Rock Bottom

March 7, 2003

I’ve been having a bad week. Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up thinking things can’t get any worse, and after you get splashed by a car that seemed to aim right for that big oily puddle in front of you, after the soft drink in your lunch spontaneously exploded while you were putting it in the refrigerator, after your computer crashed just in time for the autosave feature to not kick in, after your microwave popcorn burst into flames after you took it out of the microwave, after looking up and seeing that it’s only 9:30 you think that it’s not going to get worse, and by 10:00 it’s gotten worse? I’ve had one of those days every day this week.

Most days when something bad happens, such as getting a paper cut on your eye, it’s easy to think, "Well, this is the worst that’s happened to me today," and things don’t seem so bad. Then there are those days when you drop your pen and you think, "That’s it, I might as well kill myself." Scientists can untangle the very building blocks of matter but they’ll never explain why some days you think, "Boy, the only thing that could make my life better would be a hovercraft" and some days you feel like Sisyphus. Sisyphus, as you know, was a Greek who was punished for some crime by eternally having to push a rock uphill in Hades, and every time he got the rock to the top of the hill it would roll back down. You’d think after a while he’d just refuse to roll the rock anymore, but apparently it didn’t work that way.

What bothered me was that none of the books I read explained what Sisyphus had done in the first place. He was just one of those attractions people took the holiday cruise down the River Styx to see, all those people who want to do something really different for their vacations, and of course Ray Harryhausen’s always there doing research. Sisyphys is there with his rock and so is Tantalus who is perpetually up to his neck in water with food hanging right over his head but any time he tries to eat or drink anything it all moves away from him, and the Stygian witches who are supposed to fill a barrel with water but all they had to carry the water were sieves. What did these people do? Well, the Greeks thought the punishment must somehow fit the crime so Sisyphus was constantly promising friends he would come over and help them move a piano up a flight of stairs only to leave them to do it themselves at the last minute, and Tantalus always showed up right before dinner but never invited anybody over, and the Stygian witches…well, obviously they were supposed to housesit for someone, and because there were three of them they ran up a huge hot water bill.

And what about that guy who splashed me by driving his car right through a puddle? I imagine he’ll spend eternity wearing wool slacks without even an umbrella, and he’ll get splashed by a car going by. Every time his slacks get dry he’ll get splashed by a car going by. That probably won’t happen because it’s not nearly as exciting a tourist attraction as a guy pushing a rock, but I do feel a little better thinking about it.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


An eighteen year-old Dublin girl goes to see her mum and tells her that she is two months late. Very worried, the mother goes to the chemist and buys a pregnancy kit. The test result shows that the girl is pregnant. Shouting, cursing, crying, the mother says, "Who was the pig that did this to you? I want to know!!" The girl picks up the phone and makes a call. Half an hour later a brand new Ferrari stops at their house, a mature and distinguished man, with grey hair and impeccably dressed in a very expensive suit steps out of it and enters the house.

He sits in the living room with the father, the mother and the girl, and says, "Good morning, your daughter has informed me of the problem. However, I can’t marry her because of my personal family situation, but I’ll take charge. If a girl is born I will bequeath her 3 stores, 2 townhouses, a beach villa and a £1,000,000 bank account. If a boy is born, my legacy will be a couple of factories, and a £1,000,000 bank account. If it is twins, a factory and GBP500,000 each. However, if there is a miscarriage…"

At this point, the father, who had remained silent all the time, placed a hand firmly on the man’s shoulder and said:

"Don’t worry, you can always try again."

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