Eggsperimental Babysitting

Easter has always been a big deal in our family due to the Rev’s affiliation with Jesus. When my brother and I were little, we woke every year to brightly colored baskets filled with candy and small toys. Usually, the night before we would stay up late and dye Easter eggs with Mom. I still fondly remember the kitchen smelling like hot vinegar. My brother and I fought pitched and epic battles over who got to use the prettiest dyes – which usually ended in tears and stained fingers.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to relive my youth by dying eggs with my nephews. Jovanni was six and Avery had just turned two. I had planned a whole extravaganza for us. We baked and decorated Easter cookies (shaped like eggs, carrots and bunnies), and then I set up the dye vats for the hardboiled eggs.
In my entire life, I’ve had what I’d call “limited” success with egg dying. After living in a small Czech town on the prairie (Wilson, KS “Home of the world’s largest Czech egg!”), I had tried to decorate using traditional Eastern European methods. This required blowing the goody out of the shells, rinsing, and then painstakingly painting each egg with a wax resist before applying special colorant. It seemed like that process would take a very long time, so I tried using rubberbands as a resist instead. The eggs all broke as I was applying the dye layers, and I gave up. Somewhere, however, in one of my art boxes, I still have about nine hundred packets of highly toxic (but very bright) dyes just waiting for me to try again.

One constant in my life is that I always fail to learn a lesson, even after bitter experience. I had high hopes for the kids’ eggs, and the fun they’d have. Mistakes were made.
The first of these was that I shouldn’t have fed the children the equivalent of a pound of sugar before handing them dye-filled coffee mugs.

The egg dying kit that I purchased came complete with little stickers that you could put on the eggs to act as a resist for the dye. Both Avery and Jojo really had a lot of fun glomping the stickers onto the shells. They didn’t understand the purpose of the stickers, though, and so when it came time to dip the eggs into the dye, both kids dissolved into tears because “IT WILL RUIN OUR STICKERS!”

The first dozen eggs wound up covered in stickers and marker, as did Avery.

I boiled another dozen and we tried again.

This time, I managed to get actual eggs into actual dye. Avery couldn’t work the egg dipper loop, and so wound up just plunging the egg and his entire fist into the mug. I laughed and let it go. His mother had gotten furious with me because I’d painted his fingernails bilious green the week before. “Hahaha! That’ll teach her,” I thought.
The kid was beginning to look pretty bad. He was down to just a diaper and had drawn what looked like a demon sigil on his stomach with red permanent felt tipped marker. The areas of his face not covered in frosting were smudged with egg dye, but you couldn’t really see them because he was in constant motion due to a mindbender of a sugar high.

Jojo happily dipped each of his eggs into all the colors to see what would happen. They turned a strange grey-brown color, but he insisted that he loved them.
Now the egg pile consisted of a dozen still mostly white eggs covered in stickers and marker, another dozen strange, grey eggs with some blue Avery fingerprints, and one lone, headless bunny cookie.

It may have been the saddest Easter trove in the history of the holiday.
Then I made the mistake of turning my back on the happy children for all of two seconds to take another batch of cookies out of the oven.

When I turned around, Avery had vanished — along with a large mug brimming with dark blue dye.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” I screamed. “JOJO DON’T MOVE!”

“Okay, Ab!” Jojo replied happily, intent on disguising every remaining egg as a rotting, sulphrous monstrosity. I don’t think he even noticed that Avery was gone.

I began to race around my parents’ house in desperate search of the baby. Several of the rooms had white carpet, walls, or both. A disaster of Biblical proportions was imminent.
I searched each chamber along the hallway, screaming for Avery, the Rev, and Jesus in approximately that order.

Not one of them answered me.

Then I heard a happy, “YAYYYYYYYYY!” coming from the Great Room. I hurried in and found an entirely blue Avery running laps around the G.P.s pool table. The now-empty mug lay disconsolately on its side underneath the table.

I grabbed the baby and threw him into the shower, spending a good fifteen minutes trying to turn him back to a people color.

It didn’t work. I pulled him out and put a fresh white diaper on him.

He looked like a Smurf.

The Rev yelled, “Ab, WHAT IS WRONG?” (way too late) and stormed into the bathroom. I tried to hide Smurfy McToddler, but it was impossible because Grandma had entered the room and he had to greet her.

“Hi GwaMa,” Avery said, happily.

“What the hell happened?!?” my Mother exclaimed as Avery toddled off again.

“I think you know,” I replied as I followed the kid.

We headed back into the kitchen. “Well,” thought I, “I have dyed the kid blue. That’s got to be the worst thing that can happen.”

Jojo was still sitting peacefully at the table, churning out weird Easter eggs. There were, however, suspiciously more than two dozen eggs in his pile. I looked closer and noticed two empty egg cartons sitting on the chair next time.

“Jojo, did you get more eggs to color?”

“Yep!” he said, proud of his resourcefulness. “Out of the refrigerator!”

Jovanni had just dyed two dozen raw eggs which looked exactly like the hardboiled ones. I gave up, put the whole mess in the cooler, and poured an industrial sized glass of wine.
The next morning we hunted the eggs and then played raw egg Russian roulette. The G.P. got the worst of it. He loves hardboiled eggs. The dogs were overjoyed.

Avery was blue for about two weeks. Mother’s kitchen still bears scars from that fateful day, and I haven’t dyed an egg since.

Maybe it’s time….

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Let Me Eat Cake

It is not any kind of secret that I don’t deal well with illness.  Because of this, I generally tend to sequester myself with a bottle of Nyquil, some red Gatorade and a vat of Campbell’s Chicken and Rice soup until whatever is ailing me is defeated by the great medicinal trifecta of my people. Last week, however, I got so sick that I wound up being forcibly hauled to TLC’s Emergency Room by the Rev. Honestly, I didn’t fight terribly hard.  By the time we got there, I’d felt like I was being whomped in the head with those strange xylophone sticks with a marshmallow on one end for at least two days.  It was both painful and annoying, and I really wanted to find a people-mechanic who could fix me.

I have the world’s crappiest insurance.  Rephrase: I THINK I have the world’s crappiest insurance – it may actually be the most wonderful coverage the world’s ever seen, except for the fact that it’s completely unnavigable. There are five 1-800 numbers you can TRY to call, but you might as well just dial a random phone number and ask where to go for treatment:

“Hi, my name is Abi.  I need to go to a doctor.  My policy number is this.  Where do I go?”

“Um, this is Tim at Firestone.  Do you need some tires or what? Maybe you should go to the ER.”

I tried to find a provider in my handy dandy 500 page long “book of convenient care,” but there were only four in all of Nueces county, none of which were open on a Saturday.  The aforementioned horrible headache barely prevented me from setting the guide on fire as a warning to future insurance policy manuals.

I headed out to Doc Tom on autopilot.  He’s the best people fixer I know, so it seemed likely he could get me back on the road. Luckily, we found out when we got there that TLC took my insurance.  I very incorrectly (probably) filled out some forms, and then we began the wait.  The Rev swears that we didn’t sit in the waiting room for more than 20 minutes, but illness makes time pass super slowly.  To me it felt like 9 hours.  Mom says I started whining about “just bailing” and “dying in my own bed” after two minutes.  She also made me wear a mask to keep me from infecting other patients, which I immediately started calling a “germ rebreather” and saying that it was only aiding and abetting the germs I already had. At that point, Mom got me a blanket from the car, covered me up, and went to read her Kindle in another (quieter) part of the lobby.

I hid under my hoodie and the pile of blankets and muttered to myself. Light hurt my eyes and I kept alternating between broiling and fell-in-a-freezing-lake level of hypothermia.  Finally, my name was called and we headed back.

They gave me the fifteen-point analysis, from my fluids all the way down to the shocks.  Then, just to be absolutely certain, they tested me for the flu.

I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten a flu test before, but it’s enough to make even the most avowed needle-phobe beg for a shot of vaccine instead.  The protocol appears to be that someone wearing scrubs jams a Q-tip through your nostril into the bottom part of your frontal lobe to “see how sick you are.”  The nurse tried to warn me.

“Have you ever had a flu test before?” she asked, worriedly.

“Um, I don’t know. Probably.” I muttered petulantly.

“Well, if you had, you’d remember, and if you haven’t, you’re not going to like it,” she cheerfully responded, unwrapping an evil Q-tip with a business end like an aardvark’s snout.

“Look man, any time a medical professional whips out a Q-tip, I’m already like 99% sure I’m going to hate whatever happens next.  Just do what you gotta do.”

I didn’t have the flu, but now I can smell the color blue.

We finally got home, armed with a variety of prescription drugs and I crawled gratefully back into my bed and passed out.

At about 6 p.m. the doorbell rang and Stadler-the-dog went absolutely bonkers.  I peeped though the curtains and saw a black SUV that I didn’t recognize.

“I’m not opening this stupid door,” I thought, as I stomped morosely to the front door and opened it.

A pretty young woman stood there, smiling shyly and holding a box with a golden horn sticking out of it.

“This is for you,” she said (I think kind of terrified of me – I looked like a rancid sea hag), “from Kenia.”

I thanked her and took the heavy box from her, setting it on the dining room table.  Inside, was a sparkly, rainbow, unicorn birthday cake which my sister-in-law somehow managed to procure for me –despite the fact that she lives in Germany.

It was all I really wanted for my birthday, and there it sat – horn raised proudly to the heavens, mane of edible flowers, a towering sugary monument of deliciousness.  I stared, for a moment, stunned and awed.

Then I put it in the refrigerator and went back to bed.

Still, the cake was definitely the best thing about my birthday.  I had been complaining on social media (between fifteen-hour long naps) that all I got this year was a throbbing headache, a fever and bonus explosive diarrhea.

Kenia shut me up, and the internet reeled with gratitude.

In the end, I got my cake and ate it, too – after Doc Tom called in a prednisone prescription that got me feeling nearly human again.  I hate to say it, but this wasn’t my worst birthday.

I didn’t even manage to set myself on fire.20190223_17493320190223_180343

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An Epic Manifestation of Stunning Genius

As many of you know, I recently went back to school to get my master’s degree in Graphic Design.  As is customary in my life, things aren’t going super swimmingly.  I wrecked my bike last week on the causeway due to being struck in the side by a fantastic gust of wind which knocked me right over.  I’m sure it was pretty funny to watch.  I wasn’t going fast due to the gale that whipped around me, so the whole thing was naturally in slow motion.  The fall resulted in a dinged ego and some large bruises on my shoulders.  It was not the worst thing.

On Monday, we had a huge project due in my Corporate Identity class.  I’m not sure how to really describe what this entails to you folks, but basically its goal is for us to understand the components of how businesses are branded, how they identify, and how they project those ideas on to the world. Basically, we’re spending the entire semester on the examination and rebranding of an existing business, creating everything from new logos to style guides, websites, business cards, annual reports – essentially anything that business could need from a designer, we’re making.

We got to pick which business we’d like to focus on.  The push was for us to help local folks (and hopefully sell our work at the end of the semester), but several of the students chose to work for national entities instead.  Almost all chose brick and mortar businesses that already had some branding established.

I should rephrase that: all except for me.

In a move which could only be described as an epic manifestation of stunning genius, I chose Jeff-the-Bug-Guy.

Bug Busters seemed like a good choice when I made it.  I like Jeff.  He’s a nice person who heroically saved me from two separate infestations of unidentifiable larvae from (probably) outer space.  Plus, he needs the help.  He doesn’t have a logo to speak of (or at least not one I could find anywhere), a website, or a social media presence.  He’s a good bug guy, though, and answers panicked, screeching curse-word-laden phone calls in a calm and professional manner.

I got into the weeds fast.  Other students chose taquerias and could source beautiful photos of tantalizing crunchy deliciousness. They picked local coffee shops and architecture firms and bars.

I chose bugs – preferably dead ones.

Then I spent about 19 hours looking at photos of dead insects, trying to find something (anything) that I could use to attractively illustrate a classically gross theme. I made about 200 illustrations of adorable candy colored bugs with huge sweet eyes.  That idea had to be scrapped because I soon realized that poor Jeff would wind up leaving in his wake a trail of sobbing children who thought they were going to get to see some cute bugs – youthful victims of misleading advertising.

Early on, I had decided that Jeff needed the tag-line “Hire a Hitman” largely because it would look cute on a t-shirt.  Also, in my heavily Quentin Tarantino influenced imagination, I had pictured Jeff delivering the “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men” speech from Pulp Fiction to a room full of cockroaches before summarily executing them.

If I’m being honest, the real Jeff (while a fearsome exterminator) has sad eyes and is armed with a large can of pesticide and an arsenal of sticky traps.  Still, he did once show me the small .45 he keeps strapped to his ankle – you never know.

When it came time to put it all together, I was seriously lacking in “filler.”  I mean, what should I have put – a picture of a guy in uniform carrying a can of malathion?  Maybe a floor covered in dead cockroaches would have better fit the bill.  I was in deep trouble.  I wound up dreaming almost entirely in insect carcasses.  I began to think I had made a bad decision in going back to school.

I sucked it up and spent the weekend making a whole array of stuff for Bug Busters.  It would have been a nice Christmas, filled with gaily wrapped “Hitman” mugs, t-shirts, stationary and signs.  My critique went well, although I suspect my classmates didn’t like the logo I landed on.  One girl suggested that I use a big dead ant, to which I replied, “dead ant…dead ant…dead ant…”

No one laughed.

Monday afternoon, I showed Jan Rankin my logo treatment and tried to whine about my depression/existential woes.  “You did it to yourself,” Jan pronounced.  “Why didn’t you just pick something cute?”

“Because I’m stupid, but also because it’s never actually nice in real life.  I mean, morticians need ads just as much as taco shops.”

“Right, but you still PICKED A BUG GUY.”

“No,” I whined, “I picked an insect-based hitman.”

“Have fun looking at dead cockroaches,” Jan replied, cool as a crocodile.

I went home and had beers with the Rev who was sympathetic and paid for them.

I may make terrible choices, but I do have great parents – although I feel like maybe they could have worked a little harder to make me smart enough to not choose to spend an entire semester rendering cleaned up versions of dead bugs.  I suspect some of this stupidity may have been arranged.

The Rev and G.P. are getting a pretty good laugh out of this one.

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My Inner Trovert

Recently, I was forced by terrible circumstance to attempt the dreaded Making of a New Friend.  For most people, this would fall squarely into the category of “No Big Deal,” but I am the universally acknowledged High Empress of Introverts – which is a fantastic position because the coalition never has any meetings.

I know that quite often my horrific anxiety makes me seem like a loud, brash broad. The whole walking up to and speaking with new people thing is basically just a freaky fugue state, the result of stranger-danger-induced-hyper-panic.  Really, every time I’m in public, my Inner Trovert would much rather be hiding under the bed watching Star Wars movies with the dog while cuddling a comforting vat of macaroni and cheese.

I spend most of my life working on super-secret projects with my best buddy and worst helper, Stadler (the dog), and it’s a real Pinky and the Brain situation.  Even I, however, need people to do things with on occasion – most often a “plus one” for mandatory social events.

Amber (who you’ve read a lot about lately) is usually that person. She’s a trooper and loves to go to the kind of stupid, fancy events I often get roped into.  Unfortunately, she decided to move to North Carolina to get a fresh start, and it looked like I was going to be down one important friend (which is around 33% of all my local close friends).  It was like my friend list got hit by a nuclear strike.

“Maybe you could be friends with my Angela,” Amber suggested, when I cried to her about my situation.  “She’s really smart and funny and she’s about your age.  You’d like her.  She knows stuff about things and we watch lots of Lifetime movies.”

“But she probably won’t like meeeeeee,” I whined in return.

“Yeah, probably, but you won’t know unless you try,” my usually Hufflepuff-hearted friend coldly replied.  Even Amber gets sick of my crap from time to time.

So, the next morning (in an attempt at being proactive and because I, too, love Lifetime movies), I tried to add Angela as a Facebook friend.

It did not go well.

I think I typed something like, “Hey, I’m a stranger, but I’m DEFINITELY NOT A SERIAL KILLER.  Do you wanna be friends or anything?”

And then I felt bad about what I wrote, so I texted Amber:

Me: I friend requested Angela, but I did it weird because I am the AWKWARDEST HUMAN EVER.

Amber: WHAT DID YOU SAY (even though this was a text message, I could literally hear tension in it – she knows me pretty well)??!?!

Me: Something serial killer-y.

Amber: Oh God.

Then Angela, in what I can only assume was a sainthood level act of human compassion, accepted my friend request anyway.

So, of course, I messaged her in return  a list of facts about sloths, told her I was concerned about her getting serial killed because that’s how a serial killer would make a friend request, and straight-up called myself Abi Wayne Gacy.

We haven’t really talked since.

For some reason, when I’m trying to get people to like me I turn into the kid from Jerry Maguire, listing random facts that I feel they should be interested in.

It’s even worse when I like a boy.  I turn into the kid-from-Jerry-Maguire-if-he-was-a-cat, listing facts and giving small weird tokens of my affection.  It goes something like:  funny button, koozie, handmade card, interesting rock I found, list of facts about blood, koozie, lint shaped like a turtle, taxonomy of mafia hits, book (books are always loaners – I’m writing this here as future proof – I only LOANED YOU THAT BOOK), long digression about the history and application of typefaces …

…and then they stop talking to me.  I usually don’t ever get the book back, either.

Once, when I went crying to my Mommy about a boy, the Rev told me this story:

“Famous composer Sergei Rachmaninoff was notoriously socially awkward.  He decided he wanted to cultivate a friendship with fellow exiled Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, but he didn’t know how to go about it.  Then he heard that Stravinsky loved honey.  EUREKA!  That night, well past midnight, Stravinsky heard a frantic pounding on his front door. He raced downstairs, thinking there was an emergency, threw open the door and found Rachmaninoff standing on his stoop with a truly enormous jar of honey.  So, whenever you feel socially inept, just remember poor Rach and his jar of honey,” Mom related.

I sat quietly for a minute. “Did it work?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” Mom replied.

“Were they friends after that?”

“Well…yes, but that’s not the point.”

“Um…I don’t know…like if it worked…”

“ABIGAIL JANE BAIR DON’T YOU DARE GO TO HIS HOUSE AT 2 A.M. WITH A GIGANTIC JAR OF HONEY.”

“He doesn’t like honey.”

“Ok, then.”

“He likes fish.”

And then my mother walked away from me muttering unflattering things under her breath and wouldn’t talk to me for two days.

In the end, Amber decided not to move, and I (luckily?) couldn’t find a fish that felt significant enough.

I’ve heard before that if you’re socially awkward, all you have to do is find your tribe and you’ll be fine. I’m not sure I want to find mine.  If my people are anything like me, there’s going to be a lot of nervous recitation of polynomials, cat fights about Star Wars facts, underpants dance-offs, and compulsory cape wearing.

It might not be so bad.

After all, the fish will be ENORMOUS.

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Bonus Comic

Kinda totally changed my style this week and … well … adapted.  I dunno.  I like it.life lessons 6

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I Need to Use the Sleep

Two weeks ago, I went back to college and my life completely changed.  I know what you’re thinking: “At your age?  Why in the heck would you do something crazy like that, Ab?” The answer is pretty simple: I love what I do, and I want to know every single thing there is to know about it.  I also want a Master’s degree, and they don’t sell those at Wal-Mart, HEB, or even Target – I checked.

In any case, coffee has become a really important element of my existence.  B.S. (before school), I enjoyed a cup or two every morning, at my leisure, usually whilst completing a crossword puzzle still abed.  Now, I get up at 4:30 in the morning and chug around a half gallon of the stuff while finishing picky final touches on projects for my design classes.

I bought a thermos so that I could take another 22 ounces with me.  After some reconnoitering, I found out that the campus Starbucks will refill your thermos for around a dollar.

I stopped evaluating coffee in terms of the quality of its flavor, and started judging it by its general thickness.  The best viscosity for staying awake hovers somewhere between “motor oil” and “house paint.” The G.P. (my Dad) opined last week that I would “probably not sleep until Memorial Day” if I continued consuming that much caffeine.

I don’t have classes on Fridays – thank goodness – because by then I’m basically a husk of a human.  Last week, I desperately wanted 1) pizza; 2) beer; 3) the movie Big Trouble in Little China; 4) Sleeping Beauty level sleep, in exactly that order (although 1, 2 and 3 were ideally in combination). Instead, I got baby carrots and more coffee because adulting is terrible.

I hadn’t been this tired since I worked a big motorcycle trade show down on South Padre a few years back.  I conned my friend Amber into going with me, telling her that it would be “fun” and that the hotel had a “pool.”  As noted in an earlier column, Amber is a trooper and tagged along willingly.  Then we wound up working two back-to-back seventeen-hour days fueled only by the hotel’s continental breakfast and a generous selection of Hostess Fruit Pies in the green room.

We were very good girls the first night, adjourning directly to our hotel room after the show closed at midnight, and probably managing six whole hours of solid sleep.  The second night, however, (and although we were already exhausted), we decided to “go out” and got into particularly noxious apple flavored Jim Beam with our dear friends, Curtis and Christe Hardy.

The Hardys had come along to help out (while taking a well-deserved vacation weekend), and were great assets in the booth.  They also know how to party, inspiring the now classic phrase: “Ain’t no party like a Hardy party because a Hardy party DOESN’T. EVER. STOP.”  The Hardys are consummate professionals.  I am a rank amateur.  Amber is a trooper. Things went…

Things could have gone better.

At one point, Amber somehow managed to drop her cell phone through the tiny hole between the floor of the elevator and the door. We were on the third floor.  The phone traveled all the way down the shaft and hit the ground with a muffled thud. Amber was distraught, and spent several minutes on her hands and knees peering down the narrow slit trying to locate her phone.   We called the front desk, and they had to call a maintenance person at home to open a secret door at the bottom of the elevator shaft. This took hours.  Christe and I helpfully recreated the mishap by trying to “accidentally” throw our flip flops through the slender gap.  It was difficult, but Christe finally managed to drop one by carefully placing it the hole and then stomping on it.  This success was roundly toasted with further apple bourbon.

We finally staggered back to our hotel room at 5 a.m. and passed out until 6:30. I rousted poor Amber out of bed and we put on our makeup.

Then we both barfed.

We put our makeup on again and headed back to the show.  We had to finish the last day (from  8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and then we were heading home.  My boss was coming to pick us up (along with all the motorcycles and accessories), so I valiantly tried to look like hadn’t been punched in the face by 80 fermented apples the night before.  It didn’t work.  Matt (my terrific boss) bought me a pity beer.  Somehow I got through the day without hiding under the table or barfing in the cooler.

And then the suburban broke down on the way home…

At eleven that night, Amber and I were in the backseat stinking like a rancid whiskey barrel that sat too long in the hot sun and also got sprayed by several skunks.  We leaned on each other, trying to watch cartoons on my phone, both completely lost in our own individual fugue states.

“I’m so tired, Amburgler,” I said.

“Me, too,” she replied, sighing.

“I need to use the…” I mumbled, trailing off in total exhaustion.

“You need to use the what?” Amber intoned, probably rhetorically.

“Sleep.” I muttered.

“You need to use the sleep?” Amber asked, laughing a little bit.

“YES! Exactly! I need to use the sleep so much!”

“Me, too,” Amber sighed again.

We finally made it home, and I slept for 18 straight hours…

…and that’s what college feels like, in case you were thinking about going back.  Wish me luck.

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One Good Thing

Ab’s note: This column is in honor of, and was inspired by the life and work of American poet Mary Oliver.

It is often difficult to assess the results of small deeds, of simple goodness, in a world of jerky jerks jerking around all the time.  With the Kardashians projected on giant screens pontificating on whatever disgusting, material “obsession” they’ve most recently adopted, it’s a miracle can formulate any idea of goodness whatsoever.  Our leadership (elected and otherwise) equates blithe cruelty and blind acquisitiveness with the highest in entertainment value, which is then sold to us part and parcel as “a-ok, real good.”

And it is entertaining.  The disgusting is fascinating, and (let’s face it), with the Kardashians setting a moral low bar, we can usually walk around feeling pretty decent – at least by comparison.  There is a big problem, here, however.  The vast majority of human beings are followers.  We don’t like making decisions for ourselves, and the longer our days and the harder we work, the more difficult it is to make sound and rational choices.  Psychologists call this state of mind “decision fatigue,” and it’s at this point that people are most influenced by outside images – even if those images contradict innate values.  Basically, you just become too tired to resist negative ideas, especially if those ideas are rooted in a basic human emotion like fear.

The major difficulty, though, is that once we make a choice to do a bad thing – for whatever reason – we then have to justify it.  Here’s a for instance: say you see a person throw a piece of trash out of a car window. You know it’s bad to throw trash out of car windows, but you have a nasty taco wrapper stinking everything up and it’s a long way to a trash can.  You think to yourself, “well he just did it and nothing happened,” so you throw the wrapper out the window.  Then you feel bad about it because you acted in a way that didn’t align with your values.

That’s when something interesting happens in your brain – either you feel so bad about it that you go back and try to find the taco wrapper in a ditch after dodging a bunch of cars to get there, and swear on your immortal soul never to ever litter again because it’s not worth it to feel this bad about a stupid taco wrapper – OR you let a little evil weasel start gnawing away at the core value underneath.  “What value is that,” you might be asking yourself, “don’t litter?”  Nope.

The core value at the very bottom is love.

When you try to justify that bad thing, the little weasel gnaws and nibbles at your love – the love that says, “I don’t want another person to have to clean up my mess.”  The love that thinks, “I want to leave this place that nurtured me better than I found it.” The love that says, ever so gently, “We are — all of us and everything — in this together.”

And believe me, you need your love – all you have and all you can get — because it is from love that all security, happiness, beauty and joy are derived.

Last week, I was in the grocery store doing my habitual 6 a.m. weekly food shop.  When I finished (still no soup, thank you) I was surprised to see only one register open.  A long line of customers waited to be checked out.  The poor clerk seemed a little overwhelmed, so when my turn came, I decided to speed things up by bagging my own groceries.  The five customers in front of me hadn’t done so, preferring instead to play on their phones while they waited.  I didn’t think my act of bagging was any big deal, really.  I’d always rather do something than stand around.   My brain didn’t even clock the job because it aligned with my values and felt “right.” I paid and started to leave the store.

Then I noticed something interesting and slowed my roll to watch.

The gentleman behind me was bagging his own groceries…and then the next person bagged theirs, and the next, and the next, and then next (and then a store employee showed up and started bagging and I lost interest).

My point is that momentum is a thing.  It is much easier for humans to make decisions and act based on what people around them are doing.  No one wants to stand out in a crowd as “bad” or “gauche.”  Even people who tip the morality scale heavily to the side of “Total Creep” will behave better if other people around them are being good.  In fact, even evil people have to really screw up their courage to do bad things in front of people who would disapprove of them.

Good acts cause ripples of goodness in the world and bad actions cause ripples of bad.  At the end of the day, it is the small things that add up to monumental change.

Which way do you want the current to flow?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have all my love — even if it requires me to live, for a time, with a few stinky taco wrappers.

Posted in Humor | 1 Comment