We went to the fancy outdoor food court in front of Union Station to have fancy hot dogs and watch a movie. We got there 45 minutes before movie time and all the seats were already taken. We bought our fancy hot dogs anyway and Aina’s burst hot liquid on her and scalded her and mine ejected its sauerkraut and mustard mid-bite. It was, we may say, a disappointment.
So, suddenly at liberty, we checked the ferry schedule. We made it on time to the next ferry to Ward’s Island, and an hour after our downtown disappointment we were on the beach on the island for the first time this summer. The water was flood-level high but the weather was beautiful and it wasn’t crowded. Aina frolicked in the waves and I stood and observed the deepening cyans and magentas of the hour before a summer sunset on the lake. And then we went to the cute café by the lawn bowling club and had refreshment as an exactly perfect summer evening wrapped itself around us like a friendly cat.
It was, we may say, a surappointment.
Oh, did you not know that word? You know disappointment because everyone knows it. It looks like dis plus appoint plus ment as in what happens when you lose an appointment because that’s what it started as: a word for when someone is removed from a position, decommissioned, decruited, downsized, fired. Then it spread to a broader meaning and, perhaps because of its association with that downscale sense, lost its original literal reference. But you know what all those annoying adults always told you whenever you were disappointed? “When one door closes, another opens.”
That’s not actually true, of course – sometimes when one door closes there isn’t another door and you’re just locked out and that’s that, regardless of what older people who think their role is to be your motivational coach may say. But it makes it just that much better when it actually does happen – when you lose one thing you wanted and, as a result, get another even better thing. When you get fired from a job (or just don’t get hired for it) and you turn around and get a better job. When the dis (‘apart from, away from’) becomes sur (from French, from Latin super, ‘on top of’).
I remember the summer of 1984. I was just done high school and I had a shot at a summer job at a provincial park doing – well, it’s hard to explain, but basically being a performer who helped people understand and appreciate the park. I got a tryout at their orientation weekend. I really enjoyed it, and meeting all the people, and I learned some things. However, I was, it turns out, not… um… well, probably just not nearly mature enough for the job. So I was really disappointed, literally and figuratively. As a result, I had my summer completely unoccupied… until I was given the chance to spend it at a huge old hotel-turned-conference-centre in Switzerland, above Lake Geneva. Meeting people from all over, and especially from Europe, and seeing really gorgeous scenery and broadening my horizons. I was, yes, still incredibly immature (come on, I was 16 years old, OK), but I learned a lot and experienced a lot and accumulated great memories. What a surappointment!
Is surappointment serendipity? Typically, yes: a wonderful and unexpected discovery. But not all serendipity is surappointment – you don’t have to have been disappointed to experience serendipity.
And is this a new old word? Did I make it up just for you, just now? Yes. But so what? Everything has to come from something.