Why People are Late

Each morning I get up, check my email and lurch down the stairs.  I make the coffee, get the newspaper, make my breakfast and chow down my cereal and sip two cups of coffee while reading the paper and watching “Squawk Box.”   

All the while, I keep a weather eye on the clock.  Why?  Because I have to catch a train.  If I miss the train, I miss the train.   The train waits for no one.   I’m left standing.  And I’m late.   Therefore I always allot myself precisely 14 minutes to walk from my house to the train station.   And I catch my train.  I am on time.  Ta daaaahhhh. . . . .   

I don’t like waiting.  Drumming my fingers.  And I don’t want people waiting for me.  If I say I will be there at 5:45 pm, I will be there a few minutes early.  Sure – there’s a reasonable “fudge factor” but generally, I feel one should live up to time obligations.  I have a theory.  People who do not need to catch a train or a bus or an airplane for work (or link life to the clock on some other time-sensitive obligation) have less incentive to be on time.  Hence . . . . there may be a higher incidence of running late. Think about it.  Test my theory.   

The Slop Bucket

Years ago, I worked at a Boy Scout camp in Wild Rose, Wisconsin. Before being accepted for Staff, a young man would serve as a “trainee” for a month. Trainees would rotate through the various camp areas.  Doing the grunt work.   And spending a fair amount of time in the kitchen peeling potatoes, doing dishes and cleaning up.

After meals in the Mess Hall, Scouts and trainees would bus the tables. We would throw paper garbage into one garbage can. And we would put food waste into another.  The food barrel was called the “slop bucket.”  We were always careful about putting food scraps (no bones, no paper) in the slop bucket because we would give the slop bucket each day to a local farmer who would use it to feed his flock of pigs.  Uneaten food was used. . . . .

I have posted frequently on environmental issues.  And I have touted my registered trademark – JUST TURN IT OFF — a motto that applies to cars, lights, water and energy. 

When I read about how the earth is being inundated with waste, oceans are overflowing with garbage, rivers and lakes turning toxic and how many folks remain heedless of our environment, I get a wee bit steamed.   But then I simmer down — and start thinking about what we can do.  “Just turning off” your water, lights, car, energy – is one thing.  But there is also merit in reusing bags, bottles, containers.  And not polluting.  And then there is recycling. 

But there is also composting. Taking food waste and carefully mixing it with soil.  In the garden.  Or backyard.  You don’t need a slop bucket.  

We ALL really need to get on board with this idea of helping our limping planet along.  Pronto. We live here.  But we also have generations of souls who yet have no voice – who will have to live here too.  And they will have no choice but to take what we give them. . . . .   

Illegal Weapons

[A repeat from May 24, 2015]   I used to have an illegal weapon. And every once in a while I used it.  Know what it was?  It was a switchblade knife.   

Now mind you my switchblade knife was old and decrepit and had a blade that was maybe two inches long.  And it opened with the speed of a snoozing turtle (sh-sh-sh-sh-clunk).   And it was d-u-l-l. I used it when I was in the garage cutting up boxes for recycling (“take that box!”).   I never had any nefarious designs on anyone with my switchblade.  But technically it was illegal.  And if I still had it, it would still be illegal.  Even though my victims were cardboard boxes. 

I have my old Boy Scout knives which are so sharp that I can shave with them.  They seem to be far more dangerous.  But a switchblade?  Outrageous. Illinois remains one of the few states where it is a crime to have a switchblade knife.  As I recall one North Shore community outlaws steak knives over 2-1/2 inches in restaurants.  “Eeek!  A knife!”  Maybe Illinois should tax them!   Now that’s the spirit.   

A Hole In One. . . . Almost

Watching Tiger Woods at the Masters was amazing.  Yes – I told you so (see several posts – 9/27/18, the latest).   Tiger’s success gives me renewed hope that I – Mister 15 index – can one day achieve my dream.

Have you ever had a hole-in-one?  I have not.  But I’ve come close.  On August 7, 2011, I came the closest ever – about 8 inches from the cup.  Evanston Golf Club.  17th hole.  Playing about 215 yards.  A little wind against.  I pulled out my 3 wood and spanked my Pro V-1 just like Tiger.  The ball took off high and perfectly straight.  I watched.  It seemed like ages. The ball landed, bounced.  And disappeared.  “Wow!  Great shot” said the caddie.  “That could be in the hole,” said my friend Norm. 

The flagstick was obscured by a fairway bunker so we couldn’t see the result.   So we walked.  My heart racing.  As the pin came into view, I saw that the ball resting — inches from the hole.  An angry-looking divot splayed grass and turf where the ball had slammed into the green. I marked and cleaned my ball and thought briefly “gee what if I 3 putt?”    But I knocked down the putt for a 2.  Birdie.

A hole-in-one is rare and I almost had one.  But “almost” doesn’t count.  It either is or isn’t.  Suffice to say, I’m still looking for the elusive “ace.” One day.  Hey – if Tiger can do it . . . . 

Put Your Head on my Shoulder

[A repeat from September 19, 2015]  The first time I ever danced with a girl was in my 6th grade classroom. Our teacher, Mrs. Speerschneider, put on some music and drafted Marilyn W. to dance with me.  Poor girl.  To say I had two left feet would be a compliment.  They felt like two left flippers.  I was scared to death. And I remember stepping on this poor girl’s feet in my pathetic effort to “dance.” I’m sure the experience soured poor Marilyn on the male of the species.

By 7th grade, I had danced maybe three or four times.  So I was an old hand.  7th and 8th graders were invited to “Rec” as it was called on Friday nights.  At the park district.  It was a dance. . . .  Few of the guys I knew ever danced. They just stood on the sidelines. Joshing.  Joking. Snorting.  And acting like immature boys. That is until Sharon E. walked over to me during one “slow” dance and asked me out on the floor. My friends were stunned. They stared.  I was nearly apoplectic inside. But that was only a taste of what was to come. . . .We went out on the dance floor and began dancing.  And Sharon promptly pressed her head against my head.  I remember immediately beginning to perspire.   Heavily.  Notwithstanding her head remained glued to mine.  Sweat dripping down the both of us.  And the music ended and she walked back to the line of girls. And I sheepishly went back to the line of boys feeling like I’d just emerged from a swimming pool.  And got glares. And snickers. And when the slow music began again, I saw her moving in my direction. Uh oh.   And we danced.  Her head pressed against mine.    

I don’t think we exchanged a single word.  Ever.  But after a few times, dancing with Sharon wasn’t so bad . . . . 

The Seder

[A timely repeat from May 4, 2017]  Years ago, I was asked to teach Sunday School at our church.  A September to May obligation.  I said “sure” and was promptly given the 6th grade class.  We had a textbook which I was to use religiously (no pun intended).   But I have to confess that from the beginning I often ad libbed.  Uh oh – Petersen is going rogue . . . . .

While I stayed with the basics of the curriculum, I took liberty to discuss relevant questions within the context of the day’s chapter.  And I would bring in occasional people and things to enhance the one hour class.  The most memorable improv was when I conducted a Seder at the time of Passover.  I enlisted the help of two Jewish friends for guidance.   One gave me the blue Haggadah (the order of the Seder) which was in English and in Hebrew (I still have it).  And both tutored me in this solemn ritual.  They wanted to make sure I had the protocol down to a tev (or “t”).

Donna helped prepare the (almost) kosher meal.  And I set the table in the 6th grade area.  Plates, platters and potables (no wine).   Then the students began to arrive.  They looked around like – whoa! Mister Petersen is off the grid.  And they sat down – and I began with an explanation of Passover.  And the Seder.  And its significance.  And a Passover prayer.  The hour went quickly.  Elijah made his obligatory appearance.  The food was consumed.  And I did the cleanup.  I guess I did okay because the next year I was asked to continue teaching 6th grade Sunday School.  I did so until finally one year I said “no mas.”   

Some twenty years later, the Sunday School Seder was long forgotten.  Until we saw some old friends from church.  And their son Eric.  He walked right up to me “hello Mister Petersen!”  And he immediately began to bubble about the Seder being the most memorable time of his Sunday School career.  Gosh.  Kinda makes me wish I hadn’t said “no mas.”      


[A repeat from 10/31/2015]  I was walking to the train station with a retired friend. He mentioned that he is taking a course on Lucretius – the Roman poet and philosopher (99 B.C.-55 B.C.).   His previous course was on Cicero and the one before that on some unpronounceable Roman chap.  My friend went on talking about Lucretius and his publications on the nature of the universe and Epicureanism.  Sounded pretty neat.  I asked what he was taking next semester and he was not sure.  Maybe something on analytics or Euripides.  It was then I stuck my chin out. . . . .

I asked my friend if he had ever had a course on first aid.  He looked at me – “no.”  I asked if he’d ever taken a Heimlich Maneuver, CPR or AED course.  I got the same answer.  He asked me if I had done so and I recounted briefly the year-long course work I took to become a Civil Defense emergency medical responder at Augustana College (see October 21, 2011) and my AED review (see June 12, 2014).   I said that over the years, knowledge of first aid has come in handy.  And on a few occasions very handy.

It’s great taking courses on Lucretius and Cicero though my personal bent might involve guitar lessons, drum lessons, bird study or a tutorial on doing card magic.  But lemme say this — acquiring knowledge on the subject of first aid (including AED, Heimlich, CPR) may someday prove to be more valuable than reading De Rerum Natura or Iphigenia at Aulis.  You never know when some fast-moving southbound emergency will raise its ugly head.  And there is no one but you . . . . . . 

Tort Reform

[A repeat from 12/19/13]   When you go to the hospital emergency room, the first person you see after checking in is a triage nurse or physician’s assistant who will determine the nature and severity of your injury or illness. And then you will be treated accordingly.

In criminal law, there is a triage system to determine the merit of criminal cases.  It’s called a “grand jury” or a “preliminary hearing.”  If a case does not have merit, a judge will throw it out (or a grand jury will vote down taking the matter further).  

But for civil cases, there is regrettably no triage system for determining their merit.  Result?  Many of America’s civil cases have little or no merit.  Yet you hear plaintiff’s lawyers squealing like stuck pigs whenever someone talks about limiting their right to bring lawsuits — and thus limiting the fees they might collect.  Pardon me — I mean limiting the damages they might recover for their client.  Even in Plato’s Apology (399 B.C.), he explains how any case that one wanted to bring needed a threshold approval — one fifth of the 501 jurors of Athens.  There was a triage system for new civil cases – 2,500 years ago. 

One of the biggest costs to America’s health care system is lawyers. But for money-grubbing lawyers, doctors would not perform needless procedures and order unnecessary testing.   But for lawyers, damage claims might be held within reason.  It is because of lawyers that tort reform and damage caps need to be put squarely on the table (especially if our ailing health care “system” is to survive).   Maybe losers should pay.  If there is push back from the lawyers, it may be Dick the Butcher (Shakespeare’s Henry VI) was on to something . . . . .