Confuse ‘em and move on

By Jeremy Gulley

I’ve learned the most profound lessons of my life by paying attention to others who know more than I do. My dad, for example, taught me a lot by how he lived his life. He always handled himself in a consistent manner; never changing who he was to impress other people.

As he found out, sometimes consistency and modesty can save your life.

While working for Southwestern Bell as a telephone repairman, he and his coworkers responded to a call from Houston, Texas, to help after a devastating hurricane. As he found out, however, being called to Houston did not mean just the well-to-do areas, but the entire city.

Finding himself in an impoverished area of Houston, and surrounded by about 10 gangbangers who, as my dad put it, “were not the welcoming committee,” my dad had to think quickly, or else things were not going to end well.

When the men asked my dad what he was doing, he responded, in his best Andy Griffith tone “you all have some beautiful weather down here.”

The men stared at him, and he continued, “I was talking to my wife this morning and she said it was cold and rainy where I live. Ya’ll are pretty lucky to have weather this nice. How long have you guys lived in Houston?”

One of the men replied, “all my life.”

“You are so lucky,” said my dad, “now, can you all help me; I need to find this address to locate the source of the telephone problem? I can’t seem to find where I’m going.”

Whether struck by his innocence, apparent stupidity, or something else, the men not only escorted my dad to his desired location, but stayed with him so nothing bad happened.

This lesson served me well last week.

After my late class at UMKC, I stopped at a gas station in downtown KCMO. It was about10 o’clock, and the parking lot was empty – except for me and four young men who appeared to contain the unfortunate combination of boredom, ignorance and too much testosterone. They approached my car as I filled my gas tank and said, “hey man, ain’t it late for you to be out all by yourself?”

Remembering the lesson of my dad in Houston, I replied, “yeah, it’s way past my bedtime, I hope my wife isn’t mad when I get home. She gets so mad when I’m home past 10. I wonder if she left any dinner in the microwave for me. Do you guys have a bedtime?”

A bit confused, the men looked at each other until one replied, “um . . . no, not anymore.”

“Well,” I continued, “you’re lucky, but it’s important to get regular sleep and good nutrition if you’re going to grow up strong and healthy.”

“Yeah, so we hear.”

“Well, you guys have a good night,” I said, “I’m going to go home before my wife gets angry. It sure is pretty down here at night. You guys are lucky to get to live right in the middle of the city.”

The men walked away, shaking their heads.

I left that gas station with the security that, though my dad is gone, he is still teaching me lessons. The lesson in this case: if you can’t beat ‘em, confuse ‘em.

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Posted by admin on Feb 23 2011. Filed under Jeremy Gulley, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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