I was vacuuming my garage a few days ago as I normally do (though only once a month, maybe twice—I’m not weird or anything) when I got the distinct feeling that something was wrong. Missing. Lacking, perhaps.
I looked into the carport and saw that the scrap wood from a recent project was neatly placed into stacks according to dimensions and length. I’d collated my scrap lumber more efficiently by placing it in storage (and using it to create the storage itself) yet despite this semblance of order, something was still missing. Just … out of reach.
It was maddening.
A buddy stopped by after I’d offered a loan of a laser level, and it seemed appropriate to offer him a Guest Beer I kept nearby for just these occasions. (I rarely drink beer, myself; it’s an insult to liquor, and it tends to make me feel “funny” after a bit.)
He opened the door to my backup refrigerator, and as he reached in he froze in place.
“Dude,” he said, never taking his eyes off the refrigerated prize. “Your fridge. Everything is facing the same way.”
“Duh,” I replied. “Why? What’s up?”
“Every can, everything, even the … is this cheese? It’s all facing the same way. There must be 50 cans, bottles and boxes in here.” His head shook quickly, as if just waking up. “This is creepy.”
“It brings me comfort. It’s no big deal. Please take it from the right side though, yeah?”
He lingered a moment, looked at me, then grabbed a Sam Adam’s Light and shrugged his shoulders.
Comfort. Is it such a bad thing?
I know I do these things, but why is it wrong? I’m just responding to a truth that few have realized or will at least admit to: That “control” is an illusion. A pipe dream. Sure, we can direct things in a likely direction in most cases, and at least nudge them in others, but in the end, we’re all just passengers in a car that no one is allowed to drive.
I’d talked with this same friend at work a few weeks back about a pedestrian who had been struck in front of headquarters a few years ago. The guy had been crossing the State Highway at about 3 a.m. and apparently didn’t think it was necessary to look both ways. Unfortunately, “most” of his body made it into the car through the windshield. (By “most” I mean the “head and torso part;” if I got more graphic you may become sad, and I’m in the business of smiles, of course.)
Another car was pulling into headquarters just seconds after this happened and inadvertently ran over what I shall politely describe as “one of the other guys legs.” By coincidence this man (the driver of the second car) was one of the three people on this Earth I call a true friend, and it really bugged him. (He still ate the lunch he’d been out to get as he was debriefed by traffic investigators, but that’s a quality that made him a rare friend.)
The driver of the first car, though? Gone. Catatonic. He even sat in his car for several moments after the event trying to process the unexpected recently departed who was now occupying (and also making a horrific mess in) the passenger seat of his Saturn.
I’ve actually wondered what ever happened to that poor soul these many years later. How do you get past that? But that’s another topic.
My partner and I talked it over. The former pedestrian (let’s call him “Humpty”) had just been in a convenience store before his death. What if the cashier had counted his change out a little more slowly? What if the driver of the car had left his wallet at the establishment he’d left, and had to go back for it? Consider the mind-numbing sequence of events it took to bring their paths to that (literal) intersection at that exact same time.
Control. An illusion, albeit a pleasant one.
So if you want all the lines on your carpet or your lawn to be parallel after vacumming or mowing, or you collate T-shirts by topic (po-lice, Hard Rock, casual, political, humor), or you alphabetize your DVD’s, or have a dozen strategically placed umbrella’s to confront rain’s unpredictable nature, what’s the big deal?
Comfort is what you make of it—particularly when you have a birds-eye view of the final random dice-rolls people get on this Earth. Let me and those like me have that. And take your drinks from the right side, please, so I can ... yes, excellent, thank you. Oh, you seemed to nudge the one next to it, would you mind, uh ... Great, thanks. No, I’ll restock it later.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.