Posts Tagged ‘ Tom Hanks ’

The damn island

The good news is: I survived the plane crash. The bad news is: I am all alone on this island. Of course I am thinking of Tom Hanks in “Cast Away.” But, why? Every year about this time, as everyone I know is getting excited about Christmas, I take the time to review the calendar year that is coming to a close and think about the year that lies just over the horizon.

It has been a good run. I found employment as a field representative, which was absolutely perfect for me, for a time. I loved the globetrotting. I loved actually being helpful to customers. And, there was ample pay to grease the wheels of the constant relocations (about every 30 months, on average). On the one hand, it was a sad day when I was assigned to the company’s central call center because that was the end of a life that I dearly loved. On the other hand, I was overseas when my father died, and I felt I needed to be near my mother. So, for the past five years, I have been spending a lot of time with her – this, a very good thing.

But, for purely political reasons, and not the financial reasons which might be easier to accept, the call center is moving, and I am not moving with it. I do hate this call center job. With a passion. Mostly for all the politics that I am subject to (after nearly 17 years in the field, I was blissfully distant from the petty machinations of the people who were more concerned about their own careers than doing the right thing). It has, however, been a paycheck, which has allowed a life-style that I have grown accustomed to.

Consequently, 29 years with the company are coming to an ignominious end at the first of the year. The good news is that I have not lost my paycheck just before the Holidays.

Back to the movie. At one point, Tom tried to hang himself; I’m certainly not there (I would never give the company the satisfaction of knowing it had destroyed me). At the end of the movie, Tom has lost the girl that kept him alive for the four years he was on the island. But, he’s standing at a crossroads, somewhere in the middle of Texas, with possibilities that extend beyond the horizon. On the island, his future converged and it looked like a hopeless dead end. Having survived his ordeal, he is looking at a future that diverges – unlimited possibilities.

The bad news is: I can’t see beyond the damn island.

True, no one in my work group has yet gotten a lay-off notice; and management keeps up a constant litany of “we will do everything we can to make sure everyone has a job.” If I had any respect at all for management, that would be reassuring. Unfortunately, if I have learned anything in my very long tenure, I have learned not to trust management. They think they walk on water, and don’t realize they’re not wearing any clothes.

I do have enough time with the company to retire; but wasn’t planning on taking that step this soon, so financially I can’t swing it. How much is enough? With a daughter who has returned (can we say “boomerang”?) and is expecting in January, and a wife who is expecting in July; whatever it was I had planned will be about four mouths short.

So, at this festive time of year, I am immediately confronted with the choice between pulling out the stops for Christmas, or hunkering down. My wife and I have tickets to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s long-standing tradition of “The Nutcracker.” I made this a holiday tradition when I moved to Seattle back in 1985. Why this will be the last performance, I don’t know; but it is another ending. That will be our Christmas present to each other. Our daughter gets baby clothes.

There are some who look at a personal tragedy and say it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. Hard to imagine Tom’s character saying the island experience fell into that category. And, being forced out of a job I hate is not exactly a tragedy; but, what am I to do now? Dunno. I have absolutely no clue in the world.

After the debacle of trying to hang himself, Tom’s character made a life for himself on the island, and he was open to new ideas. He monitored the seasons, and specifically the winds. He was able to envision a sail in part of porta-potty. (Quite a stretch; something to keep in mind.) It has been said that “good luck” is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. For non-believers, “good luck” is all there is.

Christmas is, more than anything, a beginning. A new, radical, unheard of beginning. For some, completely unexpected. Maybe this Christmas for me will not be more eggnog and fruitcake, but something worth getting out of bed for? Gotta keep that possibility in mind.

But first, I’ve got to get off this damn island.


A friend has taken off the kid gloves and put her foot down: there will be no further discussion (presumably with her) on the subject of homosexuality. With little or no study, she has concluded that it is genetic. I applaud her unequivocal resolution. May I suggest two movies that treat the subject admirably: “Philadelphia,” with Tom Hanks (love that guy) and Denzel Washington; and “The Family Stone,” with Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton.

Even though I disagree with her, I think some thoughtful reflection on the state of affairs of human beings around the world, not just the rich, vocal, European and American glitterati – the small numbers of those who CHOOSE to be identified primarily, or only, by their sexual preference, and not, say, by their contributions to the arts, or sciences, or the progress of the human race – and ignore:

The 21 million mostly poor, poorly-educated, non-white people with very few choices who are victims of trafficking. This would include sexual exploitation, forced labor, illegal organ removal, forced marriages and illegal adoption. 60% are women and children. (

The nearly 800 million that simply don’t have access to clean water, which kills approximately 3.4 million people a year from diseases related to water. (

The estimated 219 million cases of malaria that killed approximately 660,000 people in 2010 – nearly all in Africa (

Well, you know where I’m going with this: there are much, much bigger fish to fry than to have “sexual orientation” thrown in my face every time I look for news on the internet. Do I care about bigotry and prejudice? Sure I care. But, I care a lot more – a lot more – about the standard of living of those who don’t have even their most basic needs fulfilled, or the barest minimum of dignity granted to them by those who, by some accident of birth happen, at the moment, to have more physical power.

Well, what about DNA? I’m left-handed. I’m the only left-handed person in either my father’s or my mother’s family. People have noticed my “handed-ness” (i.e., commented on it; along the lines of ‘isn’t it difficult?’); and I notice others who prefer their left hand to their right hand (but, I long ago stopped saying anything). It has always been no big deal; I have been able to teach myself to use right-handed scissors. But, seriously folks, how about skin color? In the history of humankind, and all over the world today, skin color plays an extremely important role in a person’s life. How about gender (the biological gender we are all born with – not the gender that happens to be fashionable at the moment)? If you’re a female banker in Scandinavia, too bad: your pay is about one-third of what your male counterparts make (

So, what if I couldn’t teach myself to use right-handed scissors? Why in the world would I make it a point to ensure that everyone around me knew? Why would I make my “condition,” or “situation” their business? Why would I throw it in their face every day? If I raised roses, maybe I would join a rose club. If I defined myself by the wheels under me, whether two or four, I might join a car/motorcycle/bicycle club. But, why would I want people to think of me first, last and always as a _____? As Joe Miller (Denzel Washington in “Philadelphia”) might put it: “Now, explain it to me like I’m a four-year old.”