Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Take It to Awesome

for Kat and Tab

On paper, my life is not that interesting. I'm a middle-aged spinster English teacher who reads three books a week, spends her Saturdays perusing the library stacks, and typically longs to curl up in bed as soon as it gets dark. I spend nine months of the year pacing back and forth in a freezing, white-walled classroom while defending the Oxford comma and speaking out against the evils of split infinitives. Not exactly the stuff that dreams are made on.

My life, however, is far from dull. Over and above the sometimes-insipid tedium of my daily routine arcs a sensational rainbow of sheer awesomeness. I've found the secret, you see. The secret of Taking Life to Awesome.1 

How to Take It to Awesome:

1. Make mundane tasks interesting. A few weeks ago, I decided to start using the speech-to-text function on my phone almost exclusively for answering messages from my sister/roommate, Beef. It didn't take long for her to begin returning the favor. Not only does the speech-to-text function preclude capitalization and punctuation (at least, when I do it, because I haven't figured out how to work it yet), but it also doesn't always interpret our comments correctly. We've decided, for entertainment purposes, never to correct these errors.  The upshot of this is that although we may not always know what the other person is talking about, we have the unique privilege of exchanging such intellectual gems as:

"i shudder to think would be hot"

"elbow like elbow like"

"i shall make it puppet corn"

"ola should of gotten a blue spruce there later"

And our personal favorite: "even though i mobster hallway something so bad"

2. Find someone with whom to exchange pranks. The sheer number of pranks that Beef and I have played on one another is not nearly as profound as the far-reaching effect that some of these pranks have had. Most memorably, there was my book that she mailed around the world to be photographed having adventures with friends, family, and eventually, utter strangers. Stunning in its scope, this two-year prank spanned the globe and actually precipitated some life-long friendships. Then there were the weeks that I was removing one piece of clothing per day from her room and squirreling them away in trash bags until she finally cried out in frustration, "WHERE are all of my CLOTHES?!" She responded with an elaborate ruse which tried to convince me that I was sleepwalking. In turn, I got up at four o'clock one morning to deck out her truck in "JUST MARRIED" regalia: streamers, cans tied to the back, balloons inside, and "Honk For True Love!" scrawled across the back window (a surprising number of people honked even though she was obviously alone). She removed all of the light-bulbs from the entire house on a night that she knew I would be coming home late. I froze her keys into the center of a block of ice. She collaborated with five people in order to convince me (unsuccessfully!) that I was on a blind date. I threw her chair onto the roof of our apartment complex. She went through my phone and renamed all of my contacts so that for a while I was receiving calls and texts from people named "Col. Sheppard" and "Shamrocks" and such.

Never a dull moment.

3. Entertain strangers whenever possible. As has been mentioned in a previous post, being challenged in the area of spatial orientation and motor skills does have its fringe benefits. For example, it's comforting for me to know that dozens of Spanish-speaking teenage tourists went back to Cuba (or Spain, or wherever) telling the story of how they saw some white woman shrieking and flailing her arms as she flew through the air while falling off of Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, MD, in 2008.2

I'm equally glad to know that the German tourist at Shakespeare's Globe in London enjoyed my epic geekout as much as I seem to have done:

She thought I was crazy

Entertaining strangers does not need to take place only by accident, however. Ideally, it is done by design. Since long theme park lines are the best places to overhear conversations, I sometimes have been known to stage epic, dramatic sagas for the benefit of the middle-aged couple in line behind us who is pretending not to listen, but who totally hangs on every word.

Under certain conditions, the best thing that you can do to entertain strangers is to break down and talk to them.3

The internet also provides much fodder for entertaining both strangers and friends alike. Hence, social experiments such as my public Flickr set The Surgery Was Unsuccessful, which you will find always available to entertain you and chase your blues away. The world needs this!

In short, Taking Life to Awesome is not about taking part in fantastic, outlandish adventures. It's not about being the sort of person who's always hiking Everest with one arm tied behind his back, performing heart transplants while blindfolded, or putting down a coup d'etat with a delicately-arched  eyebrow and a flame-thrower.

No, no. Taking It to Awesome is all about discovering the improbable adventure inherent in daily life.
________________________
1 - I'm hazy on the origins of this phrase. I remember where I was at the time it was coined (Canada) and whom I was with (two really fabulous women), but I can't remember who first used the phrase and in what context. Other than my obvious awesomeness, of course.
2 - More on this in the future post "How to Jump Off Things (and Not Die!)"
3 - See previous post "How to Talk to Strangers." Sadly, I didn't find space in the post to talk about any of the remarkable strangers I've been privileged to have amazing conversations with over the years. What a pity.

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