The problem with life is bad decisions almost always make the best stories. This is a fact that nobody feels all that comfortable with. For example, the difference between “We made some tea and watched Gentleman’s Agreement on Netflix” and “We decided to open another bottle of wine” is massive. One story ends with “We brushed our teeth and went to bed,’ and the other one gets lost somewhere around “After Tom passed out, we painted his ass orange and locked him in a row of grocery carts.” See what I mean?
Both stories are actually true, BTW. Obviously, nobody remembers the first one — like — who cares? However, the second one is the stuff of legend. It’s the kind of tale we tell at dinner parties. It’s the one that is our public face. The one that defines us as interesting. And we all want to be interesting.
It’s not difficult to recognize the road to salvation. It generally runs through tea, Netflix and conscientious oral hygiene. However, the other road — the road to Hell — is paved. It’s lined with ice cream and alcohol, pretty girls and naughty boys. It has hundreds of distracted side streets, secluded alleys and boisterous cafes, but never any toilets — anywhere. It’s the perfect sexual moment interrupted by somebody’s mother, the wild ride to the wrong funeral and the sun-scorched nap on a topless beach. In fact, the road to Hell is limited only by our innate ability to make mistakes.
Yet it is the road to Hell that protects us from being just another frump on the trudge to the grave. It gives our lives curves, dents, depth and colour and lifts us above the relentless bureaucracy of everyday living. And although the road to Hell doesn’t give life any true meaning, our adventures on it tell the world we showed up and got in the game. And when we are old and gray and full of sleep, nodding by the fire, it’s the road to Hell we’ll remember, not the dental floss.
The trick is striking a balance between collecting enough uber-cool life stories to wow them in the Old Folks’ Home and staying out of jail. (I’m still surprised Tom didn’t just call the cops!)