By Dr. Jim Ferguson
“Ya know what makes me sick? You know what makes me so angry, ah could tease a fat man with a Twinkie?” Some of you may remember the banter of Earl Pitts, Uhmerikun, the fictional radio personality, whose outlandish “editorials” were introduced with a bugle call of Reverie and ended with his eponymous sign off, “Pitts off.” This essay is not about the redneck, Earl, or his observations, but about things that frustrate me.
Recently, I was on Alcoa Hwy (Knoxville’s NASCAR) and traffic was backing up due to road construction. Lately, this is not uncommon, but most of us tolerate such delays. What makes me “Earl Pitts mad” is the driver who races ahead in the blocked lane and then whips back into the barely flowing open lane. Granted, he or she may be racing to the hospital in the last stages of labor or just wasn’t paying attention to road work signs. This may be judgmental, but I aver the “child of God” who just cut line in front of me is just…behaving badly.
I learned in grammar school about lining up and the Golden Rule. Most Americans have been educated in civility and justice, but these perspectives seem to be forgotten in traffic jams where some conclude their time is more valuable than the other rubes around them.
Perhaps these “cutters” are not of English heritage where queuing up is the way folks are brought up. I have traveled extensively and experienced many cultures. In particular, Germans have trouble with lines. My ancestry is Scotch-Irish and German. Perhaps the Prussian in me is why I accrued so many black marks in grammar school lunch lines.
I love movies, but early in my marriage I learned this was not something Becky and I could do together. It’s frustrating, but Becky just can’t sit still long enough to watch a movie in a theatre. She also has trouble with symphonies, chamber music and opera. We finally compromised, and now I select movies to watch at home, allowing her to wander if necessary.
Being a thespian, Becky does better watching plays. The ancient Greek, Thespis is credited with the “first person to appear on stage as an actor playing a character in a play.” Hence, thespians are actors, and Becky loves being on stage!
I no longer watch the Academy Awards, which this year had the lowest viewership in history. The last time I paid attention to the Oscars was when Saving Private Ryan lost to Shakespeare in Love. Though both are wonderful film achievements, the Hollywood fix was in, and I got “Pitts off” and tuned out. There are a few decent sorts in Hollywood. However, like previous Academy Awards, last week’s award show was reportedly filled with Tinsel-Town thespians who so often project stupidity from their ersatz facades.
As I write, Becky is enjoying her Christmas present, a construction project at our mountain cabin. Like many constructions in the 1980s, our place was fitted with a Jacuzzi tub which we have only used once in the last 30 years. Our family often celebrates Thanksgiving at our mountain home and one year we raised such a big turkey that we couldn’t clean it in the sink. In preparation, Big Bird and I shared the Jacuzzi tub!
My Becky is a multi-talented woman and my Handy Ma’am. Part of Becky’s Christmas present included being Chuck’s (the Construction Guy) Handy Ma’am. Chuck was impressed by Becky’s energy and her ownership of an electric tile cutter. I wonder how many other women possess such a tool.
Unfortunately, the Fergusons were not gifted with construction skills. This frustrates Becky, but frustrates me only when I am pressed into service. Our minor projects often become major in our hands. The apostle Paul said we have “gifts differing.” I have learned to stay within my areas of expertise and avoid frustrations by hiring experts when needed.
Becky’s mom and mine are seasoned citizens and have the requisite infirmities of older Americans. They truly need handicap parking spaces which are now by law readily available. I have to admit I am sometimes frustrated when all the regular parking spaces are filled and handicap spaces are empty. The ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, specifies how many “accessible parking spaces” are required. This is based on the total number of spaces available. The law has done some good, but is far from perfect and too often manipulated by activists.
My two brother’s small engineering office was designed for their online sales and consulting business. Nonetheless, they were required to have a handicap parking spot and to build an expensive wheelchair accessible ramp.
As a doctor I was often asked to certify someone as disabled, enabling them to get a blue handicap parking card for their car. Most of the time their debility was obvious and a parking card was advisable. I have frustrated others by challenging the fully functional to describe their handicap. I take my signature of certification seriously.
My most frustrating ADA situation arose when a company who provided translators for the deaf called me and demanded I pay for their expensive services. I had been a lady’s doctor for twenty years without a translator, and when I explained the situation to my patient, she told the rapacious company to take a hike.
Some years ago I took a comprehensive course on American history offered by The Teaching Company, whom I can recommend. The course was so good that Becky and I have done the thirty-seven hour curriculum twice. I learned a frustrating factoid. The professor observed that during our Revolutionary War one-third of American colonists fought the British, one-third supported King George’s army and roughly one-third sat uninvolved on the sidelines. I find the analogy to our current politics similarly frustrating.
We all whine at times, but my life has been blessed. And if I died today, it’s been a good run. Hopefully, the good Lord will let me continue, as long as I am useful to myself and capable of service in His Kingdom.