Kate Zahnleiter was raised by a single working mother and a television. She writes that “not a day goes by in which I’m unable to relate something which occurs in real life back to an episode of something I watched as a child, teenager or young adult.” In Life and My Box, Kate shares the lessons she has learned from TV.
I recently acquired a nemesis.
It started, as these things usually do, at the coffee shop next door to my work, when a woman wearing orange pants and a steely expression took the last chocolate milk. Possibly this shouldn’t have annoyed me as much as it did—there were strawberry and coffee milks left—but I had my heart set on chocolate, I couldn’t leave the office park without approval, and I’d been cooped up for hours in a tiny room arguing with angry people. Kind of like a prison (see, here is where I start to build my analogy).
I always thought that if I was going to be a character in the television show Oz (one of the best “Which one are you?” games I’ve ever played) I’d be Adebisi, because I strongly believe that all situations can be improved by wearing a jaunty hat. But, upon further reflection, I suppose I’m less a giant black man who chases police officers down to behead them with a machete (I really don’t like to run) and more a naive ginger with bad luck. So of course it makes sense that I’d be Beecher.
This office park woman didn’t seem to care that she took my milk. In fact, if anything, the sweet smile she gave made me think she even enjoyed seeing me suffer, which I guess now would make her Schillinger. And yes, I understand that likening someone to a sadistic Aryan brother is extreme, but sometimes I just really need a big hit of dairy.
If Oz has taught me anything it’s to tread carefully. Actually, if Oz has taught me anything it’s to manage my anxiety better by not watching shows about prison and to always be prepared for full-frontal male nudity, but in nemesis terms I’ve learned I need to proceed with caution or else I may soon be receiving body parts mailed to work— which would be hard to explain since we’re not even allowed to accept personal phone calls.
Over the course of the next week, my nemesis continued to provoke me. Tuesday, she stole my car park. Wednesday, she tripped me with her umbrella. On Thursday, she actually pushed the straw container further back on the counter so my short limbs couldn’t reach it. I, in turn, bought four chocolate milks at the one time, just to make sure she didn’t get any, and aggressively did not help pick up her stray coins when she dropped her wallet. Suddenly we were locked in a classic Beecher-Schillinger struggle for dominance, except with a lot less murdering of family members.
On Friday we both wore the same outfit—black skirt, polka dot top, red cardigan—because I guess the universe was trying to show me that the two of us were actually alike, after all, and perhaps the only person I was angry with was myself. But my nemesis responded to this samesies by bumping into me and spilling hot coffee down my front, at which point I decided that I really was just angry with her.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, in a way that made me think she wasn’t at all sorry.
“That’s fine,” I said, then glanced at her name tag and added, “Maya.”
“It’s pronounced May-a,” she replied, with unnecessary sass. Which confirmed it: she was definitely Schillinger.
In Oswald Penitentiary, the resident nun, Sister Peter Marie, gets Beecher and Schillinger in a room together to try and work out their differences. She encourages Schillinger to apologise for casually branding a swastika into Beecher’s butt, and asks Beecher to say sorry for that time he beat Schillinger up with a fistful of weights and publicly went to the bathroom on his face. But nobody seems willing to put in that effort with my nemesis and me (which is ironic considering I work for a dispute resolution service). Also, unlike Beecher, I don’t have a Christopher Keller to back me up and break the limbs of people who mess with me, which is unfortunate (or fortunate? The pros and cons of having a sociopathic serial killer but very handsome boyfriend are pretty much even).
So it seems this mess is mine alone to deal with. In Oz, disagreements are handled in the regular fashion, with a good shanking, or by nailing someone to the ground, or by burying them alive inside a brick wall (I’m really, really sorry, Luke Perry). In their final face-off, Schillinger and Beecher are cast in the respective roles of Macbeth and Macduff as part of the celebrated Oz drama club, because this TV show is just fantastic. Schillinger arranges for his prop knife to be replaced with a real one so he can finish Beecher off once and for all, but Keller—because he’s so crafty and resourceful and handsome—pulls the ol’ switcharoo at the last minute, so that it’s Schillinger who ends up properly stabbed. An inmate reports, “that mothafucka’s dead,” and the Macbeth audience cheers, because did I mention that this show is fantastic?
I’m not 100% sure what the office park equivalent of this is, but tomorrow I intend on switching her low-calorie sweetener packets with real sugar, just to see what happens.
Lesson learnt: never let your enemies know your weak spots (even if those weak spots are milk-related).