Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Essay #6: My Jackass Moment

Last Sunday I almost burned my face off.

I can still feel the tension of the wire bending against the clomp of my scissors, the SNAP and SIZZLE like a firecracker splitting, me yelping "Oh!" like a grandma with a mouse in her pantyhose, and smoke: waxy, electric, hanging like a cloud in the den. Smoke.

Thinking I had unplugged the broken DVD player, I'd picked and jogged its rear cord through a mystical jumble of wires. The quickest way to clear the mess would be to chop the leash off the machine. After all, it had been squatting unused in a dusty bin for eight years. What could go wrong?

This: the TV gone black, the cable box too, a near fire, and me inches away from winning a Darwin Award, a monument to, "improving the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it."

I've always thought myself a cautious guy. One of the first words I learned was "hot," which I'd say when I was eighteen months old, pointing my little finger at the oven. "Hot," I'd state with the firm eloquence of a junior fire marshall, keeping a good two feet away from the oven and stove. When I got older I didn't climb limp-limbed trees or bike down 90-degree hills. My parents raised me for a life devoid of jackass moments. I didn't do dangerous things, but there were cracks in my armor.

On a dare from a friend with a mustache (we were ten), I ran across the green tarp of a swimming pool covered for the winter. The tarp slackened under my weight as I padded across it, a blur in black mesh Bulls shorts and Penny Hardaway sneakers. I was cool, hazardously cool. "Are you stupid?" my seventeen-year old sister asked. She approached the fence with a look somewhere between befuddled and dissapointed. That was the last time I ever raced across a covered pool.

The MTV show Jackass premiered in 2000, inspiring a whole generation of teenagers to stick worms into their nostrils and smear themselves in refried beans. I was not one of these teenagers; I had no desire to watch a grown man taser his testicles. Little did I know, I would create my own Jackass episode in my living room years later. All that was missing was a camera and me cocking my eye brow with a squirmy arrogance to say, "Watch this!"

FIRE!

The Burned Scissors Incident of 09' falls in between chapters of my life: college is done, Korea is over, and grad school doesn't start until August. One of my high school buddies, now a Ph.D student at an Ivy League university, was in a similar what-the-hell-am-I-doing-now stage last year: "I'm listening to Rhianna's 'Umbrella' and inputting stock at Book Traders," he said, "my life is great." Did the most memorable moment of my week really involve scissors and electricity? Is that how I'm taking my lessons until I move on? Well, yeah. I did learn something: if you turn off your brain and sleepwalk towards the Next Big Thing, you just might grow into a Jackass.

By the way, my grandfather is an electrician.


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