An Ordinary Guy?

I was enjoying a quiet breakfast in Galveston, TX with a good book. The day before I had presented to a group of 150 mangers and engineers. I was in the zone. The words just flowed. It happens sometimes. Preparation meeting opportunity. When I was done, one person stood up to clap, then another, soon the whole room was on it’s feet. A standing ovation. Wow. It never gets old. What rush. It was extra-ordinary! At least, that is what I was thinking about when I heard a couple of young children yelling, making way too much noise for this time of day or in a public place for that matter. I wondered why their parents (and grandparents) weren’t doing something. I looked around. I hadn’t noticed before, all the tables were filled with parents and young children. It was the calm before the storm. They were waiting to get on a Disney Cruise, an 8-day excursion with Mickey, Minnie and Donald. I was Goofy. No wonder they were excited.

There are no bad children, only lazy or unaware parents and grandparents. My wife and I raised three boys. When their shot clocks would run out in a restaurant we would take turns taking them for a walk so the adults could enjoy a conversation. These excited children made one last scream, like banshee’s on the attack. Even the other parents turned to look. I was trying to finish reading “The Girl With Dragon Tattoo.” Regretfully, I shot the mother and father a dirty look. It lasted only a second or two. I went back to reading about Lizbeth Salander’s quiet revenge on a cold winter evening in Sweden.

The grandparents finally took the children out while the parents stayed to finish their coffee. “About time…” I thought to myself. As the grandmother walked behind me to the exit, she said in a sarcastic and unusually loud tone, “Let’s go kids, we don’t want to bother the ORDINARY people!”

“Ordinary?” I thought to myself. “Was that an insult?” In her mind, I believe it was. It came from a place of entitlement, a mean place, the haughty remark was intended to cut me to the quick. I wrote it down. “Ordinary”. Robert Redford’s directorial debut in 1980 was “Ordinary People”. It won best picture. John Legend’s “Ordinary People” is one my favorite songs.

Is that what she meant? I looked up the definition in the dictionary: “The regular or customary condition or course of things; Normal.” I kept reading, “Of common rank, quality or ability.” Which did she mean? I suppose the latter, not the former. Common.

A disapproving glance created this cowardly insult. I looked up the antonyms: abnormal, irregular, uncommon. Wait a minute. SHE is abnormal and irregular. Excellent.

Smashing the other person’s furniture never makes mine look any better. Verbal attacks have been known to start wars. I used to be the master at great comebacks. When I was young, in public I had no filter. The laugh was all that mattered. Winston Churchill was my hero. He always had the perfect comeback. Lady Astor was his nemesis in Parliament  One day she said to him, “Sir Winston, if you were husband I would poison your tea.” He replied, “Madam, if I were married to YOU, I would drink it!” I used to say things like:

  • I refuse to enter a battle of wits with an unarmed person.
  • I’ve stepped in puddles deeper than you.
  • You would be amazed at how excited I am to tell you “Goodbye”

About 20 years ago, a mentor of mine said to me, “Would you rather be right or happy?” That simple quote changed my life. “It’s the silence between the notes that makes the music.” After Snow White’s Evil Step-Grand-Mother left, I did three things in silence:

  1. I wrote down what happened and my thoughts and feelings about it
  2. I said a little prayer for her (“That woman’s an idiot, BLESS HER BLACK HEART!”)
  3. I laughed out loud.

You see, that’s what normal people do. Hey, maybe I am ordinary. That’s okay with me. God knows, I don’t want to be like that woman. I wasn’t going to let that lady rent space in my brain. I shifted my thinking to committing to having a great day. As John Legend sings, “take it slow…”
Maybe I should sign up for a Disney Cruise. I could book a speaking engagement and be on stage with Goofey…that’s so ORDINARY.

“Small Hitlers are around us every day.” Jay Carter

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