Friday, June 4, 2010

If found, please return Common Sense

There is a reason 'common sense' is missing from my resume.  I can debate philosophy, and pontificate on therapeutic theories, but drop me off on the side of the road and we might as well say our final good-byes.  It turns out that knowing Jung’s archetypes or the ability to quote Shakespeare falls short when trying to succeed in the real world. Majoring in Women’s Studies is fine, but additional courses in Street Smarts probably would have been more useful.

Case in point:
Last summer I was looking for a job which meant that I invested endless hours perusing Craigslist,,,, and the LA Times classifieds. I sat down each morning and scrolled until my eyes glazed over as I fought the urge to toss my computer out the window. 

And then I found it – it was perfect.  Apparently, this lovely upstanding businessman needed some assistance and was happy to have me work from home.  It seemed that all I had to do was receive packages, which he assured me were not filled with drugs or stolen goods, and then forward them to other business associates.  He would gladly pay me $1,000 a week to simply sit at home, greet the FedEx man and resend the parcels.  I immediately wrote him to apply, because obviously, a job this wonderful would be in high demand.  And guess what? To start, I just needed to send him my address, phone number, email address, and bank account number.

Let the eye rolling begin.

Having somehow set my scam radar to mute, I promptly sent all of the information, minus the bank account number, and went to share the good news with my housemates.  They were surprisingly unsupportive upon hearing that I had just given out our address and phone number to a potential serial killer. Huh…hadn’t really thought of that. Or their theory that the situation reeked of illegality and I should probably include substantial prison time in my five-year life plan.

Then there was the online apartment listing.  Beautiful two bedroom fully furnished home, including all utilities, for only $400 a month.  The owner was overseas and really just needed someone to watch over her home and keep it clean.  I was up to the task.  So I was instructed to send her a $2,000 deposit, she would ship me the key, and if I wasn’t satisfied, she would gladly refund my money.  I'm proud to say I at least paused before writing the check. But the pictures looked so beautiful and it was quite the bargain for a Beverly Hills apartment.

Of course the pictures look beautiful, Lauren.  They’re photographs copied from a decorating magazine!

After these, and a variety of others experiences best unmentioned lest my parents have a heart attack and ban me from ever living more than five feet away from home, I figured I had finally learned the ways of the world. I was ready for my diploma, confident that I would no longer gasp over ‘Gullible’ being removed from the dictionary.

Not so fast. Have I mentioned I tend to have a slow learning curve?

While walking my puppy one evening, we met a neighbor and sat down to chat for a few minutes while our dogs sniffed around. Wow, she’s so friendly.  This is great! I left her with my phone number and dog park plans in our future. Did it occur to me that, after knowing me for five minutes,  detailing her desire to have an affair with her married doctor or her request to borrow any painkillers, muscle relaxants, or anxiety medication I might have on hand possibly might be a tad premature, not to mention completely inappropriate?

Of course it did.... after I got four calls and three text messages just letting me know that she didn’t think the doctor was ever going to leave his wife, and that she had just taken 8 xanax and was off to locate additional pills to get through the night. Plus she was “Depressed. Miserable.  Hating life.”  

And we’ll just put this common sense diploma back in the drawer.

 Ironically, I worry about dusty shelves and folding the laundry, but not about the probable earthquake or apartment robbery.  Until I’ve had personal experience with peril, I lack the insight to use caution. I'm lucky this way.  I didn’t have to spend my childhood worrying about living on the streets or how to scrounge up food to feed my brother.  I didn’t swap stories of parents in prison or neighborhood shootings.  The police were merely monitors of speed and evil was confined to characters on the page.

I'm lucky.  It is actually a luxury to lack common sense.  Not the wisest of life strategies, but still lucky. Of course, I did develop my own roster of insane worries and cluttered my brain with fictitious problems, but I can appreciate the gift of gullibility that my childhood granted.

 I find myself reluctant to claim street smarts, aware of the loss linked to limiting trust and realistic world perspectives.  I don’t want to check around corners or operate based on fear while guarding my heart from harm. I know it’s a valuable skill, but there’s that little girl piece that clings to Anne Frank’s sentiment “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.”

I’ve learned to seek advice before accepting Craigslist jobs, and to ask for guidance prior to giving out critical personal information.  I remind myself WWBD (What Would Benj Do – because, while we grew up in the same house, somehow my brother got the majority of the common sense genes). I still trust too soon and ignore others’ nonexistent boundaries.  I don’t have the high paying job requiring absolutely no work or the apartment featured in newsstands. I chat with the man behind me in the check out line and offer free therapy to neighbors in need.

 I practice giving freely, loving wisely, and protecting myself as fiercely as I would for a loved one.  I aim for balance between knowledge and kindness.  I integrate caution with adventure and mix practicality with playfulness.  My default setting is still hopeful and idealistic, but I lock the door behind me. I remember that anger, greed, pain, and desperation can skew a good soul. I act with compassion tinged by caution and continue to learn from life lessons, regardless if I’ve enrolled.

I never heard from the potential serial killer employer, which is great because this morning I discovered an even better job:

What if you could make money 24 hours a day 7 days a week???
CURIOUS ??!! Call us 24/7 and hear how that IS POSSIBLE !!!

I think I'm making progress.

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