Master List of Unusual Satisfactions
I was recently invited by Mr. Zouch to create a Master List, which made me reflect on a lovely Japanese book that I’d come across at a church sale some years ago. The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon is essentially an early version of Master Lists, and I fell in love with the idea of creating lists as a way of chronicling those things important enough to me to share. Here is a excerpt from one of Sei Shonagon’s lists, on Embarrassing Things:
- Parents, convinced that their ugly child is adorable, pet him and repeat the things he has said, imitating his voice.
- An ignoramus who in the presence of some learned person puts on a knowing air and converses about men of old.
- Lying awake at night, one says something to one’s companion, who simply goes on sleeping.
In the spirit of Sei Shonagon and Mr. Zouch, I present you with my Master List of Unusual Satisfactions.
That feeling, usually experienced upon awakening from a deep R.E.M. sleep, that you have achieved the perfect temperature underneath your blanket. You do not have to stick out a toe or foot or hand to regulate the temperature in bed; it is just, in Goldilock’s words, “just right.” You do not want to move, or go back to sleep, or do anything at all, save to relish the sensation of being in as close to a state of perfection as one can on earth.
I suspect the achievement of perfect warmth hearkens back to a biological memory of being in the womb, when all was…just so.
Free Parking Right in Front of Your Destination
Does it not feel like the universe has just smiled on you when you reach your destination and find a parking spot in front of the store/venue/house/condo/bar/club? And not only did you find the spot, it’s free because the person before you overpaid their parking, or because it just happens to be a free parking area. Finding free parking is like winning a two dollar scratch-and-win; finding free parking in front of where you wanted to end up, like winning ten bucks.
Realizing That Shitty Smell Isn’t Coming From You
This situation hearkens to when you are standing in an crowded elevator, and you smell dog turds, and you know that you had taken a short cut through the grass on your way to the office or wherever, and you desperately try to recall whether you felt something squidgy.
You did, and you try to look down nonchalantly, to see if that is a bit of mud at the right edge of your right shoe, or something else. All you see is a bit of grass sticking from what appears to be a brown mass. The foul odour is quite strong, invading everybody’s senses, and the crowd becomes restless, shifting from one foot to another, avoiding eye contact with each other in a show of passive aggressive accusation.
You dash out of the elevator and make for the nearest unpopulated corner, and do a quick check on first one shoe, then the other. Sweet, sweet relief. It was just mud.
Finally Going to the Bathroom After You’ve Held it in All Flight
The above mentioned is arguably one of the most satisfying experiences in the world. If you get up during a flight, there is really only one place that you could possibly be going, and that is to the bathroom.
With this thought in mind, all possibility of going to the bathroom is nixed, as people, your fellow passengers that is to say, will always give you knowing glances if and when you start the ‘scuse-me-sorry’ shuffle across their laps, and all the way down the aisle. You want to defend yourself, it’s just to stretch my legs, but that look of desperation in your eyes says otherwise.
So you hold it in, and wait until the plane lands, and feel the slow painful execution of minutes ticking as the plane taxis back to its gate, as the flight crew takes their sweet time hooking up the proverbial gangplank, and as the passengers ahead of you re-enact the opening scene from ‘Office Space,’ with the old guy and his walker. A bead of sweat dribbles down your back in painful anticipation.
And, then, you finally make it off the plane, find the nearest bathroom, and do what you’ve been dying to do for the past four hours. Sweetest. Relief. Ever.
Admittedly, this relief applies to anytime you’ve desperately had to hold it in and then finally find a bathroom, not just on flights.
The Justification of God’s Existence
I’m coming to realize that a good few of the items on my list, as I was munching about unusual satisfactions, revolve around cars and driving. The Justification of God’s Existence is one such item. Do away with St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs, or St. Anselm’s ontological argument, this particular unusual satisfaction can convert non-believers.
When you are patiently sitting in gridlock, with four lanes merging into one, everyone resigned to their fate of awaiting their turn to weave into the one, when you espy some self-righteous ponce in an Escalade or a natty BNW X-something, quite often with a ‘Learners’ sign hanging off the back window, and sporting a cool set of shades that are worn best in the dark, take the bus lane right up to the top of the queue. The bastard somehow thinks his time (and it’s usual a guy who pulls this sort of stunt) is more precious than everyone else’s, and that his 6pm appointment downtown trumps my dinner with my friends, or the Honda-next-to-me’s flight to Hong Kong, or the Lincoln-behind-me’s opera.
We all curse the ponce, some of us actually verbalizing our thoughts aloud “Are you frickin’ kidding me?!” others just shaking their heads, but all of us unified in the thought that the guy’s a jackass.
But wait, there is a god of divine retribution, and a mass conversion occurs in rush hour traffic, as all of us slowly edge up to the following sight: As you slowly meander your way up to the top of the line, where the bus lane merges into neck of the jam jar, there is a cop writing out a ticket to that same douche who just tried to jump the line and the time. Damn well sight for sore eyes.
Ergo iustificatio esse deum: the justification of god’s existence.
Picking the Right Lineup
When you are faced with the daunting prospect of having to select a lineup, when there is more than one lineup for the same service available. This situation occurs in many driver’s license and registration centres, grocery stores, border crossings, gridlock situations, fast food joints, and Costco.
Take grocery stores, for example. You’ve just had an exhaustive half hour of wandering store with the original intent of buying a loaf of bread but along the way remembered that you have to pick up 2L of milk, a sack of potatoes, a bag of apples, and lord, wasn’t that cereal just such a good price so you picked up two boxes of that as well. Because your original intent was just one item, you opted for the grocery basket, rather than a cart, and since the accrual of all the items, you feel like your arm is about to fall down, you can feel sweat beading on your forehead as your blood sugar drops from the exertion, and you just want to pay and go.
The trouble is, if you pick the wrong lineup, your blood sugar may drop to the point where you want to pinch a Mars bar from the candy display and shove the entire thing in your mouth in a way which might offend the Queen, were she present and shopping for her own groceries (on the assumption that she perhaps does her own cooking sometimes, when the fancy takes her).
Careful deliberation occurs. You note the pile of goods of each person in each lineup, and make a quick calculation dividing the amount of goods by the amount of people in the lineup, carry the speed of the cashier over the adroitness of the bagging boy squared.
Line number two seems the fastest, so you join it, put down your basket, from which the cereal boxes promptly topple, and your arm starts to tingle as the blood rushes back. You surreptitiously eye the lady in the blue hoodie in the lineup next you; she is your litmus test to see how quickly you advance to the cashier. If the lady in the blue hoodie beats you to her cashier, before you reach yours, you chose the wrong line, and wasted a valuable and seemingly eternal three minutes and forty-two seconds before you could tear into one of the cereal boxes in the secluded comfort of the bench outside the store.
Precious seconds tick by, as the lines slowly move forward. Watching paint peel is less excruciating and is faster. You start to worry as you see the lady in the blue hoodie start to unload her cart.
Suddenly, your line lurches forward, and success, you beat her and do a little victory dance in your head. You reach your cashier first, pay, and go: hanger games are averted, and the precarious balance of the world shifted aright, because you chose the right line.
Peeling Something in One Go
When you peel an orange, potato, apple, and any other like spherical or quasi-spherical fruit or vegetable, and manage to do the act in one fell swoop: the result is a coil or lotus flower of supreme peeling perfection.
In this scenario, bananas do not count, as they are easy to peel.