Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Read this at your own risk

Spoiler alert: This column is a lighthearted look at talking about death and the fact that we're all going to die. I can see you beginning to chuckle in anticipation. But, just so you know. If that sort of thing bothers you, I wouldn't read it. If you're not sure, and go ahead and read it, don't bitch at me if you don't see the lightheartedness in it. I think it's funny, but, we all know how I am.

My friend Walter (not his real name) and I were sitting having our usual Tuesday morning coffee and donut, talking, as we do, about all manner of things. I was going to use his real name, but he might not want to be associated with me. I mean, we were sitting in a secluded corner of the coffee shop after all and he did have a scarf covering his face. I made up the scarf part, still...

I like talking to Walter because he is, as they say up in these here parts, wicked smaht. Not the least sign of his smahtness is he married a wicked smaht woman. But that's probably a topic for another day, or one to be discussed in private because being understood when I talk about my own wife is difficult enough. I don't need to be misunderstood talking about anyone else's.

Anyway... Before I go on. Let me tell you how much I like and respect this not-his-real-name guy. He had something bad happen to one of his eyes which caused him to have double vision, since cured (which might render the whole NHRN ploy as pointless). Not the kind where stuff is somewhat blurred and you sort of see two of everything. Nah, he actually saw two of everything. To compensate- and this is where showing my like and respect for him come in- he had to wear an eye patch, which was often black in color. Not once, not once, did I say “Aaaaar matey” in his presence. I know. It says a lot doesn't it? I did refer to him as Cyclops, but only once and he wasn't being very nice at the time.

But, back to the point. We were having our usual Tuesday morning coffee and donut and talking about stuff and the topic, naturally, turned to the fact that we were going to die, as was everyone we knew. Well, maybe naturally isn't the proper designation for the turn in the conversation, but still... We were talking about death as if we were talking about anything else. That is, kinda casually. Not, I guess, “death as the end of all things and oh the horror,” but, more like, “We're all going to die sometime and how come people so rarely talk about it?”

Of course, we do talk about it. We know we're all going to die sometime, maybe in the next five minutes, and I guess, someplace within ourselves, we know and believe that. But how many of us act like we could be dead in the next five minutes? Yeah. I don't see a lot of hands raised.

Sure, we all have said at some point, “I know life is precious and could end at any time. Hell, I could walk out of here and get hit by a bus,” but wouldn't we act differently if we really believed that? I don't know about you, but I don't really believe I'm going to get hit by a bus any time soon, and not just because there aren't actually any buses around here. It's just... well, that sort of thing happens to “the other guy" (not his real name either).

Well, me and Walter were saying how we were pretty much okay with it. We're both of an age, closer to 70 than 60, that likely puts it closer to the forefront of our brains than the backfront. Also, I suffer from... you know what, and he knows that I have it, so we bring that to the discussion.

He has an amazing analogy, though, addressing the fact that we're all aware that death is in the future, but don't really recognize the fact. “It's like all of humanity is on a train going ass over tea kettle (my choice of expression, not his) towards the edge of a cliff, with plummeting from said cliff obviously the endgame. And an announcement comes over the loudspeaker: “Attention all passengers. We are racing to our doom at an ass over tea kettle rate of speed. Please plan accordingly” And everyone hears the announcement, but doesn't really react. Oh, one of us might say, “Could you pass me another one of those little sandwiches with the crusts cut off?”, or “I just read this amazing article in the paper,” or “Did you see the Real Housewives of (Wherever) last night? Isn't that one a bitch?” But we don't all get crazy like one of those old Irwin Allen disaster movies and start looking for a way out. At most, one of us might remark, “Hey. Did that guy just say something about ass over tea kettle? Oh, well. What's on TV tonight?”

Now, I told you all that to tell you this. As we were pretty much winding up our conversation the man who had been sitting at the next table having his own refreshments, stood and moved closer to us.

“I have to tell the two of you,” unknown man said, “it is very refreshing to hear two adult men talking about death the way you two just were. I mean it. We should all talk about it like that, but almost no one does. I don't know why that is. But it certainly is the case. Thanks again.”

And with that, he was gone. As you know, things like this happen to me quite often but I think not-his-real-name Walter was taken a bit by surprise, but in a good way The man didn't say anything about listening in on our conversation, which was fine, we weren't making any effort to be quiet. I think if we were all more open to talking to each other like that, to thanking people we don't know for things that they say in public... I think the subsequent verbal possibilities would make leaving the house in the morning more fun.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere