Anxiety This Week: October 10, 2014

I blew off Documentary Wednesday. Now I've blown off Anxiety Thursday. But, it's sort of a pragmatic solution to a problem that runs deep inside me. Ironically, it's that deep cause that could provide an endless supply of material to write about.

I've found my wellspring of inspiration. My muse is fear. It's feeling insignificant. It's feeling like nothing I'll ever do will amount to anything. It's knowledge that there is nothing truly special about me that might pull me out of a life of mediocrity. My job I guess is simply to record my crippling neurosis. If I can't take effective steps toward objectives that seem essential and therefore important, like financial success or career achievement, I guess it's my job to record the process. At the very least there will be a very detailed record of my descent from somewhere just below mediocre to someplace below. Oddly I'm not exactly afraid of that descent, but I don't like the outlook of failing at this. The older you get when you've chased an impossible dream, the less employable you become. No one's immediate reaction to a thirty year old man is enthusiastic if he's without a bachelors degree, with little experience beyond retail, and has a spotted history of employment. The punishment for avoiding job purgatory in the land just above minimum wage is only being able to get minimum wage work. The trade off for working was always a better future so I guess that's not a huge loss. If you want a better future you'd better be willing to take on an incredible amount of debt for a fifty percent shot at making more money. The choice is work now, stay debt free, and trade off reaching your true potential, or go to school, sink yourself deeply in debt, and then potentially end up in the same place with debt. It would be nice if you could simply be happy and mediocre like generations passed. But, in actuality you excel as part of team that provides inexpensive and delicious at unprecedented speed, but that fucking miracle is valued by customers about as much as their own health. 

The bath houses in Rome set the paradigm for opulence. They had slaves below the floor. The slaves heated the pools of water for the rich above. Five feet of stone and intentional disregard for human life was all the separated very happy people from people in a dungeon complete with open fires that could easily be fallen into with the only note from above being property loss in an accountant's book.

We think we're so much better because, at the very least, we can see the people in back of McDonald's working, but that has less to do with owning the reality that human potential is shackled and observable, and more to do with the feeling of security knowing that if the most brazen cook who has to work more than one job to pay for a section 8 apartment spit in food, they'd be seen immediately and fired. 

Last year on Thanksgiving, I walked to the McDonald's across the street from our apartment. The twelve year old in me was excited. Thanksgiving as a child was hard because I didn't like Turkey or any of the other foods people parade out for Thanksgiving. I had yet to fall in love with the myriad of the different combinations of Jello, fruit, and cool whip in a pale blue-green  Tupperware bowl from 1960. I would end up hungry every Thanksgiving for no one's fault but my own until one glorious Thanksgiving day the McDonald's sign was on. It was a miracle that I probably appreciated more than any gift I'd ever received for Christmas. As I walked in, I carried that level of appreciation with me as I saw a man stand up, clearly angry, holding a sandwich that had cheese sticking out like a tongue. He stomped over to the counter as I approached and yelled at the cashier, "This cheese is off center!" His McChicken confirmed the reality of his observation, but shed no light onto the absurdity of a man yelling about something he could have solved with less than a jedi-mind trick wave using the bun to push the cheese to the right spot. "The cheese is supposed to be centered," he bellowed at the cashier who winced with every syllable. She was over thirty, under five foot three, and he was a grown man at least six foot. She was thirty and obviously poor, and he was probably in his late forties and obvious of enough means to yell, "This cheese is off center!" The words seemed to hit her like punches in Raging Bull. Luckily, in less than thirty second, the guy in the back had prepared a replacement McChicken purely by muscle memory but made sure the cheese was properly centered this time, and it was handed to this angry man as I stepped up to the counter to order.

I let her know with my face that this guy was absolutely insane, gave her my order, and said, "Happy Thanksgiving." Her smile shined genuinely for a moment like mine would have at twelve if I'd found a Tupperware filled with cheeseburgers. It was a good face, but it definitely didn't compare to my face the day McDonald's was first open on Thanksgiving and it also wouldn't compare to the face she'd have made if was given a paid holiday to celebrate being an American with her family.