I really like instant gratification. Immediately. No waiting. Pronto. I would even go to a rally for it. I can hear the chant now …
What do we want?
When do we want it?
I think the first time I was exposed to the concept of instant gratification was by a girl named Veruca Salt. She was with a group of charming children visiting Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. When she saw Wonka’s little helpers who came from Loompa Land, she cried out to her father, “I want an Oompa Loompa. … I want an Oompa Loompa right now!” Yep, sweet Veruca became the poster child for on-demand, same-day delivery.
But I discovered there’s one glitch to instant gratification: It takes too long. Lines in stores … traffic jams … canceled appointments. It would appear the path to instant gratification is littered with delays. Fast food isn’t fast enough. The Quick Mart isn’t quick enough. And Speedway isn’t speedy enough.
That’s why, when I discovered a new facet of this glorious indulgence, I just had to share it with all you other instant gratifiers …
It happened one afternoon while I was sitting on my front porch playing my banjo, eternally frustrated because I had just spent the past 10 minutes practicing the claw hammer strumming style and still hadn’t mastered it. Suddenly, drifting from across the street, was the droning sound of a gas-powered engine. There was my neighbor prancing down his sidewalk waving some kind of gadget. I shouted to my wife, “Joel’s got a power washer!” as I tossed my banjo aside and sprinted across the street to investigate.
And there was Joel, pointing the power spray gun at his dingy-colored sidewalk. I stood there dumbfounded as I watched the dull, grey cement color being instantly transformed to a clean, bright surface with every steadied, even swipe of the sprayer. It was uncanny!
Then I looked at the expression on Joel’s face as he operated that enchanted contraption. His eyes were gleaming … his lips were pursed in pleasure … his cheeks were puffed in contentment ... all the signs that indicated one thing: Instant gratification!
Back and forth, forth and back, went his magic wand, leaving instant beauty in its path. I stood there hypnotized, reveling in the moment. Joel saw me, shut the machine down and puffed out his chest in well-deserved self-righteousness.
“Hey Mike, what do you think?”
“Um, ah, geesh …,” I sputtered.
“I know what you mean. Isn’t this thing great?”
“Um, ah, geesh …,” I observed.
To make a long, incoherent conversation short, I finally regained my composure enough to do what every self-respecting neighbor would do: I asked if I could borrow his power washer. Joel informed me he was just the co-owner of the miracle machine, but after consulting with neighbor Tom, the other 50 percent shareholder of my future apparatus gratis, it was agreed that I could use it.
And use it I did! First I attacked our concrete driveway. Swoosh! Then I hit my front steps and sidewalk. Swish! On to the white picket fence. Whiz! The dirt on the exterior of our house vanished instantly. Zip! The grime on our patio furniture disappeared. Whoosh! With every sway of every spray, I witnessed instant change. Black to white! Dirty to clean! Dull to bright! And, like Joel, my face flushed with the pleasure of instant gratification. I was happier than a seagull in a parking lot with a bag of french fries.
So, if you want a quick instant gratification fix, just borrow someone’s power washer and spray your way to happiness. After all, who needs an Oompa Loompa when you can have a 0° Blaster Nozzle?
• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He recommends a sand blaster as an optional instant gratification upgrade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.