The letter from the board of managers was addressed to all condo owners, but my husband was sure it was aimed directly at us. It said that we were now subject to a fine if we left our garbage pails in front of our units the night before garbage collection mornings.
“Also, please do not store poop bags out front at night,” the missive said.
We had three cats and therefore many poop bags. We kept them, like everyone else with felines in our complex, in below-ground metal garbage cans that we did indeed pull up on the nights prior to refuse collection days. Sometimes the poop bags plopped over the side of these receptacles when we did this.
“They’re trying to screw us, again!” my husband shrieked as he left for work. Of course, I wondered if our immediate neighbors, both pet-less, had complained about our trash, and if the board, with whom we had had a major dispute, was singling us out, but then again I knew that my husband could take a thunderstorm personally.
I used to take everything personally as well, and that was particularly easy because I was a writer constantly getting rejection slips. I would fantasize about getting revenge against producers, agents, publishers and whomever else done me wrong.
I even went so far as to conduct imaginary interviews with myself as an astoundingly successful scribe in which I would excel at clever putdowns about my detractors and how their misguided lack of appreciation for my work had ruined them both personally and professionally.
Somewhere approaching middle-age, though, I realized that my detractors didn’t know who the hell I was because they were besieged by people like me, in addition to which they probably just turned down my particular project because their undergarments were twisted on the day they read it.
And I asked myself if I really wanted to end up like one of those people whose anger, with nowhere else to go, backs up in his or her system and turns into a heart attack or an invasion of clueless country (see Dick Cheney).
The answer was no.
Further, I realized that even if I did have good reason to take something personally, I could rest easy knowing that every person who wronged me would automatically be forced by the laws of emotional physics to travel through what I call the “mind space time continuum.”
The MSTC is defined as a series of emotional events that are triggered by the jerk’s misdeed (which is usually caused by the perception that you have, or are about to hurt him or her), which leads to guilt, followed by regret, then remorse, and finally attempted reconciliation on the part of the jerk.
Every jerk other than those that are hardened sociopaths (see Charles Manson, Bernie Madoff or Pennywise, Steven King’s the malevolent clown), goes through the MSTC. It is also known as “Stabbing me hurts you.”
Anyone can turn out to be jerk in a New York minute. For instance, the spouse you have been happily married to for thirty years can come home one night and announce that he is no longer in love with you and is moving out.
He can then commit all manner of bad behavior, but one day, after he has traveled through the MSTC, he will come back for absolution (though not necessarily to reclaim the marriage) once he realizes his second wife isn’t making him any happier than you did.
Jerks can also appear gradually. Take, for example, the friend who has come to an unpleasant conclusion about you and starts calling less and less frequently, with some bogus excuse about being busy, until the day you don’t hear from her at all anymore.
The best course of action in this case is to let your jerky friend go through the continuum, perhaps complimenting her to a mutual acquaintance who will relay your words to her, thus hastening said friend’s arrival at the regret phase of the process.
Whatever form of jerk you have to deal with, it’s a good idea to keep yourself busy with other activities while he or she is traveling through the MSTC. These things should include tackling something you didn’t think you could do–like white water rafting or the creation of a massive sculpture out of Q-tips—and meeting new people along the way.
The important thing is to keep the faith while all this going on because it could take years for your particular jerk to travel through the entire mind space time continuum.
But don’t worry. He or she inevitably will.
And the other important thing is to make sure that the poop bags aren’t plopping over the side of the trash when you put the garbage pail out front.
Wendy Aron has written for publications nationwide, including The New York Times and Newsweek. She is an award winning humorist (Society of Professional Journalists) and comic memoir author. Wendy is working on a collection of humorous essays for Baby Boomers. Samples of her work can be read at www.wendyaron.com.