I have a writing student named Lynda who tells the story of a very special Christmas present she received when she was a little girl. It was only July when her mother said to her, "Lynda, I already know what I'm getting you for Christmas this year. I'm still putting it together, and I still have to wrap it, but I know what it's going to be."
"What are you getting me, Mom?" little Lynda wanted to know.
"I'm getting you your own private world, and you can be the ruler."
Lynda's mom had recognized something about her daughter: That she liked to do things her way. And felt everyone else should do things her way, too.
This story resonated with me, because I, too, happen to know exactly how the world should work ...
People should read. A lot. And not just random stuff on the Internet. Books. Good books, by good writers -- not just "beach reading." You should always be in the middle of a book, and you should always have it with you, so you don't have to waste time if you're stuck waiting on line at the DMV. You should never, ever have to resort to picking up some stupid magazine in the doctor's waiting room because you don't have "anything good to read."
People should know how to drive. Well. And politely. When you're behind the wheel, driving should be your main activity and focus, not just something you fall back on between texts and conference calls. You should not settle into the left lane and stay there as if it's your home, but should use it only when passing. If you see another car waiting at an intersection, you should signal your intention, rather than make him wait and guess what you might want to do.
People should be outside. Especially on nice days. Doesn't matter if it's very hot, or very cold. As long as the sun is out, it's a nice day. You should never be indoors on a nice day watching TV. Unless it's the fifth set of the finals at Wimbledon. Or any Sunday during the NFL season.
People should not use electronic devices at the dinner table. There should be no delayed reaction to live conversation. ("Uh, what? Sorry ...") There should be no under-the-table checking of texts. In public, if you're texting while walking, people should be allowed to run into you and knock you down. If two people are walking together, they should not both be on iPhones, but should be interacting with each other.
People should not have TVs on by default. TVs should not be background music. The TV should only be turned on if there's a particular show or sporting event you've expressly chosen to watch. It should not be left on in doctors' waiting rooms; you should be allowed to read or think quietly. You should never, ever pick up the remote with the vague notion that there might be "something good" on.
People should want to exercise. Outside, if possible. For long periods of time. And not just to lose weight. And not just for your heart. You should like exercising, because it feels good and makes you think clearly.
People should listen to music. You should know what you like, and choose what you want to listen to. Not just whatever's on the radio. You should listen to entire albums -- that's why they were recorded as albums -- and not just your favorite songs over and over again. How can any other song ever become one of your favorites if you just keep listening to your favorites?
People should honor reservations. When you make a reservation, you're not just expressing your intention to dine at that restaurant; you're expressing your intention to dine at that restaurant at a particular time. If you're told to "have a drink at the bar, your table will be ready soon," then what was the point of calling and making a reservation?
People should root for the home team. None of this, "I root for all the teams," or "I just root for a good game." None of this rooting for the Heat now that they've won the last two NBA championships. If you're a Knicks fan and a Jets fan and a Mets fan, then root for them. Even if they all stink.
Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, can be followed on his blog "Beagle Man" on the Westport News website, http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/. Hank can be followed on Twitter @BeagleManHank and reached by email at DoubleH50@gmail.com.