My wife and I gingerly sank ourselves into the stiff bank lobby chairs. I could only surmise that they were purposely built to look comfortable, yet to inhibit blood circulation enough to quickly herd out the bank's riff raff lest they risk bed sores.
Like McDonald's, only with sugar-free suckers and stale coffee, Chase Bank offered little to promote customer comfort as we waited to sign the paperwork.
I could see our banker from my seat. A woman sat across from him in his semi-secluded cubicle, en rapt in some sort of conversation that didn't look like it would end any time soon.
"Come on," I cajoled. "Just wrap things up, people." I glanced at my bride. "We do have an appointment, right?"
"Settle down, Grampy." She frowned. "Our appointment is for 5:00 and it's only 5:04."
She knows how I hate being called Grampy, so that comment didn't exactly douse the fire. I seethed and stared at the rude interloper who sat hijacking our banker's face time with impunity. I began dissecting the woman's appearance, questioning everything from her ill-fitting bra (I happened to watch that Oprah episode) to her mother's possible alcohol and nicotine abuse during pregnancy. Piss and vinegar overflowed from my emotional rain barrel.
But then, inexplicably, a calming blanket engulfed me as I the Serenity Prayer, that famous Alcoholics Anonymous axiom, seeped into my consciousness:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Aah, that's better, I thought. Listen, man, you're right in the middle of a situation completely out of your control. Could you walk up to this woman right now and escort her out by her earlobe like a deranged playground teacher? Absolutely, but you'd also find yourself removed and possibly tased in the groin by the man who had previously been sanctioned to loan you a nice chunk of change. Go to your freaking happy place, asshole.You aren't currently piloting this jet ski, so just massage that throbbing vein of rage back into your stress-oiled forehead.
That little pep talk helped a lot. Plus the lady got up and left around 5:05.
I really need to keep that prayer handy. The premise seems so basic, so intuitive, but it's got to be one of the most difficult challenges to my aging sensibilities.
Recently, I've decided to drill into the paradigm permafrost, because otherwise, things will only get worse. Which aspects of my life can I truly control and which are branded for release into the trout pond of destiny?
My health—I think yes, overall, this is something I can control. I don't however, feel responsible for a congenital addiction to Hostess Ho Hos and Reservoir Dogs.
My emotions—Again, a bit of a grey area here. I don't think they can be controlled per se…just the behavior which ensues as the result of emotion. For instance, when you hear that some older boy at school kicked your daughter in the kneecap, you can't manipulate the raw vitriol coursing through your being. The challenge is in preventing the transformation of fantasy into reality. You can't actually meet that kid after school and whisper to him that today's delicious corn beef and cheddar sandwich was actually his new puppie…and cheddar.
My relationships—"Control" is probably the wrong word. People who strive to control relationships often end up in creepy Burning Bed-type situations. But come on—we all know what we can do to improve things, right?
My children—There's no controlling children—not mine, anyway. In fact, it's just the opposite. For God's sake, if I were some sort of machine, my kids would be the vice grips on my hexagonal nuts.
Time—There was a TV show in the Sixties called Time Tunnel, anyone remember it? Two white guys, one who wore a suit and looked like David Byrne, and the other in a turtle neck and resembling Tim Tebow, participated in a top secret government project. Once they entered the tunnel, they couldn't get out and were transported on random occasions to other times and places. Fortunately, everything was filmed from several angles and Doug and Tony always managed to pop into historically significant situations, rather than just materializing on a pizza-stained couch next to two stoned dudes named Lonnie and Mark.
So yeah, you can't control time unless you were either on that show or are Cher.