Thursday, January 2, 2014

Another Year, Another Set of Extremely Moderate Goals

Now that 2013 has passed, it's time to reflect at length and smugly on your proudest accomplishments of the year. Because however inconsequential they may be to the rest of the world, you know -- deep in your heart -- that they surpassed the accomplishments of people more pathetic than you. At least, probably. On which note, here are mine:

  1. I achieved a 94% success rate in leaving one or both appliance chargers at home en route to far-flung lands, and
  2. I spent an estimated 10,391 hours on the phone with the state health insurance hotline, which is pretty impressive when you note there are only 8,760 hours in a year.
Call me a braggart if you will, but I believe these accomplishments are pretty darned admirable, especially when you consider I wasn't even working with a life coach

Let's take a closer look at #2 in particular. I'm going to go ahead and call this my most heroic feat of all time, given I spent all but 20 minutes of it connected to the Helpful Lady-Bot. The Helpful Lady-Bot is a merciless android monster with a warm, cheery voice who taunts you periodically. Her function is to interrupti the Herb Alpert waiting music with cheerful sadist comments like, "Did you know your question may be answered on our website? Go to www.hahahadiepunkthismeansyou dot com and click on..." And so on. 

But here is the problem. And allow me to put this in bold and capital letters for emphasis:


Of course the Helpful Lady-Bot knows this; she just likes to toy with you. In Bot school she was the bully who took all the other androids' lunch money, then waved it over their heads trying to get them to grab it before yanking it away. (Talk about accomplishments: this she managed despite not existing.)

However, I emerged triumphant. On December 22, I succeeded - in a Christmas miracle the likes of which George Cukor would have killed to enshrine for posterity - in enrolling for health insurance. I reached an exceedingly competent and kind professional named Tanisha, who swiftly enrolled me in a plan despite the fact that her predecessors, on the odd occasion I had reached one, had failed to determine that I exist.* Of course I suspect these folks also regularly failed to chew and swallow correctly, but this is all water under the bridge now that I am (presumably) enrolled.

Obviously the moral of this story is don't give up on your dreams, or something like that.

Now clearly the foregoing has been addressed to those in pursuit of a goal. A goal might be anything: it could be enrolling for health insurance, but it could also be winning the World Cup, or winning the World Cup if you ever get off the phone with health insurance. Whereas this next part I would like to address to the goal-seeker's loved ones. Remember that your support is of the utmost importance to this person. That's why you should holler encouragement really, really loudly in their ears:

HELPFUL LADY-BOT: Did you know your question can also be answered on our website? Go to www. ...
YOUR LOVED ONES (in your ear): YOU CAN DO IT, BOB!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!!
YOU: Can you pipe down, please? I can't hear.
YOUR LOVED ONES (louder, because you need more encouragement): GO, BOB!!!!!! YOU GOT THIS, BUDDY!!!!!! YOU GOT THIS!!!!! GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!!!
YOU: Look, I'm really touched, but could you...
INSURANCE REPRESENTATIVE (picking up after 3,706 hours): Good afternoon, New York State of Health. How can I assist you?
YOUR LOVED ONES: YEAH!!!!!! BOB!!!!!! MY MAN BOB!!!!!!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!!!!!! ROCK IT, BOB!!!!!!! WORK IT, BABY!!!!!!!!! 
YOU: Shut up! Someone might answer! I need to hear!
YOU: For the love of God, shut...
YOU (in tears): PLEASE!!

But encouragement can also be a negative thing. I base this statement on a lethal encouragement incident I once saw with my own eyes.** I was at a figure skating competition, where a teenage figure skater named Charles was performing before a crowd of a few hundred spectators including, unfortunately, his own parents. Regrettably, the family had positioned themselves close to the boards, so that Charles, who would probably have preferred death by maggot, instead got the full onslaught of their affectionate encouragement. It was a sequence of events that went like clockwork: the family would send out an encouragement-beam, and instantly, Charles would fall. It went like this:

(Charles is skating; sets up for a jump)
FAMILY: Oh! OH! Here he goes! Here he... GOOOO CHARLES!
FAMILY: Ohhhhh! Go, Charles! It's OK! You can do it, buddy! You can do it! (Charles sets up for a jump.) You can-- whoaaa! Here he goes! Here he goes again! GOOOOO CHARLES!
FAMILY: Ohhhhh! Don't worry, Charles! Just a fluke! Ellie! Ellie, cheer for your brother!
(Charles falls while not even jumping)

Of course, knowing what young sibling relations are like, it is entirely possible his little sister had put a curse on him. But one way or another, my point is that encouragement can be a force for evil. By the end of the program Charles had fallen about 75 times and ended up placing 335th in the competition despite the fact that there were only 12 competitors. He was even beaten by the Zamboni driver and the head of the local skating association, who had spent the competition sitting in the bleachers scratching his personal region.*** So, as loved ones, you must use your own best judgment as to when to cheer and when to stop, unless of course you are a dum-dum, in which case there is very little I can do to help you, aside from suggesting a career OUTSIDE of the insurance hotline industry. Did you hear me? I said OUTSIDE. Here, lean your ear closer if you like. 

And to those who continue tirelessly chipping away at a long-held goal in 2014, I can only urge you to keep plugging. Keep your head up high and never give up. Unless, of course, you're trying to break into the New York theatre world, in which case I can only say to you, in all sincerity and from the deepest depths of my heart: get outta my way. 

* I admit I have my doubts.
** As opposed to with somebody else's eyes, which could potentially get you into trouble.
*** But then, his technique was flawless.

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