jake peralta from brooklyn 99 looking upset with bird feathers flying around

Schemes! Schemes! Schemes!

When Dan and I watch Brooklyn 99 (which we do rather frequently), I am reminded each episode that I am a combination of Amy, Jake, and Hitchcock. For those who don’t know, Hitchcock is a pervert who sexually harasses everyone. Amy is a type-A uptight personality who seeks validation from superiors. And Jake, dear, sweet Jake, is a well-meaning goofball who is always getting everyone else in on his antics. Several episodes have cold-open scenes where Jake has come up with a scheme and everyone else has joined in. While there are some things that our irresponsible friend Jake does that I don’t love, this scheme-y side of him is something I can totally relate to.

I’ve always been a bit of a schemer. In fact, if “The Joker” by The Steve Miller Band was about me, it would probably have a line saying that “I’m a schemer…and a dreamer.” Now, when I say that I’m a schemer, I don’t mean that I necessarily had evil schemes. I just mean that I had some wild ideas, and it legitimately never occurred to me that they might not be good ideas or that people wouldn’t just go along with whatever hairbrained scheme that I came up with.

This schemey-ness was the most prevalent when I was young and uninhibited by things like reality. Young Renata didn’t struggle with things like fear of failure or embarrassment at the thought of no one else joining in on my schemes. Why wouldn’t someone want to join? It was bound to lead to a good time. You’d be surprised at what schemes can happen with a can-do attitude and a genuine belief that even if absolutely everything goes wrong, you’ll still have a great story to tell at the end of it. I firmly believe that, had I maintained this level of schemey-ness into adulthood, I would have legitimately become Jake Peralta.

As a child, I would often take media that I enjoyed and turn it into a game. I was a huge Sailor Moon fan, so I would get everyone to pretend to be sailor scouts. I loved to play with the “Sky Dancer” toys, so on the playground, we would all become sky dancers with magical powers. When I got into the PC game “Dogz,” I decided that we should all pretend to be dogs and run around and play. There was no limit to my playground imagination and the charisma that helped me get everyone playing with me. Damn, I really should’ve become a politician.

Speaking of politicians, I even decided in 5th grade (the same year that I literally wrote an entire Christmas play for our class, two years after I started my own pencil-fixing business, and the year before I decided to create a class newspaper) that we would have a class president and orchestrated a vote. My best friend won, of course, and I wrote a song to attribute to her presidency. I don’t really remember it, but it definitely started with the line:

Hail to the chief, to our 5th grade class president,
She picks her nose, but in history, she makes a dent!

For the record, the nose-picking was made up as a hyperbolic line about our age. I think it’s quite effective, thank you very much.

While I was undeniably schemey at school where I had a captive audience, I was also a schemer at home. One day after school, I convinced my friends that we needed to get on Radio Disney, so we spent our entire evening trying to call in just to get a few seconds of airtime. When we finally did get through, I hit them with my catchphrase of the moment, “Holy bananas and rice cakes! I’m going to be on the radio!” Calling in to radio stations was always one of my favorite schemes because it was such a gamble. Would we get through!? My friend Becky and I ended up going to see Karmin (you know, back when they were still called “Karmin”) in Atlantic City because I called into a radio station.

The problem is that, when I was little, I was just too darn cute to say no to. On one field trip, I convinced the parent chaperone to give me money to buy a souvenir by calculating the exact price with tip down to the penny. She was just so charmed, that she gladly forked over the money. Do I remember what that souvenir was? No clue, and it is probably buried in my room somewhere. But I got it. One Halloween, I dressed as the Cat in the Hat and I wrote a rap for my friends and I to do when we approached each house. You can bet that we net a lot of candy that year. Damn straight, I was cute, and I knew how to use that cuteness. I was deadly.

Throughout my entire life, I also roped my friends into creating several wacky bits on cassette tape and video. Hours upon hours were spent doing fake news broadcasts, recording music videos, and making comedic commercials. If there was a funny concept I came up with, I built a script around it and we were rolling! Whether it was a weather broadcast where the snowy mountain (i.e. bean bag chair covered with a sheet) ended up on top of a frazzled weather person, a lip sync to Glad You Came, or a marshmallow commercial about marshmallows filled with non-ingestible ingredients, if the idea spoke to me, we were making it a reality.

My uninhibited creativity led to some fun antics and even cooler projects. I have an entire binder filled with chapters from a book called And Doughnuts about me and my friend as doughnut-obsessed weirdos having various adventures. There was even a narrator who was constantly exasperated with their antics. As you can see, I always needed a co-conspirator for my fun. It’s just no fun making weird crap without a buddy!

Nowadays, my schemey-ness often has to do with my FOMO. Since I don’t want to miss out on cool, once-in-a-lifetime adventures, I make them happen one way or another. From staying up partying all night in Spain, to waiting outside the Disney store every morning for a week to get a special key, to going to weekly local Survivor watch parties hosted by a current contestant, to taking weird pictures with statues of the founding fathers, if I sniff out a cool opportunity, we were doing it. End of story.

As it turns out, charisma can get you anywhere (and as all of you know, enthusiasm is my brand). It can make everyone pile onto your schemes or even have everyone using the “clever” nickname for your coworker you came up with (no, I will not apologize for calling someone with the last name “Easterday” “Sunday”). Being energetic tends to rope people in, and an optimistic attitude makes them feel like the silly scheme will work, even if it seems far-fetched. I’ve always loved scheming with my friends and am happy to keep making up schemes to get us into weird new restaurants or try all of the escape rooms in the tri-state area. Every friend group needs a schemer!

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