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Bug the Columnist

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April 1, 1997
All in the Delivery

I've got a little story to tell. But first, lemme just ask you, have you ever done something so stupid, you couldn't believe it? I mean, something so incredibly bonehead-esque that you were pretty much ashamed to be alive? Something so phenomenally embarassing that even the thought that you would be capable of such a thing would make you want to fill yourself with various forms of ammunition? I mean...something really, really dumb?

You have? HAAAAhahahaha.

This story has nothing to do with that. This story has to do with the state of our highways and byways, our backroads and our dirt roads, our onramps and our... uh... postage stamps. No. Desk lamps. Ah, forget it. Basically what I'm talking about is that wonderful adventure that 87% of us participate in for an average of one hour and twenty six minutes a day. Yes, I'm talking about masturbating.

No! Just kidding! That would be one hour and fifty seven minutes. Of course I was talking about driving. And of course, all of those statistics were made up, but that's not really important, because if you're reading this, I'm assuming you're in your car right now anyway, so you'll know what I'm talking about.

Before I get into that, though, on a related subject, I'd just like to say something to the chinese restaurant who we get deliveries from four or five times a week. Moo goo gai blow me, alright? I should have known this was going to be a very dysfunctional relationship when I first called and ordered crispy duck, and she said, "Are you sure? Have you ever had this before?" When they have someone from "Consumer Reports" answering their phones, that's a big warning flag, folks. Anyway, I want to know what sort of Mickey Mouse clock they're using over there that makes every length of time "35 minutes." It wouldn't bother me so much if they just said, "This stuff is hard to cook. We'll show up when we're damn good and ready." But they always tell me, thirty five minutes, and every time the guy (see below) shows up, it's either like ninety seconds later, and we're all in various forms of undress (ordering chinese food gets us very excited), or early the next morning, when we've given up and gorged ourselves on whatever cat food happened to be left in the cat's food dish. At least, I think that was their food dish- OH MY GOD!

Once our "feast from the east" gets to our place, though, it's always brought by the same guy. This man is definitely Not Chinese. This man looks like he should be driving a Monster Truck, not a chinese delivery car. He would look more at home with Colonel Sanders' chicken than General Tso's chicken. He looks like a beaten man. He also appears to be one bamboo straw short of a wok cleaner, if you know what I'm saying. We feel kind of sorry for him, so we'll usually offer something to him. Last time, I said, "Hey, here, have a spare rib." He held up his hand and politely refused, "That's OK, I had a couple on the way over." I got pretty pissed off about this, and went out and eggrolled his car.

But I guess it's all worth it when we can lay out all the stuff on our counter, our mouths watering, the pungent aroma of szechuan beef tripe or whatever it is wafting through the halls, and make ourselves heaping platefuls of white rice and random brown goo. There can be no denying it at this point; this is some pretty mediocre chinese food.

Here's a helpful tip, if you guys from the restaurant ("The Hunan Halfway House") are reading this. Those little cardboard cartons are probably easier to fill if you actually cut up the vegetables. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but it's harder to get at all the precious brown goo when there's this enormous green pepper stuffed in there like a nerf soccer ball into a post office box. Also, I don't remember that fried rice is supposed to be crunchy. It's pretty frightening when they staple Get Well cards to the bottoms of all their delivery boxes.

Another unnerving thing is that there's an item on the menu called "Happy Family". It's really expensive, so I'm assuming it's some variation of Hamburger Helper that the kids will love, except it's laced with some sort of tranquilizer so it'll knock those little bastards out on their ass so the parents can take a break, sit back, and contently gaze at their comatose offspring while snickering to themselves in triumph.

Before they sue me, let me just clarify that I of course do not really believe that the restaurant is adding any sort of drugs to this "Happy Family" dish, which I assume is actually quite delightful. I have, however, found plentiful quantities of rock cocaine in the pork lo mein.

Speaking of chinese places and cat food (and really, is there ever one without the other?), I actually ate cat food a couple of weeks ago. The cat food that I dined on was 9-Lives Plus Sliced Beef in Gravy. Before you judge me, at least go get a can of this and open it up. It smells like beef stew. The people kind. It smells good, as long as you can put out of your mind, completely, the fact that it's usually eaten by an animal that cleans diarrhea off of itself using the tongue. His own, I mean. I just think about baseball, which of course is the old standard trick for not thinking about cat food. That luscious cat food. The warm, wet feeling of the cat food as it slowly slides out of the can, and back into the bowl, first slowly, as it just begins to break the vacuum at the bottom of the can, but then quicker, quicker, as the air rushes in, and the cat is screaming, "YES! YES!"-

"Batting in the bottom of the seventh inning, with one on and two out..."

See, that's the trick.

But anyway, I was smelling this stuff, and I opined to my lovely companion, "Wow, this smells really good." She was aghast and appalled, which I could tell from her response. "What the hell does 'opined' mean?" I tried to quell her disgust, "I think it's like, when you start a humor column by announcing that you're going to tell a story, and then spend the next five pages bewildering your audience with totally unrelated, mildly nauseating stories about cat food and chinese restaurants." This seemed to calm her down. Of course, she had just finished a pretty hefty helping of "Happy Family".

Me, being the totally obnoxious creature I am, offered to eat some of it even before she could dare me to do it. And besides, by this time she was passed out on the floor lying in a big puddle of drool. She later yelled at me about this, because I had promised to clean up that puddle days before.

I took a small forkful and ate it.

You know how cigars smell really good when they haven't been lit yet, but taste awful when you eat them? Cat food is a lot like that. It's not good. It has the taste and consistency of cat food. I probably should have guessed that before I ate it, but, I mean, it smelled so good, and it even looked like real food. But it wasn't. I could barely finish the can.

Interestingly enough, we found out that if you take the 9-Lives Plus Sliced Beef in Gravy, roll it up in a tobacco leaf like a cigar, and smoke it, you get really high. We had a couple friends over last weekend and just sat around playing lots of AC/DC on the stereo and getting really "pussied", as we call it. Now that was a party.

But back to that story that I've been teasing and tantalizing you with since the beginning of this column, right up until the point you stopped reading it. It has to do with getting a Florida driver's license. Now, when I first moved here last July, I let my Maryland license expire, because I felt it beneath my dignity to go into their filthy DMV ("Don't Move. Very-good.") and stand in line for hours, just for the privelege of having them tell me, after I made the half-hour drive to get there in the first place, that I am fit to operate a motor vehicle. Also, I forgot about it.

Now, if the license had only been obsolete for under a month, all I would have had to do is stroll into the Florida DMV, plop down my renewal fee, and confidently assert, "No ablo espanol, senor!" However, since it was several months out of date, obviously I would need complete retraining, including an entire battery of tests to determine whether I still understood how to open and close the glove compartment in a timely manner, and how to get that little metal doohickey to stay down in the locked position when you're pumping gas.

After the initial, interminable wait in the "holding cell", which is full of people trying to intimidate each other with their various driving-license-related agendas ("Hi there, I'm going for my bus-driving certification." "Please get away from me."), I am called up to do the Written Test.

The Written Test, as its name would imply, is taken by pressing various buttons on a computer terminal in response to an assortment of pictures and words that appear on the screen. These might range from questions about the correct procedure for proceeding through a four-way stopsign, to how to best lead your targets when trying to shoot the guy who just cut you off. No hints are given as to how to take down pedestrians, because apparently the DMV awards no "bonus points" for stationary victims.

So anyway, I'm doing my best to get through my twenty questions, and there's a woman right next to me at the next terminal, who has just started her own adventure in rulebook regurgitation.

Now, I'm not saying I'm a genius at these tests. In fact, I got the worst score you can get on the test without immediately being hired as a chinese food delivery guy. Most of the questions I missed were esoteric, useless stuff like, "For a 29 year old male, who weighs 192 pounds, what is the minimum blood-alcohol level for him to be considered Driving Under the Influence?" The reason I didn't know this was that I always assumed the policeman would tell you whether or not you were drunk. I wasn't aware that the Field Sobriety Tests included math.

"Sir, you have a blood-alcohol level of .06."
"Yes sir!"
"Are you legally under the influence?"
"BZZZZT! Sorry! The correct answer is .08! Get in the car."

(Note: I still don't know if .08 is the right answer. Of course I'm pretty drunk right now and have to get ready to leave work and head home, so don't hold it against me.)

As I said, I'm not the best at these tests, but I'm trying my best to muddle on through. And then I hear this whimpering plea to my right, from this woman who is already on the verge of tears. " this?" She's at the part of the test where you have to correctly identify roadsigns. The picture is showing one of those railroad crossing things with the red lights on it. The correct answer to this is, "crossbuck", I assume because there used to be an actual person sitting there, and when there was no traffic, he would shout up to the engineer, "Cross, Buck." All railroad engineers had to be named "Buck", though, which is why trains never really took off as a method of mass transportation.

I whisper back, "C."

In her overwhelming gratitude for my help, she blurts out, "What?"

The very next roadsign she's shown is a "left curve ahead" sign. I feel relieved that she's past the "tricky" ones, and can now breeze through the rest of her test. Meanwhile, I'm on "OK, now say you've had like, fifteen beers, and you're really wasted, and your friend is puking all over your bumper. How many swings will it probably take before you're able to really land one on his chin?"

" this?"

Ever feel like the walls are closing in around you? We're in a room with about fifty eight police officers, and she's trying to get me to help her cheat on her test, and tell her what a goddamn left-turn sign means. At this point I assumed I'd be spending the night in jail, so I just lost it. "Just guess!" I shot back from the side of my mouth.

Again, she showed her appreciation for my salient advice. "What?"

As her test went on, she started to take my suggestion to heart, and just began wailing on the computer buttons. I'm struggling with, "You've woken up in your friend's backyard, and you've got a hangover so bad that-" and she's next to me playing Space Invaders on this thing. Thirteen-year-olds are starting to coagulate around her, trying to see if she can get the new high score. She's discovering all the "secret moves", the static drawings on the screen are coming to life, and she's running over the little stickmen with the cars. She's the only person I've ever seen who got to enter her initials into a written driving test computer.

Needless to say, she eventually passed the test, but was killed trying to exit the parking lot after failing to make a left turn.

I passed too, and went on to the driving portion of the driving test. The guy could see right away that I knew what I was doing, so he modified the last half of the test so that the obstacle course would take us by the 7-11, where we picked up some hotdogs and twelve-pack of brewskies. By the time we got back to the DMV, we were both getting pretty hosed, as empty beer cans began to cover the floormats.

Unfortunately, right after pulling into the parking lot, a cop who had been trailing us fired up his siren and pulled us over. As he goosestepped over to my window, my heart jumped into my throat.

"Sir, please step out of the car."

I did.

"Sir, let's say you're a 29 year old man, and you weigh 192 pounds. Now, what is the minimum..."

This page and the contents therein are copyright (C) 1997, by Ben Parrish. Don't mess with it. Or I'll throw food at you.