Famous Last Words (And Mine)Posted: May 14, 2012 | |
“You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you”. – Alex, an African grey parrot
“I just wish I had time for one more bowl of chili.” – Kit Carson
“Kurt Russell” – Walt Disney
“Love one another.” – George Harrison
“Walter Pidgeon.” – Boris Karloff
“I feel ill. Call the doctors.” – Mao Zedong
“Die, my dear? Why that’s the last thing I’ll do.” – Groucho Marx
“Tomorrow, I shall not be here.” – Nostradamus
“That’s not true! I’m gonna die in this suit? Fredrick William I of Prussia*
History has recorded the last words of so many people. Some of them were witty, some ironic, some were moving. Once, I spoke what I was certain were my last words. It was actually one word, and I’m not proud of it.
This is the story of how I came to utter that word.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that it was not so much an utterance as a full on scream – but we’ll cover that when we get there.
If This Were A Movie, It’d Get Blurry To Show Going Back In Time
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the beginning of this story. In some cases, the bridge you’re thinking of may not have been built at the start of this tale.
I was in my mid-twenties, an up and comer in the career that I will soon close out. My up and coming status had gotten me selected for a new program. Five of us would be sent out-of-town for two weeks of training to prepare us for our new tasks.
The supervisor in charge of making the travel arrangements for the group summoned me to his office. He gave me the address of the hotel and let me know that the lodging expenses had already been paid. I got my per diem money so I could get myself fed. Then he told me “you’ll be rooming with Barton”.
Barton. I’d already begun to dread the trip because I’d heard he was going. The idea of spending time in a classroom with him was not a happy thought. Now I was going to have to live with him.
I appealed unsuccessfully for mercy. “You went to the academy together, I figured you were a great fit” was the answer I got.
The reason we were a “good fit” was precisely the reason we were not a good fit.
An Older Story Within An Old Story
Barton and I were hired on the same day, January 30, 1985. That date was the start of twelve weeks of basic training. By January 31, no one in our class could stand him. You see, Barton was (and still is) a know it all.
Now, I don’t mind anyone letting me know when I’m wrong about something. I’d rather not go around repeating mistakes over and over.
Barton was (and still is) an exception to that rule.
Young Mr. Barton would correct anyone, anywhere, on any subject. He wasn’t right nearly as often as he fantasized that he was. That didn’t stop him. He did it all the time, on minute details that mattered to no one but him. Classes, study sessions and lunch conversations were all interrupted by his favorite interjection “well actually…”. The response from those of us stuck in training with him was usually “shut up, Pickles.”
Barton got the nickname Pickles because it seemed that he had an unusual appetite for kosher dills. Few of us from that basic training class still remain, but to those who do he will always be Pickles. He hates that name. No one cares.
The Part Where The Story Within The Story Ends
The day arrived for Pickles and I to drive out-of-town. I’d called him a few days earlier and he told me to just come by and pick him up at home since I was picking up the car. Pickles liked to tell people what to do. I wasn’t having it.
A three-hour drive that seemed to take three weeks got us to our hotel. The hotel was no relief, he was in the room.
No relief. He was in class. He was at meals. The last person I’d see at night was Pickles. I’d wake in the morning to the sound of him defiling the bathroom before I could get in to take a shower.
I battled to stay civil. I’d decided on the mostly silent drive up that spending two weeks saying “shut up, Pickles” would not change anything. Classmates and instructors who didn’t know my history with the man might come to think ill of me for speaking roughly. Besides, it isn’t my way to say that to people.
Keeping my distance helped me in my battle. In the end, it just came down to determination. I fought the urge to address him in the way I’d become accustomed to. When he tried to tell me what to do, I ignored him. I bit my tongue whenever he dropped a “well, actually”.
Finally, the two weeks ended. I had a chewed up tongue and a certificate for completing the training. Three more hours. Three hours to finish two weeks and be a bigger person by not saying shut up to Pickles.
Can you tell I didn’t make it?To be continued.