Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

So it's 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I'm in 7-11 buying a Slurpee and a donut and as I go to pull out my wallet, the clerk slides a paper bag under the donut before I can put it down and says, "You shouldn't put that on the counter. Bums come in here."

"Ah," I say. "Thanks."

And then he says:

"I haven't been with a woman in three months."

Time slows. 7-11 clerks don't usually talk to me. The last one who did was the night guy at my old regular stop and all he did was say, "Hello, my friend!" every time I walked in. His name was "Milky," and that probably should have bothered me more than it did at the time, considering the very few ways you can get a name like "Milky."

But this guy has just told me that he hasn't been with a woman in three months. Milky never shared that sort of stuff with me.

"Oh," I offer. "OK."

He looks down shyly and says, "I'm too afraid of disease."

This guy's got the world's largest condom supply in asile three and he's afraid of disease. I think that perhaps the fact that he looks like an Arabic Bob Hoskins might have a little more to do with it, but we all have our illusions. I think I'm the King of Norway, remember.

"Ah," I say. "Yeah."

He looks up hopefully. "But I've got a date tomorrow night, so you never know."

"No," I agree. "You never do."

So Uncle Milton, the bastard, shipped me a bunch of dead ants.

I go out and pop twenty-five bucks on an Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm and mail-order a batch of Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm ants and they arrive and all but six are dead. Dead, dead, dead. Little curled ant bodies, piled where they dropped out of the tube, between the Giant Ant Farm bridge and the Giant Ant Farm house.

One guy spent his first two hours in the farm crawling out from under a bunch of his buddy's corpses.

I expected industrious workers, a thriving society, the miracle of nature. And I got a few weary undertakers clearing away bodies.

The smiling children on the box should have had their faces twisted in horror.

Uncle Milton's a bastard.

And the next person to sing the Pink Panther theme with "Dead ant" as the lyrics, gets it.


Postscript:

I've heard from Uncle Milton Industries about this EOD and they've asked me to make a couple of clarifications. In fairness to them, it should be noted that I never tried to get the dead ants replaced, because I accidentally spilled the sand from the Farm all over my Newton. Uncle Milton's representative said that if I had just gotten in touch with them -- at either antfarm@ix.netcom.com or http://www.unclemilton.com -- they would have been happy to work out an arrangement for new ants.

But that wouldn't have been as funny.

So I drive something like 600 miles a week. I live in Manhattan Beach and I work in Irvine and Joanne lives in Santa Monica and I see a hell of a lot of the 405. My little $700 car has over 212,000 miles on it; no heater and no air conditioning and the passenger window doesn't roll down and the right half the LEDs on the radio don't work, so I can only tell what hour it is, or what general frequency I'm listening to.

This is what my drive is like.


Part I: Stark Terror (0.1%)

So I'm driving home and it's late and my eyes are drooping a little more than they should be. The freeway's just about empty, except for this guy in a Trans Am in front of me. We're both scooting along in the slow lane, about eight or nine car lengths apart.

Suddenly, he cuts sharp to the right, into the shoulder. My eyes snap open, and I think wildly that there's something big, in my lane, that I'm going to have to get around.

This plastic bag comes whipping around the Trans Am. Just a plastic bag. He must have been dropping off to sleep, and when he looked up and saw it, he over-reacted.

But now he's over-reacting the other way. He swerves back to the left and he loses his back tires.

His car is spinning, now facing east, now north -- the wrong way -- one lane to my left. You can smell his tires.

He manages to stop before his rear hits the center divider, but he can see the headlights of people cresting the hill and bearing down on him at seventy miles an hour. He revs up quickly and exits at the next off-ramp. He probably spent the next half an hour in a Denny's parking lot, shaking.

I didn't blink the rest of the way home.


Part II: Mind-Deadening Boredom (99.9%)

So I'm driving to work and I've flipped around all the radio stations my car gets and looked at all the billboards I can stomach and the road is giving off a buzz, this tedious hum.

I jump lanes to catch up to a car so I can read the bumper sticker, but it's just one of those "Harvest Crusade" ones, rife throughout Orange County, proclaiming that the owner of the car is saved and is loved and is a better person than I am.

I pass the 605. Only half way.

The traction-grooves in the road occasionally leave the lanes, zipping off into the divider or over to the right and I have to fight to automatic tendency to follow them.

I pass this truck, an aging flat-bed, loaded with 24 full-size refrigerators. They tower over the cab and hang off the sides and threaten and strain to bust loose and scatter and create a traffic nightmare.

And the only think I manage to think is:

"Whoa, that's a lot of refrigerators."


And that's what my drive is like.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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