Not a Bowl of Berries for Terry and the Pirate

Maybe I’m overreacting, but it feels to me like the New Year has pitched us some pretty tough early innings.

Example one: Just this week, with all the snow and ice underfoot, I’ve taken two spectacular dives on my way from the house to the car. The first time, I fell backwards, sitting down so hard my eyeballs bounced; and my teeth clattered like castanets. The second, I fell forward, and everything I was carrying – the books, the legal pads, the water bottle – all sailed into the air and distributed themselves out over the snowy tundra – everything except the little stash of tender berries I had packed for a special snack later on.

The berries I landed on.

Example two: Last week, I contracted a virus – not the easy human kind where you lose your hair, or spike a sauna-high temp or begin leaking at every porthole, but the electronic kind, which announces itself in the boxy little head of your computer.

I’m not sure, but I THINK this virus came all the way from Austria, tagging along on an e-mail I received from Alex, a sweet young lady who stayed in our house for a year and now leads a quiet life back in the Alps with her baby Angela.

“Happy New Year!” read the e-mail’s subject in my Inbox, with its sender listed as Alexandra G. “Pictures of Me Naked” the e-mail immediately following it read, with the sender once again listed as Alex.

I’m stupid, I know. I opened it, thinking, “Hmmm. Pictures of her BABY, she must mean!”

But it wasn’t pictures of her baby, or pictures of anyone naked. It was a blank screen that wouldn’t let me exit out of it. It was, I later learned, one of the more nefarious viruses, the kind that calls other viruses to it. By the time my computer-doc friend Mike Kett arrived, there were – count ‘em – no fewer than 95 viruses festering inside it.

The very next day, my mate bit into something and cracked a tooth down the middle for the second time in three months and so is now going around with a big black gap like a pirate’s in his otherwise gentlemanly smile.

That afternoon, I ventured across the snow to the supermarket in search of groceries to act as comfort food. Having bought them, I returned to my car – to find an immense yellow blob on the windshield.

“Yikes, that’s a big bird!” was my first thought. But then I saw bits of what looked like parsley worked into the matrix, reminiscent of that Special Sauce the folks at McDonald’s once chanted about in their famous jingle.

Finally, three days later, I took an airplane flight during which, like many a passenger, I had occasion to visit the bathroom. Only first I couldn’t LOCK its little door, and banged and wrestled with it loudly. Then, minutes later, I couldn’t UNlock it. Between the one effort and the other, I had its rigid vinyl walls a-shakin’ and a-tremblin’ like a sinner facin’ Judgment; and when I burst forth at last, the folks in the last few rows gave me a round of applause.

But returning to my seat, I felt strangely cheerful, and settled in beside the pony-tailed man who for the last two hours had been poring over a hockey magazine.

“Um, so do you PLAY hockey?” I made bold to ask.

“Semi-pro, baby! Eleven years!” he said with a big smile.

“Yikes, how’re your teeth? How’s your, uh, mouth?”

“150 stitches and two caps!” he shouted gaily. “Only I don’t bother with the caps much.” And he smiled even wider, showing me a mouth like my pirate’s back home.

It’s the smile I keep on remembering, for the lesson it gave me: namely, whatever droppings the heavens choose to rain down on you, the choice of how you react to them is still yours to make.

©Copyright 2002-2012 Terry Marotta, All Rights Reserved.