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The People You Meet On Buses

August 23, 2015
Megabus

For reasons I cannot explain in fear of alienating half of the people reading this, I’ve taken a lot of bus rides over the past few months, more bus rides than you’ll probably ever take in your entire life. What might feel like a massive inconvenience to most people has been an unexpected gift for me.

For four months, I lived in an apartment in NYC that costs more than ­all of rubies on the Crown Jewel combined. Crammed into a two-bedroom house with two other girls, each with their own established routines and friend groups that know the walls of this urban cave better than I do, I learned not to expect privacy. That costs extra in the city. During the day, I could curl up in a coffee shop or a bookstore but when night rolled around, people started to question the quiet girl who had spent 10 hours sitting in the corner, plugging away at her keyboard. When their eyes screamed “You’ve had enough of this place,” I was forced to retreat to my shared bedroom in midtown, with its paper thin walls and its 24-hour television chatter that’s always set to a volume more appropriate for nursing homes. I’d type in the deskless, semi-silence of the bedroom, trying to drown out the Empire soundtrack seeping through the door crack with my analytical thoughts on “The Rise of Franchises, Volume 3.”

Buses were my reprieve. Little havens of silence on wheels, buses are filled with people too exhausted at the thought of a four-hour trip to even consider speaking. A woman with a very important call once attempted to speak on such a trip, only to be reprimanded by the driver on multiple occasions over the intercom, like a young mom trying to punish her child through public humiliation causing not only the child but also everyone around him to shift in their seats and wish away their vicarious discomfort. In other words, they are perfect for working, and I welcome them as much as I welcome unannounced free samples or unseasonably warm days in March. Despite the expectation of these “chatter-free” zones, there are some individuals that challenge the system and force me into conversation, overlooking (sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently) the aura of unapproachability that I try so desperately to give off.

A few weeks ago, I boarded my usual bus on Sunday afternoon and plopped down in a seat nearest to the door, in case the bus driver’s reckless maneuvering finally put me in the position of needing a quick escape. (These thoughts become commonplace after the third or fourth trip when you realize the bus crash statistics are working against you.) The Sunday bus is never packed. I like to think it’s because New York scared most of the tourists away with its high prices and eccentricity by the previous afternoon, but realistically, I know that a weekend trip to the city in the middle of winter is not an appealing idea to most people. Once the Rockefeller tree is gone, the only attractions in Manhattan are clumsy ice skaters and metro performers.

There are three unspoken rules that exist on bus rides as far as I’m concerned: Don’t be disruptive, don’t eat any stinky food and don’t buddy up with a stranger unless every two-person seat has been checked for potential openings. I don’t want to be bumping knees with you unless you’ve exhausted all other options first. I mean, I know we’re going on a trip together but we still hardly know each other, respect my emotional boundaries, please.

Pushing my headphones deeper into my eardrums, I bundled up by the window and prepared to stare distantly out the glass for the next few hours. A woman shuffled onto the bus, squeezing her puffy coat through the doorway while trying to properly perch her bag on her jacket’s marshmallow shoulder pads. After making the long journey from the curb to the bus, the woman, whose attempt to inhale the entire bus’s oxygen supply had left her red in the face, took a quick look down the row of empty chairs before pointing at my backpack’s seat. “Um…here?” She poked the seat with her finger, half-smiling, half on the verge of bursting a lung, and as I moved my bag aside, I watched my anti-social plans disappear in a puff of smoke.

Silently lamenting the loss of my peaceful bus ride, I pressed my face closer to the window in the hope that I would merge with the glass and live out the rest of my days touring the countryside as a Megabus window. The woman beside me regained her breath just long enough to pick up her cell phone and make a phone call, breaking rule number one before the bus had even pulled away from the station. In the break between iPod songs, I caught parts of her frustrated conversation and realized, far too late, my impending involvement.

“What time this bus?” she said with the confidence of a person who thinks they’re asking a fully-constructed question.

“2pm.”

“What time?”

“The bus leaves this station at 10am and arrives in Boston at 2pm,” I replied in my best flight attendant voice, hoping its sheer cheeriness would placate her curiosity and release me to my comfortable traveling daze.

“Now?” she persisted.

“It’s 9:50. We’re leaving here in 10 minutes.”

“Here.” She handed me the phone and turned back to her purse, adopting a look of nonchalance that said “Could you just figure it out?” Did I have a choice?

“Hello?”

“I’m so sorry. She does this a lot.” I recognized the exasperated tone of a daughter who, from the sound of it, had probably been through this routine one too many times. After quickly explaining the bus schedule and receiving a shower of thank yous, I passed the phone back to my seatmate who spewed a few more gibberish words before tossing the phone back into her pocketbook.

I should’ve known when I put that phone up to my ear that I was tacitly agreeing to a four-hour friendship with this woman, that my tiny display of kindness would open up the conversation floodgates, but the angel on my shoulder clouded my judgment. My only viable option was to fake my own death or, at the very least, a sudden sleep attack that rendered me a useless travel companion but her determination to break my steely, anti-social exterior beat me to the punch.

“My daughter,” she said, pointing to the phone.

“She sounded nice!” My small talk ineptitude went over her head.

“She has baby. Two month. Look, look!” Rummaging through her bag, she pulled out her phone once more, scrolling through her photo album until she found her prize.

“Boy,” she said, pointing to a photo of a small child, unsurprisingly covered in an orange residue that once used to be his dinner. The woman flipped through the photos, giggling her way through each bathtub and naptime snapshot until she stumbled onto a picture of a squash.

“That’s not baby. That’s squash. We’re done now.” I was starting to feel bad for the phone who made yet another journey into the woman’s bag.

Our conversation progressed through the typical topics (work, school, “are you married with kids yet”), like two timid college roommates meeting each other for the first time or two people standing in line at the DMV who had been suffering together for far too long to be ignoring each other’s presence.

She told me how she had run a bodega in the city for ten years with her husband on the Lower East Side until it got shut down due to poor business. She told me how all of her kids had moved away, one to Long Island, another to California, another to Sweden (her home country), and how she never got to see her grandkids anymore. She told me other things but my mind had drifted to images of the baby and the squash and lingered there.

Maybe this is why I didn’t notice her violate rule number two and pull out a bag of chocolate-covered rice cakes halfway through our conversation or why I kept accepting samples of her snack, despite everything my mother told me about food and strangers. Logic told me that poisoning a girl on a four-hour bus ride when the group of roudy college students across the aisle were actively watching this grandmotherly force-feeding routine didn’t make sense. Plus, the woman could hardly carry her bag onto the bus. The likelihood of her being able to lug my body over her shoulder and walk through South Station was improbable. I stashed the last few pieces away, though, for evidence. Just in case.

With the bus station in sight, she started questioning what I did for work, secretly wondering why a 21-year-old girl was traveling alone to a small city with nothing but a backpack and an empty coffee cup, I’m sure.

“I’m hoping to get into television but I’m still working on it,” I mustered.

“My nephew. He works in TV in Sweden. You work for him!”

Part of me wanted to say yes to mystery TV producer in Sweden. After hearing so much about the importance of networking in the TV industry, it seemed like a sign, and maybe I would meet some cute Swedish boy and we’d get married and I’d tell the story about the serendipitous encounter with the woman on the Megabus, and she’d come up and give a speech in broken-English about how I’d become like another daughter to her, and everyone would cry, including your uncle’s friend who says he doesn’t know how to cry, which would make the moment that much more touching, and I’d promise her that I’d never move away like her kids did even though deep down, I knew I would because the city is a terrible place for a family, and she’d recognize my lie but appreciate it nonetheless because it’s the thought that counts.

I wrote my email and name down in the notes section of her phone and packed up my stuff as we pulled into the lot. She wobbled down the aisle and off the bus, glancing back at me every few second to ensure that I hadn’t escaped out the emergency window or hid away in the bathroom. We grabbed our bags and headed for the pick-up station, her clinging to my arm, me wondering if I’d unofficially adopted this woman as my pseudo-grandmother and should be preparing some sort of explanation for my family.

We walked through the glass doors out into the pick-up area, searching the streets for any idling drivers. As her pseudo-granddaughter, I accepted the phone that was handed to me without explanation and listened for that familiar voice on the other end.

“Hey! I’m on the corner in white. Do you see me?”

Turning towards the road, I saw a middle-aged woman standing across the street give a hesitant wave and we both laughed in relief as I pointed her out to my bus companion. I returned the phone to my friend, who promptly threw it back into her bag and pulled me in for that European double-cheek kiss that made the introvert in me squirm.

With a smile and a “have a good life,” she was gone. I watched her waddle across the street and embrace her daughter, who gave me one last “thank you” wave before guiding her mother to the car. I never heard from her again, not because she hated me (I hope) but because I’m certain that she forgot how to open the Notes app the second I handed it back to her. (Either that or she’s disappointed that the poison failed to kill me.) I returned home a few hours behind on homework but a few decades ahead on life as the image of the woman’s ruined bodega and scattered family buried itself deeper into my mind.

Did my plans to sit blissfully against the window during my five-hour bus ride pan out the way I thought they would? No. Did my bus buddy break all three of my unspoken traveller rules? Definitely. Would I do it again? Absolutely. A glimpse into the life of a stranger is worth a million bus rides.

Image via Flickr.

Meanest One-Star Book Reviews on Goodreads

January 12, 2015

The Internet is a dangerous place, especially for writers. Just when you think you’ve produced a high-quality piece of writing, you can be sure an online reviewer will show up to put you back in your place. But don’t fret. All writers receive negative criticism at some point in their life, even if the piece they’ve created is original and well-crafted. Take a look at these one-star book reviews from Goodreads if you don’t believe me:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me – Mindy Kaling

1) Jialan – I’d like to coin a new word called “Kaling,” that describes an intelligent but deeply superficial (or is it superficially deep?) young woman who might attain real talent if her own vanity didn’t get in the way. Her book is lazy (much of it composed of lists of trite and unfunny observations), and dashes the reader’s hopes by offering glimpses of warmth and insight only to veer back into appalling self-absorption.

2) Terri – I… I tried. I tried to read this book. I guess I was hoping that a comedy writer would be, you know, funny. About the time she got into filling us all in on her tough years, you know, those years when you’ve just graduated from an elite and expensive private college and you’re just not sure how you’re going to make it to the big-time but then you DO, I quit making an effort to read the book and started trying to leave it behind places. I tried to leave it in three hotels and at my dad’s house, where it was found and carefully returned to me each time. “I don’t want that book,” I said. “I don’t want it either,” everyone returning it to me said.

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

3) Shayne – Holden Caulfield is a punk-ass bitch. He doesn’t “embody cynical adolescence.” He embodies that dude you went to high school with, that was a dick to the study hall monitor for no reason, and liked to wipe his boogers on the bathroom wall while he peed in the urinal. I’d let Alex from A Clockwork Orange babysit my daughter before I’d spend a single minute with this over-hyped, chickenshit boy or the over-hyped, cherished-by-douches book with him as its star.
Skip this book. Just TELL people you read it. Here’s all you need to know: Holden says “goddam” a lot, gets kicked out of school, and wears a coonskin hat. Period. You’ll get by on that. Spend your time reading something worthwhile.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

4) Zeek – Halfway through and I don’t even care anymore. I’ll read the synopsis for the rest. If I want to read about shiftless rich people and their drunken machinations, I’ll read the Hollywood Reporter or TMZ.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

5) Gabrielle – Pathetic. Really pathetic. Harry Potter is more of a Mary-Sue than Eragon. More than Nancy Drew. More than the worst of fanfiction I’ve seen […]
Harry wasn’t any excuse for a hero. He did nothing, he just sat around and things happened to him. End of story. His fame was inherited, his fortune was inherited, he lived with his relations and allowed them to bully him, and couldn’t even manage to read his own mail. His wonderful skills were not worked at and studied for years but picked up instantly, and he bet the bad guys by electrocuting them with his infamous zapper skin […] This is a dangerous book. It made me consider both suicide and mass homicide, and it is definitely not suitable for children.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

6) Jason – Ayn Rand makes my eyes hurt. She does this, not by the length of her six-hundred-thousand word diatribe, but rather by the frequency with which she causes me to roll them.

7) Rob – If you’re into sprawling, barely coherent, I-are-mighty anti-Communist rants, then this is for you. I suppose in our moments of weakness, we can look to Ayn Rand’s philosophy to bring out our inner-super-humans. Except that really it’s just a polarized response to Marx and Lenin (whom I have found equally unpalatable). What’s that? You want me to separate the aesthetic elements from the philosophy? Sure thing. This book reads like an instruction manual for drawing right angles.

8) Nick – Have you ever wondered what an author spending 565,223* words describing an empty cork board would produce? This would be the result**.
* According to Amazon.
** Also applicable to her other brick, ‘The Fountainhead.’

9) Books Ring Mah Bells – Atlas shrugged and so did I.

Bossypants – Tina Fey

10) Bert – Those two stars you see above? That’s me being generous. Very generous. I changed my mind, one star is more than enough […] Far too often this book feels like Tina Fey dumped a manuscript on a publisher’s desk and said “this will do” and no one dared to point out “well, not exactly…” In fact, I repeatedly had the impression she wrote the book against her will, as if it was some kind of contractual obligation.I don’t get why she bothered to write a book about herself, when she clearly doesn’t want to reveal anything — which she inevitably does anyway, even though those things are masked by feeble punchlines and meandering anecdotes.Biggest disappointments are the pages where she answers online criticism (pointless and sad) and those where she recounts her imitations of Sarah Palin (preposterously self-important).

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

11) Oren – I want to give it zero stars. This book is a giant pile of pretentious drivel. With a thousand pages and hundreds of endnotes (endnotes dammit! you need two bookmarks for this shit!) it’s a book full of promises that are never delivered. By the end it feels like a practical joke has been perpetrated on you and the appropriate response is to punch the author in the face. Seriously, it would be a mild response. I feel that assaulting him blows to the head with a copy of the book would be considered a justifiable attack.

12) William – I must be missing something. Each page is like hand-to-hand combat. Extremely hard to digest. Like a meal of twigs and berries, might be good for you, but you want to push it aside nevertheless.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

13) Jeannette – The Mysterious Case of the Shrinking Rating!
Oh, kiddies. I don’t know where to start in describing my experience of this enormous hunk of enormousness. I came within less than 200 pages of finishing it, but I cannot go on.
A brief (and crabby) synopsis of my experience with this book:
First 200 pages = This is outrageously excellent! Five stars for sure.
Next 200 pages = Getting really sick of Theo and Boris and substance abuse. Four stars, but only if it improves soon.
Next 170+ pages = Drudgery. Author has written herself into a corner but trudges doggedly on. Three stars, dropping to two stars, and finally 1.5 stars because I cannot force myself to finish. The days go by, I’m reading 8 or 10 pages a day at most. I hate the characters, hate the book, and come to hate the author because she took 10 years to write a book and wants us to take another 10 years to read it.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

14) Robert – Dickens is a jerk. Nobody likes his stuff, they’re just afraid to say it because he’s supposed to be classy. The man got paid by the word for crying out loud. Imagine if I got paid to write marching band drill by the dot. I would write a page for every four counts of music. What would I produce? A ridiculous tomb that nobody will ever get through and if they ever did it would be way too hard and too much work. And of course if you actually did it you would have to say that I was wonderful, otherwise, you’d look like an idiot. Like when you buy a new car and somebody asks if you are happy with it; nobody says “no, I just spend 30 grand on a pile of crap”. Thus concludes my critique on Dickens. Those of you young enough can feel free to plagiarize it for you college essays.

15) Chickens McShiterson – Once upon a time, there was a lumberjack named Paul. Paul and his crew worked in the Pacific Northwest in some of the most lush forests in America. Paul’s job was to run a chainsaw, and it was arduous work filled with long hours and danger. Paul loved his job and took great pride in knowing that his work helped provide lumber for homes, heating systems, and occasionally, the manufacture of books. Of this last facet, Paul was particularly proud because he was a voracious reader who took literature seriously- a love instilled in him by his high school English teachers. After one particularly strenuous day, in which Paul and his crew labored to fulfill an order for pulping for a book manufacturer, Paul ventured to ask his boss if he happened to know what book was going to be produced with the wood they had chopped down.
“Why, yes I do, Paul,” said the book manufacturer, much to Paul’s surprise. “Says here that this wood will be pulped to make a hundred thousand copies of Great Expectations.
Distraught, nay, overwhelmed with immediate grief for his part in the massacre of dozens, if not hundreds of trees for the production of THE WORST BOOK IN THE HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, Paul immediately revved the motor of his chainsaw and promptly cut his own head off.
The End.

Twilight – Stephanie Meyer

16) Kira – The caveman/cavewoman mentality between both parties is absolutely painful. As painful as the throb of purple prose encased between these heinously far-apart covers, and the dreadful fragments and inconsistent style of Meyer’s writing. It’s ludicrous, really. This book is not a book. It is a really, really long Facebook status. It’s a little gimmick that’s gotten out of hand.
Who remembers the absolutely awful “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” fad? That’s kind of what Twilight is like. A really fucked-up piece of sexist rubbish that spiraled into a phenomenon when really it belongs in the garbage can where no one will ever look at it ever again, ever […] No. I’d rather read the back of a cereal box than this book. I’d rather read the ingredients of my shampoo than slog through this again. It would be far less offensive and morally damaging, not to mention infuriating. I believe I aged ten years during my first failed attempt at wading through the Twilight quicksand.

17) TK421 – I would not even wipe my ass with this book for fear it (my ass) would get shittier.

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

18) Phil Villareal – Reading this was utter misery from end to end. This is in a class with Moby-Dick and A Tale of Two Cities, among the least readable, universally lauded classics that normal people read only out of sheer hatred and determination.
Tolstoy is like a kindergartener talking about his day. He has a keen eye and feel for detail, but no ability to distinguish between what is relevant and compelling and what isn’t.

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

19) ChucklestheScot – Worst book I’ve ever had the misfortune to pick up. My dad warned me that this book was lower on the evolution scale than a wet turd, but I thought I’d try it anyway. I hated this with every fibre in my body and with any luck the book will just crawl away and die.
The characters were obnoxious, moronic gits who I hoped would all die at the hands of Jason Vorhees very soon and there was no way I’d ever connect with that idiot who was meant to be our beloved hero. The dialogue was incomprehensible crap that was pointless and baffling, and you are left wondering what the hell they are gibbering about and why each scene was even written! What the hell is the purpose in talking complete shite page after page with no meaning or sense to it??? I couldn’t see the point in the story at all and it was with a sense of joy that I threw the book into the bag marked ‘charity shop’-then I found myself wondering what the poor charity shop had ever done to me to deserve receiving that book…How the hell this ever became a classic is a complete mystery to me. A classic piece of excrement perhaps.

The Shining – Stephen King

20) Sologdin – Custodial staff of one-percenter resort commits grave breaches of employment agreement, including fraternization, by failing to keep grounds free and clear of supernatural deterioration.

Not all of these books are “classic” or even good. I tried to show a range of different types of stories to prove that anyone, no matter how good (or bad) of a writer they are, can receive negative criticism. Don’t take it personally. People are mean sometimes.

What’s Your Idiosyncrasy?

August 17, 2014

In John Green’s novel Looking for Alaska, the protagonist, Pudge, attempts to win over his new floormates by offering them a fun fact about himself: “Um, I know a lot of people’s last words.” As a fan (and a constant critic) of young adult novels, I immediately picked out this detail and classified it as unrealistic. I believed Pudge could perfectly recite the last words of over a dozen people as much as I believe non-religious TV characters can identify Bible passages when presented with some cryptic riddle or fake messiah. The brain is capable of a lot of things, but memorizing the entire Bible in case someone needs an emergency Jesus consult is not one of them. As much as I appreciated the clever tie-in to Alaska’s accident and Pudge’s labyrinth assignment, I was still not convinced that anyone could seriously have a talent or quirk as random as “dying declarations.”

That is, until I discovered my own.

A few months ago, I was sitting at a restaurant with my family discussing Taylor Swift’s dating history when I pointed out something I thought was common knowledge:

Me: Did you know she’s 5’10”? Harry Styles was only 5’11” meaning she probably had to wear flats like, all the time. Otherwise, she’d be taller. But maybe it’s not actually a problem, because Taylor Lautner was only 5’9″.

Unbeknownst to me, my dinner party had stopped listening around the second sentence. Once I had finished name-dropping celebrities and their proximity to the earth, I leaned back and waited for the group to compliment me on my well-constructed argument. Instead, I got this:

Mom: Why do you know how tall these people are? Why do you know that?

The tone she was using was not exactly disgust. It was the kind of tone you’d here from someone who’s just endured a 3-hour long lecture on the psychological effects of emoticons or the real reason why cats purr. Her question had the undertone of blasphemy, not because she was particularly offended by my height statistics but because she was dumbfounded that anyone could think such information was important enough to remember for more than 5 seconds. She was confused but also intrigued, the way you might feel after seeing someone leave the gym not looking like the life had been drained out of them.

Mom: …how tall is Ryan Seacrest?

Me: He always looks pretty short on TV but he’s actually like 5’8″. But you know who’s really short? Danny Devito. He’s 4’11”. He doesn’t even have a growth defect or anything, he’s just short.

Mom: Hayden Panettiere?

Me: 5’0″ exactly. Her boyfriend is 6’6″. I don’t really understand how that works.

Mom: Mmhmm…

If you were wondering what 5’0″ and 6’6″ looks like side by side.

Before I could even realize what was happening, my mom was throwing her nervous look around the table to see if anyone else had caught my extraordinary display of weirdness. It was at that moment that I understood Pudge’s idiosyncrasy, his unnatural fascination with dying last words. It was not something that he developed intentionally. (I mean, I doubt anyone sits in their room and thinks “You know what I’m missing? An extensive knowledge of dying last words. Let’s work on that.”) No, the obsession simply collected in his mind, probably gradually, without his knowledge, until it had created a permanent settlement in his brain that was too hard to evict. Likewise, I had mentally recorded celebrity heights, not for any scientific reason (Was there a correlation between height and Taylor Swift’s romantic feelings? Not that I could tell.) but because some nerdy particle in my brain decided that it wanted to hold onto that information for future use. Then that one particle recruited other particles and before I even knew it, there was an entire department in my subconscious dedicated to the subject. (I’d attempt to shut the whole operation down but its members are too powerful. Anything that can survive the brain purge that happens before a big test or research paper cannot be defeated in one day, by one person.)

And so, I ask you: what’s your “thing”? What useless string of information do you secretly indulge in or hold onto for family dinner outings? Think hard. It might be hiding somewhere in your brain, behind biblical quotes and song lyrics from your favorite childhood hits.

30 Honest Facebook Relationship Statuses

May 31, 2014

1) Looking for Someone To Be the Other Half of My Couples Halloween Costume

2) Looking for Someone To Fix Everything I Break (Sinks, Cars, Laws, etc.)

3) Looking for Someone, Literally Anyone, So My Parents Will Stop Questioning My Relationship Status and/or Sexual Orientation

4) Looking for Someone To Feed Me Compliments (Or At Least Chinese Food)

5) Looking for Someone To Take Sickeningly Cute Photobooth Selfies With

6) Looking for A Chauffeur A Car Lover

7) Looking for Someone To Shatter My Future Cat Lady Fears

8) Looking for a Platonic Cuddle Buddy

9) Looking for Someone to Spoil Me

10) Looking for Someone to Spoil

11) Looking for An Exotic Prince

12) Looking for Someone Who Would Make Cute Babies

13) Looking for Someone Who May Get Famous

14) Looking for a Cat

15) Looking for Someone to Drag to Boring Events

16) Looking for Channing Tatum’s Abs

17) In a Relationship with a Guy I Made Out with Who Got Clingy and Decided He Wanted Something More

18) In a Relationship Until the End of the Summer

19) In a Relationship Until I Start College

20) In a Relationship Until Leonardo Dicaprio Returns My Calls

21) In a Relationship for the Sake of Not Being Alone

22) In a Relationship with My Body Pillow

23) In a Relationship With Someone Mediocre Because Why Not?

24) Single (But Ready to Mingle)

25) Single Unless Approached By Creepy Guys In Clubs

26) Single (But Secretly Dating a Russian Model My Parents Would Disapprove Of)

27) Single and Pretending I’m Okay with It Because I’m a “Strong, Independent Woman Who Don’t Need No Man”

28) Single Until My Ex Comes Running Back

29) Single But Open to Booty Calls

30) Hopeless and Awkward and Desperate for Love!

 

If English Majors Had A Theme Park

May 8, 2014

There are a lot of things in life that I simply don’t understand. Like, why do some people find mustaches attractive? And, more significantly, why is there a theme park dedicated to a chocolate company and not one for English majors? Considering the popularity of Universal’s Harry Potter world, it seems like the next logical step. But what would an English major amusement park look like? What would it even involve? I have some theories.

List of Attractions:

The Holden Caulfield Carousel: Featuring seats shaped like flying ducks and hunting hats, young parkgoers would enjoy this ride’s slow and uneventful pace. Adults, on the other hand, would grow annoyed with the use of profane rants instead of music and leave the ride feeling generally crummy.

– The Five-Paragraph-Essay Drop of Doom: Shooting up at over 55 miles per hour, the “Drop of Doom” gives thrill-seekers a chance to perfect their writing and their screaming! After strapping in, guests will be shot to the “Introduction” at the top of the tower and gradually bounce between body paragraphs until descending back down to the ground floor, or, the Conclusion.

– The Edgar Allan Poe Haunted Mansion: Though the raven theme establishes a perfectly scary atmosphere, the depressing poetry intermissions make this attraction the place where happiness goes to die.

– The James Joyce Train Ride: Everyone talks up this ride despite the fact that it is always too long and anti-climactic. Just when you think it’s about to be exciting, the conductor announces a cryptic, semi-philosophical quote over the speakers and makes you question whether or not you understood half of what you just experienced.

– The Supertramp Sky Rail: With cabins made of old buses, the Alexander Supertramp Sky Rail would give crowds a stunning overhead view of the entire park. If the ride’s 100-foot-high cables are too daunting, passengers can also enjoy a series of Thoreau inscriptions and nearly illegible journal entries provided in the Chris McCandless Park Guidebook. Burnt dollar bills are also included as a bonus souvenir.

– Hamlet’s “Spinning Spirit” Ride: This mini-attraction, which admits guests to a castle-themed hatch and spins them at a mind-boggling velocity, often causes hallucinations and sometimes, death, just like Hamlet himself!

– Willy Wonka’s Psychedelic Boat Ride: Creating an entire building out of chocolate can be a bit costly, so this theme park has the next best thing: a tunnel boat ride just like the one in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, minus the gravity-defying vessel and the group of annoying children. Actually, scratch that second part. Annoying children are still included. It is a theme park, after all.

– The “Star-Crossed Lovers” Roller Coaster: On the outside, this twisty, fast-paced wooden beast looks like the park’s most exciting attraction but loyal guests will tell you the coaster starts too suddenly, moves too fast, and often comes close to ending in a fiery wreck. The conductor’s miscommunication with the park’s supervisor will ultimately cause the coaster’s cars to go flying off the track, ending in a lawsuit that gets the park shut down and unites the community in mourning.

– The Hemingway: Dedicated to literature’s favorite lush, The Hemingway provides adults with a place to go while they’re kids are off enjoying the park’s numerous attractions. With old typewriters and alcohol bottles lining the walls, it’s a nice haven for those who can’t handle the intensity of thrill rides.

The GrammAHHH Water Park Subdivision: Contrary to popular belief, the GrammAHHH Water Park was not made only for overly-excited Bostonians. This subdivision aims to educate and entertain guests through everyone’s favorite subject: grammar. Starting with the Punctuation Pyramid, which features an 80 foot high, Egyptian-themed water-slide decorated with punctuation marks, the attractions in the GrammAHHH Water Park leave little to be desired. For folks looking for a bit more action, the Run-On Rapids and the Verb Tense Teacups provide hours of entertainment for the whole family. And if you’re looking for something more relaxing at the end of the day, the English Major park has you covered: the Stream of Consciousness Lazy River brings guests right back to the entrance so they may leave or start their theme park journey all over again. Or, so it goes.

10 Creepiest Dating Sites In Existence

April 29, 2014

In an increasingly digitized world, it’s no surprise that dating has gone from “Where did you guys meet?” to “What was your first message to each other?” With online universities increasing in popularity and Facebook stalking developing into an Olympic sport, I see no reason why dating can’t find a new home on the Internet. While there are some downsides to online dating (maybe Steve has a reason behind his self-declared giraffe fetish that can only be explained in person), the practice is also helpful for busy individuals looking for someone special. But how “special” these potential companions should be is a whole ‘nother question. (And you thought OKCupid was bad.)

1) SurvivalistSingles.com

Describe your apocalypse plan in the case of a zombie attack. What does your bunker look like? If you were stuck in the woods with nothing but an African vase and nail polish, how would you survive? I imagine these are the kind of questions they include on SurvivalistSingles.com, a site dedicated to individuals looking for someone to face the end of the world with. On a scale from 1 to MacGyver, how compatible are you?

2) PeekedInterest.com

If you’ve ever enjoyed being gawked at through your window by your 50-year-old neighbor but you’re too afraid to make the first move, Peeked Interest is the site for you. Started by a pair of students at the University of British Columbia, Peeked Interest allows users to take a picture of a girl or boy they think is attractive, post it publically, and wait for the person in the photo to take notice. If said subject notices their picture on the site and wants to meet their photographer, they can exchange contact information and go on a date. Yes, I’m serious. While I’m sure the creators were going for a “Missed Connections” vibe, what ultimately came out will likely result in more restraining orders than dates. Luckily, the site has since been shut down.

3) WomenBehindBars.com

In 2009, the Internet exploded over reports about a new dating website that matched up users with convicted criminals who were serving jail time. Though the site, ConjugalHarmony.com, was a joke, that didn’t stop other people from thinking the concept was a good idea. WomenBehindBars.com, started around 1997, features incarcerated women from all over the country looking for penpals and potential life partners. The catch? People seeking to start a connection with said inmates must pay to access the address of their convict-of-choice.

4) STDSoulmates.com

This website is not so much “creepy” as it is weird. STDSoulmates.com invites people infected with sexually transmitted diseases to date others with similar medical problems. At first glance, my first instinct is to laugh, especially after hearing the slew of other similar websites: H-YPE.com (Herpes-specific dating), STDFriends.com, and HerpesPassions.com. Upon closer inspection, though, the idea doesn’t seem too ludicrous. After all, I can’t imagine how hard a first date must be knowing you have to bring up that whole “herpes” thing before the end of the night.

5) FindYourFaceMate.com

Have you ever just wanted to date yourself? Now, you (basically) can! Using “sophisticated facial recognition software” and a collection of ego-driven users, FindYourFaceMatch.com lets you find a companion that looks just like you! Just upload a picture and let the website find your ideal other-half. Now you can stop kissing your mirror at night.

6) DailyDiapers.com

DailyDiapers.com advertises itself as a role-playing dating site for those interested in paraphilic infantilism. Or, put simply: diaper fetishism. As their website notes: “Daily Diapers is the premiere community for Adult Babies, Diaper Lovers, Big Kids, Mommies and Daddies featuring over 25,500 FREE photos of diapered women, men and couples…if you wear diapers, this is your online home!” The site’s tagline speaks for itself.

7) TwinsRealm.com

If anything, having a twin is beneficial because you always have someone to go on a double date with. (Then again, I’m not a twin, so I wouldn’t know how awkward that might actually be.) But what if both you and your sibling had the same “type”? Twins Realm attempts to solve that problem by pairing twins up with other twins. Though not exclusively a dating site, Twins Realms offers a section that allows twins to meet and mingle with other real-life twins so that they can produce more twins and create a twin army.

8) AshleyMadison.com

If any one of these websites baffles me the most, it’s AshleyMadison.com, which says a lot considering the adult diapers dating site is on this list. AshleyMadison.com is a website for cheating adults to find their “perfect affair partner.” Users can classify themselves as “Attached Male/Female Seeking Male/Female,” “Single Male/Female Seeking Male/Female,” or “Horrible, Horrible Person.” That last one’s not really on there, but I feel like it’s generally implied. If the site’s ironic claim to a “Trusted Security Award” doesn’t reel you in, its tagline definitely might: “Life is short. Have an affair.”

9) SugarDaddie.com

SugarDaddie.com is for anyone who’s ever wanted to try prostitution without having the negative stigma that comes with it. Though the site offers opportunities to meet attractive, wealthy, and desirable people, what it’s really trying to provide is the chance to spoil or be spoiled, even if that means trading sexual favors for a new car or cell phone.

10) DateVampires.com

I could tell you that DateVampires.com is not a site for people who think they’re vampires who want to date other vampires, but I would be lying. I would also be depriving you of a very interesting (and potentially scarring) mental image. Marketed as “the premier Vampire dating service that helps blood sucking singles establish their brood,” the site helps all those Twilight fantasies come to fruition. I’m surprised there isn’t a site for Wizard Dating at this point.

Everything That Was Wrong with the American Horror Story: Coven Finale

February 2, 2014

AHS

I love the new season of American Horror Story like a mother loves her teenage child. Which is to say, I will gush about it to anyone that will listen, but sometimes, I just wish it would make better choices. Though season three certainly had its moments (Fiona’s cunning quips give me goosies when I replay them in my head), the last few episodes of Coven were surprisingly lackluster, which makes me think Ryan Murphy exhausted all of the good plotlines early on and consulted Internet forums to fill in the second half of the season. The finale, it seems, was the final nail in the coffin, for a number of reasons.

1) Technically, Cordelia cannot be the Supreme.

When Zoe’s interest in the Supremacy first manifests, she is discouraged by Madison Montgomery’s impressive abilities. Later on, however, she discovers that in order to be the Supreme, a witch must be in perfect health. With her heart murmur, Madison does not fit the bill. Why, then, is Cordelia crowned the next Supreme when she is unable to conceive? Why force viewers to endure the painfully awkward sex ritual between Cordelia and Hank if not to make that fact clear? Not to mention she stabbed herself in the face a couple times, which makes me question her mental stability. (And don’t even get me started on how her eyes miraculously reappeared.)

Seriously, does nobody remember this?

2) Everything was rushed, just like the whole second half of the season.

Primetime television only allows for an hour per episode, maybe two. I get that. However, that doesn’t make it acceptable to pack in 3 hours worth of material into a 45-minute time slot. By the second commercial break, 4 of the 7 tasks had been completed and one of the characters was dead. (If this wasn’t the finale, I would not have lamented this fact as much, considering half of the characters have died and come back to life at this point.) By the next break, Cordelia had stepped in and completed all the tasks like it was nothing and the hunt for the Supreme was over. If I wanted to watch accelerated plotlines, Ryan, I would’ve turned on Breaking Bad. 

3) Myrtle’s death was a case of faulty logic.

Riddle me this: if Myrtle, who dedicated her life to protecting the art of witchcraft and Fiona’s dysfunctional Coven, is deemed corrupted enough (albeit, by herself) to be burned at the stake, why should Queenie be allowed to stick around? After all, she did abandon the group when they needed her most and for Fiona’s number one enemy, no less. To push the envelope further, she also killed Cordelia’s husband, who was really doing the Coven a favor when he stormed Marie Laveau ‘s voodoo clubhouse. And yet, in the finale, Queenie is not only praised for her “bravery” but honored with a spot on Cordelia’s council. As much as I appreciate her sarcasm and sass, Queenie earned a spot on the stake next to Myrtle more than she did next to Cordelia.

4) Misty did not have to die.

At least, not like that. While I understand one of the witches was bound to fail at the “Seven Wonders” test (the amount of times AHS advertisements promoted a potential fatality demanded at least one), Misty Day simply did not deserve the death that she was granted. This is especially true considering that she suffers the same cringe-worthy fate as Fiona, who was deemed soulless by the Devil himself. Did Misty, who spent the majority of her days frolicking in the woods and bringing helpless creatures back to life (Madison excluded), deserve such a heartless ending? I can justify most any fictitious death as long as there is a purpose behind it. Here, I find none.

5) The ending was downright cliché.

If you were paying attention, you probably could have predicted every word of Cordelia’s end speech before she even opened her mouth. “Fiona was bad, I will be good, this Coven will be the bestest, etc. etc. etc.” I don’t mean to rag on Cordelia because she was one of my favorite underdogs this season but her inspirational speech at the end left a lot to be desired.

6) Since when is “inception” a power?

In the end, Fiona reveals that she gave the Ax Man a “vision” of him murdering her in order to trick Cordelia into thinking she was dead. While I know “mind control” is a common power among witches, no where in the series did they mention “inception” abilities. (Though I’m glad they did because now I can assume that Leonardo Dicaprio was part wizard and that only makes him more appealing.)

7) There were too many “fillers.”   

As I’ve said, Myrtle didn’t need to be burned at the stake and we certainly didn’t need to see the procession following her to her death or her teary talk with Cordelia beforehand. Kyle’s undying love (lolz) for Zoe was a given so the “crying over her corpse” thing seemed unnecessary, as was…well, basically the entire second half of the episode.

Unless the producers pull a Vince Gilligan and release an alternate ending to the finale, this season of American Horror Story ended with a disappointing fizzle and no amount of magic can bring it back.

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