I have lived a strange and interesting life, and met many strange and interesting people…and vented to them, and received strange and interesting advice.
I am listing these in a random order, as there is no way to determine, until after death, which ended up being the most useful.
“I’m 6,5 250 pounds and the possibility ain’t gonna pop up anytime soon, but if I can avoid getting f*cked up, I’m gonna avoid it.”
I was 18 or 19 working the cash office in a retail store in Chicago. I can’t recall why but tensions had been building between me and one of the stock-boys. I say stock-boy because he isn’t standing in front of me. He was not a boy. He was a very large black man who was on parole. On my way to somewhere in the store we passed by each other and our eyes met…and our stare did not disengage and we both stopped walking.
He said something along the lines of “Oh, you wanna do this?” and I replied something along the lines of “If you want, don’t let anything but fear stop you.”
In the quote itself is his tale of the tape…I was about 5’7 and 125 pounds. I was oblivious to the size disadvantage, because up to that point in my life, me being undersized hadn’t really put me at any actual disadvantage, I had a bit of a temper back then and that often balanced the scales considerably .
He then said “lets go to the bathroom where ain’t no muthaf*ckers gonna seen”.
I followed him in. He grabbed me by the shirt…and at this point the size difference became very clear. His hand was about a third the width of my chest, and it was like having a cannon glued to you, solid, unmovable, and hard. He immediately let out a rant/interrogation/confused tirade wondering such things as who the hell I thought I was, who I thought I was dealing with, and so on. He was angry for the first sentence or two but it quickly turned into genuine confusion, disbelief and sincerely needing an answer as if his whole grasp on the universe hung on my answer as to why this 125 person had put himself in mortal danger.
“you do not f*ck with me…people up here will tell you that! Anyone will! …why?! What…why are you…You do not…why? why are you stepping to me?!”
He was very exasperated. I , still defiant, replied “you stepped to me first”.
He blinked…paused…blinked a few more times, then asked how old I was. I told him, and he released me. He then said. “oh brother, look kid…you know you were about to be crippled up in here. You’re young and I know you got your pride and all that, but listen to me. I’m 6,5 250 pounds and the possibility ain’t gonna pop up anytime soon, but if I can avoid getting f*cked up, I’m gonna avoid it. Not every time someone steps to you is it smart to buck up at him. You wouldn’t buck up at a tornado, or an avalanche, bucking up when there is no possibility of winning ain’t pride, it’s ego. and everyone who gets f*cked up is because of ego.”
I don’t know that I could say we were friends after that, but we did like each other a lot more and even had a few laughs. I later learned why he was on parole, he was in a gang and his job was…dispatching punishment. Size difference may often be inconsequential , but had I known ahead of time, that he was in jail for assaulting other criminals, I probably would have never been in that bathroom to get that advice.
If all you can get is a job shoveling donkey shit, make sure you shovel more than everyone else.
One of my first jobs out of high school was at a truck stop type diner. I was the lunch cook. The owner, an older gentleman, had invented a thing or two and at an earlier time, and owned a chain of the diners all across the U.S. He was one of the pioneers of restaurant chains and had traveled with Colone Sanders. You heard me, THE actual colone sanders and this guy had at times traveled together to towns to pitch their store franchises. So this guy had lived a life, he was one of my favorite people. He passed away years ago. He was sharp, funny, spry, but not a hint of big headedness. Very down to earth for a man who was one of the few who had changed the entire way we go out to eat in this country. I dare say he liked me too. We both had the unique gift of being able to lose something we just had in our hands or not see something right in front of our face. His son was running the place and would often laugh at our expense. In that sense we were brothers in arms.
I don’t recall how it came up but he said to me “If all you can get is a job shoveling donkeysh*t , then just make sure you shovel more donkeysh*t than anyone else.”
This is the kind of advice you brush off until / unless you are close to people in charge of a businesses and see how they view their employees. The owner wants to make money, anyone working for him who is helping him make money is going to get noticed, and move up into a more important role to see if he can be even more useful in making the business money. If the guy is the best shoveler , then why not put him in charge of those shoveling, or training the other shovelers. If he is good at that maybe he should be in charge of buying the shovels, or running the trucks that take the donkeysh*t wherever it is going…and up the ladder he will continue until he reaches his apex of usefulness. and at that apex he will stay as long as he is good at it. You can think all businessmen are greedy slobs, or evil, or what have you…but the simple truth is no man is a island and smart businessmen pay attention to who can be made the most useful. So..be useful I suppose is a less colorful way of putting his advice, but not as charming.
If all you can afford is a donut, you might as well get a good donut
at this point I was working in a garage in a Milwaukee suburb, not making much money, never having much money. on the same lot as the garage was a gas station and my co worker and I wandered up for some junk food. He saw me look at the donut rack and after staring for a minute or two take a powdered donut.
“you don’t want that one” he said.
“huh?” I replied.
him-“You were looking at the donuts with sprinkles and then took that crappy powdered one.”
me-“It’s .69 and the sprinkled donuts are 1.09 That makes ’em .40 more.”
He stared at me.
him-“It’s .40. If all you can afford is a donut, get yourself a good donut.”
You have to enjoy something is the point to this one. Life may suck, you may be broke, maybe everything is falling apart around you…you still should enjoy something. Don’t let every single aspect of your life be sacrifice and caution and withholding. That was…hell…18 years ago maybe…that .40 cents, what role did it play in my overall life having spent it instead of saved it? I do remember it was a good donut. This is not license to waste money and live only for today…but you ARE alive today, today does matter, act like it at least a little.
“you can’t argue with a woman…there’s really nothing worth arguing about anyway”
Ah, a simpler time, when you could get advice unfiltered by political correctness, by men who stated there thoughts based soully on what their own personal experience and eyes have shown them. These days categorizing all of any category of person is some grievous offense. It is viewed as equally ignorant and lacking in wisdom saying all black people are lazy as saying women care way more about their hair then men. The man who told me this obviously was not the type to give a rats ass how the rest of the world agreed to view things, you asked him a question…you got an answer based on what life and his own two eyes have shown him to be true. His go to reply to any criticism from a woman was “(shrug) I’m asshole, I’ve always been an asshole, I’ll always be an asshole, and I told you I was an asshole” he would then go back to whatever he was doing. It was genius in it’s simplicity, and amazingly effective, as it left them with the choice between the devil you know or the devil you don’t know. Anyways, the “nothing worth arguing about” is pretty profound. This was relationship advice of course, and anyone who’s been in a long term relationship knows 99% of the arguments are really about something else…You don’t get into a shouting match over which size soda to buy, the shouting match is really the water reaching it’s boil about something else, or a dozen other things. Those other things, respect, boundaries, sensitivity…is it really worth the time to argue about that? If you have to explain, much less argue, more than once about how you should be treated in regards to important things like that, it is probably a lost cause. You cannot argue someone into treating you right. You cannot argue someone into being a good person. Communication is good, people have to get used to each other, but if you find yourself in one argument after the next about something you think should be obvious to someone who claims to care about you…go ahead and walk away from that one.
“It’s all about what your acceptable level of bullsh*t is”
I listed this one right after the previous one on purpose. It was told to me by a woman who is the polar opposite of the man who gave me the other advice, a borderline feminist activist, who tolerates little in regards women being looked down on. I went to her because of this, it’s good sometimes to get advice from people are probably going to disagree with your knee jerk reaction. Maybe it’s because of this that the advice was so memorable and a bit stunning…but profound. No one is perfect. Everybody has things about them that are off, or things in their disposition disagreeable to you, quirks of habit that are less then desirable. You have to understand this and make up your own mind on what is and is not actually important. Someone forgets your anniversary, that kind of sucks and it’s not very nice, but not enough cause to end a relationship with someone who is overall a good person…someone cheating on you or being a raging alcoholic, that would fall more into the category of deal breaker.
“every woman who has ever told me she loves me, has at some point in a grand finale also said the most horrific sh*t imaginable, chalk it up to the universe balancing itself out”
Actually, I gave this advice. It’s good. Here is the crux of it. Self awareness, epiphanies, self examination…there is a time and place for those. When a women is screaming at you through angry tears..is not that time or place. When things go south, often the point of the words that are exchanged is to hurt. To lash out. To vent and transfer the hurt to someone else. The list of things about you that need changing, that you are given by someone who is angry, hurt, or even trying to rationalize their own fault for the way things ended…go ahead and file those away, and maybe look at them later. Taking them at face value at the time is akin to declaring you will never drink again when you wake up with a hangover. Your drinking problem is probably not as bad as it seems at the time, and your conviction will fade as the headache does. Aside from that, every relationship has a different dynamic, things about you that ended one relationship might actually be a benefit to some future relationship. Give it awhile, or maybe if this is the second third or fourth time the same things have been screamed at you…under those circumstances go ahead and accept the criticism and do something about it.
“you can’t judge the whole world by Value Village”
Value Village, was a thrift store I was a manager at. It was deep in a very bad, very poor neighborhood. It attracted a bad element. It also attracted people who were buying used clothes, not to be hip, but because all they could afford was used clothes. I worked there for some time, I can tell you that 10% of those people got dealt a bad hand in life. The other 90% deserved their fate for one reason or another, the 10% who hadn’t deserved their fate settled into it nicely. The point is…we weren’t dealing with the cream of the crop of humanity. People stealing used underwear, people drunk or stoned in a store at 9am on a Tuesday, people with 5 or 6 kids who don’t have winter jackets, spending their money on costume jewelry, fist fights over dresses…day in day out. It can make you lose faith in your fellow man quickly. By the way, I never said if this was a black, Latino, or white trash neighborhood…so whatever you assumed, is on you my friend, and is part of the point of the line. One of the guys who worked there longer than me and I watched a security monitor as a very large grown woman tried to stuff a RECORD PLAYER under her shirt in an attempt to steal it. You see what I am talking about? It wasn’t just theft, it was the bottom rung of humanity in morals and intellect. Trying to steal a record player raises many questions on the kinds of decisions you have and continue make in life…trying to steal it by shoving it under your t-shirt just declares there is no hope and probably never was. So, we are watching this and he says “If we don’t stop her she’ll be back next week for speakers”. I didn’t laugh, because it was so true as to not be meant as a joke. He looked at the expression on my face and said “hey…you can’t judge the whole world based on value Village.” ….you can’t judge the whole world by Value Village…I think of that from time to time, when I am surrounded by idiots and feel like the last thinking man on earth. There’s a whole wide world out there, and a lot of it is good. It’s easy to forget that sometimes, like when your co-workers, neighbors, boss, relatives, are driving you nuts…or when you have to explain to the police that you are witnessing a woman stuffing a record player under her shirt.
“You see some guy punch his wife at the grocery store and you think he’s an asshole…BECAUSE…you didn’t see the months leading up to it of nagging and nagging and nagging and NAGGINGGGG!
You can’t really do justice with text on how well this line was originally delivered. The short interpretation is that there are two sides to every story, but it’s deeper than that. Relationships, marriages, even good ones…are a sick dance of attrition, manipulation, and struggle for dominance. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to your face. NOW, there are degrees of this of course. But you need to, upon seeing extreme events, realize that you are seeing the tail end of something. A drunk guy screaming at a window, a teary eyed woman smashing a windshield with a gold club, or even just a harsh vile comment seemingly out of nowhere, these things are not birthed in a vacuum. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction so they say. In a relationship the “reaction” may be equaling out the sum total of many many tiny actions. “there’s never just ONE asshole in a relationship” is something my ex-wife used to say…ironically for her, which is the same advice but not as theatrical as the line I picked. The point here is really..never give advice. You are being asked for advice knowing only one side of the story…and not even one side, because that side is clouded by bias and perception. Unless you and the ghost of X-mas past have been watching this persons life, you really don’t know what is and is not justified. If you did, it is possible you would be handing another golf club to the woman, or cheering as the husband sends his spouse careening into the end cap of cereal boxes. Sure these and other extreme reactions are bad, but let he or she who has not been driven berserk and left looking like a lunatic by months of someone else’s ill nature cast the first stone.
Those are all the ones that come to mind…maybe I’ll remember more and do another blog on this one day.
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