My friends are big jerks.  To borrow a line from Steel Magnolias, they are pigs from hell.  They know that I harbor some strange, yet deep-rooted fears and they routinely use special occasions to exploit those fears and taunt me.  Take, for example, my 42nd birthday, which occurred yesterday.  The day was off to wonderful start until I received a call on the WBKR studio lines just before 7am.  It was my friend Mark Schell, asking me to come to the door and let him into the studio.  Ah, yes!  I was receiving my first birthday gift of the day and I was excited.  Little did I know Mark was delivering the Birthday Box of Terror.

The calm before the storm . . .

Yes.  With its decorative, yet disgusting bow made from packets of mustard (otherwise known as Satan's condiment), the package was already sending out a loud, Emergency Broadcast System alert tone to warn me of the dangers lurking inside.  And, by danger, I mean this . . .

Soil britches and insert expletives here!

I would like you to know that this delightful little "ornament" encourages you to touch it inappropriately by squeezing its belly.  When you do, its eyes flash red and it laughs maniacally like Pennywise.  Yes, people!  This little instrument of evil . . . this little doll that would make a Vatican priest coil in horror . . . was just one of the delightful presents stuffed inside my Birthday Box of Terror.

But, don't for a second think he was alone.  NO!  Couldn't be that lucky.  He brought this disturbing friend, who I am pretty sure resides on one of the levels of Dante's Hell.

As you can see, the attached note suggests that I display this photograph on my office desk.  Yeah!  Good idea.  Then I'll check myself into a psychiatric hospital and find a nice corner to rock back and forth in.

But, my friends (and I am using that term loosely) Mark, Susan and their evil spawn Jonah, decided to throw some more instruments of anguish into the box.  Look at this abomination!

Excuse me while I bite off my own lips and tongue

Yep!  That's mustard.  A giant bottle of French's mustard with a "Shut up and kiss me!" note attached.  Okay, let me lay this out.  There are only a handful of foods that I will not consume.  That list is headed by the top three:  cottage cheese, deviled eggs and mustard, which is, as I have proclaimed before, Satan's condiment.  I can't stand it.  The smell of it makes me dry heave and I think it looks like the inside of a baby's Pamper.  If given the choice between eating my own toenails or mustard, I am gonna get a bib, a Yoga video and take off my sock.  Not kidding!

And narrowly missing the list of abominable foods are these little creatures from the sea...

Gag reflex? Check!

Sardines are gnarly.  They will give you the funk breath for days.  There is not enough Scope or Listerine in the world to wash the smell of minnows out of your mouth.  And that's basically what a sardine is.  It's a minnow.  You could put one on a hook, cast it to the ocean and catch a marlin.  I am pretty sure I have a different food pyramid than a swordfish, okay?  And I am certainly not going to eat a sardine soaked in mustard sauce.  Why don't you just go ahead and waterboard me?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my friends are evil.  Instead of delivering me a dozen tasty treats from The Cup Cakery like Jaclyn and Roxianne did . . .

Now THAT'S what friends are for!

And notice how Jac and Rox used markers to etch a helpful flavor guide on the inside panel of their box?  These are REAL friends.  But the Schells?  They decided to torment me on my 42nd special occasion.  The tormented me with clowns, mustard and minnows.  They delivered unto me the Birthday Box of Terror!