Look, I don’t mean to criticize, so I won’t. I’ll only say good things, because, as my mother once told me, “If you can’t say anything good, then don’t say anything at all.” That was one of the few times I heard my mother talk. Yeah, she was a very quiet woman.
The other trick I learned, whenever I have to say something negative, is to tack on something positive at the end. For example, if I need to say, “Oh my god, a wasp just stung me in the ear and it’s swelling up to the size of a rutabaga!” I always add, “But my life is so blessed.” This is to remind myself that no matter what horrible thing is currently happening, the rest of my life is still basically pretty good. Unless it isn’t. But then I can at least pretend it is, and you know the saying, “fake it until you make it.” I think it was Bernie Madoff who said that, and look how well it worked for him.
Be positive. Not only is it a blood type, it’s a way of life.
So I say, “I absolutely positively am positive that Steve is a duplicitous slimeball who would steal his own children’s college fund to go on a whoring, high-roller binge in Las Vegas. But he does have a really nice car that he let me drive once.”
Or, “I know the Tea Party are a bunch of crazy, bigoted morons who will probably take over the country and start World War III. But I am quite amused by the costumes they wear. And the way their faces turn such a beautiful bright shade of red whenever they talk to me.”
I don’t say “I’m not sure.” I say, “I’m positively confused.” I never say, “I could take it or leave it.” Instead, whenever a salesman asks me if I want something I could care less about I say, “I’ll take it!” Then when my wife grabs my sleeve and drags me away, I wave and say, “I’ll leave it!”
Davie was a very upbeat kid I used to hang out with. He was positively upbeat, a real smart kid, kind, and loving, and sharp. He followed me around everywhere I went, maybe because he thought I was great and wise and he was trying to learn from me, or maybe because he didn’t have anything better to do. But probably being on the payroll of the FBI had something to do with it. I’m not sure what he was investigating. I don’t even think Davie knew what he was investigating, but I didn’t believe it was my place to butt in. If Davie was told to follow me, then it was a good thing for him to do. The way I figured it, I was helping to provide employment. There aren’t nearly enough jobs to go around nowadays and any small part we can play to increase the economy and add to the job market is something we should be happy to do. So there I was, just going about my business and providing full-time employment for Davie. And I think he was probably getting paid a lot more money to follow me around everywhere I went than I was getting to go there in the first place.
After awhile I figured I should introduce myself to him, I figured maybe he was bored and he’d like to talk about football, or help me do the crossword puzzle, or something. At first he ignored me and pretended he didn’t know what I was talking about. Actually the first thing he did when I headed his way was to get up and leave. That was just the way he was trained. So there I was following him, trying to catch up actually, because he kept going faster and faster to avoid having me catch him. Yeah, there I was chasing my tail! But I was quicker than him and so eventually I caught up and told him I understood that he was just doing his job and that my life was blessed and he shouldn’t worry about me trying to kill him, because I gave that up years ago. Even back then I only went after black ants that I’d fry with my magnifying glass, and I didn’t have a magnifying glass big enough for Davie to be concerned with.
It turned out Davie was very unhappy being an FBI agent. In fact, he wasn’t even sure he really was an FBI agent. He’d never had to fill out an application or take a test. His father got him the job through a friend of a friend. He reported to work one morning and his new boss gave him an ID that said FBI, and the keys to a non-descript car, and told him to get lost.
“But what should I do?” Davie asked.
“Park your car at the corner of 9th and Euclid and follow the first guy you see who’s got a beard. The only thing you need to know in this business is that if you follow someone long enough, eventually you’ll catch them doing something wrong.”
So Davie had been following me around for weeks and hadn’t caught me doing anything wrong yet, and his boss was giving him flak, because he wasn’t filling his quota of evildoers, and Davie was worried he was going to lose his job, which he didn’t even want in the first place. What he really wanted to do was move out of his parents’ basement and move in with his girlfriend and bake cookies.
“So do it,” I told him.
“What do you mean?”
“Just pack your bag full of chocolate chips and go knock on her door and tell her you want to move in.”
“But, what if she says, ‘No’?”
“Be positive!” And that was the last time I saw Davie, so I assume my advice worked for him as well as it’s worked for me.