A long way to go, a short time to get there

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

I was picking at a scab.

Not literally.

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What I was doing was worrying about how I was going to get from a job in St. Cloud to a gig in Worthington to another job in Rochester in the allotted time. If I had the time, I’d still be rushed. I knew I could make it easily had there been two of me, but I wouldn’t wish that upon this or any other world. My mind was filled with thoughts of were and weren’t. I looked out the window at the antics of a yard squirrel that caught my attention.

The squirrel could have been worried about not having galoshes, but I’ll bet it wasn’t.

We tend to worry when we shouldn’t. We have parents who are willing to do our worrying for us. My father handled the fretting in my family. My mother said that worrying was like sitting in a rocking chair. It gave you something to do, but it didn’t get you anywhere.

My mother did worry that I considered the films of “The Three Stooges” to be documentaries and that I would become a knucklehead because I read Mad magazine. I studied that periodical in the drugstore. I read in fits and starts, my reading interrupted by drugstore employees yelling, “Are you going to buy that magazine?” I wasn’t going to buy it. I was as broke as a joke. If they didn’t want people to read in the drugstore, they shouldn’t have put in a library. Alfred E. Neuman was Mad’s cover boy. His signature phrase was, “What, me worry?”

Unlike Alfred, we tend to be obsessive-compulsive when it comes to worrying. We worry that we worry too much. We become worrywarts.

A neighbor stands in his cornfield during a rain because he’s worried about the corn drinking alone. He worries about all the mistakes he’s never made. Worrying is a misuse of the imagination. His parents were homebodies. The only time they went out was when the gas stove in their kitchen exploded. They didn’t worry about their lack of travel. They were already in the place they would have wanted to go.

A neighbor kid, Spot, wasn’t a worrier. One summer, when he was too small for his britches, he ran a lemonade stand offering a watered-down product at a quarter a glass. The minister stopped by and bought a glass. He complimented Spot on the bouquet of the drink and reminded his young parishioner that he shouldn’t forget to give God His share of the profits. He followed that admonition by giving Spot a look that could have worked as a laxative. After Spot closed his stand for the day, he grabbed all the quarters he’d taken in and tossed them into the air. I asked why he did that.

Spot explained, “What God wants, He keeps. What falls to the ground, I keep.”

My aunt, on the other hand, worried about things. She got a cellphone. She was concerned whether she could learn to use or afford it. She asked me how a cellphone works. I was more than willing to tell her because although often wrong, I’m never in doubt. I said that if there was a dog that stretched from her home to mine and she stepped on its tail, it would bark in my home. I assured her that the phone worked the same way.

My aunt stopped worrying about her cellphone and began worrying about me.

A neighbor made a bad decision and ended up in jail for stealing a car. His wife called the sheriff to plead for his release. The sheriff asked, “Is he a good husband and father?”

“Not really. He drinks and gambles. He’s too poor to paint and too proud to scrape,” she replied. He was no Hallmark card.

“Then why do you want him back?” asked the police officer.

The woman said, “I need a ride.”

She was a pragmatic worrier.

My cousin has a wristwatch with only one hand. The other hand fell off years ago. He can’t remember if it was the hour hand or the minute hand that disappeared, but he doesn’t worry about it. He never needs to set the time ahead or back. He has that going for him, which is nice.

So, if you find yourself worrying that the Kardashians might have head lice, you should make sure that you take a coat everywhere you go. That way, at least you won’t have to worry about being cold.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.