You’re at a really cool party at a friend’s house for the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics. It’s a gorgeous summer day in the Pacific Northwest, the sun is going down, your 4-year-old is off playing with the other kids, and you’re enjoying the conversation and the creative flourishes of your hosts’ British theme: Union Jacks hanging from the gutters, Pimms and Bass Ale in a bucket of ice, meat pie for dinner and the Stones on the radio.
After dinner, a British- and Olympic-themed trivia contest begins. You’re asked what the English term “hole in the wall” means. You laugh and accept a token prize of a box of Earl Grey tea (with the help of multiple-choice answers and requested “50-50” and “Ask the Audience” lifelines) for responding correctly with, “An ATM.”
The trivia questions run out soon after, but a lady cardiologist sitting nearby has a question of her own: “What hospital was John Lennon rushed to after he was shot?”
OK, you think, that’s a bit morbid, but it’s more or less sensible: he was British, after all, and she’s a doctor.
Having grown up in New York as an active kid with your share of bloodletting, you ponder the question but draw a blank. Then you remember that Lennon was shot in front of the Dakota, a building at the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West, and that Lenox Hill Hospital, where your niece was born and your aunt passed away, was on the East Side, somewhere around the 60s.
“Hmmm,” you say out loud to your wife, who also lived in New York for a spell a few years before you met her. “Maybe Lenox Hill? They could have just cruised across the park pretty quick.”
“Yeah,” she says. “Maybe. That’s right near Sloan-Kettering, right?”
You turn to the cardiologist.
“Nope,” she says, with matter-of-fact pride. “Roosevelt.”
“Ah,” you say with a chuckle, making sure not to look too disappointed. You are merely incorrect, after all. Not dead, like John Lennon.
The world has lost a brilliant artist and advocate for peace. Sean and Julian are fatherless. Yoko is … well, Sean and Julian are fatherless. You’re just wrong. No biggie.
The cardiologist looks at you quizzically.
“I don’t even think Lenox Hill is in Manhattan.”
Corpus Christi, we’ve got a problem. Lenox Hill is definitely in Manhattan! Granted, you didn’t know about Roosevelt and you aren’t “on call 24/7 with the opportunity/responsibility to manage massive facial hemorrhaging,” and you drove up to this shindig in a late-model Oldsmobile, not a Lexus SUV, and the closest you came to medical school was when you ate dinners at your college hospital cafeteria because they accepted the meal plan card and it was closer to your dorm than the Student Union, AND you probably couldn’t tell the difference between the diagram of a ventricle and the Lego police station you failed to put together the previous night, but you know damn well that Lenox Hill Hospital is in Manhattan, and now you’re being sucked into the moment you always dread in social circles but can’t seem to avoid: The Polite Argument.
How should you respond?
(If you want to keep it civil, recognizing that any type of conflict could embarrass your party hosts or your wife or both, then go ahead and engage in the Polite part of The Polite Argument by moving ahead to part II. If you want to run the possible risk of pissing off this woman just so you can show her that you’re right, by all means, please go to part III.)
“You know, Bernice,” you say, “I’m pretty sure it’s in Manhattan.”
You don’t tell her about your niece. You don’t tell her about your aunt. You don’t tell her that you grew up a train ride from Manhattan and would go there for pizza every Sunday with your parents and even more often in high school to get away from your parents. You don’t tell her that you used to call a big guy from the West Indies named “Chief” from a payphone and arrange for him to drive up in a rental car to meet you on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral at all hours of the night and bring you dimebags of low-grade ditch weed, and that all of this would happen within blocks of Lenox Fucking Hill Fucking Hospital.
“No,” she says, shaking her head with an unbelievably annoying fake smile. “I’m pretty sure it’s in Brooklyn or Queens.”
You smile and nod and go on your way. Your wife calls you a pussy. You agree.
Later that night, after four episodes of Property Virgins and a bath, you realize that you are a worthless human being and that everyone around you would be better off if you were dead. You grab the coffee grinder plug, turn on the faucet and electrocute yourself in the kitchen sink.
Your adventure, and life, have ended. You may, however, start over by going back to Part I.
You take a look around the yard, notice that the kids are still playing, the paper Union Jacks are still flapping in the breeze, the booze is still flowing, and nobody other than you and your wife are paying attention to what this woman is saying. You wait until your wife loses interest, which takes about four seconds. You inch closer to the lady cardiologist. You speak in a tone that only she will hear.
“Listen, you fucking cow,” you say, with a grin that could gladly eat as much shit as she wants to shovel into it. “Lenox Hill Hospital is in Manhattan. My niece was born there. My aunt died there. And now you’re going to squat down over my sacred family memories and squirt asparagus piss all over them? You deserve to be mauled by a … a … (you can’t think of the proper animal, but you finally come up with one) … bear.”
Her eyes bulge, her cheeks redden, and she turns away, instinctively grabbing for her pink iPhone and manically rubbing away on its screen.
Is this for real? Is she really still trying to tell you that Lenox Hill Hospital is not in Manhattan?
Well, Vern, it seems she is. So what do you do?
(If you’re somehow still clinging to the Olympic spirit by a follicle and feel just enough grace toward your fellow man, even when they’re as wrong as Bob Costas’ shiny facial hues, to believe that kindness should always prevail, head on over to part IV. If you’ve decided once and for all that Dr. Cardio is nothing more than an insufferable, elitist cunt and you need to end this shit, like, before NBC even shows the lighting of the torch that happened 17 hours ago, go to part V. Stat.)
“Here,” you say, smiling, although your hands are trembling as you rip the iPhone out of her hands. She is uncomfortable, but she’s managing to keep her fake smile, too. This will be quick and relatively painless, you think.
You begin navigating her iPhone, but it’s stuck in her text-message mode, so you get out of that and, Jesus Christ, she has a ton of apps, and you still haven’t found Safari, and she grabs the phone back from you with the legerdemain of a surgeon, literally, and you don’t want to make (more of) a scene at this point, so you let her, but then she’s checking something else, and she says, “I think one of my friends was talking about Lenox Hill on Facebook,” and she hits that button, and you realize that this will take too long, and you grab the phone back from her, and the phone falls to the ground, where it hits a rock, cracking the unprotected screen and rendering the phone useless.
“Thanks a lot, asshole,” she says, with her initial shock turning into an evil grin. “Now YOU can buy me the 4s I wanted.”
She watches over your shoulder as you use your iPhone to order her new iPhone. Both of you forget about Lenox Hill Hospital and go back to watching tape-delayed trampoline and Ryan Seacrest interview 14-year-old gymnasts who are no longer crying but whose eyes show the reddened shame of parental disappointment.
On the way home from your friend’s house, you steer off a cliff.
This is the end of your adventure. And life. You must go buy a new (used is fine, too, so long as it is an Oldsmobile) car to continue.
You grab the phone from her and smack her across the face with it. She begins to run away and cry. You chase after her, toppling over the dinner table as the other guests scatter.
You follow her into the corner of the yard, where she tries to shimmy up the wooden fence to get away. You can see the splinters entering her wrists, but you don’t care.
You give the top, back part of her head a good whack with the phone, causing her to fall backward and land at your feet. You point to the blood pouring and broken bones jutting out of her left arm and cackle with glee. As you raise the phone to strike again, you hear commotion behind you. You turn around and see four policemen surrounded by the horrified faces of the other party guests, the woman’s irate husband, your wife and son, and the party hosts, both wearing Spice Girls T-shirts.
You are arrested for assault and battery and attempted murder. You are convicted after a quick trial, sentenced to 90 years in maximum security, and your cellmate at the state penitentiary, Diesel, makes you shine his shoes within 10 minutes of your arrival.
It would be great to say that this is the end of your adventure, but, sadly, it’s really just the beginning.
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