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Tuesday, 17 July
Quit It

When I was a tinier tot, I think, oh, six or seven or so, my mother started giving me piano lessons. Now, my mom isn't really a very good piano player--and she'll readily admit this--but she can play, and she thought it would be a good idea to introduce me to the wonderful world of music.

I love music to this day. God, I love it. I know this is not really a very revelatory thing to say: everyone likes music, it moves souls, you remember what was playing when you lost your virginity, blah blah. But hey, I liked music. My mom used to play "The Entertainer" on the piano and I would race manically around the house; not dancing at all, but the sheer delight of moving to this wonderful music. I could not stay still while those sounds were thrumming the air in my ears.

So I took piano lessons from my mother. I did that whole thing where I painfully banged out rudimentary tunes into a tape recorder to send to my grandparents--lucky them! Horrible gonging noise perpetrated by a little fingerless ogre child who couldn't find a tune or a rhythm hidden in a broken hammock! O happy day, grandparents! Listen to your fumbling genetic disaster haltingly plonk out eerie semblences of actual music while stopping midway to holler, "Hold on! I messed that up! Let me go back!" And then it all starts over again.

After only a few months of piano lessons, I quit. It was glorious to quit. It was so glorious, I made quitting a large part of the rest of my life.

Again, as everyone does, I love music. I wanted to create it. And maybe, with a lot of practice and hard work, I could have. But that's the point. I didn't want to practice, and I didn't enjoy hard work. Or, for that matter, easy work. Or anything that rhymed with "work." Even at that early age, I knew about Mozart, for example, and prodigies. That's what I dreamed of: talent without work. I loved playing the piano: I fantasized about pulling a prodigy card out of my horrible ear and playing masterfully just by hearing things played for me. But when confronted with the awful reality that I was emphatically not a prodigy, and that years of hard work would be required, I quit.

Later in life, my father decided, as fathers do, that sports built character in a young boy. And so in junior high, I went out for the football team. (You can imagine how excited my coach was when he encountered me: by all appearances, I resembled nothing so much as a juvenile Marsh-Wiggle.) I lasted one season, playing--of all things--second string defensive tackle before quitting the next year, citing my asthma.

I remember confronting the coach. "I have asthma," I said. (True.)

"Huh." he said.

"I kind of pass out sometimes," I said. (False.)

"Okay," he said.

I also remember confronting my father. "I have asthma," I said.

He didn't say anything. For three days. I didn't care much, really, because frankly, little kids are lying douchebags, and while they know it, they don't mind.

Later, when I got into high school, my father still insisted I play a sport--at least one per year. For unclear reasons, I chose baseball, a game I had manifested absolutely no interest in and had no definable talent for.

I rode the bench for two years, and deservedly so. "Can of corn!" someone would holler after a weak fly ball was hit . . . over there. What the fuck are these guys talking about? I asked myself.

Once I got to start in right field--once--when the coach got pissed off at the normal right fielder for missing a practice. I even got to field a ball when a lefty came up to bat. "It's a lefty!" my teammates cried. "It's coming to you, Skot!" Okay, I thought. I wonder why?

Then in my sophomore year, some of the older guys on the team bus pissed into a 7-Up can and gave it to me on the bus ride home, and I drank some of it, and I knew it was time to do what I knew best: it was time to quit.

And quit I did! (I also learned to my relief, thanks to some ancillary research, that urine is actually sterile.)

I was getting good at this quitting thing. But not good enough. My father still insisted that I participate in some damn sport, so I promptly and cruelly managed to disappoint him by choosing that least masculine of sports: tennis. I didn't even have a racket.

Once again, he didn't speak to me for three days, but this time I think it was less out of disappointment than just utter confusion. It really was a perverse choice, considering that I'd never swung at anything other than a pinata about nine years previously. For my part, I had surveyed the field and figured None of these guys look like they're going to piss into a fucking pop can and hand it to me, anyway. So I was aiming high.

The amazing thing was, I didn't quit tennis. I was terrible at it, but I didn't quit, and in fact, I was on the varsity team my senior year. (This is frankly incredible, but less so in the context of the fact that my high school had less than 400 people in it. But still.)

So the tennis thing is kind of an outlier in terms of quitting. I don't know even why I mention it. I did think of quitting, actually, once, when Carol racked me in the balls with her tennis racket, but I didn't.

But I quit so many things afterwards. I became a quitting gourmet: I quit: pre-law, because of all the fucking assholes; a KFC, because, Jesus Christ, removing chicken livers and a woman with "COLIN JAMES HAY" carved into her arm; and retail.

It's hard for me to believe that I spent five solid years in retail, fielding penetrating questions such as "Is that a clock?" (She was pointing at an ordinary clock.) And "Is that a couch?" (He was pointing at a couch.) I quit that too, without any sort of backup job or source of income lined up at all, because I couldn't take it any more, and it wasn't until I was done, free and clear that I realized: I had no idea, no idea at all, how miserable I was for all that time. It's amazing what your brain will conceal from you if it thinks it's best to do so for your overall mental health.

Five years. I still can't quite believe it.

I finally quit, and shortly afterwards, I talked to my father. It didn't take three days this time. "It's about fucking time you quit," he said.

Indeed.


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Comments

now, wait just a second. in my fairly extensive experience, urine has a very strong smell. You couldn't SMELL a can chock-full of urine coming your direction? doesn't seem quite right...

Comment number: 014505   Posted by: candice on July 18, 2007 01:03 PM from IP: 64.171.127.122

Sigh. They used a 3/4 can of soda to mask it. I can't think about this any more.

Comment number: 014506   Posted by: Skot on July 18, 2007 02:23 PM from IP: 66.150.9.2

My bus ride featured long green buds of sandspurs, and the pantyhose/shorts combo my mother insisted I wear. So nah, Candice, sometimes its like that. Anyhoo, I am quitting, too. Part time pizza delivery to support my (37 yr old) college education.
Can you believe I have anxiety about telling my nineteen year old boss I give notice?
He's the best boss I've ever had.

Comment number: 014507   Posted by: Alyxmyself on July 18, 2007 08:29 PM from IP: 68.201.0.251

I never quit anything... I prefer to be fired, thrown out, or forcibly removed from just about everything that i do.

Comment number: 014509   Posted by: btroffded on July 18, 2007 10:06 PM from IP: 130.13.220.63

Kudos for the Marsh-Wiggle reference. I wonder how many of your tens of readers know what that is.

Comment number: 014517   Posted by: laf on July 20, 2007 11:07 AM from IP: 71.88.20.78

yay for puddleglum!

Comment number: 014535   Posted by: Jennifer on July 24, 2007 01:21 PM from IP: 71.212.62.213

Just reading the pee thing makes my blood boil. I'm on a jihad against jerks who behave like that. You would hope that they would eventually grow out of it, but I have a step-father and all his golfer friends as proof to the contrary.

Hey, by the way. I'm a lurker who is apparently one of your tens of readers. Me and my friends laugh about your Rar! I measured the snow with my dick comment way too often. Thanks for that.

Comment number: 014546   Posted by: em on July 25, 2007 06:55 PM from IP: 71.116.232.81

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