I shift my gaze over my shoulder to the man sitting in a chair six feet away. His sunken eyes tell me his mind is somewhere else. “Doc… You still with me?” I ask him.
My shrink’s attention returns to my world. “Irv, I’m listening. Continue.”
I do, with my conclusion. “We live in an uncaring world.”
“I know…” comes back in a tiny meek voice.
I turn again. My therapist looks like he’s about to cry. “You’re not suppose to say that,” I answer. “You’re supposed to tell me to change my attitude and then everything will get better.”
“You always tell me that.”
“Then it must be true.” He lets out a long sigh.
“Fine,” he says. “Continue.”
I continue…again. “So like, I’ve already been waiting ten minutes in this Westwood restaurant and finally a college girl server comes to my table and tells me it’s late-night happy hour and apple martini’s are six dollars and for two bucks more, it’s a double, and I order it, and when she brings it, the joy juice is right up to the top of the glass and I comment how she managed to get it to me without spilling a drop and she sets down the glass very slowly and very very gently, and then her butt bumps the table and a forth of my drink goes sloshing everywhere turning my two-top into a pond of gin and sour apple schnapps.”
My shrink yawns. “This is why the world doesn’t care?”
“I’m not finished. So she says, ‘I’ll get you another drink.’ At least that’s what I think she says and off she goes with me now standing next to dripping Formica hoping for her quick return with a towel or vacuum pump. And I wait, and I wait, and I wait. No waitress, no towel, no replacement drink.
I know, you’ve got it bad. Worse than Syria.
I ignore that. “Anyway, I find her at the bar, and I figure she’s holding for my martini. But before I can say, ‘Is that my…,’ she says, ‘He’s coming.’ ‘Who?’ I ask. ‘The guy with the towel,’ she says. So I return to my spot and wait for a dry surface and my second drink.”
My shrink yawns again. “The suspense is killing me.”
I ignore that too. “Four minutes later a college guy finally shows with a bar rag soggy wet from something else. So when he wipes my table, he swaps sour apple schnapps for brown water that stinks a like used mop. And then he leaves…me at a table with no plate, tableware or napkin.”
“Let me guess. And no second martini.”
My brows raise. “You’ve been to this place?”
“I’ve been to college. Go on.”
“So my bargain eight dollar double martini is now a single at a table that smells like the inside of a dumpster. I change location and as I put down what’s left of my drink, this second table rocks and another two thirds of sticky alcohol goes flying onto my knees.”
“So you’re again looking for the busboy because by now you’ve figured out a replacement cocktail is on nobody’s list but you’d rather have a blow dryer anyway.”
“Right!” I exclaim. “And the kid sees me, I wave, he waves back and I never see him again.”
“But the girl returns and asks you if you want to order another drink?”
“EXACTLY! It happened to you too?”
“Do whales pee in the ocean?”
“So what did you do?”
“I ordered another drink because life is too short to get upset over something so trivial.”
“It wasn’t trivial to me. That girl didn’t care about my spilled drink, my lost eight dollars and my sticky pants. And Rag Boy didn’t either.”
Doc’s eyes roll. “So what’s the lesson here?”
“It’s coming. The next day I’m killing time in Denny’s while I wait for my car’s tires to be changed. An Asian man, maybe forty, comes to my table and hands me a menu. He’s smiling, cheery, and he asks me, with a Japanese accent, if I want coffee, which I do. Twenty seconds later he’s back with joe and more grinning teeth. I order the Slam Dunk and two minutes later he’s back again and the eggs are still hot! A few minutes later he checks on me. I ask for water, I get water, with another pour and more cream.”
“This is riveting.” Another yawn.
“It gets better. I check my watch. It’s time to leave. I raise my head. There he is, still smiling. He lays down the check and again refills my cup. If I had asked, he probably would’ve aimed Mr. Weeny toward a toilet.”
“Okay, so some people DO care.”
“Yep. But that’s still not my point. As I’m paying my bill at the register, I ask the woman there if I can talk to the manager. When a customer asks for the manager it usually means a complaint. So she scurries away to the back of the restaurant as other patrons move to register holding their unpaid checks.”
“My table guy spots the customers and immediately hurries over and rings up the meals. The manager, a burly three hundred pound Hispanic dude with a round face and black mustache approaches me with a frown, waiting for gripes.”
Doc interjects, “But instead he gets–”
“Complements and raves about his waiter.”
“I hope you tipped him.”
“Twenty percent. And I explained how courteous he was, and attentive, and kind. And the manager is now gleaming a wide smile and is extending his hand for a shake. And he tells me this Asian gentleman is his best server and I tell him he should be assistant manager and I’m feeling the air around us warm into love and the manager is not letting go of my hand. And I’m charged with bliss. And as I leave the place, the manager strides over to the Asian man and puts his big hand on the waiter’s shoulder and I can tell the caring is spreading around the room. And now I’m floating to my car knowing everybody did the right thing and is feeling good about it.”
“So the lesson is simple: If someone’s unkind to you, be kind to someone else. It’s a good thing and a good feeling.”
Staring at the ceiling, I wait for an affirmation. All I hear is the traffic outside.
I again turn to my therapist. He’s rubbing his eyes. Was he tearing up? “What’s the matter?” I ask him.
He doesn’t answer.
He shakes his head. “I haven’t been positive enough with my patients. I should be doing more. A lot more.”
“But they’re all losers.”
“Oh no. Even me?”
“Especially you. You’re a hopeless mess. But I should be kinder about that, more reassuring.”
“Maybe a touch.”
“Wouldn’t help. You…my other psychos, you’re all lost…shattered junk…beyond repair.”
“But you said–”
“I lied. There’s no way you can be helped. I strongly suggest suicide.”
“Worse. Irv, you’re nothing but income to me.”
“Not really because you’re late on last month’s bill. And that really pisses me off.”
“At least you care.”
“Yes, Irv…I DO care…about me.”
I sit up, so relieved. “Ya know, we really broke more ground today. Truth plunged through my heart.”
“No it didn’t. You just realized life in not worth living. Being a loving, caring person is something the world doesn’t give a damn about.”
“Gee, and I thought–”
“That’s your problem, Irv. You’re still thinking.” Doc looks at his watch. “Time’s up. See you next week…if you’re too whimpy to pull the trigger.”
I love my analyst. He really makes me think. “Doc, I AM gonna die. It’s all gonna end.”
“Yep. Remember that next time a waitress spills a drink on your knees.”