Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lighten Up Francis

 A few hours after Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon had occurred and enough time had passed for it to resonate with those tuned into social media or watching the news, I read someone's purposefully rude response to a friend’s post on facebook.  She made a comment on the stupidity of facebook’s always changing ways, like anyone on facebook is wont to do on a seemingly daily basis. 

On a day not marred by a senseless tragedy it would’ve garnered a few likes. But, this guy seemed like he was incensed at her for having the gall to change the subject from sorrow to the mundane and talk about anything besides the tragedy in Boston. 

This was after the simple outpouring of thoughts and prayers with the people of Boston had begun to blend in with the creative memes posted online, like ones using quotes from Mr. Rogers, or photos of a red sock bleeding onto a red apple. (I didn’t see that one but the copywriter in me thinks it would’ve made a stark image.)

The memes and quotes posted were designed to sum up our collective urge to scratch our heads at humanity or a lack thereof, in visually creative ways and the sharing of which is somewhat of a slight bonding mechanism for people. We live in a society that has now connected people who may or may not know each other well or at all and can read each other’s random, spur-of-the-moment thoughts, which should for the most part be taken with a grain of salt.

It has always annoyed me when someone goes out of their way to point out the so-called social faux pas that others make, which is much douchier than the actual breaking of a social norm.  Several years ago I was stuck in my thoughts waiting for an elevator door to open. (This seems a more appropriate description than the term ‘riding’ in an elevator. The act of riding in or on anything seems like it should require some anticipation of enjoyment, like riding a roller coaster, or riding on the back of an ATV  as your 8th grade friend who had an iguana and got the Showtime channel in the early ‘80s drives it over the creek in his backyard.) As the door to the elevator is about to open the woman in front of me, who had her back to me, sneezed.

She turned around and said “Bless you” while over-enunciating and dragging out the youuuuuu. Her cartoonish and childish response and "put off" reaction to my ambivalence brought to mind  Francis, Pee Wee Herman’s arch-nemesis in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The sour puss expression on her face reminded me of my 7th grade Math teacher and like her, I think it's not too far off of a presumption to say she might have been going home to an old cat named Mr. Squiggles and an angry looking vibrator named Mr. Tickles.

She acted as if I had just  lifted up my shirt and picked a piece of lint out of my navel before asking if she wanted it as a memento of our ten-floor trip together, when I was just clearly following New York City protocol of not letting things strangers do register with me. It seemed such a misplaced reaction that I was caught off guard and had no immediate response to her bitchiness.

 I was too stunned to reply back with a response like “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I fail to acknowledge that you blew germs out of your mouth into the air hovering above the enclosed space we unfortunately are forced to ride in together during flu season, your royal highness? I’m such a fool. Take my 1950s era handkerchief that I keep folded in the pocket of my hoodie sweatshirt, please. (In my anger I would assume I wouldn’t have had the time or the desire to go into why “ride” is not the best word to describe travelling in elevators.) But, alas my mouth was stuck in a half-smile/half amazed grin as she left the building in a huff.   

There was another occasion of public ridiculousness that I encountered that I will surely not soon forget. I was walking past a bar in my area that was as "Jersey Shore" as you can get on a weekend night in Manhattan and I saw a girl doing something that left me in a state of pause.

I graduated from the University of Arizona and live in Murray Hill, so I have come across the occasional drunk, young guy urinating in the street.  Most guys pee facing a wall, usually with one of their friends as a lookout. This inebriated young lady who I happened to come upon, was holding up her skirt as she relieved herself into the avenue while squatting with surprising dexterity and leaning against a wall next to the bar. 

  I stopped in my tracks with my mouth open once again, at first disgusted by the act itself, but then I became kind of awed by the fact that she was nonchalantly propelling this high-arcing stream that seemed to want to touch the sky. I felt like a tourist standing in front of the Fountain at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. I was transfixed for a longer-than-expected moment and didn't know whether I should toss a coin at her feet and make a wish or take a photo.

 I decided against the photo, since she didn't need me pointing out her social faux pas and making a spectacle of her abilities best utilized at a Tijuana bachelor party. My favorite part of stumbling upon this public showing of a private act was the fact that she had two friends that were flanking her on both sides; as if it was possible to camouflage the fact that she was blissfully spraying the length of the sidewalk like she was Larry Bird floating up a continuous array of old-school three-pointers out of her urethra.

I’d rather think about this random act of craziness than the crazy act of horror like the senseless bombing on Monday in Boston.  The fact is there are people out there who seem to want to disrupt our Facebook obsessed, Game of Thrones watching, Target shopping society.  An act as despicable as this will unfortunately stay in the back of our minds but we can’t dwell all the time on fear and chaos or the crazies win in the end.  

The reason Israelis don't wake up every day and play Russian roulette while drinking fizzy bubbly/crystal meth cocktails (otherwise known as a Very Dark and Stormy) is that they don't let fear control their daily lives. Hopefully, cowardice bombings won't ever become a common occurrence in this country that we have to get used to, but there's nothing wrong with talking about other things that happen in our lives during times of distress, and especially after an unimaginable act of evil. 

The use of humorous, well timed sarcasm as well as complaining about the day-to-day stuff that bothers us provide a necessary release from thinking about things that can weigh us down emotionally. I’m not saying not to acknowledge that the world can be a fucked up, hate-filled place, because it obviously can. But, it’s also the world that gives you beautiful little everyday treasures, like the smell of a fresh pot of coffee percolating in the morning, Buttermilk Eggo waffles with syrup on top toasting in the kitchen, and waking up with a morning erection, next to a beautiful woman who has just percolated your coffee and buttered your waffles. And that’s just the amazing treats we enjoy before leaving our homes and noticing the budding cherry blossom flowers on our streets and the clear blue spring sky.

The subtle art of complaining about life’s little annoyances, affectionately known as kvetching, has gotten my ancestors through thousands of years of nomadic craziness and persecution, not to mention Brooklyn in the 1940's. I believe it was the immortal words of Alfred E. Newman, who once said “What, me worry?” I also believe that it was the slightly less memorable words of my Great Aunt Silvia who might have said on more than one occasion during The Great Depression- “10 cents for a loaf of bread? What am I made of money?”

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