Friday, November 16, 2007

a smashing good time

as i was driving away from octane this morning, a woman in a sedan decided not to stop as she exited an apartment complex driveway. it just so happens i was gunning my engine right before i approached this particular driveway because i was in a horrible mood and sometimes the feel of the engine revving through my clutch foot is cathartic. i happened to notice the sedan speed up as i approached the driveway, and it became apparent that the woman had no intention of even pausing to check the flow of traffic. i slammed on the brakes and layed on the horn so hard that my wrist hurt afterwards. the woman stopped in the middle of my lane, looking confused by the fact that other people drive cars too. there was angry gesticulating from my car and instead of pulling through the now-clear intersection, she reversed back into the driveway as quickly as she had previously tried to exit it. as i yelled and drove past, a quick replay of the scene flashed through my mind, except this time i barrelled into the woman's car instead of abandoning my own rapid acceleration. the farther away from the scene i got, the more i wished i had simply kept my foot on the gas. not because i wish harm upon myself or the woman driving the sedan, but because the sound of crashing metal would have been soothing. you see, lately, all i want to do is break things and make loud noises. i've considered taking a drinking glass out back and smashing it into the side of the metal dumpster, but then i think about squirrels and hobos, both of which frequent the area and i don't want to be responsible for hurting either population. so then i think, would it be so awful if i took a bat and smashed in the window of my car? or maybe taking a swipe at the bathroom window and waxing accidental when the maintenance man comes to check it out. so far i haven't come up with healthy solution for my shatter-lust.

whatever i end up smashing, it probably won't be as satisfying as i imagine it. conversely, the possibility of leaving this odd craving dormant wouldn't be as unsatisfying as it seems right now. at least, that's the rationalization i should be using according to a short story entitled "The Futile Pursuit of Happiness", written by Jon Gertner. It was originally published in the New York Times, but i came across it in the Best American Nonrequired Reading anthology (2004 edition). The gist of the story (?) is that we are all incapable of accurately employing affective forecasting (the ability to predict how we will feel in the future). We make decisions based on predicted emotional consequences. The problem is our predictions are almost always wrong or fall short of the actual outcome. So my desire to break something will inevitably leave me wanting more or less of whatever the real emotional outcome happens to be. Example: I smash a glass. The happiness i was looking for will mostly likely subside before the echo of the shatter has even left my ears. the sigh of relief will be inaudible and short lived and i'll go back to feeling like a caged animal.

one of the take home messages from the story is that we all adapt no matter what decision we end up making. worried about choosing between two jobs? why make your life hell for a month trying to decide when the reality of the situation is you'll adapt to whatever path you choose in a matter of time? or so the story goes. what isn't mentioned is that the adaption period between 2 choices could differ drastically depending on unique circumstances. say i pick job A. it's something i'm not sure i care about, but the salary is good and my coworkers are engaging people. adaption to this situation would be a snap. you find ways to make your life matter outside of work and you have the money to do it! say i pick job B. it's something i'm not terribly passionate about and the pay is good (similar to job A), but my coworkers are bitter and too busy pointing their finger at someone to realize i'm in the room. using the logic from my first example, i adapt quickly to job B and deal with the negative environment by surrounding myself with people to combat my 9-5 dynamic. but maybe job B is in a new city where there is no established social network. no matter! friends are easy to find! except you're too busy feeling negative and insular to face the vulnerability of opening up to new people. adaptation to this situation is considerably harder and more intense than job A.

yes, i stacked the deck to prove a point. and no, i'm not trying to decide between two jobs. this is not a real life example.

having said that, i'm in job B, and yes, i am in dire need of a niche but feeling too insular to do anything about it (or to call anyone from my geographically scattered niche). luckily this warm bath of pity i'm lounging in is pretty cleansing. if i was jewish i'd make a mikveh joke.

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