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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
  • Friday: Steven Gould
  • Saturday: Caroline Spector
  • Sunday: Rory Harper

Brain Activity



Not the (Deliciously Fragrant) Droid You’re Looking For

August 30th, 2007 by Bradley Denton

 “No, I’m BRIAN of Nazareth!”

Is there anyone out there for whom Life isn’t a never-ending series of embarrassments and misunderstandings – and, especially, embarrassing misunderstandings?

If you’re like me (and I know I am), that sort of thing occurs every time you venture into the world that lies beyond the end of your driveway. This is why my dream home, which I shall build someday, will include thirty-foot-high stone walls, a gator-infested moat, and an automated shock-collar system that will zap me unconscious every time I attempt to leave.

This week, for example, I made the mistake of going out to my local hardware store, which I had been lulled into thinking was a safe haven. After all, it’s not one of those hulking Lowdown Home Despot warehouses, but a small, sleepy, cluttered joint about the size of my house.

In other words, going there is almost as good as staying home.

Usually. This time –

As I stepped up to the temporarily unattended checkout counter with my Manly Hardware Treasures (four furnace filters and a flashlight), a rumpled elderly gentleman in a rumpled elderly jumpsuit entered the store and walked past me, leaving a translucent cloud of rumpled elderly cologne (some variation of Old Spice) in his wake. He then disappeared down a side aisle just before the Hardware Lady emerged from a different aisle and stepped behind the counter to check me out.

And yes, that double meaning is intentional. Because before ringing up my purchases, she looked at me, then took a deep breath and said, “Mmm, I love that cologne. My Uncle Jim wears that. I always kiss him on the neck.”

My reaction was to stand there and twitch like a robot whose positronic brain has short-circuited due to an irreconcilable conflict between two of the Three Laws. My thought process was going something like this:

Huh? What? Is she flirting? Why would she do that? Does she think that smell is me? I guess I should explain that what she’s really smelling is an invisible elderly gentleman. I mean, he’s not invisible, but she can’t see him. Or would that information embarrass her? Well, why should I be the only one embarrassed here? Wait a minute, I just realized — she’s not flirting at all! She thinks I’M an invisible elderly gentleman! I’ve finally hit that stage of advanced-middle-aged pot-belliedness in which strange women will say just about anything to me because they know I’m a harmless old coot. I should start wearing a rumpled jumpsuit. It looked comfortable. No, what I should do is tap my wedding ring on the counter to point out that whatever this lady thinks of how I smell doesn’t matter anyhow. Dammit, that’s right, I took it off to work on the water softener. It was really tough to get off, come to think of it. I should take it in to have it resized. Again. My fingers have gotten thick in the middle. Anyway, I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it. She was just trying to be friendly to the doddering geezer with the furnace filters and the flashlight. And the turnips on his belt. After all, I remind her of her Uncle Jim, her Great-Great Uncle Jim, who no doubt regales her with tales of his exploits in the trenches during the War. He probably shot the Kaiser right in the ass. I wonder how much Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel I have left in the pantry.

About then, the Hardware Lady looked me straight in the eye and said, “Don’t worry, I won’t kiss you on the neck. I don’t know you well enough.”

How right she was.

Epilogue 1:  When I told Barb about this incident, I asked her if I should have explained to the Hardware Lady that the intoxicating Uncle Jim odor belonged to someone else, and that this was a case of mistaken smell-dentity.

Barb thought about it for a moment, then said, “Seems like a lot of work.”

I married well.

Epilogue 2:  This event also reminded me of yet another embarrassing incident (humiliating and emotionally crippling, actually) in which I was mistaken for someone else. The setting in this case was not a hardware store, but a bathroom at a science-fiction convention . . . and the other player in the drama was not a Hardware Lady, but a Prominent Editor.

Odor, however, played a role in this incident as well.

But as I have already gone on at length, I’ll save that story for another time, such as when hell freezes over.

Epilogue 3:  To reiterate –

Is there anyone out there for whom Life isn’t a never-ending series of embarrassments and misunderstandings – and, especially, embarrassing misunderstandings?

God, I hope not.

Posted in Barb, Brad, Daily Life, Dammit!, Horror, Personal History | 9 Comments »

9 Responses

  1. Caroline Spector Says:

    Denton,

    You had drive-by flirting. Accept it. Channel your inner-hottie-teetering-into-old-codgerhood with the grace that only a homegrown Kansas kid can.

    And every one knows you married exceptionally well.

  2. N.G. Says:

    Hey, I don’t think I’ve ever been flirted with… (cause I really wouldn’t know, and I’m also too young…)
    But yes, I’m constantly embarrassed at school if that’s any consolation. You’re always embarrassed if you’re a high school student.

    Fortunately I’ve been spare any bathroom incidents.

  3. Ken Houghton Says:

    What Caroline Said, except possibly for the Kansan exclusivity.

  4. Rory Harper Says:

    Wait…You mean other people have this constant embarrassment thing happen to them? WTF?

    I’m still embarrassed about shit I did 40 years ago. And this afternoon.

  5. Casey Hamilton Says:

    Two bass players can’t be wrong.

    What Caroline Said.

  6. Madeleine Robins Says:

    Again, Dangerous Caroline. I can still go into full-body flushes of horror over things that happened when I was five. Silly things that shouldn’t bother me ::mumble:: years later, but do, dammit.

    You’re not alone. Of course, that just means you’re as weird as the rest of us.

  7. James Hollaman Says:

    So where did she kiss you? : ) We all have those type of lives, its just some people have longer periods of time between the episodes. then there are people like you and me…

  8. Sara Says:

    And then there are total buffoons out there who perform ridiculously blatant and foul acts all the time and are never embarrassed. I’d choose the self-conscious individual any day. And no Brad, I am not flirting with you.

  9. nancy u. Says:

    I agree with Sara. It’s hard to tell if the total buffoons are performing said acts in a desparate bid for attention, or whether they were raised without a sense of embarrassment. I guess others get embarrassed for them – if they’re lucky – so there is a conservation of embarrassment.

    And Barb totally rocks!

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