Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I was so happy to get back, in part because I was in a place the past few days where almost everyone had come to get some measure of protection from their mistakes, refuge from the harshness of a cruel and unforgiving world where many had made serious errors.

Today I met some friends at the supermarket that I should have remembered, but I could not recall their names or their faces without some prompting. I apologize to everyone for such inappropriate treatment. I hope we are still friends. I know this is poor treatment indeed, and I am truly sorry for my awful bad manners. I simply cannot recall my memory at will, and it will continue to grow worse, I expect. I may lose my memories altogether, I suppose.

The man I met was one of my fire department friends, and in my exuberance at meeting again, I moved to give him a hug. He moved away as if startled and taken aback, and I realized then that it was inappropriate. I am sorry I did the wrong thing. I am stupid indeed about such matters, and it only later occurred to me that he might be uncomfortable with such a display of affection between manly men. I hope the gesture was not mistaken to mean anything more than gratitude for seeing a friend from our decimated ranks of volunteers. We put so much effort together into building up the core of the group, and now tragic events have overcome so many of the brave men and women who gave their time and talent to get that venture off the ground.


Knowitall said...

Confusion is a way of life.

In many situations, Appropriate Behavior is really justa formality. In the Middle East, old friends and sometimes even enimies kiss each others cheeks just to say hi. In Africa it is Appropriate to give a rival tribal leader the head of a monkey as a tribute.

Americans have no idea what Appropriate means. Every Culture has wierd customs. Shaking hands in Iran the wrong way could get you killed. In ancient Burma if your head was higher than the king's while in the royal courts you could be arrested and publicly flogged.

So who's to say a friendly hug is wrong? You hug your parents, You hug your bishop, You hug your dog, so why not a former co-worker? If it offends him in some way, that is his fault.

Patricia said...


You take too much of the burden for these moments upon yourself.

In this case, it might be that none of the burden is yours to take. Something might have been going on with your friend.

Taking the full responsibility for the uncertainty of this event is generous of you--except you're not being generous with yourself.

Another option would be to learn what you can from the experience but shrug it off.

(And his loss. On the hugging scale, I rate you at 9: fearless, but warm and generous.)

Jim Cobabe said...

Let me just iterate the decimation:

Phil cuts off his finger in an accident.
Marty falls off a ladder and requires rehab.
Dave fractures his femur and need ortho.
Jim has strokes.
Steve is in auto accident tib/fib fractures.

This from the core of about fifteen able bodied and capable. I just hope whats left can still respond if there is a fire incident.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that after the 9/11 attacks, a lot of "manly" men needed a hug. I use this example since your both fire fighters, at least on a part time basis. However, in this instance, you merely surprised your friend, and he made a fool of himself, not visa-versa! His' spastic reaction no doubt drew the unwanted attention his ego was afraid of. I am a manly man myself, but luckily I posses enough self-confidence to let people give me a hug if they really want to. To be clear, I'm referring to friends and family, not just strangers on the street. Some weirdo tries to hug me, and they'll likely find out just how "manly" I can get. Your friend simply needs to grow up and realize he's not in Jr. high anymore. Now not to be insensitive to the plight of your group, but I must say it could be worse:
Phil cuts off head in accident.
Marty falls off mountain, and is
never seen again!
Dave fractures skull and needs a
steel plate.
Jim has amebic dysentery and
Steve gets hit by a bus, and
every bone is broken.

Now, don't you feel better! Again, I am not making light of the real human suffering in your group, just trying to cheer you up and gently remind you that things could indeed be a lot worse. Keep your head up, and have a nice day.