Monday, September 17, 2007

Sliding Doors

Just outside of Battle Creek, MI, my friend in the passenger seat turned to me and asked if I wanted a cookie. I mulled the decision for a few seconds, quickly calculating the positives and negatives of the decision. I froze for a second, as I found myself exactly 50/50 on whether or not to accept said cookie. I did a mental coinflip and elected to decline the cookie.

Five hours later, I yelled "fuck" at Michigan Stadium.

It's strange how one decision, which seemed so inconsequential at the time, can set into motion a chain of events that could in no way be anticipated. It's only in the harsh hindsight that I realized that my embarassing outburst was not in any way under my control, but rather the final domino in a long, bizarre Rube Goldberg-esque mousetrap machine that I was a small, completely unwitting participant in. Let me unfurl this contraption for your amusement:

First of all, it's important to realize this wasn't just any cookie I was offered. It was a fancy individually-wrapped cookie sent to my friend by a law firm he interviewed with in a care package to bribe him into taking the job. The winner of the 2007 World Cookie Championship award (according to the sticker on the label), this cookie was a 500-calorie chocolate-chippety bastard oozing with caramel, oatmeal, and chunks of delicious lard, which I found out as I wolfed it down the next morning to chase away my blazing hangover from my post-game efforts to drink away the afternoon. Now, I don't know about you, but a 500 calorie cookie is a hearty meal for a person like myself, and would have most assuredly slaked my hunger well into the evening, had I elected to consume it. Instead, I went into Ann Arbor with an empty stomach.

A few hours after the offer on the road in Battle Creek, I landed in Ann Arbor, prepared for a very sarcastic and certainlly unfulfilling afternoon of football. I availed myself of some Sangria at a tailgate, tracked down my tickets, and then worked my way over to the remote stage for WAAM to do an interview with Brian Cook and Jim Walsh about Here Come the Irish and Hail to the Victors. After a lighthearted chat with the local radio, I found myself in possession of a VIP pass for WAAM's tailgate. With kickoff quickly approaching and one more ticket to pick up, I found myself in a bit of a time crunch. I again was confronted with a choice: hit up the hospitality tent and grab a bratwurst or head over to the portable toilet and expel some urine. Seeing that there was a line about six or eight people long at the toilet, I decided I only had time to do one, and, due to my refusal of the cookie, hunger was rapidly becoming a top priority. Having no other choice, I loaded up a brat with sauerkraut and spicy mustard and decided to wait until I was inside the stadium to address my other need. I finished half the weiner before I got to the gate and pitched the rest in the trash.

Flash forward to the early third quarter. The going was rough (but I don't need to tell you that), but I was handling it like a trooper. Any sense of animosity in the section had dissipated once it became clear that this game wasn't going to be competitive, and I spent the game cracking jokes with the Michigan fans around me. My biggest cheer came late in the second quarter, where a somewhat promising drive had the Irish's total yardage rapicly closing in on 0. When our yardage hit negative-9 yards, I stood up and cheered wildly, shouting "Single digit negative, baby! Oh, yeah!" The fans around me laughed along and gave me high-fives. They also patted me on the back and reassured me when we gave up a sack on the next play and promptly droped back to double-digit negative yardage. The point is, I was handling the de-pantsing with class, grace, and a very robust sense of humor. However, at that point, my bladder had reached critical mass, and I realized I had to address the urge immediately. Not being too let down by missing some gametime, I headed down to the toilets to take care of business and save myself a few minutes of watching the atrocity on the field.

As I reached the concourse, I was stunned whan I saw the restroom. There wasn't a line for the men's room, per se, but an amorphous blob of antsy dudes tap-dancing with bladder fatigue about 25 deep and 10 broad. I walked to the other end of the stadium and saw an even larger line at the other restroom, so I dubiously returned to the line of something like 250 people and waited patiently to do my duty. I somehow survived the ordeal without making a mess of myself and strolled out of the men's room about 20 minutes after I had left my seat. No worries, since I hadn't missed anything eventful on the field, but still an aggravating hassle. Nevertheless, my spirits were still high and I was resolved to make it to the end without losing my cool. I went back to my section and saw a line of about 20 people waiting to get into the aisle to work their way toward the seats. At this point, the last thing I wanted to do was wait in another line, particularly for something that... you know, it doesn't make any sense for there to be a line for. It was at that moment that I spotted some fans walking by with a Domino's pizza box. Having only a half a bratwurst (and no cookie) in my system and very low morale, I realized that some pizza would do wonders in lifting my spirits, and worked my way down the hill (I had to jump a fence to bypass the crowd, but it was a short, managable hop) and grab some 'za.

"Two slices of pepperoni," I said, carefully extracting $4 from my wallet.

"Sorry, sir," replied the person at the counter. "We just sold our last slice."

You know the vertigo effect? You know, in Hitchcock movies where the camera pans in and zooms out on a person's face really rapidly, usually accompanied by shrieking horror music?

Yeah, so that happened. The world went black, my pupils dilated, my fists clenched, and I suddenly became bathed in a frigid sweat. I blacked out, but when I came to a few seconds later, I could hear words reverberating in my ears in my voice:

"Man, FUCK this place!"

Ohhhhh.... ffffffffuuuuuuuudddge!

I feel bad that I did it, and I feel bad because there were probably some impressionable young kids in earshot of my outburst. And while I'll take full responsibility for what I did, I think it's important for everyone to know that I had no control over it. The entire, unavoidable, fatalistic machine had been set into motion six hours ago and 100 miles away when I decided not to take the cookie.

Let this be a warning to all of you. In the future, whenever you're offered a cookie, think of the children and take it. We're all in this together, I'm pulling for you.

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