Kevin, whose love for me makes him delusional occasionally, keeps egging me into entering writing contests. He seems to think I am some kind of undiscovered talent. But that is because he doesn't read blogs. When you do that, you realize that writing talent is about as common as the common cold. Which brings me to this losing essay. Enjoy!
As I sit here struggling to locate my brain in a sea of head cold-produced mucous, I am reminded how those little nuisances in life can rob a person of their joy. You know what I am talking about. People who honk in a traffic jam, as if the root of the problem is that someone decided to stop for a picnic in the middle of the interstate. Those automated phone systems that ask you to enter an endless sequence of numbers only to eventually connect you with a human being anyway. Computers crashing. Phones ringing in movie theaters. Children screaming in movie theaters. Children screaming on airplanes. Children screaming in grocery stores. Paris Hilton. I will add daylight savings time, although I realize this will be controversial. I have never understood why we must go through a government-mandated jet lag-like experience twice a year under the pretext of creating an extra hour of daylight. It may come as a shock, but even America--the greatest country on the earth, land of the free, home of the brave, God bless the USA--cannot produce daylight (although it’s possible that, with Barack Obama, yes, we can.). But now I am starting to sound like Andy Rooney, and I am far too young for that. Oh, and put Andy Rooney on my list as well. What a crank.
Marriage seems to breed more pet peeves than children these days (which are often one and the same, see above). If you live with someone long enough, they will start to bug you, even if they are the most spectacular person on the planet. My otherwise nonplussed (and spectacular) husband has an aneurysm every time he discovers yet another food container I have improperly closed. I seem to be biologically incapable of tightly screwing on a lid. It must be some kind of mutation that survived evolution. I likewise burst blood vessels every time I find yet another utensil my husband has left out on the counter intending to reuse (but never does). When I go into the kitchen and see that expectant fork lying turned over by the sink, it sends me on an imagined prowl through the phone book under “divorce attorneys.” And don’t even get me started on the trail of post-it notes he leaves around the house, as if we are Hansel and Gretel needing a way out of the magical forest. He, in turn, hates it when I throw them away because they contain his brilliant thoughts and ideas. My response is, if they are that impressive, they deserve to live in a notebook.
And then there is the head cold, which prompted this voyage of complaint in the first place and generally saps me of the will to live. Can’t someone just cure this disease already? Honestly, in this election year, I would not only elect the candidate who could produce a head cold cure President of the United States , I would probably elect him Dictator of the World, give him all my money, and throw in my soul for free. I’m actually surprised no politician has yet promised this, as they certainly have promised us everything else (Pet Peeve #537: Pandering politicians). Although I have no personal experience with water boarding, I feel a head cold must be similar—I definitely have a sensation of drowning without any real chance of death (hopefully). Maybe they should just pipe some cold viruses into Guantanamo . Or let my daughter’s daycare class loose in there, either way.
Now that my joy is well on its way out the window, maybe I should search for some deeper meaning here. So here goes: There is definitely something about modern life that produces frustration and annoyance. I can’t imagine the pioneer women having hernias over their husbands leaving shoes in the middle of the floor. Certainly they would have never complained of men leaving toilet seats up because they didn’t have toilets, which probably is the only solution to that problem. They had bigger things to worry about, like whether or not the locust plague or typhoid epidemic was going to head down from Minnesota ; basically, whether they would live or die.
Modern life obscures the life-or-death struggle and gives us the illusion of control. American culture is particularly adept at feeding our human egos in this way by bombarding us with choices. Not only can you freely choose your president, spouse, career, doctor, house, and car (and we are close to being able to choose our children through genetic engineering; no such luck choosing our parents, however), you can choose from among 77 varieties of breakfast cereal, a decision I have always found to be among the toughest in life. But the truth is none of us are really in control. We still face a life-or-death struggle, however hidden it may be most of the time, and we certainly cannot control other people. And when we get glimpses of reality, it drives us crazy. We nag our spouses. We honk our horns. We rearrange our living rooms. We clean out our closets. We write whiney essays. We would all be much happier if we discovered the freedom that comes from acknowledging powerlessness when there is nothing else to do but listen to the mucous drain from our heads.