How Am I Feeling? Don’t Ask!

I’m of the generation that grew up during World War II in a solid family setting, supervised by loving yet firm parents, monitored by extended family and neighbors, educated by Catholic nuns, and taught among other things, not to be self-involved, or to seek sympathy when you have a problem that should be dealt with by yourself, without needlessly involving and/or annoying others. Allow me to illustrate with an example:

The Hypothetical Situation: I am 10 years old. As I run down our concrete driveway, headed for school, I slip and fall. There are scrapes, bruises, and pain galore. I report this to:

1. My father. He checks me out, makes sure no bones are poking through the skin, that there is no significant blood loss, and says: “You’ll be fine.”

2. My big brothers: They hear me out, give me a quick once over, and say: “Next time, be more careful.”

3. The Sisters of the Presentation: After I make it to school, I tell the nun all about my painful travail. She listens, smiles, and says: “Offer it up for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”

4. Neighborhood friends: On the way home from school, I tell the guys of my great misadventure. The tough guy, Butch, says: “That’s nuthin’! My cousin Louis fell down like that, hit his head on the cement, and it made him simple.”

That is how one learns not to share health conditions with the uninvolved, uninterested, and otherwise occupied.

My life pretty much went on in that fashion, and eventually I ended up in the Army, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, walking behind a platoon of tanks in a simulated assault. The field was incredibly muddy. I stepped in a tank rut, and immediately sank into it up to my knees. I couldn’t lift either leg and, with a 90 pound pack, found myself sinking deeper. It was like quicksand.

The platoon sergeant saw me, diverted a couple of guys to pull me out with a rope, and was not pleased with me for interrupting his exercise. I defended myself by beginning, “Sarge, I stepped into some quicksand!” He replied: “Well, that was stupid.”

Okay. Then I entered the business world. One of my early assignments was picking up potential investors at the airport for a financial Show & Tell by my employer. I picked up one man from New York who looked like a principal in Don Corleone’s Waste Management Services Company. On the way to the office, he told me to drive carefully. I said, “Yes sir. I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.”

He said, “Good. Otherwise, something bad will happen to you.”

That put a damper on the conversation. We spoke no more. When I got back to the office, my boss said, “That last guy is the key to this whole deal. Did he say anything in the car?”

I said, “Yes. I think he threatened to kill me.”

My boss said, “No, not that. Did he say anything about the investment?”

And you wonder why guys my age don’t volunteer much personal information?

Are you listening to me?


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