SMILE! IT COULD BE WORSE!
So read the cardboard sign being held by the man at the bottom of the River Road exit as it comes west off Beltline.
Tell that to the cat. I was taking Kobi to the veterinarian's office, a nine minute drive from home. He (Kobi, not the fellow with the sign) had been hollering the entire way there. One holler approximately every two-and-a-half seconds for nine minutes = 216 cries. Add in 2 minutes of load time + 2 more for unloading and that makes 312 sickening, heartwrenching wails. Very to-the-vet's-specific wails that were a cross between the yowls he emits while on night patrol down the hallway and the screech he lets out when someone's just stepped on his tail.
I was doing my best to be a good mom, making comforting sounds from the front seat. Embarrassing cootchy-coo sounds that—trust me on this—wouldn't play well on YouTube if I were running for public office. Then he broke me. No—I'll own it: I broke. Smile, I told my terrified cat. It could be worse.
Well, yes of course I know better. The very last thing one should do to an unhappy creature is try to cajole him into being happy. See how you feel when a tractor-trailer runs over your foot and someone runs up and tries to tickle you out of your pain. Think that evokes happiness? No sirree. More like a fist to the face. A fist to the face with no regrets.
I'm an all-regret kind of person. Whatever I do, there's always some way I could have done it better. Or, since perspective is everything, there's always some way I could have done it less worse. Thar she lies—DeepDarkSecret #42,391.
I'm also someone who doesn't believe in dumping my problems on assorted, innocent others. My problem isn't someone else's problem. Unless they start with that cajoling business. Then they get a faceful of it. Take that co-worker of mine. It was 1983. I was 25, and I'd just finished an extremely long day on my postal route. I was punching the timeclock (this is office vernacular, not meant to be taken literally) at the end of my shift, preparing to head to the hospital 30 minutes away where my mother was enduring her final days. That co-worker had barely ever said a word to me. But he chose this day, the very last part of this arduous day, to make his cheering move--Smile! You're too young to be wearing such a frown.
He got more than a frown. Get out your thesaurus and look up glower. Then multiply the definition by 312 and you might be getting close to what my co-worker got from me in that one spontaneous moment. There weren't any words. Just that look. And I think he got the message. A message I've never regretted sending.
But there is one apology that's truly in order: Sorry, Kobi. I do know better.
Nancy Carol Moody
I'm a poet and a letter-writer. Yup, that kind. The kind who uses pens and paper and actual stamps. The kind who will leave the house with nothing on the agenda but to get to the mailbox before the scheduled pick-up time. The kind who understands that technology is a wondrous thing, but nothing quite beats finding a real letter with a real stamp on it amid the credit card solicitations, pizza coupons and seminar catalogs.