I never got the whole glass half-empty or half-full scenario. Give me a choice like that and I immediately become literal-minded: Half-full of what? It does make a difference, you know.
Anyway, here are the jam-packed events of my morning. Half-empty, half-full, you tell me.
9:30 a.m. I am walking along Central Park South. It’s snowing and the tree branches spike upwards, like yearning fingers, turning white.
(Sounds like a full glass to me, even if I am heading to the doctor.)
9:35 a.m. An enormous fake rat looms on the sidewalk. “Welcome to the Helmsley Rat Hotel!” the placard says. Nearby, two men in hotel uniforms talk heatedly. “You have got to get rid of that,” one tells the other.
(Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean, who left her billion-dollar kingdom to some lousy mutt! Oh, baby, my cup runneth over!)
10 a.m. I meet my new doctor, whom I immediately like, and tell him about two of my health concerns — a small lump, a left hand that isn’t typing as well as it once did. The latter symptom, I tell him, relates to my great fear of the horrific disease that killed my mother, accelerated Parkinson’s. She died at 73, having lost all physical and mental functions; at the end, all she could do was moan and scream. Sometimes, I can still hear her.
(Glass is trembling, spilling its contents. Emptying out?)
10:50 a.m. I am examined from head to toe. Blood pressure, pulse, reflexes, breathing, getting pokes here and there. I am in admirable shape! (He didn’t say that, exactly, but it’s my interpretation.) Lump, slight tremor, are probably nothing. Even better, I am back to my old height of 5’7″. Does this mean I’ve grown since I came to New York?
(Glass running pretty damned full.)
11:25 a.m. Technician takes bodily fluids painlessly. Tells me I remind her — exactly! — of some movie star whose name she can’t remember. She puzzles over it. I keep hoping she’ll say Helen Mirren, but she doesn’t. “I’ll have to think about it,” she says. I’ll also take Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton as backups, I think. But please — not Linda Hunt.
(Glass holding steady.)
11:45 a.m. Doctor’s assistant, who’s been on the snotty-to-cool side all along, shoves a bill under my nose.
“A thousand nineteen dollars is what you owe this morning,” she sniffs.
Oh, I say, but what about my insurance?
“We don’t take that insurance.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me earlier? Why did you even take my insurance card?”
“We take everybody’s insurance card. You have already been informed of this.”
“No,” I say, “I haven’t been informed. I tend to remember things that are contrary to my financial interests.”
She says yes, I say no, we go back and forth, I repeat my outrage, we are at am impasse, I pay the fucking bill. She hands the receipt back to me. “Thank you,” she says. For one of the first times in my life, I do not say “You’re welcome.”
(I have now telepathically — and in no uncertain terms — informed the assistant what she can do with the goddamned glass, whether empty or full.)
12:05 p.m. I wander down Madison Avenue in a foul mood, peering into shop windows with objects I can now barely afford to look at. I pass a jewelry store in the 60s, cordoned off by yellow tape, flanked by police cars. Minutes later, a cop car with a loud speaker goes up Madison, broadcasting information: A robbery, a 71-year-old man shot dead, a perpetrator loose, a $2,000 reward.
(Glass? But whose glass is it, anyway? Mine? The 71-year-old man’s? Doesn’t it always come down to this — the stark comparisons and sheer randomness of life? I’m $1,019 lighter, I probably won’t find the perpetrator and score the $2K, but hey, I am still alive and whole, walking along a sidewalk slick with melting snow, wondering where I can find a very cheap lunch. The glass, as always, is subject to interpretation.)
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about communing with ghosts