Last week I wrote about gutting a pair of black sneakers to walk to a fast food stand known for its falafel sandwich and banana shake combo (see Measure Once, Cut Twice). I had been thinking about it ever since I picked up my granddaughter from college on the Peninsula and drove her back down to San Jose. She wanted to stop at the stand and get the combo. Being older and therefore aware of my mortality, I opted for half a sandwich and bottled water. Now, however, I was determined to rectify that error, the shortsightedness of which was surpassed only by the time I fasted during a wedding. So, I sliced into my shoes and sallied forth into the July heat for my falafel and banana shake as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Expectations are a funny thing, and by funny I mean not funny. An expectation can mess with you and set you up for disappointment, even breaking your heart. That’s if you take it literally. But if you treat it not as something to be fulfilled but something that could happen in an ideal world but probably not in this one and certainly not to you, then you won’t be disappointed and will see what it means to be half beast and half angel.
What’s he going on about now? you ask. Is he Irish? No, but I’ll tell you. There are two ways to handle expectations. The first concerns expectations that can be easily met. These don’t knock you for a loop if they don’t come to pass. For example: “I can have the report finished by Friday afternoon”; “Will you pick me up at three?”; “I expect the 22 bus to be here on time.” Having expectations like these is justified, unless, of course, you’re having open heart surgery on Thursday or are standing at the wrong bus stop. I got on the wrong plane once, so it does happen.
Other expectations, if not met, will plop you ungraciously into the front car of the loop-de-loop. These usually involve career, vocation, relationships, family, and life-altering events that change your status, including but not limited to death, dismemberment, and divorce (the three D’s). Divorce is the pettiest of the three, since it doesn’t even get you a permit to park in a handicapped spot. Yet, you suffer “phantom limb” just the same.
These more serious expectations and the effort to manage them demand a lot of work often over a lifetime. Recall Bertolt Brecht’s insight that, “There are men who struggle for a day and they are good/ There are men who struggle for a year and they are better/There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still/But there are those who struggle all their lives: these are the indispensable ones” (see The Indispensable Ones).
Something curious occurs with expectations. And by curious I mean the way you would find an earthquake curious. Occasionally, the non loop-de-loop variety crosses into loop-de-loop territory where it doesn’t belong and has no business other than monkey business. The monkey business in question is the expectation, for instance, that a falafel sandwich and banana shake could do more than satisfy my hunger on a hot, July day–that they would give me a foodie kind of love. After all, is it a coincidence that it was a banana shake, as in monkeys and bananas? I think not (see Meant to Be).
Let me do something I have yet to do: get to the point. The falafel sandwich was cold and tasteless, the milkshake chalky, and a stench of garbage wafted across the seating area from open trash cans nearby. While it reminded me of the landfill on Staten Island, it didn’t help. I was thoroughly disappointed and didn’t even finish the meal. Ah, reality!
Here’s the thing. I can’t tell anymore if it was the food that was really bad or my mood. I had walked for three miles in the heat in sneakers that made each step painful. I wore a jacket that made me bake. I had gotten lost in surrounding neighborhoods that all looked alike. I had put such expectations on the combo special that it could have been manna from heaven and I still would have bitched. See, bitching is what I do. I spend my spare time creating the conditions that make bitching possible. I’m really quite creative that way.
Next time, I think I’ll drive.
Image credits: feature by Levi Meir Clancy; window by Skyler Smith; banana shake by Louis Hansel. Like fiction? Check out the Mercury “trilogy” (The Gringo, Laura Fedora) here. Also, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”