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Friday, July 30, 2004

Quiet Desperation

My college friend, Buttercup, just called me to tell me she got a traffic ticket. Nothing is ever routine with her, so I was not surprised that, by the end of the phone call, I was laughing heartily at her plight.

Buttercup was speeding across town to pick up her son from softball practice. She was weaving in and out of traffic and was pulled over by a policeman. She had actually attempted to outrun the cop, but changed her mind and surrendered to the authorities.

"Why are you trembling?" the cop asked her.

"Because I'm in big trouble," she replied, her voice quavering.

He asked to see her license and proof of insurance. She had no license due to some oversight in renewal or somesuch nonsense. When Buttercup pulled down her visor to show her insurance documents, another traffic ticket fell out of it and into her lap.

"What's that one for?" the cop asked.

"Driving without a license," she answered.

Somehow she talked her way out of trouble. Just like she always did in college. We went to a Christian college in Kentucky, and Buttercup often had some personal challenges in adhering to the many rules. She had a particular problem with curfew, which was 11 p.m. After smoking some pot one night, she climbed through the window into the lobby of her dorm after curfew. She picked the wrong window to enter. It was the window right behind the television set, which several curfew-observing Christian girls were watching at the time. She climbed through and addressed the righteous ladies. "Whatcha watching?" I swear that Jennifer Saunders must have modeled Edina Monsoon after my friend Buttercup.

I remember when Buttercup avoided some tickets in college by speaking only French to the cop when he stopped her. I asked if that is how she dealt with the situation this time.

"No, I still had to go down to the police station and get my driver's license renewed, but they wouldn't renew it because I had, like a hundred outstanding tickets. So I told them my Dad lives with us and is getting really old and hides the mail."

As pathetically hilarious as Buttercup's life can be, I think I found someone I pity even more. The other night I ran into my friend Drunko. The last time I saw him, I was picking him up off the floor of CC's after he fell onto a table and broke a couple glasses.

"I'm doing better tonight than the last time you saw me," he said as he mistakenly picked up my beer and started drinking it.

"I can see that," I replied.

"Did you go see that guy who lived somewhere else?" he asked, proving that my blog readers aren't the only ones who were subjected to crunch stories for two months. I told him my trip was great and asked him about his dating life recently.

"Oh, yeah, I'm dating this really great looking guy," Drunko told me. I asked where his boyfriend was. "He is grounded," said Drunko, who is 30.

Drunko's boyfriend is 19, and his parents grounded him. I was so amused and shocked that I forgot to ask why the boyfriend was grounded. For some reason Thoreau's words about "lives of quiet desperation" entered my mind.

Yesterday I was feeling like such a screw-up. Today I began thinking about my friends and how equally screwed up they are. None of us are exempt. All of us have shortcomings as well as strengths. Whether we are dating totally inappropriate people or falling in love with awesome, but unattainable, men or accumulating traffic tickets and lying to cover our tracks, we are all just trying to get by.

I am glad I have the problems I have. I don't want to trade with anybody else. But if I were given a choice between Drunko's and Buttercup's situations, I think I would rather have the hundred traffic tickets.

Unless the 19-year-old is, like, totally hot.

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