Are there winner and losers in this world? The importance of success in life weighs me down, like a ship’s anchor. Is it all a matter of fate? Or attitude? Or is it choice? Do I always make the wrong choices? The loser’s choices? Can I change my ship’s direction, from losing to winning? And how?
On Tuesday, I had two offers to attend different networking parties in Manhattan. It would have been a good opportunity to meet some editors and publishers. But I already had plans. I went to a NY Mets game with an old friend. I had fun with my friend, but was it the “winning” choice? Probably not. No networking possibilities. No new connections.
I grew up in Flushing, Queens, so it was natural for me to grow up being a Mets fan, despite them being famous for their losing. In elementary school, all my friends were Mets fans. But as the years ticked off, my friends would switch sides and root for the Yankees, the “winning” New York team. I clearly remember when Russell T arrived in class wearing a Yankees jacket and cap!
“Hey, Russell, what the hell are you doing?!”
“I’m done with the Mets. I’m for the Yankees now. They’re winners!”
It was Russell’s first step to a winning philosophy. Russell was the Tony Robbins of Parsons Junior High School.
“Think about it…?” he asked. “Why hang out with loser friends or follow a loser’s team? I’m choosing “winning.””
At the time, I saw him as a sell-out , but perhaps he was the smart one. It didn’t surprise me when I recently found Russell on Facebook that he wasn’t 300 pounds and divorced four times like I had hoped — but a freaking ultra-successful partner in a law firm married to a former Miss Connecticut!
My father had some issues with winning and losing. The first time we went to Las Vegas as a family on a summer vacation, we played the slot machines together, my parents and I, sitting around the machine as a family unit. I remember how fun it was to pull down the lever. My father “allotted” us each $25 dollars each to play with, which lasted about an hour. In the elevator going to our hotel room, we encountered a sharp-looking guy who had just finished playing black-jack. He had slick-backed hair and looked like a gambler you would see in old movies.
“How did you do?” asked my father.
“Pretty good,” replied Mr. Slick, flicking a chip with his finger. “And you?”
“We were LOSERS!” said my father, proudly.
It might seem odd that my father was so confident in his response, but in his mind, he was bragging to the other guy. Sure, the gambler might have won today, but my father was smart enough to know that the casino always wins. He also wanted to teach me an important lesson — don’t strive for the unattainable. If you know your limits, you will be happier. He had zero belief that we could ever hit the jackpot in a casino, so only fools would try. To this day, I don’t gamble when I go to Las Vegas. I eat and go to see the latest show by Cirque de Soleil. Gambling is a waste of time. I can hear my father in my head. Why waste your money if chances are that you are going to lose?
I was over at my mother’s home yesterday in Queens. She was playing cards with her friend, Laura, a seventy-ish, white haired woman who lives on the third floor of the same apartment building. Apparently, my mother, unlike my late father, does gamble, at least with pennies and nickels. As my mother dealt the cars, she asked me to go over to Walgreens to pick up a few items. She handed me the sales circular that we received in the mail. She had circled what she wanted — laundry detergent, toothpaste and a 24-roll package of toilet paper. It was a good buy for the toilet paper.
“It’s for one of the good brands!” she said.
“That’s a good price for the toilet paper,” said Laura. “Would you mind getting me one, too?”
“Sure,” I said.
I walked the three blocks down Kissena Boulevard, entered Walgreens, and bought the items. After the salesgirl rang up the items, she slid the two 24-roll packages of toilet paper towards me.
“Sorry,” she said, “but we don’t have bags that are big enough for these.”
“So, I’m supposed to take it outside like this?”
“You still want it?” she shrugged.
It annoyed me that Walgreens would offer a sale on 24-roll packages of toilet paper, and then not supply the store with large enough plastic bags. This is going too far, even for the Green movement. If I was still living in Los Angeles, I would just throw the packages into the trunk of my car. Here, I had to walk home.
I took my items and went into the street, a 24-roll package of toilet paper under each arm. It was the longest three block in my life. No one wants to be seen walking down the city street carrying 48 rolls of toilet paper. It destroys all street cred. I could see the stares, both from strangers and residents of my apartment building.
“How often does that Neil take a crap?!” I could hear them muttering.
I made it into my apartment building, and sighed with relief. As I walked to the elevator, I faced my last obstacle. It was the sexy single black mother with the short black hair and the beautiful eyes, who had recently moved into the apartment on sixth floor. I had always wanted to say hello to her — and here I was — holding 48 rolls of toilet paper.
That word was immediately flickering on my forehead, like a neon sign.
I tried to make myself feel better by finding humor in the situation, much as my father might have done.
“Just my luck!” I said to myself. “For months I’ve been waiting to talk to this woman — and now, here I am, the ultimate sucker, holding 48 rolls of toilet paper. Funny.”
But it wasn’t really funny. I wasn’t put on this earth so I could come up with funny stories about my life and write them in a blog which makes me no money. THAT is being a loser. I am living my life for ME. I was going to TRANSFORM this LOSER moment into a WINNER moment.
I took a deep breath and turned towards the woman, the gigantic toilet paper packages gripped in my hands.
“Hi there,” I said smiling. “There’s a big sale at Walgreens! Can you believe they didn’t have any plastic bags for these.”
I rose the toilet paper packages into the air, like dumbbells.
“Not good,” she said, shaking her head.
“You should go to Walgreens yourself and buy one. This is a good brand.”
“I know. I use that toilet paper brand too.”
Wow. We both use the same toilet paper. We were bonding! I continued on with this intriguing conversation.
“I buy a lot of off-brands products at the supermarket,” I said. Like for paper towels and dishwashing liquid. But I think it is important that when you buy toilet paper, you buy the best!”
“I agree. I’ll go to Walgreens later and buy myself a package.”
“Good for you. Although you’re going to have to take the walk of shame home, carrying the toilet paper without a bag.”
“Well, you did it… and you survived.”
By this time, we were in the elevator, and it had just stopped on the first floor. This was my floor.
“Have a nice night,” I said, as I stepped off.
“Thanks. You, too,” she replied, smiling.
This was not a great story. But as I walked into my apartment, carrying 48 rolls of toilet paper, I felt like a winner.