There’s a website called First World Problems. People write in about the trials and tribulations of being middle-class North Americans with nice clothes and comfy houses.
Here’s one submission: “I have to get dressed so I don’t look too lazy when I go out to pay the gardener.” Here’s another: “It’s nap time and my housekeeper is not done cleaning. How will I sleep?”
Over the holidays, I encountered my share of First World problems. Admittedly, one involves almost getting crushed by a rockslide, which does sound slightly Third World-y. But please, bear with me.
Difficulties arranging our new throw: A while back, we bought an expensive leather couch. I admired it because the leather looks all weathered and antiqued, as though salvaged from the Union Club’s attic.
But to my horror, it turned out the couch’s surface is easily scratched. Even gently gliding your fingernail across the leather leaves a disfiguring mark.
Friends say, “Yes, but doesn’t that add to the patina?” No, it doesn’t. The couch isn’t supposed to look like a cat had a spaz on it. It’s supposed to look like French aristocrats gently broke it in while sipping Courvoisier L’Espirit and wondering whether the peasants would eat cake.
Anyway, to protect the couch, we bought a decorative throw. It’s a nice one — marked down to $100 from $400. The problem is, I’m unable to arrange it in a casually elegant manner. The draping won’t hang correctly. I even studied the arrangements of other decorative throws on the Internet. Still couldn’t get it right.
My wife also tried arranging it. No good. Esthetically speaking, the effect was sub-par.
“What’s wrong with you?” I said. “That doesn’t look casually elegant. I thought you were supposed to be good at this stuff.”
“It looks fine. Don’t worry. It’s just a couch,” she said.
A First World problem? Perhaps. But still, a problem.
Cookie fiasco: One magical aspect of Christmas is the potential for overeating. All year long, we watch our diets (or pretend to). Then, over the yuletide break, we commence stuffing ourselves in the manner of geese in training to become fois gras.
“Hey, it’s Christmas,” we’ll say after a jumbo meal. “Pass the gravy. Don’t worry — I’ll just slurp directly from the pitcher.”
Foraging in the fridge (while still complaining about the throw-draping problem), I found a package of Christmas cookies. I inserted several into my mouth. They tasted horrible. Like meat or something.
“Hey, these cookies taste like meat or something.”
“What? You’re not eating from the little red bag, are you?” said my wife.
The bag was red.
“Those are homemade biscuits for the dog,” she said. “The chief ingredient is beef liver.”
In fact, our new housecleaner had kindly baked them as a gift for our pug. Another First World problem. Sadly, no one would pay heed to my heartfelt complaints.
The landslide: Returning from a Christmas lunch in Duncan, we descended the Malahat, only to find traffic was halted. This made me frantic. Then I noticed a line of cars turning into Goldstream Park.
“Let’s follow. We’ll cleverly bypass the traffic snarl,” I said.
My wife wasn’t keen. Of course, it turned out the Goldstream Park detour was blocked too. Not only that, most of the road was single-lane-only, making progress even more torturously slow.
What’s worse, I was now experiencing burgeoning intestinal distress. Possibly a lingering side effect of those beef-liver cookies.
“I’m going to have to dash into the bushes. Emergency pit stop,” I said.
“You are not,” said my companion. “You’ll hold up the line.”
My wife kept pointing out how poorly conceived my detour plan was, especially since it was now getting dark. She also kept fiddling with the radio in search of traffic updates. We were held up for one hour. Nature’s call was resisted only through Zen-like meditation. That and pretending my wife was in another country.
Back home, watching the news, we saw that a landslide caused the holdup. We’d missed being crushed by a Cadillac Escalade-sized rock. That would have been a bona fide non-First-World problem.
For a moment, we pondered the transitory nature of human existence. And then I said to my wife, “You know … that throw still doesn’t look right.”
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