Monday, March 26, 2012

My Larry Davidian Adventure

Larry David. Photo via HBO.
I'm in my room, and all of my friends are downstairs watching Curb Your Enthusiasm to celebrate our return to college for spring quarter. It's funny, the idea of celebrating the beginning of a new period of stress and intellectual turmoil. Starting a new quarter at school is as daunting as it exciting. We start new classes with high expectations, but also a lot of hesitation.

So I guess it makes sense that, of all the choices of things to watch, they've selected Curb Your Enthusiasm. The show is constantly hilarious and outrageous and incredible (providing high expectations), but it's characters - or perhaps character is a better term, referring to the amazing Larry David - can also be so terrifically awful and at times irritating (causing hesitation).

I would like to be down there, watching the show with them. But instead I'm taking a bit of time to myself to relax and reflect. To think about my own life and how perhaps I spend a bit too much of it in my own personal Curb Your Enthusiasm world.

For those who don't know the show, Larry is a bit of a (lovable) egotistical complainer. The character is based off the real life person who portrays him, Larry David, who co-created the series Seinfeld and who based the character of George Costanza after himself. He seems to find fault with everything, to put himself into terrible situations even when they could be avoided and to alienate people through his inability to filter his own internal monologue of jokes and quips.

This spring break I spent quite a bit of my time catching up on the last eight seasons of Curb. Prior to this year I'd seen less than a dozen episodes, occasionally deigning to watch one should it show up on TV, or should my friend Dana or my dad suggest we pop in one of the DVDs. But I never watched it actively.

Now that I have sat down and watched at least two dozen more episodes, I'm sad that it took me so long to get into this show that is entirely a reflection of the neuroses that often characterize my own existence. Larry is so real, so dumb at times, that I just can't help but feel a kinship with him. And this became especially evident to me today when I experienced my own Larry Davidian adventure.

When I got to the airport, I went through the security line as quickly as I could. It is my usual routine to wear easily removed shoes and have my laptop, liquids and other items beginning with "L" readily accessible so that I can breeze through the process seamlessly despite my bag being 5,000 pounds heavier than it's supposed to be.

Usually my vigilance works. Today it did not. I went through the checkpoint as nonchalantly as possible, feigning innocence if anyone should ask me whether or not my just-within-regulation-size bag had been weighed at the check-in counter. But instead of letting me through like a nice TSA, they had to go and find the one metal object in my bag and assume I was carrying some dangerous weapon.

"Did you bring a can opener?"

I had no idea what they were talking about. After putting my bag through the x-ray machine once more and finally deciding to do a manual check during which they removed my dorm room keys (Really? A can opener?), I was sent on my merry way. Through it all I somehow managed to keep my inner-Larry in check. No complaints. Just pleasantries and "thank yous" for allowing my enormous luggage through security and only suspecting me of trying to bring a lethal can opener onto the plane.

At the gate I was met with another trial of Larry David-ness when an older woman sat in the seat next to me talking to her friend about how wonderful her daughter was. "She was sent a letter from the University of Chicago because of her wonderful PSAT scores." I wanted to butt in. "I got a letter from Harvard because of my PSAT scores. They ended up rejecting me. Good luck to your daughter." Instead, I kept my inner-Larry from surfacing.

And unlike Mr. David who seems to face increasingly terrible problems due to his own inability to let bygones be bygones, I found myself reaping the benefits of keeping my cool.

Karma would have it that once I got on the plane, I would have a seat in the second row of the cabin with 20 feet of leg room (mild exaggeration) and about 30 TV channels (not an exaggeration). Granted, I'd paid for the better seat. But I like to think that it was some sort of cosmic thank-you for not blowing up in the face of Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque trauma.

About 30 minutes later, as they were closing the cockpit door, I realized that I had yet another gift from the Curb Gods. I had no one sitting next to me. For the remainder of the flight, I got to stretch out even more, leaving my bag sitting on the seat next to me and using both of my arm rests.

Though, when I arrived, I was faced with another Curb-y situation as my plane began taxiing just ten minutes before my bus left (leaving me to wait for an extra hour for the next bus to arrive), I left my flight feeling thankful that for once I had been rewarded for not being Larry.

Much of the time, especially with my dad who tends to complain a lot about little things like waiting in line, driving slowly, standing on an escalator or other inane things, I feel like my own patience for stupid situations leaves me in need of a catharsis.

Without complaining about the little things, I build up negative emotions about life - how "nothing ever goes my way" as they say - which makes things worse. But today was a reminder that by thinking about those times when your patience was rewarded - however inexplicably - by a happier circumstance, it is possible to feel better and not end up falling into the Larry David hole.

Much as I love Curb Your Enthusiasm on my television, I don't want it to seep into my life. Instead, I'd like to think I can keep myself from being so dissatisfied with the world that I end up complaining about it and putting myself into worse situations. In an ideal world, I'm more of a pacifist and a compromiser.

I start a new quarter tomorrow, and instead of going in with the high expectations (ready to be dashed) and the hesitation (expecting to be met), I'm going to start it off right: feeling like I am strong enough to will things to go my way.

Even if it's based on real life, what's good on television isn't always right for reality. As funny as my life might be as an episode of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, I'm happier with a less outrageous form of existence.

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