Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Guess how many ping pong balls.

"Where did you work before here?" Evan lit Colby's cigarette as the door eased shut. Abe sat down against the wall.

Colby squinted in the light, casting a sneer that may have been his crooked-toothed version of a grin. "I am not at liberty to say."

"Huh. Maybe we don't want to know. Harrassment, fraud something like that?"

"April Fool's prank." The sneer was definitely a grin.

"No kidding." Then Abe's jaw dropped. "Wait... 'Guess how many ping pong balls?'"

Colby was suddenly interested in tbe power lines running across the street.

"Jesus," Abe squeaked. "That was you?" Colby's gaze shifted to the northbound traffic.

Evan was almost panting. "What? What what what? Tell me!"

Abe turned to Evan. "Okay, I heard this story, I assumed it was... a story. In the lobby of some bank's corporate headquarters, on April Fool's Day morning, there's this huge crate hanging from the rafters. High ceiling, far from the stairs, would have taken a forklift to get it up there. There are hinges on the bottom edges, like it's ready to drop a whole lot of something.
"Under the crate is a digital timer on a little stand, counting down to noontime. Next to it is a sign that says 'Guess how many ping pong balls.'
"As the morning goes on, everyone in the office is talking about it, and they keep gathering in the lobby to stare at this huge crate. It's gotta be big enough to hold tens of thousands of ping pong balls, and everyone's laughing at the thought of an avalanche over the receptionist's desk, flowing out into the street.
"People start taking bets, and a lot of people are betting 'zero', figuring that's the obvious April Fool's joke. But nobody knows, and it's getting closer to noon. Anticipation builds.
"Around eleven one of the employees shows up late. When he sees what's going on he gets all shaky and pulls someone aside. He tells them he's seen this before. At his last company, he says, somebody set up this prank with himself in the crate, then committed suicide. At noon the body dumped onto the floor in front of the entire office.
"The guy telling this story leaves, shaken. His story makes the rounds. People start to get uneasy. They stop making bets. As noon approaches, everyone's heard the story, and still nobody can keep their eyes off the crate.
"But nobody thinks it's funny any more. The head of security starts thinking they should take this thing down, but by now it's almost noon. As the last seconds tick away, everybody gathers at the perimeter of the lobby, keeping their distance from the center.
"At noon the timer beeps, and something in the crate clicks."
As Abe paused for dramatic effect, Evan held his breath, wide-eyed. Colby just stared into the distance, trying to suppress a grin.
"The bottom swings open, and a cloud of paper drifts to the floor. It's all coupons for ten dollars off a new set of tires at a local tire shop. Limit one per customer."
Evan tilted his head. "Huh?"
Abe continued. "Everybody's so relieved there's no dead body, it takes a couple minutes for them to catch on. But then they go outside, and in the parking lot every tire of every car has been slashed."
Evan turned to Colby, who was outwardly grinning by now.
"You... You did that?"
"I am not at liberty to say." Colby snuffed his cigarette against the wall, leaving an ugly mark.
"I can't imagine that went over well. Did they press charges?"
"I am not at liberty to say."
Evan stammered, "But, but... Why?"
"They pissed me off."
Opening the door, Abe snorted "Remind me not to piss you off."
"Don't piss me off."

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Tune fork.

When I listen to an album often enough, I get used to the sequence of songs. I'm sure everybody does. When one song ends, during the delay between songs, the next song begins playing in my mind. Once the song actually starts up, the one in my mind skips back to sync up and everything's happy.

When I listen to a compilation album, my mind frequently becomes confused, because the "next" song is not what I'm used to. This has always been true, and again I expect everyone experiences this.

But it's only recently that I've noticed that, once I've listened to a compilation album enough, each song has two "next" songs: the next song from the original album, and the next song from the compilation album. When the song ends, both songs start playing at once. Depending on which I'm listening to, one gets synced up and the other gets discarded.

I realized recently that, in the delay between songs, my mind rushes to remember which is the right next song. My mind hops back and forth between the two, first letting one dominate and then the other, forming a strange hybrid composition. And when the next song actually starts, if that's the one dominating in my head, the musical portion of my brain is at peace. If not, I feel a vague dissatisfaction.

Stupid brain.