“Expectations Rant” by Ezra Wolkenfeld, Washington Heights

Change July 13, 2011 23:07


This story was shared at a PenTales event themed “Great Expectations”

So, I was thinking about the theme of the night, and I realized that expectations actually play a huge role in my life. To be completely honest, as someone who lives most of their life inside their own head, I do a lot of daydream-speculating about how things will go and, generally speaking, I function a lot better when things go as I expect them to. Now I do think of myself as a very flexible person, but I realized that even a big part of THAT is me expecting to not know what will happen, or EXPECTING to have to be flexible. When I actually do have a reason to develop certain expectations I end up pretty confused when they don’t work out. In other words, much of the time, I kinda hate surprises, good ones or bad ones. When I bite into a danish, I want to know ahead of time whether it is delicious chocolate or disgusting poppy seed; similarly when I eat a red pill-shaped candy I want to know if it’s much sought-after cherry or the sketchy criminal of the Mike & Ike world: hot tamale. Frankly, and most importantly, when I open the toy-capsule in a Kinder Egg, I had BETTER not find a puzzle. A puzzle is NOT a toy, by any stretch of the imagination (and here I wonder if I was hungry when writing this because these are all food examples). Whoever decided that a puzzle is a toy is probably the same person who tries to pass off fruit as dessert. While fruit is nutritious and almost always delicious, it is NOT dessert; it can ACCOMPANY dessert, but never replace it. This is probably the same person who first gave a card as a present. All a card is is the recognition that there is no present, it’s just the explicit destruction of any hopes you may have had for an actual present. It occurs to me now that it might not have been a hunger thing- I mean if there’s one place you don’t want to be surprised its IN your mouth, right? Finally, and most relevant, when I take a shower(as in this morning), I Certainly don’t expect a mouse to join me from the drain pipe, so there you go.
But really I don’t think this expectation thing is just me, because isn’t it true, for everyone, that some of the worst frustrations are when you have every reason NOT to expect them? Of course this ends up being some kind of technological or mechanical issue, most typically a printer not printing. And it is so frustrating because it’s like You were designed and built to perform ONE Particular Task, how can you possibly fail at that task? Not to mention its invariably at the worst POSSIBLE time – Like “OK the paper’s due at 2 and its 156 I have allotted exactly 3 minutes to print out the paper and bring it to class because- as the simplest step in the paper writing-and-handing-in process I can expect this to go smoothly. Famous last words; next you thing you know you are weeping in a pile of crumpled papers with someone else’s essays printed on them, the ink fading away down the page like your expectations of ever successfully obtaining your work. At this point you have gone through 6 flash drives you’ve restarted every computer you know about and you’re on Wikipedia trying to figure out exactly what toner even does. ? (sidenote: isn’t it weird how there are always so many more printer ‘options’ than there are actual printers? Like where did these mysterious printers come from? Is there some crazy print center some place that just has tons of phantom printers, and there’s this maniacal genius cackling over copies of your stuff like “OH MY! Spanish Civil War yeess yeesss more for the collection ha haha!” or maybe some frustrated office center where everyone just can’t understand how people keep accessing their printers or why their doing it, but they have all the names on the papers and grow more and more aggravated until they want to find your house and rip you apart? Or maybe its more like, where does your computer even MEET all these printers? Is there some mad crazy computer party and the next day your computer wakes up and is like “Oh man where am I,” rolls over and sees the printer”, whaaaaat? hp620xz?, oh man what happened….. you don’t…have any viruses do you?….oh god just tell me we hooked up wirelessly)
Anyway, I was thinking about how expectations are one of my many sort of neuroses, and I think I know what the root of it is. Like so many other of my neuroses, I think it comes from my family. You see a few years ago I realized that my family has what I have coined ‘Wolkenfeld Syndrome’ or Jump-to-the-worst-possible-case Syndrome. Lets take again, our very typical case of the printer not working, for whatever reason: You regular folks might begin with the simplest possible solution “did I not plug it in? Did I select the right printer? Anyway, that might be YOUR reaction, but a Wolkenfeld reaction would begin ridiculously irrationally bad and just get worse from there. Something like… Oh god, Oh god the printers not working- the computer must be broken broken; all our data is lost- its probably floating across the internet being harvested by a band of identity-pirates (chimes in a level headed guy or gal- “Wait a minute, did you check if its plugged in?”) Omigod your right,its not the computer… it’s the house, the house is broken we’re going to be out on the street, with the criminals and the crazies; we’re never going to make it, we’ll have to sacrifice you first Ezra… we should just flee to Canada now.
And the truth is, my dad has it the worst of all, he just brings this tension and dread to EVERY scenario. It’s like he’s always asking, “have you thought enough about what one could imagine would go wrong right now, with any give decision?” Now he is really an amazing person and a hero of mine- and he does a lot of great things-but this just happens to be one of his quirks- “everything is awful and everything is a scam”. But good things too- for example my sister reminded me about the time her landlord offered to redo her bathroom. “Oh man You guys will have no place to live, what will you do?- you’re pregnant and addicted to crack”. That’s also just one of the reasons why most of my siblings’ stories begin with- “now you can’t tell Mom or Dad but…”
Anyway this sort of instant-panic really pervades the whole Wolkenfeld genealogy. But anyway, obviously I am exaggerating a bit and it’s not THAT bad, but you get the gist. And the truth is that sometimes I don’t think we are so totally off, sometimes it feels like there is some basis for the paranoia, because we really do have, I think, very interesting luck
For instance; four or so years ago- when my brother was interviewing at residencies around the country after Med School, he was expecting to borrow my uncle’s car, which he had left for my brother in airport parking, and drive to an interview. He expected find a beige 98 Toyota Camry in the a certain section of a parking lot at JFK, which he did. He was also expecting the front door to be unlocked, which it was. Finally, he was expecting the keys to be in a cup-holder, when in fact they were under the mat in the backseat, where he was expecting to leave them when he was done with the car. Fine, just a little mix-up. But then, he was also expecting them to be glad to see him when he visited to return the car; and they were very glad to see him. They were just wondering where he parked the car- so he says, “what do you mean, the car’s right there?” and they’re like “That is not the car.” So my brother accidentally stole a car. THEN he made his worst mistake- he told my dad.

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