thoughts on shutting up

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 .einstein

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 !

Not !boat beached

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 . ”

Bill says , too , that he should have kept his mouth shut . Duh !  He was sent to Thailand with an Army engineer battalion  .steel helmet army

” 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 . japanese jugglers

2 Comments

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2 responses to “thoughts on shutting up

  1. Toni

    If we didn’t have those little pearls and foot-in-the- mouth moments, we all would be bored.

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