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What I Wonder When I Wonder If I'm Tough by Ray Printer Friendly

Iím not a hundred percent positive, but Iím pretty sure Iím going to be all over the place tonight, jumping from subject to subject. Sometimes I sit down with a single idea in mind, and thatís what I write about. Other times, I sit down without any idea of what Iím going to write, and I just start going. Tonight, I was actually thinking about what I was going to write, and then one thought led to another, and then that one led to another, and I realized that Iím going to sound like a rambling old man.

Then I realized that that was okayóI probably sound like Iím suffering from dementia most of the time, anyways.

So worked sucked today. I mean, it really sucked. Iím going on vacation next week, which means that I have to do deliveries big enough to last the stores while Iím away. I knew this week was going to suck work-wise, but I didnít understand the complexities. For instance, it has been raining pretty much nonstop for the last couple of days.

Generally, I love the rain. I like gray skies, I like the smell of rainstorms, I like sound of thunder clapping and rain falling on the roof. What I donít like is working in it. What I donít like is pulling ton-and-a-half pallets off the back of my delivery truck, hoping that Iím quick enough to jump out of the way if the shit starts slipping on the near-frictionless platform on which I lower down pool supplies. What I donít like is getting sopping wet at nine-thirty in the morning and staying that way until the end of the day.

ďHow are you liking this rain?Ē One of the guys that supplies my company with parts asked me.

ďThe rain? I like the rain. Itís delivering in it that sucks shithole.Ē

ďYeah, I could see how that would blow.Ē

ďUnless youíre a big fan of rashes. You like nasty-ass friction rash?Ē

ďNope. Not a big fan of smelling like shit, either.Ē

ďSee, my job probably isnít for you, then.Ē Because working in a ninety-five-degree warehouse full of chemicals while youíre soaking wet, that kind of thing just isnít all that conducive to not smelling like shit.

By soaking wet, I mean that I was soaking fucking wet. At the end of the day, if you had grabbed my boxer shorts and wrung them out, water would have dripped on the floor. I donít know why youíd want to do something like that, unless you were just testing your threshold for not puking, or maybe you have some disgusting fetish that I donít even want to contemplate. But there it is, for your consideration.

The thing about Austin in the summer is, you donít dry out. I suppose if you had a decent job where you went indoors and didnít stand out in a filthy warehouse sweating your balls off, maybe then youíd dry off. But if youíre that dumb bastard in that warehouse, you might as well just count on being damp for the majority of the day. And not in a good way, like if you were a stripper or something.

And if youíre unfortunate enough to have to stand out in the pouring rain for ten minutes or so, and then step in a gigantic puddle that immediately saturates your shoe? Well, you just better count on a really shitty day. And I donít mean shitty where you kind of hope your boss says the wrong thing so you can just quit your lousy job.

I mean shitty like you hope your boss says the wrong thing so you can put him in traction and then you get hauled to County where you can beat the shit out of a cell full of criminals without feeling bad about yourself. Or, if you arenít tough enough for that, at least you can get beat into unconsciousness and not have to worry about your dripping wet garments any longer.

On top of all the rain, there was also the problem of my wrist. I did something to my wrist, and Iím not sure what. Whatever it was, it screwed up some shit in a major way. I pulled down a loaf of bread today and dropped it because of the jolt of pain shooting through my hand/forearm area.

My moneyís on a pinched nerve. Iíve had pinched nerves in my hand before, and it kind of felt like this, but never as severe. So Iím standing there in the kitchen at six thirty this morning, staring at the loaf of bread that Iíve just dropped onto the counter, and Iím wondering what the hell my day is going to be like.

The bread, Iíd say it weighs half a pound, maybe a pound at most. At work, I move things that weigh twenty-five, fifty, one hundred pounds. Heavy things, and lots of Ďem.

I picked up the bread with my other hand and decided that Iíd just have to do what I do anytime I hurt myself, which is to work until I canít anymore, and bitch pretty much nonstop to my princess.

I have a pretty high threshold for pain, I think. I know I used to, anyway. I used to do dumb shit all the time, and I could kind of base my reaction to pain by how other people felt about it. An example?

When I was a little kid, I had this mole on my neck. It was big and it was embarrassing. It wasnít big around, but it stuck out probably like a quarter of an inch. The kids I grew up with in Canadian were used to it, and never really said anything about it. But each summer, I went to visit my dad in Kansas.

One time, I was bitching to my dad about ďpeople here.Ē I donít remember what exactly I was saying, but thatís how I always started that kind of complaint, like, ďPeople here just donít get my sense of humor.Ē

I remember he got kind of pissed and told me, ďPeople are the same wherever you go. Youíll have good people and bad people, but itís all the same.Ē

I thought about this a lot in the following years. I eventually came to a conclusion: Either my dad was wrong or he was lying. Because my dad isnít really a stupid man, I now believe that he was lying.

Because aside from mostly being assholes, people are not the same.

The kids that I had to endure each summer in Kansas, they were mean. They were mean and they were petty and they were fucking idiots. I got teased in my hometown, but I could always use my wit as a defense.

ďYou sure a fat bastard, Ray.Ē

ďIíd lose weight, but Iím afraid Iíd fall inside your mom next time we were screwing.Ē

And theyíd get pissed, but at least they understood. The kids in Kansas, they werenít even bright enough to get burned by my burns. They thought I was the idiot. I think itís fair to say that I hated almost all of the people in my age-group. It was a really small town, so you get that one-on-one personal hate, too. As we grew, I took evil joy at the teenage pregnancies, at the drunk driving incidents, and at the general failures they became. Donít get me wrongóIím no prize. But I donít live across the street from my mother, across the street from the house I grew up in, never having been any further away than the Walmart the next town over.

And thatís something.

Anyway, a few years after my dad first told me that about people being all the same, I mentioned it to him. I told him that I thought he was wrong.

ďI think people are smarter in Canadian than they are here.Ē

I donít blame him for his civic pride, looking back. At the time, I just thought heíd be thrilled that I had thought over his words of wisdom for three or four years before coming to a conclusion.

ďAt least we donít have people shooting themselves in the face or overdosing on pills or any of that shit!Ē

At the time, the youth of Canadian seemed to be going through a rough patch. Although my hometown is really small, it has a bizarre suicide/homicide rate. Maybe if you matched it up next to a big city, the numbers would average out, I donít know.

What I do know is that of the people I went to school with, a surprising number of them are now dead, due to something other than natural causes.

I looked at my dad, a little surprised that he had pulled out the big guns, as it were. I also marveled about how little the adults knew about the youth in that little Kansas town.

Because I knew right off the top of my head about three people in that town who had tried to commit suicide. They had all failed, not because they wanted to live, but because they were too stupid to do it right.

One girl tried to suffocate herself using a pillow. She tried three times, holding the pillow against her face, but she kept passing out and dropping the pillowóthen she would wake up and try again.

Another tried to hang herself. She used a sheet around a slat of the ceiling fanóshe stepped off the edge of her bed with one end of the sheet tied securely around her neck and the other tied securely around the fan. She yanked the fan out of the ceiling, landed on her ass, and then the fan landed on top of her head. She didnít succeed in killing herself, but she got grounded for two weeks for wrecking her ceiling fan.

The other tried to slice her wristsÖusing a butter knife. She got a wicked friction burn, and a reputation as a lunatic, but neither of those things killed her.

I didnít tell any of that to my dad, though. I just nodded and thought back to the time that those crazy Kansanian bastards had teased me about that lousy mole on my neck.

All summer long, man. Shit. I went home one day, got a lighter out of the drawer where my dad kept lighters, and grabbed this old kitchen knife that nobody ever used. I cleaned the knife with rubbing alcohol, and then heated it until it was glowing. Then I cut the mole off my neck. It smelled like burning meat, like bacon left in the microwave for too long. Halfway through, the knife stopped cauterizing the wound, and my neck started bleeding like crazy. I rinsed off the knife, and tucked a clump of toilet paper under my neck, and held it kind of like how you can hold a phone against your head with no hands. I flamed up the knife again, wiped the blood off my neck real quick, and finished cutting.

My mom noticed a few months later, and freaked out, telling me about how I was going to get cancer. Little did she know that I was already smoking, so a little laceration was the least of my problems.

Another example? When I was in sixth grade, I broke my finger.

I was playing kickball in P.E., and I was running to home base. In case you donít know about kickball, or in case youíve mentally blocked the sadistic sport, let me give you a refresher:

Itís like baseball, but you use this big red rubber ball. The pitcher rolls it to you, you kick it, and then you run like hell. It differs from baseball in the major way that instead of tagging you with the ball, the opposing team beans the absolute fuck out of you with it. The face was supposed to be off-limits, but nobody in my school gave a shit about getting you out, they cared about hurting you. You might get to take your base, but youíd take it with a bleeding lip and blurry vision.

Anyway, so there I am, about to score the point that will tie the game or lose it. I see that the catcher has the ball, and he was this big old bastard that had been held back twice in the course of our grade-school career. Iím expecting him to peg my face, so Iím getting ready to slide. But he had a couple years of experience on me, and was wise to my strategy. He chunks the ball so that it will hit me if I slide, a little lower than waist high.

I make a split-second decision to jump over the ball. It didnít work out.

This dude, he was tough, man. That ball caught my feet and sent me into an aerial summersault. It was either land on my head or try to break the fall with my hand. I landed on my finger all crazy-like, and there was this snap and this immense pain, and then I landed on my head, anyway.

I woke up a minute later, the fat-ass P.E. teacher hovering over me, red-faced and dripping sweat down onto me. I jumped up, told everyone I was all right, and stumbled away. You could tell the teacher was freaked because he didnít even ask where I was going. Probably he was just glad I was still alive. I went up this little hill and sat down by a tree.

My hand hurt like shit. I looked and saw that my finger was all cacked, and because it wouldnít move, I was pretty sure it was broken. But get this: I didnít want to be known as the pussy that got his first broken bone playing kickball. So I grabbed the top of my finger, just like I had seen in movies, and jerked it.

It snapped and I almost puked because of the pain, but when the dizziness passed, I could move my finger again. It hurt, but it moved, and I had always heard that if you could move your finger, it wasnít broken.

So I told everyone it was just a sprain, and now my finger is all crooked.

The point of all that isnít just to tell you what a badass I am. The point is to tell you about how I can deal with some pain. I used to be able to, anyway. Anymore, Iím not so sure. Like maybe I think Iím all hardcore because my wrist hurts and I just deal with it, but maybe there are people out there who wouldnít even mention it.

Quick note about the finger thing: two years later, when I was in eighth grade, I broke the exact same finger. This time, it was dodgeball. It was down to me and this other guy, and I did the exact same thing, trying to jump over the ball. I didnít get knocked out that time. We were in the gym and I landed smack dab on my head. The coach ran over and started asking how many fingers he was holding up. I was terrified that I might start crying because I was freaking out about how I couldnít even see his fucking hand.

This wasnít P.E., either. This was athletics. I was surrounded by football players and coaches. Crying was out of the question. ďJust get the fuck away from me,Ē I screamed. I didnít even get in trouble for cussing. They just told me to sit in the bleachers until I felt better. I jerked my finger back into place while I showered, and by the time I was dressed, I could see again, so I knew I wasnít going to cry.

That time, I got a splint to wear on my finger, courtesy of the school system.

Incidentally, I actually did break down and cry once in front of the entire football team. It is one of the most embarrassing moments of my entire life (which is saying a lot, because I have done a lot of embarrassing shit over the course of my lifetime). This happened in seventh grade, which is why I was so dead-set about not crying with the broken finger/blindness thing in eighth.

It was the first day of football practice, and my helmet was too small. I told the coach, and he told me to deal with it through practice, and heíd get me a new helmet afterwards. The thing is, the sides were squeezing my temples, so every time I got hit, or tried to hit someone, it would squeeze the side of my head, and Iíd black out for a second. This was before I realized how wonderful blacking out could be, so I complained to him. He told me get back out there. Long story short, I put up with it as long as I could, until I started freaking out and bawling.

I went up to him, yanked off my helmet, and tried to tell him that it was too much. Instead, I broke down into tears. In front of the entire fucking football team. You would not believe how many of their girlfriends I had to have sex with later to make up for that one incident. (All of them, in case you were wondering. Well, not the ugly ones, Ďcause, you knowógross. Okay, two of the ugly ones, but I didnít feel good about it.)

These were the things I was thinking about today as I loaded up tons of pool chemicals, using my good hand and the elbow of my other arm. Not the crying during football practiceóthat I just now remembered, and only included in the interest of full disclosure. Because, really, I was kind of a little bitch in Junior High.

And I wondered, Would regular people still be doing this? Would an average guy continue to load up pallet after pallet of heavy shit when he canít push the button on the squeeze-soap without pain shooting through his arm? Or am I a wimp for even noticing this pain? And because I am who I am, my next thought was what my next thought pretty much always is when Iím self-evaluating: If zombies took over the world, would I be one of the survivors, or food?

When Iím bitching about aches or pains or allergies or whatever, I always feel like Iíd be food.


posted 6/27/07


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