It’s that time of year. Or maybe just a social media thing. You know… “I am so proud of my kids – they graduated, got married, had babies, bought a house, are so good-looking…” you name it.
I think it is important to think about what you are proud of, and possibly even share it. Possibly.
When I look back on this year, I am proud of something most people don’t mention in Christmas letters, or on social media and maybe it is no big deal to most people. But it is important to me. (Let me know if you agree or not. That’s what the comment section is for!)
I come from an environment where the f-bomb was not used often. In fact, it was minimized since I was raising children.
Arriving at my technical college was a rude awakening.
One student seemed to have real difficulties with controlling the release of these words. He would mutter a constant string of invectives while in the lab, sometimes loudly. I tried to avoid him, but that was difficult at times. Consequently, I would wear my ear buds so I wasn’t distracted by his tirades.
I remember telling my parents about this fellow and wondering if he had Tourette’s Syndrome. It was the only possible explanation. I was certain.
I thought about my dad and his daily visit to the public library to read his email. Public libraries are amazing institutions which provide the real melting pot experience of America. In the colder months many use the library for more than periodicals. Sometimes, they come in to keep warm. Some are suffering from mental illness. The library picks up where social services leave off.
My dad is a Regular and has gotten to know most of the other Regulars at his local public library.
One man in particular comes from a shelter everyday to play chess on-line at the same library. My father introduced me once we were outside a store and he rode by on his bike, both handle bars laden with bulging bags.
Later, while in the library, my dad’s friend got loud, then louder, yelling at the computer screen. The librarians started to mumble at the information desk. One called his name, but he ignored her.
My dad called across the desks, “Joe! Joe! You’re getting loud.”
Joe looked surprised. “Am I, Vince? Well this guy is cheating. He’s using up all the time!”
“I know, Joe, but you don’t want to get kicked out again,” my dad said calmly.
“Ok, ok,” Joe agreed.
I recalled this incident while I considered the F-Bomber in lab. I had learned his name and the next time he started getting loud and obviously frustrated, I thought I should give it a try.
Now mind you, I was a little afraid to approach him, but I also understood his frustration. Sometimes, you are asked to do things in the lab you are quite uncertain about and the professors allow you to try on your own, which can lead to disappointment as you struggle. Since we had started talking, I discovered he had some major health issues, which had resulted in his loss of employment and filing for personal bankruptcy.
“THIS FU@KING MACHINE! HOW THE HELL? WHAT THE FUC%!? WHAT THE FU?KIN’ HELL!” He was standing and in full blown bomb mode once I reached his table.
I put my hand on his arm, and offered, “Hey, can I do anything to help?”
“YOU CAN’T HELP! YOU JUST STARTED. You don’t know as much as I do.”
He was right about all of that, but he did seem to take it down a notch. Thankfully, he did not slug me.
Fast forward to this semester. I noticed he was stopping by my seat daily to report what he was doing and inquire about my work.
I realized somewhere along the way, we had become friends and I told him how when we first met, I diagnosed him with Tourette’s.
He laughed. “I was kind of angry back then. I was going through a lot.” Good God, yes.
He still curses and loses his patience, but not like he once did. We even worked as a team on an assignment and when he asked if I would work with him, I took the opportunity to ask him to not lose his patience; we are both just learning. Following the assignment he asked how he did with remaining calm. I treasure the fact that he trusts me to give him an honest opinion.
He is definitely not as loud and angry as he once was. In fact, I cannot remember the last time he dropped an F-bomb. And I have not worn my earbuds in lab in a long time.
When I look back on this year, I don’t know if I had anything to do with his mellowing. Maybe, it was all health related.
And maybe not. Either way, I made a friend.