Are you me? Maybe you are, and if you are me, you know there's no experience quite like it. Share if this sounds familiar, and you recognize that you're me!
1. You were born in Baltimore. Technically, you were gestated in Baltimore and the actual act of birth happened at a hospital outside the city limits, in Towson, so your birth certificate carries the name of a place you never lived and barely ever went, which underscores the problem with applying traditional terms like "birthplace" and "native" to the conditions of contemporary life.
2. Your writing was cited, disapprovingly, in a monograph on scrapple.
3. You think of yourself as clean-shaven. When you go two or three weeks without shaving, as you sometimes do when you've got a lot going on, you persist in believing that the result is nothing more than little bit of fairly unnoticeable stubble.
4. If you did admit to yourself that you had facial-hair growth, you would have to admit that the resulting facial hair is basically Green Arrow's.
5. Yesterday, after seeing another one of those dreadful BuzzFeed listicles that are aggressively designed to "go viral" within a specific microtargeted population and to be worthless to every other reader on the planet, you Tweeted this:
Thirty-Seven Signs You Are Nihilistically Gaming a Broken and Meaningless Metric for Publishing Success— Tom Scocca (@tomscocca) August 1, 2013
6. Then you Tweeted this:
Clicking on a BuzzFeed microtargeted slideshow feels exactly like reaching into your mailbox and pulling out another AOL CD.— Tom Scocca (@tomscocca) August 1, 2013
7. In lieu of a pajama top, your younger son slept last night in a Nick Markakis jersey t-shirt, worn backwards.
8. You maintain a mental ranking of supermarket black teas in order of how closely they approximate the flavor of Hong Kong milk tea when you overbrew them and add condensed milk. Lipton from Unilever China outranks Lipton from Unilever Hong Kong; the current No. 1 is Barry's Classic Blend.
9. When you look at a long string of giant-format gifs and thoughtless obligatory stock-photography images, you feel what can only be described as soul-nausea, and you think about how at the majority of places you've worked, the person with the most acute and delightful editorial sensibility was the art director (who was also generally the best person there, period), and you realize that of all the important and underappreciated aspects of publishing that have been ground to rubble through the upscaling and efficiency of the online-publishing era (O, copy editors!), the degradation of visual standards might be the one that hurts the most, and you can't stand to actually fill up a listicle with garbage art even for the sake of parody.
10. People try to recruit you and Tommy Craggs for the same jobs.
11. You own a mesh-backed Baltimore Orioles cap that is older than a number of your coworkers.
12. Sometimes when you're washing vegetables for dinner, you keep turning over these dumb concepts in your head until they start to become actual sentences rattling around, and maybe you dump them out on Twitter to make them go away, but occasionally you give in to temptation and save them to publish in a professional outlet, even though you're pretty sure they're not worth it.
13. Your boss is away this week and there's no one to veto your dumb concepts.
14. That thing that one time—wow, yeah, remember that? Man, that. You will remember that one forever.
15. You are still angry—actually angry—about the Glenn Davis trade, and particularly on Randy Milligan's behalf.
16. They knocked down the main building of your cruddy old high school a few years back and built a fancy new school there.
17. Of the—five? Ten? Eight? Let's say eight. Of the eight people who have most closely shared in the experience that constitutes your life, two are already dead.
18. Whenever you feel someone attempting to microtarget you—when a song you genuinely love starts playing in a retail establishment, say, or when once a year you have go to Brooklyn—you become agitated and resentful.
19. You have gotten to a point where you find the smell of durian incredibly appetizing. Literally appetizing, like you catch a whiff of it and your stomach starts shooting out hunger pangs.
20. Your name is not "Malcolm." If your name is Malcolm, you might be Max Read.
21. You grew up constantly hearing the distant rumble of artillery firing at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
22. People often want to know what you have against this writer or that writer, but the answer is almost invariably—perhaps boringly—that you don't like their writing.
23. You developed the ability, when you were younger, to sleep anywhere. You willed yourself to take a nap in your seat at the Boston Garden to get through sets by Bonham and Dangerous Toys while you waited for the Cult to come on. This was after "Fire Woman," when the industry was trying out the idea that maybe the Cult could be sold from the heavy-metal market niche. You were (and remain) ideologically and aesthetically and socially repulsed by metal, but you recognize (and recognized back then) that the Cult was providing you with certain loud dumb pleasures that were functionally indistinguishable from the pleasures around which metal fans organized their own musical tastes. Probably it's relevant that the white girls in your high school were really big metal fans. Twenty-some years later, the Cult is one of those bands from the second tier of your affections that feel a little too schlocky when they come up in the shuffle on your iPod—only Electric and "She Sells Sanctuary"; you never even uploaded Sonic Temple to iTunes, and your Dreamtime CD vanished around college graduation—and sometimes you skip the album tracks. You still hate metal, even though you admire the Mountain Goats' persistent advocacy of black metal (which you recognize as occupying a completely different cultural space from the metal the white girls in your high school loved, but which you still don't wish to put in your ears). Lately you have noticed that you almost never skip any Mountain Goats songs when they come up in the shuffle, no matter how incongruent they may be. It's a particular and unexpected virtue of the Mountain Goats that you are always glad to hear the Mountain Goats randomly delivered. Anyway, nowadays, what with work and household duties and children, the ability to shut off consciousness at your own discretion is moot, and you don't even know if you have it anymore.
24. There's a little squeaking noise in your ears when you swallow that is trying to tell you that you've had enough iced coffee already, but you might not listen to it.
25. You are aware that there are people to whom the work you do seems just as vulgar and toxic and stupid as the vulgar, toxic, stupid work you are trying to complain about.
[Image by Jim Cooke]