“Mankind is a damn mess,” said ninety-six-year-old Burt, observer of the human condition, and retired auto mechanic. “Just pathetic,” observed Burt again. “And that includes you and me, son.”

“Burt, you think I’m pathetic?”

“No. Not you, your body.”

I touched the roll of tummy hanging over my belt buckle, and reasoned whether it was pathetic, or just a medium-grade of pitiful.

Burt observed again, “It’s not your fault, God made you pathetic. Consider how small your heart is. And it never stops. Never. If you were a Chevy Deluxe, you wouldn’t last a year.”

“What if I was a Nissan Altima?”

“Four months, tops,” said Burt, observing Japanese engineering.

“You’ll understand when you’re older,” Burt went on. “Once you get past a certain age, you will see how pathetic you are. It’ll start with something small, like back pain. Then, it’ll get worse. You’ll try things to make it better, you’ll convince yourself you’ve got it licked. And then you’ll develop something like arthritis in your feet. Or maybe kidney stones.”

I’ve had a kidney stone before. I had to go to the emergency room. It felt like giving birth to a litter of possums. My doctor kept patting my shoulder, saying, “This too shall pass.”

Burt explained. “Then one day, for no reason at all, your back pain will quit working part-time, and switch to full-time. So, eventually, you’ll learn to live with it. When you finally adjust, you’ll find happiness.”

What a relief.

“Until”, said Burt. “You fall in the shower and pop your knee. But don’t worry, it’ll heal. And when it does, you’ll develop gout in your big toe.”

God help me.

“When the gout goes away you’ll want to praise the Lord. Except you can’t, because your back has flared up again, and for some unexplainable reason you’ll have a yeast infection on your tongue.”

“Is that even possible?”

“Yep, your doctor will tell you the infection’s nothing to worry about. You’ll feel relieved until he mentions that you have diabetes.”

“Burt,” I interjected. “How can anyone enjoy life if it’s so miserable?”

“Who said anything about enjoying life? Life is painful, son, and sad, you can’t enjoy life.”

“You can’t?”

“No, you can only learn to enjoy yourself. If you can do that, nothing in this life can hurt you. Not really.”

Well. Maybe he’s right.

But kidney stones still hurt like a son of a bitch. And you can quote me on that.