Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Hypothetical Gift

I am in a terrible mood today. For no apparent reason other than yesterday was kind of a pointlessly frustrating day and that I had bad dreams last night where all of my friends hated me and right now the music at Starbucks is much more conducive to group suicide than to writing funny things on the Internet. (Can you write on the Internet? Or is this like skywriting?) Seriously, Cannonball? This music makes me want to stab things.

For a full two years after I stopped teaching I had horrible nightmares and would wake up screaming in the middle of the night. This was wildly disastrous to my daily life for obvious reasons. A friend of mine gave me a sample of her prescription sleeping pills (I know, terribly illegal -- it's a good thing I do not actually like medicine or this would be a story of rehab.) to help me make it through the night. She had been a teacher in a similar situation to me (read: multiple police reports) and had similar sleeping difficulties post-classroom. So I tried them. Well, really I broke one of the pills with the handle of a knife and took the smallest piece. I'm not sure I really thought this through beforehand, or if I just hoped it would work like a "sweet dreams pill" instead of a "knock you out cold pill." It did not. So I was essentially stuck in a nightmare for longer than I normally was and woke up fully un-rested like I normally did.

The nightmares have subsided for the most part, although I continue to have much stranger dreams than anyone I know. I think this must just be the downside of an overactive imagination. Anyway, last night did not consist of nightmares per se - it was more just a fairly miserable situation to live in for a few hours. Imagine a night-world where everyone pretends not to know you and runs away when you talk to them. This will leave you feeling annoyed in the morning. I am now craving something happy the way that some people crave potato chips or jelly beans. (I say these because I am neither of those people. I crave chocolate and steak.)

Having terrible dreams always makes me wonder if I just answered badly to one of those Book of Questions scenarios. (Would you rather have a mediocre life and wonderful dreams, or have a great life but terrible nightmares? I take it back! I want the mediocre life!) But I don't take it back. In fact, I don't take it at all. I refuse to answer that question because I wouldn't rather either of those situations. I am impossible to play the Hypothetical Game with. I choose non-existent answers or analyze the scenario out of plausibility. For example, my mom's favorite question to ask (of anyone really, but she seems to ask it most of my brother and I) is what is your fantasy car? To which I generally respond:

"Well, how old am I? Where am I living? Do I have kids? I mean, right now, my own car is totally perfect. I couldn't afford anything better, plus I park on the street. Even if I could afford it, it would get ruined and I don't need anything fancy."

M gets similarly frustrated with me when we have Hypothetical Conversations. His favorite example is "Theo Epstein walks into a bar..." This went as follows:

M: "So say you and I are sitting at a bar and Theo Epstein [totally adorable GM of the Red Sox] walks in and starts hitting on you. What would you do?"

Me: "Why would he be walking into a bar here in Chicago?"

M: "I don't know, maybe he's recruiting or something. Whatever, just what would you do?"

Me: "I think he's married anyway, so this would be really inappropriate."

M: "OK, fine, say he's not married."

Me: "Well, did you just make him divorced or are we pretending he never was married?"

I don't remember why this even came up or what the point was, but clearly I am a weird combination of imaginative and strictly literal. Also, notice that nowhere in this hypothetical scenario do I find it weird that THEO EPSTEIN is hitting on me. That I can apparently accept with ease.

Since I have so much trouble with these questions, I typically do not buy things for other people like games called What If..., or The Book of Questions or anything that requires people to imagine two unpleasant situations and decide which one is better. (My new favorite blog describes this better than I can here.) I think this is like playing the Why Are You Hitting Yourself Game. (Also one of M's favorites.) I DON'T WANT TO BE HITTING MYSELF. (Although this one is really funny if you are not the one being smacked in the face repeatedly.)

This is not to say that I don't buy gifts that are hypothetically useful. Recently, I found something at Wal-Mart and had to buy it for my brother, under the guise of Valentine's Day. But it is only hypothetically awesome.

My brother does not cook. His entire repertoire consists of grilled cheese, pseudo-Egg-McMuffins and Easy Mac. Otherwise he will wait for you to make something or he will eat a protein shake and cheese and crackers. (In full disclosure, I wasn't much of a cook until recently. I could do it, but until a year or two ago, I mostly lived on frozen peas and Odwalla bars.) This Christmas, when we were both home at our parents' house, we had a twenty minute deliberation over the ease of making a grilled cheese over an Egg McMuffin to determine which one he would have for lunch.

So when M and I went to Wal-Mart for a griddle (because as part of a much longer story, M does not have a working stove or a very powerful microwave,) I saw the best gadget ever. An "Egg Muffin Maker." (They can't say "Mc" because of the fast-food reference. But I can, apparently.) A round plastic container that opens from the top, the Maker holds a raw egg that you microwave, take out, place the bottom of an English muffin back inside the Maker, the newly cooked egg, slice of cheese, top of muffin and then re-microwave until cheese is melted. Genius. And $1.50.

Obviously I had to buy it for my brother so he could make one of his three gourmet items even easier. Clearly this would decisively end the grilled cheese vs. Egg McMuffin debate. However, this gift is only hypothetically awesome because I don't know if G has access to either microwaves OR eggs. I know that he could go to the store and buy the ingredients, and probably use a microwave somewhere in his building. But I could have also just made using this gadget HARDER than buying a pre-made McDonald's version. This is the danger of the Hypothetical Gift. You have to suspend reality for a minute and get to the heart of your intention. My intention was that this was A.) Hilarious as a concept and B.) Indicative of G's cooking. It is truly the thought that counts with the Hypothetical Gift. 

Now excuse me, I must get ready for my hypothetical date with Theo Epstein.

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