William Paul Blair, a Pasadena attorney, sends a clipping from the London Times that made him think of me.
"I thought it might interest you," he says, "to see what our English friends regard as sources of melancholy."
The clipping is a column by Miles Kington, listing some of the seeming trivialities that can darken his day.
"There is nothing more melancholy," Kington writes, "than coming home from a trip abroad and finding that you've still got your hotel bedroom key in your pocket."
What got Kington started on this line of reflection was overhearing an Irishman in a pub saying, "There is nothing more melancholy than coming across an old photograph of a very pretty girl inscribed 'Love from Monica' and not remembering who Monica was."
Unless it's getting in touch with Monica and finding that Monica doesn't remember you .
Of Kington's choices Blair writes: "I believe that many of the items are too mild to seriously affect the mood of an American, e.g. 'watching a bright blue day cloud over during breakfast' or 'stapling two pieces of paper together with a stapler that contains no staples.' "
Blair admits that a "rather scary item" on Kington's list is "realizing too late, as you put on a gum boot, that your foot is not the only thing in it, and not knowing what the other things are."
"But in a country like England," Blair notes, "where one can easily rule out things like scorpions, kraits and black widow spiders, the unidentified object might be expected to be no more melancholy-producing than a dead mouse or an old sock."
Some more of Kington's items:
"Suddenly seeing yourself in a mirror, and not recognizing who it is.
"Missing a motorway exit.
"Finding a phone number on a piece of paper with no name attached.
"Removing a short loose thread from a garment and watching it develop into a very long thread.
"Ringing someone's number, going into a daydream, then, when someone answers, not remembering whom you have rung.
"Walking into a door that normally opens automatically."
Those are indeed vexing and depressing experiences, and it is curious that most of them involve our ineptitude in dealing with modern conveniences--the automobile, automatic doors and the telephone.
There could be no end to the list of small things that can cloud my day. A few come to mind:
Slamming your car door, hearing that conclusive thunk , and realizing that you have locked your keys inside.
Going outdoors in your pajamas in the morning to get the paper and finding that it either has not been delivered or has been picked up by a jogger.
Going to a banquet where you are to be the speaker and finding out that you have gone to the wrong hotel.
Watching a football game end in exactly the score you predicted and realizing that you didn't tell anybody.
Being notified that your income tax return is being audited and you are to come to the IRS office with all your records.
Finding a parking ticket on your car.
Turning up at a black-tie dinner in a sports coat.
Mentioning Iwo Jima to a teen-ager and having him ask, "What's that?"
Being called a sexist for telling a young woman that she's pretty.
Being given the senior citizens' discount at a movie theater without asking for it.
Coming home full of apologies for being late, only to find that your wife isn't home yet.
Ordering Perrier and realizing, too late, that you have drunk your wife's vodka tonic.
Finding the Book of the Month Club selection in your mailbox and realizing you forgot to tell them you didn't want it.
Setting your videotape recorder to tape an R-rated movie and coming home to find out that it didn't work.
Going out to feed your dog and finding that your dog isn't there.
Settling into a new restaurant and finding, after you've ordered, that they don't have wine or spirits.
Getting into your car only to find that your key doesn't work--and it isn't your car.
Watching a football game on delayed tape only to go down to the market at half time for beer and have the clerk tell you who won.
Blair suggests that it takes something very depressing indeed to make us feel melancholy in America because "sources of melancholia" are already endemic (as they are in England).
"We wake daily to the sad awareness of an enormous national deficit, unfavorable trade balances, one of the world's highest illiteracy rates, growing drug addiction, a convoluted and undecipherable tax system and a recalcitrant Congress. What minor melancholy experiences can stand a chance against these?"
Well, how about finding an old photograph signed "Love from Monica" and not remembering who she was?