…common tales of laughter and inspiration from everyday assholes

From Chip H., Connecticut

         My buddy Booker and I are sitting in his office having a few afternoon shots and we’re haggling about this receipt he’s supposed to be giving me from this phony charity of his. Every year before tax time he hands them out to anyone who’s done him a favor and this year I figure it’s my turn. Granted, I haven’t done him any favors recently, but back in school I was always floating him cash and picking up his tabs when the check from his dad was spent.
         He’s saying, “I’m supposed to write you a receipt for how much? And what am I getting for my risk?”
         And I’m like, “Booger, we’re buddies,” and he’s just shaking his head.
          “Chip,” he goes, “Chipper, give me one good reason I should stick my neck out for you. You slept with my first wife before the wedding, you slept with her after the wedding, and for all I know you’re still boning her.”
          “Oh please,” I go, “That was three years ago, and you’ve stolen your share of girlfriends and fiancées from me. Plus, dude, you never paid me back for all those bar tabs back in school.”
         Then he starts to get pissed and goes in on a tirade about why does he bother to manage this charity, which like I told you is completely sham, why but to help out his pals who need a little break at tax time, and why should he do anything for someone who’s done nothing but backstab him since college?
         Just then his executive assistant walks in. She’s an old school biddy, looks like my kindergarten teacher. Seems like Booker could have gotten himself a more trim piece of EA ass, but then he is whipped…all the guys say that second wife of his is a real Hillary.
         So she comes barreling in, and she’s overheard a little of what’s going on, and she’s all, “Excuse me, gentlemen, but aren’t we losing sight of what’s really important here?”
         And since we’re staring at her sort of slackjawed, she prompts us, “The children! That’s why Mr. Booker has set up this marvelous charity to support inner-city education. It’s not about getting a break on your taxes, or who’s sleeping with whose wife! It’s about the children.”
         Well, for a moment there no one said anything, and it just felt like, Yeah! And then Booker and I looked at each other, and man, we just busted up.
         We laughed and laughed until tears came to our eyes, and she just kind of backed out of the office with this terrified expression, which only made us laugh harder. Needless to say, Booker filled out that receipt for a nice fat sum and took me out for a martini on top of it.

* * *

         I look back today on this episode in my life, nearly two months ago, and my heart is truly warmed. Booker and I are better pals than ever, I got a nice refund from Uncle Sam, and we had a good laugh into the bargain. I guess the moral of the story is that every dollar you pretend to give to sham charities is more than repaid in sheer camaraderie and belly-busting guffaws, and I just thank God, Booker, and the U. S. of A. for reminding me of what’s really important at tax time. The children.

         Look, lady, I'm not the devil, and you're not the Gestapo....Harassment is a two-way street.
         —Larry, Sprint telemarketer

From David R., California

         On the spur of the moment one night my lady friend and me decided to see this play. Generally we’d rather see an action flick or something, but we were staggering down the street and saw the sign and decided we’d support the performing arts. It was her idea, honest, but it looked like there would be some naked girls in it, which meant even if it was boring as hell I’d have something to go on, you know what I mean.
         So we went in and paid and I asked the ticket lady where the best seats are and she said in the front row. “So you can feel their breath on your face,” she said.
         We set ourselves down in the front row and when they turned the lights off I pulled the sack out of my pocket and we passed it back and forth for a time.
         Well, the play was real deep. Lots of like emotional stuff and tender moments between ladies and that kind of thing. I waited and waited for the titty and when one of the ladies finally took her top off I was feeling so much support for the arts and shit, I had to whoop a little. My lady was laughing next to me and grabbing me hard. We were both getting real excited and the ladies were taking more clothes off and then some dance music came on and they started whipping each other and dancing around.
         I guess we misunderstood because we stood up and started in dancing. The people behind us got peeved at that point and told us to sit down. I guess we were just really uplifted though because we didn’t really feel like sitting down just then, but when the ticket lady walked up and grabbed me by the arm I decided maybe I needed to hit the can. My lady friend lurched up the aisle and sat down in some guy’s lap. She was all kind of entangled so I bailed and waited for her out on the sidewalk. I finished a cigarette before she made it outside and there was puke on her shoe, but what the hey. I stuck my tongue down her throat and we walked away down the street, me with my hand inside her shirt, feeling like the hottest dude in all the Mission.
         Well, I guess it all goes to show that a little run-in with authority can really bring two people together and you should always support your local small theatre art scene. We had some great sex that night, I think.

         I have learned that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is stalk them and hope they panic and give in.
         —Popular wisdom, via forwarded email

From Carrie S., New York

         Well, it’s actually kind of hard for me to say what inspires me. It’s not like I was raised in a Ghetto or something and had to overcome all this adversity. I mean, I totally respect anyone who was raised in the Ghetto, it’s just that’s not me. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that keep you going, like a really great shopping day when you come home and pile all your purchases on your new Satin comforter, which smells great because Lupe just picked it up from the Cleaners, and you spend an hour or so removing the tags from your new clothes with some nice new super-sharp little nail scissors, and folding the bags, which are sort of incredibly fun all by themselves in a certain way—all those beautiful shop logos, the soft or satiny feel of the paper, the quality of the handles, whether they’re plastic or satin ribbon or twisted paper, and how they’re attached to the bag itself, and sometimes you know if a shop has like a poor-quality bag you won’t go back there again, so you use that bag to put some old stockings or underthings or soaps or whatever in to throw them away or give to Lupe, but the good bags you stack neatly and you put them in the spare closet with your coats from last season. And then you look at everything you bought and try it all on in different combinations and if you’re lucky, and this is the inspiring part I was talking about earlier, everything looks really great and you still like it and you don’t have to fish out the tag and bag so you can return it tomorrow. —That’s the kind of little thing that really gives me the courage to face tomorrow with my head high, knowing I have a cute Outfit for whatever the day may bring.
         But come to think of it, there was something that happened to me not too long ago that was just really, really inspiring in this amazing way. But subtle too, if you know what I mean. The four of us girls—Carrie (me!), Ellen, Kelly and Leanne—went to the Spa for the day and had facials, manicures, pedicures, and massages and afterwards, we sat down in their little café for some Falafel and grilled veggies.
         And this waitress came up to me—she wasn’t even our waitress or anything—and started talking to me. Apparently she was in my MBA program. I was kind of taken aback and totally didn’t recognize her, but could I possibly get stopped at parties or on the street or whatever any MORE often by people who say they know me? OK, I’m like, I don’t know you at all....But this girl, her name’s Baisi according to her nametag, started telling me about her Journey of Enlightenment, how she dropped out of the program to pursue a career in Massage, and how she’s just working in the café to help out in the meantime. And how Yoga and Pilates totally transformed her and how she just has all her priorities straight now. FINALLY she asked me what I was doing and I told her about the Consulting Company I started and she asked me about it and Kelly and Leanne in the meantime were just sitting there drinking their Smoothies and kind of just glazing over, but Ellen was looking at me with her Eyebrow thing that means she’s not getting enough attention and I could tell she wanted to talk about HER job, which is this incredibly hip, exciting, important Video Production thing, so I stopped and asked her how she was doing, and she stretched and said “That massage just felt sooooo good after my INCREDIBLY stressful week,” and Baisi smiled and said “That’s wonderful, do you work with Carrie?” and Ellen just looked at her like Drop Dead, and said “You know, I’m just really not in the HEADSPACE right now to talk about my WORK...with the waitstaff,” and gave her this big Fake-Sorry smile.
         And while Baisi ran off to the kitchen to recover from that little Zinger, the four of us sat there and shared this just incredible feeling of Belonging and Warmth. And even though I can’t stand Ellen anymore and we haven’t talked for like months, I’ll always remember her special ability to make her friends feel like members of an exclusive club. Making people feel like they belong. It’s an incredible Talent.

         At what point does one stop being a jerk and start being a sociopath?
         —Jeffrey Waybright

         There was once a young man who yearned for wisdom and enlightenment, so much so that he left all his worldly belongings, family and friends to study with a famed sage, an old man who lived in a hut on the shore of the ocean under a huge, menacing cliff.
         He travelled for many days and had many strange and famous adventures before finding his way at last to the wise man’s hovel on the rocky, storm-swept beach. He went to the old man, who sat in a carved chair near the fire. He knelt at the old man’s feet, pressed his head to the ground, and spoke for the last time: “I am your student.
         The old man laid a hand on the young man’s head, lifted it, and pointed to his great and ancient staff of runes and hidden wisdom. Before the seeker of knowledge could demonstrate his respect to this sacred and famed relic, the old sage knocked him flat with a mighty blow of the staff across his shoulder.
         Thus began a strange tutelage filled with inexplicable violence and castigation and great learnings of the spirit undertaken. The student spent hours in meditation, kneeling in the sand in blissful oblivion while the old man’s driftwood staff pummeled his body. He also labored, digging for clams in the wet sand. He was never allowed to eat the clams, but lived on seaweed and rainwater. The old sage made him till the sand with a plough for hours and hours in the sun. He would till a whole acre or more, then turn to find the winds had hidden all signs of his labors. Then he would be beaten. Those were serene, blessed days.
         Whenever it stormed, he was curtly turned out of doors and forced to make repairs to the hut. As a consequence of these labors, his health was frail, yet he welcomed any illness, for he trusted that it was all part of the journey towards wisdom. Frequently he flailed himself into states of ecstasy with sharp flat swords of seaweed. After once seeing him punish himself thus, the old sage frequently sent him out to whip himself.
         This state of affairs, along with even rougher and more enlightening treatment, went on for many a long year, yet the pupil did not give up his hope for true wisdom, nor did his ultimate faith in his teacher ever waver. He felt sure that the sage was imparting valuable lessons to him through the façade of humiliation, hard labor and cruelty. In his meditations, the façade itself became a beautiful metaphor to him, and he often marveled at the novel ways his master taught him.
         After many years of struggle, he started to look forward more and more to his ultimate initiation into wisdom. It seemed his teacher disagreed. For another 1/7 of his mortal lifespan the student was detained on those cruel shores, overseeing an effort to build an elaborate lean-to on the south side of the hut, a beautiful lean-to with skylight and lanai.
         It was a labor of love, and on the day it was finished, and the old sage consented to stand in the center of it and smoke his pipe, the student’s patience expired. He picked up the brush he’d lately been using to stencil a border of fanciful clams and seaweed festoonery on the lean-to’s cleanly plastered walls. A soulful, beseeching look in his eyes, the pupil broke the brush in half.
         Wild-eyed glee transformed the old sage’s demeanor. He seized his student by the arm and hauled him out of the hut and down the beach into the icy waters of the ocean.
         They walked out, fighting the waves together, the student restraining his urge to shout with joy, but letting his salty tears flow freely at this momentous occasion in his education. When the waves were about chest-high and the men could hardly keep their footing, the teacher turned to the student and put both hands lovingly on his shoulders. Then he pushed him forcefully under the water. And sat on him.
         As the student struggled underwater to keep his beloved teacher above the waves, he found shortly that he urgently wanted to breathe, that he was exhausted after only a few moments of this. To his amazement, his body gladly gave up. Limp in the crashing seas, he waited eagerly for his well-deserved epiphany of wisdom to crash upon him. All his hard work and can-do attitude of the past years had led him to this moment. Weak from his deprivations, he lasted only a moment before everything went black.
         He lost all consciousness of ego and swam in a dream of blackness, as if his identity were dissolving in the harsh saltwater. He felt himself part of a great cosmic oneness. He remembered his name.
         When at last he came to, he was half-buried in sand—washed up on the shore, covered in seaweed and vomiting saltwater. He dragged himself back up the shore to the hut, but his master was nowhere to be seen. Too excited by the immense personal journey from which he had just returned to stay at home, he kept walking down the beach until he reached the next building in sight, a shanty pub with walls made of fishnets. Peering inside, he spied his teacher raising a glass with a crowd of merrymakers. His chest suffused with manic joy, he rushed in to his guru and embraced him.
         But the old sage shook him off brusquely and shouted, while his companions jeered and hooted. He looked at his pupil for a moment, then shook his head and turned back to his stein. “I thought I drowned you,” he said.

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