Archive for the 'Dialogue' Category

In which we discuss the voice in my head, and its tendency to yell at me

I don’t know what goes on in other peoples’ heads.
I mean, I’ve read articles on brain science, but I still feel like I don’t understand what’s going on in a person’s head when I’m talking to him/her.

Imagine a robot, who is taught human interaction solely by watching reruns of “I Love Lucy” and Adam Sandler movies.

I would make that robot uncomfortable.

Basically, when I’m talking to someone, it’s a three-way conversation, between me, the person I’m talking to, and the voice in my head, which is coaching me on how not to make a complete fool of myself.  However, that voice is also me.  You can see how this might cause problems.  A simple example:

Me: Hey, what’s up?
Voice: Good.  Nice, solid opening.  Neutral, but not boring.
Friend: Not much, and you?
Me: Not much.  Life is good.
Voice: Oh no!  This conversation is drab and unimportant.  Make it a meaningful interaction!  Say something interesting!
Me: I can fit my whole fist in my mouth.1
Friend: (awkwardly silent.)

And it doesn’t get much better from there.  There’s a reason I started a comic called “why I shouldn’t date.”  I was always shocked when girls agreed to a second date.  Part of me wanted to say, “You know that the awkward nervous thing isn’t a first date thing, right?  It’s a me thing.  This ain’t going away, honey.  It’s just going to get worse as we date more.”  It’s to my credit that I never came out and said that, but I think they got it.

Yes, I am now happily married, and marginally more at ease with my wife of 2+ years, but there’s a world of people out there, just waiting to be made uncomfortable by me.  The dialogue above was an example of how a conversation  with very little at stake goes awry.  When the topic is heavier, it only compounds the problem.  For instance:

Me: Hey, how’s it going?
Voice: Good.  You’ll get this one right.  Just avoid mentioning your fist. Or your mouth.  You know, just avoid mention of any and all orifices, ok?
Friend:  Not great.  I think I just failed my final in a very important course.
Voice: Ok, we know this script. This is where you commiserate.  Let him know that you understand him.
Me: Yeah, I’ve been there.
Friend: Oh?
Voice: Ok, now drive it home…
Me: 
 I failed all my courses in college, and set fire to the Registrar’s office.  Once, I cut a man, just to watch him bleed.
Friend: WHAT?
Voice:
No! No!  Overkill!  Make yourself look good!  Say something positive!
Me: I love puppies and marshmallows and jellybeans!
Friend: To eat?
Voice: Oooh, this is a tricky one.  Tread carefully. Say you don’t eat puppies.  Be very clear on that point.
Me: No, I only eat the puppies.
Voice: Damnit.
Me: Jellybeans and marshmallows!  Ha ha!  I mean, I only eat jellybeans and marshmallows.  Well, I eat other things.  But not puppies.  I eat other animals.  Um, dead ones.  Only the normal-to-eat dead animals, prepared in a normal fashion.
Voice: I think you just barely squeezed by that one.
Friend:
Riiight.  Um, what does this have to do with my test?
Voice: I have no idea.
Me: I have no idea.
Friend: Yeah, well this whole thing has got me pretty depressed.
Voice: Ok, here’s our chance. Cheer him up!  Say something happy!
Me: I can fit my whole fist in my mouth.
Voice: (sighs).

And that’s par for the course.  Welcome to my life.

  1. Truth is, I can fit my whole fist in my mouth. But that’s a story for another time.^

One Day

Yesterday I was talking with some friends. It went something like this:

Me: Yeah, it was really —
(I back into a light fixture.)
Friend: Oh, are you ok?
Me: I’m fine, just a little startled. (Pause.) You know, that should be on my gravestone: “Here lies Ilan. He was fine, just a little startled.”
Everybody: (General agreement.)

I talk funny

At 2AM:
Me: Ooo. The hours are getting too wee.
I think I must meet my Maker for a bit.
Layla tov.
My friend: great, i see you still speak in iambic pentameter

Life is good

“How is your life?”
“Mine is good.”
“That’s good!”
“Like, surprisingly so. As if ‘good’ just sort of crept up on me, put its hands over my eyes, and said, ‘guess who?’ And I turned, and said, ‘Oh, it’s you. We were just talking about you. Cool, come, sit down. Let’s hang out.’
Hmmm…I think we’re going to end the metaphor here.”

Conversations, Part 2

So I seem to get weirder when I get more tired. I finally got my American (VOIP) phone line working at something like 1 or 2 in the morning, so I called some friends to let them know. After all, for $200 / 15 months, it’s free to call anywhere in the U.S. (Nice, eh?) So I called my friend R, and we had this conversation:

[Phone rings.]

Me: Hey.

R: Who is this? Jesus?

Me: [Hesitating] Yes.

I have a mission for you. Go out and buy lots of flamingoes. Buy all the flamingoes. Form a flamingo army.

Tie them to your waist, and [dramatic pause] fly, fly, fly.

Fill the sky with pink.

R: What???

Me: I don’t know. You said I was Jesus.

R: Yeah, but- what??

Me: Never mind.

Conversations

I seem to have some of my more interesting conversations online.
Take this one, from today. I was complaining about not getting enough sleep to my friend Eli:

Eli: may i suggest a method?

set an alarm for when u want to go to sleep…

me: And train a monkey with a tire iron to knock me out when he hears the alarm?

Eli: and treat it like the wake up alarm

lol

yeah, that might work

me: Been there, buddy.

Eli: ah

ok

i never knew u had a pet monkey, though

that’s pretty cool

me: Well, I don’t have one anymore!

The migraines were unbearable. And there was that incident with the guest.

Ping-Pong with the Army

I went to the lishkat hagiyus, the army recruitment office, last week. It was suprisingly organized and efficient. Until the end.

In the end, I went into the final office, where they tell you, bottom line, what’s going to happen with you.

They told me that I didn’t have a giyus (enlistment) date yet, but I would get one when I got a profile (i.e. the number that represents your fitness). So I wasn’t done with them yet. Let’s start the cameras rolling…

Me:Am I not allowed to leave the country until you give me a date [as previously had been indicated to me]?
Girl 1:Yes, you won’t.
Me: When will I have a profile, then?
Girl 1: When you bring in the medical documents that you’re missing.
– Begin quest for the missing documents. –
Girl 1: Go back up to the 2nd floor, and walk into an office and ask what documents you need to get a profile.

Scene: second floor office, several minutes later.
Me: I need to know how to get my profile.
Girl 2: Did you see the doctor here?
Me: Yes.
Girl 2:: (Checking computer) Ok, let’s look at your profile.
Me: (Waits)
Girl 2: You don’t have a profile yet.
Me: Yes, I know. How do I get one?
Girl 2:You need to bring the required medical documents.
Me: Right. Which ones?
Girl 2: Oh. (Passes me off to another girl.)
Girl 3: (Checking computer) You need some missing medical documents.
Me: (Through clenched teeth with a strained voice) Yes, I know. Which ones?
I get passed off to a 4th girl who says she’ll be with me soon. I sit patiently until I don’t feel like it any more, then go back into the office.
Me: I need to know which medical documents I need to get to get a profile.
Girl 5 (or maybe this was Girl 2 again): Isn’t someone already helping you?
Me: Yes, but I don’t know where she went.
Girl 5: She’ll be with you soon. She hasn’t forgotten about you. [She had.]
Girl 4 finally walks by, and I follow her into the office.
Me: Which medical documents do I need to get?
She turns to the other girls expectantly.
Other Girls: You need medical documents.
Me: (Head explodes.)
(Practically yelling) But which documents?
One of the girls (I am fairly certain either Girl 2 or Girl 3) checks the same computer they’ve been checking all along.
Girl 2/3: You need to come back for a psychological examination.
Me: (Really wondering ‘what about the documents?’ but certainly not curious enough to bring that up again) When?
Girl 2/3: We’ll call you.
Me: (Not taking any chances) When will you call me?
Girl 2/3: Within two weeks.

And I’m spent.

Generation Gap?

An actual conversation between me and my parents. I’m honestly not sure if this is going to make me want to talk to them more in the future or less.

Mom: have u used your webcam? we also have one but haven’t tried it yet

me: Not yet.

I feel that it’s a bit too early in my career to start uploading compromising videos to the internet.

Mom: no no no compromising videos, just your face when we are talking. or else we’ll upload those baby pix!!

me: Which ones?

There are lots more of Noam and Tali. I’m the 3rd child, remember?

Mom: how about the bathtub shots?

me: You don’t have those of me.

Mom: want to bet?

me: Yes.

[long pause]

Dad: mommy is busy fruitlessly trying to find compromising pix of u

me: I know.

Dad: …now Mommy is more determined than ever

don’t b surprised if a Noam picture is claimed to actually b u

me: I won’t.

I think I can tell the difference. Not sure.

Dad: uh oh, u should never challenge your mother, she found some

me: No way!

In an album?

Dad: how about dressed up as a classic nerd 4 Purim

me: Not good enough. She said “naked.”

Dad: Or being hugged and kissed by Judy E. at camp when you were a wee one

me: Or “bathtub” at least.

So?

Dad: How about topless in the back yard?

me: Still not doing it for me…

Dad: The Purim nerd is pretty bad

Dad: But the mother is still on a quest, still looking for naked

Dad: Busted, found the bathtub

with a girl

me: No way!

That’s Noam!

Which girl?

Dad: Tali

Since she’s bigger than u in the pic, it has to be you

me: Is this a naked picture of Tali, where I just happen to be there and naked?

Dad: Just found 11 more

many at the beach in public

me: I am “b’shok.”

That’s Israeli for “in shock.”

Dad: U and Tali are sharing a bathtub

There are also solo shots of u

me: ….

Dad: can we stop — your mother doesn’t give up and I’m hungry. This could go on all night now. I’m gonna waste away to nothingness, dying of starvation

all because you challenged your mother

u should know by now you can do that

especially if u think you’ll ever win

me: I’m stubborn. You should know that by now.

Dad: BTW, it’s a good humbling lesson for marriage as well

just something to keep in mind

me: …and we’re back to this.

Dad: how about the three of u naked in an outdoor shower

me: Ok, now you’re just making stuff up. [Editor’s note: otherwise, I should go back in time and turn them into Child Services]

Dad: U want compromising, we got plenty, now go out and find a girl so we can thoroughly embarrass u

me: …I’ll work on it. -sigh-

Dad: have a great night. I’m going to eat the woodwork (or other inedible stuff not nailed down, while your mother searches the archives.

Seriously, have a great night. Talk to u tomorrow.

me: Ok.

Later.

Dad: bye

I am speechless. For me, that’s a big deal.

I Think I’m a Clone Now

A while ago, in January, while I was training in the U.S, Nefesh B’Nefesh called me to ask if needed any help with my aliyah. It went something like this:

GUY: Ilan, hi, this is [whatever his name was; we’ll call him Stanley] with NBN. I was wondering how we can help you with your aliyah.

ILAN: I already made aliyah.

STANLEY: You did?

ILAN: Yes.

STANLEY: When?

ILAN: August.

STANLEY: Oh.

-awkward silence-

(Recall that he’s calling my American cellphone)

ILAN: I’m in the U.S. now. [pause] But only for a short while.

STANLEY: Oh.

-awkward silence-

STANLEY: Well, if you want, you can still apply for our services. Give us a call when you get back.

ILAN: Sure, thanks.

STANLEY: Bye.

ILAN: Bye.

I’m not sure if he ever realized that not only did I make aliyah, I made it with NBN. In truth, NBN is a wonderful organization, which does amazing things for many people, myself very much included, so I shouldn’t make fun of them. But it was funny.
I think I downloaded their application twice or something, and I’m in their database twice, so that in their files, there’s one Ilan who planned out the aliyah process, made aliyah, even got a generous cash grant from them; and one Ilan who never quite got off the ground.

Parallel universe much?

Get Up, Get Down

So I said I would tell the story from after I arrived at the airport to go home for Thanksgiving. I get to the airport plenty early, and jump through the various hoops security makes you jump through (“Please remove your jacket, sir. Please remove your shoes, sir…..No, sir – j-just your shoes! Sir, please put your pants back on.” “But they were chafing something fierce!”) and arrive at the gate with nothing to do for an hour and a half. So I take my suit and my carry-on bag and go to see if I can’t get caught up on my email and blog reading.

I take out my laptop and behold! There is free wireless internet access, and lo, it is good. Well, I start going through my reading, and soon my 1.5 hours become 3 hours, due to a delay. I realize that I should keep my laptop battery charged for the plane, and I look around and find an outlet. I close my laptop, put it in my bag, and take my bag and suit and go over to the seat with the outlet. Put down suit, put down bag, open bag, get plug, plug in, get laptop, open laptop. And then I think I hear my name over the loudspeaker. Ok, I unplug the plug, close the laptop, put it and the plug in my bag, pick up my bag, pick up my suit, and go and wait in line to talk to the person at the information desk.

In retrospect, I think I’m so obsessed with my own name that I just assumed it was me they were calling. I’d probably respond to any name with a reasonable number of vowels and consonants. For example, I could see this scene playing out:

LOUDSPEAKER: Marie Antoinette, Marie Antoinette, please come to the front desk. There’s an mob of angry French peasants waiting for you.
ME: Hi, my name’s Ilan, there’s a mob here for me?
AIRLINE PERSON: Um, yes…over there. Are you-
ANGRY PEASANT 1: Hey, I thought she was prettier!
ANGRY PEASANT 2: Hey, I thought she was a woman!
ANGRY PEASANT 3: Hey, I thought love was only true in fairy tales / Meant for someone else but not for me / Love was out to get me, that’s the way it seemed / Disappointment haunted all my dreams. / Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer / Not a trace of doubt in my mind….
[At this juncture, a wonderfully choreographed dance starts, complete with the peasants twirling their pitchforks and juggling their torches. At some point, the real Marie Antoinette shows up, and the control and grace the dancers exhibit when setting up the guillotine and executing her – without missing a beat, mind you – can be described as nothing short of “masterful.”]

Eh, where was I? Oh, right. So, as you see, my tendency to assume everyone’s talking to me can dangerous. Beheading-level dangerous, or worse – spontaneous-public-musicals-level dangerous. But nothing so dramatic happened. After waiting for fifteen minutes on line, holding my carry-on and my suit, I get to the front of the line, where I am promptly informed that I wasn’t called at all. Shoot, I could’ve spent that time I wasted in line watching a cat attacking an air conditioner on YouTube! (My money’s on the air conditioner.) So I go to sit down again and discover my outlet’s been taken. Oh, well. Suit down, bag down, laptop out, laptop open. And then I hear the announcement again. It sure does sound like my name, but they’re saying to go to the desk by the gate instead. Well, at least there’s no line there. I ask the woman sitting next to me if she heard what name they just called. She says no. (I will note at this juncture that I have no qualms speaking to total strangers. The reverse is not always true.) Close laptop, put in bag, pick up bag, pick up suit, go over to desk. As I’m walking there, I hear an announcement for a woman named Linda with the same last name as me. I pause and check my ID. No, I’m not Linda. It must’ve been her they’ve been calling. I go back to my seat, smiling sheepishly at the woman. “It wasn’t me,” I say, not wanting to seem like a crazy person. She just smiles in my general direction and goes back to her computer. Then (wouldn’t you know it) comes another announcement, and they most definitely just called me to the gate desk. Close laptop, put in bag, pick up bag, pick up suit, and march over to the desk.

“Did you call _________, party of one?”
“Yes are you [checking the list] Ilan?”
“Yes.”
“Oh, well, there’s a problem with your assigned seat.”
“There is?”
“Yes, it doesn’t exist.”
“It doesn’t…?”
“Yeah, there isn’t a row 23 on the plane.”
At this point, I consider going mad, perhaps gibberingly so. I decline.
“So….now what?”
“Oh, we’re assigning you to a different seat.”

And I get a new boarding pass, and go back to sit down. I was worried for a moment there that I would be forced to sit on someone’s lap for the whole flight. I mean, that could be ok, depending on the comfortableness of the lap in question, but non-lap seats are certainly preferable. Anyhow, I put down my suit, put down my bag, sit down, open my bag, take out my laptop, and soon, a plug becomes available, so I plug it in. Then, after a while, the boarding call finally comes. Plug. Laptop. Bag. Go! I stop, turn around and go back. I pick up my suit and go back towards the gate.

Sighing, I enter the line for boarding. This is going to be a long flight.