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I can’t stand being punched in the kidneys. It’s the absolute worstest feeling there is. I mean, it’s not pain, it’s not like someone hit your hand with a hammer. That’s pain. Blunt trauma, stabby stabby stuff, I can usually roll with that. But getting punched in the kidneys, man, that’s just wrong. Your body starts to feel all queasy inside, and you get that funny taste in your mouth, like someone just popped open a bag of skunked mellow yellow inside your body and it’s spilling all over the place. Actually, that’s pretty much what a kidney is in the first place. A bag of mellow yellow.

I bring this up because a coworker at my last school had this really mean habit. For grins, he’d send me an instant message of the variety, “If you don’t say ‘I’m a little teapot’ in 30 seconds, I’m going to punch you in the kidney” or “Say the first 5 digits of pi or I’ll punch you in the kidney.” Now, I’m a pretty big nerd, and I can roll off pi to nine digits (which makes me normal at MIT, I guess) so in that instance, I wasn’t so bad off. Other times though, I’d actually be doing work or not paying attention and then, 30 seconds later, bam. Mellow Yellow.

I quickly learned to check all blinking lights with his name attached.

On many occasions, I was heard in the office blurting out, “I’m a little teapot,” as fast as I could. This might seem a little self-deprecating … and it is, but as far as things go, I’m generally pretty OK with myself as a dude. The way I see it, making a fool of yourself is a small price to pay for not getting punched in the kidneys.

Now, you could argue that it’s all a matter of principle. If you let some guy force you to say, “I’m a little teapot,” then he’s essentially holding your free will hostage. According to some circles of logic, every time I say, “I’m a little teapot,” the terrorists win a little bit and a bald eagle weeps for freedom.

Then I thought about it. If I wanted my coworker to stop being a jerk, I’d have to sit down with him and be all civil about it and say stuff like, “You shouldn’t be taking joy out of other people’s suffering.” Unfortunately, complaining only makes me a Grade A Passive Aggressive Pansy. Nobody wants to be that. Nobody even wants to be any combination of two words from that phrase. You aggressive pansy.

I resolved to do something about it. The next day, I sent him an instant message saying, “If you don’t say ‘I’m a little tea pot’ in 15 seconds, I’m going to punch you in the knee cap.” He looked at me calmly and said, “I’m a little teapot.”

“OK, that’s not fair,” I said. He just grinned. I sent him the message again. This time he didn’t say anything. I wheeled around and punched him in the knee cap.

Turns out that didn’t bother him as much as it should’ve.

He put a fat smirk on his face and pulled out his phone. “Do a jig in 15 seconds or I’ll kick you in the shins,” he said.

“What? No,” I replied, “You’ll just put a video of me dancing up on YouTube.”

I got my phone out and said, “You do a jig or else I’ll kick you in the shins … wait, how do you make your phone take videos again?”

Fifteen seconds elapsed, then we started kicking each other in the shins. That’s right, two grown adults in a biology lab, holding cell phones, trying to kick each other in the shins while sitting in office chairs. Someone should have put a video of that on YouTube.

We kicked back and forth for a few seconds.

“Wait,” I said, “you’re wearing shoes, that’s so not fair.”

He took off his shoes, game on.

Kick, kick, kick. Block, kick, block.

Finally he landed a mean shot on my right shin. I mean a really hard kick. I hopped around the office cursing. “That’s just not fair,” I screamed. “I hate being kicked in the shins!”

“Have you learned your lesson?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m a little teapot.”