There are two reasons you would want to maintain a blog, online journal or vanity website. The first is, naturally, to make money. The second, and perhaps far more satisfying, is to complain. I have no shame in admitting this: I’m firmly in the second camp. Oh, I try my best to hide it, to dress it up some, by sandwiching the bitch-fests in between the harmless entertainment you people crave. The LPs and the game design essays and the Survivor write-ups — yeah, those are all good fun. But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because ranting at an empty room doesn’t do anything for the blood pressure. I’m here because I have to trick as many people as possible into listening to me bark.
So first off, I would like to say: if you have the luxury of calling every hospital in town in order to determine which one has the shortest ER wait time, whatever medical issue you’re suffering is not emergent enough for you to be going to any of them.
From there, I kind of don’t know where to go. This past week or so has just been ten thousand little needlepricks, slowly chipping away at my goodwill towards humanity. Tiny things which, if they came one or two at a time, could just be brushed off. Things no reasonable person would get upset about, because doing so would be the very definition of petty. We knock these things over every day in life. They don’t drain us.
Spill a glass of water, and you get wet — a body could be justified in hollering about that. Get a drop of water on you, and people think you’re a crybaby for even bringing it up. So you don’t.
And yet, what is a glass of water if not ten thousand little drops? That’s been my week.
Traffic lights are recalibrated, so now an intersection I used to blow through every morning at 7:41 now turns red just as I’m pulling up to it. Friend A said something mean about Friend B, and could I please step in and say something about it. A new program is implemented at work, which I am not trained on, but am nonetheless expected to follow. Rain squalls knock the power out, just for a split second, but long enough to corrupt sixty minutes worth of video. An important e-mail gets no reply. The one time I actually want some ice, there isn’t any. Fresh dog shit on the floor.
Yesterday evening I spent three exasperated minutes staring at two computer screens. The first was my desktop PC, on which I have set up our Win7 Homegroup. Displayed on the screen is the password for said Homegroup. The second is my laptop. Displayed on this screen is a Win7 Homegroup password field, which must be populated before the laptop can access files on any other computer in the Homegroup. The password on the two screens is precisely the same, keystroke-for-keystroke. The only difference is, the laptop is telling me the password is not correct, and could I please contact the network administrator.
You sit in a situation like that, still burning from the 9,999 other pinpricks from the week, and the desire to put your fist through something is surprisingly overwhelming. You can picture a guy, right now, sitting on death row for no reason other than he had the exact same week you just did, and there happened to be a gun handy right at that magical moment where raw fury drowns out any sense of reason. And this poor guy has to spend all of his appeals explaining why he shot his wife for snoring too loudly.
I made do with just flinging my wireless mouse across the room. The top cracked off and the batteries flew out, but at least it made a loud, satisfying noise where it collided with the wall. That was stupid, probably, but I won’t be explaining it to government officials anytime soon. So I have that going for me!
Still, it’s a peculiar spot to be in. The more irritated you become, the more things irritate you. After a while it gets so that even microscoping things rub you absolutely raw. I blew off our Pathfinder game this week simply because the thought of sitting in a room with my friends, in my extraordinarily heightened state of irritation, seemed like an impossibility. Someone could have said something innocuous, and I would have exploded on them — and would not have deserved it. Not when the reason for my irritation was something like “Publix was out of orange bell peppers.”
I ended up exploding at my wireless mouse instead. A more acceptable outcome, to be sure, but for a while there I really felt like I was rolling the dice.
Something I have become starkly aware of, however, is the radial effects of this kind of slowly-building irritation. One way of looking at it is, we are all of us building Jenga towers, each on our own rickety little table. We have a big stack of wooden blocks to pull from, and no matter how carefully we build, the tower eventually falls — spilling blocks into stacks all around us. Thus do our irritants become someone else’s problem. Observe: a woman in Bumblefuck, AZ gets the runaround on her insurance company. After two hours of absolutely infuriating phone calls, she decides to take her frustrations out on the next faceless corporate entity she encounters. Namely: me. That puts a few blocks on my tower, which is now high enough that I can’t split my energies between maintaining it and my social obligations. Our Pathfinder GM is justifiably upset that one of his players didn’t show, and now his tower is high enough that he verbally abuses a McDonald’s employee over the matter of a misplaced Fillet’o’Fish. The employee retaliates by burning down six apartment buildings.
We all look at the ends of these chain reactions and think, “Wow, what a psycho.” But really, the explosion can occur at any spot along the length of the chain. And while the explosions might be cathartic for whoever’s at the flashpoint, they really just send shockwaves out in every direction, fueling further reactions.
I suppose the whole point of this little thought exercise is, we might all be at least a little responsible for the really, really big explosions. The ones that print headlines and make us all shake our heads. I mean, it’s not our fault that guy up and shot his wife… but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we’d each have to take on a few hours of his sentence.
For my part, I’m typing this up at the office on my infuriatingly un-Homegroup’d laptop, thinking about heating up some ramen for lunch. That is, if the office microwave is working. If it’s not? Well… could you blame me if the building burned down?