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I Acted Like a Dickhead for a Week and It Did Me a World Of Good

It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I did end up with a fridge full of beer.

by Michael Buchinger
09 August 2016, 10:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany

I'm a very, very nice guy. That's just the way I am. Have you ever offered people behind you in the queue at the supermarket your place in line because you could see they were having a stressful day and needed to get home ASAP to spend some quality time with their bucket of Häagen-Dazs? I have. Whenever I sneeze, I make sure I tell everyone around me that I'm sorry – because I really am. I once ran into a lamp pole and promptly apologised.

A friend recently told me that I could be an arsehole if I wanted to – and that people would still like me. This friend was right, in a sense. I definitely have plenty of very good friends that I would describe as "arseholes" and I don't see how I could be worse than them, if I tried. Real, honest-to-god tossers. Like Magdalena – a friend of mine who likes to label everything I do for work as my "crazy hobby!" When I told her recently that I had sold my manuscript to a publisher, she said: "Wow, these days, anything is possible!"

That's literally what she said. What a dickhead. Nevertheless, I still like her a lot.

But what is it exactly, that makes someone a dickhead? I did a little Twitter survey to crowdsource a precise definition. The answers I received ranged from "standing on the left side of an escalator," to racism, sexism and then back to "eating a smelly sandwich on the tube." All examples had one thing in common: They related to the public sphere. An arsehole does what he or she wants to do, with no consideration for other people.

Could I – someone who enthusiastically greets Siri before asking her anything and thanking her when I'm done with her – be a dickhead for a whole week? What would it do to my everyday routine and my friendships? Would I end up liking it? I decided to find out.

DAY 1

I don't want to go cold turkey on being a nice guy, so I spend the first day of my experiment primarily on being a passive arsehole. I just don't do the nice things I'd normally do. I don't hold any doors open for anyone, I don't greet the shop clerk when I come in and I don't tip at my local ice-cream shop. That would be perfectly normal behaviour for many, but I feel horrible and I hope my reign of terror isn't paid forward by the people I don't greet or tip.

A friend of mine texts to say that she hopes I didn't forget to water her plants while she is on holiday. I actually did forget, which is pretty nasty thing to do. In my defence, I've been playing a lot of Pokémon Go recently. "Yep, watered them all!" I text back.

I've agreed to meet up with other friends later that evening to watch TV, but I decide not to show up. Because that's what arseholes do, but also because I'm afraid that when TV night is over my friends might suggest playing a round of Scrabble. I hate Scrabble – the only word I ever care to spell out is "HELP".

After three ignored calls and five texts from my friends I write back: "Not coming." My friends aren't mad but let me know that I just missed an "epic triple word score". I realise that there could be a lot or merit in being a dickhead.

DAY 2

Today, I'm ready to go all-out. I decide to try to find a waiter to be unfriendly to for no reason, which to me is a terrible thing to do. I'm sure people who work in the service industry have to deal with enough tossers all the time - it's just that tosser is never me. Even when the food or the service are bad, I'll still be very civil and leave a 20 percent tip – I just really don't want to be that guy shovelling more shit on a waiter's plate.

But not today! I avoid eye contact from the moment I enter the place to the moment I leave. I keep my 'pleases' and 'thank yous' to myself and frown through the entire order. It's hard, but when I imagine this person being an arsehole themselves – like, he's the one guy responsible for the unsatisfying ending of the seventh season of Gilmore Girls – it gets a little easier.

I really didn't know what I expected but it certainly wasn't this: As I make a move to leave, the garçon very politely wishes me a nice day, although I've left no tip whatsoever. I feel terrible. Treating someone who's nice to me badly is the worst. When I get home, I resist the urge to find this guy on Facebook and send him a message like "To the world you may be someone but to me you are the world!" I play some more Pokémon Go instead.

DAY 3

I run into Magdalena – the dickhead I mentioned earlier – on the way to the supermarket. She's the kind of person who likes to tell me we should definitely do something fun together again at some point – completely ignoring the fact that we hardly ever do something fun together. I like her, but she does do this thing where she says something mean and then when I look hurt, bursts out laughing saying that she's just joking. That just isn't very fun.

Magdalena and I give each other a quick update on our lives, and then she says we should totally have a drink together soon – which is undoubtedly another way for her to rain down insults on me. Not today, lady. "I don't want to do that," I say, a little out of breath and afraid for her reaction. "Well," she says, a little taken aback, "I guess we won't, then." The silence that ensues is so suffocating and uncomfortable that I feel I have to say something. What subsequently comes out of my mouth is "I have to buy potatoes," and I flee into the supermarket like the arsehole I am now. Officially.

DAY 4

I embark on a three-hour train ride because I've been invited to a two-day beer tasting event in another part of the country. It's common knowledge that trains are where all the arseholes of planet Earth convene, so this is the perfect opportunity to watch, learn and develop my new disposition.

I immediately strike gold. There's a family with four children in my car, and every time our train goes through a tunnel, the kids scream so loudly that it's as if we're passing through a portal to the underworld. Normally I wouldn't say anything – I've been known to lose my cool in the dark myself – but not this week.

Every time the children scream, I harrumph or say something about the children under my breath. I'm doing this while reading a newspaper, and I lick my finger each time I turn the page for effect. They completely ignore me. It's ice cold, really.

Then the father of the kids tries to calm them down by saying: "Don't worry, that was the last tunnel." I know this route well, and I know this father is lying to his children. "I'm sorry to have to say this," I tell him, "but you're mistaken. There are a lot more tunnels ahead." This man isn't happy with me, I can tell from the look in his eyes. He looks at me like I just told his children that Father Christmas raped a reindeer. The children start to cry desperately – even louder than they did earlier. I didn't do it on purpose, but it happened. I entered the train as a half-decent man – I leave it as a complete tosser.

DAY 5

At the beer tasting event everybody is so nice that being unfriendly doesn't come easy. And yet, I try. Even though I'm told several times that it is not necessary to finish every glass of beer we're tasting, I drink every last drop, which in these circumstances seems to be the worst thing I can do.

At the end of the event we're told that we're welcome to take home as many bottles of beer as we want. This is not a wise thing to tell me this week. Being the greedy arsehole that I am, I walk around grabbing all the beer I can carry: craft lagers, stouts, IPAs – everything ends up in my backpack. I consider hiring a servant to bring my bounty back to my hotel room for me – only real arseholes hire servants to carry their shit for them, but I'm not ready to go that far yet.



DAY 6

By now, I feel I'm really starting to internalise my inconsiderate behaviour. On the train ride home I feel like eating a blue cheese sandwich and wash it down with beer so I do exactly that. This results in a wildly loud and pungent burp. While the other passengers don't say anything, their looks are hard to interpret any other way than that they hope I choke on my gorgonzola.

That evening, I go to a friend's birthday party and don't consider bringing a present. I don't even bring any alcohol for the party, although my fridge currently looks like it could belong to a Guinness.

I think I'm being really nice when I make smalltalk with the other guests but that may have something to do with he fact that I've been drinking since 11AM. I find myself wanting to put on a Tina Turner playlist instead of the house music that has been blaring for hours. It's a dick move, but so is putting on those terrible beats for hours on end. When "Simply the Best" comes on – the best exit song ever – I leave the party, thoroughly drunk, at 1AM. I don't say goodbye to anyone and grab a beer from the fridge on my way to the door. This isn't part of the asshole project by the way, it's just the way I am when I drink.

DAY 7

I wake up with a headache and I feel pretty bad, which comes from drinking for 14 hours straight and acting like an arsehole for a week. I know, I know. Despite my efforts, I've been a relatively agreeable human being. If I remember correctly I didn't spend any time this week standing on the left side of an escalator. I did eat a smelly sandwich on public transport but I wasn't particularly racist or sexist. Nevertheless, I've been very uncomfortable and I feel I need to make up for the nastiness I temporarily brought into the world. I start by getting my hangover breakfast at the same restaurant where I had been unfriendly to the waiter earlier in the week. This time, I'm an absolute darling.

I can't ignore that while I may have been uncomfortable this week, it has also done me a lot of good: I successfully dodged a game of Scrabble, I got out of having to get a drink with someone who's always mean to me and I was rewarded with a fridge filled with beer. I get it. I get the appeal of being an arsehole. But I'll never live my life that way. I like giving tips, apologising when I sneeze and I like giving up my seat on the bus to anyone who looks a day over 35. I like being nice to people and I will keep doing that. Unless I'm drunk, of course. That's a different story.

More on VICE:

I Said 'Yes' to Everything for a Week and Ended Up in Hospital

I Tried to Live Like Gwyneth Paltrow For a Week

I Lived in a London Hostel for a Week to See If it Could Be the Cure to My Rising Rent

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