Last night, while standing in front of a urinal at a Chick-Fil-A in San Francisco, I had a face-to-face meeting with God. I had entered into the restroom and found that someone had plugged the toilet with toilet paper and flushed the toilet several times making a huge mess. The manager was in there with an employee cleaning it up and commiserating upon the stupidity of human beings. The urinal by the sink was relatively clean, so I stepped into the stall. I was staring at the blank white wall when suddenly God spoke, "You're not getting any younger, Doug."
I hesitated for a moment, thinking, 'Why here? Why now?' When I finally spoke, I answered, "I'm seventy. What's your point?" I noticed that the two men had quit their bitching and eyed me suspiciously. I decided that it was probably a good idea to move the conversation to internal dialogue mode figuring that God would catch on and do the same.
"No real point, just suggesting that in few years, you and everyone you know will disappear off of this planet as if you had no more substance than a summer mist. You might want a pay a little more attention to things happening around you."
I hesitated again, thinking that he might be trying to tell me something important without saying it directly. You know, the way he normally communicates with people. For example, instead of saying don't build a temple to Baal, he'll wait until you build it and put on a barbecue where you sacrifice the first born males of the entire city, make a bunch of speeches saying how great your shit is, then he suddenly sends an earthquake that not only destroys the entire city but a toilet seat flies up out of the smoke and dust and miraculously lands around your neck, so you just end standing there gaping with flies buzzing around your mouth looking monumentally stupid.
"Are you saying that there's going to be a test at the end?"
He didn't answer. I guess he figured he had more important things to do. While I washing my hands though, the employee looked up from his mopping and wished me a happy holiday. I came out of the restroom and decided that from there on out, I was going to pay more attention to what was happening around me. I had always had a sneaky feeling that the universe was trying to tell me shit, but I treated the pronouncements like they were coming from a boozy uncle with garlic breath, an annoying habit of calling me Sonny Boy, and enormous amounts of gray hair growing out of his ears. I figured that my lack of curiosity probably accounted for why God chose to approach me in a nasty restroom in San Francisco in the first place, catch me with my guard down, so to speak. I mean I used to go to church all of the time when I young, but I was never there mentally. I mean a few times, I even brought in a transistor radio and ear phones to listen to a Giants' game. That little ploy was ended when I got caught up mumbling the lyrics to Inna-Gadda-Da-Vita when the preacher was delivering a sermon on forgiveness. My mom snuck up me and slapped a pair of those round, pink colored glasses that John Lennon used to wear right off of my head. I looked around and everyone was laughing at me except the preacher who had turned cherry red with anger. I didn't say nothing, but inside my head I fairly screamed, "What about forgiveness, Asshole?"
Returning to the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was a group of young kids who were just there hanging out. One of them, a fashionably dressed boy about twelve, wore a red hat that said "No fucks to give" written across the front. He was wearing sun glasses and was clearly doing his best to act out the message on his hat. Every now and then, him and his friends would scream loudly or do something stupid to let everyone in the place know that they had no fucks to give. Stuff like that always makes me sad. I have no reason to complain though, the stuff that I did at that age was pretty dumb too, but I learned my lessons and got scarred up pretty badly in the process. I look ok in public, but I still bleed from some open wounds, and at night, when I'm alone watching TV sitting on my sofa in my underwear, I grieve sometimes and sit there dumbfounded, wondering how I got from point A to point B. I even wrote a song about it. Some of the lyrics go:
The thing that I remember most
As the rain kept coming down
We never really tried that hard
Try and find some common ground
But the thing that's so amazing
Is that I've been all around
Now, I'm stuck here all by myself
In this lonely little town
The song's about my ex-wife leaving me after thirty-one years of marriage. The fact that she left me doesn't surprise me nearly as much as the fact that she waited so long to do it. It don't do no good to grieve though. Ain't got time to waste like I did when I was young. I've resolved to pay more attention to life as it unfolds all around me. It's a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. I have this beautiful little granddaughter named River. I watch the videos of her learning how to use a slide by herself every night before I go to bed in hope that they'll help me have good dreams. Everything she does fills me wonder, but I also feel sad too, knowing how life can so casually break your heart like a disloyal girlfriend looking for a guy with a nicer car.
So, if you see me out driving somewhere, and you see my head turning circles like one of those owls hidden in the rafters of a rundown barn, or one of them pictures of Jesus where his eyes follow you everywhere, don't let it creep you out none. God told me to pay more attention, and I'm just getting in some practice.