“Wait. You want me to put cheese slices in your milkshake?” The confused looking teenager asked, glancing sideways at me across the white counter, shocks of his disheveled hair sticking in every direction from underneath his paper In-N-Out hat.
“Yeah.” I replied, “But you have to melt the cheese first. If you just put the cheese slice in the milkshake, I won’t be able to drink it.”
He stared at me for a couple of seconds before turning his back and walking toward the closest grill, throwing two thick slices of american cheese on to it, and then pacing back toward the milkshake machine. A couple minutes later, I was on my bike, cruising down Washington Blvd toward the beach, slowly sucking strawberry milkshake through a straw.
I was about to go on a run. Normally, I prefer to eat nothing or maybe a banana before running, but today was a special occasion. It was the first day of spring break. The area where I was set to go running would be a complete shit-show: tourists everywhere along the bike path and boardwalk, lost Uber drivers weaving unpredictably in and out of traffic trying to find their fares, huge groups of people dumping off of tour busses and just your average can’t-be-bothered-to-look-up-from-my-cell-phone unaware idiots.
Normally on days like this, I make it a point to get my run in before 8am. If that doesn’t happen, I end up experiencing some sort of run-rage: kicking cars, yelling at bikers, snorting disapprovingly at selfie-takers and generally announcing things to people that I feel they should be more aware of.
It isn’t good for my mental health. Running is an escape for me, I usually do it in the mountains. I have learned over the years that if I need to go on a run in a situation like this, I need a recourse. I can’t be yelling at people. Even when people are blatantly ignoring simple rules of etiquette and common decency, I don’t like to tell people what to do.
And I shouldn’t have to. But they still need to be taught a lesson. They need some sort of accountability. And I need something to ensure the worst offenders are dealt with. For mental health’s sake. Enter american cheese/strawberry milkshake.
My bike locked up, I sucked the last of the pinkish goop through the straw, tossed the cup in a trash can, pulled my shirt over my head and took off on my jog. It was a gorgeous day, 72 degrees and with a slight onshore breeze and just a nip of humidity in the air making it feel closer to 68.
I headed down the palm tree-lined street, straight for the beach and as I approached the intersection in front me, I was fortunate enough to have the light change and was greeted with a big, bright walking man in the crosswalk sign. The car sitting at the light started to pull forward with their left blinker on, looking to turn left. I had noticed the large Uber symbol in the back window and so I immediately knew this person had no idea where they were and was totally reliant on gps to get anywhere (meaning they would be looking at their phone, not where they were going) and remained vigilant.
Sure enough, just as my first foot landed on the striped asphalt of the crosswalk, the driver apparently got new information and decided he wanted to turn right. He didn’t signal or look, he just went (having to perform a u-turn at the next light would be devastating) cutting back across the crosswalk, barely making it into his own lane, only missing me because I came to a complete stop. He still had no idea I was even there. There was a large cat sitting in his lap and two huge phones sticking out of the dashboard on holders.
I started running soon enough to pull parallel to the rear of the car, I had just enough time. I cocked my head back to the left, covered my left nostril with two fingers and let the first one go. A huge projectile ball of thick pink snot went fluttering across the open space between my face and the rear window of the black Prius. It splattered upon impact, the main glob sticking to the center of the window while edges started dripping down in a mess of pinkish goo. Bingo. It didn’t look bloody yet, but I knew the strawberry milkshake just needed a little more time to work. I was shooting 100% early in this run. Feeling good, salty breeze in the air, I headed down toward the boardwalk.
I hit the bike path and hung a hard right, headed northbound, the outline of the Santa Monica Mountains silhouetted across the hazy horizon line. Directly ahead of me on the path, I could see what seemed to be a traffic jam. There was a large congestion of bikes stopped in the middle of the path, halting all traffic coming from both directions. I weaved in and out of a few bikes until I could see what was causing the jam: a group of five or six twentysomethings were crowded around a single cell phone that was extended in an arm from the center of the group.
They had stopped in the middle of the bike path to get a selfie, something that required blocking both lanes, mere feet away from a safe boardwalk with plenty of room and no flow of traffic. I gathered my ammunition steadily with a few well-timed nostril inhalations. I approached the rear of the group and veered to their right, covered my right nostril and let a rocket go from my left nostril. It hung heavy in the air before splattering on the back of the last guy in the group.
A bit of commotion ensued, signaling that he might have realized what just happened. I was busy weaving through the middle of the group and out the left side, placing two fingers on my left nostril and with a slightly-cocked head, sent a huge glob of snot directly onto cell phone of the selfie taker. It exploded across the back of the phone and sent a stream of red-yellow mucus streaming down her arm. She looked dazed… then angry. I sprinted away to the sounds of screaming and commotion. Luckily for me, their selfie stop had caused such a traffic jam on the bike path, they had no chance of catching up to me any time soon.
Three for three. I was feeling hot. Sure, the targets were easy (I was effectively shooting layups at this point) but it still felt good to dish out a little old-fashioned snot rocket justice on inconsiderate and unaware idiots. Just as the phlegm began to reconvene in my sinuses, I spotted an interesting situation unfolding in the bike path ahead.
In one of the pedestrian crosswalks that bisects the path, there was a fat woman wearing a yellow bikini crossing with her two sons. One of the children was halfway across when he decided to sit down. Bikes and runners traveling southbound started slowing to a stop, waiting for the child to move.
The mother, who was behind her son, stopped in the crosswalk as well, blocking northbound traffic and started screaming at her son: “You’re in the way!” and “Move!”. She had her arm outstretched and was pointing at the jam of bikes he had just caused, completely oblivious to the pile-up she was causing behind her.
As I approached, weaving through the traffic they were causing, the mother was no closer to her son and had still made no effort to pick up her confused toddler and move him from harm’s way. He was crying very loudly. Screaming, really.
I covered my left nostril firmly just as she shouted, “Get out of the way!” at the top of her lungs and sent a tight ball of firm pink snot shooting towards her. It hit her exposed shoulder and exploded like a water balloon, sending mucus globbing down her arm and back. I could have sworn I heard some cheering from the congestion as I darted out of sight down the path. Keepin’ it 100. Unprecedented accuracy. I was in the zone.
I jogged a couple uneventful miles, enjoying the ocean breeze and the mild temps. Despite his early reticence, the In-N-Out employee ended up putting together a perfect concoction of thick-sliced American cheese and creamy, real ice cream milkshake. The balls of snot conglomerated to a seemingly impossible size and held together perfectly as the flew through the air, only releasing on impact. I tipped my Patagonia duckbill cap to him as I looked for a final target.
I had one solid piece of ammunition left; one that had been coalescing for the past couple miles and had finally gathered toward the end of my nostril, sitting prime to be ejected. I turned my back toward the beach and headed inland, toward the traffic. I approached the first intersection to find approximately 40 people waiting to cross the street. I was still about 100 yards back when the light changed and they were given their little white man symbol to start walking.
Waiting at the light to turn right was a red convertible Maserati. The driver was incredibly irked that he had to wait for these people to cross. He tried to jump out in front of everyone, and as that failed, I saw him throw his arms up in disgust. He had to wait. System check: I slowly inhaled through my nose. All systems were go.
The driver of the red convertible Maserati wanted to make sure that everyone knew how inconvenient this was for him, so he refused to sit and wait, he slowly kept inching forward into the crosswalk as the people walked past him. By the time I approached, at the tail end of the the crossing pack, he was halfway into the crosswalk, still slowly inching forward, refusing to stop and wait for the pedestrians with the right of way to cross.
I only need three steps in the crosswalk to eclipse the front of his car, I was banking on the fact that as soon as I passed, he would slam the gas pedal to the floor and continue to his back-waxing appointment or wherever a dude that drives a Maserati goes. To buy designer sunglasses?…
He did. As soon as I was a fraction of an inch clear, he gunned it, cranking it hard right to get back into the first lane. I stopped immediately in the middle of the intersection, pivoted on a dime and, my right hand already covering my nostril, unleashed the granddaddy of all the snot rockets that day, right toward the open cab of the car.
Time seemed to slow down. The pinkish glob hung in the air for a moment, the sun reflecting off of it, turning it red. For a split-second, I thought it might disintegrate in the air before reaching its target. It was a huge, bulbous blob, way too big to be obeying the laws of physics, and it was somehow, someway holding together and floating toward the driver.
It almost hit him. Instead, it hit the back of the headrest on the passenger side. When it exploded I thought I could see and entire slice of American cheese being stretched inside it. His white leather interior was suddenly stained pink. His face, shoulders and chest were covered with snot, as well as the entire backseat.
He slammed on his brakes and stopped in the middle of the street, looking stunned. He examined the damage like he had just been shot. He didn’t know what to do. The driver behind him honked.
I, on the other hand, felt like Michael Jordan in game six of the 1998 NBA finals. I was floating. I arrived back at home feeling refreshed, phlegm-free and utterly satisfied with my running experience. Perfect way to kick off spring break. Snot rockets in flight, it truly was an afternoon delight.