Saturday, September 14, 2013
Life Is Messy
The goldenrod is yellow
The corn is turning brown
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down
So begins a poem called September by Helen Hunt Jackson, a 19th century American poet from New England, who traveled west and became an activist for Native American rights. I can just picture the used-up cornfield and the burdened trees, looking heavy and overgrown and not-at-all picturesque . . .
. . . like my garden, by the end of the season. It no longer looks good -- choked with weeds, littered with dying stalks and leaves, trampled over by people and animals. Life is messy.
Last night, B and I stopped off at a pizza place for a salad and a slice. Afterwards, I went to the restroom. (One needs no more proof that life is messy than a public bathroom!), and when I came out B was standing there pouting.
"I dropped your Pepsi," she confessed.
I had left my still-half-full, 16-oz. Pepsi bottle on the table, with the top loosely screwed on. She'd picked it up by the top to bring it with us. As she was walking through the lobby of the pizza place, the top came off. The Pepsi bottle dropped to the floor and exploded across the tile onto the front of the counter. Accidents happen; life is messy.
My daughter came home last night. She's been spending the last three months moving to Buffalo, NY, and in the meantime she's been storing a lot of her stuff in our basement -- furniture, boxes of books, suitcases full of clothes, and bags stuffed with who knows what. And this is on top of all the piles that B and I have stored down there -- including all our sports equipment which is scattered across the floor near the door to the garage.
I remember when I was in business school, the professors drummed into us the central assumption made by economists -- that people are rational. They are logical; they are predictable. You can put them into neat little boxes.
On the surface, maybe it makes sense. People are more likely to buy something if it's cheaper, and they'll buy more stuff if they think they're getting it at a great price. That's how Sam's Club and Costco make their profits.
But scratch the surface of the theory just a little bit, and you realize how preposterous it is to assume that people are rational.. A friend of mine recently revealed to me that he's paying $65,000 a year to send his son to a name brand college. The kid could get an equally good education at any number of other schools. But he wants the name brand. It has to be good; it costs $65,000!
Another friend bought himself a $40,000 Audi last year. An Audi looks pretty cool; but he doesn't need an Audi to get himself to work. He's trying to buy himself some sex appeal. And if you knew my friend . . . it would take more than $40,000 to buy him sex appeal! Meanwhile, he's already taken it back to the shop three times for repairs.
But people are sometimes irrational. Why do people pay $10 for a pack of cigarettes? Why do people have that third martini, when they know it will just give them a headache in the morning. Who do people tailgate on the highway at 70 m.p.h? Why does anyone get in a bar fight? Because they are rational?
The other day I attended a 12-year commemoration of Sept. 11. The spouse of a good friend of mine was in the South Tower. This was a local ceremony, not the one in New York City, and maybe 500 people were there, remembering the 123 people from our area who'd been killed. Boy, did that mess up a lot of lives. And I don't mean to be either callous or gross, but I remember being in New York City about a week after 9/11. I remember the smoke. I remember the rubble. I remember the stench.
Life is messy enough. Hopefully, we don't mess it up even more.