When Life Jumps The Shark
He stood there in his Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans while doing a load of laundry of blue jeans and Hawaiian shirts. His blue jeans were rolled up above his ankle, exposing his white socks pulled high and his velcro-strapped shoes. The area around his waist was bunchy, as if he wore diaper over a diaper over a diaper under his blue jeans. He took a long pull from his soda can, shook it close to his ear to check his completion, and proceeded to crush the can in his worn hand and shove it in his pocket. He walked up and down the area where dryers were stacked on top of one another, jangling a key ring with at least fifty keys on it and picking up the used dryer sheets and shove them in his pockets. He would alternate jangling the keys, shoving dryer sheets in his pockets, and dragging a folding chair across the concrete floor before finally settling down at the dryer that held his Hawaiian shirts and blue jeans.
He, like everyone else that was there that day, was afraid to be alone.
He said nothing, made no small talk of weather even though it was supposed to rain, he just went about his business. I suppose that nothing in life is truly accidental or coincidental, only meaningful in small but measurable ways. We often mistake accidents and coincidences for fate, but I believe that it is really more a rehearsed play that we are acting upon. We think we are making up the lines and motions as we go along; we are trained to pause for the audiences laughter, and to whip up a tear or two on command. Something suggested to me that this was all apart of his character in our little play. Maybe it was his bunchy pants.
I wondered what was in them, underneath the cola cans and dryer sheets, what amounts of loose treasures were in them? What were those keys to? We live in Oklahoma, where does one even get a collection of Hawaiian shirts?
The jangling key Hawaiian dryer sheet soda crushing bunchy pants man was surrounded in mystery but everything was right there.
When I was little, I used to believe that I was the focus of a television show. Actually, it was more of a television channel. A channel that I could not access nor had knowledge of. I used to think that whatever I did in my life people were interested in it. That when I watched movies or stayed up too late that the world cared and would stay up to see if I would get caught. I thought there were cameras in every corner of my house and every store and restaurant I went into. I used to think that conversations among my friends were scripted, and that when I developed a crush on Danika in 2nd grade, that the entire world wanted us to get married and be happy together. That day on my channel would be the highest rated day ever of television, everyone would want to see the wedding.
Some days, I still live in this fantasy. Unfortunately, I have grown up enough to realize that no one actually cares if I get the girl in the end. No one cares that I eat crunchy peanut butter and turkey sandwiches. No one cares that I dropped out of college to pursue something that isn’t real to you, or able to be documented or really truly explained by me. The world doesn’t stop to tune in when I make a life choice, meet a girl, or have a great conversation with someone. The minor characters of my story have their own stories that they are living in to which they are the main characters with their own minor characters. And life seems so random and all over the place, but perhaps it’s not as much as we think. Perhaps we are one story. One play. With one beginning and one ending.
My television channel cannot be broadcast on some special channel that I cannot access because the channel is too busy playing the reruns of past accomplishments of my life. That one time I scored a game winning shot in little league basketball, for example. Actually, the channel might have been hijacked sometime ago by the bunchy pants guy. I’d bet that he has regular segments on my show where the camera cuts away from my boring life to him standing behind a table and pulling out everything he had found today from his pockets. Dryer sheets like a magicians handkerchief, an endless amount of dryer sheets, for example. And after he pulled out that last dime that got stuck at the point of his pocket, back to your regular scheduled programming of me watching that crazy bunchy pants guy at the laundry mat.
I heard on the radio the other day that in an entire nine inning baseball game, there is only about fourteen minutes of actual action. A player hitting a ball, a pitcher pitching, running bases. Fourteen minutes.
I think that is probably why I don’t like baseball so much, it reminds me too much of myself. It opens up that episode where I’m afraid that my life is just another meaningless play or game, that there was record of, but no one seems to recall any of the scenes, or who won the game. It reminds me that my life up to this point has only had fourteen minutes of actual action, and what will the audience remember? That there were a few jokes? A few good times?
I think the play about my life opened strong, with good reviews. Birth is always beautiful and always a miracle. I was a cute kid. I had a few girlfriends, so that kept things interesting for a while. Graduated high school, did the college thing for a couple years, which was fun and kind of interesting when viewed from a distance. Then what? People stopped watching and stopped caring about my show. I was an adult and I wasn’t a cute kid anymore. You had a girlfriend, big whoop. And as ratings of my show dropped, so did my desire to put on a show. There was no longer a need to dazzle an audience with a heart wrenching performance because no one would see it regardless.
There is a phrase they use about television shows who are on their last leg. When a show’s writers are running around, not sure where the show is going, or when a show needs a quick fix to get ratings up, it’s called “jumping the shark” and it refers to an episode of Happy Days when the Fonz jumps over a shark on water skis. The show was losing popularity, it had seen better days. The Fonz jumping over a shark was just the final straw as writers refused to just let go.
Life, I do not want to jump the shark. So please, don’t let me. Let me entertain you again, Life. Let their be a camera just around the next corner, let their be a late resurgence of ratings and viewers just before they pull the cancelation plug. Let the bunchy pants guy keep doing…whatever it is he does. Life, be interested in me one more time. Root for me. Cheer for me. Watch me get where I’m going. Please, Life, I need you.