21 January 2018

How Not to be Weird



Sorry, I can't actually give you a comprehensive guide on the subject. This is something each person has to figure out for themselves, through the exercise of poor judgment and the resultant embarrassing moment(s). I can, however, give you one guaranteed way not to be weird, from my own experience.

If you ever hear the song "Seasons of Love" from Rent, and you think that "measure a year in cups of coffee" sounds like a great idea, well, it probably isn't.

The gist of the song is that there are many ways to quantify 365 days' worth of activity in an average human life (daylights, midnights, sunsets, inches, miles, and cups of coffee are named), but the conclusion of it all is that "seasons of love" is the ultimate indicator of a year well-lived. A nice thought, if a bit nebulous. I didn't have the foggiest idea how one goes about measuring a year in seasons of love (still don't), but measuring in cups of coffee... ah, now there was something I could do. Being the javaphile that I am, this struck me as a splendid idea. So, I kept a tally on my calendar of how many cups o' joe I drank, every day, for a whole year.  The final count: 1,407 cups.

This was all well and good until the following summer, when I started college. On the morning of my first class -- psychology, as luck would have it -- the professor said, "We're going to go around the room and each person tell us your name, where you're from, and something interesting about yourself." (What the real purpose of this was, I don't know. Maybe so he'd have an idea of how many textbook cases of Abnormal Psychology 101 were warming the seats of his classroom.)

He wouldn't take no for an answer, either. If he deemed what someone said as insufficiently compelling, they'd have to sit there and squirm until they could come up with something that met his satisfaction.

"My name is Jeffrey Wyczowski, and I'm from Reno, Navada..."

"And what's something interesting you can tell us about yourself?"

"Um, well... I have... a ferret..."

"That's not interesting. Give us something else."

"I scored the winning goal in my high school's soccer championship last year?"

"You say that like it's a question. Is that your interesting thing? Want to tell us something else?"

"..."

This was a shy person's nightmare. General Psychology was by far the largest freshman class on campus; clearly this exercise was going to take some time. I was down near the bottom of the list with the S's, so I did have awhile to think of what I was going to say. Not that it did me much good. When my turn came, I said, hesitantly, "My name is Sharon, I'm from Connecticut, and, um" -- oh crap, oh crap, what do I say -- "last year, I drank 1,407 cups of coffee!"

Most of the class had tuned out and started talking amongst themselves after their turn had passed, but I guess they were listening after all, because when I said "1,407 cups of coffee", boy, did that room ever get quiet. It happened in a snap, like someone had lifted the needle off the record player. The professor fixed me with a pondering sort of gaze. I figured he was trying to decide whether I was being a smart aleck, when in fact, he was probably going through his mental catalog of various and sundry disorders of the mind, trying to decide which one I was a good fit for. Then he said slowly, carefully, "Well, Spender.... yes... that is actually interesting...quite interesting..."

Then he moved on to the T's.

I initially considered this a victory because I had gotten off the hook on the first try, but looking back now, I regret it. That event branded me with the Oddball Stamp for the remainder of my college career. This made for somewhat of a handicap later on.

However. If cups of coffee ever become a standardized measurement, like midnight or inches or miles, that would not only make me not weird, but one of the first to have done something before it was cool.

Wouldn't that be something!

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