Getting knocked off the bike of life - Bob Paslay

It is not easy to remain an optimist. It is like riding a bike. You are riding along, hit a pothole, get thrown and scarred up and bruised. You have to get back on the bike and keep going. That's not to say it doesn't hurt because it does.

When someone you trust and believe in disappoints you, you can do one of two things. You can surrender and become a pessimist or you can climb back up on the bike of life and keep pedaling.

You think you know someone, you think small things of kindness you have done for people is somehow adding up and influences the way a person treats you. That unfortunately turns out not to be the case.

I have climbed back up. I can't even imagine going through life as a pessimist. The one good thing is you are never disappointed because you don't expect anything out of anybody. They will let you down and treat you lousy every chance they get, at least that is the pessimist's continuing view. But imagine that person's day.

"I told them I wanted extra tomato on my burger, but I bet they didn't put it in there. They always let me down." Then the pessimist looks and indeed there are two slices of tomatoes. They pull out of the parking lot. "I'm sure some car's going to hit me. I don't have any luck driving." And then a courteous driver lets the pessimist in line.

I always wonder about what makes people tick. I do know the mantle of a man or woman is not how they treat you when they need you, but how they treat you when they don't need you.

It is then, when a person thinks he or she is sailing along and the wind is blowing nicely and they don't or will never again need you that the true personality comes out. You learn that adults can still be kids and certain character flaws will always be there.

We used to sit around in college and wonder out loud with each other if we were ambitious in Nazi Germany and had it in ourselves to put human beings in ovens. We read Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and understood that we could never know exactly how we would treat others or what we would do until we were presented with that circumstance.

I have, over the years, had my share of bumps and grinds as an optimist. If I recounted them it would make you a pessimist and make you wonder why I remain an optimist. Some have been small hurts, others big hurts.

Are you born an optimist or pessimist? I know my parents, who had their share of hardships including raising four kids without enough money, were certainly funny and easy going and optimistic. So I come down on the nurturing over nature side of optimism.

Just how much of your own life can you control anyway?. Last week I went to rent some videos and the clerk said I had one that was 45 days overdue and now I owed $40 for it since the purchase price was cheaper than the late fees. I said that I am a creature of habit and always rent either three or six DVDs. After watching them, I check each case to make sure it contains the movies and then count the number and take them all back at the same time.

The clerk said I would have to talk to the manager and I called him the next day. He promised to check. I explained I was positive I had returned them. He said he would look into it. I waited a few days, sweating it out. If you bring a movie back and they scan it in with that little laser gun and it doesn't work then what proof do you have you return the movie. You have a history of always returning movies, you have your sincerity that you returned it. But you hang at the mercy of the movie rental place. Six months ago I began getting threatening letters for not returning the movie (remember this is a crime). I went back to the store, they did an inventory and found the movie. In the latest incident, I waited a few days, called and the manager said the movie had been sold the same day I brought it back and if there were any problems in the future to have the clerk call him. He was not apologetic that he wrung me out, worrying that I couldn't prove I had returned the movie. I went to rent movies a few days later and the clerk said I owed $40 for a rental movie. I explained I had talked to the manager and he had fixed it. I was braced for another round of proving and the clerk simply typed into the computer and wiped out the notation.

My life hangs by a silly old laser gun and by some words in a computer. With identity theft and all the other modern problems, our lives are increasingly becoming not our lives.

And I think this is what makes it so hurtful when friends let you down and knock you off your emotional bike and bruise you ever fragile psyche.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor for the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com .