New Spring Story 3

Doctor, doctor, give me the news....I got a bad case of angry sprue..



If you want to provide some advice to the rudderless young adult, please emphasize the importance of learning a craft. As most of you know, it is not essential to produce yet another liberal arts graduate and place them in the world with no appreciable skills, no understanding of life and no abilities to tangibly make the world around them better. I would take the rudderless and likely clueless young man or woman and ask them one question: "What do you want to do?"

We do not expecting much but we deserve expect something: everyone, not just the picked-on young adult, has to have some thoughts on the future ranging from a passing notion all the way to a legitimate plan. This is compounded by the notion which implies that society as an entity doesn't care exactly what they want do but rather hope they may have some idea of what they don't want to do...but sadly, that is not good enough for a society to prosper and grow. If they leave a college with four years of vague understanding or a demeanor which samples thoughts versus turning thoughts into valid action, then we have all failed. If they leave said educational institution with no real skills or inspired interests, they are destined for entry-level sales near or around a mall or kiosk and it will take years for them to realize the importance of a plan and direction and then, it may be too late.

This happened one day in the town when a graduating senior stopped in for a pre-graduation party haircut. He sat down in the barber chair and declared himself emancipated: he was moving on and the world, was indeed, his oyster. While his lifelong barber dutifully cut his hair, the young man basked at his legitimate accomplishment and implied the world was a better place because of his journey to date. Doc Groenmeyer was next in line but had no pressing demands so he decided to politely eavesdrop on the conversation.

The barber, still cutting, said, "And what journey is that?"

"Well, my journey so far. The world is at my disposal and I am filled with energy and opportunity."

The barber, still cutting, said, "I would say your are full of promise, as any young person is at your age. But I want you to realize that your journey needs some direction. You can go through the first and second years in college as an undecided major, but be careful. The status of undecided is rather insidious and I want you not be comfortable with that approach to life. You may not have a good idea on what you want to do or you may have some inkling but are afraid to share it. Either way, get going with your life sooner than later."

Doc Groenmeyer looked up from his magazine and said, "Andy is right. You may not have a plan today but don't want for some epiphany to appear at three years. You need to start filtering through a lot of thoughts but don't wait for some divine intervention, it doesn't happen that way."

The young man listened to his barber: while the content was surprising and not expected given his current status of high school graduate, but he didn't argue with the advice. There were many people in the town doing what they loved to do: Fred, the baker was the one that came to mind first. Fred had a great face, an August Sander-type look which demonstrated depth and a healthy approach to life in general. The emerging creases were dusty with flour and the laugh lines around the eyes were usually highlighted in white dust which gave him a grade-school Halloween cat-like appearance. Since Fred was just a few doors down, the Andy the barber, Bill the doctor and Fred the cook would meet on the street somewhere between their businesses, all squinting away the bright sun while talking about their chosen professions with some love and some hate but mostly love.

"Well, you guys have it easy, you all knew what you wanted to do," said the senior. "I don't know what I want."

"First off, nothing is easy and second off, what we do isn't the conversation; we are easily twice to three times your age and we have arrived at what we do through our own journey but my.."

"Our" interrupted Doc Groenmeyer

"Right, our point is you need to own this decision by taking an active role in it. Don't wait and hope you will be enlightened one day. Start actively thinking about your future, entertain different thoughts but engage."

"I couldn't have said it better myself," said Doc.

"You did" said Andy.

The kid quietly paid and wandered out, still rubbing his freshly shorn pate. He wasn't really sheepish; he was more confused with both men's inability to understand his decision NOT to think about things for a few days, a few weeks or maybe a year or so. He was excited about what he had done in High School and naturally assumed that excitement would be transferred by some unseen respectful osmosis to all who had came into contact with him. Either way, it was not the time to think too much: it was time for a party.

"I don't know if that kid has a chance," said Andy. "I have been cutting his hair for eighteen years and he hasn't said an intelligent thing yet."

"Well, he has a little time left but not as much as he thinks and probably not as little as we fear."

"Would you like to be eighteen again, Doc?"

"No thank you. While George Benard Shaw said, 'Youth is wasted on the young,' I would have no desire to go back thirty years and start over."

"Me either," said Andy. "I am happy I have found my calling and that has calmed me down. No more doing crazy things, no more putting up with crazy fads; just trying to do the things I want to do."

"Well said," said Doc Groenmeyer. "I used to go nuts when my patients would do stupid things. It would send my blood pressure sky high and one day I realized that... it didn't matter."

"What kind of stupid things do you mean, Doc?"

Doc Groenmeyer walked over to the open barber chair, put his glasses in his shirt pocket and said, "Don't get me going. I am not going to get mad all over again."

"I am not asking to make you mad, I am asking what could a patient do that would be stupid?"

Doc smiled, "Do you think if I put a cast on your broken arm and you decided, for some unknown reason, to take it off. And then, for some other unknown reason, you injure yourself as you attempt to cut it off. And than, because you sliced your arm open as you attempted to cut yourself out of the cast, I had to come into the hospital to put in twenty stitches and THEN re-cast you. What would you think of yourself at that moment?" And just for laughs, what would you say if, through other circumstances too painful to discuss in detail, I had to re-cast you for a third time?

"I would say that I am a stupid patient. And a really, really stupid patient."

"Okay, now what if I gave you a prescription and told you to follow the instructions which were on the label...would you?"

"Yes. I would."

"Well I have patients which take a few pills, start feeling better and then quit. Then they relapse and it is considerably harder to fix them again because their introduction of a sample of a cure, the infection becomes far stronger and makes it more of a cost and a challenge. Or, and I believe you have successfully turned my crank, they have a glass or two of wine with the pills even though the pills are very clear NOT to take them with alcohol."

"Am I still the patient example here?"

For simplicity's sake, let us assume you are not."

"Then that person or persons are an idiot or idiots"

Or... I think you see my old frustrations."

"Sure do, Doc. Sure do."

Andy quickly cut the Doc's head. At his age and lifestyle, it only took a few moments with a clipper to bring the hair into official order and then he concentrated on the rogue eyebrows, ear hair and neck hair to clean him up. He brushed off the remains and carefully removed the apron so no major hair clumps would land on his lap.

The Doc, without his glasses (and without looking in the mirror) said, "Great. It looks great."

Andy smiled and said, "Well, I do the best I can with what I get. It is kind of like Higgs boson. I can only hypothesize my impact on the haircut going out the door."

Doc Groenmeyer just smiled and gave him the finger as he walked out the door.

Armed with a new haircut, Doc heading towards the YMCA for his new-found exercise regimen. He had worked out for many years and his main motivation has to spur his patients into developing their own physical fitness patterns but as the years went on, the standard work on the treadmill and elliptical machines grew boring so he decided to move into the background and quietly begin to swim. A man of meticulous detail and documentation, he began to quietly track his workouts for his own enjoyment. He didn't know if he was enjoying the new exercise or more happy with his swim log but he was happy to get out of the office for lunch more and more. The habit had now been ingrained in his daily schedule and he enjoyed the regularity of it without putting any direct pressure on himself. For the most part, he had eschewed all non-swimming activities and felt it was time to get away from the machines and get back to the basics; he and the water, an old man and his sea. The solitude of the swim, combined with the camaraderie of the small group of swimmers resulted in a nice outlet for his active mind and an alternative but wetter than usual outlet for his desire for worthwhile exercise. The group of swimmers rarely talked; a few nods and non-verbal cues to give estimated times before a lane opened up but for the most part, the group was orderly and engaged in individual pursuits. Doc eased into the group dynamic without issue and over the first few months, evolved into a nice swimmer with only a hint of chlorine emitting from his person.

Usually after a good swim, Doc would justify a visit to the bakery for some complex carbohydrates. He always was a sucker for a baked good but armed with forty-five minutes of swimming, he always treated himself to whatever glazed goodness appealed to him when he walked in to Fred's.

"Hey, Doc" said Fred. "How was the deep blue today?"

"Unforgiving, my friend. How are conchas today? They seem dreamlike." Fred had been on a Mexican baked goods tear all month and his version of the Mexican sweet bread was very impressive considering his relative inexperience with the sweet. Usually, Fred experimented with different muses but the concha was a hit immediately out of the oven so he followed his heart and placed it in his heavy rotation with impressive results. The citizens of the town, with only a very basic understanding of Mexican cuisine, had taken on an experienced nose and palette of the most discriminating visitors of panaderias and Doc counted himself as one of them. Fred was perfecting other south-of-the-border delicacies such as quesadilla cake and payasos but the concha was his big winner.

It is fascinating what you see when you are not looking for anything in particular.

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