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No One Answers Your Cry For Help In The Sisyphean World Of 'Fail'

From the book Fail Harder: Hopefully, you weren't feeling TOO needy. i i

From the book Fail Harder: Hopefully, you weren't feeling TOO needy. Andrews McMeel hide caption

itoggle caption Andrews McMeel
From the book Fail Harder: Hopefully, you weren't feeling TOO needy.

From the book Fail Harder: Hopefully, you weren't feeling TOO needy.

Andrews McMeel

The first thing you need to know about 'Fail,' as a concept and a one-word declaration, is that it's so utterly worn out that you could take 'Fail' itself and say, "'Fail'? Cliche FAIL." And a distressing number of people would agree with you.

Indeed, the epic fail, the typing fail, the text message fail, the publicity fail — just about everything you can fail at has now had so many fails that actual failure has almost become meaningless if you call it that. (And not because of grade inflation.)

Nevertheless, when I received a copy of the new book, Fail Harder, from the operators of the FailBlog, a site I never visit because of the aforementioned well-worn nature of the subject at hand, I found that I did, surprisingly enough, enjoy it. And at some point, as I was paging past signs pointing in opposite directions and playground slides leading nowhere, I realized something very fundamental.

From the book Fail Harder: A sign on the door of a Verizon store contradicts the door itself. i i

From the book Fail Harder: A sign on the door of a Verizon store contradicts the door itself. Andrews McMeel hide caption

itoggle caption Andrews McMeel
From the book Fail Harder: A sign on the door of a Verizon store contradicts the door itself.

From the book Fail Harder: A sign on the door of a Verizon store contradicts the door itself.

Andrews McMeel

The "fail" phenomenon grasps better than anything my moments of completely superficial existential despair.

These photos don't grasp the feeling of a day when anything truly bad happens. But they are perfectly able to encapsulate the feeling you get on the days when every door labeled "PULL" has to be pushed, and every movie usher sends you to the wrong theater, and every time somebody tells you that something is in stock, it turns out that you get out there — having traveled 18 miles in the rain with a broken leg — and it's not.

If I were in charge of it, this phenomenon wouldn't be called "FAIL," as that focuses too much on the behavior of the other person — on the inadequacy of the person who made the sign. No, I would name it "OH, WHAT?" Because these pictures understand what it means to ask the sky, with your fists clenched, "What are you people trying to do to me?" You people at the place I tried to get coffee, you people on the train, you people on the elevator. What, I ask, are you trying to do to me?

This is the Sisyphean world of Fail, in which the accessible entrance is a set of cement stairs, a floral wreath which certainly looks destined for a funeral shows up labeled "BELOVED HASBAND," and it takes three sheets of paper to make a sign reminding people not to unnecessarily waste paper. It is the grungy, dull, uninspired workaday world in which, like Sisyphus does in the myth, you push your little rock of bewilderment up to the top of the hill, and all it ever does is roll back down. On you. With dirt on it. Onto your foot.

Of course, you presumably realize at some point that these things — okay, other than "BELOVED HASBAND" — may well be simple cases of confusing or thoughtless signage, and that confusing or thoughtless signage, in the grand scheme of world problems, doesn't register.

But no matter! Allow yourself your moment. Your tiny, tiny little moment. The entire universe of Fail is here for you, to be ... not here for you at all.

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