In Search for the Perfect Response

Untitled  by Martin Kippenberger (1990)

Untitled by Martin Kippenberger (1990)

Last week, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. I had to pick up a few packages from the post office, but none of the parking spots nearby were open. It was drizzly and I didn't want to carry an armful of boxes in the rain.

My eyes settled on the handicap parking spot across the street, clearly painted blue with a handicap sign posted in front of it. I'll just park there and do a quick in-and-out, I reasoned. I figured it'd take no more than five minutes. So, I parked the Jeep, ran across the street, asked for my packages and ran back out. 

As I was packing the backseat of the car, I noticed an old woman staring at me from her parked car. I hurried along and ran to the driver's door. 

"You're parked in the handicap spot! Can't you read?!" she screamed at me. 

"Yes, I'm just about to leave," I said, flustered. 

"You've been parked there for a while!" she screamed back angrily, "Next time, READ!"

Her car screeched off. 

The level of hostility that was spewed at me in that brief moment shocked me to the core. I mean, it really disturbed me. It continued to bother me for the next hour or so as I drove. 

What a mean old lady, I thought. If the situation were flipped, would I have behaved the same toward her? Certainly not. And, given the chance, how should I have responded? "Sorry you're having a bad day"? That would've been patronizing and sarcastic. No, no, I wasn't prepared enough for a response. It was probably a blessing that I was bewildered and tongue-tied.

I had a stomachache the whole time I thought about it. Her message was indeed warranted–her delivery of it, however, was not.  Don't let this ruin your day, I told myself. Nothing that came through my mind made me feel any better. I just couldn't fathom directing that sort of anger towards a complete stranger. After being involved in that awful exchange, I had an even stronger conviction never to inflict such a behavior on anyone else. It was the ultimate reminder that, while you can never control the circumstances, you can always control how you react to it. Eventually, as I went about my errands, the angst subsided. 

As I got back into the car to drive home, I thought about it again. Truth was, I knew I shouldn't have parked in the handicap spot. I could've parked further away and walked to the post office. Maybe she was handicapped and I had robbed her of her spot.

Then, the perfect disarming response came to me.

I should've said: "You're right. I'm sorry. Thank you for pointing that out. I'll be more aware next time."

How a Person Should Be

Lisa Rinna, owning it–with diamonds and Doritos.

Lisa Rinna, owning it–with diamonds and Doritos.

I once met someone who considered himself a comic actor. Consequently, he projected a persona of how he thought a comic actor in Hollywood should be. He turned it up so much so that it was unbearably irritating–making jokes every other sentence, talking about the crazy parties he's thrown, bringing around a new 20-year old girlfriend every time, and doing hard-sells of the projects he was "producing". He was also part of a tribe of like-minded people who created multi-day Coachella-/Burning Man-inspired events for their birthdays, complete with a new costume theme for each day (Games of Thrones, prep school uniforms, etc.).  

Since I've known him, he's chased dreams of building a "Nasty Gal for men" clothing website with the hopes of selling it for millions, as well as starting a digital publishing house that would publish five million books in five years. (I wish I were exaggerating, but I'm not.) In fact, I'm sure he's hatching up a new million-dollar idea as we speak. 

Anyway, I feel a little sorry for the poor fellow. It seems tiresome holding up such a heavy façade.

The truth is that he's actually a very uninteresting and uninspiring Canadian guy who is also quite possibly gay. (There are others who can vouch for that last bit there.) And it occurred to me that the reason why I had no interest in interacting with this person is because it was absolutely pointless. He was nothing more than a mask. Even when he was trying to be humble, it didn't register as genuine.

When people try hard to convince you of what they're all about, it's usually because they're not what they're saying they are. It's like those people who walk around with Buddha beads and have a pressing need to discuss spirituality and how much they meditate. You know, the ones who like to expound upon their "journey to enlightenment". This could very well just be an L.A. thing but, in any case, that in itself is the antithesis of spirituality. 

If you want to see what being genuine looks like–and what not being genuine looks like–just watch an episode of Judge Judy. Judge Judith Sheindlin essentially cuts through the crap in her signature blunt and sarcastic manner. You'll see that there's an actual tangibility to the people who are telling the truth. The truth literally emanates from them. And for those who try to convince her of their innocence? She'll cut a b*tch.

There's a great quote by Krishnamurti, the philosopher, that states: "If we understand the problem, the answer will come out of it, because the answer is not separate from the problem." For example, if you're a stupid person, you cannot become intelligent by reading as many books as you can. You must first examine your own stupidity and, from that awareness, intelligence appears. Søren Kierkegaard puts it like this: "Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are."

In short, I guess what I'm trying to say is: If you're an uninteresting and uninspiring Canadian guy, who's quite possibly gay, be that person and maybe, just maybe, something interesting and inspiring might spring from that. 



On Impermanance

Knowing that nothing in life is permanent and, eventually, in one way or another, everyone leaves, we still invest in people–with our hearts, time and money. The change of Mars points out that people will leave whether or not we invest. And if no investment is made, the relationship won’t add much value to life, even if it lasts a really long time.
— from Holiday Mathis' horoscope column (September 26th, 2016)