1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: February 21-27, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dear Internet:

So, we know each other a little bit by now.  After all, this is the 16th Issue of Tendown - heck, just Last Week, you learned about my new car and my boyhood crush on Sonny Crockett, and how I'm not as fat yet as Kevin Smith. 

And since we know each other a little bit, probably you're aware of my twin pet peeves: compulsory flag salute and poor public restroom etiquette.  This week saw the return of both.  So that's how we'll start our look back at the cultural happenings of the past 7 days (just last night I thought I should have named this Sundown as opposed to Tendown - cause it's Sunday, it's a countdown, and it marks the end of the cultural week.  Sundown - get it?).  Let's get some Tendown!

First: I Just Ate a Whole Bag of Chips

I think I have Asperger's Syndrome

My lady type friend thinks that eventually I will reveal to her that I've been diagnosed with such - I haven't - but I'm...51/49 in favor that I have it.  I'll probably continue to ignore that conclusion, because I'm 39 and haven't the energy to join the ranks of the differently abled, but I fit the profile pretty solidly. 

I mention that here because, while my brain completely locks up and I'm flooded with terror in social situations, I always enjoyed being with my grandparents when I was a boy; my grandmother would make me graham crackers and milk and fried hamburger patties - and my grandfather would take me to the games - we went to see the Niners (we always won, which was curious given how little that occurred in the late 70s) and the Giants (it seems unlikely that I saw Jim Barr lose both ends of a twi-night doubleheader in '79, but it's in my brain nonethless).  It was at my first Giants game (night game at Candlestick against the Reds in '78) that I was first confronted with the idea of the "other" - that people existed outside of my conception of them; we arrived a little late and were on the concourse getting polish sausage (I can still taste the sesame seeds from the bun and feel the snap of the gulden's mustard on my lips) when Cincinnati got a couple of baserunners in the top of the 1st, "The Reds are runnin!" - a dude excitedly uttered as he made his way from the concession line.  It was in that second that I processed a thought which had never occurred to me - that there were people who weren't Giants fans.  I spent the rest of the game (the part where I wasn't eating or freezing half to death) extrapolating that thought into the rest of my life - I loved the Giants unconditionally, my first gift was a 1970 autographed team ball procured by my mother's sister (subsequently destroyed along with every other damn thing I owned in a house fire in the mid 80s) before I was born, and a world of my creation would not have included any Cincinnati Reds fans. 

But here he was - a Reds fan.  An adult man in a white t-shirt and a Red cap cheering for Joe Morgan.  And against my Giants.  This was not my idea. 

And if that wasn't my idea - that meant that the world was not my own creation - my Cartesian doubt about the existence of a world outside my head was shattered - I was, with, every tangy bite of the sausage, cast into a world larger than my sense of it.  The healthy response, one assumes, is to engage with that reality - I've never really been able to do that - instead retreating as deeply inside as I could go, to a place where only Giants fans are allowed to live.

Even more viscerally startling, if not as existentially significant, was a trip to watch the Harlem Globetrotters at the Cow Palace (I think the Trotters eked that one out - that's the benefit of choosing that as my initial hoops experience rather than going to a Golden St. game) less for the actual game - than for the experience in the men's room.  The Cow Palace, in the late 1970s, did not have individual urinals.  Instead, it had a man trough - a bathtub like structure in the middle of the men's room, in which a group of encircled men would, standing shoulder to shoulder - do their business. 

I was unprepared for such a dong laden halftime. 

My primary takeaway from that evening was a lifelong dislike of public restrooms - not to the point of avoidance, as a life in the workforce which I have chosen makes that impractical - but instead, I've become a signatory of a very simple piece of etiquette with which, in my experience, most men (perhaps who have shared similar experiences to my Globetrotter halftime - say in the military or in a federal penitentiary) concur - that a men's room is an experience that, if it must be shared, should consist of as little talking as an elevator or a Benedictine monastery.  I want you talking to me in a men's room about as much as I want you urinating on my shoes.  Just stare straight ahead and go on about your day.

I've noticed just in the past couple of years, with the increase in hands free phone use - that every now and again a student (as that's who I share most of my public restroom encounters with, students) will appear to be talking to me (or Talking to No One, which is a good title for a book by a guy with Asperger's Syndrome who lectures for a living) but instead be on the phone.  I keep my dislike of this practice to myself.  But I note it and make the appropriate gradebook adjustments (jokes, I tell the jokes).

This week, a particularly brutal week in the most demanding stretch of my professional life, I stood alone at the furthest urinal from the door in the downstairs men's room at my institution - when a student walked in and set up shop three urinals down, a safe and manageable distance. 

We wordlessly continued doing what men do without acknowledging that each other existed, when, without any provocation - in full voice - he said "I just ate a whole bag of chips!"

Yeah, don't do that.

My first dude apologizing for an odor that I am not noticing....

My second thought...oh, yeah, he's on the phone. 

By the time I washed up (that's hygeine, son!) and left he had continued with his conversation, so it was clear what the circumstance was, but that thoroughly out of nowhere, I had the experience of hearing "I just ate a whole bag of chips" in a men's room was the thing that happened this week that had the most impact on me - so that's how we start Tendown.  After the jump - we'll talk about compulsory flag salute and all the rest of the happenings from the past 7 days.

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