A word that threatens to achieve the same generationally defining gravity as Hakuna Matata. A good thing? Depends on how sober you are. Enlightening? More than anyone believed.
There are scales to determining exactly what qualifies something as being kinda, really, considerably, or unequivocally ratchet. You probably already thought of a couple examples yourself.
In my time working security for parties aimed at twenty-something year olds, decadent quagmires of youthful hysteria and belligerent tom fuckery, I’d gotten pretty solid samples from all across the spectrum of ratchet.
I’d seen a gentleman sprint across the dance floor faster than a Kenyan on angel dust just to Superman tackle a woman dancing a precious few meters out of her protective chick circle. The impact was critical enough to make the back of her bra explode like an illegal South American firecracker, bare tits violently erupting from her top like Mitsubishi airbags.
And she kept right on dancing with the dude on the ground.
You’d think seeing these kinds things would make you hard to impress.
I thought so. And I was wrong.
After a party clears out, it was always protocol to move over to the nearby campus convenience store to provide support for the cashiers there. Some would think that once a party ends the trouble is over, but it’s the opposite; shit always hits the fan in the places with food, after 1am, when the actual events are over.
You’re in a place where a bunch of over-stimulated, impatient, horny and belligerent twenty-something year olds are coming to gather in place where the music is gone and all that’s left is their unchecked aggression and a too-tight space. This is the time of night where all of the drama from beforehand is likely at a boiling point. Everyone who isn’t getting laid knows it by now and is pissed off. Poorly-judged and incomprehensible phone calls to exes are getting made left and right. Scores that weren’t settled inside are finally reaching a climax.
Anyone who isn’t passed out or in bed by now is likely as drunk or high as they’re going to be all night, or experiencing the first stages of their comedown. They’ve got the right combination of residual adrenaline, bitterness, sexual frustration and youthful apathy to burn down a city.
And they’ve got the munchies.
I once saw a young man hoist an entire cash register off of the counter and hurl it into the Pringles rack as if it were made of Styrofoam. To this day I do not know what the source of his vexation was, but I’m willing to bet he didn’t get exact change.
Thankfully, these extreme incidents do not happen every single night, but they’re prominent enough to keep an eye out.
At the very least, people were going to just try stealing something. We were used to that, and it was manageable. For some reason, all it takes is mildly dimmed lights and a thick-ish crowd to make every regular drunk jackwagon think they’re slick as James Bond in an invisibility cloak. Usually, all it would take was a quick visual acknowledgement of what they were doing to make them instantly recognize their folly and put the Doritos back to keep from looking more stupid.
We weren’t prepared for her.
She was different from the rest. She was an agent on a mission issued from a higher order, and she had no capacity for shame. She was that rare and fatal flavor of drunk which leaves a person mentally lucid enough to plan something, physically coordinated enough to fully act it out, and belligerent enough to not give a damn about the consequences or stigma at any stage of the process.
And she casually walked out of the establishment in her heels with a twelve inch submarine sandwich jammed in the back of her yoga pants.
There was sauce on the sandwich. There was buffalo sauce on the sandwich. There was buffalo sauce on the goddamn sandwich and it was and likely running down the crack of her ass and she was just walking with it, triumphantly, wrapper and all. The sandwich just indifferently poked out of the back of her waistband, fully saluting the air like the tail of a happy cat with a bird in its mouth.
It was like the birth of a new folk saying before our very eyes: “Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, some keep skeletons in their closets, and some people publicly cram sandwiches in their asses and try to leave without paying.”
Never before had I so clearly understood the power of ‘hiding in plain sight’. Something so improbable, so outrageous, so overtly inconceivable that you immediately write it off as a trick of the mind. As jaded as we are sometimes about the goodness of the human race, we still somehow always have enough faith to believe there’s a ceiling on stupid.
I’m still not sure if the people who periodically break that ceiling truly are that mentally bankrupt, or simply bold enough to attempt taking advantage of our unwillingness to believe that it’s possible. They’ll be so committed to what they’ve done that they’ll almost make it seem as if you are the one who is not thinking correctly.
She was truly, fiercely committed to the act. Even with four officers surrounding her and questioning her less than a yard away from the store, she remained vigilant in asserting herself as the accosted victim. Her colorful profanities towards the officers dripped with more venom than the stolen sandwich jammed in her yoga pants dripped buffalo sauce. The timeless and inconceivable metaphor of “immovable object” had finally manifested in a physical form, and we were but mere mortals bearing witness to it break the rules of our reality.
That was, at least, until she got cuffed and taken to jail.
I never saw anyone take the initiative to remove the smuggled sandwich from her pants. I doubt anyone ever ate it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she sat on it there for the entire ride to the station. It may still be there to this day, buffalo sauce and onions and all, immutable as the sword of Excalibur.
It was the night I really started believing in the impossible. I could finally make peace with the concepts of “infinite”, “forever”, and “eternal”. I saw something ratchet enough to make me believe that our perception of all things that are up, left, right and down are merely spirited attempts to make sense of what we’ll never really understand.
And that’s okay.
Imagine there’s this person.
And they kinda suck.
We’re talking iPad-surfing-in-the-movies, wait-to-go-forward-in-the-right-turn-lane, root-for-a-team-without-knowing-the-players, parallel-double-park-that-motherfucker-sideways grade of jackass. A modern yet mystical portrait of the unholy union between delusions of grandeur and lack of self awareness.
This is the kind of person that would steal Buddha’s hot pockets and help him look for them.
This person would fake their own kidnapping, send any anonymous tip to their significant other hinting at a false location to find them, and put on a wig to just to sleep with that person’s immediate family.
This person sells an Xbox online for full price and literally sends only the box.
They would steal Power Rangers coloring books from the waiting rooms in children’s hospitals, color everything brown, and put it back.
Entire mountains would be blown away and reduced to rotten cavities in the mouth of Mother Earth just from the sheer force of bullshit erupting from his shameless mouth. They say that you can create an atomic explosion by splitting an atom, but in truth, you could create a more impressive and destructive display by attempting to combine his words and thoughts with human logic. Such a thing was never meant to happen, can never legitimately occur; to divide by the number zero would be less complicated than searching for an inkling of redeem-ability in his qualities.
You may wonder, then, how does no one kick this guy’s ass?
Have you ever seen anyone try to fight the wind? Not like trying not to get blown down the street in a storm, but literally put up their fists and try to do combat with the air around them like it owes them dank weed money. You may be able to get a faint idea of you can visualize the way that twenty something year-olds acted when Four Loko was still made with Satan’s piss and car battery acid in 2005.
There is no stopping this person, because they are not bound to our petty constructs of time and space. They are, and always will be, both all and nothing. They are non-substantial, both an unmovable force and unstoppable object; and infinitely annoying.
Maybe that person has been someone you know? Maybe, when possessed by that person, they decided it would be a good idea to cut across five lanes without looking? Maybe they decided that the entire coffee shop wanted to hear their conversation about that itchy spot they need checked out? Maybe they spilled a drink on you and wanted you to apologize? Maybe they wore an Ed Hardy shirt and hat at the same time?
No matter what it was, you should be grateful.
Because without the little things that bring us face to face with everything we find belligerently bitchy or downright douchey, we would have no reference with which to identify a truly good human being.
With these awful and downright annoying deeds, a bar is raised for the rest of humanity to leap for the purpose of exhibiting true good will.
Our friends will support us as we climb towards ideals of the people we want to be, but our enemies will be the ones who give substance to that ideal, simply by embodying the opposite.
By this person’s existence, we know what a ‘friend’ is in the first place.
Both the saint and the sinner share a symbiotic relationship, a cooperative co-existence that gives neither substance without the prominence of the other.
For every jerk out there that dresses up like a homeless to collect change, there’s someone who donates to the Red Cross every day.
For everyone out there who’s felt like hopping on the elevator to go up a single floor, there is somebody who will go out of their way to make sure everyone on-board has their floor’s button pressed.
For everybody who identifies Lil Wayne or Miley Cyrus as among the greatest artists of all time, there is someone who has heard music.
The next time somebody does or says something that makes you wish a chair to the face was as legal as a high-five, don’t get pissed, but pity.
Pity that there are people consumed by a malicious spirit that makes them do things or think in ways that are so bankrupt of common decency that is makes them appear un-evolved.
More than pity, pray for their recovery. It could be their disposition, it could just be circumstances, and some days, we may find that it could even be us.
Only with compassion and hope for those trapped in the kind of mindset that compels them to act inconsiderately and violently can the disease be cured.
Regardless of what it is, when it comes to embracing what goodness abounds in the world, it doesn’t have to stop at just what’s shiny, rosy or pleasant; even the shadows themselves cannot exist without a superior light allowing them to be cast.
Dirtbags can be fertilizer for the world’s most beautiful plants.
When we see the things that appear negative as reflections of the potential for positivity, things just may look a tad bit brighter.
“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy.”
― Frank Sinatra
“We always wonder why somebody won’t do something about this or that, and yet ultimately, we are all that somebody.”
I grew up around a lot of people who seemed determined to assert themselves as apart from the ‘norm’. Each of them very much a citizen of their city and our world, but almost an island in spirit. They were constantly surrounded by people and yet seemed so very much on their own, always warping every this and that into something that had to do with themselves.
I’d know, I was one of them.
Despite our survival instinct for self-preservation, we are unarguably social creatures; we were not engineered, biologically, to operate alone like the brown bear or great white shark. We have built everything we know and love together, and yet due to a preoccupation with writing our own stories, we are as separated as we are irreversibly bound.
The bystander effect is when everyone witnesses something in progress, and yet no one does anything, due to the fact that it’s just unthinkable that no one besides themselves would take action. It is an interesting phenomenon in that it combines both our tendency to be self-centered and unconscious faith in others. The bystander typically thinks themselves a moral novelty, someone who is aware of what is right and wrong and sees it as a distinction. Someone who, because of this status, may pass judgment on others for not acting. However, at the same time, as jaded and cynical as people may be about the moral fortitude of others, there is this unflinching belief in the hero. The belief that someone, somewhere, has the right combination of moral attenuation and recklessness to do something that seems completely illogical for the sake of someone else.
It’s not always this dramatic, of course, but it’s ironic. You could say that self-centeredness fuels the bystander effect, but in the faith that somebody else will step out and act, does it say something about an inherent belief people may have in human goodness in spite of it all?
Even if we do not act, that does not equate to doing nothing. Inaction, in and of itself, IS action. Based on whether or not we view those who suffer from the action of withholding assistance, they may be more or less ‘human’ in our eyes and easier to disregard; it’s the same way that soldiers are trained to dissociate the humanity of their enemies from their physical bodies.
We are all, however, immutably connected. Even when alone in a room. Becoming aware of the connection makes us conscious to the will of everyone around us, puts us in perspective, and makes us realize that we are not alone in the moral standards we hold so dear but dare not act on.
And when we decided to be the person that we hope will do something, that’s when the bystander effect is defeated.
Is it always intelligent? Depending on the situation, it may not be. It may be useless or even counter-productive, depending on how things play. A phone call isn’t the same as stepping in front of a loaded barrel, getting in the strike range of a knife, or confronting an unpredictable and upset stranger.
In the age of instant communication with instant access to emergency services, however, no on has to be a hero; that’s because a ‘hero’ implies something intrinsic that separates one person from the rest on a fundamental, unchangeable level. Each of us has equal potential to do something, in some way, at some time. When we all realize that, a hero will stop being a hero and simply be the act of a normal person.
I recently became oriented as an official volunteer for New York Cares.
It isn’t my first time being philanthropic by any means, but this makes it an extremely far way from being the last.
We work for so long, for so many days, to reach so many achievements, for so many opportunities, just to change our life, eventually, one day.
However, in just the span of a couple of minutes, we can change someone else’s life.
I gave a hamburger worth one dollar and some odd cents to a woman on the corner once, and when she thanked me, I reflexively said “it’s nothing”.
She said it was worth a million dollars.
Beyond just living in the moment, we have the power to completely enrich someone else’s present and future, regardless of their past.
Metamorphosis, transformation, completion, achievement.
We oftentimes remark on these things as benchmarks, because we love the feeling of closure and finality.
Ironic how so many adages regard the average civilian as being “chained”, and yet if you were to take those metaphors in a literal sense and overlap them with the common feeling of “completion” that most people feel on a day to day basis, it would be physically impossible. How can an unfinished puzzle be chained?
Perhaps true completion of the soul shouldn’t be taken as “complete” at all. Perhaps instead of building towards a grand portrait that we believe represents everything we aim to be, choosing instead to accept that we are scattered at the core could be the answer to inner peace.
Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.
One of my favorite adages. Just training isn’t enough, we have to train like we’re getting paid for it. Practice makes paychecks.
As Bruce Lee said,
I do not fear the man who practiced 10000 kicks once. I fear the man who practiced one kick 10000 times.
Aiight McDonalds, we been through a lot you and me. Known you since grade school, shit’s been crazy. You made sports kinda hard for a little while but that’s behind us now. Now all I’m asking for is one million dollars and I promise to dress like Ronald and eliminate the burger king myself. Deal? Deal.
They say once you learn how to ride your bike, you never forget.
I would assume that it’s because of the muscle memory and unforgettable happiness of going faster than you ever did before on two legs.
For me, it was a goddamn lake.
Bike chain broke on the way down a massive hill, couldn’t brake, couldn’t make a smooth turn. In moments I was man o’ steeling my little chubby brown ass about 15 yards smack dab into the local goose timeshare.
The lake was my teacher. The lake is my mental tattoo. It was baptism by fire, in the mouth of a giant nature toilet.
I effectively learned how to swim and bike at the same time that day, all by nearly dying in the process of both.
And also that black Labradors will only rescue you from drowning if you’re a box of french fries or a tennis ball.
Let’s fall in love by mistake, and then let’s start an idiotic fight.
Let’s write letters to each other that we never send, and let’s write letters to the people that we hate that we regret sending.
Let’s make friends that last, and let’s forget the people that mean the most. Let’s spend days in the sunlight that we hope never end, and let’s surf the long waves of nights that we don’t remember ending.
Let’s forget each other’s names, meet under the Brooklyn Bridge, and see if we remember one another enough to laugh at each other’s stupid expressions.
Let’s get chicken and waffles and joke about how we’ll get fat, and then let’s grow fat together while insisting that the other one is fatter.
Let’s party on rooftops of buildings that we don’t remember, and let’s walk down unfinished streets full of people that will never forget our a capella cover of Journey.
Let’s lose ourselves in fake people and reunite in the solace of a real relationship.
Let’s take on lovers that are more attractive than one another, and spend long night staying up, unable to sleep, because of how much that pales in the beauty of each other’s company.
Let’s make mistakes that turn into the best decisions of our lives, and let’s not regret one argument, because it draws us closer into the euphoria of our consummation.
Let’s never grow too close to one another that we forget the absolute beauty that resides in every single other stranger that passes us by in the street with another story, and then let’s laugh at how their stories will never fit into the novel that won’t be written about the times when we found passion in the stupidest things.
Let’s nervously glance at each other from across the bar for about two to five more minutes, and then when this liquid courage finally seizes the control of our anxiety, let’s just be social.