Guys: You know that drunk moron at a bar who wants to impress his woman so he sidles up next to you and challenges you to a game of pool or darts? You know that jerk who loudly proclaims "I can beat any one of you!" and then makes awful "ha HA!" noises and spews "Eat that!" or "Beat that!" with every bullseye or ball knocked into a pocket?
I don't like to admit it, but sometimes I'm that guy.
I'm not trying to impress a woman (or man). I'm trying to impress myself. I'm not trying to say something bad about you. I'm trying to say something good about me - and doing it poorly. I admit it. I'm addicted to competition.
I love tests of math and logic, and I take IQ tests on the internet just for fun. I love completing tasks for a grade and comparing my grade to the grades of others as well as the number of hours we studied. I love playing all sorts of games against friends and strangers, and I keep a backgammon board in my trunk for impromptu sessions. I love racing anything and seeing who will win. When I was a reporter, I didn't have to write the most stories but I had to have the best stories faster and on the front page. When I worked in public relations, I had to have the most media hits on campaigns and come up with the best and brightest ideas. I had to be a better writer, a better thinker and a better schmoozer than all the others.
I'm the one who would cover her test paper so others couldn't cheat. I'm the one who wouldn't allow do-overs.
Faster, more, better, nicer, smarter, cleverer, meaner, stronger, braver, funnier. It's my curse, and I have been known to wear myself out in my quest for perfection.
Story #2 (Click here for story #1)
I was at a Borders book store one day cruising the political section and commenting - out loud and to myself - on new books. This weird-looking guy at a nearby table started commenting on my comments. That's how we met.
You know this guy. Everyone does. We've all seen him before. The type of guy who is in his late 40s or early 50s, has a big, round belly and is wearing a dress shirt that's half tucked, half untucked and brown wrinkled dress pants with dirty, white tennis shoes. His teeth are grimy, his head is dandruffy, his clothes are smeared with that day's lunch and he is bathed in an odor that slightly resembles rancid milk. He has several days of hair growth on his chin and cheeks and looks borderline homeless, but you know he's some kind of old science fiction geek who never had enough social skills to snare a mate and has lived his entire life, instead, all cozy at home with Mom. This specimen seemed particularly off, so I was naturally intrigued and sat down to find out if he was just plain weird or certifiably insane. I was hoping for insane.
After a relentless barrage of questions, I found out the guy worked in some office shredding sensitive documents and that he was an accountant before that. He had been in the store reading self-help books on how to get a date. Told ya! About 20 minutes later, I brought up the fact that he seemed really weird, and I asked him if he was a genius or if he was just crazy. That's when he said that he took a Mensa IQ test once and got a score in the 170s. That's also when things started to get ugly.
What?! A 170-something IQ? Huh!? Argh!!!! Yeah, the guy's a recluse who has probably had a really lonely life - just him and his books and dear, old ma. But, being the competitive asshole that I am, I couldn't STAND the thought that this guy might have an IQ of 170-something while I am stuck with a more average 140-something. So I had to prove that I was smarter than him in SOME WAY...but how? That's when I noticed his watch.
He had a nice one: a silver Seiko with a shiny, big face and cool numbering. I could tell from our conversations that he was completely gullible, so I decided to swindle him out of his watch thereby establishing myself as having more street smarts than Mr. I-have-such-a-huge-IQ-that-I-don't-even-feel-the-need-to-boast-about-it. So I took obvious notice of his watch and, turning into a sort of modern-day Scarlett O'Hara, began oohing and ahing about how gorgeous it was.
Oh, I doooo deeeclayah! Yoh watch is gaaawgeous, suh. But aym havin' the haaaadest time seein' it propah what with me havin' ta look at is upside down and awwwl.
He twisted his arm around so I could get a better look. Time to bat the eyelashes.
Oh, how beautiful! And whayah evah did you get it? Oh, you don't recall? Well how much did it cost, suh? I bet it cost a plenty. Oh, it's just so gaaawgeous! But I really do need a closah look. Can I wayah it, pretty please, suh?
He immediately took off his watch and handed it to me. I fastened it around my wrist and sat there for a few minutes before telling him that this was all a test of his gullibility and that he failed - miserably. He laughed the whole thing off in that slow, seemingly half-witted way of his before asking me out on a date. I said "no" and left after handing him back his beautiful new Seiko.