Sunday, January 4, 2015
As I look ahead to the New Year, I like many people find myself in a reflective mood. We ask ourselves, How to make the next year better than the last? How to reduce the stress? How to reduce the frustration and anger?
In previous years (like last year), I would address these questions with fantasy: Like, load the entire Republican Congressional Caucus onto a smuggler’s ship in a Turkish port, point them toward Italy, and set them afloat. But I’m 55 now and getting smarter about these things, so I’ve decided on a much more practical approach, which basically amounts to, Don’t be a dumb-ass. Put more succinctly, Quit doing just some of the dumb-ass shit you’ve been doing on a regular basis these 50+ years, causing yourself untold momentary bouts of, yeah, frustration and anger.
I’ve landed on three things I will no longer do in 2015:
Don’t hesitate to ask for water. It’s a very strange thing I do, whether at a relative’s house or in a restaurant or café, feeling inhibited about asking for water. Red wine and seasoned food leave me feeling like a salted carp lying in the sun, but do I seek the easy relief of a cool flow? No, I suffer, not only for the moment but also afterward, when every organ in my petri dish of a body begins to exact its bloated revenge. Oddly, I do this without very much imagination. Do I conjure scenarios in my head, images of my server or host chiding me, “What are you, a wuss? I got whiskey, I got tequila, I got vodka and gin, but water?? That’s for little girls!” Nope. No imagination at all. I just sit silently with my parched throat, awaiting an Armageddon that could easily be tamed with a tip of the tap. In 2015, no more. Brace yourselves, servers and hosts, and have your tumblers ready.
Don’t drink water from a glass with lots of ice without shaking it first. Okay, so sometimes they give me water without my asking. And if it’s a restaurant, they typically include no less than ¾ of a glass full of ice. This leads to one of the strangest dumb-ass moves ever, which I personally have repeated thousands of times this half-century past: The glass half-empty, the ice cresting what little fluid remains, I tip the glass knowing—just knowing—there’s no way that clod of ice will release and come crashing into my face. But of course it does, because despite the fact that I’ve seen wiser friends and relatives do it thousands of times, I do not shake that glass to loosen the ice before tipping, a simple act that would undoubtedly reduce my blood pressure a few dozen points at least over time. Or—and now we’re getting into crazy talk here—ask for water with no ice! Can it be done? Do they let you do that? Buy a recreational vehicle and drive from state to state? No papers? Of course they do, dumb-ass.
Don’t try to dump four packets of sugar into a cup of coffee all at once. Yeah, you’ve seen me, I’m in Peet’s or the Palace Café (where I sit at this very moment), and I get my big old glass of joe, and it’s strong so I need lots of sugar, four packets at least, and I tear open all four at once and tip them, balancing them in my hand like a surgeon’s scalpel, squeezing just enough to hold them but not so much that the sugar cannot sprinkle gently into my cup, watching it sprinkle, sprinkle. But no, that’s not what happens, is it. Because you’ve seen my surgeon’s grip fail me, releasing at least two of those sugar packets right into the cup, forcing me to dig them out, burning my fingers in the hot joe, trying desperately to calculate how much of that sugar might have actually made it into the cup and how much is now clotted in the soaking sugar packets in my hand. And then, of course, it’s “now what”? And the first answer to that question is always the same: Get pissed at myself for being such a dumb-ass.
Little things, for sure, but added up together, I expect they’ll end up reducing my overall frustration and anger in 2015 by about 10%. And with that kind of emotional capacity freed up, I might even be able to figure out how to get those goddamn Republicans onto that boat.