Monday, April 06, 2009

COLUMN: Toothpaste Cookies

It's no real secret that I'm one of the most awkwardly insecure and self-conscious weirdos in the Quad Cities.

A trained professional would likely equate this to a lingering immaturity, lack of self-confidence, and a horribly shallow need for society's approval and acceptance. To this school of thought, I'd like to say --

-- yep. Pretty much nailed it head on. That's me in a nutshell. But my trepidations in life are not without good reason or precedence.

Let's take the other week for instance. When the alarm clock goes off in the mornings, I am in a near-total state of semi-consciousness. I wake up, I tread into the shower, I throw on some clothes, and -- if I'm lucky -- I eventually wake up without personal injury or property damage behind the wheel somewhere near the Moline/Rock Island border. My co-workers know to not even speak to me until the caffeine kicks in an hour or so after getting to work -- and even then, I usually only answer in mono-syllabic grunts until after lunch.

But the other day, I strangely woke up in a nearly coherent, nearly good mood. Maybe it was because I got to sleep at a decent hour. Maybe it was the blessed arrival of jacket weather. Whatever the reason, I was not my usual self. I caught myself singing in the shower, playing with the cats, and starting the day without the autopilot engaged. I even had enough time to roll through a drive-thru and enjoy some breakfast.

I got to work almost chipper and settled into a productive morning. "Maybe this is it," I thought to myself. "I've turned over a new leaf and become a mature and responsible adult. Finally, this is MY time to shine."

The good mood carried on to the lunch hour. I walked out of the building whistling a happy tune. I found my car, plopped down in the seat and turned the key, put it in reverse, took a glance in the rear-view mirror --

And discovered that I had spent the entire morning running around with a giant unsightly circle of toothpaste residue all over my mouth. Yes, four hours interacting with fast food workers, colleagues, and peers while looking like Crazy Shane the Rabid Boy. I would've expected one of my co-workers to go, "Umm, dude. Toothpaste-zilla," but no. No one said a THING. Maybe they were too embarassed. Maybe they thought it was a good look. Maybe they thought I really WAS rabid.

Either way, it was a new low for me. Apparantly the one thing I didn't think to do in my newfound maturity was to give my oldfound self a quick once-over in the mirror. And if no one has the guts to say something when it looks like I've eaten Casper the Friendly Ghost for breakfast, then who knows HOW many times I've paraded amuck uninformed with my nether regions unzipped or a giant bogey making a prison break from my nose.

So THAT'S why I tend to be a self-conscious loon -- because I know how highly capable and well-trained I am at doing extraordinarily embarassing things.

My newest fear is one that's only recently cropped up: I'm now convinced that I apparantly say the word "cookie" like an idiot. Hear me out. When I say the word "cookie," in my brain it sounds exactly like how the word "cookie" should sound. Yet, whenever I'm in the drive-thru at Hardee's and order one of their delightful Big Cookies, the clerk invariably goes, "Wait, you want a WHAT?!?" as though I've just insulted their grandmother in an obscure dialect of Martian.

The way I see it, it's quite possible. I once knew a girl who would individually pronounce both letters in any word containing double T's. Instead of saying "button," she'd say "but-ton." Instead of "kitten," she'd say "kit-ten." And as you'd suspect, it sounded perfectly goofy. Yet she carried on doing it as though it were as natural as a bale full of cot-ton. And did we, her close friends, ever call her on it and say, "Hey, do you realize that sounds waaaay weird?" Nope.

Ergo, I think that there's a strong possibility that my mind hears "cookie" while my mouth might be saying "kwöquêiÿ" for all I know.

The other night, it took no fewer than FOUR tries at the 3 a.m. drive-thru window for me to successful convey my deepest desire to purchase a Big Cookie. And trust me, if you're already a self-conscious, insecure ninny, see what your mental status is like after having to roll down your window and yell "COOKIE! COOKIE! COOKIE! COOKIE!" into a faceless plastic speaker at neighbor-waking volumes.

But none of those things holds a candle to my newest of new insecurities, and this one comes from none other than my dear sweet mother. Sadly, though, it's going to take more column space than this to delve into, so let's hold that thought until next week, where you'll learn about my latest and greatest neurosis.

Until then, just remember this: If you're out there just minding your own business and some horrifying dude comes at you foaming at the mouth and spouting gibberish, just give him a cookie and he'll probably go away.

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