Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see
“Dust in the Wind” – Kansas
The vanity license plate on the little red two-door read: “KRISTI.”
I glanced over to check out Kristi as I passed the car on my morning commute. Instead of Kristi, I saw an older guy driving what presumably is his wife or girlfriend or daughter’s car.
Something about it struck me as funny. I laughed out loud. I laughed out loud a lot.
That guy. Driving around. In that car. With that license plate. Kristi.
It’s because I’m an asshole and think things like that are hilarious.
When I was in first grade—the grade my son will be in next year, Oh, man—I walked in the bathroom this one time and there were two second graders in there.
“Hey! Will you pick up these paper towels for us and throw them away?”
Always eager to please: “Sure!”
And I picked up the wet paper towels and threw them away.
The two boys laughed and laughed and laughed.
“Hahaha! We peed on those! You just touched our pee!”
Then they left the bathroom.
If I had been cooler and less of a chicken-shit, I would have picked up the pee towels and cleaned both of their faces with them. But I don’t really do bad-ass things like that. And I certainly didn’t when I was 6.
That incident represents one of the only times in my entire life I can remember anyone being “mean” to me.
While totally disgusting, it is kind of hilarious.
“Wait. You peed on those towels and convinced another little kid to touch them!?!?”
Heck, I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.
Everyone has moments where their friends or family members or total strangers make them feel bad. I’ve been very blessed to not have very many of those.
It’s in large part due to the fact that I work very hard not to hurt people’s feelings, myself. I would NEVER make fun of someone to their face, unless we were very close and I was confident they knew it was in jest and understood they were among my favorite people. Guys who are friends do this with one another a lot.
But behind someone’s back? I seriously do make fun of people all the time. For cheap laughs.
It’s kind of sick, I guess.
Like the guy in the “Kristi” car.
Like other kids in school.
Two eighth-grade classes from two different Catholic schools in neighboring towns combined to make up my freshman high school class.
Our class doubled in size from junior high to high school.
That meant there were a bunch of new people I’d never met before. It was still a small class relative to what most American students are accustomed to (I graduated with about 75 kids), so it didn’t take long to get to know everyone.
One of the girls in our class (who was very nice and liked by pretty much everyone) had a large mole on one of her eyebrows near where her forehead met the bridge of her nose.
Because we were Catholic—and total dicks—a bunch of boys in our class nicknamed her “Ash Wednesday.” I thought it was hilarious because I’m not a very nice person.
She eventually had the mole removed. I hope that made her feel better and less self-conscious. She eventually won a large lottery jackpot with her husband, and I hope she is living happily ever after with him and her children.
We called her “Ash Wednesday.”
There was another girl in school, too.
We called her Unga Bunga. Like the words a caveman might say: “Unga Bunga!”
It wasn’t very nice, either. But it was very funny.
Her last name had the prefix “Unga-” and combined with Crood-ish looks, it made the Unga-Bunga nickname an absolute winner.
I think about those little moments sometimes.
I wonder whether those people think about them, too. Whether they feel bad when they do think about them. Like how I feel when I think about picking up peed-on paper towels. Except maybe a lot worse.
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Today is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar. Traditionally, Catholics attend mass and a priest or someone else will use ashes to draw a cross (which generally looks like a huge black smudge) on our foreheads and says: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
It’s a good reminder.
That we’re all made from the same stuff.
The same stuff that makes up that tree over there.
The same stuff that makes up the fish in the ocean.
The same stuff that makes up the stones on the ground.
And all those plants.
And all those animals.
And all those people.
Connected. Built by the same materials. Powered by the same fuel regardless of what we choose to believe—both physically and spiritually.
There’s something beautiful about identifying those connections. Those commonalities.
It breaks down the barriers in our lives.
All the bullshit we use to divide us. To fuel the senseless hatred and bigotry.
Sometimes I laugh at people. Like the guy in the “Kristi” car. Or “Ash Wednesday.” Or “Unga Bunga.”
I hope I can still be a kind person even though I do that.
And even if I can’t be, I hope I can instill thoughtfulness and kindness into my son. And perhaps the grace to handle any unkindness eventually directed his way.
We’re the same. You and me. And that person over there. And that other person over there. And that person on TV. And that TV. And the furniture you’re sitting on while watching that TV.
We’re all built from the same stuff.
How much better would we all treat one another if we never forgot that?
Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, all your money won’t another minute buy
Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind