Friday, September 21, 2007

My Worst Moment

I was trying to think of the single worst experience of my life. It can't be a stretch of a few days or weeks, but a single bad moment. No one close to me has died, so I have to dig deeper than most people. I remember a particularly depressing walk home after being cut from the high school baseball team. And there was the time I had to throw a used condom against the wall. Those were bad, yes, but here's what I think is the single worst experience of my life.

I had recently returned from my mission, and I was sincere about my religious beliefs. Despite some growing doubts about the Mormon story, I believed in God. As I was trying to adjust to my new life as a 21-year-old Mormon, I had to deal with the awkward blend of hormones, shyness, and religious devotion. To my eternal shame, I started peeking at covers of Playboy magazine whenever I went into a convenience store, and after a few weeks I even opened a magazine and shuffled through enough pages to become twitterpated. That combination of titillation and guilt stays with me to this day whenever I look at porn, but back then both elements were much more intense -- especially the guilt of betraying my God. This may seem kind of silly now, but in 1983, pornography wasn't nearly as pervasive, especially in my sheltered world.

I used to ride past an adult bookstore in Moreno Valley every day on my way home from lifeguarding. One day, while driving my Dad's yellow pickup, I decided to stop in. I say this casually now, as if I were curious about a pawn shop, but this act of going into a porn shop put me in a state of frenzy, angels battling demons. Walking towards the door made me feel like I was simultaneously dragging someone and being dragged by someone. When I opened the door, I saw things I shouldn't have seen. Remember, my only experience with porn was looking at Playboy pictorials and trying to make sense of scrambled cable channels, so I was alarmed at the nasty display of sexual deviance. What in the hell is THAT?! Why are they . . . oh no, oh no. A man behind the counter asked if I needed any help. I looked at him and was struck by his eyes, which looked like goat eyes. Dead goat eyes. I asked him where the Playboy magazines were. The evil man scoffed.

I left the store feeling nothing but guilt and shame and dread. Never again. Never, ever again. As I climbed in the pickup cab and fumbled with keys, a man standing outside my window startled me. He knocked on the window. What should I do? Lock the door and drive away? I rolled down the window slowly and snarled in a high-pitched voice, "What do you want?" He handed me a born-again Jesus Saves pamphlet. Relieved that he wasn't going to make me squeal like a pig, I actually took the pamphlet. So that's it. Hearing the strange man tap on my window as I sat shame-faced in my pickup truck was my single worst moment.


  1. Wouldn't you know it -- just when this day was shaping up to be one of the best of your life, Jesus comes along and ruins it.

    P.S. What did the pamphlet say?

  2. That's the worst day of your life?! Man, you've had it easy. No wonder you're such a cheerful guy.

  3. that's the worst worst moment ever.

    Luckily for the religious dude you weren't pleasuring yourself already with store material. He took a big chance