The idea is simple: collect a large-ish sample of instructions, analyze them, and plot a course of action accordingly. Clearly, I trust each and every one of my friends to play nice.
Data Collection and Analysis
I approached 44 friends (22 male, 22 female) and made the following request: please give me an instruction, in 5 words or less, of something you would like me to do in public. I thought a five-word-long instruction would be short enough for me to handle and long enough for my friends to get a little creative.
Figure 1 shows the word count distribution of first draft instruction submissions. Looks like 7 out of 44 people (16%) refused to follow directions.
Figure 2 provides the locations of my instruction providers. Unsurprisingly, a lot of my friends are in the Midwest. What did surprise me, however, is how many of my friends are in Illinois (50%!). Sure, I was an anti-social hermit before moving to Chicago, but I didn’t expect to have so many more friends around Chicago than around Kansas City (13.6%).
Some of the best things in life don’t cost anything, and the data I collected resonate with that statement. 17 out of the 44 instructions (38.6%) would have costed next to nothing based on the way I would have wanted to executed them. Some instructions do not incur significant monetary costs but instead present their cost in other forms.
The instructions given to me can be lumped into broad categories. Figure 4 sorts all 44 instructions into 8 major categories. The category “food and drink” took the cake at 10 out of 44 (22.7%).
Figure 5 presents the operative verbs of the instructions.
I decided I would try to fulfill as many instructions as possible from the “food and drink” category because it contained the most instructions.
Note: I received an additional instruction after I had started compiling the data, and that instruction was not included in the data analysis. Sorry Tim.
Shoot Tequila With No Hands
After a night of delicious food and hype video game action, Cory, Polly, and I decided to head out for a drink or five. Cory had already performed his task, and I was still in Phase 1 (data collection), so I felt the pressure to initiate Phase 2 (execution). Well tequila was $3, and my partners in crime were conned into doing handless shots with me. The bartender captured the whole thing on camera. It was a relatively easy task, but god did the tequila wreck the back of my throat. For 5 minutes after the shot, it felt like someone was randomly stabbing the back of my throat with a malaised finger.
Dramatically Read Your Favorite Recipes
Warren Ellis wrote this brilliantly daft novel called Crooked Little Vein, and in the back of the novel was a small section called “In the Kitchen with Warren.” In my test readings, I was not able to read 2 of the 3 recipes without laughing hysterically, so here is the reading of Warren Ellis’s dessert recipe, white chocolate orange pots. You should follow the recipe and make it yourself: it’s deliciously easy and easily delicious.
At this point, I should probably mention that I am interpreting “public” very loosely. You, dear readers, are my public. A better looking, more caring public.
Eat Five Bowls of Ramen
There are a few good ramen shops in Chicago. Wasabi in Logan Square is excellent, the ramen in the Mitsuwa food court is no slouch, and Misoya in Prospect Heights is authentic but not worth the trek when Wasabi is so much closer. Slurping Turtle is in this separate sentence because the previous sentence only lists good ramen shops. The problem with ramen is that it’s expensive: a bowl of ramen with all the good stuff costs $12–$15, and 5 bowls plus travel cost a small fortune. I wanted to spend no more than $5. So, I made a chicken-miso broth and added seaweed and shiitake mushrooms for additional flavor and texture. And before you say “but Duo, you only bought 4 packages ramen,” let me remind you that each package is approximately 2 servings.
The final product filled 5 bowls: my 5 bowls of ramen, my sodium-laced, carb-packed Mt. Everest. The first bowl went down easily enough: it felt good going down, because it tasted great. The broth was not nearly as rich as the pork-miso broth of legitimate ramen shops, but at least I didn’t use any flavoring out a packet. The second bowl went down alright, but my enthusiasm was already fading. The third bowl was painful, and I cursed my friend with each labored swallow. I actually could not finish all of the soup in the fourth bowl. By the time I was working through the fifth bowl, there was no joy, and my consumption had long surpassed my need to acquire sustenance: at that point, each bite was powered by seething spite.
But in the end, I triumphed over common sense and good taste.
Watch T.V. Avidly; Eat Popcorn
After eating 5 bowls of ramen, eating more food seemed like a great idea. I popped a bag of kettle corn (my favorite kind of popcorn) and watched one of my favorite anime series from the past few years: Bakemonogatari. I certainly didn’t need to eat the extra food, but overall the experience was pleasant and relaxing and much needed after I devoured all that ramen.
Swallow a Whole Dill Pickle
I could have cheated. I could have picked up dill pickles the size of a baby’s finger, but in my mind, “a whole dill pickle” is a large, monolithic thing that makes people inadvertently blush at the mere sight of it. At the very least, it should be the size of a baby’s forearm.
Prepare a Dish Nigella Lawson-style
After swallowing a whole dill pickle, I thought it would be a good idea to cook some real food. For those of you who don’t know, Nigella Lawson is a British domestic goddess. Seeing it was already getting late, I opted to cook Nigella’s Curry in a Hurry (recipe). The 20-minute time frame was certainly appealing. I watched the video a few times and got to work.
As it turned out, Nigella is a liar. At the end of 20 minutes, the chicken was still not cooked through, and the curry itself had not even reached its first boil. The rice was also not done. It took another 10 minutes for the rice to fully steam, and an additional 7 minutes after that for the curry to finish cooking (total cooking time: 37 minutes). Nigella, I wanted to believe, but you let me down.
However, my roommate’s CouchSurfers returned, and they dined with us. In the end, the curry fed 5 people and there was still some left over. According to the CouchSurfers, who were British, while Nigella is not as ubiquitous as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, her shows do tend to have higher production values and most definitely have “very sexy lighting.” Her Christmas special, in particular, is simultaneously soothing and arousing.
Also, I have renewed appreciation for people who make quality videos, especially cooking videos. It’s really, really hard. I have neither the resources nor the vision to do it well. On top of that, it was sobering to see myself squint and stutter and generally make a mess of things. With that said, shout out to Sarah for the camera work and the banter!
Make Me a Freaking Sandwich
Out of all of the instructions, this instruction was the only one that provided tangible benefits to the person who gave me the instruction. A sandwich? Well, I think I know how to make one of those. Cake donuts with bacon, fried egg, and Canadian bacon.
Compete in Culinary Battle Royale
The story began in an overcrowded kitchen. Eight contestants found themselves in front of the Master of the kitchen. “The kitchen is becoming too crowded,” the Master said, “and we have to fix it.”
“Each of you will be given a package. In it, you will find a weapon. The last one of you surviving gets to live.”
“Does this mean we have to kill the others?” Apple asked with a sadistic grin.
“Yes. Now take your package and get out of here.”
Apple was the first to leave. Chocolate followed. Potato. Onion. Banana and orange hesitated for a moment in each other’s embrace and found resolve in each other’s eyes. They left. Lefty picked up his package. Finally, the Peas did as well.
“We should stick together,” Lefty said to the Peas. The Peas nodded in agreement.
Lefty and the Peas found a shelter. Lefty told the Peas he needed some alone time to process their strange predicament and left to wander the surrounding forest. When Lefty returned, he found the smashed bodies of the Peas littering the shelter floor with Potato standing over them.
“I didn’t want to do this,” Potato said, “but I have to live. Have you seen what the Peas were given?”
It was a propane torch. “I have to have it,” Potato rationalized, “it’s my way out of here.”
“But you didn’t have to murder the Peas!” Lefty cried. “They’re pacifists.”
“They were weak.” Potato began to walk away with the propane torch. Still in shock, Lefty reached into his weapons package, only to find a pen. Feeling weak and powerless, he sank to the floor, defeated. Then, he heard a commotion outside the shelter. It was Onion, standing in the way of Potato.
“Get out of the way, or you know what will happen to you.” Potato threatened.
Onion stood her ground. “Preying on the weak, how despicable” she frowned.
“It doesn’t matter. I have my trusty tenderizer and a propane torch, and all you have is a pointy stick. What are you going to do with that, huh?”
And so Onion showed Potato exactly what she had in mind. “Get the point?” She said, a hint of mirth in her voice.
“YOU BITCH! NO NO NO NO NO, IT WILL NOT END LIKE THIS.” Potato cried in crazed rage as Onion walked away with the tenderizer.
“You’re no lonhrt worth my time.” Onion said without looking back. She glancef at Lefty, who had been slowly approaching the confrontation, pen in hand. “I think you and him have unfinished business.”
Lefty did. The pen was not an ideal weapon, but he stabbed and stabbed until Potato was blind and dead. Having avenged the Peas, Left picked up the propane torch and began to walk away.
After Lefty left the scene, Chocolate emerged and collected the pen and the skewer.
Orange and banana have been dating since sophomore year. They were in love. Together, they set up camp in a cave. Banana told Orange she’s going to find some cover to make the little cave cozier. Orange was holding up pretty well when Banana was with her, but after Banana left to forage, she broke down. She looked in her package: a bottle of vodka. Oh well, Orange thought, I guess I can use the broken bottle as a weapon, but it would be a shame to waste the vodka. Banana wasn’t much of a vodka person — she preferred rum instead — so Orange got started on her bottle, all the while missing Banana.
30 minutes later, Orange was drunk. She did not notice Apple sneak into the cave until he was right in front of her. “Heyyy,” Orange slurred, looking up. Apple was grinning like a mad person. He did not speak. Orange was about to gather her mind for some obligatory small talk when Apple pushed her to the ground and drove the reamer into her backside. Orange winced in pain, sobering up. Apple cackled and twisted the reamer, round and round, deeper and deeper. Orange died with tears in her eyes and Banana in her heart.
Banana returned to the cave to find Orange’s desecrated flesh. “Oh my god,” Banana cried, tears gushing down her peel. “WHO DID THIS TO YOU?”
Apple waited for her to finish before emerging from behind a rock. “I knew you’d come back for her,” he said in a sing-song voice as he strolled closer. “Now that you have nothing to live for, why not accept your fate?”
As Apple spoke, he reached for the reamer. But Banana had gotten up and reached into her package and produced a zester. “Kinky,” Apple taunted with a smug smile on his face. But before he could pull the reamer out of Orange, Banana was upon him. The first slash took off half of Apple’s face, but he did not even flinch. “Come at me,” he beckoned. Another slash reopened Apple’s old wound. Banana slashed and slashed until Apple’s face was an unrecognizable mess. She dropped to the ground, exhausted.
She looked to Orange: beautiful, fragile, dead. She felt like she wanted to cry, but no more tears would come out. Apple was right. There’s nothing more to live for. “I’ll see you soon, my love,” Banana murmured as she fell apart next to the heap of flesh that used to be Orange.
Chocolate stepped into the cave and picked up the zester. He briefly considered the reamer, but decided to leave it behind. He did not touch the half empty bottle of vodka.
Lefty wandered across the confrontation between Chocolate and Onion.
“How many of us are left?” Onion asked, hefting her tenderizer.
“It gives me no pleasure to do this, but you know what we must do.” Onion said with a sigh and brandished the tenderizer like a whirlwind of death.
Chocolate shook his head. “No. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
“The way I see it,” Onion said with a tinge of remorse, “we’ve come too far to have it any other way. Most of us are dead, and soon you will be too. I’m a storage onion. The will of my ancestors compels me to survive.”
“But you won’t,” Chocolate said matter-of-factly. “I’m not like the others. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Come at me if you must, but know that you’re laying your life on the line.”
The ensuing massacre was so gruesome Lefty averted his eyes. Chocolate assaulted Onion from all directions with the fluidity and grace of razor-edged silk fluttering in the wind.
“It’s just you and me now, Lefty.” Chocolate said. A chill shot through Lefty. He had known I was here all along, he thought.
“I could have killed you, you know.” Chocolate continued. Lefty believed him. Never had he felt so vulnerable. “You left me for last,” Lefty said as he lowered his head, “you left me for last because you know I cannot possibly kill you. Not after I’ve seen what you’ve done to Onion.”
“And that’s where you’re wrong,” Chocolate said. “This world,” he gestured around him, “this world has no place for me.”
Chocolate dropped his weapons and took off his paperboard armor. “You know what you must do if you want to survive. In time, you will understand.”
Lefty turned on the propane torch. He hated himself as Chocolate’s visage melted before him.
Sip Soda Sinisterly by Shore
I thought the rocks on the shores of Lake Michigan would be a good place to carry out this instruction. During my finger painting session, a man who thought I was an art student offered me four dollars to smoke what I was smoking.
I wasn’t smoking anything. He walked away, disappointed in my life choices.
Sell Popsicles from a Cart
I didn’t do it. I didn’t even try. My own voice is telling me that I’m behind on my work, I’m tired, and I should probably think about packing for China. Ultimately, we are selfish creatures, and our own voices often cry louder than any external directives.
9 out of 10 isn’t bad. I can’t say I enjoyed executing each individual instruction, but as a category, food and drink is by far my favorite. A lot of these instructions were carried out in my own home, but the internet is a public enough space, and I’ve shown you everything.
You won’t see me on stage in September: I will be in China, attempting to mend a tenuous relationship with my father. I hope you enjoyed this behemoth of a post, and I hope to see your pretty faces at the October show of A Month Of!
We encourage you to come share your Hearing Voices story at the live show! If you post a Hearing Voices story in the comments here, you get into the show for free.
A Month Of
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