The other day I was messing around on my electric guitar when the distortion cut out. After a few minutes of troubleshooting, I figured out that the nine-volt battery powering my pedal must have finally died out. I collapsed, so totally defeated. In a split second, the universe had taken away from me everything that was going on at that very moment. I was sitting down, I was in my pajamas, I was strumming along to all of my favorite nineties alt-rock hits.
And now, what, I’d have to get up? Brush my teeth? Walk to Rite Aid and buy another battery? Because even though I’m pretty sure that I didn’t have any spare nine-volt batteries lying around my house, even if I did have one hidden somewhere, there was absolutely no shot that I’d be able to narrow down where it might be, let alone commencing a search and then successfully finding it.
No, and I couldn’t sit around either. If I let this go, if I just put down my guitar and told myself that I’d do it later, then it would never happen. I’d lose all momentum, the buying of a nine-volt battery at Rite Aid would become one of those background chores to my life, something that would only pop up on my mental to-do list once in a while, very rarely, almost surely at sometime around three in the morning right before I’d drift off to sleep, oh yeah, I’d remember, the battery, maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.
It was either I got up and got dressed and went out and bought that battery right that second, or I might as well kiss my guitar playing goodbye. Well, my electric guitar playing anyway. I’m sure I’d still mess around with my acoustic, but it’s not the same, not always. Sometimes you want to play Tool covers, and on an acoustic, everything winds up coming out all Unplugged in New York.
So I did it, I surprised myself even, standing up, putting on a pair of pants, I couldn’t believe I was not only envisioning a plan of action, but I was well on my way to actually executing the steps necessary for me to step out of the house and get done what I needed to get done. I walked through the door of Rite Aid, everything was so much easier than I had made it out in my head when I was sitting there at my desk in my pajamas, it was like a two minute walk, and look, the batteries were right there.
I was worrying like I wouldn’t be able to find where the batteries were, that I’d have to walk up and down every aisle, maybe one of the workers would see me wandering around clueless, they’d ask me, “Do you need any help? Are you OK?” and I’d be like, “Uh … batt … batteries? I need uh … a nine-volt? Nine-volt battery?” regretting immediately my jumbled choice of words. Why couldn’t I just ask for the batteries? Why did I have to get way too specific in my nine-volt request? Was I expecting the worker to not only lead me to the battery section, but to come back to my house and show me how to replace the old one?
No, the batteries were right there, I didn’t have to continue imagining how awkward any of those situations might get. And yeah, the nine-volt batteries only came in a two-pack, but whatever, ten bucks, sure, that’s not too expensive. I didn’t even spend ten dollars on lunch. Even though I didn’t really need two nine-volt batteries, There wasn’t much of an option. It was buy two or buy zero, and I couldn’t very well buy zero batteries, not after having already accomplished so much. Returning home empty handed, no way, it would have scarred me, I could envision a future scenario, me just about to head out the door for some small errand, I’d think back to the zero battery Rite Aid trip of March 2014 and I’d retreat, never mind, I could tell myself, I don’t need to leave the house.
I made it home, I took out the old battery and put in the new one. It was great. Except, now I had this extra nine-volt battery hanging out on my desk, the surplus from the two-pack. Should I put it away somewhere? I thought, wherever I decide to store this battery, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to be able to find it, years from now, the next time this distortion pedal on my guitar runs out of juice. But I can’t just keep it here, collecting dust. There’s too much temptation.
Because I can’t stop thinking about licking it. You ever do that when you were a little kid, lick the end of a nine-volt battery? I don’t know why, I guess it has something to do with science, but you get a shock on your tongue. The thing is, I haven’t actually licked a nine-volt battery in years. I’m pretty sure it was decades, probably like twenty years ago. I don’t remember what that shock felt like. Did it hurt? Was my tongue buzzing for the rest of the day?
The next thing I know I was holding the spare nine-volt in my hands, just inches away from my face. I stuck out my tongue, thought about what I’d need to actually do, like what muscles I’d need to move to make my idea a reality. But I couldn’t do it. There was something inside of me, a fear? Was I afraid? I was. I could feel it. I resolved to do it, I’d lick the battery right there, I’d get past my fear of a little tongue shock.
But I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, there was some sort of a force, a barrier of fear preventing me from jerking my hand the two inches necessary to complete the circuit with my tongue sticking out of my mouth. I started freaking out. What’s happening to me? First, I’m a little kid and I’m doing whatever I want. The next thing I know, I’m a grown man, I’m almost thirty years old, and I’m too scared to lick the end of nine-volt battery. What’s next? Am I going to all of the sudden lose confidence in my bike riding skills? What other abilities is the crippling fear of life going to rob from me next?
But then I thought, wait a second, this would a pretty funny picture, the battery, my tongue. So I took a selfie on my phone and put in on Facebook and Instagram with the caption, “I’ll do it. I swear to God, I’ll do it.” And it was pretty successful, you know, in terms of social networking. I got like twelve likes. And look at this, it wasn’t even noon and I was already out of my pajamas, basically fully dressed. Talk about carpe diem, this day had officially been seized.
Still, that battery is right here on the desk, right as I’m typing this. And I’ve mostly put it out of my head. But every once in a while it’ll pop out of the background and talk to me, “Come on Rob. Give me a lick. Don’t be such a little pantywaist. Lick me.” And I can’t. I just can’t do it.