Survival Is Not for Children

You know what’s funny?  When you see some celebrity on a talk show telling the host they have no regrets in life.  I mean, how is that even possible?  What a disingenuous, smug thing to say.  

“Oh, except maybe the time I was camping and I had my appendix removed by a bobcat.”

Anyone with a mind will find something to regret, if only because that’s part of what the mind does.  Although the human brain is the most complex phenomenon in the known universe–or multiverse–and even beyond the understanding of a mad genius like Ray Kurzweil, who’s even written a book on how to reverse-engineer the brain called How to Create a Mind (with a Foreword by Julia Child), you have to admit that it can also be remarkably inefficient, unwieldy, cumbersome, and counterproductive.  

Maybe that’s what’s so great about it.

Anyway, let me tell y’all a little about my routine these days.  As a former nature boy and suburban kid who’s now a seasoned veteran of city life, as I suppose are most of the people on this here planet dealywhopper, it’s safe to say that the prevailing color in a big city is grey.  Or gray.  For some reason I prefer the English spelling.  As a compromise, let’s spell it greigh.  

But there are also splashes of color, thanks to the bright clothes that people wear and the umbrellas that sprout when it rains, along with flashes of litter on the pavement, low-budget product placements for cigarettes and candy bars.

Sometimes I feel like Travis Bickle in the movie Taxi Driver when he says that one day is indistinguishable from the next.  Too many years of insufficient sleep has blunted my memory and turned me into a shadow of my former flake.  Just yesterday I asked a co-worker the same question I’d asked her the day before.  Either I hadn’t listened carefully enough when she’d answered me the first time, or else I just plum (plumb?) didn’t remember.  It would be scary–maybe even terrifying–if it weren’t so patently ridiculous.

Yesterday morning I got up and tried to print something to use in a class, removing the cartridge from my Hewlett-Packard piece of shit, swaddling it in a piece of paper towel like a newborn baby awaiting baptism in a bathtub of beer, and shaking it vigorously (instead of gently, the way my wife instructed me to), then wiping off the contact point so it shone brassily before re-inserting it into the reliably unreliable contraption.

Of course it didn’t work, but I thought better of decorating the air with a redolent wave of expletives, instead shrugging it off and taking a shower, figuring I already had enough other stuff to give my students.

The only problem was I’d cut it a little too close and had to chug-a-lug down the road past the other early risers, leaving my flat at about six-fifteen a.m.  A taxi was waiting for me to guide me to my initial destination, which was less than a ten-minute walk away, but as usual I didn’t have time to walk, run, or trot there.

After paying the cabbie I barreled down the subway escalators, trying not to put my eye out with a flying man-boob.  As luck would have it, as I alighted on the platform, my train was just getting ready to leave.  I practically had to dive on board so as not to miss it, and sat down across from a man who was a Korean version of Grover Cleveland, only without the mustache or suit.  He stared at me as if I were an alien visiting from Roswell instead of your garden-variety foreign nuisance, but I busied myself with the book I’d been struggling to finish over the past several weeks (Year Zero, by Rob Reid, a wonderful science fiction farce).

Three stops later I got off and sprinted past other commuters down to the platform of my connecting train.  I had time to sit down on one of the backless wooden benches on the platform and read a few sentences before the train pulled up.  I got on and rode it four stops to the station I needed to go to for a final transfer, then barged up the stairs and around the corner in time to hop on board the train.  

Then I noticed the platform of the station I was supposed to get off at flashing by, and realized I’d accidentally boarded the express train to the airport.  Luckily, “express” was something of a euphemism in this case, and it only took me one stop beyond my destination. I got off and waited there for the train to take me back the other way, having to let one train pass as it was another express train.  (Sorry about all the repetition, but I couldn’t come up with any suitable synonyms.)

By the time I got to work, I was drenched in sweat.  Fortunately, I was on time, but didn’t have time to make photocopies for the class, so I went with Plan B.

Now I have to go and do it all over again.

So much for my dream of being the next George Peppard.


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