Saturday, February 6, 2010

Woe-MO: Reliving the Ben Stein Incident

Well, 1 month into this blog, here I am sitting at my dining room table, missing out.

This has been a frustrating FOMO week. Tuesday's book talk was postponed. I had to miss out on the wedding crash and So You Think You're a Drag Queen because I thought leaving Friday was the only way I could get to New York and "Brains: An Antivalentine's Day Party" ahead of the Snowpocalypse here in DC. Then the snow hit in the mid-afternoon, and although my 5:30 p.m. bus wasn't cancelled, I was so freaked out about getting stuck somewhere on I95 that I decided not to risk it. Now I realize that it probably would have made it, only it's too late. So instead of downing cocktails in a phrenology-head costume with college BFF's tonight, I will be getting to know my landlady's bread machine.

Grump! For me, this is the bitterest kind of FOMO: when you probably could have made it to something, something you know was going to be lots of fun and memorable, but you have a very legitimate reason not to go (personal safety, responsibility), so you agonize all day and pick the safe route, then you think about how maybe you could have swung it with the right spirit of adventure and...

There's a reason why it's particularly painful for me, and it's called the Ben Stein Incident. I still shudder at the memory. It was the FOMO Low-Mo of my adult life.

Six years ago, Columbia University celebrated its 250th anniversary. Ben Stein, Mr. Bueller-Bueller himself, came to give a talk as part of the celebration. Stein was an old member of the Philolexian Society, the pseudo-Edwardian absurdist literary debate group I had joined the previous semester, and a bunch of the current members were going to go watch him. They told me I should come too.

I had an essay to write for University Writing. I can't remember if it was due the next day, but I was convinced that I would never be able to turn it in on time if I didn't spend that whole night writing it. I hemmed. I hawed. I agonized. Then I decided not to go.

Five hours later, my friend and fellow Philo Michelle came stumbling back into our dorm. "OH MY GOD THAT WAS THE BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE!" she slurred, with a look on her face like she'd just had a chocolate milkshake and then won the lottery. The Philos had gone up to introduce themselves after Stein's talk, and he was so thrilled to see them that he took them out drinking. He was fascinated with Michelle, drunkenly insisting that she sing folk songs of her native Louisiana. Everybody drank and sang together and it was BEN STEIN! And what had I done that night? Written three paragraphs in Microsoft Word.

If Ben Stein shows up at Brains: an Antivalentine's Day Party, I think I'm just going to wander out into the 30" of snow outside my front door and give up.


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