I think he’d shut up if someone drove an icepick into the base of his skull but then again there may be no force known to man that can stop the perpetual motion machine that is his mouth. Words are expelled in great long bursts as if they have a will of their own and force their way from the great recesses of his vacuous mind. No topic is off limits particularly if it relates to him. Adding to the horror is the abrasive monotone of his voice, words blasting out without rhythm as if a verbal jackhammer were at work. Of course he keeps the vocal volume is on full blast. The totally deaf can hear him. No one is immune to being cornered for a diatribe. A few of us avoid him like the proverbial plague that he is. If he's anywhere near the copy machine when I have to use it I take the polar route to get there. It's worth the extra time.
For people at work it is constant, breaks only coming when he or if we are teaching. Yes he is a teacher too. Pity his students trying to sift through the torrential downpour of his words. One imagines that after work he wanders the streets of San Francisco seeking prey. He pounces and devours the unsuspecting with words. Great swirling waves of words each more meaningless than the last. An incessant cacophony of nothing.
The other day after a rare pause in his bleatings he offered this short joke: “what’s the difference between a drunk and an alcoholic? A drunk doesn’t have to go to all the stupid meetings.”
And people rave about Oscar Wilde.
As someone intimately familiar with those “stupid meetings” that alcoholics “have to go to” I can attest to the fact that they have saved many lives. Some literally. People would have died had they not started showing up at AA meetings. Others have been rescued from poverty, illness or the dissolution of their family by those “stupid meetings.”
That said people in recovery are notorious for having a sense of humor often directed at the person who stares at them in the mirror. Success in recovery requires taking the process seriously but not taking yourself so seriously.
But the joke wasn’t offensive to me because it took a jab at AA it was offensive because it was stupid. That’s another thing about 12 steppers, when they poke fun at themselves or even the vaunted “program” they have a tendency to do some with a degree of wit that is sometimes surprising for people who maybe only recently have spent their days in a constant stupor. Plus its okay when people make fun of themselves -- African Americans can make all the jokes about themselves that they want -- but other people ought to just shut the hell up.
Not to put too fine a point on it but drunks and alcoholics are the same thing. They are people who have the disease of alcoholism. What is different is a recovering alcoholic. That rare bird is someone with said disease who is trying to a) stay clean and sober and b) live successfully without her or his drink or drug of choice. And by the way doing the first without then moving onto the second is a waste of time. I’ve seen people who hang on desperately to their sobriety as it becomes their raison d’etre. They see sobriety as an end to itself when in fact it is but a vehicle with which to enjoy a healthy happy life.
Once loud mouth told his side splitter another bloke chimed in that he had gone to a few meetings once. Given his reputation for drunkenness and the fact that he often returns from lunch, shall we say “herbed up” it is not surprising that someone — perhaps himself — once directed him toward AA. Evidently with him it didn’t take and his life is so much the poorer for that fact.
I am not a preacher. If someone asks me a question I’ll gladly answer it and have done so. I also try — quite in vain — not to judge others. If judging becomes a habit for a person said individual tends to merely examine other people’s lives while ignoring their own. And you may also start thinking you know better and are special. This is a recipe for shit soup. Still it is impossible to ignore certain actions, comments and ridiculously stupid jokes. Human nature and all. And it can feel really good to vent. Seriously.
Yesterday I met my good friend Kevin for coffee. He is a living testimony to the wanders of AA having stayed sober for 25 years. Plus he has given countless hours in service time to the program helping himself by helping others. Kevin had to pass along the sad news that an old friend, Norma, was at death's door. Later in the day he forwarded word to me via email that she had in fact died (or if that's too blunt for you she passed away or on or left us or went to her reward. I prefer dead myself there's no ambiguity to it and its straightforwardness suits the occasion). Kevin had known Norma much longer and better than I, she and her husband having sat with him for many years at Cal men's basketball games. I'd chatted with her on occasion over the past 15 years or so and found her to be -- and these words are carefully chosen -- full of life. An energetic woman in her 60s (I believe her to have made it to 72) who busied herself with all manner of activity and always ready to share a few words and ask after a person. It's difficult to imagine so energetic a person still forever. But that't the way of the universe.
As a person grows older more and more people of your acquaintance die. It starts with grandparents and other older relatives then eventually there is a friend or co worker or cousin and soon parents and siblings and more friends and for someone like myself there are even former students who meet premature deaths. I tend to write about it a lot, I suppose because I'll never get to write about my own death. At least not after the event. (If it turns out I can write post mortem it'll make for a helluva story, check that -- a heavenly one.)
One thing I've noticed about death is that its the ultimate affirmation of life. You have any doubt that life is precious and to be used and lived to the fullest, just contemplate for a minute those you know who are no longer around. I'm still wrestling with my brother's death almost two years later and being the sole remaining member of the little family I grew up in. It's a heavy burden but it also behooves one not to wallow in sorrow or self pity but to exalt in our time here. I'm still trying like hell to live up to my dad's and brother's legacies and celebrate their lives by making the most of my own. If it seems a hokey concept then you probably haven't started losing friends and family members or are too cynically minded to be worth taking to -- no offense.
So I'll miss the few occasions when I'd see Norma and I know that her husband is going to need all the love and support of those close to him, particularly his and Norma's two daughters.
Life is precious all right. I'm going to try to spend the rest of my time as positively as possible and stay the hell away from people who blabber their way through it. Who needs that shit.