Karma came full circle last night, and all I got was this lousy moment of Schadenfreude.

I’m not feeling too good about myself right now. I had a bit of a discovery that I can be a severe asshole; both in my shortsightedness and my sanctimonious smugness, and that puts me on the Wheel of Karma as much as it did to the person I happened to come across, whom I’d blamed for something that I’d felt wronged me.

This is going back to June of 2012. With my debut novel a few short weeks away, I was scurrying through Portland trying to find a bookstore willing to host a release party and perhaps carry my novel, with the understanding that I would be publishing more books in the future and wanted an ersatz home front for future publications. I picked a particular book store in the heart of downtown Portland, with a reputation for promoting local authors, and paid them a visit.

The store owner wasn’t there, so when I went inside I was forced to deal with one of the counter jockeys. I explained who I was and dropped off a packet of information, including my bio, a list of previous publishing credentials, contact information for my publisher, and a letter explaining what I’d hoped to accomplish with their store. The clerk assured me that my information would be passed on to the right people, and I thought everything was in place where I’d wanted it to be.

Only, nothing happened. My book reached its release date with zero party or fanfare. My books never graced their shelves. And a part of me felt completely worthless, wondering if it was ME or if it was because I write HORROR, or because (as I’d been told only a few short weeks before by a curator of the New York State Writers Institute), “We reserve THAT for more established writers”. It did a number on my self confidence, and left me feeling that little bookstores like the one I’d been dealing with was totally fucking elitist, pretentious bluster that literary wannabes jack off to when not waxing poetic in their marbleized notebooks. And that bookstore hadn’t been the only one, either. I got the runaround from quiet a few places. Which led me to build a mental list of those folks who supported me way back at my beginning, and those who wanted nothing to do with me.

Only, I gave this particular store the benefit of the doubt, and two months after my book was released I sent them an email, reminding them that I’d dropped off my little packet of information and was still hoping they would carry my book. This store failed to reply to my email as well.

So, fuck ’em.

Three years later…

A coworker of mine pulled me aside and pointed out one of the new temp workers. An older fellow with reading glasses that he often lifted up over his scalp when he wasn’t trying to read the addresses on the packages we sort on our automated machinery. She told me that this man may be of interest to me, as he used to run a bookstore out in Portland. Only, it seems that this man and his business partner have had to close their store (for unmentionable reasons), and now this fellow is an underling to me, wanting to learn the ropes and perhaps make this his new steady-paying gig.

Holy Fuck!

Imagine that…The guy who ran the store that wanted nothing to do with me is now without a store. Gee whiz, break out the sad trombone and play that motherfucker a fanfare. That’s gotta be the worst thing I’ve ever heard. NOT!

Yes, I was that big of an asshole.

I really, really delighted in this poor dude’s hard times, as if Karma really DOES exist and that it was playing out strictly for my satisfaction. I gloated. I reveled. I replayed in my brain the anguish of just how crappy that store made me feel by simply choosing to ignore my existence. In my mind I was ready to treat this human being like garbage; to ignore requests for help and direction and possibly find a way to screw him right out of a job. Because you don’t fuck with ME. I paid my dues, buddy. Now you can pay yours.

That’s not me. That’s not the human being I want to be. I didn’t burn bridges the first time around, when my book failed to make it into his store. I didn’t drop notes to all my friends saying, “Fuck this guy and his business. He doesn’t want to help us unknown authors.” I didn’t harass his employees or mistreat anyone because I was hurt. I simply went on with my life and tried to learn what lessons I could from it. And even now, after my little round of butt-sore gloating, I don’t want to be that guy. I didn’t tell him who I was or rub it in his face for not helping me, or try to sabotage his chances for employment. And I’m not going to. Because now that my little moment of Schadenfreude has worn off, I see a bigger picture. I see ME on that wheel, wanting to stay humble and polite and not giving into the temptation of being a colossal prick. I’m sad they chose not to cooperate and support me, but that was their choice. And for all I know, this guy probably never even saw the packet I left with the clerk at the register. For all I know, she tossed it into the trash and forgot all about it. And for all I know, the email I sent could have went to his spam folder, never to be given a second thought. Whatever the circumstances, I don’t care. My book did just fine without appearing in his store. And even if it had, the remaindered copies would have been sent back to the publisher anyway.

I’m ashamed that I let it get to me, even briefly, that I should delight in what this guy is going through. It contradicts everything I try to preach in social media as well as my personal philosophies. It sucks that we lost another bookstore; one that was very popular and vital to the arts community of our great state. It hurts other local authors, who are trying to gain success and, like myself, have their works read and enjoyed. And on a human level, I hate for anyone to struggle and fail. The world would be a better place if we stopped rejoicing in others’ failures and acting as if life was one big contest.

I behaved badly, but at least I saw the light and am trying to do better. I won’t burn bridges, especially the ones that might lead to new friendships.

I won’t vie for a worse spot on the Wheel of Karma.

I’ll just keep spinning for now, and wait for something more meaningful.