I wrote a recent post about my early years when I wouldn’t speak . My first grade teacher had suggested to my parents that I might need professional help . Good start , huh ?
So , random thoughts somehow related to that post have been rattling around in my brain ever since . I think that they must be thoughts , but if not they will have to pass as thoughts . Things rattle and ramble around inside there , the old noggin , sometimes , like cake ingredients mixing in a big glass bowl . No one stirs them up , really , but they get stirred anyway if enough time passes . And then , one day , sometimes , an idea emerges .
Einstein I ain’t . But , on the other hand , maybe Al had the same rattling brain process and waited , too . Could be that maybe he waited for years , too , for a coherent thought , meanwhile teaching his classes , working his equations , waiting , waiting , mixing those mental ingredients .
Then , one fine day : ” Ah ! Relativity ! ”
Now , what might E equal ?
I was reviewing , during my lazier daydreaming moments today , a few times when people just should have shut up . Zipped it . Put it in the vault , as my friends at Virgil Middle School used to say . Should have clammed up . Mum’s the word . All of that .
My friend Mark , for one . Mark joined the Navy during the Vietnam War . He thought that he would see the world —- Join the Navy and see the world !
The skipper of the LST ( Landing Ship Tank ) on which he was assigned introduced him on his first day to the chief mechanic . ” Do you know anything about engines ? ” the Chief asked . Mark always had liked to tinker with car engines .
Mark should have kept his mouth shut . ” Yes , I do ” he said instead . One moment of pride and a yes response and he spent the rest of his Navy time below decks in a sweaty clanking oily engine room . He wished that he would have kept his mouth shut . But hind sight is 20 -20 .
My friend Bill ended up in the Army during that time, too , drafted , but he had tried desperately to get into the Coast Guard to avoid Nam . I guess the Vietnam War wasn’t on his wish list . He and a buddy hitched up to Oregon to enlist in the Coast Guard . Bill said that he waited in a line with about 250 other young guys . When he finally reached the recruiting officer he was immediately asked a question : ” Do you have any health problems ? ” Bill should have kept his mouth shut . Mum’s the word . Shush . Put a sock in it .
” No, ” Bill told the officer , ” just a trick elbow I had in high school , but it doesn’t bother me . ”
” It took us three days to hitchhike up there , ” Bill says , ” and I waited hours to get to the front of the line . And then it just took a second to all fall apart . ” Yeah , Bill . Loose lips sink ships . ” I got two hundred other guys WITHOUT a trick elbow , the Coast Guard recruiter told me ,” Bill said . Bill , you should have…….. yeah , well , you know .
I had an exceptional student , once , whose name was Virginia . Wonderful . Smart . Pleasant . Brilliant . I was in the middle of a conference with Virginia and her lovely parents . I wanted to compliment them . What a fine job they had done as parents ! What a fine student their daughter was . ” If all of my other students were Virginias……. , ” I said , and I fished for a concluding thought . I didn’t have one on hand . I began considering all of the trouble I’d had over the years with troublemaking students , what a lot of wasted energy , what a lot of useless aggravation . But I needed an end to my sentence . The three of them were waiting .
I should have , instead , just kept my mouth shut . Should have let the thought flag , drift away , flap off into the air , remain unsaid . I wanted to be complimentary , of course . But , how to finish ? I thought of all the troublemakers , again , who took my time and energy —- opposites of Virginia . I imagined a classroom full of calm , cooperative , enthusiastic Virginia-like students . Ah ! What a dream ! Would make my life so easy .
” I would be bored , ” I blurted out . That didn’t come out right . Their three faces sagged . Smiles vanished . Should have stopped while you were ahead , dumbass . Too late . That ship was torpedoed and immediately sunk in shallow waters . Sunk stupidly with a slip of the tongue .
I tried to explain myself , to apologize for my ill-chosen words , to take it all back . Too late . I should have just kept quiet . Here we are thirty years later and my ill-chosen words still bother me because I suspect that they still bother Virginia , wherever she may be , locked away deep down in her memory bank : So , you think I’m boring , Mr. H ? I thought that you liked me .
I guess that we all ” misspeak” from time to time .
Maybe I should have just stuck to my guns when I was six , and , like a cloistered order of monks , just decided on a vow of eternal silence . Life , at times , would have been easier . Then again , I suppose it’s never too late . I could pick it up where I left off . I’ll rattle that idea around in the old encephalon for awhile and see what eventually emerges .