It’s been an interesting week for the cat juggler — new cell phone, new car (new to me, anyway), new piano (also new to me. I should say it’s new to the budding pianoer in the family, Johnsonette, who is 6).
No more Tracfone for this cat juggler, don’t you know — my new cell phone has one of those 200 prefixes, and things are going to happen to me now. The only call I’ve received so far was a wrong number.
“What did you pay for your car?” a family friend named Mrs. Johnson axed me.
That was a rather personal question, don’t you think? Just because I once axed her “what did you pay for your house,” Mrs. Johnson apparently thought it was open season on personal questions. I wonder what Mr. Johnson would think of his wife’s impertinent question?
Speaking of some people, gather round, fans. I have a story to tell. I’m not going to reveal many specifics — not even the gender of the subject of this story — to preserve lives and protect the guilty. Now Johnson, if you’re reading this and think it’s about you, naw, it’s about one ’them other Johnsons.
I’ll tell it this way. One day, another person named Johnson entered a business. Johnson was very angry — angry, I tell you, shouting at people, shouting so loud, I thought a volcano was errupting.
This was one irrational Johnson, don’t you know, and as the situation was explained to me later, a non-issue had lit Johnson’s very short fuse.
I found it remarkable that the people Johnson was yelling at remained calm, and simply looked at Johnson, looking a little sad but giving no response that I could hear. I guess Johnson finally got tired of shouting and went away.
Had I been the object of Johnson’s wrath, what would I have done? Simply took it, like the two shoutees did? Shouted back? Resorted to sarcasm, saying, “Why, that’s terrible, don’t you know! I’m so sorry this awful thing has happened to you”? I’m afraid it would have been one of the latter two choices.
The two shoutees, however, exhibited the more mature choice. It doesn’t accomplish anything when a couple of hotheads start going at it, one of the shoutees explained. Isn’t that the truth?
Now, I am not a hothead (nor do I play one on TV), but I have occasionally been pushed to the edge of sanity by a maniac. If I can remain calm, I’m always glad I did. If I get exercised, I always regret it.
Let me tell you another story. At my old paper in Illinois, I took a call from a woman who complained that her particular organization’s event hadn’t had enough advance publicity in the paper. I disagreed, and while I didn’t shout, you might say I bristled. I think I said something like, “No matter what we do for you people, it’s never enough. You’re still not happy.”
She suddenly began crying. “I’ve offended you,” she said.
“No, no. It’s all right,” I sputtered, feeling instantly calmer and somewhat embarrassed.
“I’m not well. I’ve got MS,” she said, falling utterly apart.
Oh, great, I thought.
Of all the people I decided to pick a fight with, it had to be a lady with an illness. What might I have done differently? I don’t know, but that incident haunted me for a good while, don’t you know.
Sometimes people get mighty interesting when they want something from, or in, their local paper, apparently eager to pick fights for no good reason.
When I worked at the Temple paper, I took a call from a Dr. Johnson, who wanted to make sure a press release about some award he’d gotten for saving humanity — or something like that — got published.
I guess my assurances that it would get in the paper weren’t enough. Considering all the other “crap” we put in the paper, Dr. Johnson snapped, we’d better be honkin’ sure we got his important news in, he demanded. I had never suggested otherwise.
“Am I gonna have to call Sue?” he asked, referring to the publisher, who as far as I know was not on a first-name basis with anyone at the paper.
Was this some kind of test? Hey, was this one of those mystery press releases — you know, like a mystery shopper?
I managed to remain calm, but only because I didn’t want to get yanked into “Sue’s” office for popping off to Dr. Johnson, who was obviously part of her sphere of influence.
No matter what my motivation might have been at the time, to this day, I feel good about keeping cool.
But I do wish I’d said, “Hey doc! My head hurts when I do this! (sound of hand smacking head). Couldja take a look at it?”
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.