We suck up to people when we think it might help make life easier for us. Don’t deny it, everybody does it, it is human nature.
You’re sitting vulnerable in a chair with a dentist hovering over you with assorted tools of torture, and you, like most people, have the good common sense to make nice. You just do. You suck up to him in any way you think might make him be gentle. You really want him to like you. Too bad it won’t work, he just found out that the top-of-the-line Lexus he had on order arrived with a dust mark on it, so he is deeply unhappy. In fact, he hates your guts. This is a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sucks to be you. Sucks to be your teeth, or what’s left of them once he is done.
Then, barely recovered from your dentist visit, you’re about to undergo an operation, and it’s the same thing. You suck up, you play to the doctor’s ego, you flatter with the hope that he will say, “OMG, this is SUCH a nice person! Instead of using the serrated kitchen knife to fix him up, I’ll be gentle and use only the finest surgical tools this side of heaven. I’ll do ANYthing to save him, maybe even skip lunch!” Of course halfway through the operation, your surgeon will notice a grumbling in his stomach, at which point he will throw in the towel, probably inside you, and go off to lunch. When he returns, he will be annoyed because lunch sucked, and the service did as well. He probably won’t remember where he left off and will just amputate a few limbs here and there and be done with you.
The whole thing makes you feel stabby, so you head to City Hall to lodge a complaint about everything. You’re not very nice to the receptionist because what the hell, she doesn’t have the power, and besides she is in your way. You’re there to see the mayor, where is he?
And that is where you’ve made your biggest mistake. Of all the people you should be nice to in this world, the people who man those desks should be at the top of the list. Dental office, doctor office, city hall, anywhere there’s a receptionist, save your niceness for them. Not only are they the ones who have to work for eight hours a day dealing with the often prima donna testiness of doctors and dentists and what-nots who are ego-driven and not particularly nice to their staff, they are also the ones with the power to get you to where you want to go in that office. They are the ones who drive Ladas that work part-time and choke them with fumes on the way to work where they have to listen to the sob stories about Lexus dust marks. They are the ones who live in normal houses and have to endure lengthly diatribes about the mismatched paint jobs in the million dollar mansions.
If you’re rude to these receptionists, they can make things very very hard for you. They have the magical power of making the boss be available in ten minutes . . . or unavailable for the next two years.
And if your timing is bad and you’re rude at the wrong moment, they are going to see you as the last straw. You don’t want to be the last straw of someone who camps in the back yard because that’s what she can afford, but who has just finished soothing away the tears of a frustrated doctor who found out that his first-class tickets for the weekender trip to Paris are on the wrong side of the airplane and he’ll miss the sunset.
“You. Yeah you, I’m here to see Dr. Fiddlesticks, double fast, honey, I don’t have all day. You’re going to have to get off your chair and actually do something here, I’m afraid.”
“I’m so sorry, sir. I don’t speak English.”
“What? Of course you do, you’re speaking English right now.”
“No, those are the only words I know. And these.”
“Listen, stop dicking around with me and get the goddamn doctor. You’re going to be looking for another job at this rate.”
“Hmm, well, I do know some other English words, good ones, too. I’m not allowed to say them, though.”
“Damn, you’ve wasted enough of my time, just book me an appointment, make it snappy.”
“I have one available on March 30th at 2 pm, will that work for you?”
“Yes, that will be fine. It’s about time.”
“It certainly is. March 30th, 2017, 2 pm.”
“What??? Stop pissing around!”
“Mais oui, pissing? You want bathroom, si? Ya, here ist der key. You must be, what you say . . . crazy like banshee because you don’t understand that I no speaken zee English. We could speak in Latin, if you like. Do you know it? Tu es stultior quam asinus.”
“Why you . . . “
OMG, my dog died today, it breaks my heart.
And the damn thing gets 50 likes. Are people liking that your dog died? Or that you’re really unhappy? They can’t just type ‘I’m sorry’ instead of ‘liking’ it?
And as though we don’t meet up with enough death and grief close to heart as we travel life’s road, we now too-deeply mourn the death of celebrities, other strangers, and even unknown pets far and wide. We are in perma-grieving mode, perma-RIP mode. I was caught up in it when Steve Jobs died, it actually affected my whole morning until I realized, what the hell am I doing here, I did not know this man. Write about his admirable traits, sure, but grieve? No. If we too closely embrace all the world’s woes, how can we hope to schedule joie de vivre into our lives?
Oh sweet sleep. I love those slipping-down seconds when you feel yourself disappear into another world, your brain drifting away on the promise of a good dream. Then maybe you grind your teeth for a bit if you’re into that kind of thing, then it’s time to maybe snore and drive your mate out of his or her cotton-picking mind, now it’s time for a toss here, a turn there, a flip, a kick or two, a cuddle, then maybe you’re too hot so you kick off the covers and then you’re too cold but the covers are no longer around, they have been stolen by that bastard lying beside you. Yet all this is done as seamlessly as a ballet performance, and in the deepest of pristine sleep. This is what we call a ‘pretty good night’s sleep’.
There’s another kind of sleep, though. It is called ‘a crappy night’s sleep’ or, after a few nights of it, ‘no bloody sleep at all, AGAIN, thank you SO MUCH for asking, #I@#$)#@‘.
When the person living in the same house asks you ‘how did you sleep’ after you’ve had a bad night, he or she is generally far too smart to add that they slept like a baby. However, they were in that bed with you, so you already know they slept like a damn baby because every time you looked over, there they were, mindlessly sawing logs with a smile on their face, completely oblivious to your suffering. Gazing down at their pathetic sleeping form, you hate them with every fibre of your exhausted being, and things don’t improve all that much in the light of day. Forgiveness takes time, and lots of coffee.
As a rule, I am pretty lucky in matters of sleep. I’m generally down for the count for eight hours, at which point a form of pre rigor mortis has set in. I’m a morning stiff, you see - although luckily not a dead stiff (yet). All my joints manage, in those short eight hours, to completely forget what their job is, so I’m like the Tin Man, can’t move fast, I need my oil, which is taken in the form of several cups of coffee. I don’t really mind, because who wants to move fast first thing in the morning anyway, unless you’re chasing down the rat who ‘slept like a baby’.
On those rare occasions when sleep refuses to come, I take it very personally. Very very personally. Very very very personally. I take it personally because I know that it is a vindictive and deliberate act on my body’s part, with the brain fully in on the game. They get together and decide to toy with me. “Let’s not sleep tonight, bwahahahaha, we’ll do a sleepectomy on her (again), she will go mad with it. We will have fun. Bring popcorn, I’ll bring beer.” There’s no good reason to do this to me, it’s unbelievably malicious.
A sleepless night goes approximately like this - I hit the pillow, and fall into an instant deep sleep. One nanosecond later, my eyes open. I silently explain to them that it is not time to open. They shut again, but then, as though on springs, they reopen. I repeat myself, this time less patiently. The eyes shut, but reluctantly and with attitude, so I cover them with my hand. This is when the brain takes over. The brain is much more powerful than the eyes. You can bully the eyes into doing what you want, but just try that with the brain. It has so many tricks, and it knows you really well. It knows what buttons to push.
Next the legs get into the game. The usual way to sleep is suddenly not good enough for the legs. No, they now hate that way of sleeping, and won’t do it. They won’t do any other way either, instead they flail about. They have decided that the bed is hostile territory, and they want nothing to do with it. The arms notice these antics and get into the game. The rest of the body thinks this is amazing stuff and it does what it can to play along. So there I am, a twitching nervous wreck, unable to sleep in the uncomfortable bed - the same bed that the body thought was just fine one night earlier.
In theory, the trick when you can’t sleep is to just go with it. Relax, read a book, don’t think about time or sleep. Reeeeeeee-laaaaaaaax. I grab my book and make it through the first sentence and suddenly feel more tired than I’ve felt in my entire life. I put down the book, turn out the light, and zzzzzzzz . . . z . . . . . . z . . . zz . . . z - damn, I have to go pee. Has there ever been a more tired person staggering to a bathroom? No, there has not. How can I even make it back to the bed? Maybe I’ll fall asleep on the floor because that’s how tired I am. With effort I do make it back, and my body and brain laugh in harmony as I once again come fully awake.
I accept that I won’t sleep ever again. This I announce out loud. “Why even bother,” I say in my best Eeyore voice. “I will just stay up for the REST OF MY LIFE.” No response from the dead weight on the other side of the bed. We all - myself, my brain and my body - head into the office to get this column written. In minutes I am fast asleep in the chair. My joints, which are whiny things at the best of time, notice that they are resting in highly unacceptable positions, so they ache at me until I wake up. I stagger back to bed, and am now totally ready for sleep, oh boy. Crawling into the bed, chilled and done for, I fall instantly asleeeeeee-wide-awake.
This slips me into rant-mode. I become severe with myself, because sometimes you have to be. “You stupid stupid stupid body, you stupid stupid stupid brain. I hate you more than I’ve ever hated anything or anyone, why, I oughta smack you a good one. I wish you were de . . . wait, never mind that, but I really hope you suffer.”
And that’s the thing, it works, I do suffer. It is a complicated relationship.
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