Ever notice that when a person at a pleasant gathering comes up with bad news, another person tries to top that with a worse story? Soon a third person comes up with a chilling story, and by the time the fourth person gets going, the warm glow of the gathering is gone.
It's sort of like camping when you were a kid. Just as you settled down in your sleeping bag thinking of nothing more disturbing than frogs croaking, another kid says, "You're gonna die sometime. Did you ever think of that?" Yeah, you'd thought of that, but not recently. Dang.
Nobody likes a Pollyanna, but these days, if you're not part of the 1 percent, you've probably got a full plate and some serious concerns of your own that you'd like to put aside when you get together with your friends.
Well, try this. After the first person finishes his "ain't it awful" story, follow it with a feel-good story. "Hey, guys, my sister drove off with her purse on top of her car, and it fell off along Highway 12 near Calistoga Road. She drove up and down the highway looking for it but finally gave up and drove home. Would you believe it—there was her purse, hanging on the doorknob. With all the money in it and no note."
Here's another true story from my family. "Hey you guys, my son was driving a big rig truck and it overturned as he was making a freeway exit. A bus was coming along the freeway, and a nurse riding in the bus asked the driver to stop and let her out. The bus drove on, and the nurse ran over to my son and gave him first aid."
In fact, I hope the woman behind me in the white SUV reads this. Last week I was on a two-lane road near Occidental when I pulled over to let her SUV go by. She pulled up alongside of me, and I figured I'd be hearing a blast of four-letter words.
"Are you OK?" she asked.
N. L. Gallop is a writer and budding playwright living in Santa Rosa.Open Mic is a weekly feature in the Bohemian.
We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write firstname.lastname@example.org.