Long ago, I discovered the answer to the ultimate question: how to be happy in life.
The answer is simple: remain easily entertained.
To that end, I spent last evening the same way I spend all my evenings, pursuing happiness in my recliner wedged between a remote and a bottle of beer.
It is a script that always reads the same.
First I click on PBS.
There I find a nice lady explaining why I should contribute to public broadcasting.
She is not explaining, she is scolding. I know her look. It says she doesn’t think I am responsible.
Obviously she does not understood my situation. Here I am watching television while my wife slaves away in the kitchen. It is in moments like these that I am highly resistant to both scolding and responsibility.
Next I turn to TBS, hoping for a movie -instead I get an infomercial.
A perky young thing, a third my age, is encouraging me to work on my body. First I point to my recliner then I point to my bottle of beer as proof that I am indeed working on my body. We just share different visions.
Finally I click over to NBC.
It takes me a moment to figure out what I am looking at. Apparently the premise of the show is to challenge ordinary people to navigate an obstacle course of large brightly colored objects for cash and prizes.
Now THAT is entertainment.
Talk about drama!
I become enthralled as Barbara from Ohio teeters along a balance beam as the giant spokes of a wheel try to sweep her off. Can she make it to the other end? I fear she cannot. See how she wobbles? See how she flails her arms for balance?
The tension is too much for me. I watch her ordeal through the cracks between my fingers.
But then….. she brilliantly stutter steps between the spokes and pirouettes onto a zip line platform. This is her last obstacle!
She grabs the trolley and glides toward cash and prizes – but OH NO…
She tumbles off the line and splashes into a pool of water. No more Barbara, I feel sorry for her. We had a connection but it is time to move on.
“Greg?” My wife calls from the kitchen.
I rarely respond to her first call because it takes a while to decompress from the drama of television. She needs to respect that.
“I need a few things from the store.”
“I can’t go.”
“I have to find out if Mike from Montana makes it to the quarter finals,” I tell her.
By now she is standing beside me. She snatches up my remote, clicks off the television and hands me a shopping list.
“It’s a re-run,” she says as she returns to the kitchen. “He bounces off the big red ball and falls into a vat of goo.”
I drive to town but I can’t get the show out of my head.
At the store, a host greets me.
I don’t recognize him. He must be new but what is not new is the maze of brightly colored objects on the other side of the sliding doors.
“Hi! I am Greg from Minnesota,” I tell him. “Today, my goal is to be in and out of here in under three minutes.”
He looks a little baffled. He is new, so I help him out.
“Just say go,” I tell him.
“Go,” he says.
See? He is already getting the hang of it.
I charge into the produce section as a gaggle of moms drift across my path forcing me to hurdle a pallet of watermelons.
At the meat department, I scan the shelves for the first item on my wife’s list: SPAM, but I can’t find it. I am stumped. Do I have to spend a life-line?
“Where is the SPAM?” I yell at the butcher.
He frowns. “Try aisle 4,” he says.
Across the store at Aisle 4, the shelves are stocked with cans of tuna, anchovies, clams and oysters. I spot a number of garishly colored packages but nothing that reads “SPAM”.
I burn another life-line on the kid stacking tuna. “Where’s the SPAM?” I shout.
He looks confused.
“SPAM?” I repeat in a panic.
“Is there really something called SPAM?” he wants to know.
“Sure, it’s pig parts,” I say.
“Try the meat department,” he says.
I explain that the butcher sent me to him – but he just shakes his head. He feels bad about wasting my last life-line and wants to redeem himself.
I give him another try.
“Cheetos,” I say.
He takes the question like an insult until I slyly add the modifier, “Baked.”
He nails it – “At the entrance to aisle 6.”
We slap hands and I am off on a run.
Everything falls into place. En route to Aisle 6. I find the SPAM hidden among the fixing for Chili. Within minutes, I score the last four items on my list – but then disaster strikes – the express lane is closed and a family of six is docking their cart at the only available register.
On the way out, the host is gone. There will be no consolation prize today.
At home I find my wife in the recliner watching The Bachelor.
“Hey! I was watching…” I begin to protest – but there is no arguing with The Bachelor.
“Here,” she says, handing me a letter, “mail this. It’s a check for PBS. It’s about time you showed a little responsibility and after that,” she scolds, “ shovel the driveway. You could use the exercise.”
Another evening in paradise.