You Took My Breath Away (And Now I'm Dead)
How much of my life am I spending in dumb conversations with people I don't care about?
Fuck. Sorry. This got sent a bunch of extra times because Substack glitched. Apologies if you received more than one copy.
I made the mistake of looking up how many breaths a person takes in their lifetime.
605,491,200 if we live to be seventy-two.
So Elon Musk has roughly 100x more money than I’ll ever have gasps of air.
Worse—because it’s not like I can invest in more air—that if I put my breath in the right places, it’ll pay dividends. No.
And, rounding up to my next birthday, I’ve already spent 277,516,800 breaths. Upon realizing this—I couldn’t fight off a single, nagging thought:
How many of these breaths have I spent on absolutely useless fucking conversations with people I don’t like?
How many breaths have I spent with one foot out the door, hand on the knob, nodding, saying, “Mhm, yeah, alright, right, yeah….”
How much of my ever-dwindling bank account of life did I waste listening to someone I don’t like talk about how stressful it was finding the worm medication for their dog over the weekend?
I’m a frivolous spender—a serial impulse buyer—but I did not realize I was so irresponsible that I’d spend 160 breathes on lamentations over why someone's brother hasn’t called them in two weeks and “isn’t that messed up?”
If someone stole $160 bucks from me, they’d go to jail—but I could at least make $160 bucks back. I’ll never earn back the breaths stolen by my coworker telling me about their friend’s appendix surgery when all I needed to know was when they needed my report by.
It’s my fault, really. Near daily, I see people I don’t like and, in a panic, I ask, “How is your day going?”
It’d be like if I spent every morning walking into a cafe that sells exclusively dirt, dropping a tenner, and saying, “Give me the special!”
I spend my breath while simultaneously holding these people at gunpoint—gaining nothing but the pleasure of watching their life essence dissipate into an uncaring universe.
Except I can’t even enjoy that because I’m too busy watching my own bank account of breaths waste away to the tune of oh-my-god-did-you-see-what-happened-on-Desperate Housewives?
Am I a monster?—some sort of breathaholic?
Did I knowingly purchase the dog deworming saga?
I think I am—perhaps—a poor haggler. I enter a conversation with a budget—say, twenty breaths. I think, okay, I’m going to spend this for the sake of politeness, then quietly exit the store.
And, when I’m ready to leave, I’ll slowly back away, stare at the wall, check my phone, try to slip in a, “Well, that’s great, but I’ve gotta—“ but these methods have repeatedly failed me, as though people indignantly assume, “You walked into my shop, buddy. You better buy what I’m selling.”
But you’re just selling the last thing you read on a Reddit forum. Who would buy that?
I do this because I’m too cowardly to pull out the big guns and say, “I’ve gotta poop.”
This is silly—I cannot remember a single time in my entire life when someone else has told me, “I’ve gotta poop,” yet, I never use it as an excuse—as though I’m afraid these people might remember forever that I had to exit a conversation due to bathroom emergencies.
So, I’ve done the math. I’ve got 327,974,400 breaths left to spend in my life.
Time to shape up.
In March, I purchased a diatribe on the benefits of SPF50 from a coworker for over 1000 breaths. It is—to this day—my most irresponsible purchase (and I own two air fryers).
I’m happy to spend my breaths on loved ones—friends and family, but from now on, when useless people try to rob me of my precious breaths I am not going to relent.
I will give them one.
I’ve been practicing. When people I don’t like talk to me now, I hold my breath.
I’m getting better. If they aren’t finished by the time I have to exhale, I make a “Gah!” noise, rub my arm, and walk off.
Indecipherable sounds are my greatest asset.
“Oof” is another good one.
Also, doors are the enemy. I vow to never again enter a place with an annoying human that I cannot cautiously back-step out of while nodding.
Nods I can give. Fuckers can have all my nods.
I’d like to propose that we all make this a law.
I’d like to take someone to court and hear the judge say:
“Well, Mr. Stanford. It seems here that Mr. Davis held his breath, but you continued asking if he could believe what your mother just posted on Instagram until he was forced to exhale.
I also note that Mr. Davis then said, “Uh-huh” seven times. And let me see, yep, his hand was on the doorknob—he nodded noncommittally for thirty seconds. Mr. Stanford, these are all explicit signs that Mr. Davis didn’t care what you were talking about and was just being polite when he asked if you had a good weekend. And, after all of this, you forced Mr. Davis to spend an additional 736 breaths on…how much different types of curry make you gassy. Gross. I see no other choice but to rule in Mr. Davis’s favor.
Mr. Davis, since you can not add breaths to your life, I hereby award you five minutes of kicking Mr. Stanford repeatedly in the testicles.”
What I’m Reading
(I’m adding a new section to the bottom of this newsletter about what I’m currently reading because I read a lot and am often excited and want to share things with people but then I’d actually have to talk to people which—as I’ve just proven—leads to unwanted human interaction.)
Nonfiction Book: The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger (a memoir/psych book about carrying the weight of trauma. Really good so far.)
Article: China Wants to Rule the World by Controlling the Rules (an interesting take on what modern “world domination” would look like and why China wants it.)
Fiction Book: The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (super weird short stories. Some good. Some meh. All fascinating. Don’t think I’d recommend it to everybody).
Essay: Lucky-go-happy by David Sedaris (I’ll read just about anything by Sedaris. My brother’s girlfriend [my friend? I don’t know how those kinds of labels work but don’t like categorizing someone as X’s girlfriend/boyfriend/partner—I’ll figure it out later] recommended this essay to me and it is—per usual—excellent.
And as a follow-up to my social media essay: Social Media Misinformation and the 2022 Philippine Elections. (This highlights a prime example of the real-world consequences of Social Media).