Managing Expectations: My Life in Q-Tips

Peter Mehlman rations out life in front of the mirror one cotton swab at a time.

Managing Expectations: My Life In Q-Tips
Peter Mehlman rations out life in front of the mirror one cotton swab at a time.

Here’s an attitude for life: have low expectations but know you’ll still be constantly disappointed. Sure, it sounds glum but ultimately, it’ll help you roll with life’s daily jabs while bracing you against the roundhouse blows. Really, It works for me.

Until I run out of Q-Tips.

Where is this going, Peter? Okay, just hang with me.

See, like any sensible consumer, I get Q-tips in a pack of 500. One day, I wake up with no Q-Tips, hit the pharmacy and suddenly I have 500 Q-Tips. I transport them home, put them in the medicine cabinet, start to close the door then can’t help myself: I stare at them. There they are lined up, row upon row, in perfect order like Soviet troops being inspected by Stalin. I estimate they will last me nearly two years. Then, against my will, I stare at one particular Q-Tip in the middle of 500 and my low expectations attitude collapses, replaced by the heavy dreads:

On the day that Q-tip #279’s number comes up, what will be happening in my life? Who among those I love will be alive or dead? Will I still be someone whose body still allows him to play basketball? How many daily medications will I be on? On that distant morning, will I be economically, socially and/or spiritually viable? When I insert that 7.6cm stick in my ear against the absurd warning on the package against inserting it in my ear, will I be anxious, turbulent, heartbroken, hopeless, desperate…

… or will it be just another blindly neutral day?

Honestly, I don’t know what it is about Q-tip packages but they make me look too far into the future and that is always bad.  Maybe it’s just age and it’s sneakily poisonous wisdom.  When you’re young the future is the promised land. In middle age, the future becomes the forbidden zone. You get highly skilled at living in the now, or at least the soon. You become a black belt master of avoiding the thoughts and words and omens and yes, consumer products, that send you hurtling too far ahead of yourself.

At the moment, I’m down to fewer than 50 Q-tips. I’m thinking of  writing Unilever and recommending “a change in the packaging of your fine product, Sirssimply doing away with the transparent plastic in favor of all cardboard! Economically, ecologically and psychologically speaking, it’s a win-win-win!”

Short of that, I’m considering the drastic idea of meeting my swabbing needs by stealing Q-tips from hotel rooms.

Sorry, but another 500 pack contains too many low expectations to manage.