On the plane to Denver, in the seats behind me, I overhear this conversation:
Daughter: Mommy, if the plane crashed, would you save me?
Mother: Of course I would, sweetheart! I would do anything to save you!
Mother: Really! I spent three years in the New Jersey court system to save you. After that, a plane crash would be a piece of cake.
Mother: Do you remember the last time you were in Denver?
Mother: That’s because you were only three years old and your father had kidnapped you and I didn’t know where you were! It was late at night and you must have been very scared.
Daughter: …I don’t remember that.
Mother: That’s probably for the best.
It was like a domestic, onboard flight entertainment version of Not Without My Daughter. Very creepy.
Now without headscarves – and at an amazing 41% off!
So I’m checking into the hotel later that evening and the curse that has haunted me from childhood kicks in… I apparently have “one of those faces” that somehow leads people to believe that I want to hear their life stories. I’m told I have an “open” face; I just don’t know how to close it. The desk clerk checking me in is a small, frail-looking Indian lady. She doesn’t say much at first, just welcomes me to the hotel and asks for my name. I give it to her and inquire about her evening so far.
In return for my polite yet completely hollow gesture of caring, I get this answer: “I think I have a bad rash on my arm. Do you want to see it?”
I was going to put a picture of an arm rash here, but every picture I found made me want to vomit forcefully. So you get Barney instead.
In a word? NO, I DO NOT WANT TO SEE YOUR DISGUSTING MOTHEREFFING ARM RASH. What did I actually say? “Um, okay.” Moron.
She rolls up her sleeve, shows me a forearm marked with ugly, welted, red lesions and asks me what I think it was caused by. Because I was apparently wearing my “Hi! I’m a dermatologist” sign that day. Maybe having an “open” face also means that people assume you’re an authority on rashes. I don’t know. What I do know is that as soon as she handed me my room key (which I accepted with part of my sweater sleeve covering my hand), I hoofed it to the elevators as quick as my stubby little legs could carry me. “Good luck with that!” I cried as I scurried away. And that might have been the high point of my trip, if not for the next day.
I’m sitting there in a conference room the next morning, the west-facing windows taunting me with their views onto the Rockies. My attention span is fading in and out. I understand vaguely that we’re discussing commodities and mutual funds and futures trading. My mind tends to wander whenever the words “Sharpe ratio” and “upmarket capture” come into the conversation. All of a sudden, I’m snapped back into reality by our investment strategist as I catch the last few words of his sentence: “…and frozen orange juice commodities are trading high this quarter.”
I started laughing hysterically, recalling halcyon days of my youth spent watching Trading Places and Coming to America. I laughed not just at the memories of the movies themselves (He was wearing my Harvard tie. Can you believe it? My Harvard tie. Like oh, sure he went to Harvard.) but for the sheer absurdity of the fact that I was sitting in a conference room somewhere in middle America, surrounded by the kind of people I hate and who I think are ruining society, pretending to be vastly more educated on the topic at hand than I actually am, wearing clothes that make me look like a 45-year-old and developing an ever deepening sense of self-loathing for completely selling myself out.
In retrospect, I probably looked like a crazy asshole to the rest of the room, which consisted almost entirely of humorless little old men with mustaches like extras on Miami Vice. I don’t think they were sharing my exact thoughts at that moment, and I certainly don’t think they got my cheap movie reference – even when I tried explaining. Luckily, I was able to attribute the laughter to “altitude” and “a poor night’s sleep.”
Why do we sell out? Are we afraid of failure? Do we become resigned to one way of life and believe it’s really the only way to ultimate success and happiness? Do we get lazy and complacent? Or do we fall asleep and, years later, wake up one not-so-important morning to realize that we don’t even know ourselves anymore…but have no idea how to turn things around?