Hurricane Vignettes

My first cruise was on the Disney Magic out of Orlando in 1999. I was somewhat apprehensive about sailing anyway and when I saw that a hurricane was brewing close to our itinerary, I became more fearful. I was assured by a Disney representative that the ship would sail away from the storm. Turned out the ship sailed right through the storm. For about 12 hours, I was on a ship that sailed through 80 MPH winds, rough seas and pitched violently. Torrents of water cascaded down the elevator shaft. I could not sleep and spent time trying to comfort a young mother with children in the lobby who sobbed that we were going to die. Thankfully my wife somehow slept through the storm. Next day, I saw the ship’s captain and asked “WTF?” He said he was assured by Disney’s weather consultants that the storm would not be that bad and it was safe to sail for the Bahamas. I was mislead by Disney. The captain was mislead by his support staff. Ultimately the customer’s safety and comfort be damned. There was money involved for Disney and the Bahamas for the ship to sail and on its predestined course.


On September 12, 1960, I walked 1 .5 miles to my school, St Joseph’s Elementary in South Camden. I was 8 years old and starting third grade. My father had died from a heart attack in February. My mother did not have a car and she did not know how to drive. I did not listen to the news so I was unaware of the impending severe weather. Hurricane Donna which had ravaged states up the Atlantic seacoast was on target to hit New Jersey. As I sat in class, I started to see the driving rain and winds gusting. My class soon emptied as anxious parents picked up their children. My teacher would not let me leave as she feared for my safety. I told her that no one was going to come for me. As the storm worsened, I made a decision. I was leaving. I headed home. An umbrella was useless due to the high winds. I passed West Jersey Hospital where a group of nurses insisted that I come into their building. I declined. My concern was the electrical wires I passed and debris falling around. Last 1/2 mile, I ran home. My mother was in tears as I arrived home and that experience convinced her to learn to drive and buy a car.


Observations on reaching the last year of my seventh decade

From left to right, Sandra, Eric, Joanne and two other unnamed cousins

Feeling wistful, ruminative and a bit thankful…

If life is a train ride, my station may be coming up soon. Regrettably most of us don’t know when our ride will end. A few friends and family members have disembarked too early, leaving me sitting sadly alone in the train car. 

All of us have an “aha” or life changing moment. Mine occurred on the morning of February 14, 1960 when I was told about my father’s sudden death. At age 7, I learned about impermanence, self reliance and responsibility. Some people never receive those insights no matter their age.

I have not measured my life’s success based on my net worth, corporate executive titles or possessions I owned. Simply I wanted to be the best husband, son, brother, uncle and friend I could be. Largely that meant I needed to be “present” when someone needed help or encouragement.

My 44 years of marriage to a wonderful woman represents the best decision and greatest commitment of my life. The joy and love from this woman more than offset any disappointments, failures, and travails I have experienced. Life does not always offer an easy road but I am grateful for my constant and supportive companion.

Some of my life’s biggest disappointments, socially and in business, were as a result of women. This is not an indictment of women as much it shows my lowered expectations of the words, promises and actions of my brother man.

Coincidentally, but not surprising, my biggest supporters and influencers, in my youth, were women. Besides my wife Chris, my sister Sandra was a source of encouragement, love and motivation. Sandra’s death twenty seven years ago is my greatest personal loss.

Two biggest trends in my lifetime: (1) the explosion, breadth and advancement of technology in business and personal life and (2) the disintegration, coarseness and division of our politics and civility.

I have no heirs but I am sad about the type of world that my generation is leaving to those generations behind us. We’ve left them problems with government debt, climate change, rebuilding infrastructure, improving public education etc. Those are issues that we should have been focusing on instead of building walls, creating conspiracy theories and disputing fair elections.

I was looking at some pictures of birthday parties for me or cousins when I was 6 or 7. The black and white pictures were a bit faded, many of my family in the photo are deceased but the memories remain. Was there anything more exciting for a young boy or girl than to look forward to a birthday party with friends and family?

The basic evidence of humanity among people is simply sharing a smile.

I’ve lived 25,202 days. That’s a lot of opportunities to appreciate sunsets, sunrises, great conversations, varied travel experiences, meet new friends, and make social and business contributions. Success and appreciation of life are often measured by how close our results = opportunities.

Sign of the Times:  We need a Facebook prompt to remember and celebrate a friend or relative’s birthday. 

Why is it that despite much improved personal training and sports medicine that today’s pitchers can’t go beyond five innings and basketball players can only play half a season?

But Wait for It…

“Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.” ― Groucho Marx

The first corporate job that I had after college was working for a finance company in reviewing and approving credit applications. I developed a nice phone relationship with CBA operator # 33. Over the phone, she was funny, a bit flirtatious and very personable. Since her office was not that far from where I worked, I invited her to lunch. She did not disappoint. She was attractive, had a pretty face, about my age, was funny and the conversation flowed freely. Eureka! I found a nice girlfriend! But wait for it…. At the end of the lunch, I asked if she would like to have dinner with me this Friday night. She said “Yes” and seemed as excited as I was in getting together. But wait for it…

She gave me her home phone number and address and I said that I would pick her up at 7 o’clock, if that was OK. She frowned a bit and said “Would you mind making it at 8 o’clock as my husband leaves for work about seven at night?”

***

My bad luck with women, in my bachelor years, unfortunately extended to my friend, Steve. He and I would get together on weekend trawls looking for the girls of our dreams at places like Kaminski’s, Someplace Else, The Coliseum etc. One weekend night, he and I met two women, Lori and Debbie, who I had worked with when I was in college. The four of us shared some conversation, some memories and a bit of flirtation. Steve became very smitten with my former blonde, blue eyed colleague, Lori. He begged me to call Lori for another weekend get together that might include a nice dinner. Obliging my friend, I contacted Lori and with some unexpected reluctance, she agreed to have dinner. But wait for it… Lori had two conditions: the first was that I and her friend Debbie were also at the dinner. No problem. 

The second condition was that Steve was not to become interested in Lori. Puzzled, I asked why as I knew Steve was very smitten. Lori replied, “Because I’m getting married in four weeks.”

***

( I generally get tongue tied or am unable to come up with a suitable riposte when provoked but I think I nailed this one). Early 80’s memory…

While having lunch with a single and flirtatious work colleague, she handed me pictures of her recent trip to a resort on one of the islands. She narrated many of the pictures where she was routinely shown in a bikini and sipping various tropical drinks at a beach. I silently flipped through the pictures between bites of my lunch until I came to the last picture. But wait for it… It was similar to all the other beach pictures except the top portion of her bikini was missing.

Grinning she asked “What do you think? As I was handing the pictures back, I replied, “I am surprised they were that big.” Her eyes widened, “Do you mean my chest?”  I replied, “No, the size and swell of the waves in the background of the picture.”