ExperimentI lived a day on the flip of a coin and realized my life is a sham
Hopes&Fears asked a friend to make all of his decisions based on a flip of a coin for a day. This is his story.
1:00 PM [heads] I get out of bed and make breakfast. [heads] Work at the kitchen table and not in front of the TV.
Before I went to bed six hours ago I wrote my schedule for today. This happens every night.
I have been at my parents’ house all week because I get more work done upstate than I do in New York. There are only a few people still living in Monroe that I have kept in contact with, so my time is spent socially isolated. Want me to come to your show in Brooklyn? Oh I’d love to sorry I can’t I’m in Monroe yeah I know it sucks next time I promise.
2:00PM [heads] Keep working.
Today I am making my decisions based on the flip of a coin. If heads, I stay on task. If tails, I indulge myself. There is a flip every half hour.
A year and a half ago my moods were becoming increasingly unstable and I eventually started having paranoid delusions and having full days blacked out of my memory. From this I created a system of recording my life as objectively as possible. I started writing down what I did and when I did it in terms of total mechanics, and over time I became a functional person again.
2:30PM [heads] Keep working.
At the end of each week, I grade how I did for each priority I have in my life, like a report card to ground myself. Recently, I wrote a formula to grade my past week based on rating the sum of all my priority grades on a curve. This past month I got three Ds and a C. There has never been a B, but a few weeks have come close.
3:00PM [heads] Keep working.
The coin flipping relaxes. Being told not to check Facebook or watch a YouTube video makes not doing it easy. Maybe I can in half an hour? I clean the house quickly and text my mom a picture of her dogs so she doesn’t get lonely on her trip this weekend.
3:30PM [heads] Statistically there is a 1/64 chance of flipping heads six times in a row. I want to masturbate. Instead I am obligated to keep uploading wav files to a FTP.
Earlier this month I picked a fight with a guy on the subway because his elbow was kind of in the general vicinity of my face. I shoved him to the other end of the car, and I did not feel remorse about it until the next day.
4:00 PM [heads] 1/128, statistically.
After that incident I went on what I want to say was a totally wild hunch and stopped having or even thinking about sex for a week, and sadly it fixed all my problems. I felt an alien serenity free of yelling at friends in the middle of conversations or threatening to punch out inanimate objects. Then I started thinking about sex again uhhh because it feels good.
4:30PM [tails] Finally.
The best version of me is a pragmatist, or at least that is what I tell myself. If there is a problem, I accept it and figure out the solution. To my mother’s dogs, the best version of me holds a stuffed lobster.
5:00PM [heads] I get back to work.
Most weeks I get a D because I fail to get done what I had planned. Until now I assumed it was because I let myself get distracted, but today I have not allowed myself much distraction, and I am still not getting done what I wrote. Be it free will or probability, I can tell this day is going to be a bust.
5:30PM [tails] Leave early to go to the gym. I am getting frustrated and want out of the house. I smell like body odor. [tails] Shower when I get home. I forgot to brush my teeth when I woke up. [tails] Brush when I get home. I put on deodorant and fill my mouth with sugar-free gum.
It takes half an hour to get out of the house between making food and getting my shoes on and feeding the dogs and forgetting my keys and remembering that I am not wearing underwear. With all that dawdled time I could have brushed my damn teeth.
6:15PM Nikita is smoking on his bench. [tails] I talk to him.
Nikita works at the liquor store that nobody goes to and spends his days smoking outside. He was getting a degree in chemical engineering until his emigration status prevented him from finishing. Now he lives with his mother above a sushi restaurant and manages a liquor store. We bullshit together until a customer arrives, and we all go inside. A bell by the door goes off.
6:25PM [tails] Keep hanging out for another 10 minutes.
The customer is a very specific type of townie; friendly but scary and speaks in a dialect that is Northeastern but also distinctly NASCAR. He is aggressively trying to relate to us by saying that he gets vodka because that is “what bitches like” and immediately segues into how his grandmother was a Holocaust survivor.
6:35PM [tails] Keep hanging out for another 10 minutes.
Thank God, because this guy is on a roll. He says that he supports small businesses because we are all lower class white trash and reminds us how “it isn’t about racial shit it’s about the real shit.” On his way out he pounds both our fists, somewhat reluctantly as we try to figure out what drugs he was on, but results are inconclusive.
6:45PM [heads] Go to the gym.
That guy in the liquor store knows what we think of him, he has to. Why else would he be trying so hard to win our approval? He has to know that we see him and think “I don’t want to be this guy,” and I have an amount of respect for that. There is no part of me that can admit to someone not wanting to be me.
7:30PM [heads] Keep deadlifting.
This week I have gone to the gym everyday, so with that I am exhausted and beat up. I had planned to work out for an hour today, but after my first set I can tell that I got nothing in the tank. Additionally, I have been feeling a sharp pain from my testicles to under my rib cage. Everyone I talk to about it tells me I likely have a small hernia.
7:45PM [tails] Stop working out.
I have been meaning to see a doctor for this potential hernia since the fall, and got Medicaid but never made an appointment. It’s cliche, but doctors always find something wrong with you. Instead of thinking about it I prefer to workout through the pain, however today it is really bad. I know I could do some light leg work, but the coin said tails so I guess I have no choice but to do what I want.
8:30PM [heads] Shave my head before showering. [heads] Eat in instead of ordering food. [tails] Put on dirty clothes.
9:00PM [tails] Work on what I want.
At this point of the day I am so behind schedule that I have to pick between doing what I scheduled to do at 9PM or continue the work that was originally supposed to get done around 3:30PM. I want to do the three-thirty work, and the coin allows me, but even doing the work I had developed some momentum with earlier I have a hard time finding my groove. I am getting angry and yell at the screen. The dog gets scared, and I pick him up and let him know he is my little baby boy and that I was not angry at him.
9:30PM [tails] Take a caffeine pill.
I know I should meditate to refocus but I am tired and want the stimulant even though it is getting late. Fuck it, today is Friday. I put the dogs to bed.
10:00PM [tails] Get drunk tonight. [tails] Walk into town for beer.
My mom keeps wine in the house, but I want Bud Light Lime. It tastes like how relaxing feels.
Shortly before I started this elaborate system of planning and grading my life I drank a lot of Bud Light Lime on the Coach bus late night. I would leave my friends in New York fairly drunk, and on the way back to Monroe I would drink bodega bought Bud Light Limes and cry to myself because the only people on the bus were strangers. The driver would let me off at the busstop and I would take a few steps before vomiting. I remember this fondly. At that point in my life the bus ride was the only time I had to myself.
11:00PM [heads] Go back to work.
I crack open a beer and start doing office work again, but nothing involving emails, because yes I am drinking but I am also a professional who never emails under the influence.
11:30PM [heads] Keep working.
God dammit! I want to read comic books and listen to rock music. Also, drinking is fun.
12:00AM [tails] Read comics.
Reading comics is the most comforting thing in my life, but I never let myself do it anymore because I am perpetually in a state of catching up. I’m a D student. Granted, I have resigned myself to a life where I am a D student, but I don’t even know what the alternative is anymore. Spider-Man is great though. From elementary school to six months ago there wasn’t a month that went by that I didn’t follow Marvel Comics. It was the most positive and consistent relationship I’ve ever had.
1AM [heads] Stay inside...
...which isn’t so bad because that basically means keep reading comics which is alright with me but I feel like I should probably mix it up. My old comics are kept in boxes on a shelf in our basement so I go to get them but there is this folded up cot in front of the shelf. I put my phone on the cot and reach over and then I hear my phone smash against the concrete floor.
I do that thing drunk people do where they close their eyes and wish really hard that time can undo itself, but when I open them my phone is still shattered. I look around what was my dad’s work bench in the basement and try to find tape to piece it back together but I can’t find any packing tape, all I can find is black electrical tape and duct tape and gaffers tape and a million different types of drill bits and washers and screws all in these tiny metal boxes he kept. I never learned what any of this stuff did.
1:18 [tails] Stay inside and now that my phone is broken what I wanted has switched.
I don’t want to go outside without my music in complete silence that’s boring. Luck granted me multiple consistent flips of tails. Each time affirming what was now the only option. Stay inside.
I do this a lot when I’m drunk and alone. I sit in front of YouTube because that is where our childhoods are conveniently archived ready for us to search and tap into all these feelings whenever we want. It’s a very artful way of remembering things because it’s hard to think about what actually did or what could of happened to you when you were younger so instead you can relive what was happening around it. It’s waiting for us and everything feels the same.
Third Eye Blind is eating cafeteria food at Columbia Presbyterian wondering if I am still going to have a mother tomorrow, the end of Muppet Family Christmas Special is my father enjoying a holiday he tried to convince everyone he was too hard to be charmed by, “Beautiful Girls” is hanging out in a dorm room ironically enjoying bad music sincerely, the serious episode of The Fresh Prince fifth grade, Michael Jackson and Bart Simpson singing happy birthday to Lisa, CM Punk beating John Cena for the WWE Championship then diving into a sea of his adoring Chicago fans, We Built This City on Rock and Roll Jefferson fucking Starship, the theme song from Friends - a TV show I didn’t even watch.
3:00 AM [heads] Tails being what
Heads being what I think I should want. No music. No phone. I walk out the door into the silence and sit on a rock at the edge of our property. I finish my last beer looking at the house I grew up in. It takes a while.
There are a lot of things that I have been meaning to do for a while. I have been meaning to see a therapist about what makes my moods so volatile. I have been meaning to get an MRI to find out if I have a hernia. I have been meaning to call my brothers and see if they need to talk. These things aren’t on the list of things to do tomorrow or things to do this week. They are on another list, next to “organize my email contacts” and “call Verizon about debt collection."
I have my choice of choices.
Cover image via youtube.com Photographs by Jordan Michael Iannucci