Monday, April 12, 2010

The Hassle Factor

We all have our priorities in life. One of mine is convenience. If I'm invited to participate in an activity and it's not easy to get there or the timing isn't optimal, I would often prefer to say no. I have to really want to do something to override the hassle factor.

My tendency to avoid inconvenient activities has nothing to do with age. I've been this way as long as I can remember. Here's an example from my twenties — E. and I were given tickets to a Rolling Stones concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. At first, we were excited. We both liked the Stones. I'd never been to a mega rock concert and felt I was long overdue. And the tickets were free!

As the day approached, however, I started to think about all the hassle involved. We'd have to get to San Francisco from Los Gatos, a fifty mile drive, during rush hour. Once we got there, the concert  was sure to be a madhouse, full of drugs and wild behavior. Not that I expected another Altamont, but the prospect of frenzied rock fans in a huge venue did give me pause.

The day of the concert, E. and I were scheduled for eye checkups. We took off early from Guitar Player, the magazine and book/record company where we both worked, and headed for the ophthalmologist's office. There, the doctor needed to dilate our pupils to complete his examination. That sealed the deal. No way could we drive fifty miles with recently-dilated pupils. We easily found friends who wanted the tickets and settled down to a quiet evening at home.

The other day, I had reason to reflect on my willingness to forego events because of the hassle factor. A friend called me on a Friday morning. She had an extra ticket for the ballet that evening and wondered if I'd like to accompany her. I've seen some wonderful ballet performances and do enjoy watching dance. But this wouldn't be Nureyev and Fonteyn dancing with the Royal Ballet, or the Bolshoi's incomparable Plisetskaya, all of whom I saw as a teenager. Rather, the performance would feature a local troupe, The Miami City Ballet, competent dancers, but not guaranteed to wow me.

I thought of the alternatives — a chance to read more of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, an entertaining epistolary novel I'd just started, or an opportunity to watch a couple of episodes of The Shield on a Netflix dvd. No contest. I just couldn't muster the energy to put on more-presentable clothes, get in the car, drive downtown, and park, all for a performance I wasn't at all sure I'd like. Call me a Philistine, but it just didn't seem worth the hassle.

My friend later told me that I hadn't missed much, so it seems as if I made the right choice in skipping the ballet. There have been other times, though, when I've regretted not attending a concert or a play or a baseball game because it didn't seem worth the bother to get there. Still, by and large, the hassle factor serves a useful purpose — it enables me to gauge my true level of interest. If there's something I really want to do, no amount of inconvenience will stop me.

I'm not likely to miss a party with friends, for example. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthday celebrations, holiday meals — it's never a hassle to share in those meaningful events. Even intimate dinner parties will usually rouse me out of my anti-hassle state. But if you have tickets for an ice hockey game on an snowy winter evening, you might want to invite someone else. I'm probably not your girl.

1 comment:

  1. I imagined doing all kinds of things when I retired. Now I need to find a new excuse... maybe I'll use yours, "it's too much of a hassle." Thanks, Barbara