TIPTON, IN—Wes Mendic, a grown man who works at a pool-supply store and lives all by himself, finds solace in a series of sad, piddling little activities when he is feeling down, he reported from his tiny one- bedroom apartment Tuesday.
"Whenever I'm down in the dumps, rather than wallow in my troubles, I try to do things that will get my mind off them," Mendic, 28, said. "Like, the first thing I always do is turn on all the lights in my apartment, even during the day. It just makes everything brighter."
"It's amazing what something as small as lifting up your kitchen window, leaning your head out, and looking outside for a few minutes can do for your spirits," Mendic added.
Mendic also indulges in a succession of "fun" tasks, including putting fresh, clean sheets and pillowcases on his bed; using his Dustbuster to thoroughly vacuum his two-by-three-foot welcome mat, the only section of carpeting he owns; and dumping out the contents of his coin bank, stacking the coins into small piles by denomination, and then placing them one by one back into the coin bank.
"Something that always gives me a chuckle is going to my computer and loading up Bobby McFerrin's 'Don't Worry, Be Happy,'" said Mendic, who often watches the four-minute music-video clip several times in a row, staring intently at the screen and silently mouthing the lyrics in one of the saddest displays you will ever see. "It's funny, it's catchy, and it really helps remind you not to take this crazy business called life too seriously. I remember it used to cheer me up back when I was in college too. Good times."
If his spirits are still low by lunchtime, Mendic said that he can always count on the simple task of preparing himself a tasty meal to help shake off the blues. His self-proclaimed "house specialty" is nachos.
"I only make them a couple times a month as a treat, so they'll still seem special," said Mendic, arranging a layer of tortilla chips on a paper plate, then taking a Kraft single, carefully tearing it into sad little strips, and sprinkling it onto the chips as if it were shredded cheddar and not an individually wrapped slice of American cheese. "They taste real good, and only use up like one or two singles, so there's always enough for the next nacho time."
When Mendic feels low, "comfort food" takes on new, asinine meaning, as virtually any kind of two-dimensional food, including toast, pancakes, or hamburgers, will inevitably find itself embossed with a jam, syrup, or mustard smiley face.
Mendic also started a tradition called "mini-Thanksgiving," which he holds approximately once a month, and which consists of microwaved turkey medallions, canned cranberry sauce, and a paper plate.
"It's great because it reminds me of spending time with friends and family," Mendic said.
The pathetic rituals don't end there. During his afternoon shower—a second daily shower he takes to "relax and not have to focus on getting clean, like the morning shower"—Mendic reads the labels of his shampoo and conditioner out loud in a Don Pardo-esque voice, and even plays a pitiful little game in which he scans the bottle's instructions and ingredient write-ups for all 26 letters of the alphabet. And as he towels off and dresses, he dances around to the Paul Simon song "You Can Call Me Al," flailing his arms and shaking his legs with a mixture of genuine enthusiasm and lack of coordination that would make you want to cry.
Despite his passion for bizarre little rituals that apparently keep him from tumbling into complete despair, over time Mendic has been forced to retire some of his habits, such as, for the love of Christ, playing Minesweeper.
"While I played it, I'd pretend I was on a secret mission from the CIA," said Mendic, who would bob his head while clicking away on his mouse in a ridiculously intense manner. "It would always pump me up. Until one day, I beat Expert [level] in 108 seconds, and I knew I would never top that record, so it stopped being fun."
Other heartbreakingly tragic routines Mendic cheers himself up with include fake- laughing, done in the hopes that it will trigger real, spontaneous laughter; throwing himself a "solo party"; poring over his high school yearbooks and rereading old e-mail exchanges from several years ago; calling his mother; sitting on his bed in front of the mirror and pretending he's interviewing himself about his life story; and checking his iPod's "date last played" column on iTunes and trying to remember where he would have been when he last heard each song.