I Guess It Depends How You Look at It

July 20, 2015

As soon as I did it, I  knew I was in trouble.

But my eagerness got the best of me, and with no time to change course the coffee flooded my mouth. The tender skin stretched on my hard palate — that bony protuberance just behind your teeth — expanded into a blister within a moment of contact, blowing up like nightmare bubble gum.

Advice: If you need help locating any small nicks or scrapes on the inside of your mouth, throw back a hearty gulp of coffee like you haven’t a care in the world. The acid will coat your mouth, burrowing into every damaged nook and cranny, letting you know precisely where it was you accidentally took a chunk out of your cheek instead of your burrito a week ago. You probably thought it had more or less healed over, but the good news is now you know better. Orange juice is also effective.

Part 1: Burned

I popped the blister immediately and the skin shriveled and retreated into a useless flap, but at least the pain had begun to subside. It’s a special kind of pain, too, the kind where you wonder whether there’s something wrong with you that it hurt as much as it did. Surely a grown-ass man like me should not be brought low by coffee and a blister?

Fearing that any public display of pain would reveal me to the world as both a wimp and a klutz, both of which are surely true, I summoned my powers of Scandinavian Stoicism™ and immediately shut off all feeling and emotion in my body. I am not, by heritage, Scandinavian. But for years I lived in the northern hinterlands of Minnesota and assimilated into the culture by learning to never, under any circumstances, reveal what it is I am actually thinking or feeling.

For reference, here is a picture representing a typical adult male in Minnesota.

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And here he is experiencing pure joy.

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And now, flying into an uncontrollable fit of rage.

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Part 2: Sconed

As I choked back the pain, the only sign anything was amiss was the twitching in my left eye. Part of masking all of your feelings is giving them some small outlet, some focused spot where they can escape like tiny, silent emotion farts. For me, that means channeling everything into a jittery left eyelid beating out a desperate morse code from my soul. I believe in Norway this can be used for marriage proposals, declarations of war, and other situations where human emotion might otherwise rear its ugly head.

My coffee catastrophe receding into the near past, I turned my attention to the bulbous mass of blueberry and whatever it is that constitutes a scone in front of me. I lifted it off the table and held it for a moment. It would, perhaps, be more appropriate to say I beheld it, gazing at it with the sort of reverence more commonly reserved for precious stones. But then, it was much more valuable to me than that. This scone would be my solace, my port in the storm.

I pinched a section of the scone to pry it off, and learned in the cruelest fashion that an intact scone is an apt metaphor for our fragile existence. Both are held together through some mystical force beyond our comprehension, and it takes so very little to destroy them. The scone and my dreams of breakfast disintegrated into a pile of useless crumbs, most of which made their way to the floor.

It was at this point that I remembered what a scone truly is. A scone is what happens when you take something perfectly good like a blueberry muffin but are convinced it could be better. In this, you are wrong. A blueberry muffin is good and delicious and needs no improvement. A scone tastes like you made a blueberry muffin and then left it in the sun for a week. This is the pastry equivalent of remaking a movie that was just fine the first go round. It’s Wicker Man starring Nicolas Cage. It’s Godzilla from 1998.

Before they could find their way to the floor to join their comrades, I made an effort to salvage the few pieces of my blueberry muffin fossil that did not end up on the floor. I focused most intensely on the three chunks that were larger than grains of sand and might even qualify as actual morsels.

Advice: A good way to demonstrate to those around you that you have your life all figured out is to pick scone crumbs out of your crotch and shovel them into your face as quickly as possible. This does not seem desperate and sad at all. An action shot of this would make a great profile pic on eHarmony and result in a lot of dates.

Part 3: Justified

Given the calamitous events of my morning up to then, it did not seem unreasonable to suspect that some nefarious force was at work. The pain of my coffee scalding and the ignominy of my scone implosion left me wondering who I had wronged and what dark forces they were marshaling to ruin me. Far more frightening, I was terrified that the worst was yet to come. These things happen in threes, you know.

But what could I have done? Had I crossed some line, even unknowingly? Could it be fixed before disaster struck again?

I looked around the coffee shop for clues but was left wanting. It was mostly quiet. There were a couple early business meetings taking place, most of which appeared to involve people who considered themselves to be technology entrepreneurs. You can tell this by how much you feel like punching the person who is talking. Do you want to punch them kind of a lot? Probably an entrepreneur. The remaining patrons stared into the screens of their laptops as though trying to decipher one of those Magic Eyes that were popular in the nineteen hundred and nineties.

But then, I noticed something. Behind the counter, the barista who prepared my coffee and scone was reading a newspaper, and I was sure he was sneaking peaks at me between turns of the page.

Of course, I thought. The barista’s messing with me. Gave me extra hot coffee and an old scone. Also, who under the age of 45 reads newspapers anymore? It’s so he can hide…

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What are you smiling at?

Surely this was the deviant responsible for my torment. I stood from my table, dusted the remaining crumbs off of my lap and made my way across the room.

“Excuse me,” I said, maintaining my calm. The man looked up from his paper and hopped off of his stool.

“Can I help you?” he offered.

“Did I…did I do anything to you, by chance? Like, anything to upset you?” I squinted hard, studying his face for reactions.

“I…I don’t think so.” he said, maintaining an air of bafflement. Oh this guy was good. Real good.

“Look, I burnt my mouth on my coffee. Then my scone fell apart. I’m beginning to think someone’s got it out for me.”

“Heh, yeah I guess I did see that.”

My left eye began to twitch.

“And you’re sure you didn’t give me, like, extra hot coffee or a crappy scone on purpose?” asked.

“Well, all of our scones are bad, and the coffee’s always hot, but it wasn’t anything personal, if that’s what you mean…is your eye okay?”

“It’s fine,” I muttered.

“Look, mister, I think you just had a little bad luck there,” he paused and took a breath. “I don’t wanna sound like some hippy or something–”

“Then don’t.”

“–but maybe if you sorta shrug it off and tell yourself the day’ll get better, maybe it will, you know?”

He smiled. It seemed genuine and kind, and I wanted to knock it right off of his dumb goateed face. How absurd! Just be optimistic and things will get better? Who thinks the world works that way? Idiots, that’s who.

But then, I thought maybe he was onto something. What reason did I have to believe that this guy was messing with me? Maybe the only conspiracy against me was of my own doing. Could it really be as simple as having a more positive attitude toward things? I supposed it couldn’t hurt to try.

My twitchy eye began to relent, and I smiled back.

“Maybe you’re right,” I said and then turned to make my way back to my table.

You might even say I sauntered back, the very concept of optimism having an immediate effect. Maybe this silliness really works? I thought.

With a gleeful bounce, I plopped into the chair and shuffled it forward closer to the table’s edge, banging the underside of it with my knee in the process. Time crawled. I watched the still steaming coffee leap from the table’s surface, land on an edge, teeter for a moment, and then lurch forward into my lap.

I hope the barista is optimistic the mug hurtling toward his face won’t chip a tooth. I’m not.

AdviceIf you get coffee stains on a garment, your best course of action is to just dump more coffee on other parts of that garment to sort of even it out. Those stains, like the dark marks on your soul, are never coming out.

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