Stop and think for a moment. Have you ever wondered what we would do without coffee? Have you ever wondered what we’d do if trees grew green lips instead of leaves? And what if the planets in the solar system were nothing more cosmic than nine humongous marbles in God’s pinball machine?

Fortunately, you don’t have to wonder about these things because I’ve already done it for you.  Due to my easily distracted attention span, I have wondered and worried about these very hypotheticals ad nauseum. And believe you me, they’re not a pretty sight. 

Imagine jump-starting your Monday with a steaming hot cup of, say, freshly-brewed camel drool or raking dead lips instead of leaves every autumn. How long would it take for you to get sick and tired of banging into asteroids that go blink and ding-dong 24/7? That’s what I thought.

Eventually, you say, we’d get used to it like everything else. You know, like we’ve gotten used to Covid-19 and wildfires and Trump and the grim sight of polar bears stranded on ice cubes. (Why couldn’t that be Trump stranded on an ice cube?)

Oh wait. We haven’t gotten used to them, have we. Hard as we may try to tolerate crap that threatens our very existence, it’s impossible not to wonder and worry and wish for better days. For those lucky enough to survive a pandemic, a dictator and whatever else puts us at risk, we still mourn the unlucky souls who are gone. Then we move on, waiting for the next “unprecedented” nightmare to show up. 

Rather than waste time wondering about stuff that isn’t pretty, I try hard to imagine things that are. This takes real effort because humans tend to default toward the contemplation of dire consequences. Especially tragedies. My human nature, such as it is, all too often hallucinates about blood-sucking bats on a rampage flight toward my backyard, where we’re grilling lamb chops. Bats are a lousy metaphor. Use your imagination. Or better yet, don’t.

Let us focus on the ethereal instead. See that zebra-striped hot air balloon bobbing high overhead with four riders aboard? Sure you do. That balloon’s basket contains an adventuresome quartet of truly gifted people. One of them, an emergency room nurse, invited three of her best friends to join her. They include an elementary school janitor, a police dispatcher and a grocery store clerk. None of them have ever in their wildest dreams flown so high except on a long airplane flight with perfect strangers they didn’t enjoy. (That is, they didn’t enjoy the flight or the strangers.)

As we envision this hot air balloon going up, up and away, we can almost hear the excited voices of its passengers loving every second of their carefree experience. Their minds explode in wonder at the view of lush forests and snowcapped peaks below. 

What they aren’t worried about are sick patients or stinky bathrooms or long checkout lines or 911 callers in trouble.

They’re so alive in this solitary moment, this moment of good friendship above everything else, they don’t notice the sun is still rising below them.

Now I imagine this quartet of truly gifted people toasting each other with steaming cups of coffee, not camel drool. Their balloon lands on the 50-yard line of an empty high school football field, at which time the nurse and the janitor and the dispatcher and the clerk (who brought the coffee) promise each other to do this again. And I imagine they do just that.

Keep in mind that these people are not figments of our imagination. They’re as real as the day is long. Thanks to them, our lives are good, great actually. Stop and think. Have you ever wondered what it would be like without them?