Cardella: Pressure

By Tom Cardella

I got out of bed feeling really stressed out this morning. It’s the day after Helsinki or as I call it “Helstinky.” Poor Helsinki, Finland. A nice place, I hear. Green parks. Friendly laid-back people. But forevermore Helsinki will be known as the place where Donald J. Trump took a public dump on America. Helsinki has now become another Munich. Munich ought to be known for its cheerful beer gardens and its charm. Instead, it’s known as the place where Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler. Trump is today’s Chamberlain. Without the umbrella. And Trump’s double negative apology. I’m thinking we ought to replace HAIL TO THE CHIEF with THE VOLGA BOATMAN.

Hey, Trump isn’t the only reason my nerves are getting the best of me. Without Trump, there still would be SEPTA. I’m not about to throw SEPTA drivers under the bus. Overall, I like SEPTA drivers, except the one that blew through a bus stop at 19th and Lombard while my wife and I were standing there. Then stopped for us after the driver made the traffic light. Then moved on without us when she saw that we couldn’t cross the street against the light. I like most SEPTA riders too, although I confess that I could live without the ones who feel the need to devour a fast food meal to stave off “starvation” during their 20-minute trip.

No, what I really find stressful about SEPTA is that I never know where the bus will take me. There are detours and detours to the detours. You get about a 15-second notice from the driver before your bus is off to parts unknown. As a rider, I am forced to do a quick mental calculation to figure out when I have to depart the bus. Anyone that knows me understands that quick mental calculations about the location of streets in Philadelphia are not my forte. Riding a transit bus should not be an exercise in existentialism.

I’ve always felt pressured by modern life, although I’m thinking the Colonists had to worry about when the British were coming. We have this conceit that modern life is something special because WE are living it. You feel pressured too, I’m sure. But your pressure isn’t as important as my pressure because I’ve been taught from birth that I am the most important person in the world. It’s that belief that prevents insecurity, we’re told by “pop” psychiatrists. Feed the ego. And most of us are well-fed in that department. So be forewarned, this column is about ME feeling pressured, not you. You can commiserate, even self-identify. That’s what we columnists aim for. We rant about OUR problems and hope that you’ll either put up with us or be fooled into thinking we’re actually writing about yours.

It’s like that Billy Joel song — PRESSURE. You think Billy was writing about your pressure? He knows a great gig when he sees one. Wakes up one morning. Feels stressed out. Sits down at the piano (he IS the Piano Man, you know). Writes a lyric about his jitters (like he wouldn’t find someone after Christie Brinkley?). Records his rant. Sells a million copies. And waits until the next time he feels crappy, so he can complain in song and sell another million. I’m making slightly less than Billy Joel for writing this column, but the process is cathartic. I’m almost feeling less stressed already. Almost.

I can’t escape the stress of city life. But living in the suburbs is like you already died and wound up on a golf course for all eternity at a hole that you just keep bogeying. So, don’t get me wrong. I like the buzz of the city. What’s driving me crazy are the sounds of construction everywhere. Is it my imagination or is every other street torn up? If Walt Whitman were around today, he would not have been able to write I HEAR AMERICA SINGING because pneumatic concrete drills would’ve prevented him from hearing America singing. Did Philadelphia get bombed while I was asleep and have to be rebuilt from the ground up? Where the hell was I during the blitz? This city’s buzz has become a roar. What I can’t understand is how the hell … with all these streets being fixed … are there still so many potholes? And the new construction? Every new home and apartment costs half a million bucks and up. If Philadelphia is one of the poorest cities in the country, who are the folks buying all these properties that I can’t afford? I can’t nap at my swim club without hearing pneumatic concrete drills pounding away at the streets outside. I’m feeling like Don Knotts. I’m stressed!

Despite my best efforts, I’ve gotten sucked into the electronic age. Computers. Smart phones. Smart TV’s. Tablets. They used to say the only sure things in life are death and taxes. Here’s another one. Sometime during the next 24 hours of my life, one of my electronic devices will suddenly malfunction. My computer froze the other day while I was reading an item online from some political magazine. I thought that only happened when you visit a porn site. Look, if my computer’s going to get a virus, I want it to be because some hot babe on a web cam is telling me how irresistible she finds my understanding of BEOWULF.

I’m feeling p-p-pressure!