Paybacks Are Hell…and Other Perverse Thrills
Photo by to2borni; creative commons license
“Payback is a bitch.” Have you heard that? If not, then surely you’ve heard, “Paybacks are hell.”
They’re usually not said in reference to one’s own self but in regard to people we perceive as doing wrong or doing something mean/deceitful. Am I the only one who gets a perverse thrill watching some crook or moronic former love interest or co-worker get smacked up ‘side the head for pulling the same ol’ crap one too many times? I think there are good reasons we like to see people get their come-uppance for bad behavior.
I was thinking about karmic justice last weekend when I decided I’d had a tough day and I wanted to treat myself to a movie–the new action-adventure Mummy movie, to be exact, and it started in 20 minutes. I drove the 5 miles to the nearest theatre, all the way thinking of a person who long ago done-me-wrong (we all have those, right?) and how he’s recently gotten his just desserts in a most devastating and unexpected way. (Must be in the stars because this is a big theme I see these days.) And how he would never see his punishment as his karmic reward but rather, as some kind of injustice meted out to him. That’s where my mind was as I pulled into a parking lot at the theatre and headed straight for a prime parking spot.
This week, with a minor foot injury, I’ve discovered that close parking spots are uber important. Otherwise, I’m limping after about five minutes–and this is after my foot’s begun to heal. So as I started to turn into the space, I was quite grateful for this perfect parking spot in a sea of cars.
Until a truck pulled in front of me, cutting me off and taking the parking space! The driver, a man about my age, tried not to look at me–half-way into the parking spot he’d crammed into–as he exited his truck with his little boy. Instead, he rushed the child toward the theatre door, which was literally 50 feet away. Maybe he thought I would curse him in front of his child, but I’m not a particularly vocal or loud person and I didn’t plan to subject the boy to my annoyance. I didn’t particularly wish the man ill, but I did feel a sense of injustice in his actions, even with parking spot stealing being such an inconsequential thing in the scheme of the Universe.
The second best spot was several floors up in the parking garage, and then it was a twenty-minute limp to the theatre. I arrived as the movie was starting and my foot was aching badly, and I took the closest seat I could find so that I wouldn’t have to walk any farther. I didn’t realize at the time that I was sitting next to the little boy and his father.
When the movie was over, the father held the child back and sheepishly waited for me to leave ahead of them. Honestly, I was satisfied with his embarrassment, but as I limped past his truck on my way to my parking spot in East Egypt, I noticed that his truck’s headlights were on. What was left of them. They were little more than a thin glow.
I laughed out loud. He’d been in such a hurry to get to the movie that he’d not only cut me off but he’d forgotten to turn off his lights. And yes, I found myself delighted that the Universe had chosen to reward him for his rudeness.
I think we’re all suckers for a good comeuppance story because it reinforces that there is justice in the world when someone does something wrong. We’re delighted to see that karma works. At least, we are when someone’s getting payback for something bad.
But what about payback for something good? Something great happened recently to a woman I like very much. She’s had a tough path to walk over the last few years, with much heartbreak but she’s worked hard on herself spiritually and cleared out her past demons. Amazing rewards have been coming her way in the last month. All her friends know how hard life used to be for her and couldn’t understand why such a caring, loving, generous, good person had so much pain to deal with in her life. Now the bad stuff has been vanquished and she’s living her dream. Great, right? But people–even those who know what she’s been through–are insanely jealous and are talking trash about her…because they’d like a bit of the reward she’s getting for her past actions and situations.
Isn’t it funny how our sense of justice works? We’re thrilled to see people get what they deserve–when it’s bad–and jealous as hell when people get rewarded for good efforts.
Wouldn’t it be nice to do something wonderful or be something wonderful and know that paybacks can be “heaven,” too?