Tuesday, November 16, 2010


A long time ago, in the long distant past, I worked for a state's highway department, a state that shall remain anonymous. What some would consider a long-time, permanent position with benefits and great retirement, I found to be a bureaucratic nightmare of a job. We weren't designing highways; we were killing time on the taxpayer's paycheck. Several interesting things happened during that time, however. Here is one of those stories.

There was a fellow who had worked there for some time, and he was a likable enough sort, except he had one peculiar habit that drove everyone nuts. Well, maybe it wasn't everybody. Maybe it was only a few people. Well, actually, maybe it was only me. His walking drove me crazy. This guy would strut around the office high-stepping like a Nazi storm trooper. He wore huge cowboy boots, and those huge, heavy clunkers would crash to the floor and distract, worry and stress me. His legs would be stiff, just like a Nazi struttin' through France.

I allow some unusual peculiarities from people, especially with some of my odd quirks, but this was over the top, and I asked him if he knew he walked like that. He definitely knew it, and I asked him why he did, and he couldn't tell me, so I told him my theory: He was in deep need of attention, appreciation and love, and not receiving any, he turned to an attention-getting, over-the-top, make-believe-manly, boot stompin' strut. He thought about it for a little while, and then told me that I was wrong. He just liked to walk like that. I told some people I was going to get him to stop, and everyone told me that it was impossible. I wasn't going to be able to make him stop.

There is something about me you need to know. I can get things done. Goals reached. Needs met. However, none of the goals or needs are ever of any importance, such as accomplishing something of significance or reaching unattainable, earth-shattering achievements that bring wealth or fame. No, I'm the sort who can accomplish little, worthless goals like stopping someone from walking like a Nazi around the office. Some time went by, and I bided my time.

One day this fellow came to work and informed everyone that he had a friend who was in need of some drastic surgery that required an inordinate amount of blood. Our boss agreed to let the entire office travel to the hospital during work hours in order to donate blood. It was a fine gesture, and all who were willing piled into cars and headed to the hospital. This was before my blood soured. The medical profession no longer wants my blood or any of my organs, decrepit and diseased as they are, but this was before that time, so I went with everyone down to the hospital.

I was lying on a gurney, or whatever they are, and next to me was the Nazi Walker. The nurses started pulling my blood and I got cold all of a sudden, or maybe I got warm. I think it was cold. It was a weird sensation, and I thought, "This is not your average work day."

It was at that moment that I heard a little mousy voice say, "Walter. Walter. Help me."

I looked over at the fellow and said, "Are you OK?"

"No. Somethin's wrong. I don't feel well."

"That's just the change in your blood pressure. You'll be OK."

"No I'm not OK. Oh my God. Help me, Walter. "

"There's nothin' I can do. I'm strapped to a needle and they're drainin' my blood."

"This is it. I'm scared."

"You're not gonna die, you know."

"Tell my wife I love her. Oh God."

"I think you're exaggerating. I'm not gonna tell her anything. You tell her when you wake up."

"Oh noooo00. Ohhh. uhhh walter help me........"

When he awoke, the nurse told him his blood pressure had dropped, and that he merely fainted. So that's the end of that.

Not quite. This fellow came to me later that day, leaned over my desk, and whispered, "Walter, I don't want anyone to know what happened at the hospital. I want you to keep it a secret."

"Oh, you mean about you fainti-"

"Shhh! I don't want anyone to know. Do you promise not to tell?"

"What should it matter to anybody?"

"It matters to me. I don't want anyone to think I'm a big baby."

"They won't think that." It was then I realized that some of the men in the office wouldn't think that, but they'd tease him. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot.

"OK. I agree. I won't tell anyone. But I want you to do me a favor."

"Sure, man, sure. Anything. What is it?"

"I want you to quit walkin' around the office like a Nazi parading in front of der Fuhrer."

"Is that all?"

"Yeah. That's it." I was astonished that he accepted so readily. I look back and wonder how much cash I could've gotten thrown into the bargain.

"OK. We'll both keep our end of the bargain. It's our little secret, right?" and he looked at me with unsuppressed joy at realizing that if I kept my end of the deal, no one would know what happened.

"I won't say a word to anyone," I replied.

He kept his end of the bargain. I did too, until now.

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