In January of 2005, You Learned:
HOW TO UPSET THE SYSTEM.
Dialogue with a Chipotle Mexican Grill Server
[It should be noted at Chipotle rules dictate tacos are to be ordered in groups of three (soft) or four (hard). A similar exchange, with a completely different server, occurred two weeks ago, and resulted in my order being totally fucked up – then donated to, and rejected by, a homeless man.]
CMGS: Hola. What'choo need?
Me: I'd like two tacos –
Me: I'd like two tacos – one veggie in a soft shell, and one chicken in a hard shell.
CMGS: Three veggie?
Me: No. Two tacos total. ONE veggie, in a soft shell. ONE chicken taco, in a hard shell.
CMGS: eh sof' shell?
Me: Yes, the veggie.
CMGS: You want veggie?
Me: Please, but only one. And in a soft shell. I would also like a chicken in a hard shell.
CMGS: No problem.
(CMGS takes three soft, flour tortillas from a large stack and places them, with shaky certainty, in the steamer.)
Me: (in my head) He still thinks I'm ordering three tacos. I hate this place so much.
(CMGS removes three tortillas from the steamer and places them on a tray. He looks at me, curious.)
CMGS: Here we go.
Me: OK, you know I only want two tacos, right?
Me: So...you know you have three tortillas there, and none of them are hard shells?
CMGS: OK, two tacos!
(CMGS removes two of the soft tortillas and replaces them with a single hard shell.)
CMGS: What you need?
Chipotle Mexican Grill – I'm sorry I BLEW YOUR MIND.
HOW TO TALK TO STRANGERS.
On Sunday night I did a set of stand-up comedy in the East Village. I honestly haven't been doing a ton of stand-up since the Aspen auditions last October and November, and I don't know if it's because those auditions were somewhat exhausting for me, or because they made me want to abandon all of the jokes I'd been working on up until those auditions, or simply because I haven't been showing my face enough lately. And I don't know if I haven't been showing my face enough lately because the Aspen auditions were somewhat exhausting for me etc.
[By the way, I don't think I ever mentioned it, but here's how Aspen shook out. I made it to the finals, and didn't make it past that. It was sort of a crazy and confusing process because, when I first found out I had an audition I entered it with absolutely no sense of entitlement. Since I still consider myself very new to stand-up, it was a complete surprise to me that I was being seen for the festival. Then, gradually, as I progressed through three rounds of auditions, I actually started to gain some sense of belief that, yes, it was actually possible I would make it into the festival this year. So, when I found out I didn't make it – and I found out through the most bizarre means possible – it was just as mysterious to me as being given an audition in the first place, particularly since I think my third-round set was as good as, if not better, than my previous two sets. I think that's part of the mystique of the entertainment industry: it refuses to allow you a sense of certainty. That said, the whole experience was kind of exciting and, more importantly, it actually taught me the value of constantly repeating and refining a finite set of jokes – something I didn't quite value so much before all of this. And God and heaven and blessings on my head and stuff.]
Last night was sort of a crazy evening for me, in that I'd been writing several new jokes and hadn't really worked any of them out yet. I was sitting at the bar, trying to do just that, knowing I had a little more time before I was supposed to get onstage. Then, suddenly, I heard my name called prematurely because the host simply forgot the order. I had to bolt to the stage and by the time I got up there I was still holding a pen in my hand and a pile of notes. I must have looked like a professor (translation: substitute teacher) who had just shown up late to his own class.
Once I got past my disorientation, and a new joke at the top of my set that was completely lost on the crowd, I had an excellent time. (Seinfeld and Colin Quinn were right in Comedian – no matter how tempting it may seem, it's often a good idea to stay away from 100% fresh material at the top of your set. It's a hard lesson to learn, and one that you learn repeatedly because you somehow convince yourself that the new stuff will instantly invigorate you and the audience. In this case, I had spent the previous two hours POSITIVE that there was something very funny about being so lonely that you frantically comb the Missed Connections in Street News. In my head, I heard an audience getting to its feet and embracing me like I'd just won the Indy 500. Onstage, it sounded a lot more like confused silence. I'm not sure Street News – a newspaper distributed by homeless people – still exists. I just know that joke will not.)
But something strange occurred to me after I did my set and had a chance to really examine the room. I saw all these guys in dress shirts tucked into slacks; a large black guy in gold chains and a colorful sweater from the Bill Cosby collection; women who looked like they were on a dress rehearsal for their office jobs at an administrative office for a major Health Maintenance Organization; men with European accents, holding domestic beers; a tiny Hispanic bartender. Basically, I saw a room full of people who, on any other day, would never be interested in spending eight minutes with me. These were people who would probably prefer to beat me up, or stuff me in a locker, or possibly rape me. (Cosby sweater, I'm talking to you.) And, reciprocally, I doubt I would feel inclined to spend any time with them. My natural inclination would be to think they'd bore me, or annoy me.
But last night, because I had a microphone in front of me, and was elevated on a tiny piece of stage built eight inches from the floor, we were all hanging out. And I was totally dominating the conversation.
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE, INTERNATIONAL-STYLE.
[Thanks to everyone who came out last night for H2KP: ICE STATION ZEBRA. The theater was very drafty. Most of the performers wore winter hats onstage and when they spoke snow came out of their mouths, and the audience clapped through gloves, and even the goulash froze, but it was still one of the most fun shows we've done. Plus, no one complained about the Yeti odor. Apologies to anyone who couldn't get in. (last-minute brag!)]
Do you live in or near the New York metropolitan area? If so, please choose life over network television, creep over to the Under St. Marks Theater in the East Village – a neighborhood voted "most likely to be murdered in while people watch indifferently from their windows" in 1981 and "best high-end fusion japanese food" in 2004 – and hang around for HOW TO KICK PEOPLE: "INTERNATIONAL MALE."
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26th at 8pm
How to Kick People with Todd Levin and Bob Powers
and featuring these fine guests:
A.J. Jacobs - Esquire Magazine's Editor-at-Large and author of "The Know-It-All"
Liam McEneaney - a comedian-about-town who has appeared on Comedy Central's "Premium Blend" and, more recently, on VH-1's "Best Week Ever"
Kimya Dawson - achey/sweet/funny singer-songwriter, and the lady half of The Moldy Peaches
For location, advanced tickets and more, visit our site. Don't mess this one up, OK? Just come.
HOW TO GET HALF YOUR JOB DONE.
To the Toad-Ally Snax, manufacturers of "ChocZels" flavor-coated chocolate pretzels:
You could have tried a little harder, don't you think? For instance, once I was asked to write an essay about an imaginary animal based on the combination of two existing animals. If I went with ZebSnake I would have gotten my ass handed to me. But I came up with "Sharktopuss" and guess what? HOME RUN. And I was only in the first grade. All I'm saying is, seriously, "Choczels?"
My friends and I have squandered countless hours, conjuring up names for the bands or companies we're DEFINITELY going to start up – and good names, too. Names like O.T.M. – Other Than Mexican.
Naturally, none of these projects are ever seen through to fruition. But that's not my point. My point is this: whether we have the drive to create the product or not, we know the name is ESSENTIAL. That's branding, something I guess a company called Toad Ally Snax would not know much about. We put the time in. Meanwhile, you have access to production, design, distribution, marketing, etc. and you put all that work in, just to get behind a product named ChocZels. FOR SHAME.
Oh wait. I just found a transcription of your brand meeting where you sat down to come up with a name of your new flavor-coated chocolate pretzels. Here it is:
TIME STAMP: June 13, 2004 12:08:15
Stan Hollinger (VP Sales): Let's see here. Is everyone on the call?
[muffled sound of twenty-five voices, at various distances from Mr. Hollinger. several conferenced in on speaker phone.]
Hollinger: OK, great. So, whatta we got? These flavor-coated chocolate pretzels go into production in three weeks.
Ty Reynolds (Creative Director): Well, first please understand that we just found out about this product this morning and...
Hollinger: Fine, fine. Let's not waste any more of our time. Dazzle me, Ty!
Reynolds: OK, so, um, here's the first one [sound of poster board being shuffled]: PretzOcolates.
Hollinger: LOVE IT!
[murmurs of approval]
Richard Vestry (VP Flavor-Coating): Just curious, Ty. Got anything else?
Reynolds: OK, yeah, sure. We do have one more...I guess.
[murmurs of approval. unrec. voice mutters, "that's why he gets the big bucks," followed by a round of hearty laughter from several white men.]
Hollinger: Shoot. Do it. Hit me. Fuck me up with it, Ty. Right in the nuts. Gimme gimme gimme.
Reynolds: Uh...we kinda flipped this one around. ChocZels?
Hollinger: LOVE IT MORE!
[sound of "choczels" being run off assembly line and air-dropped into existentially sad office complexes and mexican grocers.]
Good day, sirs.
(Incidentally, with regards to my recent creative block and inability to discern what is funny to others vs. what is funny to me...I think "PretzOcolates," when said aloud, might be the funniest thing I've ever written.)
HOW TO B. NATURAL, MISTER.
For the MLK holiday weekend, I traveled up to the mountains with some friends. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Traveling up to the mountains or any number of variations on that theme – heading to the coast, hitting the beach, running for the hills, goin' south, eating quinoa – is one of those things I'll occasionally find myself doing or yearning for out loud in an effort to trick myself into believing I need nature to live a more meaningful life. As if I honestly still think there's some void in me that cannot be filled with 24-hour access to falafel sandwiches.
I know I'm supposed to like nature and I do, sort of. But not enough to buy special boots for it, or one of those Lexan® water bottles. (Actually, enough to buy one of those water bottles, for novelty's sake, but not enough to use one.) It's just that I'm very comfortable living among the filth and organically grown rage of a city, and sometimes I suspect my "need" to escape is just a little act I put on to prove I'm more human. Kind of like pretending to agree with a misogynist electrician because you have this irrational need for him to like you. (It's something I haven't been able to shake since childhood. I never care if squares like me, and I'll rarely try to accomodate them, but I'll transgress even my most rock-solid principles if it means some middle school drop-out installing my cable will greet me with a friendly fist-knock.)
But then you get out to the mountains/coast/Trader Joe's and oh my God. It's perfectly still out there, and the sky is exploding with stars and you can even identify some of the constellations – like Orion's belt and The Green Lantern – and the air is so impossibly clean it tastes like salad and there's not an advertisement within miles. And you're taking it all in and all you can think is, "Good Lord, The Arcade Fire is playing at Bowery Ballroom tonight...and I'm fucking missing it! Fuck you, mountains, and your glaring absence of Vietnamese takeout. Right now I could be at a burlesque show where I'll feel too old and surely hate everyone, most of all myself, and I'm stuck out here with these bullshit stars? If I want to see stars I can go to Star Bar on the Lower East Side, or Twinkle Twinkle Little Strip Club. Enough!"
And the truth is, I am deathly afraid of the mountains, which is patently absurd as I live in NYC, a much scarier place, statistically speaking. Just yesterday, on my way home from Manhattan, there was a woman in my subway car screaming (inexplicably, without provocation) at the other passengers. "Come on down!" she yelled. "I'm about to kill all y'all!! Anyone step to me I beat you crazy with a pillowcase filled with hammers and AIDS – don't tell me I won't!!" That should be scary, but it was just a nuisance. I turned up the volume on my walkman, and carried on.
I go to sleep every night to the sounds of car alarms and sirens and gunshots and ninja stars and vorpal blades going snicker-snack and babies being tossed through plate glass windows...and I sleep like a baby. But if I'm up in the mountains and I hear a single twig snap, all of a sudden I'm thinking, "ZOMBIES!"
HOW TO TELL WHEN YOUR MIND HAS LEFT YOU.
I've been having a very difficult time writing comedy lately. I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that, for the first time in many years I'm actually somewhat happy. At present, my personal life isn't a series of adolescent comedies and tragedies through which my married friends occasionally get to live vicariously. I go to bed feeling OK, even though I know the terrorists will mustard gas my apartment building any evening now.
I'm going a little crazy, trying to develop new ideas until they become funny to the point of satisfaction. Unfortunately, now that they're not borne of sadness I'm having a much harder time articulating them – perhaps because my focus is often diverted by a new desire to smell tulips or demand that a butterfly alight on my fingertips. Here's an example: I am going to share something I just put together in anticipation of an upcoming comedy show. As I was assembling stuff for a "bit" (I hate that word, and therefore I'm going to belittle it with cute quotation marks. Take that!) in which I educate the audience on how to advertise things to teenagers, I created this image and found it, personally, incredibly funny. Now, a few minutes late I sort of cannot believe I'm about to display this in front of a room full of strangers. Check it out.
Is this even remotely funny to anyone but me? What is wrong with me? Tell me now.
Addendum: I was so committed to that stupid image that I actually went back and worked on it. I'm so, so sorry.
HOW TO DISAPPOINT THE DOWNTRODDEN.
It's time for Another Homeless Person Adventure!
Today, between my therapist and my job, and between hunger and lunch, there stood The Chipotle Grill. (I've a long sidebar that deals with serious issues touched upon by the chipotle grill, but I'm going to exhibit something I rarely make time for in my writing: restraint.) I went in, against my will – last week, I became entangled in a consumptive love affair with The Chipotle Grill that lasted two days and ended, unsurprisingly, in heartbreak and self-loathing – and walked out afflicted by an unspoken regret so profound in its dignified silence that it was practically Victorian.
I considered throwing out the taco sack. (It contained one chicken, one veggie; one in a hard shell and one in a soft. They fucked up which filling went in which shell, no matter how many times I repeated my order. This mistake nearly ruined the meal for me, and my mind quickly assembled three or four other reasons to feel disappointed. My mind always has a few of these on reserve.) Then, as my office drew near, I started hatching a plan to get rid of these tacos in the most responsible and ethical way possible. I figured, given the quality of the neighborhood, my chances of encountering a panhandler along the way were VERY-FINE to MINT. (Where my nerds at?) I made a deal with myself: if I crossed paths with one of New York's Filthiest between here and work, that homeless person would find himself celebrating Taco Day. If no homeless people were to be found I would eat the tacos in the dark, and salt them with my stinging, self-hating tears.
Sure enough, with just three pee-stained doorways between me and my office, I saw a cup-jangling homeless man squatting on a building stoop, beneath a doorway marked "EMPLOYMENT CENTER." When he asked me for cash I said, "How about some lunch?" and handed him the taco sack.
"What's in it?" he asked. "Coffee?" That seemed like a weird guess, though I suppose it's what he wanted and he just took the image from his imagination, and pulled it out through his mouth.
I was pleased he thought it was coffee, because I knew it meant he would be presently surprised when he opened the bag to discover tacos – a food that has been kicking coffee's sorry ass for hundreds of years. I couldn't resist, though – I suppose I wanted credit. I said, "Nope. Tacos, man. TACOS!"
The homeless guy looked at the sack as if it contained spiders, and just said, "Aw, man!" Then he got the attention of someone standing next to him, and gave him a look that suggested, "Can you believe my shitty luck? I HATES ME SOME TACOS." I shrugged, wished him luck, and continued along the way, trying to forget that I now needed to add homeless guys with sensitive stomachs to my never-ending list of people I've disappointed.
During the Russian Revolution, children were sometimes dragged from their homes and eaten alive.
HOW TO OWE THE FRUIT MAFIA BIG-TIME.
The fruit stand guy seemed perfectly fine yesterday. He looked like a fruit stand guy – short, squat, baggy sweatshirt beneath his blue apron, sagging pants, fingers like cigars, and a wool newsie cap screwed down tight as a jar lid on his bean bag of a head. He acted like a fruit stand guy, snapping a paper sack open with a flick of the wrist. He even spoke like a fruit stand guy, stringing all his words together to ask questions like "wattulitbee?" There was no reason to suspect any foul play.
I purchased two bananas – ripe ones – and he smiled as I folded a $5 bill into his fingerless gloved hand. His face was rippled with fat wrinkles, and full of rosy health. And, when he rested his unwrapped and half-eaten bagel sandwich on a bunch of oranges to free up his banana hand, it was business as usual.
But today the fruit stand guy was not alone. While he chatted up a girl in Apple Bottom jeans, his eyes occasionally darting up the block, and they negotiated over the right selection of apples, a second fruit stand attendant took my order. He was a wiry, loose-limbed hispanic kid with braids peeking out beneath his knit ski cap. Polite as all get-out, he plunked five navel oranges into a bag, made with a lot of pleases and thank yous, and sent me on my way.
I wondered why it would require two men to operate a fruit stand that, by itself, was no more than five feet wide and half as high. Then, just as I was turning away, I noticed the fruit stand guy had a new addition to his rosy countenance: a painful-looking shiner beneath his left eye. Was his new employee protection? Or was he a low-level member of a gang, assigned to make sure the fruit stand guy wasn't cheating the bag man when he came around to collect? And isn't muscling a fruit stand guy the kind of crime that only happens in comic books? Either way, I felt sorry for the guy, but not sorry enough to pay $3.99 a pound for his SHITTY FUCKING STRAWBERRIES.*
*this is what's known as a tight wrap-up. you can't premeditate this kind of thing. it usually only happens when you're being called away from your computer or it's 12:40 a.m. and you're wondering if you've time to watch M. Night Shamalama's 'The Village' before you go to sleep. Next time, I'll work harder.
HOW TO WRITE YOUR MORNING PAGES.
This morning, I greeted the woman who rings up my coffee in the mall and she greeted me in return. Since she was neither behind the counter nor in uniform – I even told her, very squarely, “you’re in civilian clothing today” because I have a rapier’s wit – I consider this exchange a friendly, non-transactional one. I am quickly learning that the path to attaining “regular” status isn’t about putting in the hours; it’s just a matter of consistency. I’ve purchased coffee from her exactly 11 times now, all in the space of three weeks. That has bought me more inter-personal credit than the months (years?) of on-again, off-again consumption at any number of locations in my Brooklyn neighborhood.
In fact, the (often distractingly beautiful) women at the coffee shop nearest my apartment rarely acknowledge me, and I treat them in kind. My attitude toward them, and theirs toward me, is a chicken-and-egg dilemma. I’m not sure if I’m indifferent to them because of their aloofness, or if they’ve grown cold to me as a result of my unconscious desire to deny them the additional privilege of flattery heaped on to the already colossal mountain of male attention they receive all day long. (My optometrist and I have nicknamed this coffee shop “Scores, with caffeine” because of the management’s insistence on recruiting slithering, preening underage coffee vixens for the busy evening shifts. There are so many problems with this coffee shop – amazingly, all unrelated to each other – that I don’t entirely understand its tremendous impact on my neighborhood. Actually, reading back the previous sentence, and the one before that, I guess I do understand its tremendous impact – part of it, anyway. The part known as “titties.”) Either way, I could probably show up at this coffee shop for another ten years and never know the name of a single person behind that counter, mostly due to the irregularity of my visits. Also, many of the employees have Israeli names and those are difficult to pronounce, and just as difficult to remember. They should just insist their employees take on stage names like Raven, Silk, Krystal and Juggsworth Jigglebottoms III.
When I made my memorable quip re: civilian clothing to the woman who rings up my coffee in the mall, her response (with arms stretched above her head) was, “it’s my FREE day!” This struck me as odd, since we were having this conversation in the mall, 24 inches from the coffee counter. She then joined her manager, who was leaning against the sugar bar with a clipboard, interviewing a young man with shaggy hair and a soul patch. The manager asked, “tell me a little more about yourself – your interests, your schedule, and your experience at Starbucks as a barista.” She stretched out the word “barista,” bridging it across two continents. The prospective employee, standing in the middle of the mall, huddled in his buttoned pea coat, considered her question and answered each part of it beginning with carefully coded key words. Like this: “More about me…My schedule is…As far as my experience as a barista…”
I spent a few more minutes listening to the interview, as I made myself late for work. I often catch myself complaining about my job, but I really have no perspective. I was sort of amazed that this guy was close to my age and had to conduct a job interview in the middle of mall traffic, standing up, in his winter coat, while total strangers (like me) eavesdropped over their frozen lattes. Moments later, I arrived at my desk, like I do every day, dressed in civilian clothing.
HOW TO ACT LIKE A BLUE STATE.
Living in a city crowded with pedestrian traffic has its advantages. For one, people are less likely to notice when you've wet yourself. Also, I can stick up my middle fingers on the subway and scream, "YEAH, YOU! WITH THE SHITTY FACE!" and at least 40 people have to fight it out to decide who is the recipient of my unprovoked hostility. Generally, when that many people have to divide the blame of a double-bird, their own anger dissipates pretty quickly and all is forgiven.
Most days – particularly since the proliferation of cell phones, which allow the user to comfortably spread his self-involved wings and shamble along like a half-retarded geriatric even as the world clucks its tongue and pushes along behind at twice their pace – I get to overhear pretty wonderful bits of conversation. When I consider this inexpensive pleasure, it produces in me a certain amount of pity for the people of Los Angeles, as that city has the population of a large city without the public density. (this pity is unmarried to other LA-based pity over their unfortunate earthquakes and mudslides and plague of blister beetles genital warts.) LA residents seem to spend most of their days alone, in their cars, and miss out on this kind of thing. But in New York, eavesdropping is our compensation for living in a city with a paucity of good radio stations. Other people's conversations operate at every possible frequency – sweet, wise, evil, embarrassing.
I might have written about this before – I rarely remember anything I've written down, though I suspsect people think I'm making this fact up to cover up for some perverse pleasure I receive at hearing people repeat my own written words back to me – but nearly every time I sit down at a coffee shop or bar by myself, I end up inadvertently sitting next to a couple on a first date. One of the all-time great instances of this was being seated next to a blind date couple at Grey Dog Coffee. The woman was clearly a lonely careerist, set up by friends with a plotless stoner who, in his own words, watches A LOT of Northern Exposure. (In response to her innocent inquiry, "what have you been up to for the last six months, if you haven't had a job?" he replied, "have you seen that show Northern Exposure?" It got better from there.) He proceeded to spill a treasure chest filled with gems of socially disaffected awkwardness, each one more valuable than the last.
Naturally, I felt creepy writing them all down but I started to convince myself it was an historical responsibility. Without his apostles to record all of the good stuff, Jesus would have just been some ashy-skinned guy who went apeshit on a bunch of money-changers in the open market. His whole story would be "remember that guy the Roman guards hauled off last week? He had crazy eyes! I think he might have been a tweaker."
When asked what he had done recently that he was most proud of – at this point the date had deteriorated into a desperate interview session – the young gentleman proceeded to describe, in absolutely loving detail, a metal pipe cage he soldered together to house his Batman action figure. This cage clearly had a significant spiritual purpose, even if it lacked a more immediate, practical one. I could tell, in the way outlined the process of choosing the pipe gauge, that this Batman cage was Something I Finished™. An item on an imaginary To Do list that he'd been wearing like a yoke for months. He probably had the lengths of pipe in his apartment for weeks and weeks before ever picking up that soldering gun and Batman figure. But now he was Done! He was a man.
That was a long time ago, and I still remember every nuance of the conversation more than many more seemingly important ones in which I've actually been an active participant. I wrote a lot of it down, while pretending to be inspired by something entirely different. I know how to make those faces.
A couple of nights ago, still well within the shadow of the East Asian tsunamis, I was eating at a restaurant. (I AM A CALLOUS BRUTE) The room was cramped, and the patrons were seated at narrow, contiguous tables, making it a dining experience that was both communal and intimate. At one point another diner seated at a table directly to my left was scanning the menu silently. He took it all in for about a minute or two. Then, finally, his eyes widened to saucers, and he effused, "OH MY GOD LOOK AT ALL THESE BRUSCHETTA!" He said it with such un-self-conscious conviction that he could have just as easily made that statement while staring at a menu, seated on a pile of flaming kittens. We are all alone here, together.
HOW TO RENT A CUBICLE.
I've just started a new job. It's been a very long time since I worked in an office, so I wanted to make an impression. I lined my cube with Successories® desk accessories and posters, making sure to choose from the "most popular themes" section of their online store. (I picked up ENDURANCE, COMMITMENT, PASSIVE-AGGRESSION, KNOWING WHEN TO KEEP YOUR FAT MOUTH SHUT, FARMING IT OUT TO INDIA, SUBTLE CONDESCENSION, SOBBING IN THE COMPANY WASHROOM and their #1 best-seller, COCAINE.)
I bought a bunch of collectible figures from the Beatles' Yellow Submarine and The Family Guy and left them, still in their blister-paks, in neat rows along my desk. (It barely left me any room for my Stress Balls so I had to keep those tucked away in my rolling file cabinet, but fuck it. You can't put a price on projecting the most intimate details of your personality, can you?)
Since I sit with my back to the office – my desk faces a postage stamp vending machine – I draped a funny t-shirt over the back of my chair. I found it online. It says, "KISS MY WHITE ASS, DICKLICKS!" –– Oscar Wilde. Whatever! Writers are infamous for being smart-asses, and I can roll with the best of them.
I packed a snuggly cardigan sweater in my storage cubby for days when the AC is just too darn cold, and I packed a pair of Reebok training shoes for the days when my heels are killing me. Also, I filled a candy dish with condoms and placed it by my computer.
Then I plastered a series of Dilbert comic strips – I had the ones from the sunday papers laminated – around my desk and on my overhead shelves. This was sort of a problem, though. One of the human resources people told me that other employees sort of frown upon this practice. "You kind of have to earn these," she said. Apparently, you can gradually post relevant comic strips over time, to create a very funny narrative of your life as an office-worker, but it's considered poor etiquette to front-load a bunch of strips at once. People need to see something new at your desk every once in a while, to give them something to chat about with you. It usually goes like this:
THEM: "Hey there. Working hard?"
YOU: "More like hardly working!"
THEM: "Yeah, I wish! Say, I haven't seen this Dilbert."
[4 second pause]
THEM: "Heh. That's a good one. OK, later."
YOU" "Please kill me."
THEM: "Did you just say something?"
YOU: (shaking head) "Mmm-mm. You going to Thirsty Thursdays?"