I should have known that I was making a mistake. It was noon-thirty in the food court here at our beloved Utah Valley University. On a Monday. The line for the Pizza Hut was packed. The Costa Vida was stuffed. The queue at Subway was probably the length of fifty five-dollar foot longs. In the interest of efficiency, I chose a suspiciously empty spot amidst the hustle and bustle of the lunchtime. I thought I was lucky. I took a gamble. I bet the damn farm on “Orange Chicken Bowl”. And I lost. Big time.
Teriyaki Stix, you’ve screwed the pooch yet again.
I gave them 5 American dollars and 71 American cents. It’s not a king’s ransom, I know. But to a struggling, starving student who lives paycheck to paycheck, five bucks and some change can be the difference between going to bed on a full stomach and staying up all night watching the Food Network and eating ice cubes, trying to fool your belly into thinking it’s satiated.
In return for my money, they gave me a bowl of white rice and a smattering of chicken turdlets on top. My mouth gets dry just thinking about it.
I was planning on writing a scathing little jeremiad about Teriyaki Stix, and, frankly, most of the other chain restaurants on campus. I was going to urge everyone in the company, from the C.E.O. of Peak Brands LLC, to the lowliest of the entry level employees, to take pride in their work and in their product. I was going to do this mainly by insulting their intelligence and questioning their ability to recognize edible, enjoyable food.
But then I remembered I don’t have to eat there. I don’t ever have to go back. No one is ever going to force me at gunpoint to get another Orange Chicken Bowl from that place ever again. And that particular realization, obvious though it may be, left me with a kind tranquility that glows like a warm little night light, illuminating the darkness in my heart.
Recently, I’ve taken to cleaning house. Metaphorically, I mean. My place is a hovel. But the people and things I allow to enter my home, or my life, for that matter, must pass a rigorous inspection first. And if they don’t pass, to hell with them.
That’s what I’ve learned. To say “To hell with (insert object, place, institution, person, food item, TV show here)”. Again, simple enough. Obvious enough. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in a problem or a tiff or a bad food experience that we forget that we can forget about it.
There are some problems that shouldn’t be ignored. Those are the problems you can fix. If you’re overweight and you don’t like being overweight, then start jogging. If something small and busted is driving you up the wall, stop moaning and get a screwdriver. Nothing’s on TV? Read a book, idiot.
But there are some problems which only plague you because you allow them. The unfixable little hiccups that are always going to be aggravating by their very nature. That “friend” of yours who fills your heart with black hatred every time you see him? You can hem and haw and dread every encounter with him, or you can just let him know that he needs to go jump off a cliff and suddenly breathe easier. Winter got you down? Newsflash – winter happens every single year. If you’re old enough to read this, you’re old enough to know that no matter how times you whine about it being cold, the cold isn’t going to go away. Get a warmer coat or stay indoors.
No one’s saying that you don’t have the right to express your displeasure. Blowing off some steam in one forum or another is our God-given right and one of the major benefits of having a sophisticated system of both written and verbal language. And sometimes the cure for the daily blues is simply expressing, out loud, how much you hate “Glee” or the President or some broham’s ridiculous fedora. But maybe that should be the end of it. TV networks are always going to produce insubstantial schlock. The President is always going to be a major screw-up, one way or another. Every party you go to will feature some greasy imbecile who thinks that a brimmed hat makes him look like Justin Timberlake.
There’s an old prayer in rehabilitation centers to help bolster the downtrodden spirits of drug addicts and alcoholics. It goes “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Addicts have these things called “triggers” – situations or problems that drive them to consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol/crack/horse tranquilizers. The whole point of the Serenity Prayer is that the problems which plague you may be fixable or not, but that doesn’t matter. What really matters is your attitude when confronted with your daily demons.
This semester, I urge all of you to fix that weird noise in your car or seriously work on that weird personal tic that makes you really self-conscious. I also urge you to accept some things as they are. Homework is mostly going to be tough. It’s always going to be either too hot or too cold. Mostly, I urge you to know when you need to take something head-on or kick it to the curb. To know the difference and to act accordingly.
I’ll make my own Orange Chicken Bowl and bring it from home if I get desperate enough.
By John-Ross Boyce – Opinions Editor