“In my younger and more vulnerable years” my mother used to read me a book called: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Paraphrasing, it was about some punk kid who was having trouble tying his shoes, got gum in his hair, got yelled at by the teacher, his sister took his favorite lunchbox to school, he didn’t get a toy in the cereal box and perhaps some other little kid problems. At the end, I think he got a hug from his mom, and everything was better because tomorrow is another day is Australia or something. I used to like the story because kids seem so able to shake off bad days, which somehow, they actually have. They don’t have distressing worries like bills, bosses, or how to cook dinner with the 3$ in your pocket, unless they do, which I know from experience some did from my days teaching troubled teens in Austin. Those kids didn’t have anyone at home most nights, probably no food in the cabinets and rarely clean clothes; they were forced into self-reliance.
A bad day for them was a really awful day. But otherwise, kids with responsible parents should not be having bad days. It seems like childhood should be a long skip through the fragrant, blossoming forest of youth. But we all know that forest seems never-ending, and completely claustrophobic when you are stuck in it and have no idea of the pastures, meadows, beaches and sparkling sunsets through the other side. Is a bad day capable of striking even the most confident, capable and cheerful people? Will a bad day sucker punch even those annoying souls who respond to your, “How are you today,” with the irrepressibly exasperating “Never had a bad day in my life” routine?
If you listened to pop, rap or R & B radio in the 90’s, you are familiar with a song by Monica entitled, “Just One of Them Days.” She was having one of those days where she just wanted to be all alone, and don’t take it personal, it’s just a bad day, so steer clear. There are countless other songs about bad days. It’s an interesting phenomenon, the idea “when it rains, it pours.” Why, sometimes, does fate spit on you? Why, sometimes, does life’s curveball curve right into your groin?
I’ve known a few people in my life who maintain their smile through all kinds of weather, injustices, irritations and tragedies. They all tell me they “don’t have time for negative thoughts, people or moments.” Can you really control the world that way? Are you merely controlling your own world, and the way you view it? Are you being so rude to the malicious gods of the world as to never allow the emotions of life to drive you to cursing that 80 year old who cut you off, or to hating on that goofy looking guy with the hot wife by rejecting your true feelings? Is it possible that other people are not like me and sincerely have 365 good days a year, every year? Is it possible that all those “think positive” mantras can affect a global contrivance of goodwill, all toward you, just because you wake up every morning, stretch and breath in the air of bliss because you call it such?
I’ve been being more positive lately, I’ve tried to cancel those bad thoughts before they form, but it’s hard. I think of Pat Croce and his motto: “I feel great.” I think of how lucky I am, how blessed I am, and I’m immediately filled with the gratefulness present in those exhortations.
Today, I woke up, brushed my teeth, grabbed my milk from the fridge, pulled out my favorite cereal, began pouring it into my clean bowl, and a thumb size cockroach fell out of the cereal bag into the bowl. (This is a cereal with raisins in it, so at first, in my morning daze, I remarked to myself how lucky I was to have gotten such a big raisin in my cereal.) Of course, I shrieked, “What the f#$%! Are you kidding me?” He struggled in my cylindrical bowl, dusty with oats and bran trying to escape before I finally grabbed a tissue and ended his days.
The problem was, I had eaten this exact box of cereal the day before and no cockroach, so I was left with the problem of: did he crawl in last night and sit on top, or had he been living in there for an extended amount of time? I lean toward the latter based upon his lean, wiry look, as though he had spent a fair bit of time eating only dry bran protein for many days. Appetite surprisingly undisturbed, I just picked up my other cereal, inspected it and poured it into my yogurt for a new, cleaner breakfast.
Verily, you cannot expect to handle kindergarten on an empty stomach. Twenty minutes later, I was telling the story to my Korean and American co-teachers, grossing them out as much as possible (with fabricated details) describing the raisin wrapped around his antennae or the eight skinny legs pushing around the tiny oats, and one of them mentioned that you could have eaten cockroach eggs and they can live in your stomach.
I had recently watched the original M.I.B. with the bug who takes over Vincent D’Onofrio’s body and concurrently, roaches are always falling out of his sleeves and jacket pockets, and I didn’t want that to be me. So, I went to the local pharmacy and bought the Korean pill that they take every year to kill any and all bugs in their stomach linings. I had also just watched the original Alien to prepare myself for Prometheus, so it was an easy jump for me to see something disgusting gestating in my bowels.
They say cockroaches can live through the nuclear apocalypse. But, who would want to be a roach just to make it into the terribly depressing (and I imagine food-free) post-nuclear bleakness that would be the world? It’s like the non red-meat eaters who mention that they have an average life span of 5-10 years longer than most carnivores. I stand by my trite response of who needs 5-10 more years of salad? I enjoy salad too, usually a nice Caesar before a steak or served as a bed for a big, tasty fish.
I made it through the day, it being Friday before a stressful Saturday of teaching the children a class in front of all their parents, something we have been preparing endlessly for the last month, a structure called: Open Class. I mentioned to my friend that I just needed a dinner that I know and love and can still appreciate despite the morning debacle.
We went to my “Korean Mom’s” place, which is merely a hole in the wall with good food. On my penultimate bite of my donkatsu (fried pork chop covered in a sweet brown sauce) I crunched into something and squealed quite audibly. It was not the juice filled mess that a roach must be like (they were sold in stalls in Thailand and some were palm sized.) This was a ruthlessly hard substance that grated and scratched through my jaw, teeth and into my brain. I removed and dug through my bite and found a piece of glass the size of a baby tooth. My teeth, I believe, are intact, my soul and disposition are understandably shaken. We went to the batting cages and hit balls to end the day on a positive note. I got a few dingers in there and felt better.