1.) Why did you do it?
I did it because he looked so lonely and forlorn; a bit like a puppy dog trying to get his first pat on the head. He had moved into our suite of dorm rooms in my sophomore year of college. Kevin would have been labeled with Asperger's syndrome in the label obsessed world of today. We just thought he was extremely inept in his people interface. I made sure not to ignore him through the year. When spring came around, I helped ensure that he rushed our fraternity and that he became a member. (It really would have helped our chess team if we had one since Kevin played at a Master level when you could convince him to play.)
Over the next year, Kevin's people skills became more acceptable and slightly more polished. Especially when he relaxed and realized he was amidst friends. I graduated from college early and after graduation I didn't think much about Kevin. In fact, I didn't see or hear from him until my 25th college reunion. L and I and the Son were in the cafeteria on the last day of the reunion when a gentleman from another class who looked vaguely familiar insisted on introducing his wife and family and thanking me profusely for making a difference in his life. In the course of our conversation, the light gradually turned on and I figured out it was Kevin. He was then the head of engineering at a very large company and was very clearly happy with his life. His social skills were still rough, but he didn't let that hold him back. And somehow he believed he owed it all to me and the fact that I didn't just ignore him.
Thus, I learned the very important lesson that even seemingly insignificant acts can have a major impact on others. It's something I try to keep in mind every day now.
2.) What is a common misconception about you?
That I am too brilliant to talk to. My friend T (from here) and I have played a lot of golf together over the years. Anytime I'd leave the table or group, T would tell me that others would then come over and quiz him on what we found to talk about; wasn't he afraid of looking dumb, etc. T would tell them that I was no different to talk to than anyone else. Given that T suffers from severe dyslexia and barely survived high school because of it, he is regarded as the antithesis of an intellectual. So the fact that he and I are friends and spend time talking about every topic under the sun seemed hard for them to understand. But the fact that I have a friend like T is one of the keys to breaking that ice wall of fear that had surrounded my interactions with the others. And for that I am thankful.
3.) Describe a moment when you felt afraid.
I was once involved in a fatal traffic accident. I was driving a truck loaded with fuel down a rural highway when a pickup truck drove out of a field, past a stop sign, and right into me. When I saw that the other vehicle was not going to stop and it was too late to do anything to prevent the crash, I was afraid, very afraid.
I remember how time slowed to a crawl as my knees shoved through the metal dashboard. I remember how the band on my watch expanded and broke and the watch and my glasses flew together into the windshield and then on out of the truck in slow motion. I remember gripping the steering wheel so hard and pushing against it so hard that it literally turned into a pretzel in slow motion in front of my eyes. I remember the intense pain once everything stopped moving. I remember falling out of the cab because my knees hurt too bad to stand. I remember seeing the flames start licking out of the engine compartment of the other truck. I remember crawling back into the cab of my truck and getting the fire extinguisher, and crawling down the road to try to put the flames out. I remember the frustration when the fire extinguisher ran dry and the flames continued to grow. I remember the other driver being unresponsive and having to pull him out of the vehicle as the flames shot to 40 feet in the air around us. And I remember crawling and pulling both us a distance down the road, attempting first aid, and praying for someone, anyone, to come along and help. (This was in the days before cell phones.)
I'll be forever grateful to the farmer in his field a few miles away who saw the plume of smoke and fire and called the police and ambulance and then came to see if he could help. I'll be forever sad that the other driver didn't make it. (He had evidently had a heart attack before the collision and may have been dead even as we collided.) I'll also be forever grateful that I survived even though it was the end of my football playing days and I spent months using canes to get around. It could have been so much worse. And I'm grateful that now, after a great deal of time has passed, that I can approach a crossroads in a vehicle without dying a mini-death of fear that it will happen again.
4.) In what ways are you turning into your mother?
I think the easier question to answer is "In what ways am I not turning into my mother?' Most of it is pretty simple: I don't quilt, I don't collect recipes, I don't call myself up to fix my computer, and I don't spend winter and early spring with the seed catalogs deciding what to grow this year. How's that for a brief answer?
5.) Are you always right?
Of course!. I have on the wall of my office a sign/plaque from L that reads:
Rule No. 1
Daniel is always right.
Rule No. 2
If Daniel is wrong, see Rule No. 1.