Bubbling Over

In Exile: Commentary

On the way home from work this evening, I stopped at the Kmart on Fourth for some cotton balls. I like shopping at the Kmart for the pleasing retail nostalgia it provides for those of us from the suburbs.

So pleasing was the shopping milieu that I decided to add toilet paper and, on a whim, Mr. Bubble to my purchases. I settled on the family-sized pack of toilet paper even though I haven’t lived with my family since high school.

It was the first warm evening we’ve had in a while, and the last one we’re scheduled to have for as far as the five-day forecast can see, and despite the unwieldiness of the toilet paper and the surprising weight of the Mr. Bubble, the night seemed to be off to an encouraging start, and I headed home eager to cook noodles and write this column.

That was several hours ago, and I’ve since been taken on an irritating misadventure, which consisted of the realization that I’d left my keys at work, dinner alone with my packages, a trip to the liquor store, and waiting for my boyfriend to arrive home from work with keys to the apartment. Total wasted time: three hours.

Damn it! Everything had been going so smoothly. Why does this always happen to me? I can’t catch a break. Damn it damn it damn it! For three hours, these ugly thoughts jumped all over my brain like a soft, grey moon bounce.

It wasn’t just that I had forgotten my keys, but that I had forgotten them because of the very delightful weather that had elevated my mood in the first place and which had caused me to wear the lighter jacket with no pockets to keep keys in. The toilet paper and Mr. Bubble, meanwhile, purchased with such enthusiasm, had become a pair of unwelcome albatross, except that instead of hanging around my neck, they were stuffed in an extra-large Kmart bag and making it difficult to carry.

You’re probably saying to yourself right now, “Oh, Will. C’est la vie. Que sera sera.” I’m saying that you can just shut your pie hole because something has happened to me since I moved to New York, something that I’m hesitant to tell you because it’s such a tired, unimaginative cliché. I’ve become impatient, short-tempered, and a generally angrier person than I ever used to be. My threshold for fate has dropped by half. I’ve lost the ability, as alcoholics and nuns will advise, to let go and let God.

In fact, one thing that I find myself doing these days is sitting in my apartment and screaming profanities. No need to worry — these noise-therapy sessions occur only occasionally and never last for very long. But screaming in an empty room, I used to think, was for those sitting in the padded variety. Sometimes I do it on the roof, if I’m worried about bothering the neighbors. People respond more harshly to screamers in a residence than screamers in public.

My personal experience here in New York has taught me that anger springs from disempowerment. An obvious theory, I’m sure, but you realize how linked the two are once you’ve felt one and, subsequently, the other. I often feel disempowered in New York, surrounded by those seemingly anointed with effortless success, a limitless cash flow, wonderful hair, an irrepressible sense of direction, nice shoes, chunks of charm and a legion of hangers-on.

These people cause me to repeatedly and furiously push elevator buttons even after the elevator is already moving. I’ve become rude to waitresses. Sometimes I engage in small fits in the lobbies of buildings.

All of this makes me feel sort of silly and more like a grown-up than ever before. Grown-ups, I had always thought, were the ones who freak out when stuck in traffic or when Junior drops his ice cream on the sidewalk. They’re always saying things like, “I’m in no mood!” and “You’re on thin ice, buster.” It wasn’t until recently that I understood this behavior. Grown-ups feel disempowered because their peers are becoming successful all around them as they’re forced to watch helplessly, unsuccessfully.

Some grown-ups who’ve been fired from their jobs return to the workplace a little later with automatic weapons. Back in the 1970s and early 80s, a lot of people were making films about ordinary people who’d become angry. Charles Bronson starred in a few of these — Death Wish is probably the most well-known. Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet directed several. In one of these films, someone actually yells, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

I don’t feel quite that angry, but it is interesting to note that all of these movies take place in New York City. At the time they were made, the economy of New York was terrible. Crime was rampant and the subway didn’t operate effectively. People were angry. It was a socially acceptable thing to be. But now, it feels a bit silly. No one really makes those kinds of movies anymore, and there’s pressure to maintain a kind of cool, cynical detachment about things.

This bothers me, because I know there are others out there, people I work with and see on the street, who sometimes sit down on the couch and scream at their apartments and throw Mr. Bubble against the wall in frustration. It would be nice if we could all be a bit more overt about this, get off the Klonopin for a bit, have a nice profanity screaming session and then take a warm, soothing bubble bath. It would spirit that grown-up feeling straight away.

Please Leave a Comment