At the risk of appearing frivolous, I’ve taken inspiration for my own life from one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s lesser-known operettas, Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse, which I took a taxi to town last week to see.
It was a delightful production by Encore, an excellent local amateur company, though the plot—like all of Gilbert and Sullivan’s—was predictably silly, involving the descendants of one Rupert Murgatroyd, persecutor of witches. One of his hapless victims has cursed Sir Rupert, Lord of Ruddigore, and all his descendants, thus:
Each Lord of Ruddigore,
Despite his best endeavour,
Shall do one crime, or more,
Once, every day, for ever!
This doom he can’t defy
However he may try,
For should he stay
His hand, that day
In torture he shall die!
Relax. You don’t have to call out the National Police or the Shin Bet. I’m not about to start robbing banks or sending out Nigerian scam letters (though I do pilfer candy daily from my grandchildren, telling myself I’m doing it for their own good). I’ve simply resolved to do one hateful thing a day. Hateful is that which I hate doing.
Those hateful things are like fertilizer. Spread out, they can be productive, or at least tolerable, but kept in a heap to be done all at once, they stink to high heaven. Calculating bimonthly tax estimates, writing the monthly accounts of our apartment building, collecting building maintenance fees from neighbors who “forget” to pay, and calling to make doctors’ appointments are just a few of the things I hate doing.
So today’s “crime” was responding to a letter from the postal service informing me that it is unable to trace a registered letter containing a check that I mailed to the United States four months ago. The postal service asked me to state the amount of compensation I believe is due me, but in the same breath informed me not to expect an agora more than its maximum compensation, which is pitifully little.
The letter had been staring at me for days. How does one respond to such calculated nonsense? This morning, because it was the only hateful thing I planned to do, I was able to figure it out. I wrote a polite letter demanding more than double the maximum, citing the aggravation and expenses incurred. So what if they give me less? At least I’ve got this aggravation off my chest.
Like the Murgatroyds, I suppose I’m doomed to carry on doing these hateful tasks forever, but my consolation is that each day there will be only one. And I can always hope that I’ll wake up to a day when the curse is broken, and at least for that day, I will do only things I don’t hate.
Text copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.