As a kid, I heard that Bible story about Jonah and the whale. Y'know, the one where God tells Jonah to go to the wicked city of Ninevah, but he doesn't, and then he gets thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish? Well, the part that always stuck with me was what came later -- after Moby pukes him up. Jonah was suffering in the desert so God creates a plant to produce shade, but then God creates a worm that kills the plant. Jonah becomes almost suicidal over the loss. Then God explains that Jonah is distraught over the loss of something he had no hand in creating, and, therefore, doesn't it make sense that God cares for His city of Ninevah, despite its evil? Long way to go to prove a point.
Photo 100% Biblically accurate
But I never really made it to the God part because I was too busy thinking about how true it is that people can care deeply about losing things they received by pure chance. In fact, it's probably true that we don't deserve many of the things we want most in life. I'm not talking about obvious things like breathable air or the ability to walk down the street without getting hit by a truck. We all deserve that (except maybe people who have top 40 pop songs as their ringtones). I'm referring to things that become so important to us precisely because there is no fair expectation of having them. There is a sick, broken part of so many of us, crying out to get something for nothing. We don't want to just win the lottery; we want to do it without even buying a ticket. Here are five things we shamelessly covet with absolutely no justifiable expectation of receiving them.
#5. An Empty Adjacent Seat on Public Transportation
I've written before about the games we all play -- acceptable and unacceptable -- to secure our own private seat on a bus or a train. People put bags down next to them or pretend not to see other passengers looking for seats or a whole host of things to keep that space next to them free and clear. And I get it. Having a seat to yourself is awesome, especially for me, when 80 percent of everything I write is cranked out on my laptop while in motion.
My column "Why the guy next to me is an annoying douchebag" was really hard to write without privacy.
I was recently on a packed plane to California (yeah, the trip where I met Adam Tod Brown), and as fate would have it, the one empty seat on the plane was between me and this other totally normal, not loud or smelly woman. It was a great day. She and I actually exchanged giggling glances as if we were flying royalty. Why? Because we had something 100 other people who paid the same amount of money didn't. (No, not a deep sexual connection. I was saving that for Adam.) I'm referring to extra elbow room.
But as great as extra space is, we don't deserve it. You can't get mad at a plane for selling all the tickets it has. You can't sneer at a person who paid the same money and wants that seat next to you. And somehow, knowing we have no right to expect more only increases our desire.
#4. Extra Money Out of an ATM
I have taken money from an ATM more times than Mitt Romney has denied his active role in Bain Capital. More times than Barack Obama has expanded his executive power by signing "war on terror" legislation. More times than Ron Paul has been mistaken for a whiny cartoon panda bear when speaking on the phone. (There. Everyone happy?)
Oh, no one's happy. Oops.
And each and every time I get cash, I do something: I check my bills. Why? I'm not looking to make sure I wasn't short-changed. It doesn't even occur to me that I won't get my money. I'm looking for extra money. Yeah, I selected $80, but what if two bills stick together and I get $100? Wouldn't that be amazing? That would be like 20 extra bucks for like nothing. For free!
Not only has it never happened, but I've never even heard of it happening. I've never met anyone it's happened to. Furthermore, I will instantly disbelieve anyone in the comments who claims it's happened to them. So if it never happens and I have no claim to extra money, why do I keep checking? Probably because it never happens and I have no claim to it.
I'd be interested to know if only old men like me do this (because I remember a time when cash machines were first invented, and I remember everyone's skepticism that they could be accurate) or if even kids today look for a cash bonus. So if you're someone 25 or under, please give me your opinion, not in the comments, but in a written letter. Then take that letter and set it on fire and go outside for some fresh air. I don't care about your opinion and you're too young to be wasting time online.
Unless this is you, then come over and tell me in person. Unless you're under 18, in which case send illegal porn to Adam Tod Brown and put "pursuant to your repeated requests" on the envelope with a "cc" to the FBI.
#3. The Line We Choose to Remain the Quickest
This is probably me at my most annoying. I mean, I'm OK waiting in a long line, but only when I understand what the delay is. I can walk slowly behind a guy with a cane; I get it. But it's not knowing why I'm waiting, or even worse, waiting due to incompetence, that makes me a big baby. In college, more than one friend said I was the guy in this Kids in the Hall skit:
In fairness to me, it's probably because that character is being played by Kevin McDonald, who played a character in another skit that was totally me. But I digress. The scenario I'm talking about is when we're choosing lines -- perhaps at the supermarket or highway tollbooths. We choose the line we hope will get us done the quickest. Sometimes that means the shortest line, or sometimes we might be bold and check a longer line if we think it's moving more quickly.
The thing is, we have to know we're taking a chance. The movement of lines is dependent on a host of factors. The information we have when making our choice probably looked totally different five minutes before. It will look different again five minutes after our decision. Lines are in a constant state of flux based on numerous variables. And yet, if we pick a line and suddenly it's not the quickest, we bitch like someone has denied us our birthright. As if our decision formalized a pact between us and the infinite, assuring us the speediest possible journey. Or I don't know, maybe you just pump up the Taylor Swift on your iPod and ignore all of this. I've never met any of you, actually.