The list of petty problems that take the fun out of my life has been growing rather quickly lately. They include:
– Not taking lavish European vacations
– Spending most of my free time and life’s savings fixing the car, the dishwasher, my home’s main sewer pipe, the toilet, the shower door and pretty much everything else in and around the house that’s capable of breaking
Now I know some of you peppy glass-half-full types are going to say, “Mike, don’t be such a gloomy Gus. Try to accentuate the positive. Take a walk on the sunny side of the street for a while.”
Golly, thanks for the advice, Mr. Osteen! I really, really appreciate it!
Now Ta Gueule, pardon my French.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree there’s a sunny side of the street. In fact, I had to take a walk on it just the other day, when it was about 110 degrees outside and my piece-o-crap 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan decided to break down on the way to work. Again.
After leaving it with the mechanic, who’s starting to look at me with the same misty-eyed appreciation automobile repairmen normally reserve for supermodels and Lamborghinis, I started strolling down the sunny side of West Colfax Avenue, cursing Fate and sweating like a pig as I attempted to make my way to work using public transportation. Actually, to be honest, pigs can’t sweat much, that’s why they cool off by rolling in mud. It’s just another false aphorism people use, like this gem from Oprah: “Failure is a steppingstone to success.”
Tell you what Oprah. To test this failure theory you developed, fork over your billions (preferably to me), then sell off all six of your luxury homes and move to a tenement apartment on Chicago’s south side. Get a minimum-wage job stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, live on government cheese and food stamps for a few years, and then call me. I’ll be yachting in the Greek Isles, thank you very much, but if you honestly still feel like joining the cast of Up With People, I promise to return what’s left of your fortune (minus a 10 percent handling fee) and start paying more attention to your feel-good advice.
Until then, Casse-toi, pardon my French once again.
Now, where was I?
Oh, sure, I remember now.
So there I was chugging down Colfax, seething with hatred for Lee Iaccoca’s legacy and about to drop dead of heat stroke, when the city bus pulled up to give me a lift. It was about 15 minutes late, of course, and that’s why I was walking instead of patiently waiting for it on a shaded bus bench. But, to be fair, it was cooler inside the bus, even if I did have to sit on a dirty seat next to a dirty guy who smelled like my dirty toilet—which also broke, by the way.
As Toilet Man and I sped—or lurched—off, I began to feel my adventure was starting to turn for the better.
Because I’m stupid, that’s why. Because hope springs infernal, that’s why. Because just when you think you’ve finally hit bottom, you remember that you can’t go to the ball game with the guys on Saturday because you’re obligated to attend your wife’s mother’s aunt’s 98th birthday party over at the Sunny Acres Retirement Villa, that’s why.
And so, Fate dictated I miss my connection with the regional bus that takes me to work by about 30 seconds. I forlornly watched the driver of that bus pull away from the stop just as the bus Toilet Man and I were riding in pulled up.
How do I describe my emotional state at that moment?
It’s like going to Dairy Queen even though you’re lactose intolerant. Or arriving 30 minutes late to the movie. Or driving a Chrysler mini-van when everybody else was wise enough to buy a more reliable Toyota or Honda. Or sitting next to Toilet Man on the bus instead of, say, Charlize Theron.
I was upset, but what was I supposed to do about it?
I couldn’t cry or scream, because I didn’t want Toilet Man to the get the wrong idea and give me a supportive hug. So I just shrugged and finally gave up on getting to work. Who needs work in this economy anyway? Nobody’s making any money. Work is just depressing. On this point, Toilet Man and I agree.
Out of options, I proceeded to waste another hour of my increasingly short life studying bus schedules and sharing bus rides with other pungent, crazy passengers so I could get near enough to home to allow me to walk the rest of the way without passing out in the Saharan heat.
Which I did successfully, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain.
Shouldn’t, but will.
Look, I don’t buy into the increasingly popular notion that we should feel guilty about negative thinking, as if thinking negatively magically creates negativity in some New Agey create-your-own reality sort of way. That’s crap. Negativity happens. Much of life sucks. It’s almost always frustrating, tiresome and depressing, and at times it’s extremely difficult.
Don’t think so?
Try being President Obama for a day. All you want to talk about is the national health care crisis and the faltering economy. All everybody else wants to talk about is whether you’ve got a valid American birth certificate or are an African national masquerading as a U.S. citizen, and why you seem to hate, hate, hate overzealous white Irish cops who harass overly sensitive black professors in their homes.
Being president for a day will make you want to send Little Orphan Annie on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney.
Try singing The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow with a load of buckshot in your teeth, you perky redheaded beeatch!
Folks, I’m here to tell you that there’s a sunny side of life, but there’s a dark side, too, and, lately, I’ve been forced to walk on it way too much of the time, okay? That’s my reality. If yours is different, well then, God Bless You. I guess it’s really true that the rain falls on the just and unjust. Enjoy the moisture while it lasts, and don’t come whining to me when it dries out, because I warned you.
Listen, I know there are far worse things that can happen to a person than being forced to spend $2,000 to repair a creaky mini-van with 115,000 miles on its odometer and a resale value of about $2,000. Or, kneeling on the floor with your head stuck inside a dirty dishwasher for two hours vainly attempting to figure out why it refuses to do its duty. Or, hugging the cold porcelain toilet bowel to your face and scraping your knuckles while you bolt the rocking toilet to the floor so it won’t shirk its doo-ty anywhere but in the sewer. Or, not being able to open the shower door to wash the toilet bowl smell off your chin because a doohickey the size of my little toe chose to break on that particular afternoon out of all the mornings in its 30-year existence.
But these irritations are irritating, and, together, they add up to one big headache, especially in combination with the real problems I’m required to deal with day-in and day-out.
So enough already, Fate!
Take me to Italy instead.
Just don’t book me on the same flight with Toilet Man, OK? Because I just don’t need that merde, pardon the French.