Disclaimer: This was written before the pandemic.
Some mornings we wake up at 3 a.m. and are disturbed by dark thoughts. For starters: What’s going to happen to this world we are leaving behind for our children and grandchildren? To counteract these low points, we have decided when things are low to go lower. Sorry to Michelle Obama for changing up your good advice, but sometimes low moments call for even lower thoughts.
To shift from a depressing subject, focus on one that is so distasteful that it drives what’s bothering you from your mind, sometimes with humor. We call this replacement therapy or in advertising lingo, bait and switch.The results are immediate. To help you along with this exercise, here’s a week’s worth of yucky events we’ll share that we hope will make you laugh and chase away those gloomy thoughts and images.
Day 1. True Shit. Dog poop. We are strolling along the sidewalk of one of the most wonderful cities in the world. Perhaps, we’re exercising when our nose detects an unpleasant odor after we enter a building. We sniff. Could it be us? Perhaps, the nasty odor is from something noxious outside that’s seeping in. And then in a moment of clarity, we check the soles our shoes. Oh, my goodness, yuck beyond. There it is. If only we had Lysol wipes. So, we run outside, find a patch of grass and try to scrape our shoes clean, which only spreads the stench. And then out of the corner of our eye we see a dog pooping nearby. The owner doesn’t open his little plastic bag to pick it up. You go over to that person, tap them on the shoulder and say: “Shit.” (pointing to your shoe). That says it all. And, yes, we do love dogs, just not some of their inconsiderate owners.
Day 2. Hand-Me Downs. How gross is it when you’re cooking with someone and they lick their fingers and the utensils and then put them both back into the batter, stew, soup or whatever? It’s a major “Ick attack”! Then, the food is put on the table and we are loath to eat it, so we pretend to have stomach issues. We look across the table and really lose our appetites watching a person chomping with their mouth wide open. But the worst, the grossest offense is when the person sitting next to you picks up a cloth napkin and blows their nose into it sounding like a foghorn. Two yucks for the price of one.
Day 3. A Sweat Deal. You meet a well-dressed new friend for lunch who cannot control their perspiration. They seem nice enough as they tell you why they’re on their way to the financial district to make millions for wealthy clients. But as they speak, they begin to sweat profusely. It starts to stain their shirt under the arms. At the same time, the sweat pours down their face and every time they move to make a point, little droplets are tossed in your direction. Should you make any suggestions like tell them to consider Botox injections under each arm pit? Or a better deodorant. No, we were raised to be polite, but we can’t wait to get away.
Day 4. Hairy Conversation. You’re at a lecture and a woman with a colorful tattoo of someone’s name on her left arm starts talking to you about her lackluster love life. Your eyes move from the tattoos to her face where you become lost in the conversation because you are completely engrossed in counting the little hairs on her chin or coming out of her nose. You move your glance up an inch and you are mesmerized by the woman’s hair growth above her upper lip. You think: Should you suggest that she purchase the Finishing Touch Flawless Facial Hair Remover you just purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond and pull out a 20-percent off one item coupon in your purse? Maybe, but again we hate to be mean, and, yes, at times, we are superficial.
Day 5. Full Stream Ahead. You’re sitting on the bus next to a stranger and hear…ah, ah, ah choo. You guessed it, the person is not holding a tissue, and it’s full stream ahead. Do you pull out a tissue or pack and offer it to the sneezing person like your 5th-grade teacher or mother used to do? Instead, you find the hand sanitizer you now keep in your bag and slather it on your hands and arms. And then you wonder if you’ll be threatened in a few days with a mysterious virus taking over your body? We soon found that to be the case with COVID. Wear a mask!
Day 6. Litter Girl. A teenager is eating a taco while walking briskly down the street to beat a red light, oblivious to the fact that she’s tossing her napkins on the ground. Typically, to be good citizens, we’d pick up those napkins but eew! No way are we touching them with their residue of grease, hot sauce and cheese bits and maybe a virus. Do we shout at the girl who races down the street, “Hey, you threw your napkins on the sidewalk. Come back and pick them up.” We put the brakes on this instinct, but it’s hard to do as we watch her napkins blowing in the wind. We do care about tidying up after ourselves.
Day 7. Making Scents. You plop down on a seat on the subway or bus and open your current issue of The New Yorker. A man is sitting right next to you in a T-shirt that says, “Grand Funk Railroad.” He notices you reading his shirt, seems friendly and speaks: “Hi, how are you doing?” You smile back and turn to your magazine article about Yuval Noah Harari, the author of “Sapiens” and suddenly body odor wafts through the air to your nostrils. Is it him? The odor is funkier than his shirt. You gag. You squirm. You can’t take it, get up and mumble something like, “I really prefer to stand. My stop is near.” Of course, your stop is the last one on the line, and he gets off before you do. As he walks by to exit, he gives you a querulous look. You feel guilty and then think: Many people must commute, but if that no longer had to happen, certain people should at least use deodorant.
Substituting a really gross thought for a depressing one is a mental ploy to make you feel better in some perverse way. Wouldn’t it nice if there were an app for this? There might be. But in the meantime, we know that in real life all of our yucks are not the worst things in the world. We’re all human, have our flaws, get busy, lazy, sick and forget. So, from this day forward, let’s try to think about others as we go about our busy days and weeks. Spreading good habits is uplifting and in these cases, it’s always better to take the higher road.