Listening for the good of the speaker

Published 7:43 am Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Echoes From the Loafers’ Club Meeting

You always have a pencil over your ear.

It comes in handy.

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Do you remove it when you get your hair cut?

Only long enough for the barber to sharpen it.

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors — both named Bruce — who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: I watched Goofy on the Walt Disney TV show when I was a boy. I liked him. I became goofy in his honor. I remain so out of habit.

Pencil marks to pumping gas

Pencil marks on the doorframe indicated my height. The lowest mark showed how tall I was when I entered kindergarten. The highest mark showed my height when I left for college.

At college, I was amazed by the size of the phonebooks there. How could people live in a city so large that they were unable to lift the city’s phonebook? Now our phonebooks are thin and mostly unused.

John Mellencamp wrote the popular song “Small Town” about Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomington has a population of 85,000, which made it 283 times the size of the small town I grew up near. I guess it’s a matter of perception or being bad with numbers.

I was on a work-study program at the university. I enjoyed it except for the work and the study parts. I got a job at a gas station. A large sign reading “Gas” loomed over the door. I was ordered to keep the restroom locked to keep anyone from cleaning it. The restroom key was attached to an anvil that customers dragged to the restroom.

A man stopped by every day. He dressed well, but wore battered shoes, perhaps as a testimony to the miles he’d put on. He was in the company of a friendly, but ugly dog. He was a big man with a big dog. He needed a large canine, as the man’s shadow was large enough to kill a small dog.

The man sat on a chair made around the seat of a retired farm implement. He and the dog watched as I checked the oil, tires, radiator, belts and battery, and cleaned all the glass of a car whose tank I might have been pumping in only $2 worth of gas.

She deserved a good listening to

I’ve written about this before, but I wanted to revisit the story with an addendum.

When I was a boy, I walked in the company of my mother. Everything was within easy walking distance then. A woman headed our way on the sidewalk. My mother whispered, “That’s Mrs. Johnson. She’s nice, but don’t ask her how she’s doing because she will tell you.”

Of course, I did the exact opposite thing from what my Mom had asked me to do.

“How are you doing?” I asked Mrs. Johnson.

She told me in excruciating detail. Amazingly, she did it without notes. I learned more about gallbladder surgery that day than I’d ever wanted to know.

But it was important that I listened to her.

Ask someone today how he or she is doing.

Then listen to his or her answer.

You will both feel better.

Nashville cats

Work had taken me to Nashville, Tennessee. As I visited here and there, I thought of an old Lovin’ Spoonful song, which included these lyrics, “Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville. And they can pick more notes than the number of ants on a Tennessee anthill.”

That was a low estimate of the guitar pickers there. It think I saw that many as I roamed around. Everywhere I went, there was someone picking and singing.

There wasn’t anybody dancing.

I had a car when I was in high school. I’d have saved a lot of money by not having one, but there were some advantages. All the advantages were girls. One day, some girls wanted to go to Herberger’s, so I drove them to Herberger’s. Inside the store, they took turns pressing the tops of perfume atomizers and dancing in the spray’s mist.

Maybe guitar pickers should add atomizers to encourage dancing.

Nature notes

I walked the college campus. The weather fit what I was wearing. It was a coincidence. Weather reports don’t matter much. It’s a crapshoot in the fall.

I’ve been fortunate to have taught countless classes on birds. I ask the participants to tell me what is their favorite bird. I get the usual answers — cardinal, loon, bald eagle, chickadee, hawk, owl and others. One man answered, “Fried chicken.”

Meeting adjourned

Kindness is sunshine when the skies are gray.