Reality T.V. is a misnomer, even if we completely ignore the whole actor versus nobody argument. There isn’t much reality in those shows. The networks cut out the monotonous maintenance.
Who can blame them, really? Would you watch a show that was only about Kate driving to the zoo, or cutting up carrots, or folding the laundry?
Vince Shlomi couldn’t sell that show.
Normally I would argue that we are what we do all day every day. Today, though, I’m focusing on some surreal moments that have defined me.
During my last year of high school, I was working for the local paper to earn credits toward my diploma. An excited bird watcher called the paper to report a rare bird sighting on the lake behind his house. I can’t remember what kind of bird it was, but I remember that it was too far away for a good picture.
The guy offered to take me out in his canoe. He gave me a lifejacket, helped me climb in, and paddled toward the bird. I had been on a romantic canoe ride with my boyfriend the week before. With that serene scene in mind, it was absurd to find myself crouching in a canoe wearing office clothes, camera at my eye, listening to a stranger whisper facts about the bird.
In the end, I didn’t get the shot, but I got a taste for chasing little pleasures.
The winter before, my boyfriend and I were driving to a funeral on roads that were covered with ice and snow after a storm. He couldn’t safely drive faster than half the posted speed limit.
On a back road, far away from the last farm house, there was a car flipped over in the ditch. As we slowly drove by, I thought I saw movement in the front seat, so I asked him to stop. He reversed a few feet and parked on the snowy gravel shoulder opposite the accident.
I watched my boyfriend pry open the passenger door and pull a stunned woman out of the tangle of a seatbelt and then out of her car. And then another woman. I stepped into the cold air, gathered my long, black dress, and ran over to make sure they were okay.
They seemed okay, but shaken up. We all used our cell phones to call for help. Assured that the women would be safe, and afraid to be late, we got back in our car and headed north again for the funeral.
Watching my boyfriend extract those people from a rolled over hatchback that afternoon and then holding his hand as he accepted condolences that evening after saying goodbye to his grandmother, I understood both the tenacity of life and its frailties. I could see that even though we had little control over certain situations, we had choices in many others.
A few years later, my surreal moments started to take me down a darker path.
The new definition of me began in an ugly green office. That green wouldn’t wash off my fingers, and it grew on my skin like moss. My only response at the time had been, What?