My friends and I have this game called “The Place I’m Going to Die.” It’s pretty easy to play. Here’s what you do: Find yourself in a creepy or suspicious place. Realize and state out loud that this is the place you are going to die. Start to speculate on the specific circumstances. Fun, right?
The first time I can remember playing was when my company was touring and on our way to Indianapolis. We pulled off the interstate to try to find a place to eat lunch. We were in the middle of rural Wisconsin, and the AAA book said there was a pizza place at a particular exit. We drove past a windowless “gentleman’s club” called Crusin’ Chubby’s, which turns out to be a chain. We kept driving, one mile, two miles, three, five…and began to realize that there was no pizza place. We finally decided to turn around and get back on the highway, so we pulled into a motel’s cul de sac to execute our turn.
That’s when Alex and I really took a look at this motel. Here we were, going maybe 5 miles per hour on the gravel-filled driveway of what looked like Wisconsin’s answer to the Bates Motel. Lopsided and cracked lawn ornaments, some of smiling children with the smiles chipped away, stared at us from the right. The building itself looked like it had just barely the structural integrity to keep a moderately strong human trapped inside if locked. And to the left were two rows of storage lockers, just the size to store the minivan I was driving so that no one would ever find it and suspect that we’d ever been there.
In the same instant, we turned to each other. Because this was the place we were going to die.
We didn’t die then, obviously. We got back on the road, and then on the highway, and we made it to Indianapolis and to Chicago. But someday…someday I’ll be driving back to Minnesota–I can feel it–and I’ll need a pit stop, and before I know it, there I’ll be, trapped in a tiny bathroom as a cheese-curd-eating Wisconsin with an axe shuts up my car in his shed. And you know what…I’m reconciled to this. There’s a certain comfort in knowing how you’re going to go.
My friend Lizzy went on vacation this week, and before she went, she said to me, “Can I bring something up and then we never have to talk about it again?”
You know, not a terrifying way to start a conversation at all. It turns out that she was concerned about flying around the time that NATO is in Chicago, and wanted me to know what she wanted for her beloved cat just in case anything happened to her.
Of course I reassured her that I’d take care of things, and then started making fun of the prospect just in case she was actually concerned. We started to talk about other things that would happen if we were to suddenly pass away–we’ve had good, full lives–and figured out how we want our possessions to be divided up.
So listen. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, here’s what I want you to do:
-All of my friends gather in my apartment.
-Lizzy will count down from five and then start playing music. That music will be the “Yakety Saks” theme from “Benny Hill.”
-At this point, you have one minute to run around my apartment like in “Supermarket Sweep” and grab anything you want. You have to do it in time with the music. Anything that you are the only person touching at the end of that time, you get to keep. If you’re touching the same thing as anyone else, you have to play a fierce game of Scrabble to determine who gets to keep it.
-My parents get everything left over. Let’s face it, I don’t expect people to be grabbing my photo albums or anything with merely sentimental value. We all know the laptop will be the first to go.
Got it? Then at the funeral you play dance music, drink wine, and sing songs that make you feel happy. If you need to grieve, do it on your own time. I want a going-away party to end all other parties.
Laura, you chide, death is not a laughing matter. Commenter, I counter, our own death is the ultimate laughing matter. It’s going to happen, and if you get a choice between having an inevitable thing adding more sorrow to the world or adding just a little bit of laughter, I know which one I’d choose. So I mean it. Of course it is very sad when someone passes away, especially if it’s “before their time.” Just remember that the person you’re remembering, if they cared for you, probably would like to see you smile.
Don’t forget what they say–every time you snort water out your nose, an angel gets its wings. Or Segway. Or whatever they’re riding up there these days.
Just remember: My car is in the storage container by Cruisin’ Chubby’s.