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Funbag

The World Still Isn’t Designed With Tall People In Mind

1:23 PM EDT on June 6, 2023

WUHAN, CHINA - NOVEMBER 23: (CHINA OUT) Zhang Juncai, one of China's tallest men, who measures 2.42 metres in height, walks through the streets on November 23, 2004 in Wuhan, China. Zhang, from Shanxi province, is in Wuhan to seek treatment for his overweight problem. (Photo by China Pix/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Zhang Juncai

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about bar games, Sour Patch kid distribution, weight loss, and more.

Your letters:

Ryan:

What is the proper etiquette for touching feet under a table in a mixed group? I was at a work conference sitting at a round table, and a guy that was probably seven feet tall sat down. Partway through the presentation, I extended my legs a bit to stretch out under the table, and I hit this guy’s feet. They were past the halfway point under the table! I apologized and moved my feet, but immediately thought I was not in the wrong here. What do we do about a guy who is that big taking up all the space?

Your co-worker wasn’t being selfish here, he was just being seven feet tall and had nowhere else to put his body. This is the fault of the table, not him. You’re in a conference room. All conference room tables should be so big that they could host an emergency United Nations summit: helps everyone feels important, and it leaves plenty of room for complimentary snacks. And even if it WAS a big table, your guy probably saw this meeting as a chance to unfold his legs for the first time in like six weeks.

I’m not seven feet tall (though I’ll get there one day, you watch!), but as a big man myself I appreciate any and all space others can afford me, and I stand in solidarity with my towering brothers and sisters. Sometimes I take liberties on this end; every PSA against manspreading on the subway feels like it was posted as an admonishment to me and me alone. But otherwise, I’m just trying to exist in places that aren’t always built with a 6-foot-3 guy in mind. The average American’s body takes up more space than a fucking car, and yet I still find myself cramped inside planes, cars, restaurants, toilet stalls, and luxury resort pool cabanas. That’s why you see me and other tallboys sticking our arms and legs in every available crevice we see. We need room, and this country is oddly stingy with it.

Hence, I’ll open up the average dinner out by engaging in an awkward dance with my table partners to find our best marks. If the table in question has a single center leg and not four legs at the corners, that basically ruins my shit. I may as well be sitting on a United flight. Not fun. Then I have to move my feet around to hunt out the right spot, going “I’m sorry” every few seconds to make it clear that I am NOT trying to play footsie with anyone. I even have to do this shit with regulation size dining tables, accidentally tagging feet with my kids or lightly kicking the dog.

All of this makes sense to me. I have a bad back and NEED to get myself in a comfortable position to avoid muscle spasms etc, and I’m so used to maneuvering around for space below any table that I never view that jockeying as a competition. But if you’re NOT a large person, or you’re my dog, I can understand how it might. You might think I’m being too assertive, that I am the patriarchy made flesh. I swear I’m not. I just don’t have any fucking space. Please bear with us tall guys. We’ll reach for all the high-up boxes of cereal at the grocery store for you, I promise.

A brief detour: Whenever I get a wobbly table at a restaurant, I can’t tolerate it for more than like eight seconds. I either flag down a waiter (or maitre d', or busboy, or owner, or President Biden) to fix the table, or I take it upon myself to MacGyver that shit without any help. Oh, you should see me when I’m forced into action. I will hunt down the nearest cocktail napkin or chopsticks wrapper, fold it to just the right thickness, wedge it under the short leg, give it a test, and then cry out DUDE THAT’S SO MUCH BETTER to the rest of the table. One of the better dad moments to be had, and all it costs me is a matchbook.

Peter:

Will 2069 be a year of much snickering and juvenile humor?

No, because everyone will complain about the coming onslaught of “Happy Nice Year” jokes so far in advance that it’ll cow most people into avoiding making them when the ball (hehehe “ball”) finally drops. It’s like April Fools' Day online. Everyone, myself included, fucking HATES April Fools' Day and spends all of March 31 tweeting out things like, “Watch out for bullshit AdarnScheft3r tweets tomorrow, fam.” It’s become such a ritual that this year’s April Fools' Day was, at least on my feed, relatively normal. I was almost let down, because I was looking forward to having someone to yell at online. I’m not online to make friends, after all. I’m there to cancel ass and take names. So get ready for 2069 to be a letdown of sorts.

Also, I will be dead in 2069, so I won’t give a crap when your ChatGPT is like, “Happy April’s Fool Time. Your doctor called and said you have cancer of the tumor.”

David:

This year, I decided to do Dry January. As the month went on, I started having some serious reckonings with my relationship with alcohol. By the end, I realized that I felt good and that if I went back to drinking, I wasn't sure I was going to stop. So, I've been sober for all of 2023, and I plan to keep it that way. My question is, when you gave up alcohol, did you start spending your money on anything in particular now that you weren't spending it on alcohol? It was crazy to realize how much I had been spending, when suddenly I had this extra money. Outside of paying off some bills/CCs earlier than I usually would, I started getting into vinyl. Anything like that for you?

Well first of all, congrats on being sober all year. And yes, the savings you amass from quitting booze are both noticeable and stunning in equal measure. “Oh fuck, I drank THAT much?” In my case, I have used some of my savings on alternate vices (going green and sober costs money but is still very much cheaper than being a drunk). Otherwise, all of it has gone into the bank to stay.

Because I’m at the point in my life where everything has become expensive. Something breaks in the house? $2,000. I go to the ER because I got simple heartburn? $500 with insurance. My son wants to join a new soccer team? $1,200 in fees. Sometimes I don’t even know where the money goes; it just flies right out of my pocket. And that’s the CHEAP shit. My daughter graduates from high school a year from now. All of the expenses I’ve been dreading, and working my ass off to pay one day, are about to hit. So whenever I save money by quitting booze or canceling Hulu, it goes right in the kitty and gets earmarked for all of the important, boring shit. Once we’re out of the college gantlet in 2069, I’m gonna spend money on NOTHING but myself. Gonna hand-feed myself slices of nova lox while sitting on a divan at my lake house in Tuscany while my butler layers slices of cold cucumber on my ballsack.

Gord:

Some years ago, I was hit by a vehicle while walking in a crosswalk. I'm now disabled, and have made amends with what I can and can't do. However, since the accident I've gained significant weight, recently hitting 300 lbs. I am largely functional physically, so walking and running, are not an issue anymore (huge thanks for an incredible health care team). The long term injuries are brain-related. I suffer from Post-Concussion Syndrome, cognitive function limitations, chronic migraines, vertigo, and memory issues. 

The legal aspect has concluded, and I can now afford (and have) personal training, but progress is slow. I bought some clothes while I was gaining weight, but I'm hesitant to get more as it feels like an admission that I will forever be this size. Now those clothes are getting old and frayed. Is there a time when I should just give up and accept I'm going to look like Rob Ford from here on out, and get a new wardrobe? Or should I continue with the stop-gap measures until I return to some semblance of a former self that I once knew?

After my own TBI, I learned the hard way that getting back to my old self wasn’t something that I could do, nor was it something I should have spent so much time striving for. I had to learn to accept that my life was going to be different now, which involved no shortage of both therapy and heartache.

However, I regained virtually all motor function in the wake of my accident, and none of the residual brain damage I suffered has impaired my ability to drive a car, ride a bike, ski down a mountain, etc. So while Gord and I are both members of the TBI club, it’s clear that his residual disabilities are more compromising than mine currently are. That means that, as with Kevin’s grief question last week, I’m gonna be answering this from a place of ignorance. Then again, I answer EVERY question in this column from a place of ignorance, so this won’t be all that unusual. I’ll just try to keep the navel-gazing to a minimum (too late).

First off Gord, keep going with the trainer. Progress will be slow because progress is ALWAYS slow. It’s slow when you’re recovering from a serious accident, because your body needs time to heal. Just staying functional is often progress enough in a lot of those instances. Progress is also slow when you’re trying to get in shape period, because real pounds get harder to burn off as you age. But they CAN come off if you mind your diet and stay as active as you can. And you’ll feel good about the effort you’re making. You won’t feel like shit because you ate poorly and remained sedentary for hours at a time. That’s true of all people, TBI or not. I always figured I’d let myself go when I hit 70 or whatever: eat whatever, try heroin, all the fun shit. But now I know I’ll never, ever do that. I know that it feels good to take care of your body, and only more so once that body has been damaged.

Secondly, go ahead and buy clothes that fit. I’ve hoarded plenty of Skinny Drew–era clothing in my time, but keeping it around only made me feel worse about myself. I actually felt better wearing clothes that fit, not crestfallen. They were larger clothes, of course, but they felt comfortable and looked better on me than shirts and pants that were way too tight. Wearing the right clothes isn’t surrendering to who you are now, but being a bit more accepting of that person.

Even before my accident, I wasn’t always that accepting of myself. I always felt—and still do—that I had too much loose fat on my body. This is because I grew up overweight, but also because standards for what constitutes a healthy weight, even in the age of body positivity, remain impossibly high. This is true even at your fucking doctor’s office, where everyone who isn’t on chemo registers as medically overweight. So I can be in great shape and count my calories, and yet I still have moments where I sit on the toilet, behold my pot belly at maximum compression, and feel disappointed in myself. I also have that middle-aged thing where your nipples are a good two inches lower on your body than they once were. Horrible.

But who the fuck looks good sitting on a toilet? Maybe Pierce Brosnan, but otherwise NOBODY. Everyone should strive to be healthy, but even people who don’t have eating disorders can easily conflate their BMI with their own self-image. So you have to envision a middle ground between perfection and despair, because that’s where most people live all the time, whether they like it or not. It takes time to come to grips with this, and it takes work to improve yourself from there. The good news is that you’re already doing a lot of that work, so you should be proud of that fact. I’m proud of you for it.

HALFTIME!

Matt:

People in this house have a knack for being exactly where I need to be right before I get there. No one is in the kitchen, but then when I get up to grab a fork, my wife is suddenly rushing over to cut fruit in front of the utensil drawer. I need to pee, but my teenage daughter slips into the bathroom to stand in front of the mirror pointlessly for three minutes. I’m aware of my space and, I am conscious of staying out of everyone’s way. Plus, this isn’t a small house. Do they have a sixth sense for impeding me? Does this happen statistically more often once you reach three or more kids? Does this happen in your house?

It happens in every house, amigo…

My family could live in the fucking Pentagon and we’d still get in each other’s way. Our kitchen gets more traffic than the Lincoln Tunnel does. Every important drawer is blocked by someone’s ass leaning against it. Competition for the main floor bathroom is quietly fierce, with me cursing under my breath if I have to trudge all the way upstairs to take a dump.

Now here is where I play the grown-up for a hot second and explain the psychology at play here. My family is close, which makes it only natural that we’d gravitate toward one another physically. When one of us checks out what’s in the fridge, another one of us will inevitably see them and think oh I’d like to do that too.  Plus I’m gonna notice when people are IN my way much more than when they are not. I freely open the silverware drawer a dozen times a day. But if my wife is blocking it just one time… GIRL WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS BLOCKING THAT SHIT?! In my mind, I exaggerate the relatively small number of times that I am inconvenienced, and then I cast myself as the only innocent party in the matter. This is because I am an American.

Josh:

Do you think a professional boxer has ever been hit so hard in the stomach and not prepared their body enough for a fight that they pooped their pants?

Yes. Why do you think their shorts are so big? Gotta make room for all of that grilled chicken that ate after the weigh-in.

But seriously, you’re getting punched in the most vital parts of your body for three minutes at a time. Your involuntary bodily functions could be adversely affected by this happening. For the sake of this question, I Googled “boxer poops his pants,” worded just like that, and was immediately greeted with this video of not one but five separate times in MMA when a fighter shat their britches. So yeah. This happens quite a bit. It would happen to me, that’s for certain. I have a hard enough time not shitting myself on a daily basis, and I don’t even fight other people for a living. If I ever did, you can bet I’d have the shit beaten out of me.

Matt:

I was recently at a lovely dive bar with a great selection of bar games. How would you rank the following?

Darts
Pool
Foosball
Pop-a-shot
Shuffleboard (table)
Skee-ball
Golden Tee
Big Buck Hunter
Those old timey bar bowling games (with either a shuffleboard puck or a mini ball)

Oh man, now I really wanna go to a bar. For the purpose of these rankings, let’s assume that all of these games are free—yes, FREE!—at the bar you’re attending. Also, for Matt’s sake, I’m not gonna throw in additional choices like air hockey, table hockey, ping pong, and pinball. I’m gonna work strictly within the parameters he gave me (except the “old timey bar bowling” thing, because I legitimately do not know what that is even though it sound cool). Let’s get after it.

  1. Pop-a-shot. Not even close. Despite being in my 40s, I still gauge ultimate professional success by whether or not I could afford to have a kick-ass, regulation table/arcade game down in the basement. Pop-a-shot would be my top choice, likely even before a pinball machine. A legit Pop-a-shot costs close to $10,000. Again, once the kids are out of college, I’m wasting every last cent I have on garbage like this.
  2. Foosball. We actually DID own a nice foosball table ($150 at a Dick’s that was going out of business), but then sold it because the kids stopped playing it. Obviously, if my kids DRANK, it would have been a whole other story. We would have been in the basement for hours every night, firing hot passes through the line and talking some insane shit. But alas, they’re young and healthy, so the vibe ruined any chance of that.
  3. Table shuffleboard. I don’t even have to play an official game of it. I just love sliding that puck down the table. Deeply satisfying.
  4. Darts. Would be higher on this list if I was any good at it.
  5. Golden Tee. One time I was drunk in a bar and so into playing Golden Tee that I hadn’t noticed the main console’s glass was broken and digging into my skin. I was like, “Huh, I wonder why the track ball is all red like that. It almost looks like AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” I was really annoyed I had to stop playing.
  6. Skee-Ball. A bar is the wrong venue for Skee-Ball. If I’m playing Skee-Ball, it better be at a run-down arcade located on a trashy beach boardwalk populated by Eagles fans, horny young couples, angry parents, and white supremacists fresh out of prison. That’s where Skee-Ball becomes magical. One time I won a plastic bracelet.
  7. Pool. Same deal as darts. I fucking suck at pool. I love to grab a cue, put all the balls in the triangle in the correct order, and then rotate each ball so that the number is facing up. Then I chalk up the end of my cue like I’m the Black Widow about to massé the fuck out of the solids. Then I line up to break and lean over the table like I’m Fast Eddie Felson. I own this fucking table. Then I shoot the cue ball directly into the corner pocket, mutter fuck this, and leave.
  8. Big Buck Hunter. Arcade shooting games are a racket! They’re purposely too fucking hard, all so you keep playing! Don’t let Noah Vanderhoff tell you otherwise!

David:

What’s the appropriate response to let the massage therapist know that they’re doing a good job? You can make grunts and noises, but that’s weird. You can verbalize that you’re enjoying it, but, who wants to speak during a massage. Or you can just stay silent, but then you’re providing zero feedback! What’s the play??

I’ve done play-by-play at the PT office when they’ve rubbed me down. I’ve said, “Ooh, that kinda hurts,” or “Oh THAT… that’s working.” They’re professionals. They want your feedback. They don’t want you going, “Oh my God that feels so good, baby” or any of that Deshaun Watson shit. But they do want you to tell them what’s going on with your body so that they know where to work and what to do. It’s a mutual trust: You trust them to lay hands on your body, and they trust you not to be a shitbag. If you know you’re only interested in getting your back to feel better, that’ll come through when you talk to them.

And I have ZERO problem telling massage therapists, or anyone else, all about my various muscle knots, slipped discs, and mangled bones. If I suddenly get severe chest pains, what’s the first thing I do? I blog it for total strangers to read. You guys learn about this kinda shit before my parents do. So you can see how I wouldn’t be shy at all about telling a massage therapist all about myself. Then they hit a knot in my shoulder and I shut right the fuck up, because I don’t wanna throw them off their game.

Matt:

My buddy was recently in Florida and he saw Howard Stern, Mike Tyson, Serena Williams, and Michael Jordan, seemingly somewhat coincidentally. How would you rank them from most to least famous? 

1. Jordan

2. Tyson

3. Serena

4. Stern

Tyson at No. 2 is really the only one I have doubts about. I grew up when everyone on Earth knew who the heavyweight champion of the world was, and EVERYONE knew who Mike Tyson was. I will never live to see another boxer as famous (or infamous) as Tyson ever again. Go back 30 years and he was probably more famous than even Jordan was. As famous as popes and presidents.

But time has passed and no one under the age of 30 gives a shit about boxing, or even boxing video games, anymore. Meanwhile, Serena Williams has become a global superstar both on the tennis court and off. I’m just counting on residual boomers like me putting Tyson’s Q rating a hair above hers, but I’m not at all confident about it.

Stern at 4 is easy because he’s strictly an American celebrity, and hasn’t been on terrestrial radio in decades. I still love the man, but he could definitely walk around Brussels unmolested.

Kyle:

My wife and I just had our second son a few months ago and she is already talking about going for a third kid to try for a daughter. As a father of three, can you rank the child transition periods from shittiest to easiest?

0 to 1

1 to 2

2 to 3

New parents will vehemently disagree, but I’ll mark 1 to 2 as the hardest. You’re already tired from raising the first. Now you have to do it all over again, only with another kid in the house loudly demanding that the new child be killed. It’s a real gauntlet. Having your first kid is also a complete pain in the ass, but at least you get to do the whole We’re New Parents! thing, where you take pictures of the baby every five seconds and friends put giant stork cutouts in your yard when you get home from the hospital, etc. No one gives a fuck about you having a second kid. You’re on your own when that happens.

Easiest is going from the second to the third, because you’ve stopped giving a shit.

Email of the week!

Matt:

I’ve grown increasingly exasperated with BIG CANDY adding disgusting new flavors (blue Sour Patch Kids, pink Mike ‘N’ Ike’s to name two) and fucking around with their flavor/color distributions. Today I decided to confirm my suspicions by counting out the exact number of the offending and offensive flavor. Just look at this horror—there are 86 blue sour patch kids (27.5% of the total, or nearly 38% more than there should be if the five flavors were equally distributed as God intended). I have purchased the custom ordered bags where you can pick your own flavor combinations but a) it was super expensive, and b) they came stale. Given that I’m not in the Roy family with a Greg to pick these out for me, and that I don’t enjoy spending a 38% premium on my candy purchases, what can be done? 

Call your Congressman.

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