Laughing at as many incongruities as possible
It’s a Tuesday night. We just had tacos. We do Taco Tuesdays probably more than two weeks a month, if we kept track of it. But it could be any night other than Tuesdays. Because we aren’t that uptight about stuff.
The kids argue about whose turn it is to clean up.
Jane remarks that she has to go out to pick up our groceries.
“Let me do that,” I say.
I want to do something. Anything.
And it might make her feel taken care of.
She likes the idea.
I put on some layers, get into the minivan, and drive to the Freddy’s parking lot.
I pull behind a car that is in one of the three spots designated with call boxes to reach the attendants.
The car I’m sitting behind, I notice, doesn’t have anyone in it.
I laugh at my odds. 1:3 that the car I pick to line up behind is the abandoned one.
No big deal.
I reverse and wait behind the car on right.
One of the cars on the left pulls forward, and I consider backing out again to change lanes, but remember that, while I’m a native of Manhattan, my life now is now much more spacious. What’s the rush?
A minute or so later, I pull ahead, and call to say that I’m here to pick up my groceries.
The automated system can’t find an order associated with my phone number.
Of course, because Jane was going to pick it up.
The machine which did not advise that after entering the number, Jane’s, associated with the order, I should push the pound sign. Urgh.
I figure this out, then drive and wait in spot number eight.
A long time.
I dink around on my phone.
Eventually a cart rolls toward me, and I push the button to automatically slide open the passenger side door. Cold air rushes in as the warm rushes out.
A platinum-haired young lady, wearing an orange reflective vest and pink glasses, asks, “Pickup order for Jane?”
“Yes,” I say, “please. And I thank you.”
As she unloads brown paper bags onto the back seat and floor of the minivan, she says bit flatly, “Sorry about the delay. We’re shorthanded.”
“Sky,” I say—I read her name tag because recognizing others and humanizing them is important—“Please. Don’t worry about it. I’m getting food in my car. You are putting food into my car. I’m not needing to go hunting or foraging—funny word that. And I’m feeling safe enough from COVID because of your help.”
“Thanks for being so chill.”
“Of course, my friend.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“I would. People give you a hard time?”
“Some. Some people do.”
“Sky,” I say again and pause—I know from my days of doing magic tricks and wanting people to look away from my hands that saying their name and pausing makes them look up—”Can I tell you something?” Another pause. “Those people are assholes.”
I gave my students in high school and folk who recently attended a Saturday Service this homework:
“Laugh at as many incongruities as possible.”
Try as much as you can to find the reality you thought should happen—there shouldn’t be someone parked in that spot—as humorous interpretations on reality.
Smaller things (spilling the milk) are easier to find funny than big things (a hospital visit).
Of course, there are matters that are no laughing matter.
But if it’s the type of thing that someone could laugh at, try. Even though it might seem revolutionary, try.
Start with laughing at small things.
Shantideva said, “Putting up with little cares. I’ll train myself to deal with great adversity.”
Train yourself with the next thing that annoys you, if you can.
Maybe you aren’t up to laughter (or even a chortle), when the credit card company shuts down your card because they thought you were travelling and you haven’t left your zip code in months.
Just noticing you got annoyed might be the first step.
At the risk of my words sounding like spiritual, woo-woo, Pollyanna bullshit, you might even see if you can get yourself into a mindset to welcome future moments when your expectations and reality diverge. After all, you could think of them as gifts the universe has brought into your life to help you to grow.
I can promise you that if you can’t deal with UPS mistakenly losing your package, you’ll not be able to deal with large upsets.
And if you are taking your frustrations out on the gal making minimum wage bringing your groceries out to your car, please stop. You don’t need to be an asshole.
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box rotb.org, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.