Thursday, November 21, 2002

From The Brain of the Giant Head

Routines Are Bad, Um’Kay

For four years of my life I was a college student. I had incorporated a very intricate, thought-out daily routine that took me two months to perfect in order to save as much time as possible each and every day.

Step 1: Wake up when alarm goes off at 8 a.m. for Biology class.
Step 2: Turn off alarm and yawn.
Step 3: Close eyes until body gets the full amount of rest it needs, which usually means resting until 2 p.m.
Step 4: Get up, and skip things that waste time like showering and brushing hair.
Step 5: Walk to offices of classes missed that morning and tell teacher that you would have made it but you were trapped in a deep conversation about McCarthy-ism and it’s affects on the 70s.
Step 6: Eat McDonalds.
Step 7: Practice your hand-eye coordination for 6-7 hours, using a Nintendo or Play Station.
Step 8: Go to bed.

This usual routine worked beautifully for my first two years of college. While I learned nothing about the anatomy of a starfish, I found every possible shortcut in Mario Cart. Which worked out well, because I don’t remember anyone in college having an "Anatomy of a Starfish Party." And those shortcuts not only won me plenty of races, but also transpired into party-conversation pieces leading me to life-long friendships.

My final two years of college were a bit more critical, as I 1) Had to start preparing for my post-college life and 2) Slowly started to be concerned with my GPA (Generally Pathetic Assessment). While my parents complained about it being low, I calmly pointed out to them that it was only 2 full points shy of a perfect 4.0. Realizing their mistake, they then apologized by rewarding me with my very own Guidance Counselor named Old Ted.

Now, Old Ted was an expert in the area of turning mediocre students with no ambition into mediocre students with little ambition. The wrinkles in his forehead and curls in his mustache gave me confidence, though, as I knew he had been a guidance counselor for at least 240 years. Papers were scattered all over his oak wood desk. His bookshelf was concave, bending in the center as it was heavily weighted by large books, magazines and a Rosanne Bar Bobblehead doll. On top of his desk sat a funny looking computer with stiff keys and a piece of paper hanging from it. When I asked him where his monitor was, he politely smiled and called his computer "Atype-writer." I guess older folks need to name their appliances to remember what they are, so I smiled and nodded and figured that the mystery of the monitor would never be solved.

After flipping though my file, looking at report cards, teachers’ comments, and bar tabs, he turned to me and asked me the ever important, "What Do You Want to Do With Your Life" question. Any honest college student will tell you that what he or she mostly wants to do is create a groove in a couch somewhere in front of a 50" TV and continually mooch off his or her parents until striking it rich on the lottery. But all students give the same lie that brings a smile to the advisor’s (or parent’s/relative’s/friend’s) face.

"I want to work in a job where I feel like I can be a highly productive member of society."

But Old Ted saw right through me as my scruffy chin, nappy hair and Death Metal T-shirt steered him away from advising me toward a career in medicine or law.

"Do you like music, son?" he asked. This question was a surprise, a curveball, a query no other adult had ever asked me before. After much thought of how to impress him, I gave him a detailed response.


"Then I think you should be in a rock band," he replied. This unbiased counselor was speaking from his heart. He had finally found me a career I’d be more than happy to take over. I almost jumped out of my chair to hug the old man but I was fearful that his frail bones would shatter faster than Mark McGwire’s Home Run Record.

"Where do I sign up?" I asked.

"Well," he commented, "First you will have to learn musical theory. Study the Greats like Bach and Mozart. Practice everyday, all day long without breaks. Live out of your car since it’ll be the only housing you can afford and eat bread and mustard sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And after about 20 years, you might be able to afford a one-room apartment, but you’ll have to forego furniture and settle for sleeping on the cold floor. And if and when a record company finally notices you, they’ll sign you to a contract that pays you slightly more than a cashier at McDonalds."

All of a sudden, being a rock star didn’t sound as appealing as it did when it was initially mentioned. It included the three things I hated most: 1) working hard, 2) being poor and 3) mustard. So maybe the life of a rocker wasn’t the path I wanted roll down. But I knew I had no ambition to be anything important either, like a banking executive or a dentist or a belly dancer.

"What happens if I never get signed to a record deal?" I asked.

"You become a guidance counselor."

He then typed up a note I could pass along to my parents that said, "Brian is a hard worker, he’s just misguided right now. I assess that his life in academia will improve over the course of the next two years." That was the biggest load of garbage I had ever read, but I’m sure it would satisfy my parents enough to leave me alone, so I was content.

I left Old Ted’s office feeling no better about my future then I did when I walked in, but I honestly wasn’t all that concerned in the first place. And I visited Old Ted once a week for the next 2 years. I didn’t learn much about myself, but I learned plenty about Old Ted. His angst toward life comforted me. He had fallen into a routine he could not escape, and I decided from that day on I wouldn’t let that happen to me. When I graduated I left Old Ted behind. We haven’t talked since. But I know he’s still there, keeping a close eye on me. And Old Ted, if you are there and reading my column, one mystery still remains that I’d like you to answer for me:

Where did you keep your computer monitor?