The most comical moments if you have been a waiter, come with the diet people. “I’ll have the double-cheese burrito with extra sour cream and two tacos… Oh wait. I’m on a diet. Can I get a salad with that?” Actual order. It just reinforces in my mind, that most things happen in life only when you are willing to get serious. In my experience one hundred percent has never been enough. You only get the prize when you have squeezed every ounce of blood out of your effort.
There are people out there, the ones who really want it. I remember at one place I worked, they had a gym. A woman who had risen up in short order through the ranks, used to go every morning and run. I mean run. At times, I would be on the machine next to her, and you know, you can’t get shown up by a lady. But this lady tasted blood. Mine, I think. Long after I had given up pretending to not wheeze and puff, this lady would still be running like a cyborg beside me, not giving off even a drop of sweat. She really wanted it. It gave me visions that if we were ever lost at sea together, set adrift, who would end up eating who.
There is a great scene in that movie The Untouchables, where Malone is talking with Ness about how to take down Al Capone.
Malone: You said you wanted to know how to get Capone. [Ness nods] Do you really want to get him? [pause] You see what I'm saying? What are you prepared to do?
Ness: Everything within the law.
Malone: And then what are you prepared to do? And then what? And then, after that? What are you prepared to do?
I think that is kind of how it works. There is always a secondary effort and a third beyond - or things in life just don’t get done.
Think about it. You have had those moments too I know, where fulfilling the obligation part of things just checked off a box but didn’t really accomplish what you were aiming for.
Once when I had my first apartment, I had cockroach problems. They came with the territory. On my part, I was thrilled to have moved up in life. I was no longer just renting a room. But the building was a low rise in a less than desirable part of town, and it was old.
“You know, in a building like this, it’s really hard to get rid of the bugs” Said Tommy, the superintendent. “Once one person has them, everybody has them. But we could spray.” And that is what they did. Once. Twice. Three times. The problem of moving all the stuff out of your cupboards and moving the things away from the walls. The yucky smell of the spray. It bothered me but it didn’t do a thing for the bugs. I got the impression that the person spraying was kind of like a priest who just waved the Host over the room and pronounced it bug-less.
Things got worse. I had a punky wall in the bathroom that I kept complaining about, where they patched it and it seemed to keep on getting soft and wet and falling apart. As these things go, there was a drip in a pipe behind the wall, and if they didn’t fix that drip, the problem would just persist.
Tommy was lazy too. He didn’t like any extra work so I really had to push him. Finally he ripped out the wall beside the tub and then things got real, fast. Turns out that steamy moist heat was the perfect kind of environment to foster cockroaches hatching. When he tore out the wall, I swear I was living the plagues of Egypt. If you have ever seen the movie Joe’s Apartment where the roaches take over, you know what roach infestation really means.
They sprayed again. I went through the misery that you entered a room, turned on a light, and got a periphery view of tiny forms scurrying out of sight. One day I went to work, and a cockroach crawled out of my lunch bag. There is a moment where you say to yourself, “This means WAR” and you mean it. Something steels up inside of you and there is no going back.
I approached the super again. “Tommy” I said, “I know you are busy. Just give me the bug spray and I’ll do it myself. I want to make sure I get all the cracks and corners.” Tommy was characteristically thrilled at not having to do any extra work. He handed me over the large industrial sized can of spray and the spray gun.
Ok roaches. Time to do or die. I sprayed that stuff like a guy at war, with a flamethrower. Spraying into the cracks, roaches came scurrying out, and were dying in front of my eyeballs. I was like one possessed. When I got done, I think I solved my roach problem. I swept up enough roach corpses to fill a garbage bag.
Tommy on the other hand was not so happy. “Dang, what I going to tell my bosses?” he whined. Didn’t you read the instructions? This stuff is supposed to be watered down twenty-five parts of water to one part spray. You used it straight. You used up an entire year’s supply for the building in one go. How am I going to explain that?”
I didn’t care. I didn’t see a roach again in the time that I was in that building. In fact Tommy told me that my apartment was like ground zero of a nuclear bomb. In the building, whether you had roaches depended on how close you were to my unit. I was dead centre of a bug-free radius that extended outward. Using the poison twenty-five times stronger than recommended, might have done it.
I’m sure that was not very healthy, although to this point I have not grown two heads yet, and I am still alive it seems. But it sure worked. I think the difference, like with everything else, is that I meant business. When you do, things happen. What are you prepared to do? And then what? And after that?