Today I lost my temper for the first time in a while. I used to be quite the hot-head, punching the windshield or the dashboard, banging my head against the street in the rain when I realized I’d taken the wrong bus to a job interview, or swinging my arm through a glass door so that I had to get fifty stitches in my left wrist at the age of five. Once I even took the dot matrix printer my parents had bequeathed me, since it was just churning out reams of paper without printing anything on them, dropped it on the floor, and stomped on it until it was sufficiently destroyed.
As Dostoyevsky’s narrator in “Notes from Underground” would say, “I find that it’s often pleasant to smash things.”
Or there was the time in my freshman year in college when I couldn’t find my student ID card, necessary to qualify for a meal in the cafeteria, and I got so flustered I dropped my chair out the window. I paused to watch it fall three floors and shatter peacefully against the pavement. None of the sunbathers lying a dozen yards away was hurt, thank goodness.
(And my resident advisor was such a cool guy, he let me replace the chair with an extra one from a vacant room in my dorm.)
Luckily, that was decades ago. These days I’m generally pretty tranquil, at least on the outside. Being underemployed and unhappily married to a religious fanatic, also living as a foreigner in a megacity inhabited by a people not known for their patience and placidity (Koreans), however, a proudly foolish (or foolishly proud) guy like me is apt to snap at times, as I did–briefly–today.
My wife Jina, who’s also my teaching partner, slept in today as she was tired from her daily trip to the church–she goes in at five a.m. and generally doesn’t come back till about seven a.m.–so I had to teach our ten year old student Jim (English nickname) alone. He doesn’t know English from a wankel rotary engine, and I’m the same way regarding Korean, so communicating with each other was a debilitating struggle. Eventually we gave up on trying to learn things and played a game of chess in which he soundly defeated me–no surprises there.
Afterwards, as I was trying to print some materials for Wednesday’s class from the computer, I couldn’t get the whole page to print, and had to copy a total of eight pages, which meant I had to make sixteen copies. The printer beeped each time, its red exclamation point light flashing, so I had to press the OK button to let it know that everything was okay.
Meanwhile, Jina called met to ask how things had gone. I was curt, since Jim had asked wistfully where she was, making me feel like an expendable shnook. Then she called again, during a balky moment with the printer, and asked me what I was so mad about. I told her through clenched teeth that I was fine. When I tried to switch off the cell phone, its camera went on. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off and swore. Bringing my hand back above and behind my shoulder, I threw it–hard–against the wall.
The phone exploded into several pieces. I got up, walked over to the scene of the crime, and reassembled them. I assumed it was broken and shrugged it off as instant karma.
Later, Jina called me on the school’s land line and I apologized, telling her “there’s something wrong with the phone.” (Nice euphemism, eh?)
After a short cooling period that involved checking emails and surfing the internet, I pressed the “on” button on the phone and–voila! whaddaya know? lo and behold, it worked!
I felt simultaneously grateful and embarrassed–sheepish, really–for having been such an impulsive brute, and would have promised myself it would never happen again, only it’s never a good idea to limit your options like that.
The reason I haven’t posted anything for awhile is I’ve been battling a cold; Jina tried to make it go away by clasping my shoulder, slapping my back, and reciting some meaningless hocus-pocus, telling me if I believed strongly enough in Jesus, I would get better. I tried it as a scientific experiment, but it didn’t work. Meditation was more effective, but obviously not enough to cure the disease of anger.
Anyway, belief is a matter of personal preference; it’s never a good idea to tell other people what to think, since no two folks are the same. Odds are we’re all equally full of shit, which is comforting in an odd way. I believe in different things at different times; it’s best not to get too attached to the flotsam and jetsam swirling around in the currents that flow through you as you flow through this flowing river of matter in the frenetically fluctuating, flowering cosmos.