Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mr. Johnny

     Sometime next week one of the hardest working men in the city of Milledgeville will report to the Medical Center for valve replacement surgery. I call him “Mr. Johnny” and have for close to twenty years, even though he’s only a couple of years older than me. You will find him working the yards at various houses throughout town, cutting scrubs, felling trees, raking, fixing up flower beds and doing all manner of yard-work. He simply never stops. His energy has always been amazing and the same can be said of the way in which he goes about his work. Always a smile, a wave, or if you see him and stop to talk, he’ll do that too. He fell out of one of those trees a few years ago, spent time in the hospital and was back at work soon after.
     “Mr. Johnny” asked me to pray for him the other day when we were talking about his surgery…I have… and will, expecting him to be just fine when he recovers. Truth is; His prayers probably carry a lot more weight than mine. What’s that biblical saying from James, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much?”

     You see, this “Mr. Johnny” happens to be one of those African Americans we see each day, doing those things that make our lives better, not the ones that seem to make the news in negative ways. I’ve known “Mr. Johnnies” all my life growing up in the south and unfortunately they get a bad rap based on the misdeeds of a few. Sort of like when some serial killer or Unabomber turns out to be white and male.

     Where would we be without these folks who, for whatever reason, seem to work without ceasing, making, in many cases, minimum wage on jobs few of us can do? I guess that’s why I call him “Mr. Johnny”. It’s just a way of saying, thanks and you have my respect. As a white male nothing infuriates me more than being stereotyped. I find this happening more often because of one, being a “baby boomer” (we’re spoiled) two, a senior (we can’t tie our shoes and shouldn’t ride motorcycles) three, a NASCAR fan (you must drive a truck and chew tobacco) and other stuff that thinking about is raising my blood pressure.

     Now, I don’t have anything against folks who want to chew and drive trucks, that’s just not my thing. So I can imagine (yes) the feelings of the African American community, or any group of people, when we put them in a box, give it our seal of approval and write off an entire race of people. Do I suffer from a bit of guilt from past deeds, you might ask? I can only say I wish things had been different.

     Kathryn Stockett’s book entitled, “The Help” did bring back a lot of memories. If you are over fifty you will be reminded of the “help” your parents may have had at the hands of a “Mr. Johnny” or a maid who came to do laundry or clean once a week. We were pretentious enough to have those around us believe we received the “help” as one would a member of one’s family. How good of us. They knew better.

     The truth is, as much as it hurts, I remember Anna May, mom’s help. How well she was treated by my family, with respect and all but remembering as well, that she never could feel as though she were a member of my family because my family didn’t hang out with her family. Things will be better when we can look at a “Mr. Johnny” and appreciate his contribution as another member of God’s family.

 On another note; I’m very glad we got ol’ what’s his name, but not surprised. After all, we’re Americans, and we keep our word, even to the least of us.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Naptime at the Airport

An occasional nap is a wonderful thing. I like to take my naps on Saturday afternoons with the house empty of people, a cool breeze coming through the window, and a fan on to drown out any noises that would cause the dogs to bark. These two dogs know the Saturday afternoon schedule better than I, the signal for naptime being the closing of the laptop. Then I find them waiting on me in the bed. The key element here is the fan. Without the fan, the dogs will bark…and continue to bark until whatever is causing the noise moves on down the road. They’re Maltese and that’s what they do…bark.
I would have to be an air traffic controller to sleep through the racket these two can make when a truck moves past the house. Speaking of which, those controllers have got to get some sleep off the job…so the rest of us can get some sleep.  How on earth they can sleep at an airport is beyond me. I have trouble sleeping in a motel room, shades drawn, air wide open and no noise whatever. You have to wonder how they get the job of air traffic controller in the first place.
It might go something like this: “Hello Mr. (your name here) welcome to the Air Traffic Control Testing Facility. You were chosen because of your ability to count sheep, eat donuts, drink  large quantities of coffee and sleep and this is where we find out just what you are capable of sleeping through, how long you can sleep through it and what it takes to wake you up. Now go down that hall and you’ll find a room full of comfortable upright chairs, with coffee, donuts and a monitor provided. On the monitor will be all sorts of airplanes (not real ones of course) moving back and forth, back and forth. You are to sit upright, drink at least two cups of coffee and stare at the planes until you go to sleep. Based on our research that should take between five and six minutes, and that’s when the actual exam will begin. A signal will be given and a squadron of B-52s will pass over this facility, followed by a Blue Angel breaking the sound barrier at tree top level, and one helicopter, plus the phone will ring every five minutes. When and if you awaken, you get to watch an action flick and if you sleep during that, we have an airport waiting for you. Oh, did we mention the music? The Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ (loudest musical instrument known to man) will be used to replace the violins used in “Concerto for 2 Violins in D Minor” by Bach” and played over the intercom during testing.” As anyone can see, passing the exam would be a feat in itself.
Years ago I tested for air traffic control in the Air Force so I know something about how it goes. I qualified, which scares me to death thinking that someone like me might be directing planes over a major airport. The stress of watching hundreds of planes each day narrowly missing each other while one drinks coffee and eats donuts has got to be tremendous. Plus, I’m one of the few people I know who’s fallen asleep during sex. I took the burden of possibly firing me off the Air Force and went into recreation instead. It’s hard to sleep when you’ve got balls coming at you. But, if I were in charge of our controllers I would insist on no fans. The humming of the fan is too similar to the sound of an aircraft engine and if they weren’t sleeping already they would be soon. Keep the AC off and invest in some Maltese and that should do the trick. It looks like we’re going to keep our feet on the ground for the next few years.