A Weekend Full of Complaints: Parking Garages, Dog Owners, Fast Food…And My Sympathy Goes Out To Bikers

Ever wonder why a group of four people walk down a sidewalk side-by-side, taking up the whole thing even though they clearly see you walking towards them? Or for you skiers and snowboarders out there, don’t you shake your head in frustration at least once a ski session because people don’t seem to know the basic rules of merging two chair lift lines? Why are you taking the time looking out for others on the sidewalks and waiting your turn in line if no one else is?

Unfortunately I don’t have the answers to any of these questions in this blog post. I merely have a couple more examples of this self-absorbed, inconsiderate behavior that makes my blood boil.

Call it a return of the ShitList if you want.

Considering I had to experience each of these frustrating situations last weekend, let’s just go in chronological order.

Bitch Sesh #1: Long Lines at Fast Food Restaurant That Are Entirely The Restaurant’s Fault

I can never be an objective observer when it comes to waiting in lines. That’s when I’m at the height of my impatience. Whether it’s waiting in traffic or an airport security line, nobody constantly re-evaluates which line to be in as much as I do. So you can imagine my horror when I walked into fast food joints on consecutive weekends and was faced with 30-minute waits. This past weekend’s nightmare was at Noah’s Bagels. I popped in there at 10AM to grab two toasted bagels topped with cream cheese and cucumbers. But after waiting to order in a line that was 15 people deep, I started to hear other customers asking for refunds. Some of them had ordered, then went to the grocery store to do a full week’s worth of groceries, and when they came back their bagels still weren’t ready. After most of the place had revolted, I decided to change my order to two untoasted bagels and a container of cream cheese to go. Veteran move that saved me at least 20 minutes. But I owe it all to a worse experience I had a week earlier at McDonald’s. Coming back to LA from a weekend in Mammoth, the dining options are particularly limited as you commute across the desert. So I wasn’t surprised when I popped into Mickey D’s in Mojave and the place was littered with people. But this is nothing new, right? The whole point of McDonald’s and its fast food cohorts is to mass produce unhealthy food and get customers out the door as quickly as possible. Obviously you know I’m about to tell you that I had a long wait on this particular day. It’s true. I waited more than 30 minutes for a simple #9 (Chicken McNugget Meal).

My gripe with Noah’s and McDonald’s has nothing to do with the amount of people or slowness of the service. It has everything to do with the expansion of these restaurants’ menus. Call me crazy, but I’ve never thought implementing a “Cheesecake Factory” type of menu for a fast food place made much sense. McDonald’s was built on burgers, fries and speedy service. When I walk into Noah’s, I’m looking for an average bagel toasted with some simple toppings. But do you know how many items are on the full McDonald’s Menu? 156.

While I was waiting for my McNuggets and fries, people were ordering “the Premium Southwest Salad but with blue cheese instead of Ranch.” And “the Fruits & Walnuts but with no apple slices and instead sub in extra grapes.” My first thought? “Where the fuck am I?”

My second thought? “I wonder if my order would be coming out a little quicker if the employees weren’t fielding requests to ‘cook my fries a little longer’ and ‘add whipped cream to my McCafe Mocha.'”

I think you get my point. If I’m going to McDonald’s or Noah’s, I want a fast solution to my hunger with a burger or bagel, respectively. Now that these restaurants are trying to cater to every dietary need and preference, where am I supposed to get unhealthy food in a hurry?

Fast food restaurants turning into specialty food stores might be one of the biggest tragedies of the 21st century to a person like me who can’t stand waiting in lines.

Bitch Sesh #2: Parking Garage Jerks Who Fixate On The Spot That Isn’t Open Yet

So on Saturday morning after the Noah’s near-catastrophe, we drive over to Santa Monica to go for a bike ride. Just a block away from the Santa Monica Pier there are several parking garages with state-of-the-art electronics to help cars flow smoothly in and out. You’ve probably all seen it before. As you enter the parking garage, you see a sign like this:

parking spaces available

Let’s say you drive by a sign like that and it says Level 2 has 6 spots available, but Level 3 has 188 spots available. As you drive through Level 2, you see a person walking to his car. You also notice there’s a line of 17 cars behind you waiting to park. Do you stop in your tracks and wait for the guy to get in his car, back out and drive away? Or do you continue up one more level and easily park in one of the many available spaces?

If you’re the asshole who waits for that one spot on Level 2 while there are literally hundreds of free spots just 50 feet away, I am going to abuse you with my horn, my middle finger and all of the creative cursing I can muster up. It’s beyond indecent to be this selfish. If my own mother pulled this kind of move and I witnessed it, I’d key her car. That’s how douchey it is.

Bitch Sesh #3: I Guess I Don’t Understand The Meaning Of “Bikes Only”

I used to think bikers were a bunch of whiney babies, always complaining about cars not sharing the road properly and what not. I guess it’s because I didn’t grow up in a big city. I could ride my bike wherever I wanted as a kid and not have to worry about sharing a narrow road with cars, walkers or other pedestrians.

But now that I’m a biker I understand it all (in this case, “biker” means “rented a bike twice in the last seven months”).

The good people in charge of the Santa Monica and Venice boardwalk and beach area have set up a nice system where there is a “bikes only” lane that is completely separate from a path for all other pedestrians. This is exactly what it looks like on the Santa Monica end:

bikes only

A nice, paved pathway for the bikers, and a separate paved area for everyone else. So how come on Saturday I was constantly maneuvering around walkers, rollerbladers, moms and dads pushing strollers, skateboarders and stupid Segway people? Is it because I rode a bike on the walking path instead of the bike path? No. Obviously I’m not an inconsiderate bastard. Is it because the majority of mankind can’t be bothered to read a sign and follow the rules?

It’s hard enough trying to avoid the piles of sand that are blown onto the bike path, not to mention the bikers coming the other way. I’m trying to get my sweat on with a morning pedal. How the hell am I supposed to do that when the path turns into a minefield of jerks?

Maybe I need a better understanding of “bikes only.” I thought that phrase meant “People on bikes are the only thing allowed on this path. Everything else is prohibited.” If I’m wrong, and “bikes only” means “bikes, skateboards, rollerblades and Segways allowed,” just put that on the sign so I know never to come back here.

Bitch Sesh #4: Our Dogs Are Friends. You Could At Least Say Hello.

This last one doesn’t upset me as much as it makes me laugh at the unfriendliness of people. We take our dog on a lot of hikes where she’s off leash the majority of the time. Since she’s only nine months old, it’s pretty much a guarantee that she’s going to approach every dog she passes and say hi. Sometimes when she senses the other dog is also young, she’ll try to engage in a play session with it. What’s strange is that at least 35% of the time when we go to say hi to that dog’s owner or ask him a question about his dog (something super intrusive like “How old is she?”), he remains completely silent and walks past us like we’re ghosts. It’s the strangest damn thing. Your dog is sniffing my dog’s ass. You’re not going anywhere fast. Would it kill you to give a polite “hello” or even an acknowledging nod? I thought we were linked by the bond of dog ownership.

It’s especially awesome when you don’t tell us that your 13-year-old dog isn’t a big fan of puppies and then proceed to get upset when Molly starts chewing on your dog’s neck fat. I know, I know…we should have magically guessed that you didn’t want our dog touching your dog.

All these examples tie back to the fact that we live amongst a bunch of indecent, inconsiderate, self-absorbed A-holes. They’re not going away anytime soon so I suggest you deal with it like I do. Just out A-hole them. Be a bigger prick to them than they are to you.

Happy Birthday To The World’s Fastest-Growing Blog: Highlights and Lowlights

What a great day for celebration! This is definitely my favorite day of the year. And no, I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day. If you read yesterday’s V-Day Post, you already know I don’t celebrate the day of lovers on February 14th.

Today we’re celebrating the Will Blog For Food Blog turning One Year Old!

My friends and family know I’m a modest man so I didn’t have big plans for celebrating this milestone, but the staff at Will Blog For Food had other ideas. This morning they presented me with a surprise anniversary celebration, complete with a candle in my favorite dessert, Peanut Butter Cups:


Photo on 2013-02-14 at 08.41

You’re probably asking yourself, “What the hell is he celebrating? He constantly mentions how his stretch goal is to get 45 page views in a single day.”

C’mon, you know that’s just my self-deprecating way of making fun of my own failures before someone else beats me to the punch. If the website that hosts my blog, WordPress, is telling the truth with all its stats, this has in fact been an extremely successful year. Let’s take you through some of the highlights in number form:

  • 16,606: Number of views my website got in its first year. And no, I don’t think the 16,603 times I clicked on the blog myself counted towards that stat.
  • 551: Number of views my site got in its first month alive. Not bad, right?
  • 2,551: Number of views my site got in its 12th month alive. I dare you to find another company who grew its customer base by nearly 500% in one year. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
  • 112: Number of countries where at least one person has clicked on my blog.
  • 193: Number of countries in the world that the United Nations recognizes.
  • 58: Percent of the world’s countries that I’ve “captured in one year. If blogging was a game of Risk, my friend Ben would be screaming and flipping the board over because it’s not fair how easily I’m rolling through all the countries.
  • 12,000: Number of views out of the 16,000 that the United States has accounted for. Still love ya, U.S.A.
  • 239: Number of views that the non-English-speaking country with the most views of my blog has accrued. That country is India.

Clicks and Pageview stats are nice, but what about the most successful individual blog posts? I’m glad you asked. Out of the 180 posts on this website, here are the five best that I’ve written based on the number of views they’ve received:

  1. A Thorough Examination of Bird Poop Being Good Luck: I don’t know what it is about this blog, but it’s singlehandedly putting my kids through college. This particular post gets a minimum of 25 views per day. I think it’s due to the fact that there’s no good info on the web about why people say being shat on by a bird is good luck. After monitoring the success of this post for the last nine months, I walk around all day praying to get bird diarrhea all over my head. I want a reason to write a second post about this topic. It might take my monthly views from 2,500 to 25 Million.
  2. Perfectly Good Excuses For Leaving Work Early: What does it say about the American work ethic that this blog post has been at the top of the standings since I wrote it 10 months ago? I guess people hate their jobs enough to be googling for excuses. If you hate your job like I did, stop making excuses and quit. Then move to a really expensive city, adopt a dog that racks up twice the amount of expenses as you were expecting and continue to plan vacations long after your money has run out. Worked for me.
  3. My Life is Complete: Boo Urns!: Pretty self-explanatory, right? People love The Simpsons. People love reading about other people who love The Simpsons. I never thought seeing that license plate on March 23, 2012, would be such a life-changing moment.
  4. Bob Costas is Literally Murdering the London Olympics: If I was making an “Editor’s Pick” for favorite blog post, this might be it. I still LOL and LMFAO when I think back to how awful Bob Costas’ opening monologue was on the NBC broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies. In my entire history of blogging, that goes down as the quickest turnaround from when I saw something blog-worthy happen to when I posted the blog. I literally ran to my computer when I heard him defecating all over the London Games. Well done, Bob.
  5. Adoption Process Complete: Announcing Our Little Bundle of Joy: I think there was an initial spike in views on this blog post because people saw the title and freaked out over the possibility of me adopting a human baby. Luckily I have no interest in raising a human baby. This blog also tugs at the heartstrings of every dog lover out there. Posting about Molly has always been an easy pageviews boon and I will continue to exploit her for my own success. By the way, anyone who has seen Molly in person in the last few months and knows how big she is, go back and look at the pictures in this first Molly blog. Unbelievable that we chose a dog who went from 23lbs to 90lbs in six months.

As far as the lowlights from year one, I’d say any time I allowed a guest blogger to write something it was an unmitigated disaster. I’m not saying I’m the only person capable of successful blogging. I’m just saying the particular people I chose to feature on my blog throughout the year never really found the tone I was looking for. Submissions are still welcome by outside bloggers, but this year I’m going to be a lot more cutthroat about who has what it takes.

So what’s coming in year two of the fastest-growing blog on the web? Probably a lot more of the same. But maybe I’ll start to delve into some entertaining childhood stories. After all, you guys haven’t heard about the time I ran face-first into a parked car and knocked all my teeth out (silver lining: I got to eat only McDonald’s milkshakes for days) or the time my parents gave us a puppy only to maliciously take it away from us three weeks later and return her to her original owner (I was so scarred from this that I wrote multiple college papers on this traumatic period of my life). There’s also the time my asshole brothers convinced me to wear my jean shorts backwards to a family event because I’d be “as cool as the guys from Kris Kross.” Or how about the time that I thought my older brothers and their friends were saying “condoms” when in reality they were saying “condiments.” I ran home to Mom and Dad and told them about the bad words they were saying. I’ve also given my Mom at least two near-heart attacks by convincing her that my brother Aaron was failing out of high school and dead (two separate pranks that went a little too far).

See, there are plenty of shenanigans from my childhood to write about in order to milk more page views from my readers. I’ve just barely gotten started. Thanks for all of your loyal reading and don’t be shy about spreading the word.

Tough Mudder Conquered! What’s My Next Challenge?

I’m very rarely at a loss for words. You’d think after writing more than 75,000 words about football and probably another 25,000 about my dog’s antics in the past six months, it wouldn’t be possible for me to come up empty when trying to describe an event. But maybe that’s the most challenging aspect of competing in Tough Mudder—accurately trying to describe the event to people who didn’t experience it themselves.

Maybe rather than try to sum up one of the craziest things I’ve ever been a part of in one neat little sentence, walking you through the entire day (as best as I can remember it at least) will better describe the insanity that took place in Temecula, California:

Team Ross Is Born

The story actually begins not in Temecula, but in Los Angeles, where a world-renowned blogger decided he needed a real challenge in his life (side note: This is where I transition from talking in the third person to talking in the first person the rest of the blog). After cruising through countless half marathons and crushing the Boston Marathon, it seemed like there was no physical challenge on this planet that could get the better of me. I felt like what Forrest Gump must have felt like after he ran to the edge of all the world’s oceans. What else was there for me to do? I know what you’re thinking. “Climb Mt. Everest,” right? Well world-renowned blogger or not, it’ll be years before I can afford to plant the Flag of Ross in the world’s highest peak. And I know your next thought: “You should try an Ironman race. If you think you’re such hot shit, try to do the triathlon that features 2.5 miles of swimming, 112 miles of bicycling and 26.2 miles of running that some of the world’s best athletes compete in every year.”

Again, I had that same thought after I conquered everything else. The only problem, once again, is that this blog-writing job doesn’t pay enough for me to buy a bike. Can’t do an Ironman without a bike. Hand to god if I could afford a bike, I’d sign up for an Ironman race.

So back in July, just when all hope seemed lost, the organizers of Tough Mudder contacted me out of the blue and said they’d like to have me compete in one of their races so I could bring some popularity to the fledgling competition (Fine, here’s the truth: I was sitting in front of the TV with some friends enjoying my 11th beer of the afternoon and watching the Red Sox lose their 57th consecutive game when someone said we should try to do a Tough Mudder. A moment later, I grunted at something that was happening on the TV, and this friend interpreted that noise as me agreeing to do the race. He started spreading the word that I was in for the Mudder, and suddenly it was too late to back out.)

I posted THIS BLOG on July 25th to recruit teammates, and suddenly Team Ross exploded from two to four people.

Over the next few months, the four of us would train daily for the February 9th race. To some of us, training meant either running or hitting the gym every day. To others, training meant sitting at their work desk nine hours a day, going home and drinking a bottle of wine, and then passing out facedown on the living room floor after attempting to do one pushup. Everyone has their own training regimens that work for their own body.

When the entire team was back on the East Coast for Christmas, we recruited one final member. She wasn’t the perfect teammate because she was in particularly good shape or had any relevant experience for this race. She was the perfect teammate because she was a woman and we felt we needed her to be “race buddies” with the other woman in our group. That way when one of them had to slow down and walk during the race (which was inevitable) the other one would feel bad and walk with her. That type of sympathy didn’t exist with me and the other two men on the team.

So the second woman, broke as she was, signed up and booked a flight out to LA with only five weeks to go before the race. Some might say this wasn’t nearly enough time to train. Others would say she was the leading candidate to suffer serious injury.

Oh, and we also had some people who were gung-ho about joining the team back in July who eventually dropped out when they realized watching college basketball 16 hours a day was not an appropriate training strategy. In hindsight, I’m extremely jealous of those people.

The final team consisted of:

  • Me: A self-proclaimed elite athlete who has won “finisher” medals at more than six half marathons. Best example of my toughness: I can wrestle a 90lb dog to the ground and pin her, despite the onslaught of lick-fighting that I have to deal with while tangled up with her.
  • Julie: A woman who’s idea of a hardcore athletic challenge is joining an adult recreational bowling league. Best example of toughness: She once ran a full marathon without any training and completed it. She learned how to effectively roll herself around in a wheelchair during the three days following the marathon, but still, she finished.
  • Neil: A former triathlete who spends as much time choosing his outfit for a race as he does training for it. Best example of toughness: I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but I once saw him jump from a stand-still position onto a chair that was two feet high when he spotted a mouse scampering towards him.
  • Aaron: A jet-setting mountain trekker whose body defies science by being able to turn alcohol into useful energy. Best example of toughness: He once purposely scalped his head on a rusty shipwreck in the Caribbean just because he enjoys the pain of a fresh tetanus shot.
  • Caroline: A typical New York “tough girl” who’s been taking a physical and mental beating all her life from her five older “siblings.” Best example of toughness: Just for the hell of it, she once had a piece of her vertebrae removed. Rumor has it that she wouldn’t even let the doctors give her anesthesia during the procedure.

The Pre-Race Routine

Rather than booking hotel rooms to ensure a good, comfortable night’s sleep before the race, the five of us decided to cram into my 800 square-foot apartment in LA. This meant one person was sleeping on a couch, and two people were sleeping on the air mattresses I had. Of course when one of those air mattresses ended up having a hole and completely deflating within an hour of going to sleep, those two people were forced to share one mattress between them. But we planned for the possibility of uncomfortable sleeping conditions by hitting up a local happy hour and drinking as many 32-ounce beers as possible prior to a giant pasta dinner. Passing out the night before the race wasn’t a problem.

The next morning all five of us piled into my modestly-sized car to make the two-hour drive to Temecula. Again, why would we go for comfort when we could assure ourselves a muscle-cramping and joint-stiffening car ride?

To kill time in the car, we pulled up the list of Tough Mudder obstacles and reviewed them as a team. Here’s the easiest way to explain it: a 12-mile run with roughly 20 obstacles throughout the course. Some of the obstacles were as simple as crawling through mud while avoiding barbed wire above you, climbing a series of 10-to-12-foot walls (with the help of teammates, of course), and carrying objects of different weights. Other obstacles were less about  the physical challenges of crawling, climbing and carrying, and more about breaking you mentally. Some of these obstacles included jumping into 34-degree water and running through a field of live wires carrying upwards of 10,000 volts of electricity.

After we reviewed all the challenges, two people made comments that they’d live to regret. After a couple people expressed concern over the difficulty of the race, Julie felt pretty confident that “we’re gonna be going through these obstacles and laughing at how harmless they are.”

I then told the group that after watching a 15-minute video earlier in the week of someone doing the Tough Mudder “I’m concerned it’s gonna be boring because there seemed to be a lot of standing around and waiting in line to do the obstacles. I’ll be pissed if this turns into us walking from obstacle-to-obstacle and waiting in 20-minute lines.”

Since I was so sure this would be more of a “hike with cute little obstacles,” when we stopped for a bathroom break 10 miles from the race, I decided to eat a Burger King Sausage Croissan’wich and hash browns while washing it down with a fountain Diet Coke. This surprised some of my teammates, but not nearly as much as when Caroline emerged from Burger King with a Whopper Jr. in hand. I honestly didn’t know they were allowed to serve Whopper Jr’s at 9:15 in the morning.

When we got to the parking lot about a mile from the start line, two aspects of Tough Mudder we hadn’t counted on loomed over us: the weather and the terrain.

As we made the drive southeast from LA, my car’s temperature gauge for the outside weather went as low as 41 degrees and as high as…48 degrees. When we got out of the car and realized the temperature probably wasn’t going to hit the 75-degree mark that we were hoping for, we all got more than a little nervous about running 10 miles after the first “jump into a 34-degree ice bath” obstacle. It was out of our control; we couldn’t train for it; but it sucked.

The terrain, on the other hand, wasn’t out of our control, we could have trained for it, but it still sucked. For some reason, none of us ever considered the possibility that this race would be primarily run on a mountain. Which is interesting considering someone left a comment on my July 25th blog that said, “We did one in May…the obstacles and miles turn out to be the least of your concerns. It’s the constant climbing up and down the black diamond hills that sucked.”

From a pure running standpoint, I was probably the best-prepared in our group because I had just run a half marathon the previous Sunday. But never in my months of training for the half did I consider running any hills. While walking a mile to the start line, we looked up and saw thousands of people who were in an earlier heat running up and down some serious mountain ridges. If someone had asked me after the race to sum up the difficulties I had with five words and one body movement it would have been “the temperature and the hills” with an accompanying head shake.

One final note about the pre-race stuff. When it was time for our heat to begin, they had all the participants jog to the start line and then climb a 7-foot wall to get to the starting area. This served as a way to pump everyone up and get that adrenaline going. And it worked too. You came off that wall ready to crawl through mud, dive into ice cold water, rip out trees with your bare hands and fight someone to the death. Unfortunately before they’d actually let us loose on the course, we had to sit through a 20-minute sermon by a guy named “Startline Sean.” Now this guy’s role is to be the official hype man for Tough Mudder. He gets you pumped up by talking about how tough Tough Mudders are. He goes on and on about how big of an accomplishment this race is for anyone who completes it. He makes you yell “HOO RAA” a lot. He has you stare at the American Flag while the National Anthem plays over the PA system. Then he has you take a knee for a never-ending 10 minutes while he continues his speech. And then when people can’t take the pain from being on one knee on the hard ground for that long and start to stand up, he makes the whole crowd kneel back down because “he didn’t say to stand up yet.” And finally, FINALLY after all of that nonsense, he lets us get on our way. For some people, he’s probably an inspiration and his Jesus-like spiel gets them where they need to be mentally. For me and my teammates, we were already there after climbing that first wall. All he did was sap us of that adrenaline and get our knees and backs hurting from kneeling for so long. I honestly believe Startline Sean caused me as much pain as sliding down a 50-foot rocky hill did that day.

Oh, You Wanted Details of The Actual Race?

After 2,000 words on forming the team and getting to the race, you certainly don’t want me to take you through each mile and each obstacle. But let’s fly through the highlights:

  • Possibly-major injuries were suffered by everyone except for me. Aaron pulled his calf muscle in the first mile and it seemed like he was in agony on every hill and obstacle the rest of the day. Neil may have broken several toes on the “Cliffhanger,” which was a 40-foot hill at a 45-degree angle covered in mud that we had to climb up. By mile 6, Julie either had a seriously-injured internal organ in her midsection or a bruised hip flexor. And Caroline was on the brink of hypothermia only 45 minutes into the race.
  • Actually I’d love to tell you that Caroline just needed to “suck it up” (like I told her at one point during the race, at which point she tried to push me off a cliff). Because after all, she is my little sister. But her skin was turning gray and she had goosebumps that didn’t go away for the entire 4 hours we were on the course. I think it was serious.
  • So Caroline ran 55% of the race while wearing one of those foil “space blankets” that they give marathon runners at the finish line. And she needed it. But it’s probably a good thing that Neil reminded her not to wear it through the electro-shock obstacles. Is there a scientist reading this post that can tell us what would have happened to her? Would she have caught on fire?
  • Regardless of “Startline Sean” sucking all the life out of us, we definitely were all on a high during the first few miles. It’s impossible not to be in that euphoric state when you’re running next to a thousand people and jumping over walls and shit. I was probably a little too high at mile 3 when I told the group, “If they had a signup desk right here where I could commit to 10 more Tough Mudders for $20, I would definitely sign up right now!”
  • Two hours later my tune changed to, “They couldn’t pay me enough money to run another one of these.”
  • By pointing out that bad things happened to everyone except for me I’m not trying to insinuate that I was in superior shape or anything. I’m just stating the facts. And the fact is that by the end of the race, everyone on the team except for me seemed to have come down with a case of rapid-onset bronchitis.
  • The best way to get non-Tough Mudders to understand our state of mind during the race is to listen in on a conversation Julie and Caroline had around mile 8:
    • Caroline: “I feel so weird right now. My body’s like…”
    • Julie: “Yeah, it’s like my body’s not even there. Or like I’m not inside my own body.”
    • Caroline: “Yeah, exactly. I can’t feel my body.”
  • They literally had an out-of-body experience and I’m pretty sure I did too.
  • Here’s a good example of how sadistic the Tough Mudder organizers must be. One of the obstacles is called “Walk The Plank.” Basically you jump off a platform 15 feet high into freezing cold water and then swim 20 yards before getting to dry land. This was the 18th obstacle we faced, meaning it came after 11 miles of running. But my description of that obstacle apparently wasn’t difficult enough in the eyes of the organizers. Just to get up on the platform, you had to scale a 10-foot wall that was only slightly angled. So as tired as we all were, we had to push each other up the wall before we could actually take on the obstacle. Sick, twisted bastards planning this race, I tell ya.
  • I might have mentioned once or twice on this post that I ran the Boston Marathon a couple years ago. I spent the entire second half of Tough Mudder trying to determine which was tougher, the Mudder or the Marathon. I’m still not sure I have the answer. The marathon was harder on my legs, obviously, and it was more mentally challenging because it was extremely boring to run for nearly 5 hours by myself. But Tough Mudder almost killed me, literally, on a number of occasions. People don’t typically get hypothermia while running marathons. They also don’t pull all the muscles in their neck, shoulders, arms and back. The marathon was a difficult physical challenge. But the Tough Mudder was a grueling fight just to stay alive.
  • Three days later and each of my nipples is still one giant scab.
  • I’ve spoken with several of my teammates today (Tuesday, the race was on Saturday), and new bruises are still showing up on all of our bodies. Knees, elbows, forearms, ass, you name it, there’s a bruise on it.
  • We finished the race in about 4 hours and 20 minutes. They gave us a t-shirt and an ice cold beer at the finish line. They should seriously rethink those handouts and put the money towards having 100 hot tubs onsite for people to climb into.
  • After the long drive home—complete with a stop at McDonald’s for our victory burgers—the only energy we could muster up the rest of the night was to soak in the hot tub in my apartment complex for 30 minutes. After that we were in bed by 9:30.
  • Glad we didn’t commit to Julie’s post-race plan, which was, of course, to go bowling.

The Final Consensus

It’s probably a little too early to make an unemotional, non-rash decision about doing another Tough Mudder. We all need time to heal. But our discussions on Saturday night all revolved around the weather. IF we were to do another one, we’d only consider a Tough Mudder that takes place in guaranteed warm weather. The temperature took this race from “really fucking tough” to “almost impossible to complete without risking severe injury or death.”

I guess that’s why they make you sign a death waiver.

death waiver

Five Little Christmas Stories: Women’s Troubles, Family Problems, Yankee Flop, Jaywalking and Diet Coke

While I patiently wait for my Mac to get fixed (estimated by the Apple repair people to take “best case a couple days, could be up to a week, worst case a lot longer than that”…coulda just said “two days to infinity”), let’s empty out the notebook with some short stories that are vaguely relevant to my trip back to Boston and Fitchburg over Christmas. There actually is no notebook to empty because all my brilliant blog ideas get stored on a file on my computer, which you might have heard is in the shop. So these are all based on my fuzzy memory.

1). The Moment I Decided It’s OK to Stereotype Women

Poor Julie deals with a lot of shit from me, never more so than when I’m bugging her about how she’s making us late for something. I hate to throw her under the bus in such a public forum, but there’s some kind of built-in trigger inside her that will never allow her to be on time for anything. Sometimes it’s because of the 123 wardrobe changes moments before it’s time to leave. More often it’s not being able to find a crucial item as we’re about to walk out the door (wallet, ID, phone, sunglasses…by the way, you know how you avoid this problem? You simply put your belongings in the same place every time. I guarantee most men have their wallets, cell phone and keys either in the pocket of the pants they’re currently wearing or on their bureau…most likely on the same damn spot of the bureau every time). Anyway, where was I? Oh right. So I’ve been trying to give women the benefit of the doubt, because why should Julie ruin it for everyone else. But then there was the day I was leaving Fitchburg to go back into Boston last week. My sister (sorry, but the internet doesn’t have the capacity needed for me to describe how I have a sister, you’ll just have to trust me)…my sister decided to get a ride into Boston with me, and I told her we needed to leave the house at 1:30. After all, I had a set time to meet Julie and her Dad, and like me he’s a man who enjoys being punctual. It was 11am when I told her our departure time. Her response? “No problem, I can be ready in 30 seconds.” Really? Because I know you still have two loads of laundry to do and the casualness with which you’re sitting on the couch watching TV right now is making me very nervous. Fast forward to 1pm and she’s yelling down the stairs to me, “Ross, you said we’re leaving around two, right?” Long story short, if it wasn’t for her mother literally packing her suitcase for her, we’d still be in Fitchburg right now. So she gets her shit together by 1:30, oozing with pride at being on time. We jump in the car and she tells me, “OK I just need to stop by the bank and then get an iced coffee and we can get the hell outta here.”

Which brings me to my next point: You’re not allowed to say you’re ready and then spring last-second to-do’s on me as if they don’t count towards us being late. Another great example: Just last night Julie and I were getting ready to go see a movie. We both decided we should leave by 7:10. At that exact time, she says she’s ready. But then she craves a hot tea to bring to the movie so we just have to brew that bad boy up real quick. And do I happen to know where she can find our straws for the tea? No problem, we can just search the kitchen for a few minutes.

Here’s my final point on this topic. I get so stressed out from trying to plan to be on time for things that I’m worried it’s going to lead to my eventual death. So my one resolution for New Year’s is to not stress or make a fuss when we’re inevitably late for everything. I’ll just hope that the women in my life eventually figure out that being on time can be beneficial. Until then, I just want you all to know that it’s not my fault I was late to your wedding, our double date, your funeral. I was ready in plenty of time.

And now for some much shorter stories…

2). Where I Sound Like An Inconsiderate Prick But I’m Really Not

I love my family. I love my friends. I love my family’s friends. But when my Dad said he was having some people over last Sunday to see my new nephew and lay gifts at his feet, I couldn’t help but be worried (I don’t think my Dad technically called it a “viewing of the Messiah” on the invite, but I imagine the three kings’ visit to Jesus’ manger was a lot like what went down at this party, only this time there were about 75 more people and 40 more empty bottles of liquor). I was worried because you may have heard that Sunday is when a lot of awesome football is on TV. And when friends and family you haven’t seen in years are around, it looks really douchey to stare right through them at the TV while they’re trying to tell you how awesome their grandkids are. Of course chances are you won’t miss anything that amazing by taking your eyes off the TV and then just check in every now and then on the score. But my brothers and I thought that on December 20, 2003, when another family gathering was happening on a football Sunday. And you know what we missed because we couldn’t stare at the TV or hear the sound of it? We missed the Joe Namath “I wanna kiss you” moment. To this day I resent my family just a little bit for making me miss that. So I’ll reiterate that I love my family and friends, and I’m so happy they all wanna get together when I’m home. But can we please schedule these things on a Saturday next time? I don’t wanna have to pretend to have explosive diarrhea just so I can take my computer into the bathroom and pull up the Red Zone Channel while I sit on the toilet not actually diarrheaing.

3). The Worst Yankee Swap Of All Time

So my brother sent out an email on December 8th to the side of the family we were opening gifts with on Christmas morning to see if everyone wanted to do a Yankee Swap. All six of us immediately replied yes, and we set a $20 suggested limit on the gifts. Everyone involved is an adult with the ability to go to a store and make a purchase or go online and order an item. But when the dust settled on the worst Yankee Swap Ever, here’s what we had:

  • An electronic key finder that the buyer admitted was meant for only one specific person in the swap—always a good idea to buy a gift specific to a person when the game is literally a random drawing.
  • The first season of Homeland on DVD. Not actually a bad gift at all in theory, but we quickly discovered that almost all the potential recipients had either already seen it or had just gotten the DVD as a gift from someone else.
  • Two $10 scratch tickets that were purchased at about 5pm on December 24th when the buyer realized he had forgotten about the Swap entirely.
  • Two more $10 scratch tickets that were purchsed 30 minutes before the Swap was set to go down, not because this buyer forgot about it, but because he was literally holding out hope til the last minute that we’d change our minds about doing it (rumor has it he went into the gas station, bought the tickets, got back into his car, decided one of the tickets he was holding was lucky and didn’t want someone else to win a bunch of money, so he scratched it, won nothing and had to run back into the store to buy the 2nd half of the “gift” again).
  • A bottle of special hot sauce that at first seemed like a thoughtful gift, but later we discovered that this person found a random case of abandoned hot sauce so she decided to give a bottle as gifts to the whole family.
  • And then two actual useful gifts.

I dare you to find a less successful Yankee Swap.

4). The Strangest Monologue I Heard All Week

While waiting to cross the street in downtown Boston last Saturday, I heard a guy behind me say, “That’s the only thing I liked about California when I visited. They actually give tickets for jaywalking. Seriously, I got a ticket for that when I was out there. And I was happy about it…It’s the only thing about California that made any sense to me.”

5). Finally Taking Credit For Starting The Coolest Trend in Soda History

I’m beaming with pride as I write this: I was the first person who ever drank Diet Coke purely for the taste. Many people drank it before me because they were on a diet, or because they were diabetic, or maybe even because their mom was on a diet and it’s the only soda she’d allow in the house. But no one before me ever tasted Diet Coke and thought “Mmm, even if given a choice between regular and diet, I’d go with the diet.” I estimate I started this trend in the summer of 1989. After doing some research, I learned that Diet Coke came out in August of 1982. That’s a seven-year gap where someone could have presumably beat me to the punch. But no way. Because you know people probably resisted it over the first few years. People were used to that super-sweet taste of regular Coke and when they took a sip of this new diet concoction, they all probably said, “Ew gross, why couldn’t they make this taste more like the regular stuff?” But not me. A little six-year-old boy was running around his country club in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1989 saying, “This Diet Coke stuff is the shit…I wanna drink at least one a day.” Now you can’t go anywhere in public without someone gushing about how much they crave Diet Coke. A little credit would be nice. You know what else I could take credit for? Being the first person to decide fountain soda wasn’t just marginally better than canned or bottled soda, but infinitely better. Give me a good fountain Diet Coke and then shoot me in the face. I’ll go happily.

Final note on this: If you’re a Diet Coke connoseuir like myself, you definitely have a hierarchy of which fast food places have the best fountain soda. Burger King for sure has the worst. McDonald’s is OK, and Wendy’s is pretty good. But give me a choice and I’m going with the fountain D.C. from Five Guys or In-n-Out.

Oh and the best part about all this is that I actually got someone to admit last Friday night that I did start the “Diet Coke for pure taste” trend. Slowly but surely this thing is gonna pick up steam.

6). One Final Bonus Story Just Because I’m Feeling Guilty

I broke someone’s Yo-Yo at my Dad’s house on Christmas night. I have no idea whose it was or what kind of sentimental value it might have had. And I didn’t tell anyone. I just watched it break and then put it down on the coffee table like it was a working Yo-Yo that I was done playing with. So to whoever’s toy that was, I’m not sorry…it was a cheap Yo-Yo. But I guess I owe you like a buck twenty-six or something. Let me know who to make the check out to.

Monopoly Month at McDonald’s Coincides with my Annual Attempt to Morph into a Defensive Lineman

I don’t even know where the closest McDonald’s is to my apartment. But you can bet your ass I’ll be google mapping the five closest MickeyD’s to my place now that Monopoly has returned. It seems like this Monopoly game at McDonald’s has been going on for 20 years, and as an adult, it’s the one thing that causes me to buy fast food over a one-month span every year.

So from now until October 22nd when the game ends, I’ll be doing my best to transform into this guy:

My favorite part of Monopoly Month is how on certain days I try to pretend like I’m not going to eat a Big Mac, Fries, a Diet Coke and two Apple Pies. But while planning to eat a healthy lunch, I just delay eating for hours to the point where it’s so late in the day, I can justifiably say to myself, “Ugh, I’m starving. I just need to eat something right now, anything will do…oh look, there’s a McDonald’s…”

FYI, there are TWO Boardwalk pieces this year…the first time they’ve done that (usually there’s only one). So double the chances of winning the $1 million prize. So excited I could eat three DQPWC’s right now! (that’s the acronym for a double quarter-pounder with cheese that us fast food gluttons use)

Good luck, fellow Fatsos!

P.S. If I get stuck with like 47 Kentucky Avenue game pieces like I always do, I’m going to flip out on a McDonald’s employee, or maybe even Ronald himself.