Back in college I used to get together with buddies from time to time to play cards and such. One night we were all sitting around a table getting our card game on when one of my friends let loose a sudden and enormous sneeze. The rest of us passed over it after the obligatory “Bless You’s” and jokes about naming that hurricane but you could tell the guy wasn’t entirely comfortable after that. He tried to be sly about it but he kept looking at himself, wiping his shirt, subtly checking his sleeves, and such. He was the victim of the dreaded Stealth Booger.
The Stealth Booger, for those who don’t know, happens when you sneeze and you know something came out, but you can’t find it. It’s an epic disaster on a date, of course. Among friends it’s not quite so bad, but it’s still a precarious situation. I mean, we were good guys. If the thing was sitting there on the front of his shirt somebody would have tactfully pointed it out. But in the absence of visual evidence you can’t very well have the whole table playing Hunt the Booger. Nor can you sit there and do it yourself without being totally obvious. It’s not like everybody’s going to sit there looking at the ceiling and talking about the weather while you’re on your own, private snot safari. So after you’ve exhausted all potential destinations, which usually includes six checks of your shirt and ninety-five surreptitious glances at your own crotch, you start to play mind games with yourself. Maybe it was just the force of the sneeze that you felt. Maybe nothing really came out. Everything’s fine. You’re going to look idiotic and call even more attention to yourself if you keep searching. So you force yourself to concentrate on other things, forgetting the incident entirely.
Beware, friends, for now the Stealth Booger has you exactly where it wants you. And it will strike.
So…fast forward a couple minutes and cute co-ed girl walks into the room to chat and see what’s going on. Being an inveterate womanizer (and now thoroughly convinced that he is completely booger-free) Mr. Smooth starts chatting up said co-ed. In the process, half thinking and half chatting, he picks up one of the Cheetos from the little plate in front of him. As he makes some no-doubt witty bon mot he holds the Cheeto halfway between the plate and his mouth, thankfully shielded from the girl but in full view of the rest of us. Yes, folks, we have located the Stealth Booger. And the orange powder background only highlights the messy horror.
Half the table didn’t notice, but the sudden, uncomfortable silence that descended upon two or three of us indicated that our booger radars were intact. We could have attempted to do something about it. But stop and think for a minute: what’s the proper etiquette in that situation? You can’t very well interrupt the banter with Ms. Hotness by saying, “Uh, dude? Booger on your Cheeto there.” Nor would a whisper suffice. The horrified facial reaction following would have no doubt made the poor girl think that something was seriously wrong, like a social disease or silent, uncontrollable flatulence. There’s no way he could have explained the truth later either. I suppose one of us could have attempted to grab the offending Cheeto, but that would be just as socially uncomfortable and probably would have led to a public scuffle before it could have been explained privately. Besides, the only place to grab would have been the boogery end. As I said, we were friends, but not that good of friends. Grabbing another man’s snot to save his chick chat? Nobody was going to fall on that grenade.
So those of us who noticed sat and watched in stunned horror as the conversation wound down. Finally, to our immense relief, the cute co-ed bid farewell and left. But before anybody could get out as much as an “Uh, dude?” …you guessed it. He popped that Cheeto right in his mouth. The expression on his face as his mind slowly processed the reason for the relative stickiness of his snack was…I don’t know…indescribable. He spit the thing out in a shower of orange paste. At that point the whole table let loose, half of us in uncomprehending shock and the other half in no-longer containable laughter. Those who hadn’t been in on what happened were soon informed. I don’t think anyone there will forget that night. I’m not sure Mr. Smooth ever had quite the same standing in our circle again. I am sure we never saw him try to talk with the girls without us snickering. We only half hid it too.
Here’s the point of all this: I’ve seen bad. I’ve been in the same room with bad. I’ve watched bad while it’s happened. I know what bad looks like. When you post here, it’s not supposed to be bad. It’s supposed to be good, both in content and good for the site.
We have conversational guidelines but no list of rules could cover every contingency. There’s plenty of wiggle room in there to create bad content without technically violating them. So just to be clear I thought I’d inform you of another, overarching principle which explains the spirit of the law just as the rules illuminate the letter:
If your posting sucks worse than snot-covered Cheetos, you have to go.
Some will ask, “Who arbitrates this Snot-Covered Cheeto Principle and what’s bad enough to fall afoul of it?” Generally I do. I have pretty wide boundaries, especially if all we’re talking about is content quality. We’ll not become an elitist clique. However stirring up crap is a time-honored trolling technique and it’s one I’m not fond of. Intent usually becomes clear within a few comment responses. At that point if you get banned or the conversation ends you’ll know why. SCCP, baby.
I don't want to make this longer or deviate too far from the story, so see the first comment below to learn how you can best help.