Many years ago, I recall, there was a cartoon taped to the wall in our secret naval communications office. It was about, well, communication.
The cartoon showed a ship’s captain in his office, barking orders to the executive officer. I’m pretty sure he was using salty language, because the panel didn’t show what he was yelling but did include ampersands and dollar signs and all the other sure signs of swearing.
The next panel showed the angry XO passing the punctuation along to an ensign. From there, the ensign chewed out the chief petty officer, who repeated the order to a sailor swabbing the deck. The swabbie angrily yelled at the captain’s parrot, which was minding its own business. The final drawing showed the parrot back in the captain’s office, squawking the words that had come down the ranks and back up again.
I think that cartoon was about delegating responsibility badly, or laying blame or passing the buck. Maybe, what goes around comes around.
You might even read “loose lips sink ships” into it. To me, though, it is a prime example of how our actions affect those of the people around us. We are all George Baileys, whose lives have an impact on the people above us, below us and all around us.
For instance, last week a semi-truck tried to squeeze me off the interstate without signaling me that he wanted to jump my claim on that bit of concrete. It happened so quickly that I didn’t get to jot down the phone number on his bumper sticker that asked, “How’s my driving?”
I was upset, and when I reached the drive-through window of the hamburger joint on the way home, I had less patience than usual when the young fellow taking my order through the scratchy speaker couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him.
Then, when I got home and an unfamiliar number called our home phone, I said “Hello?” in my normal voice but no one responded. Then, “Hello?” in my loud voice. Finally, thinking it was that home-security system company that calls us umpteen times a week – as though I would ever buy from someone who pesters me like that! – I bellowed, “Hello!”
A nice woman’s voice answered; she was from someone we do business with. Oops.
The kind of day we have is reflected in how we treat others. After something good has happened, we’re cheerful, and it shows. A bad day, not so much. We tend to give what we get. A bad day for one person is a bad day for many people. Sometimes I remember that.
GOODBYE TO PAPA TRUCK: James “Jay” Wisner died last week of cancer at age 61. He was the father of our son-in-law, Dennis.
He was Jay to most of us, Papa Jay to some of his grandchildren and Papa Truck to others. He always had a smile, he knew how to fix contrary cars and he enjoyed watching and talking about baseball. Jay was a good man, and we miss him.