Archive for November, 2013

Your inner Mitch

Egos are interesting things.  At one time, I thot they were very necessary: we need to think of ourselves in order to survive.  Simply to survive.  There will come a point where giving everything away will include giving your life away.  In order to live, we have to put ourselves into the equation somewhere, even if it’s last.

 

While rather late in the game, I am learning that an ego just might be an impediment, not an asset.

 

First, of course, none of us gets out of this thing called Life alive anyway.  Having an ego is no guarantee of immortality.  Put another way, thinking of yourself is really rather superfluous.  It is simply not a matter of “if.”  It is only a matter of “when.”

 

But the question of “how” is seldom asked (“if” and “when” do not beg the question of “how”).  It seems most people muddle thru life w/o ever getting to how; for me, it is only recently that I have started asking “how.”  “If” was never in doubt, you understand.  When “when” became the topic de jour, the response was first of all to not ask, and then to answer “someday” (and not soon).  Frankly, now: the sooner the better.  I think.

 

About a month ago I transferred to a work group that I had known about peripherally.  Now that I am one of “them,” I understand why they are so poorly understood.  A pressure-cooker environment with poor tools to accomplish difficult tasks for ungrateful customers (both internal management as well as those external customers who buy the products).  Could a dysfunctional workplace have anything other than dysfunctional workers in it?  Maybe.

 

And so it is that someone who obviously slept thru the lecture on people skills finds himself working “with” others in pursuit of “delighting” the customer.  Dunno why he’s in a customer service organization, when his personality is more conducive to being a lighthouse keeper (think Alpha Centauri, not Neah Bay).  To say he’s “rude” is the result of working hard to sugar coat the obvious truth.

 

And, he’s not alone.

 

That sort of behavior is sad; but it is also ludicrous.  As a college prof once said, “I never lie about anything that is easily checked,” this work environment is one of limited verbal exchange and nearly total written communication.  In other words, anyone can check the written record to find out what was actually done – in fact a written record is absolutely essential because, in a 24/7/365 organization, a lot of people need to be included on issues that take 24-48 hours of continuous, round-the-clock involvement.  “No man is an island” was never so true as in this place.

 

Certainly possible that it is just me (what was that about ego, again?).  I am the newest kid on the block; the “newbie,” the “FNG.”  Fine, the t-shirts I have had in my closet for years still fit.  I did expect civility, however.  Learning how to use a cantankerous computer system that is poorly documented only adds to the frustration of trying to do a good job, of trying to be productive, of trying to add, rather than inhibit.  But, I just gotta think that anyone would have to take time to learn this system; I’m slow, but I do believe I’m in the ballpark.

 

Funny that members of a group that exists to help the customer are so rude to each other.

 

The Number One Worst Job I’ve ever had was an assembly line job in which I lasted three days while working my way thru school.  This one is Number Two (tho I’ve managed to last a month+).  It isn’t so much the work, tho the work is inherently unsatisfying, and working for a huge company is unrewarding anyway.  It is the people, pure and simple.  In any event, why don’t I leave?  At my age, and in this economy, that would be financial suicide (yes Virginia, even this job is better than standing with a cardboard sign on a street corner).

 

What prompted this post?  Frankly, I can’t remember the last time someone walked away from me while I was talking to him.  Just turned his back and walked away.  If he had added a gesture, I would have thought him supercilious, instead of crass.

Statia de autobus de pe Strada Dobrescu

The Bus stop on Dobrescu Street

For years and years and years, I have spent all day, everyday, in a tiny newspaper stand near the bus stop on Dobrescu Street. Freezing cold in winter, sweltering heat in summer, dawn to dusk, I sit. On a good day, I sell a few papers and magazines, enough to get by, yes? Mostly, though, I sit and watch the people come and go.

One spring, a young woman, started coming to the bus stop. Yes, long legs, black hair, dark, smoldering eyes – no different than hundreds of others. But, she never got on, or off, the bus. She would stand there, while others milled about; sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for twenty. Eventually, her patience was rewarded by a silver car; she would get in and she and her par amour would drive off.

The same car, always driven by the same man, was a rental; so he was a foreigner. I would wonder what would attract such a woman to such a man. She, the product of a rich history, and at the same time, a prisoner of its poverty. He, a man of some wealth, or more likely, of a rich foreign company; here for a time, and then gone. Leaving a trail of fast living, hard currency and many broken promises.

One day, while waiting, she happened to glance in my direction. Since I found her so fascinating, she caught me looking at her. I smiled and nodded my head. She smiled back. I motioned with my hand, come closer.

“He is late today, no?”

“Oh, you know?”

“But, of course. Many times a week, for what, a month now? You come, he comes, you get in his silver car, and you go.”

“Yes, you know.”

“Pardon me, miss, but this foreigner is special, no?”

Those eyes, those deep, dark, smoldering orbs answered without words.

“But, does he love you?” The question simple, yet not.

“You have seen much.”

“Yes, much; but, much to learn.”

“And wise.”

“You are too kind. He comes.”

“Merci.”

“La revedere.”

+++

“Miss, many times you come; but, he comes not.”

“He is in my heart.”

“But, a foreigner; you knew he would leave, yes?”

Her eyes looked at me, but did not see me.

“Could you not believe he would use you and throw you away? You were just a convenience for him. It happens all the time. You silly girl.”

Her eyes, those twin pools of the darkest chocolate brown, somehow got smaller.

“He gave me so much, he lives in my heart.”

“And what did he give you? You are pregnant?”

“No, old man!” she laughed scornfully.

“But what?”

“Let me tell you,” she began.

“We met at the hotel where I was working. He asked to participate in the hotel tour of the city, I told him we didn’t have enough guests. He said that was ok, he would go out on his own, a kind of sa-nook, he said.”

“Sa, what?”

“’Sa-nook’ is a Thai word that means to walk around without any other purpose, like the Australian Aborigine ‘walk-about.’”

“You know something of the Aborigines, do you?” the old man said with a glimmer in his eyes.

She reached over and playfully slapped him in the arm, “Don’t be silly. Anyway, I saw him later and asked him how his ‘sa-nook’ went. And he said, ‘Quite well, but it would have been better with a guide.’”

“Of course!” said the old man, “I can see it coming: seduction!”

“Sorry, no such luck.” She paused, then continued.

“After several dates, I finally made the first move. He was so fascinating, handsome, polite, always a gentleman, a philosopher, too!”

“Imagine!”

“You’re laughing at me!”

“Perhaps a little; you tell a good story.”

“Yes, well, he was – I mean is – a wonderful man.”

“So, you tried to seduce him?”

“But of course! I was in love.”

“And what did he do?”

“Get those thoughts out of your mind you dirty old man!”

“I won’t, but please continue.”

“He put me off and put me off. Finally, one day I asked him if he liked me. He said it was more than like.”

“Ah! he was in love with you; but, he wouldn’t touch you? How strange.”

“Let me finish!”

“Sorry.”

“So he said, What if he came to the hotel unable to speak. What if he used sign language and wrote everything down on a pad of paper. I might wonder what happened to him, or how life was, not being able to speak. But, I would know, absolutely, he wasn’t an opera singer – maybe “signer,” but not singer.”

“A sense of humor; a man who can laugh at himself. Truly a good man.”

“Yes; but, I didn’t understand. You can speak, I said. That’s true, he said, but I was trying to get him into bed, not speak. I still did not understand. Am I boring you, old man?”

“No my dear. I am not asleep. I have my eyes closed to try to understand. Why this attractive man, who is attracted to you won’t touch you. Religion? Was he married?”

“Yes, he was, twice. But that was not the problem.”

“Oh! no morals, then; but, he wouldn’t….”

“He said to me, “Smokie” – he called me that – “there are some scars I earned in the military that are not easily seen.”

“A military man, scars, injured; but, how would that…oh.”

“Yes, he was injured and couldn’t perform. He asked me if we could still be friends, now that I knew. ‘Of course,’ I said, ‘how silly.’ But the look on his face told me he doubted me.”

“Any man would, even one as wonderful as him.”

“But why? I loved him. I still love him.”

“Because, what is a man who can not satisfy a woman? Only part of a man.”

“You are so wrong, old man.”

“You called me wise five minutes ago.”

“I said wise, not smart.” She was smiling.

“So you did young one, more tea?”

“Te rog.”

“Continua.”

“I said we needed a weekend – two days – to see some sights; could he break away? ‘Yes, he could. He needed to inform his clients; but, it should be no problem.”

“What did you show him? Hasdeu? Targoviste? Peles? Cernica?”

“I arranged a tour of Curtea de Arges, Sibiu, and Brasov.”

“Excellent. You know your country. I am proud of you, young one.”

She blushed.

“So, the night you shared on your trip, separate rooms, no doubt.”

“No, old man.”

“No? I can’t believe you.”

“Believe.”

“But how?”

“I told him that since I was showing him places in my country, maybe he could show me emotional places I did not know.”

“And he said?”

“He said he would try.”

“And that night?”

“Patience.”

“But I cannot! An older man, unable to perform, weaves a spell on such a beautiful young woman.”

“Yes, he was magical.” Her eyes betrayed her momentary departure from that kiosk.

“Come back, young one, come back.”

“I am here.”

“Well? I am an old man, as you keep pointing out; I will not live till the end of your story.”

“But you already know the end.”

“I do not!”

“I come to this bus stop, and he never shows.”

“Yes, but….”

“He was killed in an airplane accident.”

“I’m so sorry. I am such an old fool. Please forgive me; how can you forgive me?”

“He would tell me there was nothing to forgive, and I agree with him. Because he taught me love, I cannot——“

“Perhaps you have shared enough with an old fool. Thank you for your patience.”

“May I continue?”

“Can you? Do you want to? It must hurt to speak of such private things of a man who has touched your heart.”

“That night we shared, we stayed in a country inn. Not a fancy room; but clean, and warm and cozy. The bath down the hall was not very romantic; but, we can’t have everything. He asked me if I wanted to have dinner – we really hadn’t had a decent meal all day. I said I just wanted to be with him. He said an empty stomach was best. ‘Best for what?’ I asked. ‘Best for magic,’ he said. Maybe I would like to take a bath, he suggested. Yes, all day with hundreds of other people looking at old buildings. I remembered when we checked in that the proprietor said we were the only guests that night. I suggested that we take a bath together. He said, ‘No, the magic would be better with a little suspense.’ I was dying!”

“He weaves a clever web, doesn’t he?”

“Oh, you cannot know! His hands, his lips, his touch, his caress. He knew exactly where to touch, and when and how. I would go from fire to jelly. I would plead for him to stop, I would plead for him to never stop. For hours and hours.”

“You said he couldn’t perform?”

“Not that way. But he could make magic with his hands and his lips. Old man, to be in bed with such a lover, you cannot know. I would reach the mountain top and he would bring me gently down. And he would take me to another, higher and higher. And bring me down. All night. By the time the sun rose, I was exhausted.”

“And you had not touched him? Are you sure he was a man, a real man? Surely you are telling me of a dream?”

“You have seen him, his car – is that a dream?”

“Ah, no.”

“He was real, and he was whole. When I came back from my bath, he went for his. He told me to lie on the bed and not move. He came back, and took off his robe. My god! old man! the body of a god, a man-god, not a boy-god. He started to massage my feet, then he worked up my legs. He was very proper, a professional massager meus sus. Up my back, my shoulders, arms, neck, head.” She sighed.

“Miss? Hello?”

“Then he said, ‘Turn over,’ for I had been on my stomach.”

“Yes, then?”

“Then he started kissing me – head to toe – he missed nothing.”

“You say too much.”

“I say nothing. Everytime I moved to touch him, hold him, he gently pushed my hands away. ‘Enjoy,’ he said, ‘this is my gift to you.’ But, I could not! I was on fire!”

“Yes, of course. I can imagine.”

“When the sun rose, I was in his arms. He cradled me as a father would cradle his baby.”

“And so you were.”

“Yes. As I opened my eyes, I saw him looking at me. ‘You made love to me,’ I said, ‘and I did nothing but fall asleep.’ ‘Thank you,’ he said.”

“He asked nothing of you? Surely you could do something to satisfy him?”

“What would you have me do, old man?”

“I do not know; I am not that wise.”

+++

“So what did he give you?”

“Himself.”

Zuzu’s petals

He was on his way to school. Well, where else was a 16 year old going at 7:19 in the morning, about a block from the high school? A car emerged from a side street and tagged him. That impact would probably have been exciting, or worth a whole lot of mileage if it had ended there. Bragging rights, if nothing else. Unfortunately, that first impact forced him to lose control of his car, which spun into the path of another car, on the same four lane, 40 mph street, but going the opposite direction. Hardly a blow of mercy, but certainly the death blow. He lingered on life support for less than 24 hours.

Who knows what would have prevented his death at that moment? Giving him all the benefit of the doubt, maybe the driver of the car that first hit his was distracted by, by what? Cell phone? In this day and age, very likely; but at this point, entirely unknown. Maybe the driver of the third car was distracted. Anyway, the young man was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Inches and seconds.

His father had died of cancer a few years ago, and now his mother has three kids to bring up. Solo. Enough tears in her life to fill an ocean, and then some.

We never know, do we? Like a thief in the night, true. But, “forward-looking information is subject to risk and uncertainty,” notwithstanding, what have we lost by losing him? At the very least, his life. But, few of us manage to live an actuarial-normal life w/o impacting others, or even participating the creation of others. So, as we, his survivors, move forward, and his immediate family comes to grips with the emptiness his death has given them, could we all, please, just make a conscious, deliberate effort to get our priorities in order? Please.

James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” received the gift of seeing what the tiny, little world of Bedford Falls would not become if he had never lived. Since Teagan McGinnis has not been given that gift, rather he has given it to us, could we please take it to heart?

Please.