Nine “Worst” Experiences I’ve Had

Worst movie screening: Born on the Fourth of July

I'm happy to say that I'm going through the best time in my life right now, but in the interest of continually coming up with fresh ideas for the List of 9, I bring you these recollections of some lower-quality moments:

  1. Worst movie screening. Born on the Fourth of July was not the worst film I've ever seen (that dubious honor goes to the only film I've ever walked out on: some independent French garbage called So That's the Way...), but I definitely had a horrible time watching it. It was the end of my college winter break in 1989. I was back home in San Jose and visiting friends one night. For dinner, they fed me homemade fudge and two cans of Coke. Ah, youth! We then decided to see Born on the Fourth of July, which had just opened. It was a sold-out show, and so we had to sit in the third row of the gigantic Century 22 movie theatre. With that fudge and Coke sloshing around in my stomach, and me in front of a loud, violent movie playing on a huge screen, with a billion edits and a jiggly handheld camera and Tom Cruise screaming for over two hours, I became violently ill. And though the next morning I realized I'd actually come down with the flu that night, I've avoided fudge ever since.
  2. Worst job. In 1996, I was fed up with a nice but boring web design gig, so I took a job at James Cameron's famed effects company Digital Domain, which had recently opened up an interactive division. Within hours, I learned that my "job" was to clean up the art director's work (I had been a senior designer at my previous employer), that Digital Domain expected 50 hour workweeks from its employees (while paying them for 40), and that I - a Mac guy - would be using a PC with Windows 3.1 to do my work. Within an hour, I knew I had to go. Four days later, I officially quit. My higher ups did not take it well. Three of them screamed and cursed at me for an hour. How dare I leave such a wonderful place! Who did I think I was?! Years later, the art director - one of the three screamers - saw me at a mutual friend's wedding, and apologized to me for his behavior in 1996. Turns out he had also hated life at Digital Domain, and wound up quitting soon after I did.
  3. Worst vacation. I'll name a six-week trip to Norway in 1982 with my father and his new wife. Now, 23 years later, I've grown fond of said wife, but the 12-year-old me was not at all fond of either her or my father. Now take my sour adolescent attitude and place it in the northernmost part of the globe, in a mosquito-ridden rural setting where nobody spoke English and there was only one channel on TV (and that didn't start until 6pm), and you can imagine my mood that summer.
  4. Worst meal. Norway wins again, though this event occurred during our much happier trip there in 1984. My Norwegian grandmother (hence the frequent visits) was a fine cook, but Northern Norwegian cuisine - hell, all Norwegian cuisine - often leaves something to be desired. Still and all, I could deal with salmon and reindeer and boiled potatoes. But I couldn't deal with my grandmother's menu one night: rose hip soup and blood pudding. My poor grandmother felt so bad, watching me struggle to choke this dinner down. Not as bad as I felt, though.
  5. Worst concert. Gotta be Genesis in 1987. I didn't like the band much anyway - I dug their Peter Gabriel era, but their Phil Collins-led soft rock output was the pits. I still don't know why I went. But it wasn't the concert itself that was bad. It was the fact that I desperately had to pee, even during the hourlong drive to the Oakland Coliseum, and had a nearly bursting bladder during the two hour concert. Why didn't I just use the restrooms at the Coliseum? Because I was seventeen, and pee-shy, and there was only a metal trough to urinate into, and the men's room was quite literally shoulder-to-shoulder. I would have sneaked into a stall, but they were all in use by women, their own restroom overbooked. I finally found relief at a nearby Denny's after the show was over.
  6. Worst date. There have been few true bad dates during my past life as a single man, but the one in February 1999 where my date and I were mugged was definitely a downer. It was only two nights after the glorious premiere of my film Foreign Correspondents, too. Talk about a humbling experience. (Needless to say, I got no action that night.)
  7. Worst party. Speaking of dates, later that year I dated a former coworker for about a month and a half. After she glibly dumped me, I stupidly bought her "Let's still be friends!" promise and went to a party she held about two weeks later. During the party, she thoroughly ignored me, openly flirting with every guy in the room. What a sucker I was. I shared my misery with a guy at the party who I had gone to college with. He wound up marrying this woman.
  8. Worst wedding. No, I was not invited to the wedding of this aforementioned couple. But I did go to another coworker's wedding in 2001. She invited all the people from work who I didn't get along with and sat me at the table with them. I couldn't bring a date, either, as my girlfriend at the time was in Paris. My coworker married a guy who I thought was a loser as well. And there was a three hour break between wedding and reception where I had nothing to do, as it was too far from my house for me to just go home. I barely spoke to anyone at the reception, and bolted the second I finished my cake.
  9. Worst roommate. This doesn't exactly count as an "experience", per say, as we're talking about a person here. But my roommate during my last semester at CalArts was a doozy. Paranoid, socially awkward, and with a propensity for shoving whole raw chicken skins down the sink (overestimating the power of the garbage disposal) and leaving them there to rot on hot days with the windows shut, he was every apartment dweller's worst nightmare. Did I mention that when he moved back to New York, he stuck me with a $200 phone bill and left no way for me to get in touch with him? I finally tracked him down that summer by finding his address in a bag of recycling, and his mother wound up paying the phone bill. As I understand it, this deadbeat roommate later became a doctor.