When New York City copywriter Kelly Mahon started posting fake gig ads online as a creative outlet, she was surprised to find that there was someone interested in every bizarre job offer she dreamed up. Race Me in a Lobster Suit collects Mahon’s funniest posts, along with the improvised email exchanges with would-be cocoon knitters and lobster racers. Some correspondents became suspicious, while others seemed willing to play along. The result is good-natured comedy gold and a kind of collaborative entertainment that could only exist in the internet gig economy. Irreverent illustrations by cartoonist Graham Annable (creator of the Harvey Award nominated Grickle comics) ensure that this small book offers outsize laughs. A quick, hilarious read, Race Me in a Lobster Suit is perfect for anyone who needs a bit of absurdity to brighten their day.
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Introduction > Talking to Strangers
You see that girl standing at the counter in the AT&T store, sweating as she tries to explain to the guy activating her SIM card why she’s buying a burner phone? Yup...that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got there, and I’m gonna tell you, of course. But first I should probably explain how this whole thing started.
Several years and a few jobs ago, I was feeling creatively unfulfilled and decided I needed some sort of outlet for my weird ideas (because “Baby formula ads are not the time or place for characters with quirky fetishes, Kelly”). So one day I scribbled down a request for someone to dress up as a lobster and race me around my apartment and posted it as an online classified ad. I had no expectation of anything coming of it. But when people started responding to the ad, I realized I might have stumbled onto something. I kept posting newer, weirder ads, and people kept responding, and, well, here we are.
Race Me in a Lobster Suit is a collection of email conversations I had with strangers who responded to the fake ads I posted on the internet. In each case, you’ll see the original post and the full email exchange that resulted when someone replied and I tried to keep the conversation as lengthy and entertaining as possible. “Why do that, Kelly?” you might ask. Great question; I asked myself that same thing more than once along the way. Like the time I came up for air from my Google search about ways to perform an at-home exorcism.
“How do you think of this stuff?” is another question I was asked a lot as I worked on this book. Basically, I throw a ton of ideas at the wall and see what sticks. Sometimes nothing does. In fact, a lot of the conversations went nowhere, and sometimes it took reposting the same ad a number of times before I figured out where I would take the story once someone replied. More often than I’d anticipated, I got caught off guard because someone was so willing to do something I never thought they’d do. Posing nude with a deadly animal, for example, or chasing me through Midtown Manhattan in a tarantula costume...that sort of stuff.
In the process I encountered seriously funny strangers, and in my attempts to seem authentic I learned weird things. I know more about boa constrictor live births than I ever thought I would. And if you’re ever in the market for tranquilizer darts or bulk orders of fresh seaweed, I can point you in the right direction.
But it wasn’t all absurd email conversations and funny web searches. The toughest part of the project was coming clean to the strangers I’d been telling the wildest lies of my life to. When one of us finally hit a breaking point I’d confess, and I was always nervous what the reaction might be. I’m happy to say that most people were amused by the banter. However, some were...not amused. Those reactions ranged from silence to a mixed bag of “Go [fill in the blank]”s.
I’m not sure what your takeaway from this book will be, but I’ll share mine: people are funny. I can’t explain why some folks entertained the idea of my ads for so long. Maybe they wanted a good story, which is an attitude I can get behind any day. Maybe they were trolling me back. Or maybe we’re all just bored. Whatever the reason, I encourage you to talk to strangers. It’s very fun. And I’m not talking about the white van, “do you want some candy” types of strangers, OK? Don’t take my suggestion out of context. I’m talking about the strangers you meet online who are willing to come over and play dead for a fixed hourly rate. Those strangers rule.
Back to that day at the phone store: I’d recently been emailing back and forth with a guy about dressing him up like a doll and brushing his chest hair on the Great Lawn in Central Park (minor details) before confessing that I’d made the whole thing up and that I wanted to publish our conversation in a book. Before he gave me permission to do so, he insisted we speak on the phone. So to avoid sharing my real phone number, I ended up in another awkward exchange, this time with a very nosy AT&T sales guy. For the record, it didn’t work out with the doll guy, and you won’t find that conversation in this book.
But the same ad yielded another conversation with someone else, so look forward to reading “Tea Party” on page 157. (All the people in this book allowed me to publish their emails, but no real names have been used.)
In all seriousness, I sincerely appreciate you buying this book, especially if you’re not one of my mom’s friends. It’s not that I don’t appreciate all of my mom’s friends buying this book (because I do), it’s just that I don’t think they had a choice. Anyway, thank you for coming with me on this strange ride. I hope you laugh. And if you don’t, you can hire someone to tickle you until you do. I know a guy.
Gigs > Activity Partner Lobster Racing
Looking for individual to participate in biweekly lobster race. The way it works is, we set up an obstacle course around my apartment in Flatbush. The first lobster to cross the finish line wins. No worries if you don’t have your own lobster costume, I have a spare (size M/L). Beginners are welcome this month since I twisted my ankle, which has greatly impacted my agility.
Response from Cam
I can be lobster #1!!! Please reply with more information. Where? When? Prize???
ME > I’m happy to tell you more about the races. Typically, it is one opponent and myself; however I have, on occasion, had people ask to bring a friend. I have one extra lobster costume if you do not have one of your own or if it is at the dry cleaners, etc. It is a size M/L, but can be belted if it is too large...you don’t want the fabric to get in your way while you’re crawling around.
Before you come over, I will dress the apartment to simulate the ocean floor to make the race as realistic as possible.
Some people like to come over earlier to help me set up the course to “level the playing field.” Not a problem, just let me know. We can do one night this or next week, let me know your availabilities so I can get planning.
CAM > I can come tomorrow night, and will bring friend if that’s ok. Time/address/prize??
ME > Hey, I will need a little more notice so I can dress the apartment accordingly. Maybe we can plan for one night next week? I have to order all the seaweed and clams and stuff to spread all over. I also need to move my furniture into storage for the night. Your friend is more than welcome to join us as a spectator or as a competitor. The more, the merrier. Since I only have one spare costume, I ask that one of you dresses in a head-to-toe red jumpsuit to match the other racers as closely as possible. And I think I can get my hands on an extra pair of lobster lenses.
CAM > Of course that is completely reasonable. Can you do next Tuesday? If not, just tell me when. My friend will come to spectate only.
ME > Ok great, if your friend is going to spectate, she will still need a pair of lenses to see in the pitch-black darkness. Do either of you have any allergies to seaweed or kelp of any kind? There will be a ton of it everywhere. Monday night I will dress the apartment to look exactly like the ocean floor and Tuesday we will race.
CAM > No allergies. TUESDAY!
ME > Yeah! Now I just have to find a storage unit for the night and a neutral third party to come booby trap the apartment for us.
CAM > I will train to make for the best race.
ME > You should practice slow crawling and scooting backwards by curling and uncurling your abdomen. Did you know lobsters can run at 11 mph? They are so amazing. You can also practice hiding in small crevices, which I will also create in the apartment next Tuesday. If you have a cabinet under your kitchen or bathroom sink, that’s a good sized hole to try to squeeze into.
If I think of anything else you can do to prep I’ll let you know.
CAM > Thank you for your advice, that’s very honorable. This is my first lobster race, and I’m grateful to you for sharing your knowledge.
ME > Sometimes I tie my ankles together to really challenge myself. That’s how I got so good. But it’s also how I sprained my ankle.
CAM > :( So sorry to hear. When did you start racing, if you don’t mind my asking?
ME > Oh, I would say I’ve been doing it for about a year now.
CAM > WOW. Lol. A lot of experience, it should be good race.
ME > It should.
The following morning...
ME > Yup. So last night I was looking at the extra lobster costume and I realized it felt a little crusty. I guess the last person to use it was slipping and sliding around in some really wet seaweed, and the saltwater dried and left it stiff. Since my dry cleaner asked me to please stop bringing in my costumes because they “make his store smell like dead fish,” I decided to wear it around my apartment to break it in and make it easier to crawl and scuttle in. Well, I ended up banging into a book case and getting a nosebleed and there is some blood down the front of the costume (kind of a lot). I just wanted to warn you so you don’t get nervous. You guys probably wouldn’t have even noticed it since the costume is red, but I just wanted to assure you ahead of time that the blood is mine.
CAM > Can you send a picture of the costume? I might be able to remove the stain prior to the race.
ME > It really blends right into the deep red fabric, it’s just a little bit darker in this large spot. I already threw it in the bathtub to soak anyway. I just didn’t want you guys to get scared by the amount of blood though in case you did notice it. I’ve gotten nosebleeds before, but this was a really bad one.
ME > Ok, so I’m moving all of my stuff into storage tonight! The unit comes out to about $400 for the night, not sure if you wanted to split that two or three ways since your friend is just spectating. I’m cool with it either way. If you have Venmo, that would be the best way to send me your share. Then tomorrow morning, I’ll give the apartment its ocean floor makeover and we’ll be off to the races! Tomorrow night for sustenance, I was thinking sushi? Thoughts?
ME > Hey, the apartment looks incredible. I would think a lobster actually lived here if it wasn’t my own apartment. It even smells exactly like the ocean. I woke up extra early and made a pit stop at Fulton Street market this morning for some fish. Definitely adds an extra touch. When can I expect you guys?
ME > Hey, are you guys on your way?
CAM > Address?
ME > Hi. You emailed me so late, I fell asleep in my lobster costume waiting up for the race. I have to get rid of all of this seaweed and fish today because it stinks from sitting out since yesterday. I also have a voicemail from my landlord. One of my neighbors complained about the odor. He let me off with a warning. I also have to go pick up all my furniture by 1 pm.
This was a lot of hard work, but I am willing to reschedule. Anything for a good race.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kelly Mahon obviously has a high tolerance for awkward interactions. In her new book, Race Me in a Lobster Suit, she collects emails from her unique project that exposes how far people will go to make some quick money. Mahon put up classified ads with outrageous requests for paid services and some of the responses she received led to longer conversations and intense negotiations. The acts that are agreed upon are at times simultaneously hilarious and depressing. Some examples of requests include: participating in the titular race, acting as a fake fiancé, taking part in a nightmare reenactment, and dressing up snakes for a fashion show. Those who agreed to participate generally had an openness to adventure and a good sense of humor. As Mahon increases the absurdity of the details involved in the activities, her respondents eventually realize it must be a joke or just stop responding. What is truly amazing (and alarming) is how long some people keep believing in the ruse, and how little compensation they demand given the tasks assigned. Readers will enjoy this short collection of experiments, especially those who approach Race Me in a Lobster Suit with an appreciation for the nonsensical. Thanks to Quirk Books and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an objective review.
OMG!!!! This is a laugh out loud book. Just bought 4 more, great gift!!!!