Why Life Isn’t Fair (an Occasional Series)
For the first seven years of my life we lived in Downey, California, a suburb of L.A. Most of those years are a blur. But one memory is quite distinct: I’d reached the sagely age of five and was going to school! Which was neato. But what was even neato-er was that I would finally get to cross the street by myself! I still remember the delicious terror of crossing for the first time. I’d been warned that if I attempted to cross a street alone, cars—hundreds of them—would swoop down and kill me. Over and over again. And yet, here I was crossing the street, and not being killed even once. Then I had an epiphany:
Cars only kill you if you cross the street without permission!
This was the moment I first realized that there was a Law of Fairness. No one told me. I just knew. The Law was there, and it was good. If we followed its precepts, everything would turn out exactly as it should: Milk would show up outside our kitchen door as long as we put our empties out. Ice cream would show up on the dinner table as long as we ate our green beans. And money would show up under our pillow as long as we put teeth under it. Heck, it would even be brought by a fair-y!
If there was anything that I was even prouder of than crossing the street, it was that I was going to get to wear my new artist’s smock! Mom had learned at Open House that we would be doing Art in kindergarten, and would therefore need smocks. So she did what any mother of an Only-Child-Who-Also-Happens-to-be-a-Genius would do. She bought the Simplicity pattern for an “Authentic Parisian Artist’s Smock,” and spent two weeks stitching it to perfection. She finished it off with a gorgeous monogram just like the ones the penniless impressionists in Paris wore during the early 20th Century.
The first half of the first day of Kindergarten went excruciatingly slowly. I blew bubbles in my milk, and tapped my toes during nap time. But Art finally arrived! And then Miss Shirley spoke the fateful words, “Alright, children. Go to the closet and take the first smock you see.”
By the time I got there, my smock had been snatched by a little cretin named Davey, who probably wouldn’t know an artist’s smock from a dress shirt. Which was, in fact, what all of the other smocks in the closet were—kid’s dad’s dress shirts. Mine was the only Authentic Parisian Artist’s Smock, the only one that was in itself a work of art. I went straight to Miss Shirley, and pointed out her hideous error in judgment.
Her response dripped with unfairness: “We all need to learn to share, Mitchell.”
“Share?!” I was devastated by the unfairness of it all.
Mom called the teacher and begged her to reconsider: “Can’t there be an exception? I made that smock for him. It has his initials on it.”
“Monogram, Mother,” I corrected.
No exception was made. And I was irrevocably scarred, becoming at last the shattered shell of a man you see before you today.
OK, so I got over it.
It could be broken!
To read more of Why Life Isn’t Fair, click here.