Yesterday I received a call from a pushy man who claimed I had won a vacation by filling out a form in Wal-Mart or Sears; I was anything but polite during that conversation.
The "you-won-a-free-vacation" ploy is one of the oldest scams in the world of telephone solicitation - it inevitably ends with the winners of the "free" vacation having to dispense their credit card information for administration fees required to secure the non-existent vacation. You can guess what happens if you fork over your credit card number. I pictured this scam-artist swindling unsuspecting people out of their money and clenched my teeth as I listened to him prattle on. Ethical considerations aside, there was a quality of arrogance in the man's voice that caused my blood to boil as he blatantly lied to me over the phone. Quite uncharacteristically, I began to shout a string of rather worn profanities into the phone calling the man, among other things, a parasite, scumbag, and piece of human excrement. I was seething after I ended the call. It was only then that I remembered my eleven-year-old niece and twenty-two- month-old son were sitting in the kitchen with me. Feeling thoroughly ashamed, I muttered a vague apology and tried to justify the rage I had unleashed, but there was no excusing what I had done.
The incident bothered me for the greater part of the day. Why did I lose it like that? I tried convincing myself it was moral indignation, but I knew that was no explanation. After a few hours of picking away at it, I came to a realization - the outburst had nothing to do with the phone call but was the symptom of a much larger ontological problem I have been wrestling with semi-consciously for the better part of the past year. Once this dawned on me, I could not help but remember the opening paragraph of Herman Melville's Moby Dick in which the protagonist Ismael reveals the real reason why he chooses to go to sea:
"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball."
Like Ismael, I'm experiencing a damp, drizzly November of the soul and I often feel stepping into the streets and knocking hats off heads. Unlike Ismael, going to sea will not cure the affliction and, regardless of how damp and drizzly it gets in my soul, I have never felt the urge to reach for the pistol and ball. Nonetheless, I do realize that I require some significant changes in the near future and it is high time I start working on them as soon as I can before hats go-a-flying.