A Sobering Tale of Altered Expectations

One sobering and humbling thing Mojo has often been made painfully aware of is the gaping, yawning chasm between my interior life--in which Mojo is the calm, intelligent, integrity-oozing, loveable scamp we all worship around here--and Mojo's public behavior, in which, uh, while I'm not really a MONSTER, nonetheless things are never quite so competent and gracefully balletical as I assume it will be.

This is one reason why I get annoyed when opinionated types jump up from their armchairs to criticize how someone behaved in a given stressful situation, and opining how perfectly and competently THEY would have behaved if put in a similar situation. Take domestic violence. "Why, if some guy had the temerity to smack me, I'd RIP HIS ARM OFF AND BEAT HIM TO DEATH WITH IT!!!" such people say. Yeah, right: here's a 300-pound linebacker; why don't you tell HIM your cute plan.

They can say that because they are relatively sure, at least at the moment, that their proclamation is most likely to go unchallenged. Ditto how much they actually LIKE a person--"Why, Joe Smith is a GREAT GUY! I'd TRUST HIM WITH MY LIFE!" Yeah, okay, THINK about it. Would you ACTUALLY trust him with your LIFE? Because for every LIFE-CHANGING EVENT that brings two people closer together for the Inspirational Book Tour and talk show circuit, there's the sort that makes two OTHER people realize that the other person is a TOTAL JERK and you'd be better off without them in your brief flash of existence.

Ages ago, I hit upon the hypothetical test that I still use to determine how I really feel about someone. I call it the Surviving the Plane Crash Test. Meaning, you should really THINK about the people you claim you would entrust with your life, by imagining you have just survived a plane crash with them and you now must cooperate to survive. Are they going to be helpful and cooperative? Or are they going to be hoarding food, stealing things, and endangering their fellow survivors with stupid, stupid ideas and bullying tactics? Are they just going to sit and scream about how we're all going to die the entire time? Will they start threatening weaker members of the team? Will you eventually need to pummel them to death with a stray suitcase while they sleep to save the rest of the group, and then tell the investigators he or she died in the crash?

The truly terrible thing about this little brain mulling exercise is (aside from just now realizing that it crosses Mojo's mind to pummel someone to death with a stray suitcase if they look at her funny), I've become pretty well aware that I myself am probably not going to behave as bravely and nobly as I like to imagine I will. I've been forced into some extremely stressful situations--all kicking and screaming and crying for my mommy, but that's beside the point--and while I have not been a Burden To All Around Me, I have also not always been the Paragon of Thoughtful Leadership, either. Because as much as you'd like to THINK that's how you'd behave... you never really know WHAT's gonna happen until you are put into that unfortunate situation.

Luckily for Mojo thus far, she has not seriously been tested in ways that are truly traumatic--at least, not yet. But an anecdote from college is, I feel, quite illustrative of my point. Our film class was broken up into three or four groups with an in-class assignment of devising a quick in-camera-edit scenario in which two people meet, something is exchanged, and they leave.

In what is probably a sad commentary on American values in the early 80s, three out of the four groups decided that this exchange would involve GUNFIRE. Nowadays we'd be up on charges or kicked out of school, but it was a different time; we were young and full of beans and thought this would be a NOVEL WAY of exchanging things... at least until we realized when we showed our masterpieces a week later that two other groups had the EXACT SAME IDEA. So someone ran out to a nearby grocery store and bought a cheap plastic squirt gun, and we were in business.

So everyone in the group had a job to do, and it fell upon our dear friend Mojo that she was going to play the VICTIM of this exchange. (My friend Caleb--one of the sweetest human beings on the planet--played the killer.) So we're all fighting over storyboards and camera angles, 'cuz it's all gonna be PERFECT because we are all such CREATIVE GEENYUSES. What ultimately was agreed upon--remember, this was an in-class project, so we were limited as far as props and scenarios go--was, I would be sitting at a desk writing something on a piece of paper, the guy would walk in, I would freak out a bit, knowing what he was there for, and jump to my feet. Whereupon he'd turn me into a meatbag full of lead and I'd collapse dramatically over the desk. Pretty cut and dried--again, this is like beginning filmmaking class.

So we film it, and everyone's happy with how it turned out. Neither Caleb nor I could see our stellar performances, because we were too busy ACTING, but we were assured we did fine. So the film was sent out to be processed (remember, this is the Stone Age), and the next week we all sat down to see what everyone had come up with. Which is when we discovered that the majority of the class were totally into this whole violent scenario, despite our brainstorming and our creative genius and our "Hey! Let's do something NO ONE ELSE WILL DO!!!"

So when it's time for OUR group to introduce our life-altering project, we were mumbling about "Yeah, okay, so someone's getting shot in OUR exchange, as well" and then we rolled the footage. And there I am, writing intently on a piece of paper. What an actress. In walks my menacing assailant. What an actor. I realize that I am facing the last few moments of my life here on earth. And what do I do?

I spend at least five or ten seconds of precious screen time--and life--TRYING TO GET THE CAP BACK ON THE PEN.

I don't remember doing it at all, but there it was on celluloid. Doofus Mojo, totally panicking, trying to get the damned cap back on the pen. It was so bad I remember my friend Jack bursting out laughing and saying, "Oooh, yeah, make sure that PEN doesn't DRY OUT there, Mojo!!!" Or words to that effect.

So whenever you think "Oooh, if *I* were in THAT situation, I'd do THIS! I certainly wouldn't do what that simpleton did!" think of Mojo and her idiotic pen cap. Because I now know, fairly certainly, if faced with a gun pointing at my gizzards, THAT's what *I'm* going to be focused on. GET. THE. CAP. BACK. ON. THE. PEN.