Friday, June 05, 2009

COLUMN: Word Vomit

"I dunno what to say -- YOU'RE the wordsmith around here."

That came out of the mouth of one of my best friends the other day. I don't remember what it was in regards to at all. Maybe I was ordering food or writing in somebody's birthday card. Maybe we were plotting world domination. The scenario was entirely forgettable, but that sentence wasn't. One of my friends thinks that I have a way with words. Translation: One of my friends doesn't know me very well at all.

I suppose it's true that I can coherently string sentences together in this column every Sunday, but I've also had 230-some-odd blessed weeks of practice -- and frankly, that has a lot more to do with luck than skill.

Truth be told, I can be a complete idiot when it comes to expressing myself. For a guy with a degree on his wall that says Speech Communication, you sure wouldn't know it by talking to me. I open my mouth with full intent on the creation of a grand and verbose illumination on life -- but what comes out instead can only be called word vomit.

And I've rapidly discovered the perfect recipe for word vomit: just add a dash of girlfriend.

Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, I'm out on the town with the new girl I'm smitten with. This is the phase of the relationship known as Trying To Make A Good Impression. You're constantly trying to find the happy medium that says, "I might just be the coolest human being you know." The goal here is to be attentive and caring yet confident and at-ease in the moment. I was, as the kids say, bringing my A-game.

At some point in the night, we meet up with one of her friends who needs a ride home.

"Sure," she says, turning to me, "We can give her a lift, right?"

Absolutely. I was about to make the same offer. Then I thought about it.

Barring the occasional blip in the space-time continuum, I've been single for just about... well, ever. And there's one universal truth you need to know about single guys: When we have no-one to impress, we are messy, messy people. And that especially goes for my car.

"Don't worry," my girlfriend tells me, "I'll just sit in the back."

Worrysome. The back seat of my Beetle is, for all purposes of explanation, a level 3 biohazard. I collect stuff. And that includes stuff that's prone to decay. This stuff will then mate with other stuff in my car and bear forth entirely new species of stuff, until finally evolution provides the stuff with legs that it uses to then saunter off to my back seat and a long and prosperous life in a new, exciting, and quite possibly toxic ecosystem of my creation. And now my girlfriend wants to sit on it. Worrysome.

The way I see it, there are countless things I could have said in this moment that would have been appropriate:

"Gee, honey, my car is quite messy. Please allow me to go clean it out real quick."
"Certainly. Carpooling is but one of the ways I care about the environment. Have you seen my composting efforts in the back seat?"
"You know what would be fun? Taking a taxi! Allow me to order one!"

But no. Not Shane, the master of word vomit. I took stock of the situation, analyzed my options, and determined that the best course of action to make a grrrreat impression would be to look at my girlfriend and say the following:

"Umm... are you sure you can FIT in my back seat?"

Word. Vomit. It was the first time I'd actually seen someone's mouth fall open like a cartoon -- and not just HER, but her friend, too. I am soooooo smooth.

And it doesn't stop there. My girlfriend is deeply involved in her church. One of the things her church provides is as-needed counseling with a sort of peer mentor, who helps not just with the spiritual side of things, but with any woes that come along in life (such as dating a guy who vomits words, I'd imagine.)

The other day, she takes me to her church for the first time -- a big deal for her, right? -- when she goes, "Oh, look! That's my counselor!" Now, I had expected to see some rigid, grey-haired woman of great wisdom. Instead, I was surprised to see a girl who was young, fresh-faced, and bubbly.

Again, a million things that could have been said here. But here are the words that I chose to roll out of my mouth:

"Jeez, you're old enough to be her mom!"

Best of intentions, worst of executions. It's a good thing we were in church because otherwise, I might just have gotten punched.

Yet, as the ultimate testament to her awesomeness, she continues inexplicably to date me. In fact, this past weekend was the nerve-wracking Meet-The-Extended-Family Day. Gulp. We all got together over Frank's Pizza, which would have been great -- were it not at 1 in the afternoon and had I not been up until sunrise the night before unwinding from a rather lengthy DJ gig.

Normally it takes me multiple hours and an infusion of caffeine to put me in social mode. This day, I had to make do with 30 minutes and a cold shower before being thrown to the wolves. Happily, though, her family weren't wolves at all. In fact, they were super fun people who put me at ease right away. Hiding in her family were musicians, audiophiles, cat lovers, and closet NASCAR fans -- topics I can dwell on any day of the week sans word vomit. Fingers crossed, I hope I made a good impression, 'cause I like her clan -- even if I DID catch a group of them perusing an entirely incorrect choice of Sunday newspaper. Don't worry, this wordsmith will set 'em straight.

1 comment:

Erin... said...

For the very first time, I will repeat the traumatic words that Chris relayed to me as I stepped into the backseat of your Beetle en route to the Paula Kelley show in Evanston (and also the same night I was initiated to the genius of Andrew WK in your car): "Watch out for the French fries."

Please let your new girl know that you were only looking out for her and her friend's best interests. If they need verification and/or emotional support, have them e-mail me in Brooklyn.