It's a start -- Whatta start! -- Here's your ears!..
Last time Jill visited she told me she wanted to buy a bicycle. “One of those three wheelers,” she said. A three wheeler bicycle would be safer and it has big basket for carrying neat stuff.
Right from the get-go I got on her bad side. I informed her that a three-wheeler is a tricycle not a bicycle; and that the difference can be determined by the numerical prefix. Jill called me Mr. Smartypants, and then asked me what you call a bicycle with training wheels. I took that as a sign to get off the topic of wheels.
I kept waiting for Jill to solicit my advice about a bike purchase, but she never did. She kept going on and on about how a new bicycle might be the answer she was looking for. That’s when asked her what the question was that the bicycle might answer. In other words, “Why do you want a bicycle?”
Jill told that she was at a place in her life where she was so bored and lonely. She thought a bicycle might chase away her blues. In other words, she was seeking psychological help from something with a seat and handlebars.
That’s the moment I decided to tell my kid sister the fourth stupidest thing you can ever tell a lonely and bored person. I said, “Jill, loneliness and boredom are not where you are; it’s who you are.” (That’s coming from a guy who could write a book about being bored and lonely.)
Jill came very close to telling me, not WHO I was; but WHAT I was. Boy, did I deserve it. I tried to smooth things over by telling her that I was just trying to get her not to place a great deal of faith in a bicycle being a cure-all.
The good thing about Jill and me is that we don’t hold a grudge for over a week or two. It was right at a week later that Jill called to tell me about her new bicycle. My advice meant nothing to her. In fact, I think it drove her right into the front door of the bicycle store.
As of that moment, I can now say with all confidence that there is no one on this planet who gives two hoots about my advice. Kay still listens to my advice, but she wouldn’t take it if I paid her to. Al won’t even listen to my advice. Virginia would try to make gravy in a coke bottle if I advised her not to.
But, Jill? Jill used to ask me for advice all the time. Not about important stuff, you understand. Stuff like when to change the air filter on your air conditioner; and how you’re not supposed to buy the air conditioner filters made of fiberglass that are so porous you can stick a Popsicle stick through the gaps. And, how you’re supposed to hit the bottom of the pickle jar before trying to open it. Things like that.
But, she will no longer seek my advice. She says she just wants me to be a listener. If she wants to do something I don’t need to make suggestions. If she gets depressed, I don’t need to try to build her up. Don’t talk; just listen.
Ouch. That’s what I’ve been relegated to – the role of silent listener. What a kick in the tenders. That’s what it felt like when I first realized no one wanted to seek my advice. But, in a very short while – about three days – I discovered the relief associated with not being responsible for advice given. It’s like not having to roll up the hose. (Not really, but that came to mind.)
Now, when someone starts telling me about a problem, all I have to do is act like I’m listening. And, as I get older, I won’t even have to act. Old people can get away with rudeness. – “Look, Shirtstain, your quest for someone who gives a hoot is not yet complete.”
I’m finally at peace with myself. Not with other people. People drive me nuts. But, I have inner peace, ‘cause my advice counts for bat guano. People can marry the wrong spouse, spoil their kids rotten, open a jar of pickles all wrong… Doesn’t affect me ‘cause I’ve been decommissioned.
To tell the truth, I’m glad Jill bought a bicycle. She e-mailed me a picture of the thing, and it looks cool. Fortunately, it’s a two-wheeler, but only because the big tricycle cost a fortune. Oh, and her bike is baby-blue, with blue rims, a blue and white plaid seat, blue handle bars, yellow spokes, and a blue reed basket. Oh, and it’s a girl’s bike… a real dude magnet.
Jill told me that when she was riding at the park, a kid yelled at her, “Hey! That’s a girl’s bike!” Jill smiled and nodded. Had she not been in a good mood, she would’ve ridden over and pushed the little snot down. That’s a sign that the bicycle might be improving Jill’s outlook.
The only bad thing I can see in all this is the fact that, now, Kay wants a bicycle. Or as I call it, “a garden hose holder with a seat.” And, do you think she has even pretended to care about my thoughts on the subject? -- You should be shaking your head right now. – Next time.