Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Lame Duck Can Collecting

I’ve been out of Grandma’s house for a while now, while the construction guys work on the mold, mildew, and anything else that may have sprung up and festered. So to keep my life interesting -- I have to start somewhere -- I moved to a major metro area, and I’m getting a taste of the concrete jungle. It's going OK so far, as long as I keep my group dynamics edge. Without group dynamics, I'd be sunk.

You know I don’t toot my own horn much about group dynamics. But it’s always been a thing with me, running seminars, disclosing the techniques to lucky petitioners, etc. BTW, I'm always available for company functions, as long as you're severely stressed and in the need of an expert with a nice personality. My mind is a wickedly adept computer for a few things. I can tell you immediately when I need to go to the bathroom, for one. Then there's the field of group dynamics. It was a huge talent in school. I could always sense when I wasn’t welcome in a group, which was more often than I liked.

So I’m in the metro area... Here I met a guy who turned me on to the possibilities of collecting beer/soda cans and taking them to a metal recycling place, where they pay 40 cents a pound! Sweet! If you walked the city all day you might net $3.00! And one of the principles of can collecting is, You have to go look for them, they don’t come to you. That means lots of walking, getting your feet wet in ditches; and with a lot of walking, you’re visible to a lot of people. “There’s that guy again," or, "What’s that guy doing on my turf?” I see other can collectors coming at me and I go the other way.

Anyway, group dynamics comes in handy for interpersonal interactions I can't avoid. And who better for it, since I'm the guy who formulated the “Three R’s Of Group Dynamics,” which, to review, are: 1) aRrange, 2) Reconnoiter, and 3) Ruminate. These have been mentioned in some (now out of print) textbooks on the subject, and it’s not rare to hear group dynamics guys mention them in passing. That’s the way they choose to do it, but I do it differently. The three points are uppermost in my mind!

Now to the cans. One of the best places to get cans is smaller parks where lots of guys hang out. They and others have drunk beer and littered the cans. With complications. What if they don’t leave? How do I know who the cans belong to? And since I don’t want to keep coming back, I have to go right in among them. The “aRranging” vis-a-vis them is already set, so I have to aRrange myself. I look for the least intrusive way to move among them. Example, if there’s 4 of them over here and 2 at the other end, I take the point of least resistance, the 2. I keep whatever distance I can without being too obviously fearful. I have to express some boldness or I’m a sitting duck. But I can’t be too close without encroaching. So far I haven’t been beaten up. And of course I’m friendly by strict policy. 

The last couple of times I’ve actually avoided that area of the park, because the aRranging can easily be out of my hands. I’m aRranging for the future, by approaching areas where one or two guys are, being very friendly with them, and hoping that I gain a good reputation through their unsolicited testimonies when I’m gone. It's a constant concern as to what's too much or too little.

The second point, Reconnoitering, has basically been touched on in my tact. But it’s a knowledge that has to continually build on itself. Some group dynamics sessions are in a more controlled setting, a seminar, a class, Sunday School. I did major research on the old retirees' table at McDonald’s that meets every morning, but so far haven’t published it. That’s a great one for Reconnoitering, because the aRrangement is essentially set. Besides calm tact, Reconnoitering among groups while collecting cans is tilted toward keeping your cool, remembering basic survival techniques, following your gut/instincts, and being willing to drop even the cans you’ve got and run like hell. Needless to say, that little rubber band twisting in my head, it's in good repair!

Ruminating — the third postulate — is what I do at home certainly, but since the situation with an unpredictable group is so fluid and rife with potential disaster, it's also done on the fly. The point is to build on what you’ve got, increasing in knowledge, wisdom, etc. But if you’re dead three minutes from now, there’s little gain. So I’m Ruminating continually, while the aRranging and Reconnoitering necessarily continue apace. “Is it worth .33 cents to ask that guy with the snarl on his face and crushing a can against his skull if I can have it?” Of course I generally pass, giving me so far the ability to walk in, walk out, and live to tell.

But because the situation is so volatile, I've taken to identifying with the lame duck. There's a lot of variables! I have to intuit more than I want! (Intuition is a division of Ruminating). So I’ve been avoiding that particular spot. Normally I’m walking, 99% of the time, but a couple days ago I drove by, and there they were, just waiting for that foolish guy with the plastic bag to show his squirrely face. The group dynamics gods speak otherwise, my friends! You're not going to beat the crap out of me so easily!

HOT LINK -- You might be interested in one of my group dynamics posts, when a home economics class vied to win a date with me.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Long Live Trucking

The last few days I’ve been looking at the interstate and wishing I’d been a truck driver. You have the open road everyday and you’re alone with your thoughts. The boss you have, he’s not breathing down your neck like some the ones I’ve known. You pick up a load, you take it somewhere, then move on.

I’ve been thinking about it since last weekend, when I went to a retirement party for three brothers, three truckers who recently retired, all the same time. They started out young, put their time in, and now someone else gets to haul the shipments, while they sit at home and tend the garden or whatever.

It was cute the way their kids had the place decorated, strictly a truck motif, with gas signs, rest stops, etc. I asked one of the guys, Frank, what he was going to miss the most about trucking. At first he said “Nothing!”, which got a good laugh, then he was serious for a moment about missing the open road everyday and being alone with his thoughts.

Ted also got some laughs when he said you don’t have the boss breathing down your neck all the time, with his boss sitting there at the retirement party, wagging a finger and laughing.

And Pete, basically zen, said, “You get your load, you move on, you arrive.” The way he put it really stuck with me.

We gathered around the cake and the daughters were slicing it and putting it on plates for the well-wishers. There were three sons of these guys, too, but only two of them were in town, with Frank Jr. himself being on the road, trucking. The two sons stuck close to their dads, like they were extra happy to have them home permanently. Probably because you can never be sure you’re going to see your dad again when he goes on a trip; our lives are always at risk; you could be driving along, suddenly come upon a stalled car over the next hill, and end up buying the farm. There’s always that, but you have to make a living, so on you go...

Before we dug into the cake, each of them took his turn to thank their families for putting up with them. Most of us had a hard time holding back tears. Frank brought us back to the fun when he told some of the blessings of trucking: “They had trucks when I started trucking, and there’s still trucks when I ended. Not every job can say that. Long live the truck!”

Ted had a few more things to say, then echoed Frank somewhat. “If I was starting out today, I wouldn’t do it any different. Not much has changed. We had trucks then, we have trucks now. Long live the truck.”

And Pete, a rough cut guy with tattoos, and that whole zen thing going, also echoed his beloved brothers, “Trucking is its own magic. Trucking is all-inclusive, with no opposite. It is filled with life and power and the ability to get goods where they need to be. Trucking will live a really, really long time.”

Amen! He ended on an optimistic note. And here's to all you guys on the open road today. As Aunt Alice used to say, "Cheers, dears!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Impregnate Enough Women, You'll Pay

A guy told me the other day I was old, true story. It hit me hard, since I can’t see it in a mirror. And the guy’s a friend, whom I’ve backed up a bunch of times in the past, so I don’t think he’s lying. But he’s old, too.

His history’s an interesting one, which is coming out increasingly now that we have genetic testing and Facebook. A bunch of people looking for their roots with DNA have zeroed in on him as their actual father, and now they're trying to connect with him on Facebook. All this was a big surprise to his wife of 40+ years!

As for me, I’ve essentially been chaste over the years, so there’s zero kids showing up, and any that ever would would have to be frauds. In his case — I don’t know if his basic problem is the roving eye or simply the way his conscience shuts off after a couple beers — his claimants are not frauds. DNA’s a calling card you can’t deny.

So far he knows he has 56 secret kids. Several of these he’s known of for years, since a bunch of the women were from this area. Others aren’t known at all. But he's had hookups at Silage City for years. He and I used to camp at Silage Lake, and he was always going out for "midnight walks," leaving me alone in the tent with room to spread out.

“Why don't you use a rubber?” I'd ask when he confessed his walk had an amorous end. “It cramps my style,” he’d say, along with a bunch of other excuses about passion at its highest can’t be ruined. I have to say — brag a little about myself — my Sunday School upbringing saved me a lot, both on rubbers at the time and on newfound relatives of the engendered sort showing up unexpectedly. There aren’t any!

OK, as for his wife, naturally she’s pissed. If this doesn’t kill her, nothing will. So far she’s still alive, so now he’s stuck with her and her fabled bad temper forever. She might take the house if they split. But I don’t see an old guy and an old woman splitting up. They have too many accounts, Social Security, various insurance payments coming in in common to screw with it.

If she asks my opinion, I’m not going to back off my condemnation of Ralph for living a completely profligate way. Is he a nice guy? Yes. Is he a bastard? He can be, and more so than most. But should the wife be surprised? I don’t think so. She knows how horny he is and how he’d come home from a camping trip totally sated. Can’t tell me she wasn’t putting 2 + 2 together. Not suspecting me, of course; my morals are widely known throughout the Midwest. You see my license plate CHASTE and you know I'm much better than most.

I might have a talk with her. The best way to put big numbers in context and minimize them is to use bigger numbers. Yes, he fathered 56 children, but it wasn’t 156 or 256 or even 356. If he had 356 kids with other women, imagine how so completely horrendous that’d be compared to a minuscule 56. You have 356 kids, you may as well just go for 400. Or a complete ream, 500. That’d be sinful in anyone’s opinion. But impressive in terms of world records.

I’m glad his problems aren’t mine. The wife's always on his case, and all these kids are reaching out to him, even making a Facebook group, "The Known Children of Ralph B—". Chastity’s the best policy, if you can manage it.