Embarrassment

Nothing plants a memory more firmly in your head than a little embarrassment. Who doesn’t like a little shame or public humiliation in their life?

It was my junior year of college and things weren’t going well. I still hadn’t learned the trick on how to force yourself to go to class. There was something almost exciting about standing up and walking out of class early and having no one try to stop you. I loved it a little too much and think I began leaving class just to see if people noticed.

I grabbed my red Ralph Lauren jacket, my notebook, wallet and keys, and headed out my apartment door. I quickly jumped down the two steps leading to the parking lot where my baby, a green two door Honda Civic, was waiting. My car peeled out as I headed towards UT campus with Kanye’s High School Drop Out blaring in the wind. Knoxville flashed by me as I sped towards the part of campus where my history class was being held.

Finding parking was impossible back in 2003 and it took awhile to find somewhere my baby could wait while I went to give my oral report on Roman civilizations. I was ready and had been up all night preparing. Actually that was a lie, I was up all night… but I recall not much time was used for preparing and more time was spent doing other things.

I grew nervous thinking about giving that report in front of actual people. It also occurred to me that I had only been to class a few times and most of them would probably be wondering who the hell I was.

I did what you do anytime you grow nervous in college, even if it is 10 am before class…

I pulled out my trusty double barrel flask and emptied both reserves into my mouth. Instantly I started to feel really good about the speech and headed towards my class with my notes.

 

UTK is a large campus and my car was really far from the class. By the time I got to the classroom the whisky had worn off totally and I was starting to panic a little. I have a huge phobia of speaking in front of large people and having those people judge me. It is particularly more difficult when those people are supposed to be judging you, like for a grade for class, and you are now positive you don’t remember actually forming out a plan for what you will say on the… which Empire again?

As my foot crossed through the door into a packed classroom, holy shit how many people are in this class and where do I sit, I was positive this was about to be one of the worst experiences in my life. I knew a ton about the Roman Empire, but without a plan I was a sailboat with no wind.

You know how sometimes it feels like the world knows when you are down and still she decides to plant just one more foot into your rear for good measure?

“Jason Cushman you are first to present today… is Jason Cushman here?” a voice seemed to boom from nowhere.

Fuck me… I thought as I headed before all the waiting eyes that I was sure were wondering who I was.

Jason Cushman… who is this guy looks darted towards me as I made my way down the suddenly ridiculously long aisle to the front podium. I set my notes down and cleared my throat as I looked over the many faces in front of me.

“The Roman Empire was a great empire that had an intricate road system…” I began nervously.

I stopped.

I couldn’t think of anything else to say…

I had forgotten English.

The eyes in front of me turned from intrigued, to puzzled… to half amused and half baffled.

“… Thank You.” I suddenly said and then quickly walked back down the aisle to my seat and sat down. I pretended like everyone didn’t exist and what I had just done was perfectly normal even though I felt every eye in the room on me thinking what the fuck just happened?

I starred at my desk for a total of 56 and a half minutes until the class was over. I didn’t look at anyone once and waited for everyone to leave first. I was mortified, but I also was suddenly panicked about the sure F I had just received for a grade on my presentation.

I made my way to the front of the class to talk to the professor and I decided I deserved one time in life where I get to pretend to be totally foreign. I mean… I am adopted, I was technically born in Korea.

I lied and told him my English wasn’t very good and asked him if I could write a paper instead of giving an oral presentation. I’ll admit I may have acted a little and exaggerated my speech.

Long story short – he let me write a paper and I got an A. I suffered through some major embarrassment, but in the end lying helped me succeed.

And that’s the moral of this story today.

Jason C. Cushman

-Opinionated Man

@smokendust

44.1

Father’s Day

There is nothing like the taste of freedom and it tastes like the cool night air on a highway in Tennessee outside of Nashville. I was doing 87 miles per hour and we were making great time on our way back home to M town. I was 19 and I had very little concern for the world.

I had brought Chris with me this trip because I was going to Cashville and I didn’t know the area well. I was meeting up with the girlfriend at the time and she had some friends that wanted to go out to the club for the night. Even though Memphis is about 3.5 hours from Nashville, we were game.

It hadn’t gone well.

She hated my new haircut. And I hadn’t told her before getting it cut before seeing her… because I wasn’t aware you were supposed to do that in life. That sounds like a lame fucking life.

There may have been a few reasons I tasted freedom that night as we made it as fast as we could back to Memphis. We were making good time as we passed Jackson and everything was going great. I remember music, Chris and I chatting, and then…

I woke to the smell of smoke.

“Cush… I think we had a wreck,” Chris half groaned from the passenger seat.

“What… the fuck… just happened!!!” I said slowly as I tried to shake myself awake. I realized then, I had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Chris removed his seatbelt and turned to me, “dude, we need to get out of this car. I smell something on fire!”

We quickly exited the vehicle and saw the damage immediately. My car had ripped almost five yards of guard rail out of the ground before hitting a bridge column. The car running over the metal rails had caught the grass on fire and my Ford Contour was dying a slow death that only Ford cars know before my eyes.

“Holy shit!” My parents are going to kill me…” I mumbled as a huge semi pulled up behind us.

A trucker exited the vehicle and hurried over to us. “You boys ok?” He said as he half looked at us and scanned the scene.

“We are good, thanks,” Chris replied as we watched another trucker rush up with a fire extinguisher. It was no use at this point, almost half my car was on fire.

“We all better back up some,” the trucker said. “I radioed in for some help already.”

“Thanks…” I responded as I watched my first car go up in smoke before my eyes.

I pulled out my phone to call my father at 4 am in the morning.

It was Father’s Day.

Jason C. Cushman

-Opinionated Man

@smokendust

44.1

No double dipping

Can you believe people don’t actually know what double dipping is?

And it doesn’t only apply to chips and salsa, pizza, and cotton candy.

For example, below are one of my favorite snacks the pistachio nut.


As a kid I didn’t like them. I tasted this tiny bit of tartness at the end that turned me off and I already had honey roasted peanuts so I was good. I love pistachios… but not after I watch you double dipping!

Oh you don’t know how to double dip with nuts? That’s when you pick up four or five of them because they are hard to open like this one 

and you throw it back into the bowl because you don’t want to waste it.

Ew.

People will even grab a handful of mixed nuts, pick out the few they like, and then throw the rest back in! Covered in their humanness! That’s why you don’t eat bar nuts…

Anyways. There you have it. Don’t do it.

-OM

@smokendust

Honor Society

Twelfth grade was going ok. I was busy with college applications, I had a girlfriend at White Station, and we were having a winning soccer season! Everything was great… except for one thing.

Art class.

I walked into the art room and quickly found my way to my desk. The art room tables were situated in a circle that filled the entire room and it afforded us the opportunity to talk and observe each other’s work. Normally this would be a fun and stimulating atmosphere to be a part of. Normally.

Hey Chink,” a voice from my left side slid in to interrupt my peaceful thoughts. I knew the voice all too well. This same asshat had been tormenting me since the beginning of the school year and was determined to get under my skin. You know how adults love to claim that “if you just ignore it, it will stop?” That’s bullshit. It never stops, particularly when you are an Asian going to an 85% black school in Memphis Tennessee. From my experience in life, you’d better buckle up because it is going to be a bumpy 13 years.

“Why do Asians wear sunglasses? Aren’t your eyes tight enough to act like natural shades? Damn you’re ugly.”

“Why the fuck are you checking me out for? Isn’t your little friend there cute enough for you, dickhead?” I snapped back finally losing my patience and cool.

“Ohhhhhh watch out! The little chink is mad!” He and his friend began chanting.

As I got up to deal with my daily nemesis, the fire alarm suddenly started going off and put a temporary end to our squabble. It was only temporary and as soon as we got outside it began again. It escalated.

By the time the fire drill had ended we were both angry enough to kill one another. We continued to verbally spar as we walked back in, I’m no bitch and gave as good as I got. But I was also alone, the only Asian fighting a racial war.

As we walked back into the art room I barely saw the fist that was headed straight for me. My world exploded and I saw Chinese fireworks before my eye.

This motherfucker just hit me! I thought to myself as my body reacted on its own. I felt my own fist wind back and I strike out blindly where his nose should have been. I felt his face squish with a satisfying connection and blood gushed from his nostrils. Suddenly I was jerked backwards and found myself face to face with my soccer coach who had followed us after seeing what was going on and had yanked me back out of the fight. I was dazed and just happy the bright lights had stopped.

We were both rushed to the office for judgement and punishment. We were equally guilty in the eyes of my educators and because of that we were both handed board suspensions.

I lost my senior year national honor society because of my suspension. I then lost all my scholarship offers as well, all except one – in state UTK, and that is where I ended up going. I guess I hadn’t needed to fill out all those fucking applications after all.

I remember one day after the fight, while I was serving out my board suspension at home. My mom walked into my room with a card. She knew I had been having a hard time… even if I hadn’t shared my daily details with her. Why would I? At 17 years old you begin to realize that life just sucks sometimes… and parents are for comfort. They can’t fix everything.

I opened the card and my eyes began to water. It said –

You will always be in my honor society. I love you.

I thanked her with more than just my words. I thanked her with my heart and I felt the weight lessen slightly.

You see she got it… she did understand.

-Opinionated Man

Jason C. Cushman

44.1

@smokendust

Abuse

10/28/2017

Today I went to Walmart to prep for the party none of you are invited to…

When I’m walking out I see this guy violently slam his passenger door, there wasn’t anyone in it, and then stormed around to the front. I assume it was the front, he was a short man. When I say “violently slammed” he literally shut it three times. I don’t know how, maybe his door is broken, but it happened and I thought it was strange.

I kept walking.

His car, a white Crown Vic like an undercover cop car, sped down to the end of the parking lot where it stopped suddenly by a girl. He hopped out and started yelling and she yelled back.

I put my stuff in the trunk and shut it. Looked around and saw some people watching.

The guy put his hands on her shoulders in a firm shake.

I looked at the people around me and asked “anyone gonna call the cops?”

“Not unless he hits her,” a woman replied with a firmness in her voice from my right, she was standing by her concerned husband.

A dude walked by me and we talked.

“It’s too early for all that yelling,” I said to him.

“Sure is.” He said shaking his head, but smiling at my comment.

“I’d go down and stop him if he hit her, but he hasn’t.” I said to him as I turned back to my car. “You take care man.”

“You too man.”

I got in my car and drove down to the end of the parking lot so I was only eight parking spaces away, there was another truck parked as well with someone concerned inside.

I watched as they argued some more and then she got in the car.

She decided to get back in.

I shook my head.

The guy was about to get in his car when he noticed his audience finally, finally noticed his shouts and her yells had been heard by half the parking lot in Flatirons.

“What bro? You want to record me too?” he yelled in my direction.

My window was cracked and I’ll admit a few thoughts ran through my head. I am a father and I don’t know what this guy has on him. I know that all I witnessed was a loud argument and no physical violence. Yes, shaking someone is assault, but hard to prove unless it leaves bruises and there are cameras with witnesses. Besides what it really all boiled down to was this… she got back in the car on her own free will.

I drove away.

Jason C. Cushman

-Opinionated Man

44.1

@smokendust

Note: There are many things I could and sometimes want to write on this topic, but most of it has been shared. This was a random Saturday morning. I thought I’d share it. Some may criticize me for what I did or did not do.

Writing

I read a picture of your pain and it felt the same to me. Your words tickled inside of me until I knew they were a part of me. Writing your pain without shame of the world. You strengthen hearts without a thought and allow someone else to finally sigh. You blog your soul and never care to be whole. Sharing simply to share, so the world knows we were here.

-OM

44.1

@smokendust