Upon leaving work one day last week, I was greeted with a harsh accusation. Written on a yellow sticky and stuck to my driver’s side window was a hostile note reading: Asshole!
It seems that I had parked a bit too closely to this gentleman's automobile. Apparently having struggled to enter his car due to the proximity of mine, he got aggravated. So aggravated, in fact, that he took the following steps (give or take):
1. squeezed his fat ass into his car
2. found a pen and scribbled his hate speech on the sticky pad that no doubt resides on his dashboard so he can jot down the names of the latest Ashley Simpson/Pussycat Dolls/Click 5 song that catches his fancy on the way home
3. drove his car forward just a bit, so as to be able to open the door without another fury-provoking incident
4. got out of his car
5. stuck the fruits of his temper onto my blameless vehicle
6. got back into his car
7. put in his 4 Non Blondes CD
8. sang at the top of his lungs on the way home
9. ate a vat of ice cream while watching "Sex In the City" reruns
10. cried himself to sleep
I still have the note. It’s displayed prominently on my dashboard. I might get it framed. Why? Because it’s hilarious. And because I can use the negative reinforcement. I’ve missed such degradation since I stopped being Catholic. Especially since I don’t practice Lent, which arrived last week.
If you’re not Christian, you probably told at least one person that they had some dirt on their forehead last Wednesday. If you are Christian, you're probably going to spend the next 40 days avoiding cheese or alcohol or aborted fetuses. Lent is about sacrificing something to make yourself more like Jesus, i.e., part-God (but no PCP: Angel Dust is the kind of short-cut to feeling all-powerful that the Church frowns upon!) At its core, the purpose of Lent is to practice being a better mortal and not get banished to hell for eating a Sloppy Joe on Friday.
But you don’t have to paint your face or drink the Christian kool-aid to want to become a better person. You don’t even have to be religious. You only have to be American.
Self-improvement has become its own religion in this country. You can’t go anywhere these days without someone trying to make you better. It's usually Oprah or Dr. Phil or your girlfriend.
You can feel better about yourself. You can be in better shape. You can be better in bed. You can get a better job. You can get a better car. You can get a better girlfriend. You can be a better son. You can be a better Christian. You can be a better citizen.
Wow. Apparently, You suck at everything.
Quit smoking, stop drinking, go jogging, take yoga, eat fish, drink water, skip dessert, do a good deed, smile more, read more, give blood, be an organ donor, be a Big Brother, support local television, support the troops, what’s your anti-drug, WWJD? Um, BGM? (Block gay marriage)
Whatever happened to not giving a shit?
Growing up, we’re all taught that having a good sense of self-worth is necessary. The importance of good self-esteem can’t be stressed enough. We need it to withstand peer pressure, to say no to drugs, to avoid posing nude. We need to love ourselves before we can love anyone else. Yet, at the same time, everything around us tells us how overwhelmingly mediocre we are and how much we need to change. So which is it? Should I love myself now or only when I stop eating carbs?
I’m fine with who I am. In fact, I think I am better than most people. So losing 20 pounds isn’t going to help my self-esteem. It isn't going to help anyone, really, except maybe my girlfriend. And that's only until I parlay my new washboard abs into a new, less demanding chick. How ya like me now!
So when some stranger gets pissed and leaves an angry, insulting note on my car, I treasure it. It keeps me in perspective. It reminds me that even though I am a superior human being - a hero, really - I do have my faults.
But I don't feel the need to improve. Okay, fine, I don't feel that need strongly enough to bother improving. It's a pain in the ass.
My brother likes to use the term "perspective" a lot these days. As in his “New Perspective.” See, he got in a life-threatening car accident last September. The situation was pretty harrowing for a while, but things turned out okay. How okay? Let’s see, thanks to his accident he lost 40 pounds, moved out of my parents’ house and got a better, higher paying job.
We should all nearly die in a car crash. It's the fast track to a better life. With that kind of payoff I'd have a new perspective too.
I'm all for the quick fix. So yeah, maybe if I won the lotto I'd be all for improving myself. I'd give to charity and volunteer my time and donate my extra kidney and read for the blind and get laser eye surgery and liposuction and flaxseed oil and the cream and the clear. But that would basically make me Barry Bonds. And while I may not mind being called an asshole, I don't want to let down my fans.
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3.17.06 @ 12:59a
You lucked out just getting a note. Someone parked too close to me in a parking garage last week. I had to get in my car from the passenger side. That didn't stop me from opening my driver's side door repeatedly slamming it against the other car 8 or nine times. My Saturn has that non-dent thing going going for it. The other car didn't. I didn't leave a note.
3.17.06 @ 7:44a
Since I always park closer to the car on my left than the one on my right, I was a bit miffed a few months ago when somebody knocked my passenger side mirror nearly off and if was hanging by one little piece of metal. I still haven't figured out how it could have been done, but nobody left me a note saying, "Sorry!"
In case you wondered, I park closer to the left car than the right because the passenger side is where I load my purchases into the pickup cab, so I leave plenty of room for the shopping cart and me on that side, and not because I'm not an asshole. It's a habit and even if I'm not going to be loading purchases I still park closer to the left than to the right. Sometimes I have to squirm a little to get in and out, but the drivers on either side of me don't. Their passangers are another matter, of course. You just can't win 'em all.
3.17.06 @ 8:09a
Alcohol is my anti-drug.
3.17.06 @ 8:12a
Drugs are mine.
3.17.06 @ 11:51a
My brother - the one mentioned in the article - just read it. Apparently he lost a bit fewer than 40 pounds, due to having his jaw wired shut for a month.
And not only did he improve himself that way, he also improved his Game, by telling girls he broke his jaw when he crashed trying to qualify in a NASCAR timetrial.
4.17.06 @ 12:35p
Well, I've given this a lot of thought. And I gotta disagree.
I guess that everything anyone of us does, that we also talk about or try to endorse, is mastubatory to a certain extent. But that doesn't mean self improvement is useless and unnecesary. Take you, man, you got...nevermind. Let's just say that, even if you're content with yourself, you're basically a fixer-upper to the rest of us.
Let's take education, don't you think that is a life-long thing? Something you're always trying to improve as you age? I guess some things are superficial, and it's just societal pressure to conform to the LCD, but some things, you gotta keep pushing.
4.17.06 @ 7:50p
One thing you definitely need to improve: your sense of humor.
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