I always think it's strange, looking back, how accurate I assumed television and movies depicted what my life would be like. As a child, I kept waiting for the plethora of smart-alecky kid comebacks to just come to me so I could fire them off adorably in zany situations. I was never able to, and that standard was super-low. On TV, a well-placed “Ohhh brother!” could get one out of nearly any jam. Instead, when caught in a childish fib, like having brushed my teeth or finished supper, I could only stare up at my accusing parents and blink, waiting for some Hollywood hack to feed me a zinger through a non-existent earpiece.
Similarly, I assumed my teen years would be a lot of hair-flipping and leaning against a locker. Then I'd be offered cigarettes by kids in leather jackets and wait a few tense moments before refusing. Or I'd have sex and brag about it in the giant locker room that all fictional high schools seem to have (why did every student have the same standard towel, by the way? Were those given out on the first day or something?), but then realize the error of my ways when “Goes All the Way” Charlene ended up pregnant and told me during half-time of the big annual footballing competition. The only thing that truly came to pass was the hair-flipping, but my limp locks only succeeded in falling back into my mouth while I stood, blinking, wishing again for an earpiece.
Now that I'm older and supposedly more savvy, I still buy tickets to a schlocky romantic comedy or zany buddy movie and the same tired scenes play out and I think, “It's going to be so awesome when this happens to me!”
Dream: Live a life of movie tropes and conventions for 24 hours.
Goal: Achievable. I've never been to Universal Studios or any of the Disney parks, but they seem to exist as predicated on the idea that you can “live” your favourite movie for awhile. They have rides dedicated to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, or you can walk down the Desperate Housewives street, I think you can even get to second-base with Molly Ringwald. So surely someone's thought of this before and it's only a matter of time until I can buy a ticket, wait in line, and find myself romantically entangled or racing against the clock or scared to go in the water or in for the night of my life.
Plan: Used what I've learned from countless hours of movie and television-viewing to determine my ultimate itinerary.
7:00 AM: My alarm goes off and I reach over and just kind of “blam” it with my hand in the exact perfect spot to shut it off.
7:15 AM: I take a shower which is so steamy as to obscure my genitals from sight completely.
7:30 AM: I sit down to a breakfast of toast, eggs, coffee, and orange juice. Take exactly one bite of toast and a sip of orange juice, kiss my obliging wife or tousle the hair of my precocious child and say, “Gotta run!” and then leave.
8:00 AM: Despite having a fully prepared breakfast, I wait in line at a busy coffee shop (a Starbucks, if budget and sponsors permit) and chat charmingly with the gorgeous barista who ties her hair back so that's how we know she's actually plain and undesirable to humans.
8:30 AM: Arrive at work and collide with the frazzled but busy businesslady. I drop my coffee and she drops her papers. She says, “I don't have time for this!” but then our eyes meet and she says, “Sorry, it's just... if I don't get these papers to Mr. Life, I could lose my job.” and I say, “Sounds like he should get a life!” And she laughs, and I laugh, and the nonrmal-but-chubby-by-Hollywood-standards secretary laughs and snorts just as my flaming gay coworker gets off the elevator and screeches, “What the penis is going on here?!” And we all laugh again.
LUNCH: At their table, Businesslady picks at her salad while Secretary empties cans of frosting directly into her mouth. Businesslady asks about me, if I am single, and Secretary considers telling her that I'm married, but I pass by and place my index finger against my lips, as if to say, “Shhh!” which is something NO ONE EVER DOES IN REAL LIFE WHY IS THAT ON EVERY MOVIE POSTER?
5 PM: I'm at the gym with my black friend, discussing my life exclusively, and Black Friend chimes in to offer advice or commiserate, but in a black way. Then we see Mr. Life (Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins) waddling into the sauna and he's old and gross and we look at each other and go “Ewww!” and our gay coworker says, “Mama like!” and fans himself and we all laugh.
6 PM: I returned home to a strained dinner. My wife harps at me about something totally reasonable and I fly off the handle and say, “Stop pressuring me!” and break a dish.
11 PM: Five hours later, I run into the street, still mad. It's pouring ran and I hold a newspaper over my head because I don't have an umbrella but I have a newspaper. I'm literally running down the middle of the street. Even though the street is completely empty, I collide with Businesslady. We kiss, open-mouthed but without tongue. Mr. Life drives by in his limousine and nods his approval and as he drives away, Gay Coworker sticks his head out of the sunroof and says, “Whooooo! Next stop Hollywood!” And we laugh and laugh.
Of course, I would never want any of this to play out for realsies, least of all because in a Hollywood scenario, I'd be relegated to playing the horny gay coworker. But also because the truly memorable moments in my life, the ones that I wish could have been captured on film, don't rely on cinematic cliché. As often as not, there's nothing overly funny, scary or even dramatic about the important events in our lives. They pass before we know it, leaving us blinking and silent, waiting for our next line.