This is a true story. I was sitting at the Starbucks on Brainerd Road attempting to write this column. It had been a while since I’d been to the Brainerd Starbucks, long enough that the place’s Wi-Fi didn’t automatically recognize me. After waiting what felt like eons for the Wi-Fi to find me, and after multiple attempts to re-log in, which amounted to me stabbing "return" approximately infinity times, I finally shut off my computer. I waited the customary 20 seconds—the requisite amount of time wherein which a computer chills out—and when I turned it back on, it picked up the Wi-Fi. Yes. Excellent. Finally.
But then, on my desktop, there appeared a notice from my security software, stuff that I’d paid for and installed a long time ago. It requested that I enter my password before it would let me do anything else. I had absolutely no clue what that was. Couldn’t begin to guess. The last time I typed it in was probably when I purchased the software years ago.
I turned to my phone. Requested, from the security software company’s homepage, a new password. Which it emailed to me immediately. And the new password worked. Fantastic and awesome! By this point, mind you, I’d hoped to be about 500 words deep into this column. But there’s that feeling, a wizened yet robust determination, that comes over a person when his initial plans go awry, horribly awry, and he realizes that the true victory of the day will not be the accomplishment of his original goal. Far from it. Instead, the true victory will be climbing out of the huge and hidden hole he’d fallen into. He accepts that what he wanted to do at the outset will have to be done at a later time. Therefore, he sets his face like steel, determined to crush this new dragon that’s attacked out of nowhere.
Sure, I fumbled a bit with the new password ("I thought I said capital Z. Lowercase z? What the hell?"), but I finally entered it correctly. Thank God. Great work. Let us now press forward with the original work of the day. Huzzah! I happily opened Word, set to burn up the keyboard. But then—a new notice appeared on my damnable desktop. My MSF Office 365 subscription had expired. Son of a bitch.
Now, I’m writing my column by hand in my Moleskine, my notebook of choice—for its ease of use, its portability and the storied history of the brand. (Evidently, Ernest Hemingway used Moleskines.) Nooga.com requires that opinion columns such as this one come in at somewhere between 800 and 1,000 words. About two-and-a-half typed, double-spaced pages. The problem is, I don’t know what that looks like in terms of handwritten pages in a notebook. But I feel pretty good now, cruising along by hand despite the initial roadblocks. I’d guess I’m probably up around 300 or 350 words. A great start, and I’m finally feeling some momentum. I fill one page. I turn the page … to, of course, the very the last page in the entire Moleskine. And I’m only a third of the way through this column. And I don’t have any blank notebooks with me. And I’m at damned Starbucks. Well, f@%#. (ß The very last nonparenthetical word in the whole notebook, by the way. So much for donating my papers to Oral Roberts University. But seriously, at this point, I’m writing sideways on the back cover ….)
Now I’m back at home, using my wife’s computer, an old MacBook from which the lowercase is tearing itself off the screws. In the past, this entire situation would have caused me to flip out. I’m not usually a violent person, but nothing used to turn my mind toward nasty thoughts and behaviors like impotent rage, that unfulfillable desire to pour fiery vengeance on the entire universe. Because certainly, as I attempted to write this column, my difficulty could only have been caused by the vindictive universe taking its own rage out on me. And the universe, as pretty much everybody knows, does not fight fairly. Instead of a direct frontal assault, the universe employs guerilla tactics—bad luck, poor timing, hellish coincidences. While on one level I suppose flattery would have been a good reaction to the times the universe chose me to pick on out of literally everything in existence, my head nearly exploded each time.
It’s not like that now, though. Definitely my early delays in producing this column were annoying, but I didn’t have a desire to ram my fist through Starbucks’ drywall. In the place of that feeling, there was an acknowledgement that what occurred this morning was due mostly to my own unpreparedness. Could have gone to Starbucks more frequently. Could have renewed my MSF Office 365 subscription earlier. Could have thrown a backup Moleskine into my backpack before I left home.
I wonder if that means I’m learning to accept life on life’s terms. Life’s terms are usually harsh, particularly if we could somehow take an average of how hard life’s terms are for the world’s entire population. What I’m saying is, I guess I’ve lived and labored for so long under the assumption I’m at the middle of things. Certainly the notion that the universe personified would pick on me is a pretty self-centered belief. But it beats the alternative, at least it once did, the alternative being the universe doesn’t care one way or the other. At least if the universe wanted to do me in, it meant that I at least registered on its radar screen. Chalk up my change in perspective to any number of things: I’m older, I’m wiser (maybe …), I’ve got kids. I’m always busy and never have time to consider the universe. Whatever the cause of my change in perspective, I’m glad for it. Way less stressful, for one thing. Oops, I’m at 990 words. I gotta go. Bye!
Paul Luikart is a writer whose work has appeared in a number of places over the years. His most recent book, "Animal Heart," is available now from Hyperborea Publishing. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.