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Regret <br> By Marc Porter Zasada <p> Surely, the modern world was designed to manufacture regret in large quantities. <p> When people lived on farms, I figure it took years to build up a good load of missed opportunities: Last spring, you should have planted sorghum. Back in '35 you should have sold that 20 acres. <p> But thanks to the pace of modern technology and modern relationships, blown chances now appear at a fearful clip. When you go online, they can arrive three or four a minute: Bonds. Bargains. Jobs. Emails ignored. Calls not returned. <p> Today, the Urban Man sits alone in a crowded Westside restaurant, sipping his coffee and listening to the loud buzz of opportunity and disaster at nearby tables. This guy has made a great deal. That guy walked out on his third wife. I'm trying to get some work done, but I can't help reviewing my own fast-moving triumphs and mistakes. <p> Of course, I know that here in the modern world, we're supposed to keep swimming like sharks. We're never supposed to look back. In fact, we support a whole industry dedicated to helping us swim faster: Therapists. Motivational speakers. I can save you $17.95 on the latest bestseller just by telling you, "Let it go. Move ahead. Get on with your life." <p> But regret often proves relentless. Regret wakes you up at 3 a.m., when it appears in the form of ex-lovers, ex-spouses, or stocks sold two days too late. It follows you out the door of your dead-end job at five p.m. and confronts you in the parking garage. <p> You try to keep starting fresh, but regret hunts you down. One evening, he'll show up like the old business partner you double-crossed in a noir movie from the 1940s. You thought you'd gotten away: You changed your name, relocated to the coast, found a clean apartment and a snappy suit. Now you think you're swimming like a gen-u-ine shark. So one rainy night, you drop into a barstool for a celebratory Scotch. <p> And lo, way in the back, slouching down in a booth, you suddenly spot that angry partner you ditched in Philly three years before. He hasn't seen you yet, but you know you better find yourself a quick exit. You pull your fedora over your eyes, you leave a ten-spot on the bar, and you push back your stool. <p> Then, just as you're about to slip away, the bartender calls out "Thanks, Petey," in a loud, clear voice. <p> You and your regret lock eyes. He's tracked you down again.<p> Today it happens... well, almost like that.<p> At the Westside restaurant, a loudmouth character holds forth at the next table. He's bragging about all the smart things he's done. How he spotted remarkable opportunities and actually took action. How he made killing after killing. I get that tingly feeling in my spine, but just as I'm plunking down my plastic, he starts talking about real estate. Seems he bought up lots of property five years ago, and now he's rolling in equity. <p> So of course, I recall that moment five years ago when my wife said we should buy some extra property. And how we never got around to it. <p> Regret now takes me by the collar and pulls me up out of my chair. He hauls back and lays a bony set of knuckles right across my chops. <p> The Urban Man staggers. For a moment, he falls. But at last he picks himself up, adds a big tip to the bill, and heads out for the bookstore, where I run to the self-help shelf and search for the latest tome about swimming like a shark and letting go of the past. <p> At $17.95, it seems like a bargain. <p> Copyright - 2005 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved. <br>
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