They stared at me every single morning. The cufflinks did.
There was really nothing at all special about them. They were not 24k gold, not platinum, and decidedly not sentimental. I had purchased them at SYMS about 15 years ago, and probably paid less than 12 dollars for them.
They were fake gold with a cheesy-looking black hexagram on the end of each of them. And you know what? I liked them. They just sat in my closet, near my socks, in an old rectangular box that they called "home." Roommates of the cuff links included assorted plastic collar stays, a couple of Canadian coins, an old, non-functioning, cap-less blue Papermate, and two other pairs of cheap cufflinks – cousins, I guess.
One of them was broken. That hexagram thingy had separated from its base. I don't remember exactly when that happened, but it was definitely more than ten years ago. And practically every morning, for ten plus years, when I was choosing my socks or snatching some collar stays, the broken cufflink would speak to me.
"When are you going to fix me?"
"Why aren't you fixing me?"
"Don't you like me anymore?"
The questions were valid. And I had no answers. I did still like my hexagram cufflinks every bit as much as the day I bought them. And I wished that they were operational. I really did. But I just never seemed to find the time to locate the Krazy Glue and actually repair them. And it's not like I wear cufflinks every day, I reasoned, just once in awhile. So they remained on the accessory "disabled list."
All my windows on my first floor are clothed with vertical blinds. We got them as soon as we moved in about 13 years ago. I say ‘clothed' and not ‘covered' because ‘covered' might be considered a bit of a stretch. Oh, the windows used to be covered by the vertical blinds, but through the years when our living room, dining room and kitchen were transformed by our kids and grandkids into a combo skating rink, Maple Lanes, and Shea Stadium, the spaces in the blinds became rather ...er... pronounced.
Being dutiful and responsible homeowners, my wife and I often declared our definite intention to one day remedy the window situation. We even went so far as to actually save the fallen slats...usually. Some of them went into a closet, others accumulated on the fractured window sills, while a couple of them were kind of propped up in their rightful place – as if no one would notice that they were unattached to the track and drooping many inches below the other fellow slats. As you know, these are the kind of things you notice for the first day or two, but soon after you get so used to it they don't even seem odd anymore.
One day, a friend showed me a remarkable little invention. They make little plastic pieces that slide over the tops of the slats, thereby replacing the broken slot with a new functional one.
"How much do they cost?" I inquired.
"About a buck," he said. "And you can get them all over town."
Well that sounded like a fabulous solution to our little problem, so I made a mental note to pick up a few at my earliest convenience. Meanwhile, the blinds also remained injured and on the decorative "disabled list."
I happen to be a real music lover. If only I had more time, I'd certainly sit down and really listen to more music. But I am limited to the short stints I have in the car and the background strains that fill the home while I busy myself with other important matters.
I do not own a sophisticated, high-tech, high-fidelity, electro-acoustic transducer, 20,000 watt, sub-woofer audio system. I have an AIWA. It costs a few hundred dollars, it has a few different settings, it looks shiny, and it works... sort of.
A while back, I noticed that something didn't quite sound right. The music sounded limp and tinny. If I raised the volume enough, it helped a bit. And it bothered me every single time I popped in a CD.
One day, I actually climbed up on a chair and discovered that music was only coming out of the two small, secondary speakers, and not from the two primary ones.
The connector plugs had apparently become dislodged from the back of the unit when I moved the furniture to retrieve something. I just needed to re-insert them.
That was about four years ago.
So there I was, walking down 16th Avenue just a few weeks ago, when I happened to find myself in front of a drapery and blinds store. Out of nowhere, the image of my victimized vertical slats at home appeared. I entered.
"Do you have those little plastic gizmos that slide over the top...?"
"They're a buck a piece. How many do you want?" he interrupted, reaching into a huge stash of them.
"I'll take a dozen," I gushed.
I never rushed home so fast in my life. I burst in the door like we had won the Connecticut Powerball Lottery. The family crowded around.
"Look!" I shrieked, pulling the gizmos out of a bag. "I can fix the blinds now!"
They may have been a trifle disappointed.
I grabbed the stepladder and went to work. Less than five minutes later, the windows were totally transformed from pitiful to perfect, from the disabled list to the All-Star team. I walked around the house, beaming. The pride and satisfaction that I felt at that moment was down right...well... pathetic. But it felt like an incredible accomplishment.
Thrilled with this ridiculous sense of fulfillment and buoyed by my newfound vitality, I sprung into action. Like a gladiator transported from the Gaelic era, I galloped into the dining room and stood face to face with the task that lay before me – the 200 pound furniture piece that housed my wounded AIWA. No problem. A couple of deep breaths and one slightly pulled shoulder muscle later, I discovered the loose connector wires, re-inserted them, pushed the unit back into place, and flipped in an old Yanni CD. He never sounded better. Total time investment? About two minutes.
But the rally wasn't over yet. There still awaited one final undertaking – the broken cufflink. I won't keep you in suspense. The Krazy Glue was laying patiently in my toolbox. I applied about four drops of the supercharged stuff on the long-humbled hexagram and seconds later VOILA! And they became one flesh!
It was an unpredictable and, for me, monumental turn of events.
It is hard to adequately describe the relief, the sheer joy, and the sense of achievement that I felt from the resolution of these insignificant, undistinguished, and trivial nuisances. Moreover, the effects of this temporary lapse into responsibility have not even worn off, and it's been weeks since the transformation. Now, every CD I play makes me feel like I'm at Carnegie Hall and, coincidentally, I'm wearing those shirts that need cufflinks a bit more often than I used to.
Can't we just invest one second to say good morning to a neighbor?
But every once in a while I do drift into reality and recognize how absurd the whole experience really was. This is what I'm proud of? All three efforts combined took me less than ten minutes! I couldn't find ten lousy minutes in ten years to fix those things?
The ramifications are painfully obvious.
Can we not find just a couple of spare minutes to make that phone call to Grandma and Aunt Sally and Sam, down the block, which is guaranteed to "make their day"?
Can't we "make" time to write "I love you" on a note to our spouses and kids every so often? How long does it take?
And how much time would we need to send an email to a friend who is lonely, or to a teacher to say thanks for the extra attention she gave Sara, or to a caterer just to say his food was great.
And if we're even too busy for that, can't we just invest one second to say good morning to a neighbor, or the mailman, or the sanitation guy?
Nearly all of us procrastinate. And when we do, we deprive not only others, but even ourselves of immense amounts of pleasure and satisfaction. What a waste!
You know very well all about your personal list of little things that can make a big difference.
What are you waiting for?
Just open your ears.
Your cufflinks might be talking to you.