Inverse Optimist

I remember when Dan, my older brother, sat at the table pointing at his glass of milk.”If you think this is half full,” he said with the kind of authority only an older, smarter brother can muster, “You’re an optimist.””But!”  he said with a dramatic flair, sweeping his arm towards the glass. “If you think it’s half empty, well, then you are a pessimist.”  He smirked as if he had just figured out the theory of relatives or whatever Einstein figured out.I nodded at him, and he seem satisfied that I caught on. But I didn’t. I mean, after all it was just a glass of milk. If it’s half full or half empty you can always get more. We always had milk.”What if its water?” I finally asked as he drank the milk. He almost choked.”It’s still the same!””You mean it turns into milk?” I asked, a little more confused.”No, no, no!” he shook his head.  “Water is water, milk is milk, and it just depends on how much is in your glass and how full you think it is.”Even more confused, I didn’t ask him my next question. What if you have half a carton of milk? Then what are you? I just nodded and busied myself with my piece of cake. I looked at my cake and thought if I ate half then I’d only have a half piece of cake. But, if Mom gave me two pieces of cake, then I’d have two pieces.Either way it wouldn’t be enough. I loved cake.Now fast forward a few decades and I’m in a truck stop in the middle of nowhere waiting for my wife to decide which stale roll will go with her coffee. It’s late at night and we have a few more hours of driving to go.As I wander through the aisles, a sign catches my eye, “Assorted Tapes $1.” I begin to dig through the pile of shrink-wrapped cassettes and see old and new recording artists all mixed together in this box. Some have prices like $19.99 still marked on them from another time and place. Some were replicas from my own collection. I mused at the difference in price that I had paid, and how much they they were worth now.In another box was a pile of used video tapes. Movies that used to make me think of popcorn, plush seats, a big dark room, and the excitement of seeing pretty girls giggling a few rows away, are now laying helter-skelter in a dirty cardboard box at a dingy truck stop. Starlets who used to be so popular have their faces smudged by worn tape covers. Leading men who are projecting a macho image seem oddly forlorn and out of date. I almost feel sorry for them.”Two for $5‚” the sign advertises. The truck stop floor needs to be cleaned, there are bugs flying through the muggy, midnight air. An obviously unhappy woman stands sleepily behind the counter. She looks bored as she stares out the window. Finally my wife makes her decision and we pay and get on our way.”You know what?” I ask her as we drive back onto the interstate.”What?””I’m glad I’m just a middle-aged ordinary man, and not an aging rock star.””Okay‚” She thought there must be more coming. “This roll is stale. You want some?””No.” I say. She sips her coffee and studies the roll.”You think you’re some kind of artist on the way up. You end up with all these adoring fans and maybe lots of money. And then…””Then what?” She asks as she peels a napkin from her roll.”After a few years all the glitz and glitter fades and you find your art‚ in a bargain box in a rundown truck stop, where no one will buy it.””But you were rich and famous for awhile,” my wife argues, “look at the bright side.””And then it ends.””You’re such a pessimist!” She says. “You can find the down side of anything.””No, really I’m an optimist” I argue. “Only not a traditional optimist. I’m more of an inverted optimist.””What’s an inverted optimist?””Well, you know how the old saying goes, if you see the glass as half full, you’re an optimist, and half empty you’re a pessimist?”  I’d finally figured out Dan’s analogy.”Okay‚””Well, I’m the kind of guy that looks at a half a can of trash and thinks ‘good, its half empty I don’t have to take it out.'””What about those people who think its half full?””Well, those people are inverted pessimists.” I declare.”If a wife thinks her husband has half a brain, does that make her an optimist or a pessimist?” My wife asks with a glint in her eye.”I suppose that would just make her a feminist.”

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