Sharing Stories

Advice floats through the air freely, from friends and strangers. Like an unwanted weather report, advice can be a storm of emotional energy. Other times in my life, advice has been like sunshine on happy, stress free days. Most of the time, advice was given at inconvenient, unwanted moments, when I wanted to stick fingers in my ears screaming, “I can’t hear you!”—as loud as I could. Call me a stubborn Capricorn, you’d be right. Tell me I’m a mad Irish woman, I’d say yes, with inherited pride. But somehow magically, maybe through the power of osmosis—even with fingers in my ears—I received the guidance I needed.

Armed with intuition, both learned and instinctive, I too have passed out advice with the skill of a Vegas blackjack dealer, hoping my words of wisdom reached unplugged ears. Advice is a hidden gift, useful when it fits the occasion, giving feelings of being in control like aerial balance swings with the skill of no net trapeze artists. Here are some categories:

1) “Always wear clean underwear. You never know if you’ll be in an accident and need to go to the hospital.” Mothers’ words passed on through generations. Yes, yes, clean underwear is important, but somehow, I don’t think the doctor cares to examine my “dainties” before finding a mysterious cure to fix whatever is broken. Maybe the “panty police” greet each patient in the emergency room, making sure the right day is written on the elastic of their bloomers. Times change, no need for the panty patrol to check. There is not enough room to write days on bikini panties, or, may I say, heaven forbid anyone over twenty-five wearing a thong.

2) Always carry change for the pay phone, have enough money to be independent, and never flash your cash. If someone wants your money, drop it on the ground and run while they pick it up. Wise words for the days of phone booths big enough to allow Superman to change his clothes or fulfilling a dare to college kids experimenting with how many bodies can be crammed into a tight stall—an inspired diversion to avoid studying. The old Greyhound Bus Depot at 8th and Stewart in Seattle had rows and rows of wooden phone booths. As a child, while parents picked up arriving friends, I raced to the wooden booths, opening each squeaky windowed folding door, checking to see if anyone had forgotten change in the coin return. Sure enough, I left with a pocketful of nickels clicking together, musically pronouncing my moments of rich success. Now, phone booths are rare as hen’s-teeth, only found off main routes in small towns, phones ripped out, glass shattered, a broken rusting remnant of the past.

3) Always scream, kick, and run if someone wants to hurt you. Easier said than done. I was assaulted in my car, giving a ride to a friend’s-friend. I screamed, honking the horn when I could reach it, hoping for help that never came. Oddly, I still remember his sweaty odor, and sewage tasting spit as he tried to kiss my screams away. After what felt like eternity, he finally stopped. Leaving the car, he tossed money at me, yelling, “If you call the cops, I’ll tell them you’re nothing but a two-bit whore!” I was twenty years old. I told my friend why I needed to call the police. She asked, “What did you do to make him do that?” I believed I did something wrong. My lips became permanently sealed. Years later, I had a male friend tell me, “If someone attacks you, kick him in the balls and run.” I passed that advice on to a friend’s child, changing it to, “If someone tries to attack you, kick him in the zipper and run, yelling ‘call 911,’ and don’t stop screaming ‘help me,’ and don’t look back.” If only safety was that simple, but I do continue to pass on what I believe is wise advice, “Kick him in the zipper.”

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