Much Ado About Nothing
Apologies to the Bard.
Much Ado about Nothing
The universal complaint in my classes these days is about the heat.
“God, it’s hot!”
“It’s so hot today, the rain we got made the streets steam!”
And then there’s the humidity. One must never forget the humidity here in Western PA.
“The humidity makes it worse.”
“I feel like I’m being water-boarded when I go out on days like this.”
“I bet they’re broiling out in the Southwest. TV says it’s going to be 110 degrees today.”
“But that’s a dry heat. It’s different.”
“It’s heat. It’s summertime and it’s hot. God, it’s hot.”
“I can’t wait for fall.”
That last comment always elicits a smile from me. It seems as if what is, is never good enough. In summer, the desire is for fall and cooler temperatures and pumpkin everything. In fall, there are too many pumpkins and apples and leaves and preparations for the winter. Longings turn to winter with its holidays and justification for staying indoors. Then winter comes with its own set of complaints: it’s too cold; the snow and ice make any kind of travel treacherous; spring can’t come soon enough. With the erratic springs we have here (some years, it seems we have none at all; bitter winter leapfrogs into boiling summer by Mother’s Day) there comes the yard work and cleaning and …well, you get the picture.
The refrain always begins, “I can’t wait for…” This is a contradiction on its face because what else can we do, but wait? Clocks won’t move any faster, if they are in good repair. The sun won’t rise and set any sooner. The planets in general don’t align to any individual human’s whim. And yet sights are set on the next day, the next week, the next season. Always “the next.”
Which leads me to wonder: what about today? This moment?
It’s not a discussion I would actually have with a live student, or most people I know. Temperatures and tempers run hot enough these days. However, in theory…
“What’s wrong with today?” I would ask.
“It’s too hot.”
“We’re in air conditioning.”
“But you can’t go out for very long.”
“True, but would you go out for very long if it wasn’t so hot?”
“I’d have to get places. I don’t like arriving anywhere all sweaty. I can’t wait for fall.”
“Then you can go out for very long?” I ask.
“Well, you have to! There’s all that raking to do, and waiting at the bus stop, ‘cos the kids are back in school and all the getting ready for winter.”
“And you look forward to that?”
“Not really. I mean, I like Halloween and thanksgiving and pumpkin or apple stuff is good for a while. I guess fall really makes me look forward to winter.”
“Because then you can go out for a very long?”
“You crazy? It’s cold! And you can break your neck on the ice and snow! Get a bad enough storm, and you can ‘t go anywhere, so you stay inside and everybody goes crazy with boredom.”
“Sounds bad,” I would say, fighting my lips to stay away from smiling.
“It’s a waiting game until spring.”
Here I would rub my head. “What you’re telling me then, is that every season is a waiting game for the next season and what you might do or expect to do when it arrives.”
“Something like that.”
“And then when it arrives, you start waiting for the next season.”
“Well, you have to have something to look forward to, don’t you?” Most of my students would be squirming in impatience by now.
“Because - ?”
“What’s the point? You go day to day with nothing to look forward to, and what’s the point? It’s all a drudge without a point.”
“The point can’t be to enjoy the day that you have?”
“What? That’s not what I meant!”
“Maybe you’d better help me understand.”
Now, at this point, I hear echoes of one particularly fragile ego in the body of a 10th grade English student from my past snapping, “I’m not going to say anything, because you won’t accept my answer anyway!” (Kudos to him for the alliteration; but points taken back for the petulance). My current students would grow red in the face and continue – I suspect – in this manner:
“I’m trying! You just don’t understand!”
“Apparently, I don’t. But if you could explain why tomorrow is so much better than today that you can’t wait for it?”
“Tomorrow you can imagine all the good stuff. You can expect something different. Like your birthday or vacations. It always looks good if it’s tomorrow.”
“And when tomorrow is today, isn’t it still good?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes it’s better than you expected.” I imagine a sigh would come in here. “A lot of times, it’s not as good. Then you look forward to another tomorrow.”
“Where does that leave today?”
“ Today is just today; it is what it is.”
“And that’s bad?”
“I said it is what it is. You probably can’t change it.”
“But you can change things tomorrow.”
“Yeah, you don’t deal with it today, you deal with it tomorrow.”
“And when tomorrow becomes today?”
“I guess you deal with it. Doesn’t mean you have to like it.”
“But you can complain about it.”
“I’m not complaining! You really don’t understand, do you?” The body rises from the chair and the voice rises in exasperation.
“If you could help me understand -“
“I don’t have time to explain it to you all over again!” And we would be done.
Because time is a precious commodity to those who are forever waiting for tomorrow.