Bridge Over Troubled Waters

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – H.D. Thoreau, Walden

John X. has colitis. His moments of desperation come and go. In between, they lie low with silent slithering like snakes in the grass, waiting for his circumstances to be at their most inconvenient before striking. They do not strike quietly.

The colitis doesn’t affect his work, but it does make his working more difficult. It is almost inevitable that if John is expected at a meeting, he will be indisposed and unavailable at the appointed hour. I am sympathetic to John because I have a child who suffers the same affliction.

It is an odd thing that his colleagues are unaware of his plight, only of its various manifestations. Unkindly, when John is under siege, they say with a snicker that he is “in his office”.

Kyle C., our regional manager for the Northeast, was traveling with John. They were on a bridge in rush hour – trapped, in other words – when John felt a cramp coming on. He quietly – almost serenely – asked Kyle if he was up for some excitement. Kyle knew of John’s issues and immediately went into panic mode.

“Don’t even think about it!” he said sternly.

“I am trying not to”, came the reply.

“I mean it!” insisted Kyle, half expecting his admonition to have some effect on the outcome.

They were on a bridge in rush hour… when John felt a cramp coming on.

John, his stomach gurgling, issued a quiet “Uh, oh. This is not good”. He smiled weakly.

Time passed and traffic moved with excruciating slowness. They were still only half way across the bridge – too close for comfort, too far from relief. They could see no ready solution to their plight… it’s not like there was a rest stop or an off-ramp available.

Well, to quote a Spanish proverb, it’s not the same to talk of bulls as to be in the bullring. Kyle was filled with sympathy and dread in equal measure.

“You will NOT do anything bad in my car, do you hear?” It was more a pleading than a proclamation.

Traffic inched along. A crush of vehicles going nowhere quickly, at least one small drama taking place in its midst.

Like every drama, there is an ending, a denouement, so to speak. But the ending here is, all things said and done, not important. However our story turned out, the thing of it is that it took place at all. And that, to our deepest regrets, it will almost certainly happen again.

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