Monday, October 24, 2005

Flashback: The Emergency Space Pirate

Several years ago, in Seattle, I was waiting for a friend, sitting in my parked car in a temporary waiting area in front of a busy downtown building. A shiny black Cadillac SUV (that screamed "I'm having my mid-life crisis") drove up behind my humble working-poor Ford Taurus and parked in the EMERGENCY ONLY! space. Oh no. One of my worst pet peeves. It just drives me nuts when people act like they own the city.

Out gets Mr. Cool in his flashy sport coat, open-neck silk shirt, gold chest medallion, sunglasses, the whole bit from the 70's. He hits the remote button to set the alarm and lock the SUV, then struts into the office building. After about ten minutes, I had a feeling he'd be awhile. So, with nothing better to do, I decided a little entertainment was in order. I rummaged around in my glove box, and found an official-looking slip of bright-pink paper with no personal information on it. It would double nicely as a look-alike parking ticket.

In a dark black pen, I scrawled a note on the inside, folded it, got out and placed it under his wiper, and then got back in my car to watch what might transpire from my rear-view mirror.

It was definitely gratifying.

The minute Mr.-It's-All-About-Me exited the building, he stopped dead in his tracks--fixated by the bright-pink "ticket" that fluttered on his windshield. I couldn't hear it, but I could clearly see the curses escaping his now-snarling lips. He bolted the 60 feet to the SUV, and still panting, snatched the bogus citation from its spot. Head turned toward my mirror (yes!) he unfolded the note. I watched anger turn to relief, then to embarrassment, then back to anger as he read:

"No it's not a $75 parking ticket, but you should hope to God, next time, it's not YOUR loved one who needs a medic, ambulance, or firetruck real quick. Now MOVE IT, LOUNGE LIZARD!"

I couldn't resist a satisfied smirk. He had been outed and didn't like it one bit. However, the pricked conscience quickly scabbed over and rage now took control. He took a couple of menacing looks around the area, looking like he'd like to pummel the first suspect he laid eyes on. At this point I thought it wise to hunker down a bit in my seat, but still maintain a good vantage point via my mirror.

Seeing no one to vent his hostility at, Mr. Cool now definitely lost his cool. He turned the air blue with every expletive in the book (this time I could hear him) while he tore the note into a dozen pieces, and threw the confetti into the wind--which promptly blew back into his face and littered the hood of his $80,000 road toy. He ripped open his door, jumped into padded luxury, roared the energy-guzzler to life, and jack-rabbited out into traffic, nearly side-swiping another vehicle.

My last visual memory was watching him burn rubber for 70 feet down the avenue.

Immaturity confirmed.

OK, call me a gutless little trouble-maker, or a jealous piece-of-crap-Taurus driver, or assume a cretin like this guy seldom changes his self-centered behavior...

...but it can sure be fun making a point.

ou're asking: What does this have to do with Thailand? Ah! I read your mind! I was just over at reading one of Wit's blogs about the "mai pen rai" mindset of the Thais. This phrase has only about two dozen translations, but basically centers around concepts like "chill out, dude," "don't worry," "take it easy," "no problem," and "relax and let it go."

Recalling this Seattle experience, it hit me how much I have personally changed since my move to Thailand. In the US, I wanted to fight every battle that came along--especially if there seemed an injustice to correct--however small or large. That's OK if you're a full time crusader, but it sure takes a toll on one's peace of mind and emotional reserve.

There will always be jerks in this world. I'm not going to change them all. Probably won't even change a few. I also have to remember that whatever they sow, they will usually reap--with or without my help. Even more realistically, I have to admit that I'm a jerk sometimes. Amazingly, not all the decisions and behaviors that emanate from me are pristine examples of wisdom and selflessness, either.

I watch my Thai friends carefully in situations like the above. Most of them are much more generous with a "live and let live" frame of mind. Most of them are pretty realistic about things they can change and the things they can't. They hotly pursue the former and leave the latter battle for others more capabable or more powerful to fight. Their reaction often comes out as a "mai pen rai" utterance. "Take it easy." "Time will tell." It frustrated me for a solid year, until I began contemplating the motivations behind it.

No, Thailand isn't turning me into a wuss. I haven't given up the battle against injustice and trying to right the wrongs of life. But, I'm learning to pick my battles more carefully. As an average human being, I only have so much mental energy and emotional stamina. I need to focus on what's the most important, and pursue that. Jesus concentrated on twelve men in the span of just three short years. That focused investment in time and energy changed the world and billions of lives. A model to follow. A teacher who knows how to replicate redeeming values in the lives of others, and centers on that, at the expense of nearly everything else.

Win the smaller battles but lose the war?
Lose a few battles but win the war?

Two questions. Two mind-sets.
A fork in the road of daily life.

My sojourn here is helping me to evaluate the road I take with a little more reflection and reserved determination.


Mr. Cool/Lounge Lizard picture for illustrative purposes only. No, I didn't get a snapshot of my victim before he blasted off down the road.

No comments: