Shifting Through Gimmicks

I don’t think anyone has exceedingly great memories of middle school.  At that age, everyone seemed desperate to carve out an identity.  I struggled too because I didn’t think I had a memorable personality.  People told me to “just be yourself” but it turns out short, skinny and docile wasn’t a recipe for success.  I needed to stick out.  So I went through about a 2 year phase where I would try out different gimmicks.  My first gimmick was flipping a coin.  I thought that’d make me seem bad-ass.  Like I was Two-Face.  People would be looking at me saying, “Ooh he’s such a brooding intellect that he needs a coin to make decisions for him.”  Heads: I’d get chicken nuggets for lunch, Tails: Mexican pizza.

I learned one cardinal rule of being a nerd.  Don’t flash your cash.  All the bullies at school knew I had quarters.  That year I spent a lot of time upside down.  

After that there was about a two-week span where I would always have licorice.  You’d see me in the hallway and I’d just be chomping on some Twizzlers.  Little chunks of licorice would always be getting stuck in my braces.  I really have no idea what the purpose of that was.  In retrospect it was kind of a creepy way to get people to talk to me.  “I’ve got candy.  Want to play tether-ball?”  Good thing I couldn’t grow a mustache back then or I’d probably be on a watch list by now.  

None of those gimmicks worked so I thought I needed to do a drastic turnaround.  I had so much rage, but I felt trapped…like a rat in a cage.  So one day I came into school wearing a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt.  It was that black one Billy Corgan used to wear that said “Zero.”  

I was in a pretty dark place in Middle School you know…all that homework…

It’s amazing how much really can be expressed in a T-shirt.  That t-shirt summed up how I felt about the world then.  That we’re all just cogs in this suburban machine, man!  I wore the shirt proudly for exactly 47 minutes.  Then some eighth grader was walking down the hall, saw me and said, “Zero?  Is that the number of push-ups you can do?”  That shirt never saw the light of day again.  It still somewhere in the bowels of my dresser drawer along with an Austin 3:16 t-shirt and an Amos Zeroue jersey.  

I’m still looking for that gimmick, that thing that makes me unique.  My new thing is using old-timey metaphors.  I watched True Grit about a month ago and now I say stuff like cowboys used to say.  I’ll be at work and someone’s telling me about some report:

Co-Worker: These numbers seem to indicate that gross margin is up for the quarter.

Me: Well if a cat has kittens in the oven, that don’t make ‘em biscuits!

Co-Worker: What?

Me: You know what son?  Talking to you’s like hollerin’ in a sawmill.

Co-Worker: Are you looking at the same excel sheet as me?

Me: Con sarn it!  You best be as silent as watersnake ‘for I give ya’ a bunch of five to yer jabberbox!  (spittoon ding)