The other day I went through a drive-through window at a fast food restaurant. I made my order through the crappy intercom set-up, was handed my bag of food by a disinterested teenager at the window, and drove back on to the interstate — only to learn that the restaurant had screwed up my order. Arrgh!
Everyone who has ever bought goods has probably experienced the sensation of being ripped off. It’s an old complaint — in fact, as old as commerce itself.
This point was driven home by a 4000-year-old Babylonian tablet found in the British Museum — a tablet that is, in its entirety, a complaint about bogus business practices. A merchant, Nanni, is upset because Ea-nasir cheated him in a transaction for copper ingots. Ea-nasir, the charlatan, promised high-quality ingots, delivered crappy ones, and kept Nanni’s money nevertheless. Nanni was upset — so upset that he hired a scribe who prepared the complaint tablet. Why did Ea-nasir keep the tablet so that it survived for 4,000 years? Who knows? Maybe conniving bastard got a chuckle out of the sense of utter powerlessness that radiates through poor Nanni’s predicament, even to someone reading the message after the passage of millennia.
What really bothered Nanni is what really bothers those of us who get screwed in our business dealings: he felt that he was being treated with contempt. And he was!
Richard and Julianne decided to buy a jigsaw puzzle while they were here. (Curse them!) We spent part of their visit working on the puzzle, which features a painting of a beach scene at twilight, with about half of the picture consisting of the sky. (Curse them both!)
Of course, we couldn’t finish the puzzle during their visit. (Of course!) So the unfinished puzzle sat there on the dining room table, taunting me, its bizarrely shaped pieces spread across the polished wooden surface. (Heh heh! You’ll never finish me, old man!) So I spent part of Sunday working on it, and finally completed the water, the beach, and the horizon, which left me with . . . the sky. (Give up, old man! Feel the sting of failure when, after weeks of frustration and anguish, you finally sweep me, uncompleted, back into the box and put me in a closet hoping you never see me again!)
It is a standard rule that, in any jigsaw puzzle of an outdoor scene, the sky will always be the last part of the puzzle that gets completed. (The sky is unconquerable!) That is because the sky is always the hardest part of the puzzle, and the normal progression of puzzle completion goes from easiest to hardest — first the edges, then the obvious landmarks, then everything else but the sky. (The sky rules!) And then the puzzler hits the wall and all of the accumulated momentum and false hopes crash and burn, and finishing the puzzle becomes a cold, hard slog of trying to find one miserable piece at a time. (Heh heh! That’s right! That’s right! And it will never happen! Never!)
Aren’t jigsaw puzzles supposed to be a pleasant leisure time entertainment activity?