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Bad aim 

How to miss the target and win the jackpot anyway

I used to play tennis, once even going far enough to join the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association, which is as rabid a bunch of ball jockeys as you'll ever see. Until then I thought I was pretty good. I played varsity in high school and once competed against a pre-professional Tracy Austin, who slammed the balls so far down my throat that for a minute I looked like I had tits. But at least I was on the same court with her, so you'd think I'd qualify for a friendly neighborhood tournament in an Atlanta suburb.

But my ALTA team captain, who always looked at me with that big-eyed smile perfected by flight attendants when dealing with passengers trying to talk their way into a free upgrade, didn't want me to muddy the competitive pool by actually playing, so she never assigned me to a tournament. Maybe it's because I kept injuring teammates during doubles practice. I was trying to hit balls down the alley on the court beside them, but instead drilled line drives straight at their skulls. This caused their rackets to ricochet off the ball and into their foreheads.

"You need to work on your aim," I was told.

Eventually I left the team, not satisfied with serving no purpose during weekend tournaments but to remove used toothpicks off the pot-luck buffet. To this day I still think those head shots, though they may have been aimless, were good shots nonetheless. I swear, people place too much importance on good aim.

Except Lary, who wishes he didn't have it. Last year, while working atop the Georgia Dome to set up lights for an upcoming convention, he pitched a metal clip at a police car a half-block away. The clip clattered on the car roof like it was being beaten with a bicycle chain. The act was in retaliation for the slew of parking tickets the officer had just issued all of Lary's co-workers, and Lary -- who had walked to work that day -- decided impulsively to make the toss.

"Where'd you get that idea, from the Book of Stupidest Things You Could Possibly Do?" I asked him later. I had aimed to talk tenderly toward him, considering he was calling from jail, but I realized in time that if Lary knew I felt sorry for him he might just make a tourniquet out of torn socks and choke himself in his cell until his tongue turned black. He's very resourceful when he wants to be. "You booger-eating ape," I threw in to make him feel better.

But at the time Lary could feel little more than awe at his own aim. "I can't believe I hit it!" He kept saying, which goes to show that good aim is not always a good thing.

For example, a few years ago there was a period during which I meanderingly ended up in Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, trying to figure out how I could live there for the rest of my life. I figured I needed a job but knew I couldn't go into island retail because I'd already pissed off all the shop owners by being a bitchy tourist.

"Excuse me," I once said to the clerk at a T-shirt shop called T-Shirt World (or whatever), "but do you sell T-shirts here? I mean, I know you have T-shirts here, but I was wondering if you sell them, since I've been standing here for a good 45 seconds and you haven't waited on me. So I thought maybe this was a T-shirt museum or something, and all these T-shirts are just on display rather than actually for sale. Am I wrong?"

So after concluding that my only island-type talent was to sit at the tiki bar and beg for scraps at the bottom of the blender every time the bartender mixed a pitcher of piña coladas, I ended up back in Atlanta agreeing to go out with Chris. That night I was depressed about failing at my goal to become an island outcast, but then Chris sang me the words to "Used Car" by Springsteen, which made me feel better because he sings so completely off key. For his effort, I aimed to kiss his cheek, but he shifted and my lips landed elsewhere on his face.

Today I'm reminded how things never seem to go as planned. Because I didn't aim for a life in which I have a small house and a big husband and a hyper pit bull. Or to care if Chris is cold at night with his shoulders out from under the covers, or to hold my sleeping baby like a breathing ball of warm dough in my arms, or to be thankful for the fact that, considering the crap fest the cosmic deck of cards could have dealt me during my aimless life, I now hold a hand that hardly sucks at all. All I did was aim to kiss Chris on the cheek, which goes to show that bad aim is not always a bad thing.

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