Still in your pajamas, you gingerly retrieve your newspaper from the center of your shrubs, unsuccessfully avoiding the thorns of the barberry bushes. Your right forearm has become permanently scarred from this morning exercise. Glancing down the street, you see your pimply-faced paperboy rounding the corner on his motor scooter. He’s flipping papers behind his back in the general direction of front porches. One of these days you’ll actually catch him – One of these days!
With the work on your office desk already haunting your thoughts, you take your first sip of coffee¸ still standing in front of the coffee pot with the newspaper under your arm. The family cat hears your bagel pop from the toaster and takes a Pavlovian leap onto the kitchen counter. Shoo! Get down. It’s too late. Whisker prints already adorn the butter dish. The bagel is partially burned, but time is short. It will have to do.
Finally reaching the breakfast table, you unfurl today’s tabloid and lean forward, peering through the bottom half of your glasses. In the lower right hand corner on the inside front page, an ad with a picture of an Aladdin’s lantern catches your attention. The words Do Over were being formed by the cloud of smoke seeping from its spout. The ad read – Pick one DO OVER from the following list. Delivery Guaranteed! A ridiculous claim, you are intrigued and start down the list.
Education – Don’t like your degree? Pick a new school and diploma.
After thinking about it, you realize a degree in animal husbandry from Beloit Tech might not have been the best choice. The only animal in your life just smeared his face in your butter. You move to the next item on the list.
Relationships – Tired of your spouse or significant other? Pick someone else.
You immediately think about the girl you took to your high school prom twenty-two years ago. She’d become a cosmetic surgeon. At your twenty-year reunion, your classmates wore their graduation pictures on their lapels. She looked like hers. You think, This item has potential, and you move on.
Career – Hate your boss? Want more money? Tell us. We’ll make it happen.
Having worked the past fifteen years for your father-in-law as a buyer for his food distribution company, you take a long sip from your coffee mug and begin to daydream. As a smile expands across your face, careers as a captain of a South Seas cruise ship, lead singer in a rock band, first baseman for the Red Sox, and male model all pass through your thoughts. Rudely, your daydream bubble is popped by your wife yelling from the back bedroom, “You’re going to be late! Daddy’s expecting you early today!” This do over takes the lead as you move to the next item on the list.
Family – Were you switched in the hospital at birth? Do you wish you had been? Pick a new last name.
With each new suggestion, you are hoping more and more that the ad’s claims are real. Images of your life as a Buffet, Gates, Trump, Walton, or Zuckerberg flash into your mind. But mom and dad would miss me you think before remembering the call you received from your brother last night. He was late on another car payment. Your dad had sent him to you this time. Yeah, I’d pick Gates. He seems like a laidback kinda guy. You tear the ad from the corner of the paper and set it to the side. There’s no need to read further. You’ve made up your mind. But one more item remains.
Happiness – Are you as happy as you could be? Choose endless happiness.
Damn! Just when you thought life as a Gates was all you’d ever want, they offer you endless happiness. This choice screws up the logic you’ve used on the previous items, as convoluted as it may have been. You start to think of the times you’ve been the happiest: at parties with your friends, driving in the winning run in your company’s softball league, at dinner with your spouse to celebrate your latest pay raise, attending your son’s graduation and your daughter's wedding. Choosing any of the previous Do Overs would, or could, erase these happy times. What could they offer that would make me happier?
Your cat jumps onto your lap, interrupting your thoughts. You stroke his back a couple times as you take a final look at the ad lying on the table. You pick up the scrap of paper and wad it up before rising to get ready for work.