Click, tap, click.
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Communi-t-y: Your Home, Here — and Now! …???
Susannah felt as if she were 11 again. Back at Wilkinson P.S., rocking her chair legs back and forth. Tugging her braids until her scalp went raw. Waiting in agony… ten minutes until morning recess. Click-scrape, clickety-click, all the live-long day.
That day, Mrs. Wilson tapped her pointer in Susannah’s direction. When the dismissal bell rang, the teacher had called “Susie” to the front desk.
“Good girls have a positive attitude. You want to get along in life, don’t you? Especially a special, good girl like you?”
“Yes, Mrs. Wilson.”
Yet here she was, that special good girl, thirty later years, still rocking and picking her scalp now in an ergonomically correct chair. Alone, clicking and tapping at the keyboard all the live-long day. Soldered to her screen, pumping pitches for sleazoid bank scum.
She opened her Facebook tab, Twitter feed, then powered up Deezer.
Her dating app. Another “like” from a guy in his sixties, wearing a Jays baseball cap. She clicked his profile. This loser seemed like the king of thirsty, horny, old-assed tropes. Him, smiling, standing on a dock with a four-foot-long Marlin dangling in a net. Him skidding a wake of foam on jet skis at some tropical paradise. Then selfie after selfie after — WTF — a really stupid selfie in his bathroom mirror with his shirt off. Susannah stifled a giggle.
“Oh, my God.”
He’d saved the best for last. A shot of balding-loser-guy, paunch pressed against a shiny red Porsche Boxster, polishing his reflection in the hood with Carnauba Wax. Susannah wondered who took that picture. Not his wife. She’d have made him put a shirt on. Susannah couldn’t remember the last time she watched a man walk around with no shirt on. Susannah craved a cigarette. No one dated smokers. She checked her news feed instead.
Well, Mayhem, Crises, and Death were still on their global gallop. Just three out of four. Oddly reassuring. In the corner of the website, a young woman in a white caftan Adobe-flashed a brilliant-white smile.
Find the happiest you and live longer to enjoy it
A new study published Monday finds men and women with the highest levels of optimism had an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan on average than those who practiced little positive thinking. The highest-scoring optimists also had the greatest odds of living to age 85 or beyond.
Take this test and see for yourself.
“They spelled practise wrong.” Mrs. Wilson would be proud of her for catching that.
Oh, well. It was only supposed to take fifteen minutes. What did she have to lose?
Pick what you believe to be the most positive picture.
Start the test that will change your life.
But before you begin, relax and imagine your favorite place. Imagine you are happy and at peace.
Susannah closed her eyes and imagined. Waves lapped against the shore of a crystal-clear lake. Languid limbs spread to the edge of a Muskoka chair, smooth and sanded. Moist cedar wafted in the air. Her warm sun-dappled skin was lightly beaded in salty sweat.
A man’s hand, firm but soft, caressed her cheek.
“Okay, hon. Wish you a good catch.”
“I caught you, didn’t I?”
Lips lifted into a smile. Eyes opened to kind, blue orbs, and safe-man hands in a safe, kind world. He smelled of sun and sand. His lips grew close. His breath…
BOOM. THUD. BOOM. THUD.
Low thumps boomed from the apartment above. The feedback screech pierced the room. Freaking upstairs neighbor! Susannah drew a deep, cleansing breath. She opened her eyes.
No more man. No more lake. No more magic place.
Half the building had turned Airbnb. The first month, a snoring smoker kept her up half the night. The next, she’d had to listen to that skinny, fake-tan woman’s yappy dogs. And upstairs now, the third new tenant in three months fancied himself a bass player. Susannah stomped to the kitchen and put lunch in the microwave. She passed the set of Ginsu knives hanging above her stove. Last year’s Christmas present from Mom. Susannah stomped back to her desk.
She rubbed her forehead and felt sandpaper. Well, the $83, 48-mL jar of Soft-as-Sin moisturizer was a bust. Her index fingers slid down an inch to knead her frown furrow. She reached for her mouse and scrolled down the screen.
Black type on a bright sky-blue rectangle.
Do you have a happy brain?
Beneath the header sat a fat, coral-colored, kidney bean shape. Inside, crimp- cramped, fleshy smooth, pink intestines perched atop a papaya-colored brain-stem cone.
Pick the most positive picture from each example.
Same black type above pictures in a rectangle.
Top left: Colorful pencils. Rainbow-colored pencils circled in a fan; Peach, yellow-peach, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, sky blue, navy blue, magenta, pink, aqua, jade, and green, greener than the grass that waved in the wind by her imaginary happily-ever-after-married-to-kind-man lake.
No black. No white. Not like the divorce that landed her in this condo dump. That tale was told in black-and-white lies and a big-boobed blonde.
Bottom left: Romping puppies. Too cutesy. Like her mom’s daily YouTube links.
Top right: Contented Kitten. A spent calico kitten splayed out on its back.
Bottom right: Waiting Alone. A man’s silhouette, far off at the end of an overpass tunnel, sitting on a bench. The man was bent over. He held his head in his hands.
BOOM. BEE-OW. BOOM-CHUKKA, BOOM-CHUKKA-BOOMED IN DEEP STACCATO THUDS
Susannah was considering the sad-man silhouette square. But she chose the colored pencils instead. She saw herself climbing step-by-step up the stairs to the new guy’s apartment. She felt the door against her knuckles as they wrapped-a-tatted until it swung open. “Pleased to meet you,” she’d say. And what might she do with that sharp rainbow of color when she looked into the asshole’s eyes?
“Stop it. Get back to the test.”
Ping, ping, ping.
Lunch! Susannah padded to the kitchen and opened the microwave door to grab her Great Value Vegetable Stir Fry in the blue-and-white cardboard box. She juggled a fork and napkin in one hand, the too-hot cardboard box in the other, and walked back to the screen.
Same type. Same rectangle, four new pictures.
Top left: Engine trouble. Two men (of course, Susannah thought, it would be men) huddled beneath a car hood, wrenches and tools at hand.
Bottom left: Side Swipe. A surly man and man and woman, phones glued to their ears, stood by two cars at the edge of a side street. The woman’s face, distressed and helpless.
Calling her angry hubby. Typical.
Top right: Multi-car wreck. Police black-and-whites lined up next to firemen with ruddy faces and yellow slickers amid a clutch of smashed cars. Phonedroid zombies pointed their cell lenses at a hapless man in a purple shirt, soon to be handcuffed.
“No blood?” A multi-car wreck would have severed limbs rolling on the pavement. Or at least some blood.
Bottom right: Fender bender. Two front-crunched blue cars were stalled at the side of the road. A young smiling man and woman texted.
No blood. No crises. No mayhem. No death. Very positive.
“Multi-car wreck it is.”
Which is crucial to your happiness?
The perfect marriage: A cutesy groom and bride stood in front of a white church, arms out, both with their thumbs up. Thumbs with little magic-marker happy faces. The groom’s thumb sported a smiley face and had a bow tie. The bride’s thumb-face had eyelashes and curly-squiggles for hair.
Susannah clenched her teeth.
“Poor thing. She has no idea what she’s getting into.”
Susannah thought of the envelope with this month’s alimony in the drawer beneath her keyboard. She knew she had to open it soon. She put it from her mind.
The right job: A green highway sign read “Dream job,” in big, block, white letters. Farther along, near a sign labeled, “Next Exit,” a blinking pink neon light flashed: “Going places.”
Wealth: Blue sky shone above a green, grassy hill. Fluffy clouds danced in the sky. In the foreground sat a tree trunk with dollar bills instead of leaves on its branches. Two bills lay on the ground.
Spiritual Bliss: Two hands were folded in prayer. Susannah clicked the praying hands.
“How many of these are left?”
She scrolled down. Just two. She could do that.
Pick what makes you happiest.
Nurturing: A gray-haired Wilford Brimley look-alike except with hair pushed a child on a bike. The bike had training wheels.
The kid looks scared shitless. Stop it, grandpa.
Thrill-Seeking: A tandem skydiver, mid-air, ready to deploy a drogue parachute, smiled. With a mouthful of big, lustrous teeth.
“Smiling. Really, smiling?” That instructor looks 12.
Physical Challenges: A rock climber, white-knuckle-clutched a cliff edge. Her rock-climbing buddy lagged far behind.
Where is the safety tether? Oh. That green-and-white striped thing attached to the silver hook on her tool belt.
Aging in Love: Another couple, with faces like two leathered Shar-Peis, lay back on a fuzzy, red blanket atop grass dotted with red oak leaves. Both smiled up into the sunshine.
“No sunglasses? That’s how you get cataracts, idiots.”
Look at those teeth. Gotta be dentures. Susannah sighed and shook a cramp out of her left hand. God help them all, she thought. Four accidents waiting to happen. A kid about to break his neck, a body set to splat, another about to tumble over a rocky ledge, and a stupefied old couple waiting to die. Susannah clicked on the skydiver. Maybe the praying hands could help her.
What activities would make you happy?
Yoga: A pretzel-woman in a pink leotard tried to pull off a tricky Trikonasana.
Align those hips, woman, or your back is toast.
Meditation: A suit-and-tie guy in stocking feet, shoes at his side, sat on the floor of a very large cubical. His eyes were shut, he sat in resting pose, his hands in Dhyana Mudra.
Never in the history of office fluorescents did a guy who meditates get a cubical that big. There were no cubicles anymore, anyway. Just a revolving seat at a “team desk.” Or a no-never-ever cubicle job, working home alone, rising up through Upwork.
Exercise: An early-bird runner sprinted uphill. The sun rose on the horizon. Green grass surrounded the smooth, brownstone path beneath his Nike Gyakusou Turbos.
“Ha!” If he keeps going and rounds that curve, he might just run into the money tree.
Going to a concert: A band rocked onstage amid a propylene-glycol haze and flashing strobes. A sea of arms waved in the mosh pit. Upfront and center stage, a bass player wailed. Susannah picked the concert.
Now to get your score, just fill in these few details.
A pop-up, with spaces for her email, postal code and phone number.
BEEEE-OOOW. BOOM-CHUKKA, BOOM, CHUKKA, BOOM-BOOM-BOOM. THUMP. HMMMMBUZZZZZ.
The devil boom-buzz thunder from above turned into an off-key storm.
“Click, my ass.”
Slow and deliberate, she rose, went to her kitchen and stopped in front of the Ginsu knives.