Games You Can’t Win

I find it depressing that we categorize entertainment by the age demographic at which it is targeted. I suppose it makes sense to call The Hunger Games a young adult novel. Certainly I can see how its themes would resonate with teenagers (and teenage girls, specifically). But whenever I hear someone refer to the Looney Toons or Rocky & Bullwinkle as kids’ stuff, I am reminded of the great Maurice Sendak, who, when asked why he wrote for children, said, “I don’t. I write and somebody says, ‘That’s for children’.” When I visit bookstores (which I do quite often), I frequently find myself wandering over to the kids’ section so I can read Sendak or Dr. Seuss. Seuss’ stuff holds up really well. The Butter Battle is a powerful allegory for nuclear war that scared me even before I understood what it meant, The Sneeches is a sweet story about tolerance and overcoming prejudice, and I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew is a really funny book about learning to face your problems instead of running from them. And then there’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, which was the last book he wrote and is a popular gift for young graduates. I will say no more about that one.

When I was in college, I read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, figuring that if I read one book for pubescent girls in my lifetime, it should be that one. I did feel a little weird checking that one out from the library, but I think we tend to shelter our kids a little bit too much these days. I recall an incident when I was a child in which I was trying to cross the street. It was rush hour, so even though I lived in the suburbs, I couldn’t really find a gap in traffic large enough to fit through. So I sat down on the curb and started crying. Within one minute, a woman pulled over, asked me what the problem was, then held my hand as we crossed the street. I never saw her again. Would that fly today? We talk to kids so much about stranger danger that you’d think everyone who doesn’t have kids is a pedophile. I don’t have kids, but I’m pretty sure I’m not John Wayne Gacy.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. When it comes to the media I consume, I just don’t think very much about who it was made for. I’ll watch How to Train Your Dragon and Stranger by the Lake (an erotic gay French thriller) one after the other if I feel like it. It’s the nice thing about being an adult: you don’t have anyone telling you what to do. Yet I still know people who would return to their childhood if they had the chance. That makes no sense to me. I was not a happy child. I’m not much happier now, but I am freer.

Customer service is a good way to learn to hate humanity. I had a guy complain the other day that he had to wait four minutes for his americano. Wow. Four whole minutes. Then when I gave it to him, he complained that the water had gotten cold because I let it sit on the bar while I made the drinks for the people in line ahead of him and pulled the shots. So it dropped from 180 degrees to 170? Geez, I feel so sorry for you! It’s almost like coffee shops get really busy in the mornings or something. But seriously, you have to at least try not to let shitheads like that one get to you. Let’s face it, most of the people you interact with when you’re doing that kind of work aren’t the sort that you would want to talk to outside of work anyway. One of the regulars started complaining about Asian drivers and how they don’t belong here the other day. I said nothing because, um, what I really have to say to that would get me fired. Just take your drinks and leave, dude. Nobody wants to hear it.

There is a reason I’ve never even been considered for any kind of management position even though I’ve been working at this place for a little less than a year, and that’s that I don’t have the patience to fake it with people who get on my nerves. If you want to be a dick to me, I’ll still get you your coffee. But I won’t apologize to you because you had to wait less than five minutes for it. I just won’t.

Currently, I have so many balls in the air that I just can’t seem to focus on anything. I’m in the middle of, like, six books right now. I’m splitting my time between various movies and TV shows on multiple streaming services, and I still don’t have as much of a social life as I’d like. (That said, I went to a farewell party for a friend who was leaving for grad school over the weekend and met one very pleasant couple who pretty much single-handedly made all of the other shit that happened that week worthwhile.) It’s funny. I can feel some of my old friends pulling away from me. I guess that’s just the way of things. I can’t seem to find my center. My dreams are still frantic and jumbled, like a kaleidoscope of my own life. Sometimes they’re really, really intense, reminding me of shit I’ve been trying to bury for years now. I feel like the universe is going to have to meet me halfway sooner or later. But I have a sick feeling that there is a lot more pain in my near future.

Someday I think I’ll have to travel through the red states. I’m getting tired of hypocritical liberals who voted for Obama but skip to the other side of the street if they see a black dude in a hoodie coming their way. But tempers will have to cool a little bit first. I’m still angry as hell. And I’m going to take it…well, a little bit longer, maybe. But not too long. I think there are far too many people who pride themselves on what they aren’t. And all of them, it seems, are on the internet.

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