HOLLYWOOD—Laying claim to my holiday, Columnists’ Day, when scribes can lounge, I cleaned my desk and unearthed the following gems of the kvetcher’s art.
Stinky: Doncha hate those pine-scented, tree-shaped thingies that dangle from rearview windows? If there’s anything I hate more, it’s a discount pack of four deodorant trees with an obnoxious chemical pine smell. They smell bad, and last such a short time! I went out on a limb and brought a new colored, leaf-shaped one with an evocative name like “Canadian Mist.” What would happen if I didn’t like the fragrance? The Pep Boys’ manager assured me that I could return them as long as I didn’t open the package. “How can I know what it smells like?” I countered. “You CAN smell it,” he insisted, bringing the cellophane pack to his nose. Well, you guessed it: Canadian Mist stank. Next time I’ll stick to Canadian Club.
Curb Your Micro-Managing: Doncha get miffed when you’re told something you don’t need to know? Like I needed to know that the paper cups from 7-Eleven aren’t microwaveable. That type of information seeps into your consciousness and gnaws like a slow, subtle poison that can take a state of tranquility and twist it around 180 degrees. Now I’ll be afraid to microwave the coffee and not know why.
A recent letter from the Auto Club instructed me not to staple, not to enclose cash or correspondence—all well and good—but then it stipulated, ”˜Do not enclose the cover letter.’ Well that certainly is presumptuous. And it gets under my skin: I had to deal with the cover letter, unfold it, discard it, look at the picture of the club president who’s probably a crook. (I don’t know how you can be corrupt in an auto club, but being president I’m sure has its grift.) Why shouldn’t the auto club flunkies know first-hand what a hassle it is to deal with a cover letter? Mind you, I had nothing, but good will toward the auto club, and then, pow, I read this extra anal retentive instruction and am inspired to enclose the cover letter just to spite them.
A Misgiving: A neighbor kid came by selling for the Vine Street Elementary School fundraiser. I was the first sale on young Pablo’s docket. I was happy to do it, torn though I was between the package of teas and a bag of “healthy” nuts. Just the kind of consolation merchandise the fundraising people offer to entice somebody repelled by corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. I wanted to put a smile on the third grader’s face and gladly wrote out my check.
Not 15 minutes passed and Pablo’s sister showed up. The one who never cracked a smile, who could be a poster child for UNICEF. I began to say, “Naw, sorry, Pablo was already here.” But something caught me: I wanted to show her the beauty of our mercantile system, that there really doesn’t have to be cut-throat competition, one winner and a lot of losers. No. Everybody can be a winner. So I said to myself, she’ll get a lesson in abundance, and it’ll put a big broad smile on her face. This time I elected the bag of mixed nuts and pumpkin seeds. Well, it didn’t work. She left as glumly as she came. And I felt the longueurs of a new, hitherto unknown emotion: philanthropist’s remorse.
American Dreamers: The American dream of owning a house puts us in danger of becoming a nation of housekeepers and gardeners. See, once we get a house of our own, we realize how much doggone work it is, and therein springs the hope that we can hire a housekeeper and a gardener. Eventually, we do hire a housekeeper and gardener. In turn, our housekeeper and gardener each harbor the dream of owning their own home. In time, their dream comes true, and they will hire their own housekeeper and gardener. It’s beautiful, an eternal braid.