I had to listen to some old bastard complain for an hour last night at work. It’s about what I imagine the exact center of Hell to be like because the customer’s complaint was circular, he was right, and since I’m new to the job, I couldn’t think of anything to counter his unwavering logic. It was like arguing with an angry genius, only he was a raspy hillbilly who happened to know more about the subject than me. I’ve chalked up the evening as pure karma because only hours before, I was in a more outer orbit of Hell at my other job. There, no amount of rephrasing could make my teenaged student understand the theme of Tillie Olsen’s awesome “I Stand Here Ironing.” I first tried explaining in words, then puppets, then primary-colored blocks, but when I finally realized she was chasing butterflies in outer space and not actually sitting beside me, I stared intensely at her in an attempt to transfer my thoughts directly into hers. She stared back, her mouth half open, her expression remote and disoriented, and I knew no wheels were turning behind her pretty eyes. I left her to reflect on our session while I thumped my head against a wall in frustrated privacy.
I guess the universe needed to balance the siphoning of my energy between young and old sources. Well done, Universe. By my highly scientific estimation, I lost a solid week of life during those two exchanges: 3.5 days from the aloof density of a child and 3.5 from the relentless bombardment of a crotchety old man. I'd rather have been shanked and robbed crossing the parking lot to my car.