Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Frantic and Angry and Late Is No Way To Go Through Life, Son

[Written in 2014. I shed a tear to see Chasmatic’s name in the comments. He was a nice man, and he has gone to his reward] 

I remember the dark days before Nuvi.

Being lost in a car was a fairly regular occurrence for me. I built and repaired things out in the landscape, and I had to find my way to them first. More often than not, I was supposed to meet a homeowner or some other interested person at these prospective jobs at an appointed hour, so time was of the essence. In my experience, a person who can direct you to their location with any sort of accuracy is a very rare person indeed. Most people simply say things like, “Do you know where the… ”

Listen, if I knew the local landmarks, I wouldn’t need directions. People rely on what’s familiar to them by and large, and what’s familiar to them encompasses a very short list of things. Precision in directions is almost unheard of. I eventually accumulated a substantial supply of gigantic streetmap books in my car, took the “take a left at the rock that looks like a bear” directions with a grain of salt, and carried on, until Nuvi saved me entirely with her curt, clipped directions. She even reads street signs at night for me.

I noticed something about my behavior, and the behavior of many other people, when I got lost. You speed up. The lost-er you get, the faster you go, and the more frantic you become. There is almost no better time to slow down and think things through than when you’re lost, but people don’t do it. People behave just the opposite, almost to a man. It’s the same reason an inveterate gambler lays his last, borrowed dollar on the green baize. He’s trying to win back everything he ever lost, all at once, all the time.

If anyone is in the car with you when you’re lost, they will get an avalanche of fury directed at them if they find the temerity to mention that they told you to go left a mile back, but you didn’t listen. They’ll get the same treatment if they say absolutely nothing, because their silence is an accusation, after all. There is no way to be in a car with a person that is lost, and like it.

People’s judgment gets compromised fast when they’re lost. They back up on superhighways when they miss an exit. They take left turns from the far right lane. They tailgate. They drive without looking out of the windshield. They cut through gas stations on streetcorners if the light is red. If they are involved in any sort of fender bender as a result of their situation, there could very well be bloodshed one way or the other by the side of the road. Frantic and angry and late is no way to go through life, son.

But that’s exactly how the general public acts about everything all the time now. They’re lost. Almost everyone is traveling to a location they cannot name, but they seem hell bent to get to. Every milepost, sign, and touchstone that formerly directed their travel through life has been defaced or destroyed by vandals. They have map books that consist solely of dead ends on other planets. They started off edgy but by now they’re entirely unglued. They will turn on anyone that comes into their line of sight. Even a Good Samaritan better watch out, as no amount of help is ever enough to turn back a clock. Anything resembling advice is seen as vilification, and even the mildest sort of criticism is an imperative to immediately drop the gloves.

Everybody is stretched to their absolute limit, and further, and in every which way — mortgaged and indebted into the hereafter, but still somehow with an enormous budget for dissolution and sloth; overworked but still somehow lazy; fifteen minutes late for being a dollar short — angry, sullen, wound up tight and drugged insensate at the same time. The laziest person in the country is very, very busy being lazy. I see people that look like hobos walking by the side of the road, texting furiously while they walk, as if they were a captain of industry who needs to keep in constant touch with lots of important persons over serious affairs. There’s no rest for the wicked, and everyone’s wicked.

If you interrupt, in any way, anyone’s frantic attempt to get nowhere for no particular reason in order that they might achieve an equanimity they’d reject as boredom, and by doing so become conspicuous in their mind at the wrong time, which is all the time, you can expect the full fury of their frustrations to be immediately heaped upon you — some real, most imagined, all overlaid with the dull image of violence and degradation that is their daily entertainment,  and cozened to the top of their to-do list by the buzzing saw of a cocktail of drugs, illegal and prescribed, that they take to keep going, faster and faster, and basted in the inchoate fear that they’re missing out on something.


13 Responses

  1. And you've seen me lost, before!

    While I read this post, stories welled up in my memory. Funny stories; why did I go too far stories. Stories.

  2. A man who knows how to properly skew a hand plane is almost always knowledgeable
    about the important things in life. The grip on the tote has a little bulldog in it, maybe, I wasn't
    there so who am I to judge?

    And a very nice post indeed.

  3. “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” — George Santayana

  4. How peculiar that so many people seem to have found this here destination all at once after all this time! Somebody must have found themselves here. Clearly, you hit on a little slice of eternal truth here, Sipp – but then you were always good at that.

    I hope all you Sullivans are thriving these days. Your voices are missed, out here on the interwebs.

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