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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

Perspective Check

Submitted by on March 11, 1996 – 7:55 PMNo Comment

I spent most of this afternoon on my back on the kitchen floor.My air conditioning unit is installed in the kitchen window, so I stationed myself in the kitchen with a book of short stories and an ashtray.From where I sprawled, I could open the refrigerator door and snag a piece of cold pizza from the bottom shelf, or admire the remarkable reserve of beer left over from last weekend’s party.The cat looked really tall from down there.I only got up twice — once to turn up the volume on the afternoon episode of The Love Boat, and once to let the UPS man in. (“Nice pants.”)The biggest excitement of my day came earlier, when I stepped in dog poo with my new sandals on and entertained some small children with the ensuing colorful language and enraged hopping about.

You might wonder what strange turn of events left me prostrate on the floor, examining the bits of kitty litter that have migrated into the cracks of my linoleum, stirring myself only to watch the daily rerun of 90210 at 5 PM.Well, I quit my job to become a writer full-time, and for now I occupy myself doing what full-time writers do best — picking my butt.I also answer phone calls that go a little something like this: “Bitch!I am soooo jealous of you!So, have you written a chapter yet?It must be soooo nice to be at home!Aren’t you psyched?Well, I should go, I have paying, health-insured work to do.Byeeeee!”

Anyhow, back to the kitchen floor.Lying there, the cat towering overhead and inflicting the full horror of his tuna breath on me without fear of retribution, I got to thinking about perspective.Take the dog poo, for instance.I tromped on that poo while wearing shoes that not only have open toes but also have those teeny weeny little grooves on the soles, so basically I have to live with that poo or ditch the shoes, and anyone that knows me personally will tell you that ditching the shoes is not an option.I ranted and raved — New York has laws about this, I’ll never get this off, what ever happened to civic pride, blah blah blah, but later I thought about it.If I were out with my yapping mangy furball at 1 AM and nobody around, would I scoop?Hell, no.Is it my problem if people don’t look when they step?

Another typically New York example: the relationship between cars and pedestrians.As a pedestrian, it bugs the hell out of me when cars thunder through the intersection honking at people crossing against the light.”Jeez!””Slow down!””Where’s the fire?!””Ever heard of a speed limit?!”And so on and so forth.But, whenever I try to drive in the city, I am the one leaning on the horn and fuming at the folks on foot.”Who do these people think they are!””Do the words ‘don’t walk’ mean anything to you morons?!””If you think I’m going to slow down, you’ve got another think coming!”Et cetera et cetera.That would be me.

And we see the same thought processes on a national level, especially during an election year.The farmers, the steelworkers, the dentists, and my father (actually, I suspect that my father is an anarchist in his heart of hearts, but that’s another column) stomp around repeating their mantra, “Lower our taxes…lower our taxes…lower our taxes.”So the government lowers taxes.Then we start hearing things like, “Since when have school lunches consisted of one lima bean?And why have I started seeing homeless veterans in front of the supermarket?The NEA wasn’t so bad, we need bombs to fight the Koreans and the Freemen, we should send bandages to Bosnia, people are dying of AIDS and breast cancer and hangnails and those politicians are sitting there doing nothing!I saw beer cans on the ground when we visited Yellowstone last year, and speaking of Yellowstone where were the park rangers when we were almost eaten by an endangered bear that nobody is protecting?Throw the bums out!”So we throw the bums out and get new bums, and then everyone starts haranguing the MTV campaign bus about how we’ll never see that Social Security money and kites have better radar cloaking than that Stealth bomber thing and blah blah blah.

And thus Americans leap from one side of the fence to the other, trying to find the greenest grass. “Howyadoin’, Bud?That grass is lookin’ pretty green over there.””Howdy, Don — yup, it’s green, all right, but my wife had an allergic reaction to all that fertilizer, puffed up as big as a blowfish and us without health insurance.I oughta write a letter, that’s what I oughta do.”It extends to every aspect of American life, from TV to the battle of the sexes — men are either pigs or “too nice, and I need more excitement.”Next time you’re lying on your kitchen floor, think about it.You can’t win.

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