The Small Stuff Isn’t Worth Swearing At

By jennifer j. rose

The Pacific Ocean crashes on rocky crags beyond the infinity pool and below the balcony where I sit writing this, its horizon melting into a blur of pink-and-blue dawn sky. Somewhere off in between, maybe a third of the way closer to shore, two men navigate a panga, casting off nets. I am in Nicaragua, at a point closer to Costa Rica than to El Salvador, a promontory separating me from the beach where a one-time lawyer and rogue William Walker landed a century and a half ago in an ambitious but ill-fated attempt to conquer this strip of Central America.

Just getting to this place meant setting aside minor details. A storm raged in the Northeast, calling for travel plans to be moved up a day for the friends who would accompany me, coordinating our schedules so that we could all meet in Managua. Would we need two cell phones or just one? Should we concern ourselves with exchanging greenbacks for cordobas at an airport, an ATM, or some bank—or could we just pay for something in dollars and receive our change in the local currency? What if there was no potable water? We’d been told we’d be entering an Internet-free zone, bringing only what could be contained within a single carry-on. Would we run out of reading material? What if a sea monster with bulging eyeballs and a hundred tentacles slinked down over the mountain, capturing us? In preparation for the trip, we entertained ourselves with no less than 1,142 things to fear.

Some of our party let the details weigh heavily on their minds, one took on a cavalier attitude of “whatever,” and one simply soldiered on ahead, plying unfamiliar roads in search of the Pan-American Highway that would take us to a left turn at Tola and a right turn onto gravel, turning left at the next fork in the road, which would lead to a dirt path, fording a stream, finally culminating in what appeared to be a burning garbage dump at the entrance to the property. Now, everyone knows how those vacation rental web pages and the glowing descriptions seldom nod to those truth-in-advertising laws, but we were ready to inflict great bodily injury upon the man who brought us here, at least for failing to remind us to bring plentiful supplies of duct tape.

And then, just over the hill and through the dale, loomed our house, appearing very much like the photos on its web page. All of the small stuff that had haunted us just moments before vaporized. We were home.

What we’d encountered along the way amounted only to other roadside attractions, little hitches, glitches, potholes, and curveballs. Those little impediments that seemed so important at the time were relegated to the status of minor annoyances by the time we’d reached our destination. And that harkened me back to the days of practicing law as a solo. Two decades would have to pass from the date on my license to practice law and I would have to leave the practice and move out of the country before I could look back on that path in a rear-view mirror. As a young lawyer (and all lawyers who haven’t spent a half-century on the planet are young, if you ask me), I would have insisted the details were as important as the final goal, dismissing the counsel of others that “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Details and petty nuance can make lawyers willing hostages, enslaving them to singing cadences filled with bingo card phrases such as Bottom Line, End of the Day, and Big Picture over and over again as if they were marching grunts and prisoners to a chain gang. What lawyer’s day isn’t filled with gripes, whines, annoyances, and green-eyed sea monsters? It’s far easier simply to slay them with one fell swoop and move on to the task of frying bigger fish.

Now, please don’t bother me. I have important details to consider—like organizing the campaign for the perpetuation and preservation of the serial comma.

jennifer j. rose is a lawyer and writer living in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, and Vice Chair of the GP|Solo Division. In her spare time, she blogs at She may be reached at

Copyright 2009

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