Twisted Metal

I’m supposed to write a whole essay about my favorite slang word. “A whole essay about one word? I don’t even use slang,” I thought. As I contemplated how I was going to accomplish this writing assignment, I came up with a few words, like “dope,” “ fresh,” and “on the rocks.” However, those are words I rarely use, and even when I say them out loud to myself, and pretend that I actually use them, let alone depend on them, they sound funny rolling off my tongue. Just picturing myself using those words and being serious when I say them makes me giggle.

Mostly, I try my best to speak in a respectable way, minimizing slang words, and especially, swear words. When, and if, I use a swear word, I mostly feel like an idiot, and I’m immediately sorry I allowed it to escape my lips. I sound about as cool using a swear word as I do using a slang word. Sitting in my garage, spinning around on an old bar stool, frustrated and unable to produce a word for my assignment, I finally said “Screw it. I will just go to the teacher, and see if he can help me out.” Then, I had an epiphany. I had just said “Screw it.” Screw! That was it! The word I had been looking for.

As I thought about the word “screw,” I came up with quite a few ways that I use it, and was a little surprised that I use it as much as I actually do. Whether I like it or not, the word “screw” has become a common word in my vocabulary. Funny, I don’t feel like an idiot when I say “screw.” It rolls off my tongue as easy as a drop of saliva when I see a cookie.

If I’m talking about screwing with someone I know, getting screwed over, or screwing something up, I’m not talking about the “metal fastener that has a tapered shank with a helical thread, topped with a slotted head, and driven into wood or the like by rotating, especially by means of a screwdriver” kind of screw (“screw“). Let me talk about what I do mean.

For me, “screwing with someone” means to play a trick on them, or to mess with their head, causing confusion, anxiety, or fear. Unfortunately, for those being screwed with, they are totally ignorant of the fact they’re being screwed with until they either figure it out, or the person screwing with them caves in and tells them what’s going on. For example, messing around with my little brother one day, I thought it would be funny to draw red dots on his thumb when he was sleeping, and tell him it was an infection from sucking his thumb. So I proceeded to get a red marker and to do just that. When he awoke, I, of course, was sitting there holding back a devilish laugh, waiting for him to notice his infected thumb. When he noticed, he became incredibly frightened, and ran to our mother crying. My mom decided to play along, screwing with him as well, which boggled my mind, but nevertheless, was awesome. We told him that maybe if he took a bath, his thumb would heal. He was in that bathtub faster than a battery-powered drill can screw a screw into a wall. He came out of the bathroom livid, knowing he had been tricked, and didn’t talk to me for two days.

Screwing with my little brother is one thing, but there are some people you don’t ever screw with, you know? Like the police. Like, getting arrested, and giving the policeman the wrong name. Not a good idea. What are you going to say when the cop asks you why you lied? Replying “Oh, I was just screwing with you” isn’t going to win you any brownie points. The cop is not going to be entertained. Off to the slammer you go. Be careful screwing with people, because, as the old saying goes, what goes around comes around. It’s not so pleasant when you’re the one getting screwed.

Getting screwed over is a pretty horrible feeling. It’s a feeling of loss, total helplessness, and complete shock from what just happened, and, unfortunately, there’s often nothing you can do to prevent it. Okay, so let’s say you’re a ski jumper, and you’ve just started gaining speed on the massive hill you’re skiing down. Everything’s looking good, you feel strong, you feel cool, and you’re ready to impress everyone with your incredible jump. You see the jump ahead, your heart starts pounding, and before you know it, you’re flying high in the air. But, wait a second, your ski feels a little loose on your left foot. You watch through your ski goggles as your ski slowly detaches from your boot and quickly falls downward. Oh, yeah. No doubt about it. You’re screwed, and it’s completely out of your control. Like when you’re a little kid, and you’ve been playing outside on a sultry summer day, and you look up because you hear the sound of the ice cream truck coming your way. You jump up in hopeful expectation, running as fast as you can to get some money from mom and dad for some ice cream to cool your tongue, and by the time you get back outside, “Pop Goes the Weasel” is only a faint whisper and the ice cream man is turning the corner onto the main road. Bitterness and disbelief begin to take hold as you stand there in awe, completely devoid of any solution to your hopeless situation. Sadly, injustice like this will continue to happen in countless different ways for the rest of your life. Ah, so it goes.

Now, telling people they’re screwed is another feeling altogether. You’re casually smirking at them as if you’re above them for just a moment and you have the authority to tell them they’re doomed. You know you’re fortunate because you’re not the one who’s screwed. Actually, you’re in the position to help them, if possible and if you want to. I’ve noticed that most people won’t help, though. They’ll just laugh at you, relishing the fact that they’re not the ones who are in trouble. Like if your buddy steals the keys to his dad’s brand new Mustang to impress his girlfriend on a first date and calls you for a ride because when he comes out of the theatre, he realizes the car has been stolen. You laugh to yourself as you say “Oh man, you’re screwed!”

Sometimes, in some situations, using the phrase “you’re screwed” is not appropriate. Like when a friend tells you they just found out they have a terminal illness. I think you would probably have some screws loose if you open your trap and say, “You’re screwed.” That is just plain rotten and incredibly rude. You could screw up a great friendship saying something stupid like that. Speaking of screwing up, I’ve definitely had my share of doing that.

“To screw up” means to accidentally damage or mess something up through careless handling, and I believe there are different levels of screwing up. You could, say, accidentally put salt into your glass of iced tea instead of sugar. That’s a lower level kind of screw-up. Or, on a higher level, you could fall asleep with a lit cigarette in your hand and burn the house down. That’s what’s called a “royal” screw-up. You might as well just buy yourself a crown, place it on top of your head like a dunce cap, and go sit in the corner. Once, I decided that using Windex to clean the glass of my fish tank would be a smart thing to do. Nope. Bad mistake. Within two days, all my fish were dead. Aggravated, I was upset that something so simple could cause such a disaster. Screwing up can be quite a nuisance, too. Like an H.V.A.C. technician arriving at someone’s house to install a furnace, unloading all of his equipment from the back of the truck, and realizing that he’s supposed to be at the house next door. No matter how careful you try to be, it’s almost as if screwing up is inevitable. There’s just no way around it. And, usually, you’re unaware of the screw-up until after the harm has already been done.

Screwing up yourself is one thing, but, telling someone else not to screw up has its own repercussions. It’s as if you’re labeling them a screw-up before they’ve even had the chance to screw it up, causing them to resent you and seek ways to avenge themselves. Be ready, because, out of spite, they just might screw it up on purpose. Like, I wouldn’t tell the mechanic who’s fixing my car not to “screw up.” If he was crazy, he just might purposely loosen the bolts on my motor mount. And, unknowingly screwed, I would be none the wiser as I drove innocently away.

Oh, by the way, all this screw and mechanic talk has me thinking of some other slang words that remind me of tools. A whole toolbox full, actually. “Hammered,” “nuts,” “nailed,” “drilled,” and “tool” are all words that come to mind.

If you peek inside an unorganized toolbox, you’ll usually see a hammer lying right on top. The hammer is a tool mostly used to pound nails into wood. However, I’ve heard the word “hammered” used to mean “to drink an excessive amount of alcohol,” as in “I drank too much alcohol last night and got hammered.” That doesn’t sound like something I would want to be. Sounds like it hurts. If you dig a little deeper in the toolbox, you’ll find some nails of all different sizes. Nails make me think of the slang word “nailed,” which can mean “to get caught.” Like if you rob a liquor store, and the cops get you and take you to jail. Your friends would probably tell everyone you got “nailed” by the cops last night. Mixed in with the nails at the bottom of the toolbox, are random-sized “nuts,” which can be defined in slang as crazy, or as some say, off your rocker. However, don’t ever tell your boss he’s nuts, because you just might get fired. Off to the side, hanging on the peg board, is the drill. Don’t touch it. If Dad catches you screwing with his tools, you’re going to get “drilled,” meaning Dad’s going to yell at you. And, last but not least, you would be a real “tool” if you drank too much alcohol, robbed a liquor store, acted crazy by telling your boss he’s nuts, and then broke your dad’s drill. A “tool” is, obviously, a total jerk or loser.

Well, I’ve been screwing around in the garage for too long. I think I’ll go back in the house and read a book.

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