The Good Old Days or “You look at me as if I were Mephistopheles”
by Joseph Avery-North
Don’t ever be a good neighbour and leave cookies at your neighbour’s door. At least not late at night. And definitely not running away into the darkness laughing as some poor lady (or any one for that matter) opens the door. While fresh baked cookies are always nice… well, depending on who made them… so perhaps I should say while fresh baked cookies are often nice, scaring your neighbour isn’t. Not in the slightest. Probably really funny at the time but most assuredly not nice. You could scare an elderly person. They could fall down. They could have a heart attack. You could spook a paranoid person of any age and get shot and then you’d be the one falling down. What if the person for whom you’re leaving your gift of neighbourly goodwill has a bad mental association with cookies and someone they broke up badly with and commits suicide while listening to Air Supply or James Taylor? What if narco-hallucinogenic Girl Guide cookies were what lured them into a black magick sex cult of Block Parents who subjected them to depraved orgies worshiping the Great Horned God of Goatse.cx.
Never make judgments about other people without walking a mile or two in their shoes. Not that you really should walk a mile in someone else’s shoes unless you know them really well or are in desperate need of a pair of shoes. You never know where their feet have been or what type of foot fungus they could have. Not that I’m saying Wanita “Renea” Young has foot fungus or was ever anything less than a decent human being. I’m not. Don’t know her. I only know what I saw in an article someone sent me. Wanita “Renea” Young had two teenage girls pound loudly on her door one night while she was home with her daughter and ailing elderly mother. She called out and no-one answered. She went to the door and saw two figures running away in the shadows laughing. She was frightened. She had an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks are not nice if you’ve ever had one. She could have had a heart attack. They’re even less not nice than anxiety attacks. People die from heart attacks. She was so shaken she thought she was having one. Several other neighbours got anonymous cookie drops that night. Mrs. Young’s cookie drop frightened her. It’s her right to be frightened. She sued. She won. The girls didn’t get off with being grounded or having their phones cut off or their IPods or portable DVD players taken away. The righteous fear of God or a friendly police man scaring them with lectures and possibly a mischief charge wasn’t enough. Nope. Mrs. Young was scared. She sued. She won. The judge agreed with her. Now the Young residence and family are harassed with phone calls and more cookies. I don’t think they deserve that. Seriously folks, what the hell are teenage girls doing dropping off cookies in the dark, banging on peoples doors and running away. Was their baking that bad that they were ashamed?
The story of the Young family and these unruly 18 year old girls can be found here.
Now, what the hell does that have to do with Mephistopheles?
Not much. I couldn’t find any information about Mephistopheles and his view on cookies although it’s probably a safe bet that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ate at least one or two in his day. I’m pretty sure that the Germans had cookies as well as giant pretzels and sauerkraut back then. But I can pretty much guarantee that no-one ever left a plate of cookies at his door late one night and startled him enough to make him spill his inkwell. (Interestingly, Hitler was so fond of sauerkraut that he declared not only was it the principle export of Germany but the official party demeanour as well.) Anyhow, the thing with Mephistopheles is that we are all Mephistopheles. Or we could be. I certainly get looked at as if I am. A pariah sure, I can see that. After all, I’m writing an article for a website subtitled “You look at me as if I were Mephistopheles”. You pretty much must be some type of pariah, outcast or social/cultural misfit with a subtitle like that but I don’t get why I (or anyone else) should be looked at as if I (or they) am (are) Mephistopheles unless I (or they) really am (are). It always makes me feel like I have a piece of spinach stuck in my teeth.
Ok, now that we’ve established what the hell this has to do with Mephistopheles (albeit extremely loosely) you may be asking yourself just what the hell this has to do with the “Good Old Days” and just exactly who’s good old days we’re talking about. Mine? Yours? Or perhaps Zsa Zsa Gabor’s? Her good old days were apparently quite good if you were invited to the parties. I never was so I can’t speak for what Zsa Zsa Gabor may personally consider as the good old days.
The good old days I refer to are the days where you want to sing Zippity Do Da or whatever that inane lyric was in those Viagara commercials where the guy is skipping to work happier that he should be considering what lead to him taking viagara in the first place. I’m talking about a neighbourhood of endless Cleaver and Partridge Family type people with Penny Lane playing on someone’s stereo somewhere. You move into the neighbourhood and people show up at your door with fruit baskets and fresh baked pies that have been cooling in the window and inviting you to join their weekly bridge club. Mind you, they are doing this during the daylight hours and not running away when you answer the door. What’s wrong with the 20-something and 30-something crowd showing up with a case of beer or a bag of weed? What about the hot single guy and the hot single girl doing the diner, wine and baby oil bit instead of passing silently in the hall with only a cursory “hi”, “hey” or quick quip at the landlords expense. Whatever happened to an actual honest to goodness smile? Public laundry facilities are supposed to be second only to grocery stores, Catholic churches, libraries, homeless shelters and funerals for easy pick ups. So why the cold stares while covetously clutching detergent?
Hell, I remember when you’d go down to find your laundry removed from the dryer and sitting atop it, nicely folded. Of course, the question in my mind was always how cute was the girl who folded it and whether she was intrigued by my leopard print loin cloth. If I even remotely thought there was a male touch (you can tell by the folding job) it meant another sacrificial burning in the back yard and a trip to the tailors. However, I’m no longer plagued by this slightly erotic and perverse mystery/fantasy. These days you go down to find your basket with your second load pushed aside for three of theirs, the detergent you left on the washer knocked back behind it into the land of dust dragons, poisonous spiders and mouse shit. Your still wet clothes removed from the washer before it finished the final spin cycle and tossed in a pile on top of the dryer. Yeah, feel the love. Welcome to the neighbourhood. Screw the universal Code of the Common Laundry Room.
Go for a walk through the neighbourhood on your way to the coffee shop. Smile at the people you pass. The old people will still smile and say hello. They’ll stop and talk about how you’d be perfect for their granddaughter and invite you over for lemonade while their stupid little cross dressing ball of fur fantasies about being a macho dog and nips at your shoelaces daring you to step on it just to see the look on Granny’s face. Men used to exchange manly nods of the head. Now nodding at a man isn’t being part of the manly club anymore. It’s perceived as you going to a club with rainbow flags over the front door and them suddenly clenching their colon. You used to be able to smile at a pretty girl and get a shy smile in return. Now they either avoid eye contact choosing their shoes or some speck in the sky only they can see or if they do make eye contact, you smile and they turn their head and start speed walking while fumbling for their cell phone, lipstick, Gap Discount Card or taser.
When you arrive at the coffee shop, restaurant or bar, smiles aren’t free anymore. The people behind the counter will stare at the touch screen register or their chewed up finger nails or at your left shoulder for hours before they make eye contact or smile. “Enjoy your meal” my ass. Smile at me when you say that you little shit. Look me in the eye when you ask if that’s everything. I am not Mephistopheles! I am not going to rape anybody’s kittens or sell their children to the local All You Can Eat Oriental Buffet (children and MSG don’t mix all that well). I just want to walk down the street, smile at my fellow man (preferably a pretty girl) have my herbal tea with milk and honey and feel welcome in the place I’m spending $1.55 at. All I want is to sit in a booth by the window without being made to feel as if I were Mephistopheles while I ponder the rise and fall of human decency, basic common courtesy and when Night Court will finally be released on DVD.
In closing let me say this; feminists seem to have finally gotten over men holding doors for them so there isn’t any good material there any more. The elderly are ok in their neighbourhoods but you should approach with caution in commercial areas. They may be so shocked at a younger person offering to help with their heavy shopping bags that they keel over right there. Kind deeds leading to keeling over usually prevent the surprise visits from a lawyer informing you that an estate was just split evenly between you and 30 cats. And never, ever ever make a night time cookie drop while drunk on 0.05% coolers and giggling like Golem. You could scare someone. Make your cookie drop during the day. Look them in the eyes and smile.
Note – This article was originally published on the old Winterwind Productions site in February, 2005, prior to our switch to WordPress in 2020.