Walk in Another’s Shoes

Pretty sure the first time I heard “Walk in another’s shoes” it was mocassins, not shoes, and the words were attributed to an American Indian. As I recall the quote suggested one person has little or no hope of comprehending what another person must do to get through life without some equivalent life experience.

And so when I come across a particular written exposition of another’s experience, even though the piece comes from a work of fiction, I’m compelled to stop and think that experience through, try to imagine what I might have done, how I might have reacted, had it been me in those shoes.

And don’t stop here because what follows is fiction. After all, French Philosopher Albert Camus observed that; “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”

Here’s a recent example, from “The Assassin,” by Andrew Britton, pp. 51-52, Kensington Books, 2007.

The character quoted is Rashid al-Umari, son of a wealthy Sunni Iraqi power broker. Here is what he thinks of the war against terrorism in Iraq. Walk in his shoes for a moment:

“It was so typical, Rashid thought bitterly. History always repeated itself; the greatest of empires were also the greediest. After all, what separated the current American government from the British imperialists of the twentieth century? The answer was simple: nothing. In the end, the only real objective was to enrich the invading country, and no matter what the Americans said, their intent was not benevolent. One only had to look at the Western contractors pouring into the region to see that.”

And he walked in those shoes some time around 2005, just 2 years or so after the start of the war in Iraq. And that was 14 years ago…..

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Learning About Being Old

There is a great deal of advice out there about the aging process, but I find that I keep making mistakes anyway.

To help avoid those mistakes, I’ve come up with a new (for me anyway) 3-step set of guiding principles I find necessary to repeat any time I am upright and attempting to move from one place to another; i.e., walk. Pretty simple: 1) watch where you’re going, 2) slow down, and 3) watch where you’re going.

To illustrate the importance of chanting this 3-step mantra, consider the fact that I have injured myself by falling to the ground (or concrete) 4 times in the last 12 months, 3 of those 4 in the last 4 months. To be precise, and to salve my injured pride, I just fall down because my legs didn’t work. Honest – I tripped on things that made me fall.

Fall #1: tripped in the garage on a box of books to be donated. Result: 3 stitches above left eyebrow and an eye that looked like I’d gone 20 seconds with Floyd Mayweather. Failure to watch where I was going. (Told by older son it was my fault for attempting to give away books.)

Fall #2: tripped over an air intake pipe for one of those bouncy things at kids’ parties while pretending to be about 72 years younger. Result: x-ray of right shoulder and 6 physical therapy sessions. Moving too fast and failure to watch where I was going.

Fall #3: tripped because my sandal got caught under the screen door on my way out of the side entrance to the garage. Result: dislocated fingers and 21 stitches in my right hand (pretty sure I tried to break my fall by grabbing the corner of the small concrete pad just outside the garage door, but not certain). Moving too fast.

Fall #4: (notice the irony) tripped over one of those concrete things that keep you from driving your car too far in a parking space, after parking in a handicapped spot while attempting to exit the parking lot and enter the local health club. Result: big-time injured pride, cuts and bruises, reinjured right hand fingers, and didn’t make it to yoga. Moving too fast and failure to watch where I was going.

Trips and falls #1-3 required professional medical attention; so far we’re relying on first aid the #4.

Things seem to be improving, but again it’s the learning about being old that kicks in. Wasn’t too long ago these sorts of minor things would be shaken off with some Ben-Gay and exercise. Now it’s 4-6 weeks.

What got me going on all this: a) the most unwelcome movies of these events apparently trapped forever in the theater of my mind, and b) the set of bills for #3, which required a visit to the emergency room.

First the movies. Can’t seem to stop playing them. Which in a way is good because it remings to watch where I’m going, slow down, and watch where I’m going.

Finally, the bills. The emergency room bill for trip and fall #3 came to $10,713.00. No kidding. The bill includes (I’ve rounded the charges to the nearest $1) 2 hand x-rays ($800), CT scans of the head and spine ($5,400), a standard emergency “Level IV” visit ($3,100), treat finger dislocation ($678), 2 pain killer tablets ($11), and a few other charges but my fingers have started hurting because I’m typing too much.

Near as I can compute, and computing this number from my Medicare Advantage company’s 10 pages of a “user-friendly” report, my plan has approved a payment of $404.72, or $10,308.28 less than the hospital has on its “itemization of services provided.”

I’m sure I haven’t heard the end of this; there will be some co-pays popping up at some point. My plan documents tell me I’ll owe $75 just for thinking about going to the emergency room (just kidding). I’ll get a bill for $75 and some on the itemization list the insurance doesn’t cover, but it can’t possibly add up to $10,308.28.

If it does I’ll see y’all when I offer you a smile and a shopping cart at WalMart. And I’ll be reminding the older folks (and myself) to watch where you’re going and slow down. For the nest 10 years if I live that long…..

Good grief.

(Note: A few readers have asked why I often, nearly always, end my musings with “Good grief.” It’s a favorite expression of the Charlie Brown character in the comic strip “Peanuts,” and that character and his combat with life’s challenges have always reminded me of, well, my own challenges.)

Are You Famous?

When the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) opened in Williamsburg, Virginia, back in the early 70’s, a huge celebration marked the event. President Nixon and Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, in a horse-drawn carriage, led a parade of state appellate judges and administrators from all 50 states as it wound through Colonial Williamsburg to the new NCSC building.

I was one of the administrators in the Michigan delegation. About half way through the parade, I felt a gentle tug on the sleeve of my suitcoat and looked down to see a girl about the age of my younger daughter (maybe 5). She asked me “Are you famous?” and I told her the famous people were up front in the carriage.

Her mother apologized for the interruption, and I told her no apology was necessary. Pointing to the others in our group, I said we were all parents and loved it when the little ones surprised us.

(The National Center for State Courts is a non-profit organization charged with improving judicial administration in the United States and around the world.)

A Quick, One Question Quiz

A Quick, One Question Quiz

Who is the author of the following definition of consensus?

Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: I stand for consensus?”

(No fair looking it up…..)

a. Ronald Reagan

b. Donald J. Trump

c. Margaret Thatcher

d. Franklin D. Roosevelt

e. Winston Churchill

f. George W. Bush

g. None of the above

h. All of the above

Answer: c       I look forward to your comments.

The White Castle Caper(s)

Warning: unless you have wolfed down at 6 sliders, aka “Whitey One-Bites,” at a sitting at least 12 times, you probably shouldn’t read this – it might be catching.

A few years ago – OK – over 60 years ago, some pals and I would buy 3 or 4 sacks of sliders for about 10 cents each, roughly 12 sliders, a sack, and sneak into the Southtown theater (63rd St., near Halstead, South Chicago). We’d set out sentries to watch for ushers, then when the coast was clear we’d escort the sacks, with the irresistable White Castle slider scent emanating from same, down the aisle until somebody asked “How much?”

We’d done it so often we had repeat customers.

We’d make about 15 cents a slider and use the money for popcorn, Pepsi, Charleston Chew candy bars, and more sliders when the show let out.

Today, happiness is finding a box of 6 White Castle sliders in the frozen food section at Aldi, then racing home to microwave and eat them while watching football and the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament.

Aside from concluding the women’s doubles championship was much more artistic and interesting than the men’s singles (blast the ball back and forth until somebody misses a shot), it was great.

Caution: you have to add your own dill pickle slice.

Social Media and the Wit and Wisdom on Facebook

Sometimes Facebook serves as something to occupy me while I’m on hold with my doctor’s office or waiting for a voicemail prompt that actually has something to do with why I’m calling.

And then there are those times when a Facebook post smacks me right in the area that is rumored to contain something capable of rational thought.  Two such posts just got me:

1)  Paraphrased: Those folks worried about destroying history by tearing down Confederate statues will be thrilled to learn about books, and 

2)  Also paraphrased: In July of 1776 a bunch of New Yorkers tore down a statue of George III, thereby making it impossible to learn who won the Revolutionary War.

This social media thing just might have a future……