By Friday night, I am exhausted. Sometimes, too drained to do anything else, I play a game listing the people who irritated me the most that week. It’s not charitable: It’s my Friday Night Hit List.
My husband’s former girlfriend. This woman occasionally surfaces in my life, like a toxic oil slick. She suddenly appeared on Monday evening at a restaurant where we were dining, draped herself around my husband’s neck, and cooed, “Hello Billy. I’ve been so worried about you. Are things any better at home?” Then, glancing at me with feigned surprise: “Oh, hi. I didn’t know you were here.” That’s when I developed food poisoning and ran to the bathroom pondering, “What would Darth Vader do?”
The large woman with acne. Tuesday morning, Southwest Airlines squeezed me into a portion of a middle seat in the back of an airplane. A woman of grand girth generously occupied the other portion of my seat, along with her own window seat. “Not fair,” I groaned inwardly, and looked at her. The woman had terrible acne. Distracted, I found my shoulder quickly pinned under her heavy upper arm, while her lower arm rested in my lap. We traveled with our thighs lumped together, as I tried not to moan aloud.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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My former boss. This man still actively irritates me. Even though I haven’t worked for him for ten years, he plagued my memories on Wednesday. Call him “Maniac” for easy reference — he gave sexism new contours. The same scene replays like a late-night TV horror movie: the day I told Maniac I couldn’t write a brief for him because I had to take my feverish, vomiting baby to the doctor. Maniac rolled his eyes in disgust, shouted “You’re not committed to your job anymore,” and stormed from my office.
Post-Office Bert. Bert made my hit list when I bought stamps from him on Thursday. He might take medication to control postal rage; his mood swings more than the Dow. But on Thursday, I watched Bert tell a foreign visitor with a small package to mail, “I can’t take the package unless you tape it.” “But,” the young woman stammered in broken English, “I no have scotchy tapes.” Bert, positioned firmly behind a two-foot tall roll of official Post Office adhesive tape, pointed to a sign and read, “Postal policy prohibits the distribution of packaging tape.” The woman slunk away — and the evil Bert grinned.
Four hugely annoying teenagers. This morning, I attended a special Mass for those anticipating confirmation in the spring. I unwisely sat behind four involuntary teen candidates. I watched these blue-jeaned, belly button-bared girls, with eye-liner thicker than no-passing lines, smack gum, whisper, laugh, and mimic the priest through the course of the Mass. Aghast by this overt I’d-rather-be-at-the-mall performance, I wondered: Could I wrestle them into the Ladies Room, one by one, and wash their little lip-sticked mouths out with soap?
That’s it — my Friday Night Hit List. Once I have it neatly compiled, I can work it over for hours. I can memorize it, take it to bed with me, and supplement it through the night. By morning, I have developed more startling proof that each of these people is inexcusably annoying and unlovable. At this point, I get excited about sharing my findings.
Usually it’s my husband who rescues me. As I load my Power Point presentation for restructuring the Post Office to eliminate Bert’s job, Bill interrupts, “Honey, remember what you tell the children: ‘If you can’t find something nice to say about someone, just pray for them’?” I wince. Did I say that? I meant scary people like Osama bin Laden or Scott Peterson or my former murder client. Surely I did not mean the people I love to hate on Friday evening?
My husband remains patient and blinks his deep brown eyes my way. Good grief. Of course I have told my children to find something nice in everyone. Bill chimes again, “Remember, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’?”
Bill’s gaze pushes me, like a child afraid to jump in the pool. I think about the lonely life my husband’s former girlfriend leads; about the Southwestern woman’s beautifully manicured hand gently resting in my lap; about Maniac’s radiant joy when he brought his small sons to work; and about Bert’s crooked smile the day I said, “You did a great job moving the line.” I recall how warmly the girls said “Peace be with you,” even as I snarled at them.
No one is entirely unlovable, I know, even on Friday night. But it’s my Friday Night Hit List — my sorted out, worked-over catalogue of irritations — that God calls my Prayer List. By Sunday morning, I am ready. I run through it one last time, shaking my head, and I begin, “For these people, who irritate me so much, dear God, I pray…”