Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Notes And Reflections From A Bad Day

     Do you remember what blogs were like at the outset? I mean, back at the Start Of It All, before we had big, politically-oriented sites like National Review and Media Matters, and “aggregator” blogs such as Instapundit? The early blogs were personal in nature – some of them to the point of “too much information.” The term “web log,” from which “blog” emerged, originally connoted an online diary of sorts, open to those interested in the writer’s doings. The shift to news-and-opinion blogging, political advocacy blogging, and special-interest blogging eclipsed those early, personal blogs rather swiftly.

     These days, owing to Facebook and similar sites, bloggers’ personal emissions are pretty rare. But that’s what I have for you today, so I hope you haven’t stopped by for a hit of Ultimate Truth or Cosmic Illumination.

     We’re all familiar with Murphy’s Law, right? Well, according to O’Toole’s Law, which I first encountered in Paul Dickson’s book The Official Rules, “Murphy was an optimist.” My yesterday stands as evidence to that effect.

     The facts must come first. I have a cat named Zoe who likes to grab small bits of cloth and scatter them around the house. She does this when the house is dark, probably for dramatic effect. It had a pretty dramatic effect on me in the wee hours of yesterday, when I arose to use the bathroom, stepped on a hand towel, and took a fall that left me unable to rise for several minutes. Thank you, Dad, for all those useful Navy phrases with which to express pain and displeasure.

     When I arose for the day, I found that rather than toss it back onto my lawn, the local garbagemen had dropped my recycling pail in the middle of the street. I discovered this as it was being flattened by passing traffic. I complained to the town, and was brusquely told that the town takes no responsibility for the actions of its “collectors.” These folks expect deference and instant obedience from us hoi polloi; the “collectors” expect gifts at Christmas time.

     After morning Mass, I checked the parish bulletin for Outreach pantry shortfalls, noted the prominence of apple juice among the pantry’s needs, and headed off to a local supermarket to help out. On the way, a large van stopped dead in front of me – in the left lane of a 55 mph divided highway. I slammed on the brakes just in time to avoid ramming my Corvette’s snout into its bumper. No reason for the sudden stop was apparent.

     On the way from the supermarket to the parish, a driver ambled out of a side street onto that same highway right in front of me and without looking. Once again, I barely averted a collision. It got me thinking about the invisible connection between charity and mortality: specifically, mine.

     When I reached the parish, I discovered a change: the door to the Outreach pantry and offices was locked. This was utterly new to me. There was a camera-intercom-doorbell apparatus of the sort that’s becoming popular, so I pressed the bell and smiled into the camera. Nothing happened for about three minutes. I pressed it again. Still nothing. This, while eight half-gallons of apple juice were tearing at my shoulders.

     I pressed it a third time and screamed: “I’m standing here with eight half gallons of apple juice and if someone doesn’t unlock the door within fifteen seconds, I’m going to leave them here for you to carry!” Someone came to unlock the door. I’ve seldom seen such a sour, irritated face on a charity volunteer. Inside I was told that the lock had been installed because undesirables had been found wandering around inside the Outreach center. How they could be distinguished from the undesirables who come there for free food and clothing, I was not told.

     I made it home just in time to catch a serviceman who’d come to fix my hot tub, which has been out of service for more than two months. It was his second visit. On the first visit, he’d brought the wrong replacement parts. Yesterday he didn’t bring enough of them. “I don’t understand it,” he said, “we ordered a complete set from the manufacturer!” He promised to be back as soon as...well, soon.

     I became aware that the events of the day had rendered me unfit for others’ company, so I decided to hide: I descended to my basement rec room with my dogs and my Kindle. That probably saved a life: not mine, that of my cleaning lady. She decided it was time to wash her cleaning rags. Unfortunately, she didn’t know how to use my washer. After she was gone I found that she’d put detergent in the bleach dispenser. It took me an hour to clean it out, and another hour to get all the sand and grit from her rags out of my dryer. In the process I discovered that she’d managed to clog the drain of my slop sink.

     Why I haven’t unpacked the Barrett .50 and the emergency package of Oreo® Double-Stufs, I still don’t know.

     Everyone has a bad day now and then. The temptation to overreact, to start raving, smashing things, and condemning others, can be very strong. One of the traditional functions of a diary is to get it all out before it can poison you from the inside. However, people don’t keep diaries any more, which goes a long way toward explaining the trend toward public inconsideration and incivility.

     In this connection, Sarah Hoyt recently had a relevant encounter:

     PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE if you’re talking to amuse yourself on an airplane, no matter how much your seat mate likes it, try to keep your voice down. Seriously. And you might think you know a lot about some subject, but if there is some controversy, still keep your voice down.

     Please read it all. It’s an example of why I stopped traveling by air, even before medical considerations ended my flying. (No, it wasn’t because I’d ruined my shoulders.)

     Lynne Truss, in her marvelous little book Talk To The Hand, sets forth the Grand Principle Of Courtesy:

Remember You Are With Other People;
Have Some Consideration.

     This is an important reminder to a public once known for the highest degree of courtesy and civility ever observed among men – a public that’s become nearly unbearable to be in public with.

     You may be having a bad day. You may have troubles such as the world has never seen before. You may be suffering physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and in every other fashion Mankind has ever suffered. The people around you, with rare exceptions, are not responsible for it. They don’t deserve to be treated rudely or roughly because you need to vent.

     Get yourself a blog. Write about your travails. Entertain those who are looking for someone worse off than they are with a few witticisms about the disaster your day has been. It’s a handy detoxifying technique, as I’ve discovered. And when you’ve gotten it all down in pixels and are feeling fresh and clean once more, pray. Get down on your knees, you ungrateful churl, and thank God for the blessings you, a citizen of the greatest nation in history, enjoy each and every day. I mean, there are children in Asia that don’t have any Corvettes or hot tubs at all, right?

     Besides, today will surely be better...well, almost surely. Mustn’t tempt the Fates.


Linda Fox said...

What you said goes DOUBLE for men - due to longetivity issues, men are more likely to lose trusted confidants than women are. That accounts, I believe, for the curmudgeons.

My elder brother, always shy and introverted (unless drinking), lost his best friend mid-way in his forties. The loss of someone to listen to his concerns was directly related to his spiral into alcoholism and early death. Until I read this today, I hadn't realized what that loss meant to him.

That ability to unload on a spouse - not yell, just get the frustration off your chest - might well account for the greater lifespan of married people. Women, with more social connections, are less adversely affected.

Sam L. said...

It seems to me that beginning to discuss my colonoscopy could set other tale-tellers back a bit... Also, abdominal surgery...