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Today, I’d like to share with you about something which has kept me going the past few months. When all else fails, I can rely on this to get me through the tough, poverty-stricken times. I am of course referring to that wonder-food of undergrads: Pasta. Whether it’s spaghetti, macaroni, or that flat stuff they put in lasagna, pasta has had a long and glorious history of being slurped down the gullet of humanity. Now it is time for the tale of the noodle to be told, to give credit where credit is due, and to give us a new appreciation for this starchy yellow floppy stuff.

Our story begins where most movies made in the 80’s begin: a mystic-looking forest with the caption “somewhere in Asia.”

Just like "Gymkata!"

If this wasn’t what you were expecting than it’s probably because Italy has brainwashed the world into thinking they invented pasta, rather than just being the place that is most associated with it. Sort of like how Americans like to pretend they invented hot dogs, guns, and God. In actuality, the first references to pasta found in history are actually references to a Chinese rice-pasta. This is actually a great foreshadowing of the way the primary consumers of pasta in America (undergrads) think about food. Imagine: it’s late and there’s nothing going on tonight. There is, in fact nothing to do but eat, think about food, and think about how to obtain more food. You’ve had rice for the past six weeks straight and you’re sick of it. So, in a fit of inspired boredom, you mash up the rice into a powder, mix it with water, and pour it onto a hot thing until it cooks. Then, because you’re not interested in being that inspired twice in 24 hours, you just throw some of the leftover rice-scrapings into some water and boil them until they’re soft enough to eat. Voila! Instant pasta! I’m not even going to tell you whether that story was from the perspective of the college students or the Chinese. It could be either one!

The next reference to pasta was in fact from Italy. Just kidding! It actually comes from the Talmud. Yeah, the Jewish religious text. Stick that in your driedel and spin it, Italy!

Those yellow rings are actually noodles.

Yeah, actually the Talmud refers to a dried noodle called itryah, which was pretty normal food at the time of the Talmud’s composition. By the time of the 10th century the Arabs were making pasta called lakasha to sell in the markets. Think of the guys who sell peanuts in baseball stadiums, who walk up and down the stands yelling “peanuts, get your hot, roasted peanuts here!” and replace “peanuts” with “lakasha.” and you’ll get a sense of how Arabic markets work. Very noisy, lots of food, and apparently covered in pasta.

Italy comes late to the party with pasta. While pasta like foods were eaten even before the Roman empire came to power, since they were not actually pasta I don’t count them. Italy does, but they’re biased, and probably grouchy if they haven’t eaten since lunch. According to pasta historians, and such things exist, apparently (I like to imagine that they all look like Mario Batali) modern pasta was probably brought to Sicily by traders from the Arab world. They base this belief on the evidence that the oldest pasta dishes in Sicily contain things like dried fruits and cinnamon, both of which are featured heavily in Arab cuisine and pasta dishes.

Now that pasta had finally reached the Italian world, you’d probably assume that things like lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs were pretty quick in being invented. Actually, there’s one major reason those dishes wouldn’t come onto the scene for quite a long time. Probably after the American revolution, in fact. That reason? Tomatoes.

Heaven help us.

Tomatoes were basically assumed by everyone to be poisonous until Thomas Jefferson rubbed them in the faces of the Colonial scientific world by eating them as frequently as he could and living to a ripe old age. You see, back in the day, people used to eat off of plates made of a poisonous metal called pewter. Since they weren’t eating the plates, this was mostly ok. However, the high acidity of tomatoes caused the plates to dissolve slightly into the tomato juice, resulting in illness or death for the person who ate them. Presumably, the family of the first person ever to die this way blamed the tomatoes for his death because “killed by his dinnerware” wouldn’t look very good on a headstone. Thus, most people assumed the plants were deadly, and wouldn’t have slathered a sauce made of them all over their food.

Popular pasta dishes in their most current forms were brought over/invented in America by Italian and Sicilian immigrants fleeing tough conditions in the 20s and Mussolini in the 30s and 40s. This is also how American pizza was invented, coincidentally.

So there you have it. Invented by the Chinese, refined by the Arabs, adopted and loved by the Italians, and finally mass produced and used to feed poor college students by Americans.

Does anyone else think “Driedel-Spun Chanukah Pasta” would sell really well?

Dumb Boys, Dumb Boys, What’cha gonna do?

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Criminals are dumb. It’s a fact of reality, and runs totally contrary to what popular fiction would have you believe.  There are no evil geniuses out there  coming up with needlessly complex schemes to say… force people to do their bidding using a magical beard tonic.

Yeah, I wasn't making that up.

Point is, that with very rare exceptions, criminals are not incredibly bright bulbs. This is why most of them get caught. The stubbornness of criminals in breaking the law leads to some rather amusing antics. Think about it, most crimes are essentially this: dumb people trying to do something that smart people don’t want them to and then trying to prevent the smart people from finding out about it. That’s basically the premise to every successful comic strip or Looney Tunes short in history! It only makes sense that when this formula plays out in real life, it often ends up just making us want to laugh. Such is the case with the story you’re about to read, which in true crime story fashion I like to call “The Assault on The Wawa Bandits.” (As relayed to me by a member of law enforcement involved in the proceedings.) Note: this story is best read in Jason Statham’s voice.

Late in the afternoon the Anne Arundel County SWAT team receives a call that SWAT action is needed to resolve a hostage crisis. They suit up in full response gear (which includes tactical vests and machine guns) and loads up into the SWAT van. This is actually more of a tank, since it looks like what would happen if you crossed an armored van with a Transformer. About halfway to their destination, a call comes in that the previous situation has been resolved, but that they are preparing for SWAT arrival at a second site and the team is put on standby. While waiting for instructions, the team decides to get some coffee at a local gas station chain called Wawa.

The team wisely decides that entering the Wawa in full gear carrying guns is likely to alarm people, so one member of the team bravely volunteers to take off his gear and go in in just his uniform t-shirt and pants to retrieve the coffee. About this point the SWAT officer located by the van’s only real window looks to his left and notices a peculiar sight. A man has just pulled up in the parking space next to them and proceeds to start rolling up small paper sheets full of a controlled substance. One of his arms is in a sling, in order to facilitate his illegal behavior, he has propped his arm up on the steering wheel, and is doing his work six inches in the air above the steering wheel in full view of any passers-by. The officer alerts his comrades to the malfeasance taking place to their left, who respond:

“Sure, Terry. Pull the other one.”

The officer reiterates his concern with added emphasis on the malfeasance.

“Fine, we’ll bite. We’ll come look out the window.”

The first officer to arrive at the window confirms the malfeasance to the alarm of the other officers of the peace, who immediately spring into action. 11 fully equipped SWAT officers, their firearms, and one man in a t-shirt that says “SWAT” on it storm from the bus and surround the offending Ford Taurus. The man rolling contraband immediately attempts to hid what he is doing, but fails, due to his broken arm, in doing anything other than looking like a bad “numa numa” dancer.

At this point in the story, the officers realize that Slingboy the Dopey Criminal has an accomplice. They ascertain this information by peering into the window of the nearby Wawa and discovering that one man in the line to pay for coffee has suddenly done a very good imitation of Jerry the cat.

Or Bonkers the...whatever it was he was supposed to be.

The officers motioned for him to come outside with the intent of questioning him to establish a possible link between him and the criminal already in custody. This intention was rendered unnecessary as Bonkers the Wawa Customer exited the coffee establishment yelling “You parked next to a SWAT van?? Why would you park the car next to a SWAT van you absolute git!?”

“I didn’t know it was a SWAT van!” replied Slingboy in a rather whimpering tone.

“It has SWAT written in block print down the side of it!” Bonkers shot back.

As the officers endeavored to arrest the two criminals, it quickly became apparent that Slingboy was also of an altered state of mind, when his eyes suddenly widened in fear and he asked:

“Did you guys come all the way back over from Afghanistan just to arrest us?”

It would prove to be the start of a long day.

Later that afternoon the SWAT officers learned a bonus lesson about the dangers of shoddy carpentry. A man clearly at the end of his wits was threatening to cause injury to what would later be discovered to be a mannequin, but which everyone thought was a woman at the time. In order to affect entry into the house, the SWAT team rolled their tank up to the front lawn and used an extending boom attached to the top of it to place a hydraulic battering ram against the door. This ram was then activated, in order to knock the door down and allow the SWAT officers to arrest the suspect. However, due to poor construction value, the door’s destruction caused a chain reaction which led to the entire front wall of the house falling away into the front yard. The suspect, suddenly realizing that his ruse was revealed and that he would never be able to explain to a home insurance company what had just happened, threw down his gun and surrendered. If they’re willing to knock your house down to get at you, its time to pack it in and give up.

And do something about all that back sweat, man! For all of our sakes!

The Doormanship Major

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While looking at a college catalog recently I was struck by the realization that the format of a course description could be the perfect place to add a little of the bizzare and watch as one of the most boring things in the world breathes again as a cure for the common boredom. And so, I present for your amusement: The Doormanship Major.

Requirements for a Major in Doormanship

The core and distribution requirements for a major in Doormanship are those listed for baccalaureate degrees listed on page 24 of the course catalog. Entering Freshmen who plan to major in Doormanship should plan to enroll in DMS 121. Introduction to Doorknobs the first year. Placement in Introduction to Doorknobs is based on a strong grip and having at least a thumb and two fingers on the preferred hand. Students who do not qualify for Introduction to Doorknobs should work on finger exercises or consider prosthetics.
The Doormanship major calls for early and extensive counseling of students in order that they be properly informed of the requirements and aims of the program. Students entering the program will ordinarily have to make their decisions earlier in their college career than is necessary for some other programs.
The department assesses it’s program in part through the administration of nationally standardized examinations as final examinations in all of it’s courses or course sequences. Students who complete Doormanship courses or their equivalent should have their transcript transmitted to the Doormanship Department, otherwise the examination must be taken at the start of the academic term. A score of 50 percentile or above is expected if the course is to satisfy a program requirement that specifies as specific course.

Core Requirements…………………………………….51
Electives………………………………………………..13

Doormanship Major and Supporting Course Requirements

DMS 121-122. Introduction to Doorknobs I, II………………………………….8
DMS 225. Principles of Door Holding…………………………………………….4
DMS 323-324 Door Building I, II………………………………………………..8
DMS 326 Intermediate Lockpicking and Lock-Opening Apparatus………………4
DMS 425-426 Gender Roles in Doormanship I, II……………………………….8
DMS 491 Witty Quips for Doormen……………………………………………..2

Doormanship Electives- If A minor is desired, electives may be reduced to 3 hours………………6

MAT 155-156 Geometry of Doors………………………………………………8
FIN 234 Tipping Procedures……………………………………………………4
PHY 332 Using Doors as Weapons…………………………………………….8

Total Hours for the Major………………………………………………………62
Total degree hours……………………………………………………………126

Doormanship Courses

DMS 121. Introduction to Doorknobs I
An introduction to the science of opening a door with special emphasis on the use of different door-opening implements. Designed to allow students to identify and open any of fifteen different types of doorknobs, from the standard twist-knob to the more complicated thumb-trigger handle. Also covered is the difference between “Push” and “Pull” doors.

DMS 122 Introduction to Doorknobs II
A continuation of the previous course, this course introduces students to non-standard doors. Designed to prevent students from being stymied by complicated or doorknob-less doors. Covered are: Revolving Doors, Automatic Doors, Non-Existent Doors (also known as “Archways” in technical jargon), Secret Doors, Trap Doors, Car Doors, Hobbit Doors, and the popular 1960s band “The Doors.”

DMS 225 Principles of Door Holding
Fundamental principles of allowing the egress of another individual through a door once opening has been accomplished. Main course aims are to allow students to be able to identify situations where holding a door may be appropriate as well as how to extricate oneself from “sticky situations” (i.e. the infamous “Never Ending Line Going Into Lunch”).

DMS 322 Door Building I
An introduction to the process of designing and building doors. Course aims are to enable students to create their own egress ports in otherwise solid objects. Students will learn to cut holes large enough for a door, procure wood and other door-essential materials, and install said door into aforementioned hole, thus allowing entrance and exit. Lab Fee….$17 Chainsaw Rental……$50

DMS 323 Door Building II
A continuation of the previous course. In this course students learn to create abnormal doors, including the construction of basic revolving doors, false doors, stunt doors (for film making), door frames, windows inside of doors, doors to nowhere, doors to Narnia, and painted-on doors which only work for the first person to use them (guest lecturer……. Roadrunner)

DMS 326 Intermediate Lockpicking and Lock-Opening Apparatus
This course introduces students to opening doors which are not unlocked, or as industry insiders call them, “locked” doors. First, students are introduced to keys, key cards, and sledgehammers, as ways to open doors. Course aims then dictate that students learn to open doors when no alternate form of unlocking is present. These include lockpicking, yelling for help, or bazookas.

DMS 425 Gender Roles in Door Opening I
An introduction to the male’s role in a door opening exchange. Students are instructed in the proper etiquette for opening doors, how not to appear overly excited about opening the door, and how much importance eager young door-holders often ascribe to the relationship-building potential of holding a door for a woman.

DMS 426 Gender Roles in Door Opening II
A continuance of DMS 425, focusing on the female’s role in a door-holding situation. Students are instructed on how to appropriately thank the door-holder, how to appear mildly excited about the act of door-holding, and how little it actually means for a relationship to hold a door for a woman.

DMS 491 Witty Quips for Doormen
A course focused on correcting and instructing students in the proper humor for door-opening situations. Such quips as “How Are You Doing?” are discouraged, since they require the door-walker-througher to stop and answer the question, thus blocking the door. Encouraged are quick comments or witty remarks on the clothing, personal appearance, mood, or intelligence of the door-user. Discretion is also instructed upon. (i.e. do not say “nice haircut” to a bald man.)

MAT 155-156 Geometry of Doors I-II
Courses designed to instruct students in the geometry of how doors work. For nerds who really care.

FIN 234 Tipping Procedures
Instructs students in the proper etiquette for asking/receiving tips for their services. Designed for Business Minors.

PHY 332 Using Doors as Weapons
Instructs students in the proper amount of force to apply to a door in order to strike a target on the other side with sufficient force. Covered are “shock and awe” tactics, violent door-slamming-in-face (as an emotional weapon), and the Roman “turtle” formation adopted for use with any available campus door.

There you have it! We’re very excited to be able to offer this as a program and look forward to meeting our first graduating class of doormen!