The package arrived in the early hours of morning, with slush and ice still doing their best to make the UPS driver’s life a frozen hell. As there has been a crazy confluence of delayed Christmas deliveries recently, due in part to the horrible weather and an obviously overwhelmed Amazon and UPS/FedEx/US Postal staff (who from what I can tell, mostly work for Amazon these days anyway) I wasn’t surprised to get a delivery this late after the holidays.
Between Christmas, my birthday on New Year’s Day, and our 35th Wedding Anniversary on the 9th, there have been any number of reasons for my overworked UPS guy (who stubbornly wore shorts until the weather dropped into the low 20s), to show up with a package at my “home office.”
But, this one was different. I could sense it from the minute I picked it up. As I touched the box, there was an instant burst of cognition emanating from it that made me realize that my life was going to change for the better. It seemed to glow in the light, with a luminescence that pulsed with a sense of possibilities for the coming year (or perhaps my vision swirled due to the extra 2 cups of coffee and having over-nuked the last of the Christmas cinnamon rolls that had reached a full week past the “best eaten by” label,” that I had consumed minutes before).
Whatever the reason for the halcyon glow, I could tell this was something that was clearly “unexpected” and magical!
I opened the box carefully, and found a miniature “Ralphie”–tongue stuck to a “Welcome to Springfield” sign. So cute!
And attached to it a simple note…
“Welcome to Addicts…You are off of probation.” signed with a red “A” with what appeared to be a Crayola easy-wash marker (no doubt borrowed from Riley’s stash of writing utensils).
I sat in stunned silence, the sound of my beating heart welling up along with a cloud of tears, as I reached up to slowly remove the “Addicts Rookie” hat that had been resting on my head since August.
“It’s over…I made the team,” I muttered out loud, half expecting Ralphie to answer. But I chuckled, knowing that with his tongue frozen to the Springfield sign, it would be a garbled, “Lellcub aborbub” at best.
Five long months. Five months of emptying the coffee cups and sweeping up after the “Addicts Meetings” on Tuesday night. Five months of taking the abusive taunts from those who wished me dumped into the ocean off of Krusty’s Oil Rig” in their Springfields, while I kept my face frozen with the smile of a frat boy taking a paddling during initiation, with a “Thank you sir…may I have another?” teeth-clenched, grimace.
And, there had certainly been more than a few taunts. Most stemmed from those who didn’t understand that my primary role as a newbie, was to write “color” and “filler” in between regular game content posts. The “Please stop writing these rambling, long, horrible, opinionated, terrible, awful, did-I-already-say-long-and rambling?, posts with a CLEAR AGENDA that offends me!” comments were infrequent…but still made me wince.
When I tried to defuse the horrible rancor of the “Wnter/Holiday/Christmas” event, when it threatened to break out into a full-blown war of religions, I gladly became the lightning rod for rebuke, with all sides accusing me of having an agenda, and not being inclusive in their attempts at exclusion during the update (yes…I realize this sounds like it was ambiguous…because it was). But, I put on my Teflon Undies, and clung to the rod, knowing that any hits I took would be deflecting comments from Alissa and the rest of the team. As a rookie initiate, it was my chosen role.
But luckily for me, when the comments were tallied, added to a spreadsheet, and analyzed by an independent team of auditors, those that liked having me back, or at least were willing to put up with me, clearly outweighed the “If you don’t stop letting him post, I will quit reading” sector. (The actual results were 39% Love Patric, 38% like him, but still don’t fully trust him, 22.3% can take or leave Patric, but don’t really know what to make of a guy who confusingly spells his name without the “k”, and .0677999% were in the “I hate everything he stands for, everything he writes, and think he should be shot” sector…although, it’s hard to tell if it is just ONE PERSON who spoofs their email address, because they NEVER use a REAL email address when commenting…cowards that they are!).
But, as my Dad once told me, “if you reach your 60s and you have more real friends than you can count on both hands, you are a truly lucky man.” And, I do.
Let’s face it…this year has sucked in ways that nobody could have predicted. No matter how you take your politics (hopefully with two grains of salt and a healthy heap of the “relaxation beverage” of your choice), we are all left with the residue of an era of divisiveness that has left us all defensive, hair-triggered in response, and unable to tell truth from fiction at almost any level of communication.
And while I still get emails from former readers of TSTOFriends lamenting its demise, it was simply the right time to pull the plug.
In the end, the REAL reason for dismantling TSTOFriends came from sheer and utter fatigue. It wasn’t just the work of posting about the game incessantly, or coming up with ideas to post during “garbage time.” But rather, it was the fatigue that sets in when you realize that you have begun to resent the way the work makes you feel.
It is tiring to be “Cranky” all of the time. There is medical evidence to support the fact that being “Cranky” takes WAY more energy than being nice, forgiving, thoughtful, and positive. And let’s face it…at my age, I don’t need one more reason to feel crappy health-wise.
So, when Alissa and I met in person for the first time, with Riley cooing and smiling between us, it was the final push I needed to stop being “Cranky” and be part of something that had long been a thorn in my side.
It was as if “Mr. Potter” in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” had finally seen the light (and returned the $8K he stole from Uncle Billy) and had decided to join George Bailey in making Bedford Falls the very best it could be. But, of course this analogy only works if I and TSTOFriends was already dominating the TSTO Blogosphere, and Alissa was the little guy, trying to make a point that “doing the right thing, and being happy” is a better way to approach life.
The fact is…Alissa owns it, kids. (Alissa…please turn away from the monitor…I know you hate talking numbers or bragging!). This place is without question, the #1 TSTO blog anywhere. Nothing even comes close. TSTOFriends was #2, but #2 in this case was so far behind in the “stats game,” that you needed a strong set of binoculars to even see us coming up behind. I was fine with that. Really. It was fun being the king of my own ratty fiefdom…and taking jabs at “the Queen of bliss.” Until it wasn’t.
I am a lucky man to be welcomed back to the “team.” There are few times in life when you start with a team, leave in a huff (or a minute and huff), and then are welcomed back to that same team after doing your best to beat the brains out of them. Of course, in my case…most of this was simply self-inflicted wounds. But I digress…
So. Yes…it will be nice to be able to take off the “Rookie hat,” remove the “Addicts Apprentice” arm band, and finally get “key-card access” to the basement (although I’m not sure if I want to go down there, as some folks who do, go MIA).
In the end, I am happy to be the one who writes the stuff that gets a reaction…knowing that statistically, tens of thousands read it…a handful of you comment…and a fraction (again…maybe the same guy?) hate it. I’ll live with those odds.
And now, and for as long as TSTO is around, and I can keep my Teflon undies laundered, I will be part of the Addicts team.
Looking down by my keyboard, next to my “Dad” coffee mug, Ralphie will serve as a constant reminder that even in the worst conditions, it really is best to have a positive, “Bliss Queen” attitude. Being Cranky has it’s place…but that has a completely different domain name.
Part of the team. I like the way that sounds.
And just like the pole and Ralphie…it looks like we’re stuck with one another for a while…(sorry, couldn’t resist).