Tag Archives: opinion

Learning life’s hard lessons about freezers

by Timothy Stephen Pike

The following is a true story. It is a story of humiliation. A story of pain. A story of persistence and eventual victory—but mostly, of frostbite. It is a story of good and evil, but when stripped of all its symbolism and abstract meaning, it essentially boils down to one character-revealing conclusion: if someday faced with the choice of having my finger stuck in a freezer or not having my finger stuck in a freezer, I would probably go with the latter.

Don't be fooled by such an innocent looking freezer.

Don’t be fooled by such an innocent looking freezer.

While most people’s Friday night college stories are madcap tales of riotous keg parties replete with half-naked women swinging from chandeliers, my own accounts are of eating Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and drinking Coca-Cola in my dorm room till all hours of the night. Without Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, the source of my strength throughout my college years, I may not have made it to graduation.

On this particular Friday night, alone in my dormitory kitchen, I happened to be preparing some Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. As I stared longingly at the boiling pasta, which was almost ready, I thought of how well a Coke would go with the mouthwatering meal I was about to enjoy. First, however, I needed some ice.

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Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me make it absolutely clear that I really like my fingers. Almost as much as I like Coke. And I would never intentionally do anything to endanger them. But I had to wash my hands before dinner, and I also had to get some ice. So while you may have opted to live your life in a smart fashion, never reaching into your freezer with wet hands, that’s been your choice. After all, it’s your life. As for me, I often prefer to take a walk on the dim-witted side.

It’s not that I didn’t notice the frost coating the freezer walls. And it’s not that I didn’t know my hands were wet. I simply needed an ice cube for my Coke, and I needed it right then. So I opened the freezer door and reached for the ice, my hand ominously disappearing into a frigid, swirling fog. And as I brought the ice out, that’s when it happened. My right index finger grazed—grazed, mind you—the top of the freezer compartment and suddenly, with nothing more than a doink!, my damp finger instantly adhered itself to the ceiling of the freezer.

No problem, I thought. A bit inconvenient, sure, but I’ll just go ahead and give it a little yank—

I tugged on my finger. Nothing. It may as well have been soldered to the freezer. I looked over at the stove and saw my boiling water was now bubbling over. I tugged on my finger again, but to no avail. Extricating it, I now knew, would be a matter of intense pain at best, and might even involve the fire department. My smile slowly faded as the dismaying truth became clear: I was officially stuck to my freezer.

My life changed dramatically in that moment. No longer could I claim to be among the hundreds, thousands even, who had never been stuck to their freezers. My vision of the future soured—this was definitely not a resume builder. Even if I somehow found work after college, I might be too afraid of freezers to use one ever again.

For the sake of my finger, and the sake of the macaroni, I needed an idea. Quick. Nothing was within reach, so my one free arm and nine available fingers would do me no good. What else could I use? Let’s see…I still had one head, one nose…no…two ears, two legs, one mouth—wait a minute, two legs? Hmmmm…if I stretched my leg out all the way, I could nip the faucet handle and turn on the warm water. Then I could use my foot to flick the water back onto my poor finger.

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The chances were slim, but I was in a bind. By now, the water had boiled away and the macaroni was melting. In fact, the pan was melting. The alarm clock in my bedroom was going off for some reason, a fly was buzzing around my face, and the phone was ringing. And my finger hurt. All hell had broken loose and my life had turned into chaos in the blink of an eye and the sticking of a finger.

The first couple splashes of water only succeeded in dousing my face. But the third—the glorious third—also doused my face. My desperation mounted as I frantically kicked and flicked for what seemed like hours when finally—just as the sonorous song of an angel emanated from the heavens—my finger popped loose. The more I think about it, it was either an angel singing or it was Pam, my neighbor across the hall, who was in a church choir. In either case, I was spared.

Unfortunately, after all that hassle, I discovered I was out of Coke. But I ended up taking away with me two important life lessons that night. First, always stock up on Coke. And second, always take a sewing kit with you when you travel—you never know when you’ll lose a button. This occurred to me while I was stuck to the freezer. Wet hands, cold freezer. Try it sometime—who knows how much you could learn?

Timothy Pike is a Brobdingnagian essayist who tries to avoid touching frayed, sparking power lines.

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Don’t park your trunk in the City of Fun Times

by Timothy Stephen Pike

And now a word about parking tickets. I hate them. I got one the other day for an expired meter. The biggest problem with all this is that they want you to send in a check, which is difficult because the department you have to pay is the department that takes care of forty-five different things around town. So there I am making a check out to the “City Department of Traffic Control, Parking Tickets, Money Collection, Downhill Skiing, Nose Blowing, Lawn Mowing, and So Many Other Things All Combined Into One Department That If You Can’t Fit Our Name On Your Check Just Attach a Separate Piece of Paper.” Whew! But oh, I fit in on there. Just to spite them.

A photo of Paris featuring several unused parking spots.

A photo of Paris featuring several unused parking spots.

Ever seen a parking ticket with an attitude? You should have seen this one. I know you’re thinking, “How can a piece of paper have an attitude?” Well, it can. And this one was glaring at me. It looked so downright menacing, in fact, that it might as well have been issued by “The Department of You Better Pay Us or We’ll Send Johnny After You and Johnny’s a Big Guy.” So I promptly mailed my payment, and a week later, I got a very nice letter from the Department that said something like, “Dear Mr. Pike: Congratulations, you are the first person ever to pay a parking ticket! We are so grateful, we are refunding your money, and we feel so bad for ever giving you the ticket in the first place that we are throwing you a party. Just come on up to our office, we’re in the City Department of Traffic Control, Parking Tickets…” Six pages later, it went on: “Our sincerest gratitude, signed, Grace Smith, director of the City Department of…” You guessed it. Six more.

So maybe I should move to Paris. It’s a great city—there are no ‘NO PARKING’ signs, no parking tickets, and no cars bigger than the left rear wheel of one of our obnoxious American SUVs. What I’m getting at is that it’s awfully easy to find a parking spot in Paris, because the entire city is a parking spot. Two cars already parked close together along the curb? No problem. Just slip yours in perpendicularly between them. Won’t fit? That’s okay, just go ahead and shut off your car and leave it in the middle of the street—you’re good. One time I was watching a guy trying to park his car in the Latin Quarter, and although I couldn’t be sure, it looked like he was using a forklift to stack his car onto another. Perfectly acceptable in the City of Light.

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That’s another thing that bugs me. Being from Denver, I think my hometown needs a better nickname than “Mile High City.” That’s like saying, “Come to Denver! You’ll pass out in our thin air and your nose will bleed for a week, but it’s not a bad place.” The problem is that Denver is not the “City of” anything. You’ve got Las Vegas, “City of Sin,” Los Angeles, “City of Angels,” Philadelphia, “City of Brotherly Love,” and of course Omaha, “City of…Omaha.” So I’m going to lobby for Denver to be the city of “Fun Times.” Yes, a name like that would be very descriptive and certainly lock in Denver’s reputation as a place to go to have fun times. But now that I think about it, it’s not always fun times in Denver. Like in the morning, when everyone in town feels the need to drive to work at exactly the same time. I guess our pamphlets could say “Denver: City of Fun Times Mostly But Not Always*” (*Like when you’re driving to work.)

But back to the main topic of this article and the whole reason you started reading it in the first place: our discussion of Paris. I can’t say enough good things about it. In addition to being the parking capital of the world, they have really good cheese, and a very romantic language. Cheese and language are always a deadly combination in my mind. Also, as I mentioned earlier, they have extremely small cars. And when I say small, I mean you could fit one of these suckers in your trunk. In fact, for the most part, they are trunks. Just trunks with wheels and a seat that people drive around, mainly because they get close to 450,000 miles to the gallon.* (*well, you know, kilometers to the liter, but still.) These cars are also handy for when you’re stuck behind a truck that’s going too slow—you can just drive underneath it and be on your way. On your way across the Atlantic to the City of Fun Times. You’re always welcome here. But just a warning: when you get here, don’t park.

Timothy Pike is an antediluvian essayist who kills time for sport.

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I was named after a kitchen utensil

by Timothy Stephen Pike

It was pretty early on in my life that I made a profound self-realization. And that is, my initials are actually a cooking term. If you’ve ever so much as peeked into a cookbook, you’ll know that “TSP,” in culinary lingo, means “teaspoon.” 2 TSP sugar = 2 teaspoons of sugar. 1 TSP sugar = the medicine will go down. Likewise, “TBSP” means “tablespoon.” So if my parents had named me something like Timothy Billy-Bob Stephen Pike, then I would simply be too ashamed to ever tell anyone my real name. This is how I live my life from day to day, with the burden of knowing that my name—my entire identity and reason for being—is basically an insignificant quantity of salt being thrown into someone’s chocolate chip cookie dough recipe.

My namesake.

My namesake.

Speaking of cookie dough, allow me to introduce myself. You already know my name, but what you may not know is that I am a Colorado native. Of course, by “native,” I mean I was born in L.A. But ever since I was an embryo, I had the full intention of coming to Colorado, which I feel qualifies me for native status. In my hometown of Littleton, I attended Heritage High School, which was conveniently located about a mile from my house. “Conveniently,” here, means “too close to drive.” So I always walked to school. Mainly because my parents would never have let me drive—not when they (like all other parents) used to trudge “six miles, barefoot, in the snow” to get to school when they were younger. Except that story got exponentially more melodramatic every time I heard it. I think the last version somehow included acid rain, and I knew if I kept hearing it, it would eventually defy various laws of physics: “Son, when I was your age, I had to shovel my way through seventeen feet of snow to get to school every morning, uphill, for sixty-two miles, with frostbitten hands and feet, through a minefield, while solar flares reached out from the sun, melting my flesh, and that’s not to mention the neighbor’s pitbull who always bit a few fingers off every morning.

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I did take a break from the snow, though, and spent a couple years getting in touch with my roots back in the Golden State—California. Apparently, nowadays, “golden” means “really expensive.” For example, it’s a well-known fact that in San Francisco, there are only two classifications of rent: obnoxious and nauseating. A person apartment hunting on the phone can be overheard saying, “Hmmm…that sounds nice. How much is rent?” (pause) “Well, that’s just nauseating. I was hoping for something down in the obnoxious range.” So I lived in a tiny apartment with five people, and to save money, I had to share a room, which was approximately the size of a dining room table. This made the monthly rent payment a little more manageable, and I even had enough money left over to eat three meals a week.

But aside from the cost, California does have a lot to offer: great places to hike and camp, beautiful coastal views, and freeways that resemble long, skinny parking lots. And let’s not forget about what attracted me to California in the first place: the excitement of knowing that whenever I went out of town, there was a chance my apartment might not even be there when I got back. I’m talking, of course, about earthquakes.

Since I grew up in Colorado, the concept of the earth shaking violently about my feet is completely foreign, and unnerving at best. After all, the only Richter scale we have in Colorado is the one in the Richters’ bathroom. Now, don’t get me wrong—we in Colorado still have our fair share of natural disasters to contend with: the occasional blizzard, tornado, flash flood, and those creepy little things that sneak up on you in the night when you least expect it and nip you in the butt. I, uh, could be mixing that up with something else.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “How is any of this hogwash benefiting me?” It isn’t. But if I got you to smile, chuckle, guffaw, snort, or even so much as fall out of your chair laughing, then I’ve accomplished my mission. And as long as you understand that, I’d like to conclude by thanking you, the reader, for taking the time to delve into the inner workings of my being, and I hope you realize that after reading this, you still don’t know a thing about me. So maybe I do have a warped perspective on the world, but so would you if you were named after a kitchen utensil. I look forward to sharing my skewed opinions of life with you so you can hear about what keeps my engine running, who’s behind the wheel, and what we’re about to crash into. And I’m sure that as you read each issue of The Teaspoon Times, you’ll be that much more ready to set your hair on fire and run out of the room shrieking. And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go bake some chocolate chip cookies.

Timothy Pike is a sempiternal essayist who prefers to take life one nanosecond at a time.

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Hitting the slopes not recommended

by Timothy Stephen Pike

Today, we are going to talk about things that could potentially be hazardous to your health. Almost everyone knows about the health dangers of smoking, drinking too much, and telling your kids it’s time for bed. But not too long ago, I was skiing in the Colorado mountains, and halfway down the slope I saw a big sign that said, ‘INVERTED AERIALS SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASE THE RISK OF SERIOUS INJURY AND ARE NOT RECOMMENDED.’ I saw this just in the nick of time, too, because I was about to attempt an inverted aerial myself. By this, of course, I mean I was about to do no such thing.

Someone who is not me.

Someone who is not me.

The key word here is “inverted.” I would argue that just about anything “inverted” substantially increases the risk of injury. I can only remember one time I have ever been inverted, and that was when I was seven years old, and I had the hiccups—I stood on my head while I drank a glass of water. “Drank,” here, means “poured directly into my nose.” You might be wondering if this technique works. Oh yes. But not without a few minor side effects, such as total loss of short and long term memory, rapid facial hair growth (I had a full beard four minutes later, I’ll never forget that), an unexplainable urge to use the word “willywisp” as often as possible in casual conversation, not to mention that nowadays I’m just a little bit…weird.

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As for that sign I saw, I’d say they need more of those sorts of warnings on the slopes. For the people who can’t seem to line up enough brain cells to know what could be dangerous, they need signs bearing simple warnings, such as ‘SKIING OFF A CLIFF INCREASES THE RISK OF INJURY,’ or ‘WE DO NOT RECOMMEND LIGHTING YOURSELF ON FIRE.’ Although sometimes lighting myself on fire sounds quite appealing when I’m riding up on the chairlift and I’m so cold that all molecular motion in my body has ceased and my scarf is wrapped so tightly around my face that I’m turning blue and yelling for help is useless because my tongue is frozen to the inside of my mouth and “help me” sounds more like “hoink a flea” but it doesn’t matter anymore because I’m at the top of the mountain where all I can do is lean forward a bit and fall out of my chair, hitting the ground with a frozen thud. This is how a typical day begins.

So after thawing out in the mountaintop restaurant by having a steaming, rich cup of hot cocoa poured all over me (WARNING: THIS MAY NOT BE THE IDEAL WAY TO THAW OUT), it’s time to ski.

I am not a good skier, I just like to go fast. In fact, there probably needs to be a warning sign about me. (I figure if I’m not careful, one day I might just fly off the mountainside and land in the parking lot, thereby eliminating the formality of actually skiing my way down.) Anyway, there I am—not a very good skier and a danger to everyone around me, leaving a trail of flames as I blaze down the hill—and glancing back every so often to watch whomever I’m skiing with get smaller and smaller, laughing, and thinking, “so long, suckers!”

Ski patrol, here I come.

Ski patrol, here I come.

Until I hit a mogul. Up into the air I go, completely helpless and suddenly not smiling anymore. But gravity is efficient, and wastes no time in splattering me all over the mountainside. The friends I was just laughing at, kind as they are, ski over to me, having retrieved my skis, poles, hat, and various body parts, leaving me to wonder: where was the warning sign for that bump?

There’s something about uncontrollably flying off moguls that works up an appetite, and lunch is always a welcome part of the day. Fortunately, at a ski resort, midday dining options abound. However, one warning sign I’d still like to see posted outside all of these restaurants is: ‘EATING HERE SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASES YOUR RISK OF FILING FOR BANKRUPTCY.’ After spending the equivalent of four car payments on lunch, I vowed to bring a sandwich next time.

To summarize: skiing is a risk, and involves large amounts of chance and luck. One statistical certainty, however, remains. How’s this for a warning sign: ‘PREPARE TO BE MUGGED AT THE TICKET WINDOW’? Because isn’t that essentially what happens? “Okay, that’ll be fifty for the lift ticket,” says the cashier, whipping out a bag and a gun, “and, uh…toss an extra hundred into the sack here. Come on, hurry up…” And we, the American consumer, insouciantly fling our money into the bag and go on our merry way, completely unfazed by what just took place, even happy about it. Just the thought makes me want to go back up the mountain and do some inverted aerials.

Timothy Pike is a sartorial essayist making his home on a small, remote island just off the coast of another small, remote island.

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Writing, ice cream sandwiches, and an alien named Zorg

by Timothy Stephen Pike

A blank page has always held some sort of mystical attraction for me. I always have to stare at it for a few minutes, admiring its purity, innocence, and the fresh start it represents. An hour later, I’m staring at the same blank page, cursing and pulling the hair out of my head because I still can’t think of a thing to write. That’s just one of the great paradoxes of my life.

A picture of an ice cream sandwich.

I could write an entire book about this.

In fact, my life has never made a whole lot of sense. For example, at the tender age of five, for reasons I still don’t fully comprehend, I was only four years old. But there are a couple things in my life that do make sense: the power of words, and the power of humor. Also, the power of ice cream sandwiches, but we’ll save that one for another column.

My fascination with writing dates all the way back to 13 B.C. (Before College). In kindergarten, I owned and operated a small company called Thunder Books. The objective of Thunder Books was to produce, publish, and sell a variety of books written by a variety of authors (namely me), about a variety of subjects (namely whatever I wanted to write about). My inventory was pretty easy to control, as it consisted of about six books. One book was titled The Day Sunday Got Stuck, and depicted the horror of a certain Sunday repeating itself over and over. Another was called A Monkey Story, and involved monkeys. It also involved frogs and a tea party, although now I can’t remember how I worked that in.

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The big perk about being the only employee of Thunder Books was that whenever I was peddling my wares at my elementary school or church flea market and a customer got pissed off at me and demanded to speak to the manager, I could say, “I am the manager.” I have not had the opportunity to say that to anybody since, except for that one time in eighth grade when Zorg and his buddies pulled their spaceship into my backyard and demanded to be taken to my leader, and I replied, “I am the leader.” Sometimes I feel like that may have been a dream.

But I digress. The point of all this is that “Zorg” is just a name I made up, and on behalf of Earth, I would like to apologize to the countless generations of outer space aliens who, because of insensitive stereotypes, have been named “Zorg.”

Just after the Zorg incident, my writing career really began to take off. I knew there were many great years ahead, many writing competitions to enter. Whenever I won a writing contest, I felt great pride in having accomplished something wonderful. By the same token, whenever I lost a writing contest, I usually hired a hit man to go after to judges. But when all was said and done, I could always come home to the two-headed purple sheep I tended to in my yard. That’s possibly another dream.

This I know is real: one time, I won a writing contest sponsored by a Denver area newspaper, and I was invited to go to the Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs for an award ceremony. I was a VIP (“very important person”) at this VPH (“very prestigious hotel”). They’re so prestigious because they charge a LOM (“lot of money”) for their R (“rooms”). This particular award ceremony involved a.) breakfast, and b.) standing up in front of everybody and reading the story I’d written. Now, I am all in favor of (a.), but as for (b.), I’d sooner lock myself in a meat freezer for three weeks with no food or water than speak in front of a room full of people. However, the pressure was lessened a bit when I started thinking that since there were only five contest winners, maybe each winner would bring his parents and/or a friend to the ceremony and there wouldn’t be much of a crowd. But no—something had gone horribly wrong, and within minutes there were at least six hundred people in the room. They all stared at me expectantly, like I was about to explain the Theory of Relativity. Now, I had only brought my parents (that’s two people), but where all those others had come from, I will never know. I could only surmise that each of the other winners had invited not only their parents, but also their entire immediate and extended families, all of Denmark, and various branches of the Japanese military.

I would go into intricate detail about the Theory of Relativity, but I don’t want to bog you down with scientific formulas and complex equations. Suffice it to say that because I wrote this column at the speed of light, you’re now actually younger than you were when you started reading it. If the Theory of Relativity seems complicated, it’s not. It all became clear to me one day after eating an entire box of ice cream sandwiches. Either they were brought here from outer space by someone named Zorg, or it was another one of my dreams. Whichever.

Timothy Pike is a frugivorous essayist currently residing on Mars.

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