Free the shorts, p.1
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Free the Shorts!

Free The Shorts!

By Allison Hawn

Copyright © 2015 by Allison Hawn

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form, except for brief quotations in literary reviews, without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Published in the United States of America

Interior Design by Allison Hawn

Cover Design by Allison Hawn

Edited by CarolBeth Hawn

To CarolBeth for helping edit this little ditty and to coffee for helping me write it.


1. Putting All Your Chips on the Table

2. Multitasking Like a Champ

3. Running Motivation

4. Bombs Away?

5. Lurking Danger

6. It’s Hard to Samba in a Kilt

1. Putting All Your Chips on the Table

I am not a person that you can take to a fancy restaurant, your grandmother’s birthday party, an upscale tea party, or anywhere else you might expect a certain level of calm and decorum.

This doesn’t mean that I am personally embarrassing or not well mannered, though my manners school instructor in third grade might disagree there (come on, no one really uses the salad fork). No, it is because I am the human magnet for all things bizarre in the universe and if I am going to attend an event there is a decent chance that a crazed badger, or a crazed person dressed as a badger, or a badger dressed as a crazed person, will find its way into our midst.

After being chased by an ostrich, run over by a drunk woman in an electric wheelchair, and handed a human ear by one of my past clients, most everyone I know is a little reticent to invite me to events unless they wish to experience a herd of escaped chinchillas.

The bizarre will always find me like a velociraptor hunting a legless sheep. No matter where I go, I cannot escape.

One spring my mother, grandmother and I decided to take a little jaunt down to Arizona on a road trip. Arizona is a wondrous place, full of sunshine, cacti and really odd street names, Bloody Basin Road and Bee King Road among them.

As a resident Spokanite, I hadn't really seen sunlight since Tinkerbell was saying, "In color!" before the start of every Disney film. Is that an exaggeration? Maybe, but having just survived another bone-chilling winter, I was ready for some sun.

I was also exceedingly ready for a break from work as head of security for a homeless shelter. Don't get me wrong, I loved my clients, but you can only say, "Stop licking the walls!" and, "Take those panties off of your head!" so many times before it begins to wear on your little grey cells.

We set out to have a quiet and peaceful trip; there would be nothing to disrupt our tranquility. I was finally getting away from it all... or so I thought.

Just because I'm on vacation does not mean that I wish to stop working out, so I was overjoyed to find our hotel in Arizona had a workout area.

I was far less enthused when I opened the door to their mini-gym and was met by a wave of booze fumes and body odor. No one was in there at that exact moment, but there was a super-classy box of chardonnay sitting on top of the weight bench with a myriad of potato chips surrounding it like some kind of shrine to gluttony.

I snagged the box of wine to take up to the front desk, but paused when, from an outside door that had been propped open, a schnockered looking man entered. 

When he saw me holding the box of wine he gave me a shocked look worthy of a daytime soap opera and quickly exited the way he had come.

I took the box of wine to the front desk attendants who said they would take care of it. 

The next morning, in an insane rush of optimism, I decided to try the workout room again. I knew I should have just gone running when I opened the door and was slapped viciously in the face by body odor, the smell of cheap booze with the additional fragrance of urine.

I peered around the corner and found myself looking at the same individual I had previously spotted. Wolfing down chips with one hand and downing foul-smelling rum and cheap wine as his chasers, the man lounged on the weight equipment staring at the TV screen.

"Hey bud!" I said.

He slowly turned as I continued, "Are you supposed to be in here?"

His mouth full of chips and dank-smelling rum, he blearily looked at me, looked down at his chips, and then offered them to me.

I just shook my head and headed for the front desk to inform the attendants that they had failed to get rid of their unregistered guest.

What lessons did I learn from my little Arizona adventure?

1. When you are caught breaking into a hotel's weight room to drink and pee, there is no amount of chips you can use to barter yourself out of that situation.

2. Some smells are strong enough to put you in the hospital with broken bones.

3. There is no taking a vacation from a bizarre life. 

2. Multitasking Like a Champ

I am an extreme multitasker. No really, if there were world championships I would be a top contender for the gold.

My own special brand of ADHD mixed with an extreme Type A personality means that not only am I going to get stuff done, but I’m going to get all the things done at once!

This has been both a blessing and a curse. Yes, everything will get done, but the level of chaos I can create on the way from point A to point B, which often directs me through Q, Y, W and G, is rather staggering.

Of course, this means that when chaos is thrust upon me I tend to take it in stride, since my natural state on this planet is one of bedlam. There have been several jobs in which this has helped me immensely, chief among them being when I worked as the head of security for a homeless shelter.

If someone could manage to get video cameras up in a homeless shelter without breaking confidentiality laws, they could have the most watched reality TV show in history in less than a day. The amount of drama, confused intoxicated people and fights over My Little Pony pillows that happened in a single afternoon would have been enough to fill an entire TV season worth of episodes.

This job also taught me that true pandemonium rarely builds slowly, it more often drops from the ceiling with a fluttering cape, throwing a handful of glitter in your face while announcing, “I’m here!”

It is an unfortunate fact that when one is homeless it is much harder for one to take care of oneself. Between those with chronic health problems, those suffering from complications of drug addiction and the delusional people who wanted to walk through walls, I called 911 a lot.

In fact, I had to call in the EMT’s so often that they all knew me on sight and 911 operators knew me just by the sound of my voice, “Oh, hey Al! How’s it going!? Who took a header today?”

So far that day it had been quiet at the shelter… too quiet. There had been no fights, no arguments (neither between people nor between the voices in one person’s head) and everyone had managed to keep their clothing on. It was just about time to close up our day services so the staff could prepare for evening services when there was that first whisper, that little hint of activity that let me know I would not be getting off of work at any reasonable hour that day.

That little whisper came in the form of someone just within earshot of me saying, “Dude, you okay? You’re looking a bit green…”

I turned just in time to see one of our patrons turn, throw up and fall into a seizure on the floor. I ran over to check on him while dialing 911 on my cell and instructing others to do helpful things like get a towel to support his head.

Luckily there were some EMT’s already in the area, and they got there within a couple of minutes. However, as they pulled up I suddenly heard a woman, who had been muttering to herself all day, yell, “I am the Hulk! HULK SMASH!”

I looked over at her just in time for her to scream, “HULK SMASH CARS!” as she made a run toward the front doors and the street to do exactly as she threatened.

Luckily our “Hulk” was about 135 pounds total and just short enough that I could throw her over one shoulder and carry her back into the building while directing the EMT’s indoors. As we were walking in another client came rushing up to me yelling, “There are bees by the front gate! Someone hit their nest with a rock, now they’re swarming over there!”

The EMT’s, already a little dubious about the patron I had slung over my shoulder who was repeating, “HULK SMASH!” as often as she could while flailing uselessly, stared at me in horror as I said, “All right, I’ll warn people!”

We got inside to where the patron needing medical attention was sprawled out on the floor by the front door. I began to let the EMT’s know what had happened and what I knew about this individual’s medical history. Not daring to set the woman down, lest she decide to run into the street again and take on cars with her diminutive body, I stood there saying, “No, this isn’t his baseline,” while she yelled, “HULK SMASH!”

“What was that? Oh, no I don’t know if he has any medication…”

“HULK SMASH!?” Flail, kick, twist in frustration.

Then of course I had to also warn people about the bees outside the gate, so as I was attempting to give useful information to the EMT’s I sounded like I had bee-related Tourette’s Syndrome, “What? No, I’m afraid I don’t kn—WATCH OUT! THERE ARE BEES BY THE FRONT GATE!... know if he is allergic to anything.”


“Knock it off! No, I wasn’t talking to you sir. No, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t hit his head on the way down, it looks like he fell and – DON’T GO LEFT OUT OF THE FRONT GATE! BEES! - caught himself with his forearms as he went down.”

At one point, after one of the EMT’s had asked the same question three times only to be interrupted by the Hulk’s new catchphrase, I said, “Hold on a second, I’ll be right back.”

Walking over to a conference room, grabbing one of the case managers on the way, I half set, half tossed the Hulk into the conference room shouting, “Smash later, talk now!” while pointing at the case manager that I rather thrust in with her.

Free of one distraction I wandered back over to the EMT’s who were standing quite agape as I asked, “Do you guys have any more questions?”

One of them raised his hand, “Do you want us to take you with us too?”

I nodded, “Yes, a nice trip up to the hospital sounds so relaxing right about now.”

So what lessons can be carried out of my experience?

1. Sometimes to defeat chaos you have to be a touch creative and a smidgen insane.

2. Apparently the Incredible Hulk can be persuaded not to smash things when bribed with cookies while one waits for Mental Health Professionals to come and take her away.

3. When you have to prioritize which crisis needs your attention the most in the midst of madness, don’t forget that sometimes “All of the above” is a legitimate answer.

3. Running Motivation

I am not a runner.

This is a fact, not an opinion. The first appearance of Batman was in Detective Comics #27. It is illegal to drink beer from a bucket while sitting on a curb in St. Louis. Kanye West has poor impulse control. I am not a runner. All of these are equally true statements.

I am a person built to excel at throwing, boxing, weightlifting, and tackling people in football, and I have used those abilities to their fullest. Yet, despite my short stature, a knee injury as persistent Hilary Clinton’s political career, the fact that I’m built like a mini-fridge with curves and my propensity to get easily distracted by shiny objects, I still on occasion strap on my tennis shoes and decide to go for a jog.

Now, for those of you who are runners (I might hate you), let me explain what running is like for those of us not gifted with your gazelle-like ability. Imagine that your entire body, which normally you’re on good speaking terms with, suddenly just yells, “NOPE!” before giving you the middle finger and insulting your mother.

That is basically how I feel when I run.

It is not hard to imagine, then, that when I did convince myself to do the two-mile loop into downtown Spokane, I had to focus on the positive.

While running I will find anything and everything pleasant to help distract me from the fact that my entire body is telling me that it hates me and wishes I would get eaten by a giant atomic gerbil.

Of course, as the magnet for all things bizarre, that optimism often gets derailed faster than a train on tracks made of Jell-O.

It was on one such attempted run, that I found myself particularly struggling to stay positive. The odds were stacked high against my optimism. It was early on a weekend, the giant ball of gas in the sky had already hoisted the outside temperature into the nineties and the street I was running down had the wonderful odor combination of urine and old socks.

I chugged along attempting to think positive thoughts, “Well, at least there’s a pretty blue sky?”

Pant, pant, pant.

“At least I decided to run before it made it to a hundred degrees?”

Pant, pant, pant.

“At least my lungs haven’t exploded yet?”

Pant, pant, pant.

“Oh look a small bear!”

It took me a second for that mental announcement to translate into my ceasing to run. Even so, my sudden stop probably left rubber skid marks on the pavement.

Now that I was considerably closer, my lacking-glasses eyes were able to see that I was not faced with a small bear, but the largest raccoon I had ever seen.

With a body that indicated that it probably had been eating the trash from a steroids factory, this was the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson of scavenging creatures.

We stared at one another for a little bit, both, apparently, equally surprised to see each other. I feel that this was unfair of the raccoon, after all, I was downtown in the second largest city in Washington. If anyone had the right to be shocked by the other’s presence, I feel like the woodland creature wasn’t it.

After our brief moment of mutual shock had time to wane the raccoon suddenly began making a, “Chichichichichichi!” noise and ran directly for me. Now keep in mind, I am a relatively fearless person, but the thought of rabies did not exactly please me.

To put it honestly, I ran like I was being chased by clowns with fire-axes. I lost the creature about a block later, where it stood on the corner looking at me and shaking its clenched little paw in a menacing way. Well, at least, that’s what I pictured it doing, as I wasn’t really going to stop and turn around to find out.

As I hurried away I met someone coming the opposite direction, headed directly for the raccoon’s block. Breathlessly I waved at the woman and said, “No! Not that way! Raccoon!”

The woman looked at me like I may have sprinkled too much meth on top of my breakfast cereal that morning and continued on her way, at a slightly quicker pace. I paused, trying to wave her back, but she just jogged on.

Suddenly, I watched her stop, stare at something in front of her, and bolt back toward me at warp speed. Waving her arms she shouted, “Raccoon!” as she blitzed past me. Feeling slightly validated, and still a little panicked, I took off after her. Looking at the positive side of that now, I think I ran the fastest two miles I have ever managed, and for once, my body was okay with running.

So what lessons can be stretched from the hamstrings of experience?

1. Sometimes, but only sometimes, the crazy person you meet out in the world is actually trying to impart useful information to you.

2. When running in an unfamiliar city, make sure that you don’t run into dark alleyways, the wrong gang territory or onto the giant raccoon’s block.

3. If, when you finally do go for a run, you end up nearly getting bitten by a giant woodland creature, maybe this is a higher power telling you that running is not really your thing.

4. Bombs Away?

We’ve all met delusional people at some level or another. Whether it’s your friend who thinks that the universe is telling her to quit her day job so that she can start a ‘mittens for kittens’ business or the forty-five year old man who thinks that growing his hair super long and combing it over will hide the fact that he has a large, gaping, bald patch, we are surrounded by delusional people every day.

Granted, most of these delusions are perfectly harmless. I mean, your friend might end up living on your couch for some time while she tries to figure out her plan B (aka going back to her job), but overall they harm no one.

However, there is always the chance that you might run into someone who truly believes aliens caused a car accident as a signal that the world will end soon and so therefore clothing is no longer necessary. When you work in social work, particularly in a giant homeless shelter that serves between 250 and 650 people a day, your chances of running into this second type of delusional person increases exponentially.

For the most part the delusions our patrons at the shelter would have, while fascinating, were harmless. We had the lady who believed that demons lived in the piano. Another gentleman regularly had the committee in his head vote on courses of action before he decided what he was going to do; it was always very difficult when that came to a six-to-six tie. We also had someone who thought that they were going to have tea with Johnny Cash. I always asked for his autograph but sadly never got it.
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