On my way to visit a niece in Louisiana several years back, I had a couple of hours layover at the Los Angeles airport. The waiting facilities were torn up and so people who were hanging around for their flights were all bunched together. The place was a madhouse and I couldn’t find a vacant place to sit. Finally an opening appeared when someone left. I ran and quickly plopped into the seat.
Next to me was a young man of about twenty-five and he too was killing time. This meant he had all sorts of electronic devices that he fiddled with—laptop computer, iPod, smart phone and a video game or two. Generally I am not a talky type although my friends will be surprised to hear me say that because to them I’m the quintessential alpha personality you might find. I will admit though, if I start talking it will develop into a real gab fest—but what I’m saying, is I’m not one of those professionally needy people who HAS to talk. I can do without it. I am not compelled to talk.
In this particular case, I plead guilty to opening the conversation. The young man was texting and his thumbs were performing keyboard magic. I simply cannot accomplish such a feat and am always amazed by how people do it. He looked up and gave me a non-plus look. This meant he didn’t say anything but at the same time was curious as to why I was watching him.
I felt I had to say something so I commented on how amazed I was that he could actually write a message with his thumbs—and do it so rapidly. That did it. He began talking and asking me questions. You know it only takes about ten questions before the other person almost knows your Social Security number.
By the end of his tenth question, he knew I had lived in Paris, I had founded the Paris English Theatre, I was a writer of screenplays and novels, and that I had been all over the world. He also found out that even though I had the trappings of being rich and famous, I wasn’t. Somehow, I explained to him, success had eluded me as far as the brass ring went.
He informed me that in no way could he do so much work, like I did in writing, and get so little out of it. He was interested in making a bundle of bucks as soon as possible. I told him I thought that was nice but one could have a good time out of life without fame and success. I added that I thought one of our problems in this country at the moment is that everyone wants to be rich and famous. He blinked his eyes as though he had no idea what I was talking about.
I told him that every year I had lived, I had put a lot of fascinating events into each one—some good and some not so good. A lot of that living I continued had nothing to do with fame and big bucks. And to top it off, I told him I wouldn’t swap any one of the years I have lived.
That sounded like too pat of an answer for him and I could tell he thought it was just a convenient happy-face way to explain away my being old and not Donald Trump.
“Name a year,” I said.
“Okay, what about 1987? That was the year I was born,” he said glibly
I had to think a bit but I soon said “Not as exciting as most but still not bad. I had two small roles in movies, did three TV commercials, a play of mine was produced in Los Angeles, I went to Mexico and Guatemala, spent a month in Paris with friends, and got a part-time job teaching theater at a university in Los Angeles. See, none of that made me rich or famous but still I had a fascinating year. Name another year.”
“What about 1958?”
“Very interesting year,” I said. “I graduated from college with my BA and went to live in Havana, Cuba, to teach English. I had a great time in Havana as it was the fun capital of our hemisphere in those days. Fidel Castro came along though and before I knew it, I found myself in the middle of a revolution—and one that turned very dangerous very quickly. Shortly I was forced to leave Cuba. What an exciting year that was. I managed to use all my Cuban adventures in a book I wrote called CONTESSA.”
I don’t know if I convinced him of very much with this little game of ours, but before his flight was announced and he left, I had sold him a copy of my book CONTESSA, which he bought on the spot from Amazon.com via his laptop.
In fact we’re all richer than we actually give ourselves credit for—that is if we have gotten out and lived. As I say at the top of this blog, “Life is just a giant hors d’oeuvre tray for me.” I hope I convinced that guy just a tiny bit that happiness isn’t the exclusive playmate of fame and fortune. There’s a lot of fascinating living going on out there. Don’t let it pass you by because you can’t see the forest for the trees. Zestful living is happiness for me. And if you’re going to be a writer, zestful living is a necessity.