Finding Comfort in Other People’s Misfortunes

posted in: Humor | 2

I’ve been out of work for three months, my wife caught the shingles and had a tooth infection, one of our cars needs work, and our chimney bricks are rotten and need replacement. Great, huh? If it sounds bad, that’s probably because it is, but as people always says, “It could be worse.”

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Career in a Casket: cheer me up. Tell me how miserable you are. Click To Tweet

I suppose they’re right, but my first reaction to those people is usually, “Go screw yourself.” It takes all of my restraint to nod and smile and pretend I agree with them. Thank you for your insight, oh swami. My fortune cookie also contains great wisdom. And six lucky numbers too.

What Cheers Me Up?

All right, I agree, things could be worse, but I have trouble taking comfort in that. Sure, I find some small degree of happiness in the simple pleasures of life: knocking off a box of chocolate chip cookies in one sitting, drinking beer until my eyes bleed, staring at my belly button, but the only thing that seems to cheer me up, the only thing that puts a smile on my face, is knowing that somehow, somewhere, other people are even more miserable than I am.

If I know that just one person is suffering, somehow the gloom lifts, the clouds part, and my whole day gets better. It provides me great joy knowing that other people in the world are worse off than we are.

You Lost Your What?

The afternoon that I broke the news I had lost my job to my wife, she had just gotten home from picking our daughter Colleen up at school. I waited until she settled and shuffled towards her. “I’ve got some bad news.”

I could see the alarm on her face. I waited for her to join me at the kitchen table. “What is it?”

“I lost my job.” While she took her time to absorb the news, I continued on with the explanation my boss had given me: all of the nonsense about needing everyone in Product Development to live in Europe, no budget to hire anyone in Operations, my annual naked Christmas card. Blah blah blah. The usual babble.

Finding Comfort in Other People's Misfortunes: a Picture of Jobs and Obituaries
Jobs and Obits Side by Side

When I finished, she didn’t look as upset as I had anticipated. “I thought you were going to tell me someone had died,” she said.

“I wish I was.”

What?

Had I just said that?

Lana looked more surprised at that statement than at my lost job. What a terrible thing to say. I couldn’t believe I had blurted that out. It was the first thought that had entered my head. What could I do? It was too late to take it back. The truth was out there now.

Besides, don’t we all I know a few expendable people?

I wasn’t wishing for anyone specifically to die; it was more of a general “if only” kind of thought. You know what I mean: “If only so and so would get on already” or “Old Bob next door is really up there in years. He’s been through so much. If only…”

If only. If only I hadn’t lost my job.

Days Became Weeks

Over the next few weeks, I broke the news to my friends. Some of them have had tough times too, so I knew they’d understand, but I was looking for more than compassion. I had a deeper purpose: it gave me an opportunity to relish their misfortunes.

“I lost all of my clients in the span of a week,” said one.

I smiled.

“I was really sick last year. I couldn’t get out of bed for months.”

More. More.

“My house burned to the ground, my wife left me, and my dog died.”

“Terrible,” I said, but I hadn’t felt that happy in weeks. I felt alive again, and all it took was other people’s suffering. This wasn’t normal. There had to be something wrong with me.

Months Passed

As time went by, I found myself gravitating to obituaries as much as job searches. I was finding comfort in local obits, those from distant places, the “Off Belay” section of the Mountaineers magazine – anywhere I could. At least I’m not that guy, I told myself.

Finding Comfort: A Funeral for My Career
Career in a Casket

For a while, that was enough. All I needed was my daily obit fix and I was fine. Eventually though, I noticed that I wasn’t getting the same high. I would read without any sense of elation at all. What was wrong? Where had the thrill gone?

Then one day as I was driving, I passed a funeral home and it hit me. That’s it! Funeral services! I was going to have to escalate my addiction. Friends had warned me about becoming a bad news junkie, but I was beyond help. I had no control. I couldn’t stop myself.  Finding comfort in funerals was the next step.

My first time at a complete stranger’s funeral was an odd experience. “Excuse me,” asked a family member. “How did you know my father?”

“I didn’t,” I said. “I’m just a fan.”

After being escorted out the door by the funeral director, I learned from my mistake. “High school friend”, “college friend”, “knew him from town” became standard replies. I’d offer my condolences, then sit in the back and…

Never Happened

Wait.

Did you believe me?

Calm down, I didn’t visit any funeral homes. Are you nuts? What kind of sicko do you think I am? I may be miserable, but I don’t take pleasure in other people’s deaths. I would take pleasure in a job, or maybe a winning lottery ticket, or a box of chocolate-covered Oreos, but not someone’s demise.

I have to admit though, it’s nice to know that some of you are in the same boat as I am.

Finding Comfort: Please Cheer Me Up

So if you’re as miserable as I am, please let me know. It’s all I have to look forward to. Send me a blurb that I can read to go along with the obituaries, and I promise to send you an update on every job I get turned down for. Let’s suffer together.

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2 Responses

  1. A colleague

    I was surprised to hear you were gone.
    I agree that it makes no sense to find solace in the somebody else’s misfortunes, your pain does not diminish because somebody is having it worse; people will say that when they don’t know how to make you feel better.

    So, the only thing I can say is that I appreciate the time we spent working together and I can recognize your value as a person and professional. I wish you the best.

    • Hi Adrian, thanks. Yes, I had a good run with the company, but it’s changed way too much over the years, so I don’t think I’ll miss it as much as I thought.
      BTW, the post was meant to be funny. I hope it came across that way. 🙂
      Best of luck and thanks.

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