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.



Douglas said...

You misunderstood, I think, your professor. People are rational... in groups. Not always (think of mobs) but in general. And, therefore, pretty predictable. And, also, (if one understands the process) malleable. Which means, of course, they can be manipulated through advertising.

I just finished creating a post (for next Wednesday) which touches on this subject... in a way.

DJan said...

Life is indeed messy. Someone lit into me, angry and red-faced, and I've been carrying around his anger for days. Here it is the weekend and it's time for a fresh start. Did the sun ever come out yesterday where you live? It stuck around Bellingham until late afternoon.

Anonymous said...

That was, undoubtedly (I hope!), a men's bathroom that you saw and used. Women's bathrooms are, sometimes, bad; but, I vowed years ago to never use another bathroom that was also used by men. (I had been doing volunteer disaster relief work where the staff were accommodated by one bathroom.)

One would think that, with such wonderful equipment, men would learn to aim. It obviously doesn't happen.
Cop Car

Stephen Hayes said...

I think I prefer life being messy and unpredictable to everything being orderly and boring. Chaos makes such a good fertilizer.

Anonymous said...

Whattda think life is so damn messy..My hubs is the oldest of about 9 kids only 8 lived, I could not stand to go see his mother she lived like a pig stye, oyh vey, and yes she was jewish..I cleaned one day and threw out about no kidding 29 bags full to the brim of garbage and 10 of clothes a nice man took them for me I paid him and he said no he lived next door to her and her huge group of sons and said he never knew she had a kitchen table and or a living room table and chairs or anything..they trashed the home for 18 years the fellow who had the home sold it and kicked them out she was bout 82 when this happened and always paid her rent a month in adavance she got the shaft he would not give her the rent back, I cleaned for 18 hours to get rid of the shit she had accumulated, the fellow who owned the house wanted to hire me to clean his homes, I got the money for the rent and told her I would never do it again, the next home she rented the fellow knew me and he only gave my husband a tiny amount back of her rent they trashed it again..She was about 89 by then..she in all the time on thie earth I knew her never had a decent place to live she let her pigs of sons ruin the places and she was not too ambulatory so she only kept the crap in bags, small bags, she passed in an immaculate hospital and that was that! I prefer clean and tidy and neat but I get backed up sometimes and then throw crap out at rapid speeds!!!!!!!

Retired Syd said...

I wish I could solve the one on why people order that 3rd martini. My head hurts.

Anonymous said...

Third martini, I don't drink at all but when we go to this neat Italian restaurant in seattle I am totally blown away with their artisan bread, I have to brace myself because the food is so good if I take an extra piece of the bread I get too full to enjoy the real lasagna so I pace myself..I know one cannot eat to burst oneself but really the food is so great we usually take more than half home and the drive is 3 hours so we take a cooler with ice.. But really life is messy or what would the garbage companies do, 1 800-Junk and maids and housekeeper do for a living!???

Kelly@Try New Things said...

Life is messy. But beautiful. Thoughtful post...reconsidering the audi. :)

Olga said...

I am glad that I was never in a class where I was told that people are rational. I would have laughed so long and so hard I'd get myself kicked out. Life is messy, but I do what I can to keep my little corner of it neat and clean.

Tom Sightings said...

Douglas, you're being irrational! If people were rational they wouldn't be manipulated by advertising, which after all, prides itself on appealing to the irrational mind.

But seriously, all I'm saying here is that messiness is a natural part of life, a benign (and yes, Stephen, even appealing) form of irrationality. But we get ourselves into trouble when we carry our irrationality beyond that to self-destructive behavior, like smoking or speeding and tailgating, and we REALLY get ourselves in trouble when we let our irrationality lead us to kill other people., as occurred on 9/11.

gabbygeezer said...

I'm with you, Tom. There's nothing rational about warfare or other forms of murder.

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