Sometimes a negative thought can be eclipsed by an even more negative one. I call this phenomenon “normal reality.” It turns out that negative thoughts are stackable, much like little plastic block toys. Your mileage may vary.
My wife and I are new to the big city. Apparently we have a certain look that tells the outside world, “Listen up! Target these motherfuckers. They are easy prey. They are soft marks. Easy fish to fry. Hit them up with your broken car stories, requests for loose change, and sponsoring sadly unfortunately children around the world for only $7 a week.”
Too bad my math skills alerted me to the fact that “only” $7 a week is the same as $364 a year. Sorry, I don’t have time at the moment to hand over my wallet (and then some) to a perfect stranger no matter how friendly and yet pushy they are.
So we have a look that allows the vultures, leeches and do-gooders zoom in on us like a drone strike on an American citizen peacefully protesting a big bank. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do about that. Maybe fedoras would function as riffraff repellent and/or pass us off as locals?
Having that look is mostly a pain in the ass but the other day it may have saved us $175. As always, my negativity played a part.
We were going downtown and decided to use TriMet, the public transportation system that services Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding suburbs. We have these booklets of tickets that were purchased at the grocery store. They allow you to ride, for a full day, all of the various modes of transportation within the TriMet system including bus, light rail (called Max) and streetcars. It’s $5 per day per person.
This was our first time using the pre-purchased tickets to board the MAX which would take us downtown.
We pulled into the park and ride and my wife looked for a spot. As she did this, I gestured up at the train station and casually remarked, “It would really suck if the train came right now, wouldn’t it?”
My wife didn’t bother to respond. She’s so used to such negative statements that they are barely blips on her radar.
It turned out my estimate was just a bit off. The train didn’t roll up until we approached the steps to the platform. I keenly judged the distance using my considerable arsenal of intelligence. At the time I thought this was a bit of good fortune.
“Hurry, baby,” I said. “I think we can make it.”
The train doors opened and we hurried across the platform and made it aboard just in time.
Whew! Just like the movies!
We found a place to sit and I immediately began to looking around for some sort of redemption station. We needed to figure out how to use our tickets. Again, this was our first time boarding the MAX this way.
Around this time a TriMet police officer approached only us and said, “Tickets, please.”
As usual what initially appeared to be a bit of luck was about to go sideways on my negative ass.
I’m fast on my feet, though, so I said, “Uh.” And then I shrugged and handed him our pack of five unvalidated tickets.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“Is there a problem, officer?”
“These tickets are not validated.”
“Yeah, I was about to figure that out. You see, we are first timers.”
The cop gave me the skunk eye. He really looked us up and down. I could see him processing his options: Taser, baton, hollow points, etc. But then, our country bumpkin appearance finally came in handy. He decided we just might be telling the truth.
“Unvalidated,” he said, “these tickets are just like money.”
He forced us off at the next stop to educate us on the system. So much for catching the train just in the nick of time. I dejectedly watched our train roll away and disappear into the urban landscape.
“You don’t want to mess around,” he said. “I could have given you a ticket for $175 for not having a validated ticket.” He then demonstrated the proper method of validating the tickets which is, of course, supposed to happen before one boards the train.
The moral of the story: Things were actually worse than my initial negative thought. Luckily, this time, we got away with it. So remember, no matter how bad things may seem, they can always get worse.