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The Opposite of Me

Professional Grump Katie Shimer Makes a Bold Attempt at Enthusiasm (with Typically Unremarkable Results)

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I've been a cynic my whole life. Maybe it's because both my parents are alcoholics, my mom gave and took away nine dogs when I was a kid, my first boyfriend cheated on me at least 12 times, and all my friends admitted to knowing about it the second we broke up. Or maybe my cynicism is just a result of low seratonin. Regardless, I have a hard time getting too excited about anything, because I always anticipate disappointment. This actually works in my favor when I discover people, places, or things that are truly remarkable--because I originally expected them to suck. Nevertheless, I have recently stumbled onto a scary suspicion: my bad attitude may be preventing me from living life to its fullest.

A typical day consists of the following activities: go to work, complain about tiredness, complain about the computer burning out my retinas, perform job duties, return home to watch Seinfeld, go to Club 21 (two blocks from house), or Sandy Hut (six blocks from house), get drunk or half-drunk, repeat.

Though depressed, unmotivated, and stricken by the ennui, I made a life-changing decision: I would try to break out of my pattern and participate in activities outside the norm--just to see if I could spark some inkling of enthusiasm. The way I look at it, if it doesn't work, I can always go back to watching reruns and sitting on a barstool.

ME, MINUS THE HAPPY JUICE

The first week I tried to be different, I stopped drinking. I made my boyfriend (and primary free-time companion) stop drinking, too, because it seemed too boring to go it alone. Plus, I thought it was high time to see if we actually had anything in common besides a bunch of ass-out stories and a hangover. Thankfully, we got along rather famously, but our tendencies towards addiction continued. A mutual obsession with booze and cigarettes quickly turned to a mutual obsession with Scrabble and Boggle. We played maniacally; while watching movies, while spaghetti water boiled, while a visitor went to the bathroom, in the three minutes before leaving for the bus. We'd even transport the games back and forth from one apartment to the other, living in utter fear of being without them. At one point I believed myself to be smarter than my boyfriend, but soon learned this wasn't the case after playing both games and having my ass handed to me repeatedly. So much for my superiority complex.

On the Saturday night of my week without drinking, I stayed home and wrote a short story about how much I couldn't stand my college roommate. A couple days later I tried to write one about being awake on cocaine for 24 hours--but stopped after deciding it was juvenile. Apparently it doesn't matter how sober I am; I'm still hopelessly steeped in debauchery.

In the end, going sober was refreshing, much easier than expected, and resulted in a lot of conversations about drinking and not drinking. I also got more sex than usual.

ENTHUSIASM QUOTIENT:

+ 1.367199999%

THE PLAY´S THE THING

The second week of trying to be different resulted in checking my skepticism and becoming a "joiner." This involved diving into activities that never make it into my regular schedule: seeing theater, riding the bus, dining at Red Robin, golfing, attending the Irvington Home Tour, spending an evening at the New Copper Penny, and watching a Michael Moore documentary despite hating him and all his movies, yet never having seen one.

There are a lot of activities I don't do because they sound lame, and there are a lot of activities I don't do because they cost money. Not attending theater is probably a combination of both. It's not like I hate plays, it's just that the sound of people yelling back and forth for two hours threatens to annoy me. Besides, if I'm going to spend 20 bucks on a ticket, I want a guarantee it's going to give me an orgasm. In this instance, I went the easy route and avoided paying by tagging along with theater critic Justin Sanders to a play he was reviewing.

Thankfully, the play, Lobby Hero, was written by Kenneth Lonergan, the writer of my favorite movie about ennui, You Can Count on Me. How fitting. Thanks to the smart dialogue, funny script, and the hot main character, I only felt bored or trapped for about 15 minutes, mostly due to the three cups of coffee that were turning me into a jumpy lunatic.

ENTHUSIASM QUOTIENT: + .004%

GET ON THE BUS

Activity number two, riding the bus, might sound like a stupid thing to experiment with. I mean, tons of people ride the bus, right? Yeah, well, not people who have driver's licenses and own cars. I'm not bragging. My car is the equivalent of a go-cart, with one side smashed in, a driver's side door that doesn't open, and 240,000 miles on it, but it runs, and I don't have to wait in the rain for it to pick me up.

As a driver, I can safely say that riding the bus sucks, unless you want to get drunk, and then it's helpful, until it gets past midnight, and then it sucks again. In my half-dozen or so experiences riding it, I once found myself waiting a half-hour at the bus stop, making me an hour late to meet my friends. Another evening, the bus whizzed past and I had to run after it yelling and waving my arms to get it to stop. And yet another time, I came around the corner to see the bus sailing past--five minutes early. After the latter experience, I drove some lady to the bus stop downtown, because missing the bus made it so she wouldn't get home to North Portland for another two hours. I guess despite its suckage, at least the bus gave me an excuse to be a good Samaritan.

ENTHUSIASM QUOTIENT: - 12%

DIE YUPPIE SCUM

One of the biggest disasters of the lot was the Irvington Home Tour. I thought it might be cool, because I love old houses, and I wanted to be an interior designer when I was a kid--but dear God! The tour involves paying $25 to tour 10 houses, a church, and the Irvington Tennis Club. I think including the latter two is some lame attempt at recruitment. You wait in line outside each house, wear booties over your shoes, and walk around rich people's homes while well-dressed gay guys say things like, "Mr. Casey is very proud of the work he's done on the library; the light fixtures are original, and the wallpaper matches the period." All the snobs touring the house try to impress each other by saying, "Oh! Inlaid floors! Amazing... Mmmm, yes, look at these moldings..."

The enormously large group of attendees consisted of old people, couples and groups, and yuppie women wearing terrycloth, J.LO-style exercise outfits who all seemed to have been impregnated on the very same day. I actually overheard one of them saying to her husband: "I think I'm going to labor in a shirt. Do you think I should labor in a shirt?" Excuse me, but can you even use the word "labor" like that? And excuse me again, but... YUCK!

The one saving grace of the afternoon was an extremely professional coffee-and-lemonade stand staffed by an eight-year-old who will be running his own company one day. The coffee was fabulous and only 25 cents, and the young man graciously refused my tip. Cheers, little entrepreneur; you rescued my plummeting opinion of humanity.

Nevertheless...

ENTHUSIASM QUOTIENT: - 25%

SEXY, SEXY BULL

Our evening at the New Copper Penny (SE 92nd and Foster) started out in an attempt to ride a mechanical bull. Why? Because riding mechanical bulls is supposedly fun, something I've never done, and might shake me out of my funk. Unfortunately, however, on the evening the mechanical bull was advertised, the bull operator was out of town, and therefore no bull. This may have been a blessing from Christ, however, because when we read the Penny's flyer of events, it informed us that bull riding was strictly for FEMALES. Even worse, as participants we would be taking part in a "Sexy Bull Riding Contest," whose sole purpose seems to be encouraging a room full of rednecks to imagine me riding their cocks. As writer Joseph Conrad once put it: "The horror, the horror."

The highlight of the evening was when we took down one of the many helium balloons decorating the room, inhaled it, and said "Hey guys" and "Fuck you" in funny voices.

ENTHUSIASM QUOTIENT: - 1,038%

BUT THAT´S NOT ALL

Here's a brief summary of the rest of my adventures.

Red Robin: Disgusting. The entire staff was utterly engrossed in the final episode of Friends playing on the six televisions, and all the food items appeared to be created by someone who'd just smoked a half-ounce of weed. I mean, C'MON. Do you really need ham, bacon, chicken, avocado, Southwestern honey mustard dressing, and deep fried onions on one friggin' sandwich? And BOTTOMLESS fries?! Jesus, I'm fat enough.

Golfing: fun. I don't think I could commit for 18 holes, but I was better than I expected, and getting the ball on the green and into the hole was exciting. Plus, you can drink beer. On the eighth hole, my partner Lance and I got stuck in a torrential downpour, but kept playing, which gave us a sense of accomplishment, and made us seem like committed golfers. Also, the insects and bunnies on the course were interesting to look at, and it's a good excuse to breathe fresh air. Best played in questionable weather, because you don't have to interact with other golfers or sigh heavily while letting them play through.

ENTHUSIASM QUOTIENT: Ehhhhhhh

FOR BETTER, OR WORSE

In the end, my attempts to be different, more responsible, sober, involved, exciting, etc. really had little effect on my crappy attitude. In fact, I think this little exercise has made me even more prejudiced against yuppies (although a little less prejudiced against Michael Moore). Admittedly, my experiment was entirely unscientific, but regardless, it was a stray from the norm. And as for my battle with crippling ennui, the solution is the same as always: I should see a therapist, but I don't give enough of a crap to make an appointment.

ENTHUSIASM QUOTIENT: Sorry, gone to Club 21!

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