It could be worse. Dressed in your suite ready for an interview, your daughter kicks a rotten pumpkin that was sitting on the carpeted floor of her room and hidden under a pile of all those clothes you told her to pick up last week. The pumpkin shell is no longer bright orange, but it still bleeds orange pumpkin juice so you had the child a trash bag and grab the carpet cleaner. You head onto the freeway, which is packed with Huns and Visigoths, and your mere presence infuriates them. They shriek at you and make vile gestures. Meanwhile, you're listening to the teeth-grinders on the radio blaming the president's troubles on the Congress.
Downtown, you run into a covey of teenagers, the girls with black lipstick and chopped black hair and black clothes, the boys with graffiti tattoos and their belts down around their femurs, and they look at you with such extravagant loathing, you want to tell them, "I am not worthy of so much contempt. Please, I am only a pedestrian like yourselves, save some of that for Hitler and Stalin."
You go into the interview. The joint is hoity-toity and your greeted by an attitudinous receptionist with a fake accent who leads you into a room where you tell your potential employer that you love working in offices and filing documents and paying attention to mind numbing details and as these words exact your mouth you don't recognize the person who is saying them but you say them anyway because you need a steady paycheck. Well, it could be worse.
It would be worse if you didn't have a good education and marketable skills and youth. Being young is often over rated and it couldn't be more true when it comes to employment. Employers want young workers because they are cheap and not making plains for retirement. It could be worse.
Cheap doesn't mean that you don't make a living wage, which is a rare these days. So you may not be rich, but you have your own apartment which is perfect because everyone needs to have some space between themselves and the rest of the world. A place where you can watch liberal news without the rest of your red state screaming down your door and you can sing off tune and not hear, "Would you mind?"
There is almost nothing so good for you as singing old songs, whether you sing praise to the Lord God or sing about the gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis and your friends Long Tall Sally and Material Girl and that Long Haired Redneck. You've got trouble in mind and the water tastes like turpentine but you know you belong to the land and it's a grand old flag and the sunny side of the street is where you should direct your feet. Ben Hecht said, "Old songs are more than tunes. They are little houses in which our hearts once lived."
Winter is coming, which simplifies everything and shows you that the essentials of life are warmth, food, shelter, plumbing. The rest is decorative. The life that your friends write about in the Christmas letter, the life of steady accomplishment and upward movement on life's graph, is mostly fiction. The reality is that we are all in over our heads. I am and you are. God help us. And so far He has. It could be worse.
Whatever bonehead things we've done, we have not yet put our tongue on the flag pole and let it freeze there, and this is a fact not to be overlooked. There flag poles around, and in freezing weather they become lethal. You walk past them and they exert a powerful force on your body, particularly on your tongue. Imagine the misery of standing, tongue frozen to the iron, waiting for the firemen to come and pry you loose. In my darker hours, ever since I was 6 and watched The Christmas Story, I have imagined that the flag pole would be my fate, but so far I have avoided it, and you too, my friend. Together, once again we hope to come through the cold season with our tongues intact, and if we do, then winter has no grip on us. It could be worse.