Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ten Things I Secretly Enjoy

It’s after midnight, and you’re right, I should be working; something is just keeping from that first step of the night's workload, lazy, lack of ambition and focus...what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yes, procrastination. Like walking across hot coals, I imagine the first step is always the most difficult, but once I buckle down, I do get a lot done. But, if you don’t mind, I’ll procrastinate for a while; I like feeling busy without actually contributing anything to my accomplishments for the day, such as with this post.

Everybody’s got a little secret or two stashed away in their minds, quiet indulgences they come across every now and again that make them smile, happy, feel alive or fill some empty void they’ve dug out sometime in their past. It isn’t something you share either, as most people won’t understand. Take for example, Robert Duval’s scene in “Apocalypse Now” when he says, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory.” It’s an odd thing to say to a total stranger, and I’m sure Martin Sheen’s character was equally puzzled…then again, he was searching for a madman who turned out to be the sanest one of the bunch, so maybe Duval wasn’t so much of a riddle, just a little crazy.

What is one of your indulgences? Maybe you like to run your fingernails across a chalkboard because you know it bothers people, or maybe you love the smell of copy toner, or the sound of a distant clock chiming off the hour reminds you of staying at your grandmother’s house. One of the little things I like is the smell of new electronics, right from the box; the plastics, glues and circuitry warming up for the first time produces this very synthetic, almost new-car smell that I enjoy. It’s like Christmas morning, and I’m always sad when I can’t smell it anymore or I get so used to it that I no longer notice it.

Here are 10 random things that I secretly enjoy:

Slow-motion car crash tests. I love seeing video of a new car being hurled into a concrete barrier. Watching the hood and fenders slowly wrinkle at first and then smash together like an accordion, as if a giant is crumpling a piece of paper, is exciting. The headlights, turn signals, mirrors and windows all shatter, safety glass explodes like a meteor shower, and small parts tear loose and fan out in front of the car. Usually, the rear end lifts off the ground and the whole car begins to pirouette like a dancer. I have been in several car crashes and I remember every single one of them as a moment of gut wrenching terror, not a joy among them, but watching the crash test dummy’s body flung into the steering wheel and air bag only to have the seatbelt yank him back into place is an eerily mesmerizing. I suppose it is the reason we slow down and look at car crashes.

A light smell of gasoline. This one is the result of being around cars a lot in the last 10 years or so. Race fuels, ethanol, motor oil and exhaust really fall under this category too. If napalm smells like victory then gasoline smells like progress, and that means you’re going somewhere. A related appeal is gun oil, but that is more for the association than for the actual enjoyment. It reminds me of when Dad would clean his gun, and I would always root around in the supplies box, which was tainted with the stuff.

Chaos. This is bad to admit, I guess, but I like it when things go wrong and everything gets fouled up. It is thrilling to see people jump into action. Remember the movie "The Long, Long Trailer" when "poor Grace" played by Connie Van watches Dezi Arnaz tear down the rose bushes with the trailer? Remember that exhilerated look of joy and excitement on her face? Well, that's me. I wasn't always this way, but I remember when I think it started: I was standing at the railing of a ferry, crossing into Canada, when Dad asked, “Wouldn’t it be exciting if the boat sank?” I was concerned about the car and all of our stuff, to which he replied: “That’s what insurance is for; we’d have to swim for it.” Wow, I had never thought of that before, but yeah, yeah, it would be pretty exciting. From then on, I have spent most of my life waiting for the boat to sink, and when it does, it will be exciting, no doubt.

Near-misses. I’m not an adrenalin junky, far from it. I like terra firma and I hate to be out of control, but I love the euphoria I feel a split second after a near traffic accident. You know what I mean, you’ve just finished yelling out in fear, you realize you’re safe and back on course and then it suddenly dawns on you that you were almost taken out of circulation in a car accident. I love the feeling of adrenalin as it pumps into my stomach, so much so that I can actually feel it drain down the walls of my stomach! It has a “fight or flight” relationship to it… exhilarating.

The smell of tobacco and coffee. This one is easy to explain. They both smell really good in their original raw form, but the tobacco must be pipe tobacco. I don’t smoke so I can’t verify for sure, but it is always kept in big glass jars in humidors, and a light (I emphasis light) whiff of it is pleasing; however, setting fire to it and sticking it in your face is downright disgusting. For three years I worked in a coffee shop, making cappuccinos and mochas, etc., and everyone that came in there used to exclaim, “Wow, does it smell good in here.” The smell sold more coffee than the coffee. Every time I heard it, I kicked myself because I could no longer smell it, being so used to it day in and day out. But since I stopped working there 12 years ago, I make a point to hit the coffee aisle in the grocery store and take a deep breath.

Finding mistakes in movies. In the movie “Pearl Harbor” you can see the Arizona Memorial in one of the early shots, and later, when the Japanese fly over the island, they fly over a white cross on a hill. That cross was put there years later to mark the spot the Japanese first appeared on the island. Why would they leave those in? Every movie has them, sometimes small things nearly impossible to notice and others so huge it almost damages the believability of the movie. In “Back to the Future” Biff’s 1946 Ford changes to a 47 a few times, and in the second installment, you can see wheels used to support the Delorean when it supposed to be hovering just above the ground.

Tricks with numbers. In less than 10 seconds, tell me the sum of all the numbers between zero and one hundred. How do you square any number that ends in five? They're easy after I explain it. I like it when numbers do amazing tricks or are part of interesting sequences, like Fibonacci numbers (the first number is added to the next one to create the third one: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 22, etc.), Pi and, of course, the golden ratio (well related to Fibonacci), 1.618… everything in nature has to do with that number, leaves, ice, snail shells…you. Measure yourself from your head to your toes and then from your navel to your toes, divide the latter into the former and you’ll get roughly 1.6. The answer to the initial questions? 5050 and 1225. The first one: Each number from zero to one hundred has an opposite number that adds up to 100 (99 and 1, 98 and 2, etc). There are 50 such pairs, with Number 50 being the odd man out. 50x100+50=5050. As fpr squaring any number that ends in five, like 35 for example, you square the 5 to equal 25 then multiply the tens digit (in this case 3) by one number more, 4, to equal 12 and put it in front of the 25. So, 35 squared is 1225. How fun.

The sound of an old car starting. There’s a scene in “Double Indemnity” where Fred MacMurry and Barbara Stanwyck characters have just laid the husband’s body on the tracks and are having trouble starting the car. That rotating, low, throat-clearing sound an old car makes when its engine is first turning over is one of those sounds that reminds me of a long ago time I’ll never experience, and I’m only able to get a taste of it from those movies. You don’t get a chance to hear a lot of 36 LaSalles starting up these days, do you?

Dogs when they dream. There is nothing that more personifies a dog then when they’re asleep and dreaming. Muffled barks, whimpers are coupled with the kicking of the legs, running, jumping…and we only conclude they’re chasing something, a rabbit, a piece of meat, another dog. I like to think my dog is running a race or maybe she’s driving a car. She’s seen me do it a hundred times; maybe its one of her life-long dreams: “Make the big loud metal box go faster so I can really stick my head out of the window.”

Messing up ant holes. Who doesn’t like to see those damn insects scramble for cover when you drag the corner of a rock through their village. Then smite them with a dousing of insecticide. Cruel? You wouldn’t think so if you’ve seen the lengths they’ll go to invade a house (our old house was a war zone). There’s no love lost when you have to completely clear out the pantry because they’ve come in, set up shop and have taken over… or when you have to clean up a one-inch-thick column of ants that meanders its way around two rooms to find a box of individually wrapped cookies 45 feet away from the source of entry. Plus, it’s neat to watch them feverishly work to fix their holes; they’re very fascinating creatures, regardless of the fact that they are my mortal enemies.

Kind of a weird post, wouldn’t you agree? It’s one reason this gets the night shift. Odds are good I’ll have another post up by tomorrow afternoon to replace this one, so nothing lost, nothing gained. As well, this is probably stuff you really didn’t need to know about me, but it is better than an inane list of my favorite movies or the books I’ve just finished reading and slightly more entertaining and enlightening than a long boring story about me that you’d find in the profile section.

Enjoy your own secret pleasures; I know you’ve got them.

Well, I guess I'd better get back to work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also secretly like the smell of gasoline...shh


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