Friday, October 16, 2009

COLUMN: Finger

Bad news, Quad Cities. It appears that my bed has turned evil. Regular readers of my column may have noticed that I was "on vacation" last week. Truth be told, I was right here in my apartment, paralyzed by an overwhelming fear of my bedroom furnishings.

It all started two weeks ago when -- wait, scratch that.

I guess it really started two YEARS ago when I bought a new bed. Furniture shopping isn't exactly my idea of paradise, ergo I decided to go whole-hog and get one of those pricey, enormous uber-mattresses that would hopefully last for years and years. You know, the kind with the pillow top and the depth so massive that science has yet to invent a sheet big enough to fit it? I have one seriously pimped-out bed.

But about a year ago, things started going downhill. I was routinely waking up with a wonky back and it seemed like the mattress was becoming lop-sided and sagging to the middle. This really ticked me off, given the relative newness and high price tag (a tag, mind you, that I quickly cut off under penalty of law upon arrival - does that make me a felon?) I had to do something about it.

That "something" was to begin sleeping on the couch every night. I just couldn't bring myself to admit that my extravagant mattress was a back-killer and a horrible purchase. And besides, my couch is pretty comfy, backache free, and stragetically located in close proximity to both my air conditioner AND my television. There are far worse fates than my couch, so I resigned myself to permanent living-room-dweller and pretty much handed over my bed to my two cats, who didn't seem to complain much.

This brings us to two weeks ago, and the onset of The Cold From Hell. I know, normally when I catch a cold I write some kind of pathetic woe-is-me column. But every time I've opened the paper lately, all I see are horror stories about H1N1 and people a lot worse off than me, so this time I kept my yap shut. This was no swine flu. It was just a yucky fall cold, and I decided to just be a big boy and tough it out.

And the first rule of "toughing it out," I've learned, is to whine pathetically to your girlfriend so that she becomes your indentured servant for a week. I was the sick one but Amy deserves the medal -- she ran herself ragged cooking and cleaning and doing my laundry while I lurked under a blanket of phlegm and pathos. I can't express in words how grateful I am -- so I tried expressing it in sneezes instead, and I think she understood. She even bought me a Snuggie, but I'm pretty sure it was just to take embarassing photos and post them on Facebook.

Well, the other night I was plastered to the couch while Amy was hanging up laundry when she called out, "Honey? I think I figured out what's wrong with the bed!"

Did I mention she's awesome AND SMART, TOO? I hobbled into the bedroom as she lifted up the mattress and the bedskirt. Somehow, likely in one of my help-I'm-being-chased-by-faceless-ninjas dreams, the box springs had popped right out of the bedframe and were sitting there all weebly-wobbly. And since the mattress was comically thick, I had no clue whatsoever. All I needed to do was just scoot the box springs over until they popped back into the frame, like sooo...

NYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! Suddenly I was no longer scooting the box springs. In fact, I was on my knees, screaming like a baby, cradling the ring finger of my right hand. It turns out that, while I was fixing things in a safe and cautious manner pursuant to OSHA standards, the bed had sprung to life and bit down on my finger really hard. The only other scenario involved me being an idiot and carelessly pinching my finger in-between the two weighty pieces of metal -- but clearly I'm too smart for that, so Evil Possessed Bed is the story I'm sticking with.

Immediately Amy came to my aid, and being the caring and chivalrous gentlemen that I am, I responded with a polite, "GEEET AWAAAAY!! I NEEED AIR!!! ICE!!! HOSPITAL!!!"

Well, I didn't need the hospital -- I don't think. I didn't GO to the hospital, anyways. I don't think my finger's broken because I can move it. It didn't even get particularly black and/or blue. But it hurts like a mutha even now, a week after the fact. I fear my best Guitar Hero days may be behind me.

So that's why I was "on vacation" last week. My hand hurt too bad to even contemplate typing. My bum finger is usually responsible for hitting U, I, & O on the keyboard, and it turns out that it's really tough to compose a half-vowelled column.

And yes, I know that there are people out there who continue to have it worse than me. I'm whining over a smooshed fingy while Stephen Hawking writes entire books based on eyeblinks. But I'm a whiner, so let me have my moment. Even though I'm left-handed, I'm rapidly learning how important this random digit on my right hand can be.

This was made painfully clear the next morning in the bathroom. How to say this in a family paper? There's a product whose slogan is "nature calls, Charmin answers." Well, for 38 years, Charmin has answered with my right hand. Faced with a left hand of Charmin, it was as though all of the coordination in my body went on holiday. It was SUCH a nightmare that I ended up pulling a muscle in my shoulder and falling clean off the toilet. There I landed on all fours -- shoulder aching, finger throbbing, nose running. I am SO super sexy.

The good news is that I'm on the mend. The cold is almost gone, my finger appears to at least remain attached to my hand, and my shoulder's fine. Better yet, my bed is level and comfy and beckoning. Too bad I'll never sleep in it again. It's already tried its best to break my back AND my finger -- and I'm pretty sure that yesterday I heard it growl with the thirst for human blood. Hopefully I'll be back to column writing speed by next week -- it just might be without U's or I's or O's. Sawry everybhddy. Whsh me lack!

COLUMN: Blog Stats 3

It's time once again for my favorite annual column -- one I've never given a proper name to, but if I did, it would be something like, "If You Thought You Were Weird, Just Hop On The Internet And Learn By Comparison How Normal You Really Are."

At the bottom of every one of my columns, there's a little blurb in tiny print. Those little blurbs have some kind of hip journalistic name that I can never remember ("endtag" or "tagline" or something,) but I prefer "endy dealymajig." Anyways, if you look at my endy dealymajig, it gives the address to my online blog. I've published my blog for years, but in truth, it's little more than an online repository of past columns. That's not to say you shouldn't visit, because you should (thus endeth my marketing skills.)

The fun bit, though, is that I've got a little stat tracker on there. It's a program that allows me to see how many people are reading my blog and what the most popular entries are. But the BEST part is that it monitors keyword searches.

Let's say, for instance, that you hopped on Yahoo or Google and did a search for, oh, I dunno, "ATTRACTIVE BEAVER SNOT." And let's say that once upon a time, I wrote a column that said, "Boy, that Katie Holmes is quite ATTRACTIVE, despite being married to Tom Cruise who looks like a BEAVER. And if you thought he was a good actor, he iS NOT." There's a chance that your search for attractive beaver snot could lead you straight to my blog.

The following is a list of ACTUAL KEYWORD SEARCHES that folks have tried on Yahoo & Google that somehow led them to my blog this year:

• "BAM BURGER SEASONING SUCKS" - I'm assuming by this they're referring to Chef Emeril Lagasse's "BAM! Hamburger Seasoning," a product which this columnist has never endorsed but certainly would if Emeril wanted to pay me. In all honesty, I think Emeril's seasoning is pretty nummers. But let's say that you tried it and it's not your cup of tea. Would your first instinct be to immediately turn to cyberspace to research and affirm your opinion? Why not just reach for the Heinz 57? (Dear Heinz Corp., make check payable to BROWN, SHANE.)

• "I LIKE TO LOOK AT PEOPLE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX" - Dear Pervert, welcome to the internet. This must be your first time. TRUST ME when I tell you that the world wide web can fulfill your needs. But typing this into Google will NOT fill your screen with skantily-clad hotties. I just checked. It does, however, immediately link you to a news story with photos about how the brains of gay people look just like the brains of straight folk. So if you have a fetish for brain tissue of the opposite sex who are not into THEIR opposite sex, these are the search keywords for you.

• "BETTER WORDS FOR VOMIT" - I might suggest "do the Technicolor yawn," "un-eat," "de-food," "launch your lunch," and/or "call Ralph on the porcelain phone."

• "SHANE BROWN PIRATE CHRONICLES" - Long ago, I titled my blog "The Complacency Chronicles," but after seeing THIS, "The Pirate Chronicles" would have been way sweeter. I'd make a lousy pirate, though. I can't swim, my plundering skills are thoroughly untested, and it tickles my throat when I go "ARRRRRRR!"

• "I AM A CREEPY STALKER KILLER" - Well, I'm no expert in the field, but I'd have to believe that the #1 Rule of Creepy Stalker Killing is not to reveal it to the world via a public search engine. It sorts of takes away from the creepiness and stalkiness.

• "HOW TO DO THE HOKEY POKEY" - Again, no expert. But I'm pretty sure you put your right leg in and your right leg out and your right leg in and you shake it all about. Then go to the left, the left, the right, the right, cha cha now y'all, and kick, now kick, now walk it by yourself, it's electric, boogie woogie woogie, heeeeey Macarena!

• "GEOGIA RATZENERGER" - I have no idea. The funny thing isn't that someone searched for "Geogia Ratzenerger," it's that they searched for it SEVENTY-THREE TIMES IN ONE AFTERNOON. No joke. They typed "Geogia Ratzenerger" into Google and linked to my blog, which must be sorely disappointing in its lack of Geogia Ratzenergers. So then they go BACK to Google, search "Geogia Ratzenerger" AGAIN and get linked to my blog AGAIN? So then they go BACK to Google again?? Yes, and seventy-one more times after that, in fact. You'd think after the fourth or fifth visit to my blog, you'd start to get the hint that it's not going to just start inventing Geogia Ratzenergers willy-nilly.

• "THINGS THAT LOOK SEXY WITHOUT DEFYING VICTORY LAKES DRESS CODE" - Out of sheer journalistic integrity and NOT any kind of profane desire to see sexy schoolgirl outfits, I immediately sought out the Victory Lakes School District of Texas website. I was expecting some kind of Footloose-esque plot wherein oppressed kids are forced into ultra-conservative uniforms. Instead, their dress code seems pretty loose, non-limiting, and common sense, despite a clear ban on "any hairstyles which may pose a safety problem." So bad news, Little Susie, no razor blade barrettes or anthrax hairspray, no matter how sexy they may be. Sadface, I know.

• "U SPEND MY HEAD RIGHT ROUND LIKE A RECORD LYRICS" - For the record (that spins right round baby right round,) the lyrics are "you SPIN my head," not SPEND. How do you spend something like a record? What can I say, it's a no-holes barred doggy dog world. Dead ants are my friends, they're blowin' in the wind, and the girl with colitis goes by. Sleep in heavenly peas, and excuse me while I kiss this guy.

And my personal favorite of 2009?

• "ED ASNER NAKED" - I am soooooooooooo normal compared to the internet.


Of all the sagely advice my mom handed down to me over the years, there's one that I've always tried my best to ignore:

"NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT," she'd say to me. Twenty years later, I'm starting to suspect she was right.

As many of you know, I DJ on the weekends at a dance club in the District until the wee hours of the morning. 3 a.m. usually finds me trying to make an uneventful way home with tinnitus and tired toes. That's where we join this story last Friday night -- well, technically Saturday morning. Normally I head straight home, but my tummy was rumbly from a half-hearted dinner and I decided to swing by a 24-hour gas station.

I'm not a big junk food kinda guy. I eat bad enough as is without the added calories of a pantry full of chips and candy. So I bypassed the junky snacks and went straight for the junky meal: one of those bland little breakfast biscuits. But as I stood there with biscuit in hand surveying the gas station cuisine, I heard the voices of ALL my friends, yelling at me in unison that I never have anything to snack on in my apartment.

So I decided then and there, with fresh DJ cash in my pocket, that it was time to stock up on some public munchies. Bag of chips? Sure. Sugary candy? Heck yeah. Salsa? Mui bien! Cheese balls? Sign me up. Couple of donuts? And how. (And, okay, the donuts WERE for me.)

So, imagine if you will, your heroic columnist waddling up to the counter with two armfuls of pure food hedonism, looking like a refugee from "The Illustrated Guide to Binge-Eating 101." As I stood there like Richard Simmons' evil arch-nemesis, I was half-embarassed yet half-proud of my combination weight-lifting/balancing act. In front of me, a woman was wrapping up her purchase... or so I thought.

Instead she was one of THOSE people. You know, the folks who go to a gas station as more of a social outing. And this woman wasn't buying a single thing. No, it was just chatty hour with the clerk. I stood there as she told the clerk what a handsome man he was, and how he shouldn't worry because he'd find the right girl one day.

So I'm standing there bemused at the situation and feeling bad for this kid, who's showing remarkable patience listening to this lady lecture him on romance. But it doesn't stop. She doesn't shut up and she doesn't move. And after a while, I can now verify by experience, donuts start to get heavy. So I try the polite "ahem" cough. The not-so-polite hacking cough. The foot shuffle. The exasperated sigh. By this time, I've lost feeling in three of my Pringle- balancing fingers. I've gone from amused to impatient to downright annoyed. Finally she acknowledges my existence.

"Oh, I bet you want me to move..."

"Gee," I said, "Ya think?"

As she steps back, I attempt to sidle up to the counter while figuring out how to gracefully dump my items using those portions of my arms still maintaining bloodflow. That's when it happened.

The woman stepped behind me, began SCRATCHING MY BACK, leaned into my face with creepy deathbreath, and said the words that every man never dreams of:


How does one respond to this? I can now answer that question. One takes a shimmy forward/side step, twists one's ankle, drops one's donuts to the ground, shivers, and basically recoils in horror. It's a dancestep I like to call the Cootie Shuffle.

"WHOA, lady," I said, recalling the childhood molestation mantra, "Hands off! I'm special! Plus I'm not Jeff."

For a moment, I thought she might apologize and become embarassed. Perhaps she mistook me for Jeff, her long-lost love. After all, I am a pretty hunky dude. Maybe she thought I was NASCAR great Jeff Gordon or mistook my comedic stylings for Jeff Foxworthy or my brute machismo for Survivor host Jeff Probst. Nnnnope.

"Oh," she said. "You look like a Jeff. Or maybe a Scott."

I have never reached into a wallet, paid a bill, and left a gas station faster in my whole life. There aren't enough w's in the world to clearly express my level of "ewwwwwww." I went home, took a much-needed shower, and immediately changed my Facebook status to the tale of my near-molestation.

The next morning, I had a breakfast date with the girlfriend, but, as is my way, slept right through it. So when she let herself into my place and woke me with a whispery "Are you gonna moan for me, Jeff?" I almost started crying.

All day long we laughed at what's now officially become the Creepiest Moment Of My Life, but maybe I was wrong to make non-stop fun. That night, I found myself back at that gas station and thankfully Miss Cootie was off presumably harassing potential Jeffs elsewhere.

"Whew," I said to the clerk, "your new friend isn't here tonight."

"Who?" he said, astonished.

"You remember? The 'moan for me' lady?"

"Oh," he said nonchalantly. "She was nice."

"Are you kidding me?" I said. "People thought Ted Bundy was nice, too. I bet Chuck Manson was a personable guy 'til 'Helter Skelter' came on the radio. She was creepy."

"I politely disagree." he said. and I ended up getting schooled.

"She was nice. She may have been a little weird, but she wanted to know me as a person. She didn't judge and she treated me like a human being and not some retail slave. I like her."

So the moral of the story? Don't be mean to gas station cashiers. Or don't judge people. Or be nice to strangers. Or maybe it's be nice to strangers but not SO nice that you scratch their back and call them random names because that's still pretty stinkin' creepy. Or maybe... heck, I dunno. If you figure it out, let me know. Ask for Jeff. Or maybe Scott.