Tipping Points

When one lives alone for a period of time, certain equilibria are reached. There is just enough of something or just the right combination of things or just the correct state of disarray, but not quite enough disturbance in the Force to precipitate action.

Yes, the single man (or woman, I suppose) comes to appreciate that fine line that separates good enough from not enough, clean from needing attention, a small pile of dirty clothes versus a load of laundry.

Mark my words, you know it and I know it. This line of demarcation exists, even if no one else is there to see it. If a tree falls in the woods…

This line, this state of being, this rallying or staging area in the single person’s world, is the tipping point.

That point when inaction will lead to hunger, sadness, disappointment, or madness.

What are some of my personal favorite tipping points, things that push me to my limits and help me to understand just how much I can tolerate before I start to embarrass myself, even though no one else lives with me?

A classic is the almost empty gas tank. We’ve all been there. Cars used to have needles that showed how much  $0.75 petrol was left in the tank, riding lower and lower until the little metal or plastic stick lay irresolutely against the little plastic spindle that meant EMPTY, not wanting to finally rest there with finality but knowing that it was inevitable. In recent years cars have had digital and visual gas gauges that often times make use of little blocks of light called pips, each little square standing in for a gallon or two of $3.50 (or later, $1.85) gas. Less pips, more anxiety about not making it to the next station.

And less you folks who drive Prii or other hybrid electric cars gloat too much, believe me, a Prius can run out of pips, and gas, just like my father’s Ford Falcon could. Yes, my friends, that story of adversity on the road from Myrtle Beach to Augusta, Georgia is one for another day and another post. Trust me. Lose your pips, and you will not have a gladus night.

Another single man’s tipping point is the amount of food in the refrigerator (substitute pantry or cupboard or other if you like) that it takes to sustain life. Now, I like to eat. Hell, I have even been known to cook a meal or two that tasted pretty good. Like any self respecting guy, though, I hate to go to the grocery store. Hate it. Hate it. Tonight, my refrigerator happens to be stocked with fruit, some veggies, milk, some good cheese, a few brews, and a wonderful Irish lamb stew that I cooked up two nights ago. My freezer is full of venison and chicken and frozen vegetables.

There have been times, however, when I peeked into the abyss and saw exactly one lemon, a shriveled up Roma tomato, a single Fat Tire and half an onion. Could barely make Stone Soup with that. Now, to be clear, this was not because I had no money, and it was not due to lack of time to go to the grocery store. It was due to a combination of laziness and curiosity about how long I could actually survive without replenishing the home stocks. How many Zaxby salads and Chick-fi-A fruit cups does it take to drive one over the edge and propel one’s car (with only two pips left on the gas gauge, no less) towards Publix and the wide aisles of plenty?

One last tipping point, although I could go on.

How many times have you realized that there is not enough coffee, ground or whole bean or even instant, if you can stand that stuff, to make a pot first thing in the morning? And it’s 11:45 PM. At night.

Your dilemma: get dressed in something other than skivvies and athletic socks and drive (now with only one pip left on your gas gauge, this is getting interesting) to find a bag of Dunkin Donuts House Blend (because America really does run on Dunkin, my northern friends tell me), or risk getting up and being in such a state of caffeine withdrawal that you cut yourself shaving three times and go out of the house with mismatched socks, cutting off every hapless driver who gets in your way going to Starbucks.

Coffee, you see, is worth more than gas and food combined. Coffee makes the world go round. Without coffee, we are no better than the apes (who are smart enough not to drink coffee but stick to bananas, which they wisely peel sideways, thank you very much) Without coffee and caffeine, social discourse stops, commerce grinds to a halt, and continuing resolutions in the House of Representatives are never voted on. The government shuts down and we all move to Nicaragua, where they have coffee plantations.

Tipping points.

American men love their cars, and the way to a man’s heart may be though his stomach, but for those of us who love the ripe red bean, you will have to pry our worn, weathered coffee mugs from our cold, dead, recently caffeinated hands.

The Starbucks at the University opens at seven. There’s a gas station on the way.

Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.