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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Veneer

Sunday
November 18, 2007

"But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep"
-Robert Frost "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

"But don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give you the answer that you want me to"
-Fleetwood Mac "Oh Well"

I'm back in Nashville (Smyrna) following a whirlwind, breakneck trip to Mississippi and Arkansas. Here are a few thoughts from the dark side of the moon; the fun stories from the trip will come tomorrow.

This trip me pushed to my absolute mental limit. By nature I tend to be an efficient, effective, and generally amiable person, but my ability to maintain this only works when I'm well-rested, not hungry, and have at least some time to myself. It's the introvert's curse; some people feed off of others to gain energy, whereas my brain is wired differently to where being around people saps my energy.

Normally I can handle whatever comes along in life and have fun, or fake it and play along if need be. But without having time to myself to think or read or write or time to just not face questions or conversation, it's like my friendliness and courtesy meters are drained down to zero. Bad things happen when I reach that point.

If you've seen the great film American Psycho, you know how the Patrick Bateman character tries to do what he can to fit in, but slowly his veneer becomes more and more transparent. That's how I felt (minus the homicidal tendencies) on Saturday morning, going on 2 hours of sleep, with zero time to recharge my batteries.

I intended to sleep on the ride to Little Rock, and that's with nine of us stuffed into a van (the RV we were supposed to have fell through at the last minute.) Unfortunately, the rest of the crew (which was: Matt, Dustin, Snapper, Dunski, Carla, Klista, and Jeremy/Holly, who were seemingly connected at the hip for the duration of the trip) decided to pass the time on the road by constantly bugging me when I was trying to sleep.

Now, keep in mind, I'm all about busting balls and ribbing back and forth and such. I'll see your pickle jokes and raise you a mustard and a V8 reference. But I made it clear that I wanted to sleep, yet they kept doing stupid shit to bug me and piss me off. Normally I could match them on this, using my quick wit to parry and counter any verbal punches.

Unfortunately, I felt like Bruce Banner trying to fight turning into the Incredible Hulk. A sharp wit can be a wonderful tool to have to bring laughter and happiness to others, but it can also be a dangerous thing when it's not properly controlled. I started snapping at people and saying some pretty harsh things, and particularly in those close quarters, things were cramped, so it's not like it was a particularly relaxed situation for anyone.

The best thing for me to do in such a situation is to talk as little as possible. But with the collection of people in there, particularly with some becoming inebriated (not the driver, for the record) during the trip, the overwhelming desire for the majority of the group was chatting and partying and getting geared up for the game.

The real tipping point came when, out of the blue, someone asked if I was willing to drive. At that point Bruce Banner lost control and I emphatically told them NO, which lead to a long, awkward silence. There was no reason for a driver change; Dunski was fine with staying in the driver spot, but some of the drunker people wanted him to come back and hang with them. I knew that the last thing that would have been good for anyone's safety would be me on little sleep in a very unfamiliar area driving a huge vehicle with a bunch of rowdy people inside. The odds of that ending well were not good.

I know I came across as a dick, but like I explained, I had been trying my hardest to not rock the boat. But my willpower has limits, and with my courtesy and friendliness meters dipping into the red, I wasn't physically able to articulate it in such a way as to avoid having to drive without being rude. I went off before I could stop myself.

It wasn't like I was being a prick the entire time, but it was a constant effort for me to not complain. No one likes a complainer. But when people ask you pointed questions, and you're in the condition I was in, it's very difficult to not shoot back with things that I normally wouldn't say. The part of my brain that typically allows me to be clever enough to either diffuse or redirect had broken, and I was, as they say in the pro wrestling business, "working stiff" with people.

The reality for me is that I am probably much better off going on road trips in situations where I have control over the planning and the transportation and the radio (if I hear that goddamn "Soulja Boy" song one more time, I might legit flip out) and a thousand other things. That most likely means either just me or me and one other person.

Maybe that makes me a control freak, I dunno. But I know that it keeps me sane, or as close to it as I get, and there's something to be said for that.

For the record, I'm not mad at anybody from the trip. I was snapping at everyone, even at my brother this morning, and I was seemingly unable to control my emotions. It's a good thing that I was among friends for this; had it been a situation with people I didn't care for, that would have been exponentially worse, to the point where I don't even want to think about what could have happened.

But, my personal grind aside, the trip had plenty of fun moments that will receive their full write-up tomorrow, once I've had a full night of sleep in my own bed. I leave you with this teaser, recorded on my cell phone in the early morning hours of today, with a ridiculously drunk Jonny Tahai and a whiskey-fueled Dunski in the second floor of a certain house on Mississippi State's campus.


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