Is it possible to cope with all of those annoying little issues that assault us daily?
| Before you sits a plate stacked high with several types of freshly baked bread. You pluck a warm, fluffy piece of sourdough from the plate, reach for the butter and slice a thick slab from the stick. As you attempt to spread this, the bread tears into a gooey, crumbled blob while the butter remains in a perfect square. Slightly annoyed, you place the shredded pile of dough aside and pick another piece of bread from the platter. This time your mind conjures a way to cheat fate: you scrape the butter from the top of the stick where it is softer, more pliable. Within moments you have a beautiful piece of buttered bread nestled comfortably in your hand. Then something inexplicable happens: your hand twitches and the bread tumbles from your grasp. Without even looking down you know which side is kissing the fuzzy, unswept floor.
Almost everyone is familiar with the expression "Nothing is ever easy." Never has a phrase contained more truth. Mankind will always be plagued by inconvenience. Whether created by minor acts of God or by the laws of physics and nature, certain little events constantly occur which will always remain beyond the realm of human understanding. Several of these events can happen to an individual in one day, changing the simplest task into an effort of monumental proportions.
For example, what happens when you accidentally drop something? The actual dropping of an item is annoying enough, but isn't it true that there are different rules for how each item falls? Keys will almost always slip through your fingers when you are carrying bags loaded to the brim with fragile groceries. The intended destination of the key-ring, its occupants dangling and clanging as they fall, is inevitably a scum-infested puddle or a steaming mountain of shit kindly dropped near your doorstep by the neighbor's "cute" little dog. When carrying keys, avoid sewer grates with utmost caution; walking on water while juggling six vials of nitroglycerin is easier than retrieving a set of keys through a metal grate with slits less than an inch wide.
Red wine seems to follow its own set of laws. If you happen to be enjoying a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon while cooking dinner in a kitchen with tile floors, odds are you won't shower the surrounding area with red wine and broken glass; tile is too easy to clean. If, however, you find yourself in a room lovingly decorated with antique furniture and a beautiful white carpet, the situation changes. The red wine will bounce off of a two-hundred-year-old table and shoot towards the carpet like a heat-seeking missile on the tail of an F-16. It makes no difference whether or not you have anything else in your hands… The carpet becomes an innocent victim in an inconvenient drive-by wining.
Bathrooms thrive as vortices of unplanned events. If you drop something, it will almost always bounce to that tiny space behind the toilet and as you search for the item you will first find someone's crusty, clipped toenail. If the item in question does not fall behind the toilet, it will fall in the toilet. This is especially popular with fresh rolls of toilet tissue, which suck up so much water that they effectively triple in weight and diameter. Then there's the matter of that little stopper thing that constantly gets stuck so that the toilet regurgitates eerie gurgling noises until someone is brave enough to stick their hand down in the tank and connect the handle to the little chain with a safety-pin.
Not every annoying event can lay claim to random clumsiness. Society, an unchained monster with the ever-present ability to make a five-step problem into a fifteen-step problem, forces humanity to become its own nemesis. Have you ever noticed how construction can close down a 45-mile stretch of highway, but you rarely ever see anyone working? If you actually do witness movement of some type in these construction zones, it will almost always be in the form of a bunch of guys smoking cigarettes as they lean against an empty truck; another guy holding a flag motions for you to move on and screams at you to stop at the same time.
Or what about the Automatic Teller Machine that opts to give you twenty-dollars more than you asked for. At first you can’t help but herald your good luck, as you feel you may actually have slipped one past the system and come out ahead. But, as experience should tell you by now, this very rarely happens. Instead you find that the extra twenty-dollars was deducted from your account (even though you did not wish to withdraw it) and has also successfully overdrawn your account resulting in a penalty fee of sixty-dollars. Nice, huh?
It’s easy to rattle off examples of this stuff. Soggy french fries; flat beer; potholes; bad drivers; old ladies that somehow manage to clog entire aisles at the grocery store… My current favorite involved having to pay to get on a bus (destination unknown) just to get a bus schedule. Then having to get off the bus to catch the correct bus. Idiotic. Why the hell isn’t the bus schedule posted at the damn bus stop????
And don’t even get me started on neighbors that send their dogs to crap in your lawn…
What can we do to rid the world of these annoyances? First there are the pro-active individuals. Some (not all, thank God) take it upon themselves to shed their clothes and climb, naked, up a tower. Once there, they unleash bullets from a high-powered rifle at random members of the community in hopes of ridding the world of some of these problems. Though it may relieve some stress, this method is not recommended as the odds of hitting sources of your problems are incredibly thin and the fallout actually makes you become one of the things you’re trying to rid the world of. In other words, you become one of the random problems instead of a solution—and a dangerous problem to boot. Plus, this is not a cumulative solution; how does it solve the incident of bread falling to the floor butter-side down? It doesn’t.
Of course there are less extreme reactions to these little inconveniences, but most (if not all) of these are just as useless as being naked on a tower. They just don’t have the collateral damage. Let’s stick with the bread situation for a moment. What possible reactions could you have? Here’s a few that come to mind:
1. Throw a fit: Unless you’re alone (or happen to be a young kid) this is generally frowned upon. Once we hit a certain age we’re not “allowed” to get angry over little things thanks to social conventions. But while it doesn’t actually accomplish much, you’ll probably feel better. Admit it—stomping repeatedly on the bread while hissing numerous foul words really does relieve some stress. Then you can hiss those same words all over again as you dig the squashed remains out of the carpet over the next half-hour…
2. Pick up the bread and eat it, carpet fuzz and all: Though this is quite a responsible choice, as it conserves existing foodstuffs and minimizes emotional outbursts, it is simply nasty. Imagine your girlfriend/boyfriend watching you as you pick a thick strand of carpet (bug parts and all) from between your teeth.
3. Ignore the bread on the floor: Act as though it had never fallen. If you do this you’re a slob. You have also managed to create a little problem for somebody else. Very counterproductive of you.
4. Simply pick up the bread and throw it away: This is the solution considered by society as the proper choice. But do you feel better? Is it cathartic? No way. Not only is the bread wasted but you have also blunted your reaction to the situation. See #1 for venting instructions.
I’m sure there are more reactions but suffice it to say that they will be just about as productive and satisfying as those listed above.
But some people have realized the futility of combating the little things that come up in life. Instead of seeking solutions, these individuals strive to define what causes the problems. This would seem like a more effective approach to the scenario but, as you shall see momentarily, a new set of issues crops up.
Chaos theory is quite a difficult concept for many to grasp. Initially developed in the 1960s by meteorologist Edward Lorenz, it essentially posits that random results can come from organized data—and vice-versa. In other words, seemingly unrelated events are related. Confused yet?
In order to clarify I’ll call upon the most popular example of Chaos Theory, The Butterfly Effect. Can the flutter of a butterfly’s wings in Japan cause a chain reaction that would lead to a hurricane in the United States? At first you may think that it would take one big damn butterfly to wreak such havoc—much bigger than that Mothra monster that fought Godzilla in those old Toho films many of us watched as kids. Of course that’s a literal interpretation…
Boiled down to its basest elements, what The Butterfly Effect means is simple: seemingly unrelated events are somehow related. What chaos theorists attempt to discover is how these seemingly unrelated events affect each other. Starting to see how this relates to generous Automatic Teller Machines and errant pieces of falling bread yet?
While theorists are making some unique discoveries (such as fractal science, rail gun technology, ergonomic margarita mixers, etc.), none of these have explained why annoying things happen over and over again. Oh sure, these theories have opened doors to a fantastic future (particularly if you enjoy a good margarita), but when will they focus on important things—such as why it is so impossible to get fast-food fries that are crisp instead of bloated and soggy with oil?
Much of this can be attributed to human error. People are so inundated with their own microcosm of issues that they inadvertently add to the problems of other people. It’s like a virus that infects every person on the planet. And there is no antidote.
So the big question is, what kind of inoculation can we get against this wealth of minutiae that builds up and up and up on daily basis until it threatens to overwhelm us?
Absolutely nothing. Somehow these little things have wormed into the very essence of humanity and have grown into a subtle force more powerful than every nuclear weapon on the planet; they have become a part of everyday life. Humans are fallible and so, at least for the foreseeable future, human error is here to stay.
So, sit back, relax, and deal with it in whatever manner you feel is best—except for the naked, high-powered rifle kind of way… In the meantime I'm going to clean an ink stain off of my new, white shirt.