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My Week as a Moron

Seven Days, Seven Brain Cells

By Corinne Asturias

WE WERE BUZZING along on 280 the other day, heading into downtown San Jose, when a man in a crumpled BMW roared up alongside of the car, screaming. His face was orange, and his mouth formed a trapezoid as he shrieked, "What are you?! A fucking moron?!"

Biter's normal response to a person such as this--a person who wears enough artificial tanner to stain a coffee table and probably hasn't had a decent bowel movement in three years--would be to look at him and calmly mouth the word "FREAK," but on this day, Biter had to acknowledge the truth.

"Yeah, a moron. So what?"

We looked our speedometer and noted we were traveling only 50 mph--in the middle lane of the freeway no less. Oh well, we thought lightly. It had seemed like we were driving really fast.

Saturday, March 16

The week prior, of course, Biter would not have considered ourselves morons at all. We considered ourselves speedy worker bees, multitaskers extraordinaire who could do email while editing a story and talking on the phone ("Wait a minute. Are you typing right now?"). We even used the term "retarded" to describe anything that didn't seem right.

But a new reality hit us when, after a sunny day of spring conditions on a snowboard, our head met the ice. Straight back, with a major thoomp. When we hit, we thought, "We are bleeding in the snow. We may be dead. Shit." And then the world went dark.

When we sat up, the sun seemed very, very bright. Our brain felt like a giant matzo ball that had been sloshed around in broth.

Sunday, March 17

In the hours and days that followed, life seemed relentless. Driving home to the Bay Area, unpacking our car, getting ready for the work week seemed like tasks from a reality-TV show with no prizes.

Monday, March 18

In the morning, we took two Ibuprofen and came into work. The truth is, we forgot to stay home. When we turned on our computer, it looked like science fiction. The folders and files that we normally glide through seemed complex and wrong. There were so many things on our desktop.

To compensate for how we were feeling, we spent extra time on our appearance. We were afraid we would see ourselves in a mirror somewhere looking like--well, a moron. We were acutely aware that people must not know about our mental condition. They might hold it against us, treat us like an inferior being or, worse, take advantage of us.

So we said very little about the strangeness in our head.

Tuesday, March 19

By the fourth day, fearing that we might have a blood clot on our brain which could kill us at any moment, we went to see the doctor, who tested us with little hammers and tricky questions and ordered a CT scan. The people at the hospital gave us a number and sent us to a waiting room, where a lot of people appeared to be much worse off than we were. When we were put into the big round cylinder, the tech said, kindly, "Good luck."

We went back to work and tried to forget about our pending results, which was easy. We just forgot.

In a weird way, we started to like being mentally slow. Work got done, junk email got deleted, food got eaten, bills got paid, papers got signed. In some ways, we were able to focus better, since we couldn't flood our brain with thoughts. We went through our computer and trashed about 50 files. We also went through several piles on our desk. It was very easy to throw things away without so many smarty-pants voices in our head trying to tell us what to do.

The best thing about being a moron, however, was that simple, even stupid, things seemed hilarious. The man at the help desk at the hospital where they did our CT scan, for example, was hard of hearing and shouted, "HAAAH?!" to every person who walked in and asked him for help, to the point where they had to practically shout their highly personal and sometimes embarrassing questions-- "I said, the PROCTOLOGY department!" at 90 decibels, so that even the people in the flower shop could hear them. We laughed about this for several days. Just writing about it, we are laughing now.

Wednesday, March 20

We learned to be more patient with ourselves--and therefore, to be more patient with others. The cashier at the hardware store who poked herself in the eye with her own glasses. The old lady squinting at the lipsticks in Longs. The guy idling at the light who doesn't notice it's changed. We felt more sympathetic to children, even the screaming ones.

We came to realize that many of the people wandering around looking clueless and at half speed actually are clueless and half-speed. And so what?

When we got home, there was a message on our recorder from the doctor: No blood clot. This was good news, and we felt lighter as we went about our evening, although at one point, of course, we forgot why.

Thursday, March 21

That next Saturday a friend bought us a helmet, a midnight-blue one with pads on the ears, which we began to contemplate wearing everywhere--and perhaps starting a new trend to go with wrist guards and self-sanitizing toilet seats.

Friday, March 22

When our head started to throb again, we wondered if our former brain would ever come back and if we would recognize it when it did. We reflected on how long healing takes and what a strange adventure it had been to experience life like an idiot savant, like Ronald Reagan before his dementia, or Phoebe on Friends or Sam, wandering through a high-speed world, with only half the pilot lights lit.

We apologized to our brain for not guarding it better. And thanked it for doing such a good job of getting us through life, both before, during and after our fall. Then, for some reason, we thought of the man at the help desk, yelling, "HAAAH?"

And we started laughing all over again, thinking that being a moron is not all that bad, really. Not at all.

How To Merge

It's official (sorta)! Silicon Valley's Hewlett-Packard will wed Austin's Compaq Computers, in a corporate ceremony of mammoth proportions. In order to ease the merger of these two very different sets of personnel, CEO Carly Fiorina has unveiled the following 10-tiered integration strategy:

1) Big party where bikini-clad dancers jump out of a cake shaped like a printer

2) Fiorina will dye her hair brunette, in order to seem more approachable

3) Every Wednesday will be Employee Boxing Night

4) Dr. Phil from Oprah will be brought in for a group "getting real" session

5) Company manual will be published to translate California slang into Texan slang and vice versa (i.e., Texans: "hecka" means "really"; Californians: "BBQ" means "Atkins Diet")

6) Big party with pin-the-tail-on-Walter-Hewlett game

7) "HP" from now on stands for "Happy Personnel"

8) Mechanical bull installed in company lounge to make Texans feel at home

9) Two words: puppet therapy

10) New health plan option: Free Prozac for everyone!

Celebrity Makeover

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Has it really been 20 years since the cuddly, crinkly creature from the skies stole Drew Barrymore's geranium? And now he/she/it is back. This time around, we figure that the diminutive outsider might want to assume a higher profile and mingle with some earthbound stars. What better place to start than some of the A-Is-for-Alien-List Oscars parties?


It's easy to get carried away when you have no hair to start with. Taking a tip from Jennifer Lopez, E.T. goes for the high-rise do, with a tidal-wave frontal attack and spit-curl flanking maneuvers. You could stash a lot of Reese's Pieces under there. The nicely knotted scarf hides more wrinkles than a year's worth of botulism injections.

Charlie's Alien

A kimono-ish pink satin wrap with big red roses and a plunging neckline that exposes more wrinkles than last week's sheets--E.T., don't phone home, phone your designer and demand a refund. And while you're waiting, would a comb be such a crime?

Sheer Nonsense

Passed over by Disney for the part of Meeko the Raccoon in the remake of Pocahontas, E.T. delivers a not-so-subtle protest statement with nothing more than a case full of eye shadow. But considering the southward drift of that dress, hon, we think a gym membership could do wonders for your sagging career.

I Saw You

I saw you at the taqueria. You ordered three burritos to go and moved to the salsa bar. I ordered and shuffled behind you. Taqueria etiquette is like ATM etiquette: a discreet 3-foot buffer zone. You filled one, two and then three salsa cups. I rocked forward on the balls of my feet, ready to jump in. Then you filled four, five and six cups. I poised for another opening. Nope: cups seven, eight and nine. Then you went for double digits: 11 salsas. Only the arrival of your order stopped you from draining the salsa trays like dry lake beds. I wondered: Should I call the Guinness Book of Records or buy stock in Pepcid AC?

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From the March 28-April 3, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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