It’s Judge O’Clock Somewhere
I’ve grabbed enough packets to sweeten a commercial-sized, multi-layered bundt cake (I am an inventor of cakes), including the frosting. I pour it as fast as I possibly can. The granules of Splenda will only fall at the speed of granules of Splenda. I jiggle the packet to expedite it. The coffee swallows the delicious imposter like a sinkhole devouring a single-family detached home entangled in a foreclosure dispute. Kiss that fanny Fannie Mae.
A man, unaware of the intimate moment I’m having, hobbles over to the coffee bar station and fingers the various sweeteners, deciding whether he wants Type 2 diabetes or cancer. He chooses the sugar that sounds like a punk band — Sugar In The Raw — one packet, no two packets, emptying the contents into his coffee. I’m envious of his nonchalance and conciseness, but anxious as I’m still not done yet. (What’s with men not waiting for women to finish?)
He stirs the coffee and replaces the lid, peering over at me as I shuffle with the deck of yellow packets in my hand. I line them up in one direction and shake them like I’m ensuring the tobacco is packed in a carton of cigarettes. I tear them like I’m a bodybuilder ripping the Yellow Pages in half. I even grunt a little. The edges are jagged and gnawed at like Mike Tyson was in the area. Several granules abscond. I’m irritated that I wasted my rations. That’s one more packet I’ll have to open in order to satisfy my rotting tooth. With more packets comes the increasing likelihood that my coffee is no longer steaming hot, instead cooling to bubblebath water warm. (The horror!) I’m so particular about the way my coffee is made I would never subject anyone to getting it for me. The instructions. The precision. The technique. It’s a graduate-level course with a dissertation defense at the end.
As he takes the initial sip of life, he turns to get a glimpse of who is birthing a coffee concoction. I’m now 12 hours into labor. He watches my hands as they fidget with the antidote. I’m waiting for him to say something. My anxiety rises like one of those carnival strongman games. Please don’t say something. For the love of lattes, please don’t say something. I already know my coffee ritual is akin to a robot-assisted hysterectomy, I don’t need Barry, whose tastebuds are tricking him, to question my meticulous methods. It’s judge o’clock and I’m prepared to scorch him with my nastiest insults. Nasty. I’m talking Barry your coffee is so black it’s about to get arrested by the cops. You’re so judgmental that God is about to scrap all of your good deeds (that’s right, they were all for nothing) and smite you for overstepping your boundaries. Stay in your lane, Barry. Or the ultimate — Barry you’re so old, you’re gonna die. Maybe not today, but one day, and it probably won’t be in your sleep. Damnnnnn. That not-yet-caffeinated bitch is mean.
Barry makes that annoying ahhh! sound as the coffee pleasures his mouth and walks away, leaving room for Jeanine to swoop in and complete the judging that Barry couldn’t fully commit to. (What’s with men and commitment?) Jeanine’s a closer.
With a voice I wouldn’t turn my chair for, she blurts out, “You like it sweet, don’t you?” I can’t tell her what I really think. It’s one part mind-your-own damn-business and another part I-want-to-light-your-face-on-fire-for-not-being-self-aware-enough-to-shut-the-hell-up. In a hurry, I pop the coffee lid on, mutter something unintelligible, and shelter my beloved #anti-Christmas cup like a bodyguard shielding his precious D-list celebrity from the nonexistent paparazzi.
Later that day, after the (heroin) coffee has had time to course through my veins, I glance in front of a mirror — standing on top of the tub and clutching the shower curtain to keep my vertigo at bay. It’s practically a circus tight rope to create that full length mirror effect. I scan from back to front, front to back (one of those is the correct way to wipe), wondering Does my skin look thick in this?
As a collective, that co-op-y kind that nurtures a composting worm farm, rotates weekly chores and life partners, and bathes in the same trough they drink from, people subscribe to the same agenda. Judgement. We do it so well. No matter how many times Brittany says “No judgment” before you tell her your shameful one night stand story, that fibbing frenemy is comparing you. She’s measuring your raunch to her raunch. When the left corner of her upper lip curls, just know she’s rated you. According to Brittany, you’se a hoe.
When we judge do we individually decide who we think can handle criticism? Do we make internal spur of the moment assessments about who is too fragile to bear the load of criticism? Do we scrutinize those we’ve characterized as thick-skinned and thus adept at handling criticism — allowing us to lob our appraisal of them? Or do we purposefully select the frail, hurling bowling balls at them like the they’re the side pins we’re sure to knock down in spite of being eight beers in and bumper-less.
If the human species was interviewed for a position as a judge, with the main responsibilities being judging others, it would promptly receive an offer letter wrapped in bonuses, a corner office, and a calendar with last year’s should-be-wearing-a-shirt volunteer firefighters. The interview would go something like this.
Employer: So what are your strengths?
Human Species: I am proficient at judging people.
E: What are your weaknesses?
H.S.: I can’t stop judging people.
E: Tell us a little about yourself? Hobbies?
H.S.: I enjoy eliciting insecurity from people by commenting on their physical appearance. I love to ridicule any thought or suggestion a person makes, sometimes stealing the valuable ones. In my free-time, I call them endearing nicknames that highlight their shortcomings, like No Ovulate Kate or Bean Peen. I have my blackbelt in condescension, speaking to people as if they are homeschooled children.
E: Why should our company hire you?
H.S.: I’m 100% percent dedicated to judging. I can sniff out the weak and encourage them to question their self-worth. With a little more finessing, I can bring those with thicker skin to tears. I like to prey on immutable characteristics like race and sex and the severity of hair frizziness. With laser focus, I can picture everyone in their underwear, criticizing the style, cut, and elastic waist band recoil.
E: Fill in the blank. My favorite…
H.S.: Phrase is “You’re doing it wrong”.
E: What quality do you think is the most important for this position?
H.S.: Passion. I have an inherit desire and an unrelenting appetite to judge people — ignited by the innermost fire burning in my heart and loins. I can’t not do it. If you don’t hire me, I will still find a way to do it. No amount of time in captivity, no religious doctrines, no loss of eyesight will prevent me from judging.
E: What else can you do?
H.S.: I can see using my peripheral vision. I can communicate with no words. I can put more food in my mouth when there’s already undigested stuff in it. All while judging.
E: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with us. Normally we’d like to meet with other candidates, but we know what feels right. We’d like to offer you a position.
H.S.: Of course you would. I’m amazing. You have parsley stuck in your crooked front teeth. It makes you look like just mowed the grass.
With that I resign. It’s not that my skin looks thick, it’s just apparent that I have skin. As the human species would have it, all that artificial stuff settled to the bottom.