Too Polite for a Man My Size

The Winter quarter is coming to an end which means air travel is once again right around the corner. But I have learned from my past transgressions. My one bag is packed weighing in under 50 pounds, I have put my overcompensating smile away, and I have enough books to make it around the world without ever having to talk to another person. But no matter how prepared I may be, there is still one villain lurking, waiting for me.

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My nemesis. We meet again.

I was not built for airplane seating. It’s not that I am particularly fat — I can buckle my seat belt just fine — but I am just wide. I’m a big guy with big manly shoulders and arms that require the use of both armrests to cradle my rippling biceps and stuff. Plus my legs can’t fit comfortably in my own car, lot less wedged behind a man reclining back in his seat so far that he’s practically in my lap.

This all is uncomfortable enough but it is made a thousand times worse

by my ridiculous politeness. You have to have a certain arrogance to be big on an airplane, or at least to be big and comfortable. You have to take the space you need, other passengers be damned. That’s why you hear so many horror stories about obnoxious flyers, those guys know what’s up and how to make it work.

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You see a pest. I see a hero.

I, on the other hand, am always so worried about making others uncomfortable that I would go to great lengths for your comfort. I make myself as small as I possibly can, pulling my arms in tight to my body, leaving both armrests free. I try to avoid any sort of contact. Accidental arm touching, eye contact, pesky breathing. It’s three hours of very focused hell. It is very hard to write without my elbows invading my neighbors space but I try. And then put it away after accidentally crossing over the armrest into enemy territory and the writing operation is deemed to risky.

I am always spitting out apologies for any misstep. Apologies that are usually met with a grunt as he falls back to sleep. Once we land, my neighbors will exit the plain after a “comfortable” ride and go about their day, completely unaware of the sacrifice I made. But a great man does not seek praise for the service he provides.

So tomorrow, I will board a plane headed home and suffer in silence so that everyone can travel in peace.

An Ode to Mike Birbiglia

When I set out to write this blog I was deeply inspired by my favorite comedian Mike Birbiglia, the king of the awkward man.

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Ladies and gentlemen…my hero.

There isn’t anything particularly offensive or rude about Birbiglia’s comedy, just a fun series of awkward stories. And if you haven’t noticed, I kinda gravitate to that sort of humor.

I remember listening to him a lot during the summer before my freshman year of high school. I was working detail at Westside Lexus and my coworkers would always listen to the radio while we cleaned the cars, except they always would play spanish radio stations. Feeling left out, I asked my boss if he wouldn’t mind letting me listen to my iPod while I worked. Fortunately he agreed, so I was able to enjoy scrubbing car tires a little easier.

I kept listening to Birbiglia’s album My Secret Public Journal. In it he chronicles his misadventures at charity golfing outingsawkward computer viruses, and even worse run-ins with professional baseball players.

In the end he recounts a conversation with his therapist about what to do with all of these stories that cause him so much anxiety when she gave him the idea to create his Secret Public Journal. Basically it was a blog where he would write all of his embarrassing stories and presents them to the world to show himself that these horrifying anxieties that he faces can’t really hurt him. These stories would fuel his comedy, a book, and even a movie. And then inspire this blog. So I think it worked out for him.

So I just wanted to take the time to give my hero his due. Below is the trailer to his film Sleepwalk with Me:

 

 

The S Stands for S

Whenever I write I like to credit my name as Chase S. Wilkinson. It sounds nice. I always liked writers who published with their middle initial in their names. It made them seem dignified, as if what they had to say warranted more merit. When I began playing with the idea of seeing my name in print, I tried out different ways of presenting my name. Chase Wilkinson just never had that punch. I needed something more. I needed to try things the Grant way. I needed the “S.”

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Thank you, Ulysses.

I played around with it for a while, but it always felt so pompous to me. It never felt like it was really my name. That was until I went to get my driver’s license.

My middle name is Stephen. It’s just like my father’s middle name, which is just like his father’s first name. That is unless you ask the state of Texas, but then they’ll just blame Cleveland, Ohio. Because on my birth certificate, printed in Cleveland, OH where I was born, has a typo. According to them my middle name is Steohen.

I saw this a few years before getting my license and thought nothing of it. I mean, my name is right on my social security card. No harm, no foul.

Except the lady at the DMV didn’t think so. According to her, my middle name was Steohen and the only way to put any other name on my driver’s license was to legally change my name. Well that seemed like a hassle, so I asked her, “What other options do I have?”

“Well you can just have your first and last name or you can put your middle initial,” she growled.

So I went with the initial. And now I sign everything Chase S. Wilkinson. It just seems right, now.

 

I Just Wanted a Glass of Water

Bars make me ridiculously paranoid.  Probably because I’m supposed to have never been in one, seeing how I am still 20 years old and underage. But I’ve looked like I was 21 since I was 12 so I’ve never been given any problems.

I would love to avoid bars but unfortunately my parents like to go and if I want any family bonding time I have to tag along. There is one bar around town called Cindy’s Downtown where they like to go. They’re good friends with everyone who works there and I don’t make a lot of ruckus so no one ever really gives me any problems for being under 21.

The entire time I sit at my bar stool, sipping my water, barely aware of the conversation because I am constantly worried that at any moment a cop is going to burst into the bar and arrest me.

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Hydrate somewhere else!

I’m not drinking, I’m not causing a scene, and I’m there with my parents. I am doing nothing wrong of any kind  and yet that arbitrary rule of “You Must Be 21 to Enter” looms over my head. I’m not a rule breaker. I’ve written on this blog about how I rarely even jay walk. So I can never relax.

I mean, I never even really want to be in that bar anyway, so I always seem to dwell on how stupid it would be to get in trouble for being in a situation where I really didn’t want to be in the first place. But still I go, containing my worries silently in my head as I stare blankly at the sports game on the TV, knowing that any moment a cop is planning a bust and has me in the crosshairs.

Let Me Love You

I have this need to say “I love you” at least once a day. It’s like a tic. Like I might go crazy if I don’t say it at least once to someone. Anyone. Well not anyone. I don’t tell the barasitas at Starbucks that I love them. That would be chaos.

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Dude, it’s just coffee.

But I do tell my parents, my sister, some of my friends, my stuffed dog Bosco, certain television characters….

Sometimes I’ll just text people randomly in the middle of the night things like “Hey, I love you. I just thought you should know.” Which is always met with the response, “What’s wrong? Are you dying?”

My favorite thing about being back at home is just being able to tell my mom I love her as many times as I want. At school, I have to jump through hoops to get my fix. But at home, I just let the “I love you”s fly.

So much so that I think she’s grown annoyed by my constant affection. I don’t even have conversations anymore. Just a steady string of “I love you”s to break up the silence. Most of the time she smiles, but after about the seventeenth “I love you” of the hour she just kinda tunes them out. So I have to throw her off speed pitches, hiding the “I love you” with elaborate set-ups.

“Hey mom, I read this really cool article today. It said that scientists at MIT have finally determined that I love you.”

I have fun with it.

I don’t really know why I feel so compelled to constantly say “I love you.” I think somewhere in there I am scared that if I don’t constantly say it, I might never hear it back.  So I just say it all the time.

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Sissa Busted My Nose

My sister threw a soft ball at my face when I was three and broke my nose. OK, maybe she didn’t break it but sometimes when I stare at my face in the mirror I swear that my nose is crooked and I blame her.

It was a bright day in Minnesota and my sister (13 at the time) was outside throwing the ball around, practicing for a game she had later that week. My dad was off at work and my mom was busy cleaning up around the house so my sister was forced to bring out the pitch back net.

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This thing would prove to be the bane of my existence.

I was fascinated by this thing. She would throw the ball at the net, the springs would catch it and send it flying back to her. But I didn’t really know how it worked. I just saw her throwing the ball and having it come back to her like it was a work of magic. You know, because I was three.

So because I am a scientist, I decided that the proper way to watch this feat of wizardry was from inside the pitch back net. I waited until my sister took a break and climbed in between the posts, inside the upside down V.

When she came back she told me to get out from under there, but I didn’t because I was determined to see my experiment out.

“Just throw it, Brandi. It’s not gonna hit me,” I egged her on.

“Yes it is, Chase. Now move.”

Obviously she didn’t understand how glorious this magical piece of technology was.

“Nuh uh! Throw it!”

“I swear, I’m gonna hit you if you don’t move.”

“Throw it. It’s gonna be cool.”

“Alright then.”

And then she threw it. Really. She did. Like wound up and pelted me in the face like she was Cat freakin’ Osterman or something.

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When I close my eyes, I still see this.

The pitch back net was not magic in the end. It was cheap nylon rope tied to springy hooks. The ball came back and smacked me in the nose. Blood gushed and I cried and my mom yelled and my simply just stood there shocked  that she was actually getting punished. “He told me to throw it!”

We joke  about it now. Every time we hang out, it has to get brought up at least once and we always devolve into the same argument. She insists that she told me to move. And I always say that I didn’t know how it worked, that I thought magic would save my face. Disclaimer: magic never saves your face.

But in the end, I got the last laugh because I got to go and watch Power Rangers while my sister was grounded for god knows how long.

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Totally worth it.