What Type Are You?

What is your work style?  Do you put off and then suddenly go at it with urgent intent at the last minute?  Or do you plan ahead, leave yourself plenty of time and methodically complete the project, perhaps even ahead of time?  Possibly, you take the spurt – crash – spurt approach?

Everyone has their own style.  Myself, I often let something nag at me for a while and then suddenly get into it.  And once I do, I’m almost obsessive about completing the work.

After seeing this pattern for a good many decades, my wife summed it up perfectly.

She looked at me with a slight smile and exclaimed, “You know, you’re either a firecracker or a slug!”

Alas, ’tis true, ’tis true.


My Favorite Teacher

I know:  The title looks like some essay assignment that you’d need to stretch into 500 words and finish with a sigh of relief.  Finito.  And where’s my B+?

I sat here, trying to think of something interesting to write about.  Something humorous, witty, honest, unique, and meaningful.  And, instead of a subject, I thought of a man.  One that I don’t even remember talking to, though I’m sure I did in passing.

Lloyd Richards was an English teacher at the high school I attended in the early 1960’s.  Bespectacled, graying and serious on the outside, he was one of those people you’d pass by and probably not even notice.

It wasn’t until he stood before a class, in a day-to-day capacity, and you got to know him, that you appreciated the man and his character.  His manner was low-key, soft voiced.  I don’t recall him needing to discipline all that much, the fifteen and sixteen year-olds that he taught.  He was just a person that connected with kids, with people.  He was self-deprecating in a humorous way, yet you found yourself respecting him even more for it.  His approach seemed to be half on the subject of English, and the rest on related or unrelated subjects of living.

He was one of those people who you measure things against.  How  do I conduct myself under certain circumstances?  How do I treat others?  Can there be humor, even in the depths of sadness?

He’d talk of his sons when they were teenagers – apparently large teenagers – when he would look upward into their eyes and tell them that as long as they parked their shoes under his table, they would follow his instructions.  And the twinkle in his eyes told you how much they’d listened.

He’d talk of loss and of death.  That a person does their grieving in private.  That carrying on in public is more for the griever than the departed.

And he respected his students as well.  He didn’t have to say it:  You could tell in his actions, in his words.

He gave us an assignment once, to write a sentence or two about life.  The next day after the work was handed in, he stood before the class and announced that he’d picked a few of them to read aloud.

No names mentioned, he began to read.  With some teachers, the reading would have been rote, mechanical, let’s get this over with, or they would have chosen not to read them aloud at all.  With Mr. Richards, it was different.

He handled each piece as though talking intimately with a friend.

And then he came to mine:  I could tell from the opening five words.  And I tensed up.  It was only a sentence long, but I’d put my feelings into it, and now those feelings were on display.  The line went like this:  Life is like a highway with many twists and turns…and an occasional straight away.

He read it with a tenderness that I remember to this day – an affirmation that my work – that I – was worthy of his respect.

Years later, when I became a special education teacher, I tried, though not always successfully, to emulate the lessons he taught.

Have I conveyed the man to you?  I’m not sure.  But I do hope that you too had a teacher along the way who taught more than just their subject.

Okay, I’ve gone over 500 words.  Now, about that extra credit…



Too McLate

This story was reported in the Omaha World Herald newspaper a couple of years ago.  I have changed the original narrative into a verbal exchange, for effect.

A man approached an employee working the counter at a McDonald’s, and pulled a gun.

“This is a hold-up, gimme all the money in the register.”

Worker:  “I’m sorry, sir, but the register cannot be opened without a customer order.”

“Well…gimme an Egg McMuffin.”

Worker:  “I’m sorry, sir, but our breakfast menu is no longer available.”

The man walked away.




Caprice On Ice

Now that a hard winter is past us, it’s probably safe to write a story about said season without hearing an uproar.

Winters are usually a take-your-pick kind of season.  It seems we have either snowy ones or cold ones in the Midwest.

But one year, (to set the drama) my destiny lay not in the flakes nor the frigid air.  No.  It lay in the ice.

We lived in the country during the 90’s, and with more open spaces than in the city, winter’s effects were usually magnified.

One morning we awoke to a beautiful winter scene of glistening ice covering the countryside.  But, being that my wife, my son and I all needed to get to work, we knew that the affected landscape also included roads.  Icy gravel roads that we had to traverse.

Against my wife’s and my advice to wait a bit until the temperature moderated and the ice melted, my son left for work in his pickup truck at his usual time.  In fifteen minutes, he was back.  The pickup had not gotten stuck:  It had simply slid into the ditch.

And so, I waited another couple of hours, until I thought conditions had improved somewhat.

Now, a 1984 Chevy Caprice is really not your rugged type car.  In fact, in the vernacular of the car world, it and all of  its cousins – the Ford Crown Victoria and the Lincoln Continental – are referred to as “floaters.” Their ride is velvety on the highway, and they handle reasonably well in the city, but they’re not “country” vehicles.  Rear wheel drive and low to the ground make them lousy in snow.  But, in all fairness, nothing does well on ice, and this is what we faced that morning.

I’d bought the Caprice when we still lived in the city, and, as with all of my cars, I planned to keep  it until it started becoming unreliable.  Just me:  Seems I can’t get rid of a vehicle until it’s on its last legs.  Country-fied or not, it would have to do.

I waited until about ten o’clock that morning, and then decided I’d give it a try.  Our driveway opened to a quarter mile upgrade to the stop sign, and there the road leveled off.  Make it to the intersection, and you were home free.

I took a run down the driveway and onto the gravel road.  Traction seemed okay as I passed my son’s pickup sitting in the ditch.  I was about midway to the stop sign.  I think I’m going to make it.

The rear wheels start to spin, and the Caprice comes to a complete stop, the tires whining uselessly.  I step on the brake and an odd sensation overtakes me.  The car doesn’t stop, but instead begins sliding backwards, down the incline, heading straight toward my son’s white pickup, its driver’s side door looming closer and closer.  I think that a family story is forming, one that I will never live down.

But the Caprice mercifully stops six feet short of the truck, still on the road.

I put it in park, gently exit the car, and survey my predicament.  If I try to go forward, the Caprice might just continue slipping backwards, into the pickup.  And there is not enough space to try backing the car away from the truck.

So, out of desperation, I bend over, grasp the corner of the rear bumper, and push.  Miraculously, the rear of the car slides sideways toward the center of the road, away from the truck.  I push again, and it slides a little more.  Forget any monumental feat of strength:  It was a case of the road being just that icy.

I push again, and my smile of satisfaction suddenly changes to one of shock, as the rear end not only slides sideways, but then the entire car resumes its backwards slide down the road, with me attached.  The rear wheels are not moving, because the transmission is still in park.  Nevertheless, they slide along the ice like sled runners.

The Caprice spins 180 degrees, the front end now heading down the road with me still grimly gripping the rear bumper.  Its starts to head toward the ditch on the other side of the road, as I try to “steer” the 4000 pound machine with the bumper.  You can guess how effective that is.  Luckily, there is no one around to see this car-turned-sled with the guy skating along in back.

The car continued on, and were it not for a ridge of gravel along the edge of the road, it would have plowed into the ditch, claiming two family vehicles that day.  As it was, the ridge slowed the Caprice and it eventually stopped short of the ditch.

Another DiMari made the walk home.  I’d had it.  There was no way I was going to try and move that car.

Later in the day, the ice melted enough where we pulled the pickup out of the ditch with a tractor, and the Caprice was able to move on its own.

The only one of us three who made it to work that day was my wife, who waited until she was sure the ice had melted.  To her credit, she never gloated…much.


Confessions Of A Non-Alcoholic

Except for a glass of bubbly on New Year’s Eve, I seldom drink alcohol.  Not that I have anything against drinking in moderation:  I just never developed much of a taste for it.

And my stomach never developed much of a tolerance for it.

One afternoon, when I was first married, my sister-in-law brought over a big bottle of wine – I don’t remember what the occasion was.

We spent the evening polishing it off, and for some reason, I really laid into it, so that by bed time, I was pretty well concreted – one level above plastered.

In bed, I felt like a storm-tossed passenger on board a heaving ocean liner, as I grabbed on to the bed post to keep from falling out.  And my stomach ominously began to roll in time with the waves, until it finally reached a point where I knew an eruption was imminent.  I bounded out of bed and made a run for it.

I’d waited too long.  Halfway to the bathroom I doubled over and let go on the bare floor.  Undaunted, I continued the run and made it to the bowl before the second wave hit.

Much relieved, I turned on the hall light to clean up the floor and, despite the job ahead, had to smile a bit, surveying the mess.

There, in the middle of the puddle, was a bare footprint.  I’d partly emptied the stomach, and then kept going, right through the puddle.

To this day, whenever I see a wine bottle, I think of that footprint.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I don’t’ drink…