Ever since Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman lived out their dreams in the movie “The Bucket List,” a new fad has swept across America. Everyone has a bucket list: people in ICU’s, coyote women — even kindergartners have bucket lists. In affluent areas like Marin Country that have more than a kooky slant to them, there are, I’m sure, free classes in bucket listing at every adult education center, plus a range of private consultants if you want a more tailored (read “designer”) bucket.
I don’t want to offend anyone who has gone the bucket list route, but I am not a big fan. First of all, it sets one up for disappointment. Let’s say you get a stroke. Then what do you do? Lie there and get maudlin over the fact you’ll never accomplish anything on your bucket list?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a list of some sort. If you have a year to live, aren’t bedridden and can find a crazy, stinking-rich friend, I say, “Have at it.” But remember, even Jack Nicholson with all his money, didn’t finish his list in the movie.
The rest of us should be more realistic. For example, instead of a bucket list, I have a pail list. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are some examples of the items on my pail list:
• Get into a half-lotus yoga position, just once.
• Obtain a dentist appointment that won’t involve drilling but will involve free nitrous oxide.
• Drive down #101 on the Peninsula and not encounter an accident-related traffic jam.
• Have my call to customer support be answered after two rings by a real person (extra credit if that person is an American).
• Have a day when my computer does not say it needs my security password.
• Watch people jump off a bridge with a bungee cord around their ankles.
• Take my car for its annual checkup and have the mechanic say, “I couldn’t find anything wrong. No charge.”
• (The same as above with my doctor.)
• Spend a day with my grandchildren where I never hear, “But Papa John, that wouldn’t be fair.”
• Go to a first-run movie that has no ticket line.
• Have a story accepted by the New Yorker and turn them down saying, “Sorry, it was just accepted by Willpublishanystory.com.”
• Just once, order dinner in a Chinese restaurant and have no food left over.
Once you have your pail list, you need to actively manage it and this is where most people fall down. They feel they’ve done all the work of coming up with the list and now it’s up to God, or the lottery, or a rich uncle dying, or karma to see that it all happens.
But the world doesn’t work that way. If you want something, you have to earn it — unless you are a legislator.
Take, for example, the item about having a day with my grandchildren where the word “fair” is never used. Even if I spent every day with them until they graduated from college that would never happen. So I have to take matters into my own hands.
“Hey, kids. Wanna play a new game?”
(Greeted by a chorus of “Yeah!”)
This game is called Duct Taped for a Day.
“How do you play that, Poppa John?”
“Let me set up the game and then I’ll answer any questions.” With that, proceed to stick a piece of duct tape over each child’s mouth.
“OK, any questions? No? Good. Now Poppa John’s going to watch the football game.” (NOTE: please treat “duct tape” figuratively. You can use an ace bandage, a handkerchief, whatever you’re comfortable with that won’t hurt the child.)
Get the idea? Think outside the box. Bend some rules if you have to. It’s your list. You decide what’s fair — a word you are allowed to use freely.
There is one more wish for my pail list, something I’ve wanted to do since I was little — walk on the surface of the moon. No, wait, that belongs in a bucket.
This Week’s Ponder: If someone using a pen name on Facebook wishes you happy birthday, how sincere is that?