Ode to Joy
Let the record show that on the evening of Dec. 30, 2015 — otherwise known as New Year's Eve Eve — I found myself in a buoyant and celebratory mood, craving a buoyant and celebratory beverage. My actual thinking went like this:
“What a year it's been. I'm alive and blessed with gainful long-term care employment. My limbs and internal organs are in generally good working order. I receive daily, improbably bountiful gifts of love and human connection. I am privileged to serve with and for some of the finest people on earth — in a profession of vital importance to the future of this nation. I feel fortunate and fabulous, and by golly, I deserve a buoyant and celebratory cocktail!”
So I purchased one. And I drank it, sip by delicious sip, reveling all the while in the wonder and unconditional generosity of 2015. It was a beautiful series of beautiful moments — until the check arrived and rudely punctured my balloon of gratefulness.
Somehow, unwittingly, engulfed as I was in a brain-swirl of year-end positivity and joy, I'd allowed myself to be be charged $21 for my buoyant and celebratory libation. “Excuse me,” I said, summoning my waitperson tableside and pointing at the mind-boggling number. “There's obviously been a horrible mistake.”
“No,” she said. “That's what you ordered.”
From there, Happy Hour rapidly descended into Extremely Unhappy Minute. Apparently I'd inadvertently requested my beverage be crafted with a rare and special spirit distilled in gold-lined, gopherwood barrels by mute, artisanal monks in the ice-capped mountains of Portlandia, transported by 10th generation Belgian draft horses and poured over iced diamonds.
“Sorry,” she added, “I should have been more clear.”
After waiting a few more awkward, futile seconds hoping to hear the words, “But no problem, I'll adjust your bill,” I handed over my credit card, put a firm, black line where the tip was supposed to be and left in a dark cloud of annoyance and indignation.
In the tradition of an angry family member raging about a bad long-term care experience, I was poised to subject the remorseless waitress and her restaurant to a caustic and dramatic take-down on Yelp.com, MercilessTirade.com and any other available platform. Public shaming felt entirely justified, since if there's anything I hate in horrible customer service situations, it's an insincere apology designed to avoid actual responsibility or redress.
She clearly deserved everything I was about to dish out — but first things first. I had a ticket to a New Year's celebration at the ornate concert hall down the street. And that's when the universe staged an intervention — in the form of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest musical compositions in the planet's history, Beethoven was almost entirely deaf when he wrote it, and at its Vienna premiere in 1824 reportedly continued conducting several measures after the piece was finished, unable to hear the applause. But struggling as he was with this debilitating and tragic condition, he still created an anthem extolling the brotherhood of mankind that continues to inspire almost 200 years later.
So no, I didn't end up writing or posting that angry rant. Something about being engulfed by his towering masterwork restored a sense of perspective, and righteous indignation turned out to be powerless against a world-class orchestra and choir belting out the “Ode to Joy.”
I know, I know — sometimes people need to be held accountable. But not as often as we think they do, and not under the cowardly cover of the anonymous online attack. It's probably not practical to keep a symphony nearby for the next time I'm tempted to lash out, but fortunately, there's a simpler solution.
“Put yourself in the way of beauty,” suggests famous hiker/novelist Cheryl Strayed. Or in my case, just count to 10 and think about Beethoven.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.