During one of my shifts at my job as an ophthalmic tech, I was preparing a patient to see the doctor. He was in his sixties and in excellent spirits and health. No actual problems on the surface — mind you, this was before the doctor had seen him. I don’t know how we got onto the subject, but he started to talk about his childhood. It seems that when you are in a field where you are in a “one on one” situation with another person, they sometimes feel like they can open up to you, or tell you things about themselves that weren’t relevant to the case.
Bartenders can sympathize.
He talked about growing up in Europe as a boy. In 1960, he and his family were driving through Hungary which at that time was a Communist state. Their VW Bus was directed up to this wooden road, surrounded by fences with barb wire at the top of it and skull and crossbones signs on each side warning people that there were bombs should they venture past. He remembers at one point being stopped by Hungarian soldiers, who separated his family in the vehicle, questioning them; he never went into the description as to what, but states that it immensely affected his father.
He continues to move ahead in history and talks about the Korean War. The patient talks about how they would drop something called a “flicker bomb” in the middle of the battlefield. Both sides knew not to go near it, for if they did, they would die. The Koreans would go to the nearby villages, gather up women and children, and force them to run out into the middle of the war zone to cause the bomb or bombs to detonate. These poor mothers and children were given no other choice but to die by a soldier’s hands or die by sacrificing their life. Once the bomb was gone, the Koreans would move forward, attempting to win the war.
Jumping again through time, he talks about being in a German bar and looking up at this intricate design of psychedelic circular patterns all over the ceiling. He asks the bartender about them, and the bartender states that those used to be swastikas that they painted over, ridding themselves of a past they want to leave far behind.
It was a very informative conversation to have with a patient. To be put in his eyes, and see what he experienced in life so far. I would say I felt “blessed,” but as an atheist, let’s say I felt much more informed.
That wasn’t the last of the history lessons that I would hear that day, or even have flooded through my head as the day went on.
I was talking with the doctor who I was scribing for, and we were quoting lines from movies. The line from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” where Mr. Wonka, played by the great Gene Wilder, yells at Charlie and Grandpa, “I said ‘Good Day, Sir!”. The doctor starts talking about listening to an Adam Carolla podcast, where he mentions that something like that in the 1800 or before would be considered swearing and would probably get you into a duel with someone and killed. That was how things were settled then. Along the same subject, another doctor and technician were talking about how when they were growing up, there was never any cursing in music, but now their kids are listening to music (notice I didn’t mention just one genre) that has “offensive” language all over it. You really can’t escape it unless you make your kids listen to baby music, Disney music, Kids Bop, or Christian music. That is how our music society has become.
One of the same doctor’s remembers telling his children about how Michael Jackson changed the face of music for his generation, and how when “Thriller” came out, it was huge.
I remember a time when I was very young, and it was in the middle of summer. My family and I were at my grandparent’s house, which also doubled as the local funeral home (the living area was on top, and the business was on the bottom floor.) I want to say, my dad, grandfather, my great-grandfather, myself and my brother were outside talking. As a child, I was off in my little world, only half listening to the conversation since it had nothing to do with me, and was probably dull anyway.
One thing that stuck out in my mind was something that either my grandfather or great grandfather said a few times during that summer’s talk. They were talking about a black male, and they referred to him as “nigger” a few times. I’m not for sure I knew what that word meant at the time. Now, I’m well aware of what that word means.
I am not here to apologize for what my elders said. They grew up in a different generation where that was how they were raised to talk. I once used that word about five years later in third grade, to a white boy. I still didn’t know what that meant. They told their friends, who happened to be black, and I was chased and promptly beat up.
I never used that word again, at least not in the “public ear.” I’ve been known to say some pretty regrettable things, but I already know I’m going to Hell, so I’m just making sure I’m making my mark. And, seriously people, I make fun of all types of people in my own personal surroundings, so don’t feel like I’m secluding anyone. I make fun of my race. I’m an “aggressive jokester” when I am around the safety of my friends or certain family members, and I am known not to have much of a “censor”.
The point I am trying to get at in this post is that you can learn a lot about society, life, history — you name it — if you stop or open your ears to listen. I know that in the past several months I have vocalized my problems with my mental health, and some of the many struggles that I deal with. People who have listened have been very kind. It is through that kindness that helps me get through the day sometimes. I have also had people either reach out to me, or be reminded that life really is precious, and not just something to waste.
People always post things on social media, and sometimes we are so wrapped up in what we are doing to stop on individual posts and see the sadness in the world, or a positive message from one person to another, or just a cry for help. It is like that in everyday life, too. We are so quick to get to where we are going or bothered with our own selfish needs that we don’t pay attention to what is happening right in front of us.
Sometimes, we as a people need to “stop, look and listen.”
(I’m pretty sure I ripped that off from a safety poster for crossing the street, but it seems to fit in life.)
Thanks for reading.
– “The Great Fartsupial”
There is so much profound wisdom in your post! I am always proud and amazed to think “that’s my son!” When did you become so wise? Keep listening, Jason. There’s a whole world of wonder waiting for you. Thank you for taking on the bartender’s job. You have no idea what gift you gave your patient that day.