Noah and the Flood

Each week a different section or parsha of the Torah, that is Hebrew Bible or five books of the Torah, is read.  This week is the Noah parsha.  There have been innumerable interpretations of the Bible, and it is, in particular, this feature that makes this text such a wonderful piece of writing to study.  Let me offer my take on this segment of the Bible.

As we all know, Noah and his immediate family are forewarned by God to build an ark that will save them from the flood.  Subsequently, God creates a rainbow in the clouds as a reminder for him to deal better with His own anger and to never again destroy the entire human race.  God’s anger cast upon the world serves as a wake-up call for humans to recognize the danger of uncontrollable anger.  As a cognitively trained therapist, I do not believe in the cathartic release of anger as a healthy coping mechanism.  Anger can be avoided in most situations, if people do not suppress the daily stressors of life, but rather deal with them as they arise.  It is far better to discuss disagreements with one’s partner, openly, rather than to keep them inside oneself only later to explode.

Generations after the flood waters recede, the people erect the Tower of Babel with the goal of reaching up to the Heavens.  It is a time epitomized by human hubris when human life is less important than the clay and brick materials used to erect the Tower.  God does not destroy those that are blasphemous like he chose to do with the more extreme evil that existed before the Flood.  Rather, he will disperse all of humanity throughout the earth causing them to speak different languages.  Perhaps the lesson here is that one opinion, exemplifying uniformity, held by the creators of the Tower is not the best way of adapting to the daily challenges of life.  Diversity brings an increase in the ways that people can approach common barriers or problems.

America was founded on the principle:  E Pluribus Unum.  This Latin phrase means out of many one.  It was the guiding foundation that brought the colonists of the original 13 states together to declare their independence from Great Britain.  No doubt those from the North and the South had very different temperaments and dispositions, but they understood the importance of uniting as One, if they were to free themselves from British rule.

We are currently facing a conflict between the political Right and the Left where neither side wishes to engage in meaningful talk with one other.   Social media is inflammatory inasmuch as it packages the news in a way that confirms preexisting biases resulting in exacerbating our differences.  This makes bridging our polarities that much more difficult to do.  The late Rodney King asked: “Can we all get along?”  I am not ruling out that possibility but, as George Orwell put it, “in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”  My hope is that the election will bring America a leadership that will allow for greater transparency and honesty than what we are presently experiencing.  If this occurs, an act of revolution will not be necessary to change the structure of our government that was founded on democratic principles.


A Great Game


Let me pause for a moment from the current political chaos that confronts our country, and turn to a still existing passion of mine: baseball.  I have always maintained that the results of sporting events, unlike reality television, are unpredictable.  So it was, with the last game of a best out of five series between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.  Although going into the series of 2020, the Rays had the better record than the Yankees, the latter had suffered the loss of several of their key players during the shortened Covid season due to injuries.  However, in the playoffs to determine who would win the pennant and go on to play in the World Series, New York was at full strength.

This year the Yankee annual payroll was the highest in the major leagues at $113.9 million, with the Dodgers second at $105.5 million.  Tampa Bay’s payroll was the 27th of all 30 teams at $28.6 million.  As the series began, with the exception of perhaps two batters, all of the Yankees were potential home run hitters. They had the look of sluggers emulating their famed past as the Bronx Bombers.  Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton all brought their own package of peril to any opposing pitcher.  When one looked at the smaller size of the Rays’ players, compared to that of the Yankees, one may have concluded this to be a battle between David and Goliath.

Although Tampa Bay did not compare to the Yankee bats, their pitching came close to equaling that of the New York squad.  But all of the Yankee arms were available, such as starter Gerrit Cole and star reliever, Aroldis Chapman, the man whose fastball had been clocked at 100 miles per hour.   Gerrit Cole had signed a 9-year contract with the Yankees that paid him $36 million per year, the highest salary of all players in baseball.

With Gerrit Cole pitching in the opener of the series, the Yanks dominated the Rays, winning 9 to 3.  But after that, Tampa Bay came back to win the next two contests. The Yankees won the fourth game of the series 5 to 1 with Aroldis Chapman, appearing unhittable, swiftly getting the final four outs of the game.  In that meeting, it was 4 to 1 when Chapman entered in the top of the 8th inning.  The New Yorkers added a run to their lead in the bottom of the 8th inning, at which point I wondered whether Yankee manager, Aaron Boone, would send Chapman out to record the final three outs.  Because New York had to win, Boone probably did not want to take any chances so he let Chapman finish the game.

Boone chose Gerrit Cole to pitch the 5th and final game on 4 days of rest, rather than his normal 5-day respite.  From start to finish, this was the most exciting contest of all.  Cole was quite effective inasmuch as he held the Rays to one run, with the score 1 to 1, going into the top of the 6th.  With one out, by far the best hitter for Tampa in the series, Randy Arozarenac came to the plate and walloped Cole’s first pitch that sent left fielder Brett Gardner back to the wall, and with a perfectly timed leap, he speared the ball in the web of his glove for a great catch.   After that play, Cole appeared dazed and disoriented, as if he was asking:  What just happened?  Wisely, Boone immediately took Cole out thanking him for his efforts.

The score remained 1 to 1 when Chapman started the bottom of the 8th  inning.  Arozarenac, the first batter of the inning, fouled off a couple of pitches before grounding out sharply to the shortstop.  I saw this as a good sign for the Rays because the day before the Rays could not touch Chapman.  I wondered if Chapman’s arm would hold out, given the fact that he had thrown about 20 pitches the previous day.  Now Mike Brousseau came up to hit.  Chapman kept hurling fastballs, but Brosseau refused to go down swinging, fouling off a number of pitches, making it a full count.  When a batter fouls off several pitches after he has two strikes on him, the pitcher may become frustrated and exhausted in trying to get the third strike or an out.  In my opinion, the more pitches a batter sees, the more he adjusts to the rhythm of that hurler.  Furthermore, a full count means the pitcher has to throw a strike or a pitch close to the strike zone to avoid walking the batter.  On the 10th pitch Chapman dealt to him, Brousseau solidly connected with a home run.  Perhaps he was tired or frustrated when, subsequently, Chapman declared he gave too much of the plate to Brousseau making it too easy for him to hit. When Diego Castillo held the Yankees in check in the top of the 9th inning, Tampa Bay won the game.

Chapman could not match his stellar performance from the day before.  It was another day and, in baseball, one cannot predict the outcome of a game based on an earlier result.  With all their money, the Yankees once more came up short, losing to a team whose management did not come close to matching their hefty payroll.

Life Lessons

The Fall


Because I was over 70 years old, when I last renewed my driver’s license, I was required to take the written test.   California’s Division of Motor Vehicles issues a manual that reviews the rules and regulations considered essential in safe driving.  Although many of the points made are intuitive, I did learn something new by reading the booklet:  There is really no such thing as an accident.   Even if a collision is unexpected and unintended, when an accident occurs, it is invariably the case that one or both drivers disobeyed some rule of safe driving. That motorist may have violated the speed limit, may have went through a red light or may have tried to stop, but could not, due to faulty brakes.

When two cars crash, as would be likely in any of the above situations, because neither of the drivers meant it to happen, we refer to it as an accident.  But the occurrence of the accident is the result of one or both of the motorists proceeding in a dangerous or unsafe manner that could have been avoided.  I recently had an “accident” of a different nature that I could have avoided if I had taken a simple safety step prior to it happening.

As the years have gone by, I have had increasing difficulty in staying asleep, without waking up with the urge to urinate.  I find many of my friends, in the same age cohort, to have similar problems.  The separate bathrooms my wife and I have provide us with sufficient space to not bump heads, especially, when we are getting ready to go somewhere.  My bathroom is adjacent to our bedroom that makes it necessary for me to walk a few steps out of the bedroom. 

Three nights ago, I took a sleeping pill that I do not use regularly, fell asleep fairly quickly and woke up around 3 a.m.  In the past, I had never had any difficulty in reaching my bathroom as it is quite close to our bedroom.  When I arose from my bed and headed to the toilet in the pitch dark, half-asleep, I felt disoriented and off balance.   I was more confused than dizzy, and in my awkward attempt to walk straight without careening, I tripped and keeled over making a loud thud upon hitting the floor.  I immediately could feel a streak of pain shoot through two areas of my body:  my rear end and the left side of my lower back.  When I tried to right myself and stand, I could not, at which point I called my wife who heard me fall, and she assisted in getting me back on my feet and returning to our bed.

 In my drowsy state, I had gone a few steps past the bathroom that caused me to trip over one of the two steps leading into the living room.  You know when you break a bone and, fortunately, I had not done that.  Besides which, I was lucky that I had not banged my head against either of the two surrounding walls where I fell.  Three days later I am still experiencing the pain in my back but it is not incapacitating and, I’m quite sure, will go away, hopefully, sooner than later.  Since the “accident,” I have put a night light in the bathroom that neither of us can see from where we sleep.  It is a very small change but it will certainly eliminate the risk of this same mishap in the future.  My misadventure reminds me of the saying we can all heed: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Where Hath Civility Gone?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s many accomplishments during her life cannot be argued.  There is a reason that women from all over the country are paying tribute to her during this week as the first woman ever to lie in state at the Capitol.  Given present day behavior, what I found most unique about her was not her professional acumen but rather her independent character.  Not giving into her friends of the same political persuasion, she befriended her conservative colleague, the late Antonin Scalia, on the Supreme Court.  They both had a passion for opera and would be seen together often at opera performances. They were the odd couple in a country whose citizenry has been stricken with the deep wound of anger and hate.

It is unfortunate that our President, during the past 4 years, has modeled the type of behavior that we are currently seeing on both the political left and right.  Rather than trying to bridge the gap between the divisiveness we now suffer from, he has twittered, with no small amount of hostility, against his opponents.  Never to be forgotten is that famous line from Republican Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” Both cable news and social media have fueled the polarities by their extremist statements vilifying the other side.  We are quickly becoming a country of two separate bodies who are so ironclad in each of their belief systems that they have no desire to break bread with those of different opinion. 

The reinforcement for discord is built into the system when attention is given to the dramatic and sensational but not necessarily to what is factually accurate.  The algorithms created by technology have added gasoline to the already flaring tempers of so many of us.  When the hits on a site reward the advertising agencies that subsidize megalithic corporations such as Facebook, the foundation for rational discourse withers away.  Let us hope that the future brings meaningful interventions that set boundaries on the sources of fake news.  How to contain the false news behind so much of the rage felt by so many of us, without the loss of our individual freedoms, indeed, will take a most skilled leadership.  This will obviously take a different type of leadership than we are currently experiencing. 

A Most Strange Wrestling Match


It was the beginning of summer and my older brother, Benj, who was 15 ½ years old (remember when that extra ½ year meant so much), and I, who had recently turned 12, challenged me to a game of stickball.  Although he was older, he respected my athletic prowess and understood that his age would probably not be the determining factor.

After playing a few innings, we heard the familiar sound of the Good Humor Truck that frequented the playground area where we were playing.  Benj quickly straddled the fence, calling to the truck to stop, with me in hot pursuit.  Although he was not much of an athlete, I  respected his skill in straddling the fence sideways inasmuch as I never quite mastered that feat with ease. 

Refreshed from the sodas, we returned to the stickball court to discover that there were two guys standing in our court.  My brother, in an irritated tone, told them that the stick and ball were ours and that we had not finished our game.  Although both of them were taller and bulkier than we were, I estimated their age to be somewhere between Benj’s and mine.  The bigger of the two of them made a threatening gesture saying something to the effect: “I’m not leaving so you’ll have to make me.”  Knowing that neither of us had much experience in fighting, I readied myself to depart and allow the two of them to take over the court.  To my amazement, my brother stubbornly refused to leave, saying: “Fair is fair and we were here first.”

Not to my surprise, the two of them got louder and challenged us to a fight.  My brother did not back down, but said the fight had to be in front of the school where there was grass, the only place, as he put it, a “real fight” could happen.  They agreed.  While the two of them boldly strode ahead of us, I looked up toward the heavens, in hope of a miracle, wondering what Benj might be thinking.  Signaling to me not to utter a sound, he walked behind them with a cocky gait and I, the younger brother, timidly followed all of them.

When we reached the lawn in front of the school, my brother assertively told the other two that this spot would be fine.  The two of them huddled for a moment, with the bigger one saying that he would fight my brother, who he mockingly called “big mouth.”  My brother, assuming an audacious tone of voice, explained to them that this was going to be a wrestling match with each of them adhering to high school rules, and that he had wrestled on the high school team.  When I heard that, I gasped in shock, but held my tongue.  During the wrestling season, Benj had made the sports headlines of our local newspaper for having been the fastest pin of the year in 11 seconds: To clarify, he was the one who had been pinned.

Meanwhile Benj, went on in pedagogical fashion, demonstrating to his opponent, who I will call the Hulk, how to get into the referee’s position where both squat on fours.  The Hulk looked at him confused and mumbled “is this it?”  “No, no,” Benj replied, and he made a gesture pointing to the Hulk’s position.  When the latter switched his stance, Benj again told him, “no” saying that he would be disqualified or would have to forfeit the match if he continued in the same manner.  They went back and forth with Benj doing the instructing, and the Hulk attempting to follow my brother’s guidance.  Suddenly, he threw his hands up in disgust and stormed off with his friend but not wanting to lose face, and like a bully, he tried to browbeat us with words of intimidation. 

When they were out of hearing, Benj told me you can talk your way out of any fight if you need to.  I remember that we returned home triumphantly having no interest in continuing the stickball game.  Whether the two of them went back to play stickball, I had my doubts.  But because big brother Benj had made his point, it no longer mattered to us.


No News Is Good News Except When….

My mother always would remind us that no news is good news. Years ago, I was involved in a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) where an employee at an agency had suddenly died.  Many companies offer CISD’s that have the purpose of allowing the coworkers of the deceased a safe and structured setting to express their thoughts and feelings as a group/and or as individuals.  Upon my arrival at the location where I was to lead the CISD, I found myself locked out, unable to gain access to the building, on a sweltering day.  Not a good omen I thought.

Inside the building at last, I went to meet with the contact person, the manager of the employees, who were coworkers of the deceased.  When I introduced myself and explained why I had come late, she showed little cordiality toward me.  In conducting prior CISD’s, managers had expressed gratitude toward me in assisting them handle a most unpleasant task.  I did not feel any of those vibes by this woman.  Although I was turned off by her abrasive manner, I thought her unfriendly demeanor might have been related to the stress caused by the death of her employee.  After she showed me to the office where I was to meet with her staff, I asked her if there was a concession or cafeteria in the building where I could grab a light bite.  She said there was some extra food remaining from a potluck for the employees, and that I was welcome to have some.  I asked if she were sure, and she confirmed it with a nod. After I had waited a few hours to see her staff members, the manager came in and, in a mocking derisive tone, told me that she no longer needed my services.  I did not choose to inquire about what I had done to arouse her ire, but rather asked her if she was sure, which she said she was, so I, both frustrated and uncomfortable, departed without having seen any employee.

About a week later, I received a phone call from the insurance company that had hired me to do the CISD.  When the caller identified himself, I told him I was sure that he was not contacting me to give me good news.  “No,” he commented, and then proceeded to tell me about that same manager reporting to him that I was unprofessional, having notes on scrap paper and, furthermore, I had eaten food that was meant only for staff.  When he allowed me to explain my view of what had transpired, he appeared satisfied. 

When you are a contractor like I was, and still am, it is extremely rare for someone to call to give you compliments.   I always have said: “bad news travels faster than good news,” especially, for example, if there has been an airplane accident.  But there is an exception to the rule “no news is good news.”  In 1991, I did not have a broker and was wanting to begin my ascent (or descent) into the stock market.  At a workshop I attended, a fellow participant gave me a business card and told me to contact a broker, named Al, at Bear Stearns.  He told me about all the money he had made following Al’s decisions.

So, I contacted Al, who told me that Bear Stearns, his company, was sponsoring a “great deal” as Kohlberg and Kravis were going public with RJR Nabisco, a company they had bought on a leveraged buyout.  For a brief moment, I winced, fearful of the thought of buying a stock that was affiliated with cigarettes.  Of course, I knew very little about the fundamentals but seeing dollar signs flashing in my mind, I listened to what Al had to say: “It’s a great buy and besides everybody eats cookies.”  Because I already believed in him, there was very little that he could have said that would have dissuaded me and, consequently, I bought 500 shares at $11.  A week later Al phoned me and said RJR Nabisco was currently selling at $12 and, hinted that I should buy some more.  I politely declined telling him that I was just a novice and did not need to be a hog.  Soon after he called, the stock took a downward turn, never recovered, and coincided with Al’s sudden disappearance.  Dismayed, I finally decided to sell my 500 shares at almost exactly half the price I paid for them bidding Al a firm adieu.  Since that time, there has been a book and a movie made about Ross Johnson, called “Barbarians at the Gate,” that featured the greed and ruthlessness of CE0’s with Ross the principal honcho. The merger that Mr. Johnson had crafted between RJR, the maker of Camel and Winston cigarettes, and Nabisco Brands, the home of Oreo cookies, was never a good fit.

This experience taught me that when a broker calls, it’s often the opposite of “no news is good news.”  Rather when he/she suddenly vanishes, let the buyer beware!

Crisis Management Leadership

To Mask or Not to Mask

Because I have been only seeing patients online since March due to the coronavirus, I go to my office to retrieve mail every so often.  I went yesterday.  All entrances to the building were clearly marked in bold print reading:  Do Not Enter Without a Mask. 

As I was leaving my office, two young men behind me were walking with their bicycles that had signs indicating they were from security.  In maintaining a safe distance from them, I angrily asked where their masks were.  One promptly put his on, and the other told me he had left it in his car.  Still very much annoyed, I revealed my not so young age and said they, of all people, need to obey the policy clearly stated throughout the building.  Even though they did not apologize, they remained silent when I let them know I was not going to accompany them in the elevator.

Although the above is but one incident, I think it reflects the behavior in America that fuels the virus.  Unfortunately, our leader, President Trump, set a terrible example when he accepted his party’s nomination this past week, in front of about 1500 spectators at the White House.  Beside the fact that it was evident that his legion of fans did not obey the six-foot social distancing rule, you almost could count on one hand the number of them wearing masks.  Indeed, this is a shame.

As I pointed out in an earlier blog, labeled On the Coronavirus, the individualistic streak possessed by Americans make them less likely to follow rules than do Asians. This is why our leaders have to emphasize the importance of the directives that medical experts have formulated to gain control over the spread of the virus.  Obviously, if our leaders do not adhere to the guidelines established by our health personnel, it is not the exception, but rather the rule, when two security guards also ignore what is best for all of us.  Let all the parents and grandparents safely stay away from those that refuse the minor discomfort of covering themselves with a mask.






  Wrestling in Tunics

When I was in the 10th grade in Elizabeth, New Jersey, I was active in the Junior Classical League (J.C.L.) for those of us that were studying Latin.  Our teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Kaiser, helped us in rehearsing and preparing a number of skits that would reenact some of the customs and rites of ancient Roman times.  Because I was on the wrestling team in high school at the time, I volunteered to participate in a wrestling skit.  To appreciate my size, I competed in the lightest weight class:  97 pounds.  My opponent, though not at all athletic, was both taller and much more rotund than I was.

Of course, all of this was to be staged with a bit of comedy to entertain the audience, so I, the smaller of the two, and the less likely to win such a bout, would be the victor.  Before the event, my rival, Melvin, and I practiced a few holds on each other, some of which I had learned from wrestling practice.  The sequence of events basically would begin by having Melvin take me down and be on top of me–with my managing to squirm out from under him–resulting in us both in standing positions.  We would grip each other and make low growling sounds to accentuate the amount of effort we were putting into the match.  Though we would be faking any real strong impact against one another, each of us would behave as if the other’s bodily force had thrown us half off the mats.  The finale would occur when I would “hurl” Melvin down and jump on him with the referee, my friend David, in a crouching position, hitting the mat declaring me the winner.

After rehearsing with the rest of the skits, we both felt comfortable in the humor and theatrics in the situation.  We then performed the play, that is the series of skits, at our school in front of some of our classmates studying Latin.  Although this was not a rehearsal, it was really a practice run before we were to act the play in front of the students currently studying Latin from all the junior high schools in the city.  Probably Ms. Kaiser hoped the show might stimulate interest in Latin, a dead language, as compared to modern languages such as French, Spanish or German that were offered in our school system.

I remember there being a fairly big crowd of people in the auditorium, but when I saw that with the exception of the teachers, they were all younger than us I did not really feel too nervous.  Besides, because Melvin and I were one of the first acts on the program, I did not have much time to ruminate about how I would do.

When it was our turn, Dave called us up to the stage, announced our Roman names, and as the contest got underway, we started growling at one another.  We each made a few passes grabbing and pushing our arms quite intentionally to no avail.  Then, suddenly and most unexpectedly, Melvin thrust his head into my stomach throwing me down on the mat.  It was if a Mack Truck had run into a Volkswagen. Dave, with a perplexed look, asked if I were all right.  More surprised than hurt, I nodded yes, and then asked Melvin whether he was trying to win the match, and he replied, “yes.”  Utter despair ran through my mind, and I said to myself: “How could he be doing this.”  There was a pretty blonde ninth grader that I had noticed sitting in the first row that I had hoped to impress with my “prowess” but now, as I groaned, she was going to see me lose.

Strange things happen under duress.  Inasmuch as it was evident that this event was no longer staged, I being, if nothing else much faster than Melvin, twisted and turned and in one movement yanked myself free.  Now that we were both erect, on automatic pilot, I employed a technique I had learned from my wrestling coach.  I lunged at Melvin as fast as I could, grabbed one of his legs, gave it a lurch causing him to topple over.  As his body smacked into the mat, there was a loud bang that I am sure the audience heard.  Before he could escape, I quickly got on top of him and held his arms in a pinning position.  Dave slapped his hand on the mat indicating the match was over and held my hand up declaring me the victor.

Afterwards, Dave walked over to me and said that our fight looked so real that for awhile he didn’t think that we were faking it.  I agreed.  Melvin had lost two times, previously, and, much to my surprise, I guess he had decided it was his turn to win.  Because I had won the match, I never bothered approaching Melvin about what was going on with him.  Besides, my efforts had been rewarded greatly when I spotted the attractive blonde looking at me with a big smile.

Human Kindness

What I Need Is an Empty Bag

My wife, Lisa, had asked me to buy a few grocery items from Vons, a supermarket within a ¼ mile from our home.  Because it was a rather small list, I decided to walk.  After paying the bill, the clerk asked if I wanted more than one bag.  I told her I did not, while squeezing milk, cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, apples and ice cream bars in what I had thought was a sturdy container.

As I walked out of Vons, I realized I had underestimated the weight of my purchases, but I gave it no further reflection and proceeded homeward.  In taking a short cut by cutting through an alley, I sensed that what I was carrying felt fragile, and I contemplated to myself: “Goodness, what a holy mess this would be if the bag suddenly split.”  That thought should have dissuaded me from doing what I did next:  Transfer the bag to my other arm.  Unfortunately, although I was ambidextrous the bag was not:  It split in two flipping some of the strawberries in all directions while leaving the remaining fruit intact.

After recovering the loose items on the ground, I put the groceries neatly in the middle of the torn bag and folded it over them.  The articles of food that did not fit into the open envelope of my makeshift receptacle, namely a pair of elongated cucumbers, I managed to stuff into my pants pockets.  With both arms cradling the perishables as tightly as I could, I trudged on, suddenly feeling the loosening of some of the contents.  Silently cursing my stupidity in not taking the extra bag offered by the clerk, I got down on my knees and rearranged everything as neatly and compactly as possible and hobbled forward.

At that moment, I recalled a Rod Serling Twilight Zone episode I had seen eons ago, in which a little old man, who is a peddler of miscellaneous objects, could look into the future and know exactly what a person needed.  The thought had no relevance to my current plight, but nevertheless, the little man inside of me told me “what you need is an empty bag.”  Upon approaching the end of the alley that was intersected by a major street, I knew I was but two blocks from my house.  With cucumbers hanging out of my pockets, the juggling act I had to perform to keep things together forced me into a waddling gait:   Inching along, ever so slowly.

Suddenly, a black male popped out of his car and asked: “Sir, do you need a bag.”  In almost disbelief, I emphatically said: “Yes.”  He opened the backdoor of his car and pulled out a shopping bag.  When he gave me the bag, I mentioned how happy my wife would be about my getting all the things she wanted.  He wished that we both eat and enjoy the food.  I told him how thankful I was for his taking the time to help, and I wished him a long happy and healthy life.  He smiled.  As I walked across the pedestrian crossing, I waved my hand to him and he honked back.






A Lesson in Assertive Behavior

As I drove out of the dealership with my first brand-new car, a Dodge Aspen, I experienced both a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment. When my co-workers saw it, they complimented me on its appearance.    I very much enjoyed driving the car for the first week until it rained, and I discovered a leak in the trunk area. Because I had purchased the car with a 1 year/ 12,000-mile warranty, I returned it to the service department and was told they would take care of the problem.

Everything was fine until the next downpour.  This time I found more water in the same exact spot than I had previously.  Although it clearly was not my fault, I felt embarrassed in having again to bring the vehicle back to the same dealership where I had bought the car.  When I showed the service manager the car, he pointed out to me that the trunk area was bone dry.   Feeling attacked, I mumbled that it was not dry after it had last rained.  “All right,” he replied, “we’ll take a look at it.”

When I left, I was only hoping that they had fixed the problem and that would be that.  Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.  A few days later it drizzled causing the back of the car to be wet in different places.  Because I didn’t want to be viewed as a complainer or a pest, I was reluctant to take the car to the service department a third time.  But insofar as my girlfriend and I had planned a trip to Maine the following week for our vacation, I wanted the car to be in perfect condition.

In a quiet voice, I once more showed the service manager where the car had been wet.  He pretty much said the same thing he had said on my last visit: “We’ll take a look at it.”  When I picked up the car, he assured me that they did what they could, and I politely thanked him.

My girlfriend and I both felt excited driving up the coast in a new automobile.  The car drove like a charm.  When we were about a half hour from our destination, there was thunder and lightning followed by a heavy rainfall.  Upon arrival at our hotel, I parked and went to the trunk to unload our luggage.  To my consternation, the whole back of the car was inundated, but fortunately, there was no damage to any of our possessions.  My girlfriend said she thought that I had had the leak repaired.  With as much bravado as I could muster, I responded angrily: “I thought so too but those jerks that call themselves mechanics obviously didn’t do the job.”

We were both able to laugh it off and have a great time.  But when I returned home, I was both angry and anxious.  I spoke to my younger brother, Dan, who had much less difficulty asserting himself than I.  As parents often note, children, unless they are identical twins, can be as different as night and day.

With a tape recorder, Dan and I role played out the scenario of my entering the dealership, assuming an angry tone, upon asking to see the man in charge.  When I confronted him, I made sure to practice giving Dan, who played the head honcho, direct eye contact.  Because I knew a polite demeanor would be ineffective, I practiced my delivery a number of times until it sounded as if I were truly pissed off.

The next day when I brought my vehicle in, I indicated that I needed to speak to the head of the dealership.  Whoever greeted me asked if he could help, but I told him no, in a firm tone, asking to see the number one man.  When the boss emerged, though trembling inside, I explained to him, in no uncertain terms, that the trunk of the vehicle had been drenched in a rainstorm on my vacation.  I emphasized that I had been in for the same issue a number of times before and it was a huge inconvenience of my valuable time.  I continued that I did not want this to happen again, and that I was holding him, head of the dealership, responsible for the repairs.  I made it clear to him if the car was still leaking, I would know who to see and who was at fault.  I further threatened that I would go over his head if the work was not done properly.  He assured me that he would oversee the job.

When I returned at the end of the day, the boss approached me and showed me several black lines where the car had been caulked.  He said they had hosed the car down and had found a series of leaks all of which they had caulked.  He assured me that the work had been done, and I thanked him for personally overseeing the matter.  Upon departing, because I could actually see that something actually had been done on the car, I believed that the problem, finally, had been resolved.  And it was!