Saturday, July 23, 2011

Or is it just me

Okay, I give. Uncle! You win. I surrender. I willingly yield to the stronger opponent. Capitulation is what I am doing. Can somebody call off the heat hounds and cool this joint down? I’ve lived in Kansas the majority of my life so I have experienced high temperatures before, but this is ridiculous.

I worked at the Airport Drive-In Theater the summers of my high school years (give yourself thirty bonus points if you remember going there to see a movie – but deduct fifty points if you went to any of the four show marathons featuring movies with women in scarcely any clothing and storylines with scarcely any plot). One of the tasks given to me and one or two of my lucky co-workers was painting the poles the speakers rested upon. There is not much in the world more pleasurable than using a wire brush to scrap the old paint off of and add a couple new coats of paint to several dozen three and a half foot tall metal posts. Then add the fact we did this in the dead of summer and you have found an existence approaching unremitting nirvana, or was that just because of the hallucinations. Still that was more pleasant than the last several days.

There are lots of things we have lived through in summers past that were uncomfortable. All of us have put our hands on a steering wheel in August only to remove our hands from the steering wheel faster than Charlie Sheen can think of something else stupid to say. We do that because if we don’t let go all ten of our fingers will spot weld in place and the only destination we’ll be driving to is the nearest hospital. Those of us in too much of a hurry to wait for the air conditioner to cool the car sufficiently in order to genuinely take hold of the wheel have been known to steer using a combination of alternating index fingers and thumbs in conjunction with our knees.

Here is an advantage of driving a crummy 1989 two door Ford Escort with nothing of value inside it. I can leave the windows open no matter where I park it (goodness knows the interior isn’t going to get wet when it rains because rain in the foreseeable future is as likely as Michele Bachmann inviting that Kurt kid from Glee to perform at her next campaign event). As hot as it has been my eldest daughter, who drives a black car with a black interior and who rolls up the windows whenever it is parked, characterizes getting into her car as getting into an oven full of soup. Not a tepid chicken broth but rather a piping hot serving of full bodied cream of mushroom cloud soup because it is nuclear explosion hot in here.

This heat wave has been epic. When I get up in the morning it is already warm. I walked to work the other day. It was before eight o’clock so I thought I’d be safe. By the time I got there my face looked like the bad guy from Captain America and my deodorant had mailed in its letter of resignation. It also stays downright hot well into the night. When the temperature at ten o’clock at night is equal to the latitude of the Geographic North Pole it is too darned hot.

Some people covet money. Some people covet power. Some people covet the ability to be invisible and sneak into places to overhear what other people say about them. (Some “covets” are more realistic than others.) This kind of weather just makes it crystal clear to me that I covet comfort. I am addicted to Freon. If I had been born 200 years ago and a summer day rolled around with a temperature above 93 degrees you wouldn’t find me showing great stamina and perseverance working in the field. I’d be hiding under a shade tree in nothing but my skivvies valiantly holding on to the feet of an owl as he furiously flapped his wings thus functioning as an improvised high powered fan. He would even kind of oscillate….nifty.

I have been trying all sorts of tricks to beat the heat. My internet radio is tuned to Christmas songs. I covered my office with pictures of Samuel L. Jackson and Dean Martin. My doctor even gave me a prescription for an intravenous drip of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Downside is Just Easier

I think I’ve found a basic flaw in human nature. It seems to me the natural default setting for the grand majority of people is negative and this is mostly just because negative is easier than positive.

While I am not egotistical enough to believe I am the first person to postulate such a theory, I have never seen it discussed anywhere else. This may mean it is original to me but it is more likely due to the fact my reading history revolved around Robert B. Parker, John D. MacDonald and Jerry Siegel’s Superman and not Bertrand Russell, Soren Kierkegaard and Frederich Nietzsche’s Ubermensch.

Think about it. Being negative is just easier.

“Hey, John. You want to go water skiing?”

“Why would I want to do something which turns water from the comfortable consistency it has as it comes out of the bathtub spigot to the hardness of concrete as my body slams into it going thirty miles an hour. I’m staying home and watching television.”
See, unadventurous, and negative, but also infinitely easier to do.

Look at the world of politics. (I realize this is annoying so I will make it as brief as possible.) When one side puts forth an idea the other side immediately disagrees with the idea, then states the idea was stupid, then states the idea was un-American, then states the idea will cause the downfall of our nation as we know it, then states pursuing the idea means we will face an apocalypse of Biblical proportion, then states the person on the other side who first introduced the idea has a mother who wears combat boots. This is so much easier than actually listening to the idea, considering the true facts and possible merits inherent in the idea, sitting down with the other side to alter and enhance the idea to better fit the needs of a larger number of people, admitting that someone from the other side may not be a blithering idiot, then going out to dinner together instead of just talking to another exact same point of view ideologue on television in order to make sure your constituents are convinced you are doing their will even if doing the opposite might have made a positive impact on the grand majority of humans. Fomenting anger and fear mongering requires a lot less effort and sophistication than implementing the sometimes complex processes required to actually make government function in a manner conducive to bettering our quality of life. (Sheeesh, that may not have been as brief as I first intended it to be.)

While I do not think it is the best way to be, it is very possible this negative tendency may be hard-wired into us. Early man had to assume there was a man eating something or other around every corner if he wanted to see next Tuesday. Caveman Shecky sitting on the ground laughing at the absurdity of a glyptodont (an armadillo the size of a Chevy Malibu) becomes Hors-d’oeuvre Shecky in a Paleolithic minute.
To better prove my point let’s look at the most basic, least sophisticated or educated example of a human being, anybody on Jersey Shore. No, let’s look at a newborn. Ticked off and sad is what they do best (come to think of it that is true of the Jersey Shore people too). It takes weeks of existence and great effort on the part of the adults in the baby’s life to elicit that first smile. There was even an early culture that believed the first person to cause a child to laugh was to be a special person for that kid for the rest of his life.

If we are to fight this predisposition for negativity we need to start early. Think about when a baby is born. The medical staff wants to get the kid to breath. Do we show the kid Bugs Bunny and the Marx Brothers to make him laugh? Laughter is really just happy breathing. Nope. Somebody slaps the kid on the backside to make him cry. Crying is really just unhappy breathing. I understand the expediency of the slap but I have to think if the first thing we did as a human being no longer attached to another human being was fun we might be more inclined to be happy. We go from the optimum of comfort, it is warm, it is soft, it is dark so napping is simple, and the food arrives without any fuss or bother. We are ripped from this and smacked by a stranger. No wonder grumpy is our natural state.

Christopher Pyle believes delivery room staff should at least try funny faces. You can contact him at