The following are seventeen concise steps on how to appropriate a rock from a yard in San Francisco, place it in a cardboard box, and deem it a socially accepted present for a celebrated day of birth:
1 | Discover that a dear friend is turning twenty four and suddenly remember that, at twenty three, unfulfilled promises were expressed about rock climbing. Feel terrible. Lament on your respective flakiness, blame the State of California, and, like the many flakes before you, vow to overcompensate on this particular occasion.
2 | Render gift cards and certificates to be the rise of consumerism and the death of sensitive, thoughtful gift giving. Use the aforementioned as fodder behind your true desire – that is to make terrible symbolic puns in the form of placing a rock in a box with a sticky note that reads “I am a rock. You will climb me.”
3 | Engage in a phone conversation with your accomplice. Explain that there are two essential elements to this birthday endeavor: a cake and a rock in a box. Somehow verbally agree to be the bearer of the rock in said box.
4 | Hang up the phone and realize that while your accomplice must simply walk across the street to purchase a cake you must, within an hour time frame, find two items that are not related to one another and package it in a manner that is not distasteful and/or offensive.
5 | Call your accomplice again and complain incessantly about the difficulty of your task relative to hers. Say the words “rock” and “box” repeatedly, in front of several Chinese people. Listen to the feedback produced by your poor cellular phone reception then suddenly realize that it is actually the stifled chuckles of your accomplice. Hear the utterance, “Well, I guess you have to think outside the box” and be absolutely appalled that she used such a terrible pun.
6 | Freak out. Think outside the box.
7 | Walk the streets of San Francisco and through public parks in search of a large, suitable rock. Turn down several pebbles due to some arbitrary standard of rock superiority that you hastily created. Bemoan the fact that the only loose rocks in this city are the people who post on the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist. Upon such a thought, say “Zing.”
8 | Pass by a beautiful Victorian home near the apartment where you live and spot, in your peripheral vision, a pile of dirt covered with rocks. Awkwardly circle the pile. Circle so consciously of being inconspicuous that you unfailingly look like an Asian vulture. Eye one particularly magnificent rock, noting that such a glance cannot be reciprocated because a rock is an inanimate object.
9 | Look to your left, look to your right, and look before you. Feel slightly embarrassed that those surrounding your person will not judge you for the act of stealing itself, but for stealing something of no actual value or importance. Think, hopefully for the sole time in your life, “I am going to take that mother fucking rock.”
10 | Channel your inner Aladdin, swipe, and prance like hell.
11 | Scour art stores in your neighborhood. Exchange paths with serious, emaciated San Franciscan artists who are painting a series of octagons that represent the intersection of homosexuality and above ground swimming pools. Judge them, judge yourself for judging them, and allow them to rightfully judge you for judging them as you are purchasing a box with an adequate size ratio to the rock that you just stole.
12 | Arrive home and place the rock, the box, and a piece of ribbon on your desk. Notice the steak of dirt that is smeared on your hand, remembering that this object has shared the same ground as soil, as fecal matter, and as a world filled with really smart, trouser-wearing rats.
13 | Tiptoe, with a tinge of paranoia, to the bathroom and scrub the rock. Tiptoe back to the privacy of your room, dousing the rock with anti-bacterial gel. Tiptoe to your closet to grab a towel – simultaneously drying off the rock while vowing never to use this towel again. Tiptoe one last time to your quarters, lock the door, and stand quietly and solitarily as you remove the remnants of dirt, water, and anti-bacterial gel with a blow dryer.
14 | Begin to compose the sticky note that will be taped to the rock. Go through four different drafts because of the absolute certainty that, if this rock could write, it would not scribble “Hello,” it would not use emoticons, and it would publish in all capital letters. Tape the post-it note to the rock, place it in the box, and capture pictorial evidence of this anguished endeavor.
15 | In your ignorance, YouTube a grainy clip of an old lady tying a ribbon into a bow. Proceed to watch this clip three times, living in fear that someone will barge in at an inopportune moment only to witness you, alone, with a rock in a box in one hand, a ribbon in another, and a subpar tutorial playing on your computer.
16 | Admire the task that you have just completed. Eat an apple and some peanut butter because it is deserved and because they are the only edible complementary foods remaining on your shelf in the refrigerator.
17 | Hand the box to your beloved friend and wish her the happiest of birthdays. Watch as she carefully unties the bow and opens the box. Be absolutely relieved and delighted at her laughter at a present that no one else seems to understand. Explain, at length and with the requisite dramatic hand motions, the aforementioned sixteen steps in bringing this present to fruition. Realize at the end of the story, that the effort for such a friend was undoubtedly, undeniably, and unequivocally worthwhile – and should you be presented with the option of purchasing a cake or stealing a rock, you would steal, steal, steal again.