Stupid and Contagious


By Caprice Crane

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In this hilarious, romantic comedy, two twenty-something neighbors embark on a zany mission to meet the founder of Starbucks, and in doing so, find each other.


This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are products of the author's imagination and any resemblance to events or to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental. Although some celebrities' names are mentioned, they are all used fictitiously.

Copyright © 2006 by Caprice Crane

All rights reserved.

5 Spot

Warner Books

Hachette Book Group

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New York, NY 1017

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5 Spot and the 5 Spot logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group.

First eBook Edition: May 2006

ISBN: 978-0-446-55104-5


" STUPID AND CONTAGIOUS is anything but stupid and completely contagious. Infectious, riotous, and hip beyond belief, it's a great read."

—Isabel Rose, author of The J.A.P. Chronicles

"A witty romantic comedy debut."

Kirkus Reviews

" Smart and feisty! Milk-snorting funny and playfully intriguing! Love it!"

— Karen Salmansohn, author of How to Be Happy, Dammit

" Insanely funny and outrageous, STUPID AND CONTAGIOUS effortlessly captures the glorious awkwardness of becoming who you are, finding that special someone who drives you crazy, and ultimately following your dreams wherever they may take you."

—Erica Kennedy, author of Bling

" Caprice Crane rocks! This is the best book I've read in a long, long time. Sharp, original, and wickedly funny, this is a must-read. I absolutely loved it."

— Johanna Edwards, bestselling author of The Next Big Thing and Your Big Break

" Caprice Crane's writing is so cool I feel like the geek girl stalking her locker, trying to slide a mix CD through the slats before she spots me. STUPID AND CONTAGIOUS is hilarious and insightful. A book with its own soundtrack, this is one not to miss."

—Pamela Ribon, author of Why Girls Are Weird

" Caprice Crane brings her respect for music and all of its universal sentiment into her stylish, page-turning, sharp-tongued debut novel."

— Liza Palmer, author of Conversations with the Fat Girl

For my beautiful mother, Tina Louise, the eternal optimist . . . whose outer beauty is eclipsed only by her exquisite inner . . . who's been my biggest fan and cheerleader for my entire life. Your belief in me and unconditional support have inspired me, kept me going, and taught me faith. I love you with all of my heart.


Mom (Tina Louise), Dad (Les Crane), Stepmom (Ginger Crane), Grandma (Betty Yaeger), my dogs (Chelsea and Max), Jennie Abrams-Trager, Walter Afanasieff, Jeremy Armstrong, Jenny Bent, Cristina Brascia, Danielle Brisebois, Allison Burnett, Stephen Cabot, Adam Carl, Michelle Chydzik, Dahlia Cohen, Alex Coletti, Robert Cort, Jim Cotter, Tajma Davis, Denise Diforio, Steve Dirado, Amy Einhorn, Endeavor Agency, Ellen and Irwin Frankel, Glen E. Friedman, Jonathan Fuhrman, Gillian Garrett, D. B. Gilles, Jeff Goodman, Emily Griffin, Gary Helsinger, Kevin Hershey, Andy Kaplan, Devon Kellgren, Scarlett Lacey, Erik Lautier, Adam Levine, Brian Lipson, Melissa Lipton, David List, K. E. Macey, Nez Mandel, Nathalie Marciano, Cade McNown, Tracey Mikolas, Jill Morris, John Nutcher, Brigid Pearson, Dizzy Reed, Joel Rice, Kevin Roentgen, Amanda Rouse, Penina Sacks, James Schiff, Lisa Singer, Lou Stalsworth, Jason Steinberg, Makyla Stone, Sky Stone, Sarah Tomkins, Trident Media, Robert Trujillo, David Vanker, David Veloz, Joe Vernon, Amanda Voelker, Fran Warner, Warner Books, Elly Weisenberg, Andrea Wells (my third-grade teacher), and Harley Zinker

" This song explains why I'm leaving home to become a stewardess."


Anita Miller, Almost Famous



" Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand."


Luke, Cool Hand Luke


My name is Heaven Albright and my husband of two years is cheating on me. I'm only twenty-five and you can argue that getting married at twenty-three is young, but I'll argue right back that people marry out of college and even high school, so considering that, it's not so young. Anyway, young or not . . . the bastard is cheating on me. After I gave him the best years of my life.

He's cheating on me with someone he works with. A girl from his office who he didn't even think was cute at first, but after months of working long hours together and cultivating inside jokes, and commiserating over bad cafeteria food . . . they're bumping uglies. It sickens me to even think about it. He'd always be so happy when he came home late from work, and you'd think I would have caught on because nobody's happy when they have to stay late at work. But I thought he just really enjoyed his job. Or maybe he was pissed off, but the minute he walked through the door and saw me, his bride of two years whom he loved and adored, all the day's annoyances would disappear. Poof.

But no. He would come home all smiles because he'd just gotten his rocks off with some little skank who probably wore twinsets and laughed like a hyena at their stupid inside jokes. I hate twinsets, with their matching fabric and color coordination and phony reserve. It's a known fact that twinsets are one of the most easily removed garments there is. Her name is probably Megan or Jessie, and she's probably a couple years younger than me. She's like me two years ago, but in a twinset. He's re-creating me even before I've had a chance to become the tired, old, sexually reluctant "ball and chain." I resent that. I'm not old.

Marriage sucks. People who tell you that you stop having sex after you get married are right. You just don't have it anymore. It's not like you say your I-dos and immediately stop. It takes a little time. Of course there's the honeymoon, and the first few months of playing horny housewife and helpful handyman, or slave girl and surprisingly warmhearted barbarian, or Winnie the Pooh and the Magical Honeypot. But after a while you stop shaving your legs, and he stops noticing, and it seems more practical to try to get a good night's sleep.


My name is Brady Gilbert, and I hate the window seat. Airplanes in general are a pain in the ass, and when I clearly stipulate that I want to sit on the aisle, a window seat is a personal affront that my secretary will be hearing about. If I had a secretary.

I'll just sit here and will nobody to sit in the aisle seat. That way I'll not only have the aisle seat, but I'll be able to achieve that almost-but-not-quite-comfortable sleeping position that inevitably ends up with a dead arm, stiff legs, and dried drool at the outer corner of my mouth. In front of complete strangers, no less.

Don't get me wrong . . . sure, it's nice to look out a window. But at what price? Do I want to have to ask permission every time I need to take a piss? It's like needing a hall pass in school, but worse. These are strangers. And when I got a hall pass, I didn't inconvenience anyone. But to go to the bathroom on an airplane, I have to make awkward small talk and offer the obligatory apologetic shrug to a guy who's been hogging my armrest. Then he gets up just enough to let me squeeze by. He'll sigh as he gets up, not trying to make me feel guilty per se, but more like "Oh, these old bones of mine," which is crap unless he's over eighty. And he's not, he's just annoyed.

Then to add insult to injury, as I maneuver out of the "now more room than ever before" four inches of space, I hold on to the tacky fabric headrest of the seat in front of me and get a glance from that person, too. I'm making enemies left and right. Flight attendants hate me, too. Me and my devil-may-care bladder. Then when I come back, I have to do the dance all over again. Heaven help me if it's a three-seater with a middle seat. Not to mention the etiquette question of which way to pass my neighbors—crotch first or ass first?

I hate the window seat. So I wait, and I will. People are still boarding, but so far, so good. I've spotted the token hot chick that's way out of my league anywhere but in my overactive imagination. This is going to be a long flight. There is always that one hot chick, no matter where you're going, domestic or international, and never in the seat next to you. Or me.

Well, this flight's no different. In walks our token goddess of flight, and I shift all my willpower to connect her ass with the seat next to mine. Nothin'. But she smiled at me, or at least I think she did. Maybe she was smiling at the flight attendant who'd just given her an extra blanket. Just because.


If it sounds like I'm okay with my husband cheating on me, it's because I've worked hard at it. And not in the way that you might think. You see, I'm not actually married. And nobody is cheating on me. I'm engaged. I'm getting married in eighteen months. I do these little mental exercises every now and then to prepare myself for anything that might come up in life.

Unfortunately, you caught me when I was smack-dab in the middle of one, so we sort of got off on the wrong foot. I'm still me, and everything I told you up until the married-with-the-cheating-husband bit was true. Just not that part. I guess that's where we started, so you really don't know me at all. But you have to admit, I was handling it fairly well. Which I think I can attribute to my exercises. Had I never done this and found myself in the position of having a cheating husband, I don't know how I would deal. Luckily, I am now prepared.

So let's start over. I'm still Heaven Albright, still twenty-five years old. I'm five foot six and I weigh about one hundred thirty pounds. One twenty-five. One twenty-five on a good day. One thirty if I'm PMS-ing. One thirty if I'm depressed or indulging a little too much in things like wine or pizza or raw cookie dough. One thirty most of the time. I have medium-length dirty blond/light brown hair. It's that store-bought highlight thing. Kind of rootsy and tricolored, but not in a punk rock kind of way. Or like pasta, for that matter. Okay, sometimes I may top out at one thirty-five. And five feet five inches if you wanna get technical.

I've always thought I had somewhat chubby cheeks, but I think I finally see some cheekbones coming through. And not by sucking in my cheeks when I look in the mirror. I never quite got that whole thing. Whenever I'm washing my hands in a public bathroom, nine times out of ten, the woman next to me sucks her cheeks in when she looks in the mirror. What are these women doing? Trying to look thin? Like a fish? Like Zoolander? If they're not going to keep that face on when they leave the bathroom, what exactly does the exercise gain them? If it's just for fun, then, hey, I'm all for it.

When I say marriage sucks, I don't mean it sucks, so much as I don't really know if it sucks or doesn't. I've heard good and bad. My feelings about marriage are mixed, or should I say mixed-up. My parents were split before I even knew what a split was. So, while I'm speaking with authority, I have no experience with marriage or married parents, to say nothing of marital bliss.

My first memory of the male/female dynamic would be enough exposure to hold me through several years of high school.

When I was about eight years old, Pete, my neighbor from down the street, used to lurk outside my house for hours on end. Sometimes I'd come out and play. Sometimes not. He was relentless in his pursuits, and with me . . . persistence often pays off.

One day, when I was picking flowers from my neighbor's garden to make a bouquet for my mom, Pete followed me for half an hour without saying a single word. And I ignored him.

When I started to go back to my house, he finally spoke up and asked what I was doing later. I told him I was going out to dinner with my dad. He asked if he could come. I said okay.

On our way to Santo Pietro's we were in the backseat of my dad's Camaro. My dad's girlfriend, Sandra, was in the front seat with her long blond hair and overgrown, feathered bangs, and all I could think about was the twisty garlic knots that we'd have at the restaurant. I didn't see my dad very often. I think it'd be safe to say the garlic knots were more familiar to me than my dad.

So there we were . . . me, dreaming of bread, Pete trying to get my attention. And the whole car ride I was trying to touch my tongue to my nose.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," he said. I shrugged and stuck my tongue out at him.

"You don't want to?" he asked.

"I just showed you!" I said, sticking it out again, this time bulging my eyes out at the same time.

"Not that," he said. And then he looked down and yanked at his zipper.

"I don't think so," I replied, wondering how much longer to Santo Pietro's.

"I'll show you mine anyway?" he offered.

"Okay," I said, looking out the window, watching my dad navigate the twists and turns of the canyon.

Without a second thought, Pete unzipped his fly and pulled out his johnson, not even bothering to unbutton the top button. He just pulled it through. It was thin. It looked like a misplaced pinkie.

But more important, my tongue was now only a teensy weensy bit away from my nose. I gave it one last try, curling it upward, stretching it, reaching . . .

Then BOOM. From up front, a thunderclap shook the car in the form of my dad yelling. I don't remember what he said as he caught Pete in the rearview mirror, his penis on casual display as though it were a Peking duck hanging in the window of a Chinese restaurant, but I know the sheer force of it practically blasted me out of my seat. To this day, the mere sight of a penis makes my ears hurt a little.

My dad turned the car around immediately and took Pete home, and then he took me home. No garlic knots. I was devastated.


And then he comes. The jerk-off that is about to claim the seat next to mine. My aisle seat. No chance of there being two beautiful women on this plane. Not with my luck. Luck being a relative term, because lately I haven't had any. I'm the Siegfried and Roy of luck. Not in the smash-hit-show-on-the-Strip-for-fifteen-years-running sense, but rather in the this-thing-that-supposedly-loved-me-is-dragging-me-around-by-my-jugular-like-a-rag-doll-and-fighting-off-efforts-by-stagehands-to-rescue-me sense.

I look in the mirror and I know I'm not in the top 1 percent. But definitely top 10 percent. Or maybe 20. Certainly no worse than 30. Anyway, I clean up nice. I'm a good enough height that I don't automatically get ruled out for dates on that alone. In some cases, it may have even been the only attraction, which is not to say I'm super tall—luckily, I'm just tall enough. It's like that sign in front of the dangerous rides at the amusement park: You must be this tall to get on this girl.

Some girl once told me that I have a cute smile. But there was a time immediately after the Rolling Stones' Tattoo You came out when I thought it could have been made better with the addition of a diamond in my front tooth, à la Mick Jagger.

I have what has clinically been described as "dating disorder," characterized by a series of medium- to long-term relationships, suffering from sore tempers, abraded vocal cords, and the occasional fractured heart.

First there's Sarah, a particularly severe case. But we'll get to her later. She was only the most recent in a series of troubling episodes.

My mom says it's temporary, but looking at her and my dad, I sometimes think my romantic problems are congenital. Their idea of a good time is finding the thousand ways they can spend entire evenings in separate rooms without saying a single word to each other—though the house I grew up in had exactly five rooms spread across 1,400 square feet. My dad says it's because I haven't met the right girl yet, but sometimes I think maybe I've met her five times already but ended up staring at her friend all night and asking her out, the one who would eventually steal eighty dollars out of my wallet to pay for a bikini wax, which I never got to see.

It's not all my fault, though. I've had a substantial selection of the crazy and the cruel. There was Jill Perczyk, who broke up with me on New Year's Day and then called me three weeks later to ask how much the DVD player I bought her for Christmas was, because she couldn't determine a fair price to ask on Craigslist.

There was Courtney Goodkin, who scolded me good-naturedly about paying more attention to my dog than I paid to her, then revealed her true nature by leaving a twenty-four-ounce bar of dark baking chocolate in her purse by my dog's bed one night—a gift he eagerly consumed. A sleepless thirty hours and five hundred dollars in vet bills later, Courtney was but a bittersweet memory.

And then there was Wendy Richtor, whose name couldn't have been more fitting. If a devastating earthquake measures an eight on the Richter scale, the Wendy earthquake of '92 registered a twelve. She was beautiful. She had long, wavy strawberry-blond hair and milky-white skin. Her long, willowy arms were like stretched-out vanilla taffy, and to be lost in them was better than any sugar high I'd ever experienced.

I met her at a Pearl Jam concert, which made me feel like it was destiny. I loved Pearl Jam and she loved Pearl Jam, and I loved her and she loved me. It was perfect. Like Eddie Vedder brought us together. Eddie sang the words I wished I could tell the girl I thought I'd never meet. And there she was . . . singing along to every word. And it's not that Pearl Jam was any more amazing than anyone else. I think we just liked who we were when they were who they were. If I could stop time at my last moment of purity and innocence, it would be right then.

Wendy warmed my heart, earned my trust, touched my soul, and then touched me in a lot of other places. And right after we'd slept together for the very first time she looked up at me with her chocolate-brown, trustworthy doe eyes and said, "I've got herpes. I thought you should know."

"I guess this is me," the interloper says, and I nod as he sits himself down and gets situated. "I'm Marc."

"Brady." We shake hands. His hands look like oversize pancakes. Did I mention I also hate germs?

Now I want to wash my hands. I'm not obsessive-compulsive, and I don't mean to come off sounding like a wuss, but there's like zero air pressure in here, and the air is all recycled. It's basically a germ factory, and I can't afford to be sick when I get home. Not because I have anything important going on. In fact, that's just it. Nothing's going on, and I've got to get some things going on. God, I want to wash my hands. We haven't even backed away from the gate, and already the bathroom thing is coming into play. I'll just suck it up and wait.


I'm not a list-maker. I'm not overly organized. I'm not what some people would call "anal retentive." And I'm definitely not the kind of person who makes air quotes when she says "anal retentive." That said, I've made two lists in my life that give a little insight into who I am. Not much, but a little.

One list is the "People I Hate" list. The other is the "People Who Are Not Invited to My Funeral" list. I used to update and revise the "People I Hate" list regularly, but truth be told, it hasn't been updated in years. It's been so long I don't even know where it is or who was on it. Except for G. E. Smith. I know he was definitely on it. So I can safely say it hasn't been updated since G. E. Smith was part of the Saturday Night Live band. I don't know him personally, in case you were wondering. I just always hated the way he mugged at the camera like a skeleton in heat.

The whole funeral thing isn't as morbid as it sounds. I don't have a disease or a death wish. In fact, I plan on living a very long life. It's just that in the event some freak accident happens, I want to be prepared. And I want to make sure certain people don't show up and pretend they were my friends and act all sad and so forth. I have to assume I'll have a bird's-eye view of the whole thing, and watching people I dislike feigning sadness at their loss would just bug the hell out of me. I want to be able to enjoy my own funeral. I think I deserve at least that.

Life doesn't always work out the way you think it will—sometimes you walk into the restaurant thinking salad, and end up with nachos and a greasy Reuben. I went to Emerson College. I double-majored in economics and political science. After graduating with a BS degree, I got a job with one of the top PR firms in New York, which specializes in entertainment.

What public relations and economics/poli-sci have to do with one another is absolutely nothing, but during my last semester I got rejected for an internship at the governor's office, and ended up interning at the PR firm. They loved me there and offered me a job at graduation. A job I gladly took. Within three years I was dealing with all their major clients. Within four years I was making six figures and living in a kick-ass apartment with rooftop access.

And as I prepped myself for a major book signing with one of our clients—Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe—I had every reason to believe I was one more "attagirl" away from being made a partner.

So there I was. Twenty-five years old. Soon-to-be-married almost PR mogul.


As it turns out, Marc and I both flew out for the South by Southwest Music Conference. This is the one place where everybody who's nobody in the business goes to realize just how small we really are next to the true luminaries and visionaries, who seem to be stacked like cordwood about the place. And this is an indie conference. It's not like the Rolling Stones are there performing. Still, it's the people who rule my world and I always come away feeling like a peasant, wishing I had more than my slop bucket to peddle.

"Leaving a day early, huh?" he asks.


"First time at South by Southwest?"

"I've been every year since they started," I admit.

"Cool, man. See anything good?" This is the exact conversation that I do not want to be having with a total stranger. Especially a stranger that looks almost identical to me. Thirty-something, hair slightly thinning although neither of us has admitted it yet, and dressed like a teenager. Band T-shirt, ugly-yet-cool button-up shirt over it, Diesel jeans, and sneakers.

"Couple good shows," I say. "Mostly letdowns."

"I hear ya." I desperately want to get out of this conversation by putting on my headset and becoming one with my trusty iPod. "MyPod," as I call it. I don't want to talk to Marc about bad-joke bands with one great song, who all suck live but get good press from assholes who don't know shit about music but think they're supposed to like it. No, that is not what I want to talk about. I don't want to talk at all, in fact.

So here we do the classic dance of not wanting to be murdered in your sleep by an irate seatmate but not wanting to be too friendly so you can't zone out and ignore them for most of the trip. "Wasn't Cat Power amazing?" he asks. Here it goes. "I saw Liz Phair at the Cat Power show. She was standing in front of me in the tightest jeans you've ever seen. All of a sudden she feels herself up. I swear to God, dude. It was unreal. Like I'd willed her hand to grab her own ass. It was truly a beautiful thing."

I just don't feel much like dancing. I pull out my iPod, pop the headphones on my ears, take a quick glance back at the hot chick, and settle in for the ride. And then . . . Marc pulls out his iPod.

Right then I take a good look around the plane and start to freak out. Everyone else on the plane looks just like me. Except the hot chick. The closest thing to compare it to would be a complete and utter Malkovich moment. The entire plane is filled with twenty-eight- to thirty-something guys who undoubtedly fancy themselves the lead characters in a Nick Hornby novel.

They all look the same, dress the same, talk the same. They all have their iPods on and Q Magazine in their hands. And worse—I know most of them or know who they are or know someone who knows them. They probably all think they have a chance with the hot chick, too.

Suddenly I get this vision of the entire plane full of geeks re-enacting the scene from Say Anything, except instead of boom boxes they're holding iPods over their heads à la John Cusack, blaring "In Your Eyes" in an earnest attempt to win her heart.

This actually makes me laugh out loud until I look into my bag and cringe when I realize that I too have a copy of Q Magazine and the latest Nick Hornby book. Fuck me, I think. If I could shred and burn them with my mind, I would.

I decide to do the crossword puzzle instead. That will surely make me feel superior. Who am I kidding? I'm just another overgrown indie-rock kid, fighting the good fight against the corporate behemoths of radio. At what point should college radio no longer matter? Is there a cutoff? How many years, post-college, do I get to cultivate the whole music snob thing? I don't want to be thinking about this shit. This is all Marc's fault. And worse, now I have to pee.


I worked at Schiffman Morton PR. Affectionately known as S&M PR, it's one of the top public relations firms in New York. Greg Schiffman and Lisa Morton started the firm two years before I came on board and have an amazing array of A-list clients. You could look at them in one of two ways: as scrappy, brilliant, driven entrepreneurs who cut their own path in a tough business, or as conniving, backstabbing frauds whose ticket to success was Lisa's dad's position as senior VP of corporate affairs at Chase. As far as I was concerned, the jury was still out.

Greg put me in charge of the Tommyland book signing because he knew I had a borderline obsessive affinity for music. And because he had walked in on some interns the day they watched the Pam and Tommy sex tape in the office, and Greg didn't want to be in the same room as a man he'd seen honk a boat horn with his penis. I, however, was excited about the prospect.


On Sale
Nov 15, 2008
Page Count
336 pages
5 Spot

Caprice Crane

About the Author

Caprice Crane is an award-winning, internationally bestselling, five-time novelist, screenwriter, and television writer, and has the distinction of being one of Huffington Post’s “50 Funny People You Should Be Following on Twitter.” Her debut novel Stupid and Contagious (published in fourteen countries), and her international bestselling Forget About It won the RT Reviews Choice Award in 2006 and 2007 consecutively. She has since published three more novels to critical acclaim.

Learn more about this author