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Prescription to Live (and Survive) by, Sort of

June 03, 1993|T. Jefferson Parker | T. Jefferson Parker is a novelist and writer who lives in Orange County. His column appears in OC Live! the first three Thursdays of every month.

It's taken almost 40 years, but I've finally developed a set of guidelines for keeping life interesting. They are a stimulant, an antidote to boredom, a way of making sure that every waking moment is as stuffed with meaning as it can possibly be.

1) TAKE EVERYTHING PERSONALLY. This isn't nearly as hard as it sounds; it's just a simple matter of remaining hypersensitive nd not building "defenses." Strive to interpret every phenomenon as being directed solely and exclusively at yourself. For instance, an eclipse of the sun should be seen as God's personal warning to quit wasting your life or He will eclipse you.

If your newspaper isn't sitting perfectly squared on the porch in the morning, realize that this means the delivery person is still furious at you for not tipping him last Christmas.

If the sun is shining at 6 a.m. and you were told by TV weathermen to expect rain, consider this a practical joke directed solely at you and assume that Johnny, Dallas and Mac are all cackling privately about it on some golf course.

If you get a cheery "have a nice day" from the girl at the drug store, then rest assured that this wonderful smiling human being is profoundly interested in the niceness of your day. By all means, have one!

2) BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ OR SEE ON TV. Because of this modest dictum, I now know that Elvis appeared in a UFO over Alabama; that JFK was recently photographed lurking behind a White House window; that the world's fattest child weighs 318 pounds and eats eight chickens and 10 pounds of fish each day; that a famed psychic's head recently exploded during one of his stage shows.

On a deeper level, we can know that although the Earth was created in six days, the Earth was also created over millions of years. Since the ability to believe contradictory notions is the mark of an intelligent and limber mind, subscribe to both theories and congratulate yourself on how smart you are.

3) NEVER DO ANYTHING YOURSELF THAT YOU CAN HIRE SOMEONE ELSE TO DO FOR YOU. This will not only give you more time to follow the other rules, but will provide you with an endless supply of repairmen, delivery people and service sector denizens of every conceivable stripe. The point here is entertainment. For instance, the guy who changes the oil in my car at the Dyno-Tune is the most sullen, rude, resentful man I've ever met. I've been taking the same car to him for the same service for years and he's never once acknowledged that I've set foot in his oily lair before. I take this personally (see Rule 1). I love bringing in my car for the $19.99 oil/filter/lube deal because everyone needs someone to dislike and we reciprocate each others' need in a perfect example of modern social symbiosis. As I sit in the grim waiting room and watch him get under the car, I pleasantly imagine him burning his fingertips on the oil plug. For his part, greasily fingering my new plastic California Drivers License and snappy Preferred Customer Credit Card (yes, I believe I'm preferred because it says so) is his way of saying: "Right, Jack! I might have to change your oil but I'm going to leave as much of it as I can in your wallet." We part ways, fulfilled.

I once had a landscape maintenance man (gardener) who was so slow he could only pull a half-dozen weeds each hour. At the end of a full work day, he'd have the inside of a trash can lid filled with weeds. He cheerfully charged me an arm and a leg for his talents, and I loved him for this, his pure unfettered glee at ripping me off. Here he'd come, old Frank, clunking down the road in his ancient Ford, waving out the window at me like he'd found his lost brother. That's entertainment!

4) GO TO THE DUMP AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. Though this may sound like a direct contradiction of Rule 3, what we have here is the exception that proves the rule. There's no more exhilarating experience for the money ($4 to $6) than arriving at your favorite landfill with a truckload of stuff you've come to loathe.

You stand in the back of your laden truck, shirt off, gloves on, feeling like Steve Reeves in "Jason and the Argonauts" or perhaps, if your shirt is on, Sigourney Weaver in "Alien." You flex, loosen, breathe deeply. Then you hurl blown speakers, defunct TVs, rusted lawn furniture, split garden hoses, waterlogged surfboards--literally tons of the accumulated obsolescence so blithely planned by manufacturers--as far as you can! Going to the dump is a way for a person to actually do something about his or her problems, and is far less expensive than psychotherapy, self-help books or heavy drinking. (Note: Landfills are a vanishing resource. Don't squander away the rest of your life without at least one visit. Write your congressman about saving the dump near you.)

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