Grabbing for the Gusto!

for the week of September 4, 2000
by Rubel Shelly

The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes has long been favorite reading for me. It is a call for God's creatures to discover the true meaning of life. It begins by ticking off some of the common mistakes people make in their pursuit of happiness. A refrain is heard after the description of each one: It is "meaningless," a mere "chasing after the wind." Scott Wenig tells about an enterprising lady in New York City who provides new meaning to that refrain.

In a city of eight million cats and eleven million dogs, burying a deceased tabby or pooch can be challenging. Few people in a city of high-rise apartments can dig a grave in their back yards, and graves in pet cemeteries are pricey. So the lady in question decided to offer a service to her fellow city-dwellers and to make some money in the process. This is her ethically dubious procedure.

She would place an occasional ad in the newspaper that said: "When your pet dies, I will come and take care of the carcass for you for $25." When she got a call, she would go to a nearby Salvation Army store and buy an old suitcase for a couple of dollars. Then she went to the house or apartment, received the deceased pet from its owner, and placed it in the clean suitcase she had bought.

She would then get on a subway, set her suitcase down, and act like an absent-minded woman who was paying no attention to her belongings. It seldom took long for one of the many thieves working the subways to spot the suitcase, position himself nearby, and snatch it as the doors opened at the next stop. She would dutifully look up and yell, "Stop! Thief!" The shrewd thief would simply glide away with his prize occasionally looking back to smirk his contempt at another dull-witted victim who had been bamboozled by his smooth technique.

Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall when those "clever" souls opened those suitcases? Don't you hope some of them had cronies around and had bragged on how easy it was to rob the mindless woman on the subway before opening the bags to display their contents? Oops. Gotcha!

When one of us pursues happiness in the things of this world, we look very much like those subway thieves in New York. Drugs, affairs, greed, stealing, lies, abusing trust they all make their appeal by holding out the prospect of instant gratification. So we grab one with a silly expectation of bliss. It never delivers.

Next time your eye or heart is drawn to an easy-but-forbidden prize, think about the subway lady. You could be about to open a nasty crate of trouble.

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