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A human being prefers being something else

I hope you can help me.
I’m looking for the place I need to go to resign. Reign from what, you ask? Why, resign from being a human being. I’ve been a human being my whole life, and I’ve decided I don’t like being one. It’s time I try something else.

It’s not that all human beings are bad. I mean, there was the lady at the gas station who was gassing up her SUV when I pulled up. She smiled as I got out. Someone would smile for no reason at a sweaty and tired 28-year-old wearing a Philadelphia Athletics cap? That’s cool. But the problem is, there aren’t a lot of people like that anymore.

I know, I know, you want to ask me the standard exit interview question: What incident pushed me over the edge? I don’t know. It wasn’t the softball game. Yeah, that was aggravating. We managed to field 10 players, but three of our guys had no business playing because they were hurt. The other team was younger and actually had reserves, so they were able to rest their players and keep them fresh. We just couldn’t keep up with the younger, healthier team. They were pretty nice about it, especially once it was obvious to everyone that they’d sweep the doubleheader, but the wife of one of the players didn’t know when to shut up. She egged us on the whole time. We didn’t need that. There was no reason to rub it in. We knew we had no business playing in their league. We just came to have fun. In the end most of us would have settled for being able to walk off the field without limping. Two of us got that privelige.

I hope she had lots of fun rubbing it in. At least then someone would have gotten some benefit.

But I was well over the edge before that softball game.

Something happened Wednesday. I was in the lunchroom. It was Mexican day. An enchilada was a buck. Add chili and cheese for 75 cents. The guy in front of me asked for two, with the cholesterol-laden mess on top. So he takes his mess up to the cashier. $3.50, she tells him. He throws a fit. “I only got chili and cheese on one! That should be $2.75.”

“It looks like a serving on both of them to me,” she said. “I don’t mean to overcharge you. The money’s not going in my pocket.”

They never skimp on anything in that lunchroom. And I saw his plate. She wasn’t ripping anyone off by charging him $3.50.

He left in a huff. I’m glad he didn’t have any qualms about ruining someone’s afternoon over 75 lousy cents.

It’s funny how that works. It’s really hard to make someone’s day with 75 cents, but it’s really easy to ruin someone’s day over it. If you’re really good, you can ruin someone’s day over even less.

I don’t want to get that good, so this is a good time to quit. But that wasn’t the final straw either.

That was today, earlier. It happened in the lunchroom too. The big lunch rushes happen at 11:30 and at noon. I was in the middle of something at 11:30, so I didn’t get down there until 11:40. A lot of people didn’t get there until 11:40, I guess. Five of us were in line. The special was chicken strips. There were two left. They didn’t bother to ask if the five of us wanted to split two chicken strips. Any reasonable person knows the answer to that question. So she went to the back room to get more. And, of course, it takes a little time to cook ’em.

One of the maintenance guys came down a minute or two afterward. His name’s Jerry. The only time I ever saw him smile was to gloat over someone else’s misfortunate. He’s got a really cocky, arrogant smile, like you remember high-school bullies having.

A minute or two later, he turned to the woman standing behind me. “What the h—‘s taking so long?” he asked impatiently.

“She’s making chicken strips,” she said.

“I see some,” he cut her off, pointing at the tray.

“There aren’t enough,” she said patiently.

I worked three years in food service as a teenager, and frankly I’d be surprised if he never did. And even the dumbest doofus I worked with knew that two chicken strips won’t feed five people, and also knew that it takes 4-5 minutes to deep-fry a batch. Of course, those guys I worked with were interested in understanding the situation. Jerry wasn’t.

He grumbled a while longer, until she emerged with a big metal bowl full of chicken strips. “Ah, so you’re the one holding things up!” Jerry said.

There might be people for whom every two minutes in an 8-hour workday is precious, and they can’t afford to waste even that short amount of time. But this guy changes lightbulbs for a living. What right does he have to talk down to people? News flash: He’s not that important.

For the record, neither am I.

I went over to get a cup of ice, then I saw there wasn’t any line at the cash register. Seeing an opportunity to get away from the self-proclaimed most important man in the building, I made a beeline and paid my $2.90 for my cholesterol fix.

I went and sat down at my usual table with my cohorts. “I know how to make the lunch line go faster,” I announced proudly.

“How’s that?” they asked.

“Be the biggest jerk you can,” I said.

“Like yesterday?” one of them said, shaking his head.

Ah, so I wasn’t the only one who remembered Wednesday’s display.

Every once in a while I see a bumper sticker that says, “Practice random acts of kindness,” and I think there’s even an official Random Acts of Kindness Day in the spring. It just seems to be too much to ask human beings to try to be nice all the time. The majority of them seem to be too important to be nice.

So I’m afraid I’m not really all that interested in being a human being anymore.

I don’t know what I want to be now. I think I’m going to take a little time off to look at my options. Right now I’m trying to keep an open mind. I know there’s an opening out there somewhere for me.

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7 thoughts on “A human being prefers being something else”

  1. Every day when I’m driving home from work, I’m reminded of a line Uncle Scar says in the movie “The Lion King.”

    “I’m surrounded by idiots.”

    Somehow, it makes the drive a little easier to bear.

  2. Thank what Jesus felt like on his few years he was here on earth with us???
    The only difference now, there are more idiots now!!!!

  3. David,

    I’m afraid this may all be my fault. You see, I grew up believing that people are basically good. I believed that, in a time of need, there would always be SOMEONE around willing to lend a hand to help a fellow human being. I believed that, deep down, people were kind and gentle. You grew up, as I had, being told, “Do unto others. . .” and “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” It was kind of an understood rule: Go out of your way to help people and be kind to people. If you happen to be related to that person in need, go even further out of your way. And I even tried to help you understand that if you don’t help someone for his sake, help them for YOUR sake: There’s nothing that makes you feel better than knowing you’ve helped someone in need. Deep down, I do believe–I HAVE to believe–that we’re not the only ones who believe these things. But sometimes I wonder: Was I wrong in what I taught you or have people changed that much?


  4. That philosophy works if indeed people are basically good. The problem is that people basically think of no one other than themselves, the result being that people go on ego trips, no matter how unjustified, and throw temper tantrums whenever they’re inconvenienced slightly.

    I think it’s more evident now than it was 20 years ago because we’re more spoiled now than we were then.

    But I’ve pretty much decided the next time someone raises a ruckus like that in the lunchroom, I’m going to say something to him. I’ll make an enemy but I’ll also make a friend. And there are places where it pays to have friends. The people who control the food would be one of those. And I can’t think of many worse places to have enemies.

  5. Reminds me of a line I saw from a trailer for some bad-looking Kelsey Grammar movie (OK, I know that’s redundant):

    Navy officer: There’s a fingernail in my soup!
    Cook: Did you find a band-aid, sir?
    Navy officer: No, why?
    Cook: It was holding the fingernail on.

    It’s *definitely* best to keep the people who can mysteriously add “nutritional value” to your food very happy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel verse from the classic “Lunchlady Land” coming on. Sloppy Joe, slop, sloppy Joe…

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