Mr. Negativity vs. Mr. Positivity
by Gary Huerta
For the last several decades, I’ve been waging a war that no one else can hear. It’s the battle between my two voices, Mr. Negativity and Mr. Positivity.
I’m sorry to say that for a long time, Mr. Negativity has been the more triumphant. Divorce. Bouts of unemployment. Running out of Ketel One. Those things will cast dark shadows upon the fields of happiness.
But I’ve begun to notice Mr. Positivity has been winning more than his share of the battles lately. Much to my surprise, I find myself less concerned by the downward turns of life and more enthusiastic about the uncertainty those challenges may bring.
As example, I submit a recent excursion to my Volvo mechanic. The words “Volvo” and “mechanic” are usually reason enough for bouts of depression. But instead of basking in the gloominess of my impending debt, I saw it as a golden opportunity to give my old car the much needed love it deserved. I likewise considered my bus ride home to be a moment where I could enjoy a mindless trek across town, complements of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
So, me and Mr. Positivity got on the bus in Alhambra – a city just east of downtown Los Angeles after a brief five-minute wait. The bus was blissfully cool.
“It’s an oasis on wheels,” Mr. Positivity noted.
Looking out the window, I immediately saw three city employees sweeping the streets. Watching them push brooms and rakes in the heat of the day while I sat in a refrigerated bus made me oh-so-grateful for my regular day job behind a computer in a cool office building. “Count your lucky stars,” Mr. Positivity said.
The next stop. A kid with a skateboard gets on. So does Mr. Negativity. “I wonder how many people this kid could kill by smashing their heads in with that skateboard.
“Knock it off, you evil bastard!”
“Man, I’ll bet your head would really bleed if he hit you with the sharp end of the board.”
Realizing how quickly things could go wrong, I turn Mr. Negativity’s head away from the would-be assassin.
“Hey look! A BMW Motorcycle dealer! I love those bikes. As soon as my novel is finished and I start selling copies, I’m buying one.” Welcome back, Mr. Positivity.
“Why do egg whites and tortillas give me heartburn? Those are two of the most bland foods you can eat! Jesus Christ! Am I going to be reduced to eating pablum for the rest of my life?” Way to bring it back down to earth, Mr. Negativity.
A blind man gets on the bus with his daughter. She’s 4 or 5. He has the cane but she is his eyes. They sit right next to me. The girl is adorable. Vietnamese, I think. Raven hair. Pink dress. An angel. The father pulls out an old recycled water bottle filled with ice water and gives her a sip. She is his eyes. He is her everything else.
“Touching,” says Mr. Positivity.
I don’t hear Mr. Negativity. Maybe he got off to look at the BMWs he’ll never be able to afford. Good riddance.
We pass the Department of Motor Vehicles. There’s a huge line outside. People suffering in the heat and hell of the system. “Count your lucky stars that isn’t you today,” Mr. Positivity reminds me.
“Hey, remember the time the Department of Child Support Services suspended your license by mistake?”
Right on cue, my angel girl begins singing to herself. Suddenly it’s clear. When you are 4, there is no inner voice of loathing.
I can see downtown now through the front window of the bus. There’s the auto repair shop where Caine’s Arcade is located. I can see it as we lumber down the road. “That kid raised $164,000 with nothing more than tape, boxes of cardboard and positive intention. You can’t even keep a columnist gig?”
“Fuck off, Mr. Negativity. I’m just getting the hang of this.”
We pass the LA County Coroner’s office. Mr. Negativity has an observation. “Everyone from the John Doe no one knows to Michael Jackson has seen the inside of that building. It’ll be your turn soon enough.”
“Seriously dude. I was just going to say the building is a really nice piece of architecture. Don’t be a buzzkill!”
We go over the LA River and make our way into downtown proper. “Is it too early for a French dip sandwich at Phillipe’s? God I loved that place as a kid.”
“The cavernous upper floor always terrified you. Remember?”
“Uh huh. I was thinking about the macaroni salad with hot mustard. But thanks for reminding me of my early childhood terror.”
“That’s why I’m here.”
First and Hill. This is my exit. And I’m… right in front of the LA Superior Court building. Jesus. I can feel the negativity oozing from the structure. People versus other people in every corner. So much hate. So much negativity. I think about my ex-wife’s attorney. God, that woman poisoned our divorce proceeding. Aggressive. Angry. Bitter. And she spreads it like butter on warm toast.
For Mr. Negativity, it’s like finding a grenade launcher in his pocket. “Isn’t it about time for your ex to take you back to court. She’s behind schedule you know. It’s been 12 months since she last modified custody and support.”
“How ‘bout those Dodgers?”
“You hate baseball.”
Two sheriffs roll by on three-wheeled Segway contraptions. Both Mr. Negativity and Mr. Positivity finally agree on something. “Even if you are carrying a gun, it is impossible to look like an authority figure on a tricycle!”
Well said, gentlemen.
My Glendale-bound bus arrives and I’m back on the road. I enter to find the money collection machine is broken. The driver waves me in. Mr. Positivity waves goodbye to his counterpart.
“Superior Court is the perfect place to drop him off, don’t you think?”
I concur and we quickly scoot north into Chinatown. Two old men sit right behind me and begin shouting at one another. Is it Szechwan? Mandarin? Cantonese? I try to distract myself by looking at the bustling street.
“If egg whites and tortillas give you indigestion, imagine the havoc dim sum would wreak on your acid reflux.” Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Negativity is back on board.
The bus labors onto the freeway. We roll through Cypress Park without any sniper fire. But the cease-fire only lasts until we stop in front of Glendale Forest Lawn – final resting spot of Walt Disney, Michael Jackson, Jimmy Stewart and more.
“Yes. I used to be scared of dying. I used to fear the concept of eternity. Being buried creeps me out. I’m going to be cremated,” Mr. Positivity declares.
Silence. Détente. No more bullets.
As I depart the bus, Mr. Negativity makes one last ditch effort to win the war. “God knows how many germs I encountered on that rolling petri dish.”
“Good thought. I already made a note to bring hand sanitizer when I pick up the car. Oh and for the record, our little trip was very inspiring. I wouldn’t be surprised if I managed to write about it.”
Thank you Mr. Positivity. I’m grateful for your wisdom. It was close. But you win again.