I was a mild-mannered kid to say the least. However, like many who started out as mild-mannered kids, I went through a bad-ass phase with the vigor of someone making up for lost time.
So many stupid things. All the usual stuff, of course: setting things on fire, letting your sadistic twin sister pierce your nose with a sewing needle in pliers and a butter knife jammed in your left nostril…
Although it isn’t really story-worthy unless You Could Have Died. To that end, here are a few of my favorites:
1. The Bus Trip
When we were barely eighteen, my friend and I took a trip to California.
Okay, we took a Greyhound bus to Long Beach, California.
FINE: We took a Greyhound bus to Long Beach, California to find a guy that my friend had met on the internet.
It takes two and a half days to get from Athens, Ohio to Long Beach, California by Greyhound bus.
Myriad stops at bus ports that brought words like sordid, uh-oh, and booster shot to mind.
I had a Walkman with one tape: The Best of the Eagles (which I had stolen from my mother) and a copy of The Communist Manifesto (whyyy?). Our food provisions consisted of a can of Easy Cheese and the candy necklace I was wearing. For two and a half days. Before we (both) ate it.
I was so delirious when we drove through Vail, Colorado, I was convinced it was some sort of magical elven village. It was so sparkly.
Night two on the bus there was a person dressed as a cowboy who was convinced something bad would happen if people fell asleep. This person paced the bus aisle and poked people who were drifting off until the bus driver stopped and introduced this person to a police officer.
Once we arrived in Long Beach, our shenanigans included (but were not limited to):
· getting lots of free taxi rides from a group of taxi drivers (who were all roommates) (and gave us free rides because my friend is a ginger and they were in love with her)(how did we not die?)
· thinking that finding Muscle Beach was really important and then being really disappointed and sunburned afterward
· letting some guy we met on the bus crash in our hotel room (again, how did we not die?)
· startling the mess out of Internet Guy Love Interest by showing up at his place of employment
· somehow not dying (how?)
2. The Tower
A few years later, in college, my fellow baristas and I completed our tradition of closing down the coffee shop (mop-mop-mop) and then closing down a nearby bar (glug-glug-glug). In a fit of espresso-and-Bloody-Mary-sotted logic, we decided to find a water tower and then climb it.
In spite of the fact that I had a broken leg in a cast.
That is pretty much the whole story. We climbed up, it was pretty and chilly and there were stars and some mild existentialism. We climbed back down. I did not slip off of the rickety metal ladder and break more of my bones. I’ll call that a victory. It didn’t occur to me until years later how idiotic it was. Probably for the best.
3. The Bandit (okay, this one isn’t death-defying as such)
Just when I thought my bad-assery had worn off (you know, kids, real job, very occasionally shaving my legs) I ended up bandit running a half marathon. Bandit running means that you don’t pay, and run a race WITHOUT those sexy white squares of paper with numbers on them that people pin to their chests. It states explicitly in the rules of nearly every race that you are super-not-allowed-to-do-this, that this is Naughty Runner Behavior.
Honestly, it was not my plan to bandit run. I trained for it with my good buddy and gym rat Not Me Becky. But I was lazy and unorganized and the race sold out before I could buy a spot. My first reaction was, that’s that, then, I suppose. Time to get into competitive eating. But then my second reaction was what…exactly…would happen…if I just ran it…anyway? I did some research (and by that I mean I asked people who had 26.2 stickers on the backs of the cars in the gym parking lot, and poked people near me until they looked up information on their smart phones) and found that:
a) race organizers really don’t want you to do this for a wide variety of pretty valid reasons,
b) if I got caught I could be kicked out of the race, banned from future races, arrested, and/or have charges filed against me, and
c) there’s a chance I could get away with it
I was pretty undecided right up until the night before the race. Then at five thirty the next morning I found myself in an SUV with Not Me Becky. In the moments of silence betwixt items in her deafening nineties hip-hop mix, we planned where I would go sulk, mutter profanity, and wait for her if I was caught and flung off of the race course.
Then, as visions of getting tased and/or arrested danced through my head, we passed a row of security guards. Fortunately, it was 33 degrees outside, so my nervous twitching looked like enthusiastic shivering. I walked past undetected! Could I possibly get away with this? In front of me, Not Me Becky was shaking her perky little runner’s butt to the pop music that was blasting in an effort to make the racers forget that their extremities were freezing and dropping off. I considered celebrating not getting caught by butt-punching her super-hard and then running past her, laughing spitefully. I did not do this. Her butt is still intact.
It was a great race. We ran well. I do not plan to do any more bandit running. The people and organizations that put these races together deserve my money. However, next race I’m definitely going to butt-punch someone.
Like a bad-ass.