A story a day gets the juices flowing and the day rolling…
Ever wonder about people’s reaction to things? How our behavior varies, even over little and simple stuff?
Take bugs in a mug of coffee, for instance. An event like that, simple as it is, gives rise to a number of behaviors. For example:
One person digs out the bug with a spoon, tossing it to the side and making nothing of it.
Another person picks the bug out with a finger.
Another person glares at the bug, shrugs, and gulps the damn thing down.
Then you have the strange reactions. Some people, for example, like to pretend the bug isn’t there, sipping out of the mug carefully, until it becomes impossible to avoid swallowing it, at which point the sipping stops and the beverage is left alone. Other people sip the beverage in such a way that the bug sticks on the side of the mug, at which point they scrape it off with their fingernails.
Then there’s the ones who wince and remove it with exaggerated gestures, using spoons, fingers, high pressure pumps, making a fuss of it, showing everyone what happened, asking for a fresh mug of coffee…
There’s also the ones who make a fuss without asking for a fresh mug, in fact refusing one, happy to sit there and play the victims, the stoic martyrs, the heroes.
And the ones who raise hell, calling it a disgrace to hygiene, storming out of the cafe, promising to never return.
And of course the ones who crush the bug between their fingers, wiping it on a paper napkin and then resuming their chat, as if nothing happened.
Then of course there’s the ones who get depressed over the bug’s death – plenty of those around.
And the ones who deposit the bug on the table with extra care, hoping it’s still alive, but having no idea what to do about it.
And the ones who can’t stop talking about the bug for the remainder of the outing.
And it gets weirder. (You thought that’s as bad as it gets?) There’s the maniac who eats the bug and throws away the coffee. (It happens!)
There’s the one who deposits the bug on a paper napkin and casually places the napkin in his pocket or her bag.
There’s the one who starts yelling at the bug, ‘Spit it out. Spit my coffee out, you bugger.’ (Failed comedians are the worst!)
And don’t forget about the preacher, always talking, yammering on about this and that issue, much like a gnat himself, herself, or itself (if it’s a child – precocious obviously), going on and on about stuff, about humans and animals and all kinds of things, like bugs in a coffee mug. The bugger raises the issue only to then go off on a tangent, telling you how life is insane, full of strange paradoxes and contradictions, asking you what it would feel like if, lo and behold, you were buzzing around one day, going about your business without disturbing anyone, when you suddenly find yourself trapped inside a situation from which you can’t escape. Everywhere you look there are steep walls you can’t scale, and there’s gunk all over the place and nowhere to go. You’re stuck, your only way out a deus ex machina, someone who pops out of the sky to carry you to safety. But the invisible hand of salvation never comes. Instead, you wallow in the gunk until you’re dead. Or maybe a divine hand does appear after all, only a little late, at which point it either throws you away, thousands of leagues into oblivion, or it wipes you off on a hard or absorbent surface, leaving you there to dry, in a splash of gunk.
It’s not all that bad of course. The hand may on occasion lift you out in time, if you are lucky, and bring you to safety. Chances are it crushes you in the process, between its fingers, intentionally or not, it doesn’t matter, leaving behind a smudge, which the deus ex machina wipes off with an ‘aw, dang, I didn’t mean to do that,’ or an ‘oops! Well… as I was saying…’ How about that – does it sound promising? Good enough to instil faith in a superlative and compassionate being, divine or mundane, ethereal or corporeal, which intervenes to save creatures in distress, getting them out of trouble in ways that are pitch perfect and spik-n-span super duper, no harm done and yippee-kay-ey hooray? Would you call this divine intervention, an act of God? An act of high compassion maybe? The whims of a demon that couldn’t care less about the small and different, just doing what it does and minding little else? Or the harshness of life across the scales, a universe full of creatures that are unable to relate to each other on account of their many shapes and sizes, on account of their nature, living and dying in a continual and self-reinforcing circle that is neither good nor bad, just living and interwoven, endless and timeless.
(Chances are you’ve left by now, letting the preacher to an empty chair.)
There you have it. Whatever happens, it boils down to this: Size matters. The giants crush the microscopic because they’re too tiny not to crush – and the microscopic can’t help but bug the gigantic because the gigantic are everywhere, and impossible to avoid (which means that the gigantic bug the microscopic in turn).
And here we are! Your order, sir, madam, with compliments! Life in a mug of coffee, in a cafe, on any given funday, for you and I to contemplate the world. I would say it’s our veritable storm in a teacup, but that’s another beverage, and an entirely different experience.
Have a sapient day.