On a drive earlier this week in my white Buick Regal, blasting NPR with my dog Ziggy Stardust at my side--I had a sudden revelation.
I am an old man.
I turned to Ziggy and asked him if this was true, and he said what I assumed to be "yep". I shrugged and took a bite of my tuna fish sandwich. Then started thinking about all the chores I needed to do on the weekend, and how gosh darn short the days seemed to be getting.
"Dagnabbit!" I said to Ziggy. "Things are getting to me lately. Y'know what I mean?" He didn't. Or at least he pretended not to, and started chewing his own foot. But I kept right on thinking about this and that. And this and that really started to get me steamed.
I thought about how the recycling truck had forgotten to come down our street this week and now we will have to smush down the contents of the already-full barrel in order to fit next week's containers. Ugh, how inconvenient!! I remembered how I had forgotten to shut off the heater for the past THREE NIGHTS IN A ROW. And now because of that, my sinuses were dry. I thought about how much I hated the phrase "Poet Laureate" and that I had already seen it used several times this month. I thought about how much I despise Charlie Sheen; but how I despise his live show audience members even more! I thought: if I were a courageous French girl wearing red lipstick, I would lock the doors of the theater during one of his shows and set fire to the whole building thus ridding the world of a generation of idiots and changing the course of history for the better (Inglorious Basterds 2).
Thoughts kept coming. I muttered to myself about the annoying amount of animated films in theaters these days. And how gasoline used to be the same price whether you bought it with cash or credit card. I thought about how facebook used to be JOKES GALORE; and now it's just a place to fund-raise for yourself, dodge spam disguised as fun quizzes, and promote one's own self-indulgent blog (canofcheese.blogspot.com!!!!!!!!!)
And there was much, much more to grit my teeth at, but I was having a tough time concentrating due to the racket squawking from my speakers. "Groan," I grumbled to Ziggy, "I am going to tear my own ears off and make a soup out of them if I hear another yapping word!" (I was referring to the vocal tone of the newscasters on NPR.) Lately, they had really been getting on my last nerve. All I want to hear is the news! Can't a person get informed anymore without having to tolerate whistling "S"s and over-enunciated vowels? Not to mention, each and every broadcaster sounds like she/he was just in the middle of swallowing something--when suddenly a red "On Air" sign lit up above them and they immediately began spewing the news. Pretending, unsuccessfully, not to have a full mouth. While we on the receiving end are forced to listen to world issues filtered through an unswallowed ball of mashed potatoes or candy corn. Or BOTH.**
(**A favorite concoction of NPR announcers, this treat is often available in the studio vending machines and is known around the Public Radio sector as A Mashie Home Cornpanion.)
In a hasty rage I changed the station and landed on a Neil Young song. Lucky find. And on the first try! I sipped my ginger ale and sang at the top of my lungs about looking for a heart of gold as I pulled up to a red stoplight. Which took at least four minutes to change! When the light finally did turn green, I immediately honked at the truck in front of me. MOVE!! Why does no one pay attention? Probably texting. Sheesh.
I was about to honk again when I noticed the traffic was stopped for a good reason: a blind man in his late 70's with a red-tipped cane was crossing the street.
He took lots of small steps. So many. I watched every one. In fact, all the non-dead cells in my brain were then focused on him. How long had he been blind? Was he lost or did he cross this street every day? Did he have someone to take care of him? Is he mad that he can't hear an approaching Prius? Where was he going? Does he wonder why people make such a big deal about HD? Is he so lonely that it hurts in his bones?
Many moments later he was across. But I continued to watch him small-step down the sidewalk as Neil Young's voice in the background sang, "...and I'm gettin' old".
And suddenly I was in tears. Crying, crying, crying. Down my face, off my chin, onto my chest. Even the honk of the car behind me could not shock me into stopping. Ziggy was worried and decided to lean right against my shoulder for a little while. "I was wrong, Ziggy!" I sobbed. I'm not old! I have lots of life to live and I really have nothing to complain about! What is wrong with me??! My life is great. For one thing, I can SEE!!! I should wake up thankful everyday for that alone!
Proud of my new "half-full glass" outlook on life; I wiped my wet cheeks, turned off the radio and rolled down my window. Who needs music?! For goodness sake, I can just listen to the sound of the world around me.
I pulled into my neighborhood and down my street, sporting a huge smile. I love where I live! And golly gee I am happy to be returning home! And what a great day! Another miraculous sun sets on another splendid horizon!
Once home, Ziggy and I hopped out of the car with springs in our steps and wags in our tails and skipped up the driveway. On our way by the mailbox I stopped to peek inside.
"Why look Ziggy, I got a letter! How exciting. I wonder who it's fro--" I didn't need to finish the question. It only takes me a split second to read a return address. I'm no dummy.
"The Internal Revenue Service?" Ziggy cocked his head to the side and I opened the letter and scanned the info.
"Well, well, well Ziggy, isn't this just the most interesting news? It seems I am being audited. And in addition to that, I owe $3,000 dollars in back taxes. My...goodness."
My half-full glass immediately tipped over. Spilled. Rolled off the table. And shattered on the floor.
"MOTHERF-ING ASS HEADS!!!!!! F%#K THE WORLD!"