February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

December 9, 2017

Managing Your Anger

One of the ten principal virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary was “continual mental prayer.” During her life, the Blessed Mother was constantly in tune with God’s will. Every morning she woke up thinking about God, she thought about Him continually throughout the day, and she went to bed thinking about Him. She was “the new Eve,” who possessed the same preternatural gifts that Adam and Eve possessed before they sinned.

As a reminder, in addition to an immortal soul, God gave our first parents, Adam and Eve, the preternatural gifts of integrity, bodily immortality, and infused knowledge. The definition of preternatural is “that which is beyond the natural but is not strictly supernatural.”

The preternatural gift of integrity (the absence of concupiscence) gave Adam and Eve the natural ability to control their desires and passions. Although they could be tempted from outside forces, they could not be tempted from within. The preternatural gift of bodily immortality meant that Adam and Eve possessed bodies that would never die. The preternatural gift of infused knowledge meant that they did not have to study, work, or sacrifice to obtain knowledge. They were created with some knowledge of God and complete knowledge of the secular world.

It was the first sin of Adam and Eve that destroyed the preternatural gifts of integrity, bodily immortality, and infused knowledge. From then on, every person who has come into existence has been conceived without the preternatural gifts, except for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because of the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of God was conceived in her mother’s womb without sin; therefore, from the moment of conception, she possessed the preternatural gifts of integrity, bodily immortality, and infused knowledge.

November 18, 2017

Thank God I’m a Catholic Boy

In March 1975, during my senior year in high school, country music singer John Denver released a new single record with the song, Thank God I’m a Country Boy. That year, only six songs made it to the top of both the Billboard Hot Country Singles Charts and the Billboard Hot 100.

At that time, the Billboard Hot 100 included the week’s most popular songs across all genres. Rankings were based on record sales, radio airplay, and jukebox activity.

To this day, whenever I hear Thank God I’m a Country Boy, my spirits are lifted and I feel grateful for what I have.

There’s a video on YouTube of a 1977 TV special, where John Denver performed the song with a backup group that was made up of three additional great country music performers: Johnny Cash, playing the guitar; Roger Miller, playing the fiddle; and Glen Campbell, playing the banjo.

In the area below the YouTube video is a comment from one of Denver’s fans: “I wish I had a time machine, so I could go back and be there.” Most people who were teenagers during the 1970s (including me) would love to go back and “be there” for a performance of their favorite musician.

Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy came to my mind last week when I realized that Thanksgiving Day was right around the corner.

While it’s good that we have a day set aside each year to reflect and be thankful for everything that we have, one day a year is not enough. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy that it’s easy to go several days without consciously giving thanks for what we have.

If you’re familiar with Thank God I’m a Country Boy, you’ll recognize a refrain that’s repeated throughout the song:

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle
When the sun’s comin’ up I got cakes on the griddle
Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle
Thank God I’m a country boy

June 3, 2017

Are We Too Dependent On Technology?

I’m currently representing an elderly woman who was injured in an accident. When I met with her recently to discuss her case, she brought her nine-year-old grandson with her. After we were finished talking about her case, I asked her grandson what he wants to be when he grows up. He hesitated for a moment, and then his grandmother said, “Go ahead and tell him. He wants to be a YouTuber.”

I’m not sure what a YouTuber is. I assume that it’s a person who posts videos on YouTube for others to see. The grandson may believe that he can someday make a good living by posting videos on YouTube.

After hearing that the grandson wanted to be a YouTuber, I asked him what his favorite subject is in school. He answered, “Science.” I then asked him if he had ever heard of Albert Einstein and he said no. After I told him that Albert Einstein was a famous inventor, I said, “If your grandmother bought you a book about Einstein, would you read it?” He answered yes. I looked at his grandmother and asked her if she was willing to buy him a book about Einstein. She smiled and said yes. She seemed pleased that I was encouraging her grandson to expand his knowledge.

I also suggested to the grandmother that she look into buying an electronics set from a hobby store for her grandson to experiment with. I then mentioned that when I was her grandson’s age, I spent a lot of time experimenting with hooking up batteries to small motors, fans, lights, and switches, which taught me some valuable lessons about how electricity works.

Whenever I shop for a gift for one of my grandchildren, I make a special effort to buy a hands-on, experiential gift. I would prefer that my grandchildren not waste their time playing computer games or watching videos. In my opinion, it’s only through actual hands-on experiences with people, objects, and tasks that we develop the foundational knowledge that is needed for solving problems and challenges that will come up in the future.

April 29, 2017

How to Overcome Fear and Anxiety

I’ve written before about Matt Furey, a former collegiate wrestling champion and the gold-medal winner of the 1997 world title in kung fu. I met Matt in 2002, when I joined a marketing mastermind group of 20 business owners. The group met three times a year in Phoenix for two days each time.

At the meetings, each of the members of the group had a chance to stand up in front of the group and showcase the marketing we were doing and to bring up any issues we were concerned about in our businesses. The group leader and members provided useful feedback, and all of us benefited from the wide range of knowledge and skills that the members possessed.

On one occasion, Matt told a story about his friend, Dr. Tom Hanson, who had a transformative experience while he was climbing a mountain in Colorado. After Hanson climbed halfway up the mountain, he became fearful and his mind locked up on him. All of a sudden, it felt as though the side of the mountain had turned into an ice rink on its side.

Hanson yelled up to the coach who was leading him and the other climbers, “I can’t do it.” The coach looked down at him and said, “Look at your feet.” Hanson looked down at his feet and the coach yelled, “Which foot is higher than the other foot, your left or your right?” Hanson replied that his left foot was higher. The coach then yelled, “Okay, then move the right foot so it’s higher than the left foot.”

After Hanson did what the coach told him to do, the coach shouted, “Now which foot is higher than the other foot?” Hanson replied that the right foot was higher. “Okay, then move the left foot until it’s higher than the right foot,” the coach shouted. Eventually, by continuing to follow the process that the coach had introduced to him, Hanson successfully climbed the mountain.

April 22, 2017

An Anxiety-Ridden Society

In anticipation of writing this article, I Googled the word “anxiety.” The results showed that within the previous 24 hours, there were more than three dozen articles posted on the internet about anxiety. Here are some titles of those articles:

•   “America’s New ‘Anxiety’ Disorder”

•   “Most Children With Anxiety Relapse, Regardless of Treatment”

•   “Early Intervention Program Tackles Anxiety in Primary Care”

•   “Poor Sleep in Anxiety, Depression May Make It Harder to See Positive”

•   “Post-Election, Doctors See Kids Suffering Trump-Related Anxiety”

•   “How to Find a Good Job for Yourself When You Have Anxiety”

•   “Can Hypnosis Improve Post-Op Anxiety Pain in Children?”

•   “‘Game of Thrones’ Star Lena Headey Tweets With Fans About Anxiety”

As I scrolled through the Google results pages, I saw more than 250 articles that were published within the past 30 days about anxiety.

Why so many articles about anxiety?

It seems as though everywhere I turn, someone is talking or writing about anxiety. On Facebook, numerous people post comments about their own anxiety. In their anguish, they often reveal shocking and embarrassing details about their family situations and what they are personally experiencing.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders, costing the U.S. more than $42 billion a year.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has reported that anxiety disorders often cause chronic pain and other ailments such as migraines, instability, weakness, muscle pain, fatigue, and persistent aches or stiffness anywhere along the spine, including “sharp, localized pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back, especially after lifting heavy objects or engaging in strenuous activity; and chronic ache in the middle or lower back, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods.”

July 9, 2016

A Lesson From An Old Friend

Stress - To DoAfter I started practicing law in January 1983, one of the things that I did on a regular basis was go to the courthouse and watch other lawyers try cases in front of juries. Because I started my law practice from scratch, during the first several months I had extra time on my hands to observe other lawyers in action.

Whenever I watched other lawyers try cases, I took notes, which I later assembled into a binder that I used as a resource when I began trying my own cases.

One of the lawyers I enjoyed watching — I’ll call him James — was a veteran criminal defense attorney. He was smart, articulate, and animated. In addition to being skilled at cross-examining witnesses, he also did a masterful job of arguing his clients’ cases to the juries. He was very entertaining to watch. None of the jurors ever fell asleep during his closing arguments.

James has been retired for several years now. He was forced into retirement after he got into trouble with some of his clients. He had two addictions he was never able to overcome that finally did him in: alcohol and gambling.

I thought about James last month when I ran into another lawyer I’ll call Steve. I met Steve shortly after I opened my law practice. When I met him, he was sharing office space with another lawyer, who had hired me to do some legal research and writing.

Steve is 10 years older than I am. When I ran into him last month, we discussed our families and what we’ve been up to. While we were talking, I couldn’t help but notice how great he looked. Steve is 69 years old, but he looks like he’s in his early-to-mid-50s. He’s tall, thin, and energetic. I asked him the obvious question: How do you stay so thin?

He immediately answered my question without taking any time to think about it. He said that the primary reason he’s able to stay thin and enjoy good health is because he recognizes how important it is to do the things that are necessary to relieve stress. He told me that when a lawyer doesn’t have an effective way to relieve stress, the lawyer eventually crashes and burns.

July 10, 2015

Lessons From An Alcoholic Lawyer

Alcoholic FamilyOne of the conditions of maintaining my law license is that every other year I am required to report to the state of Illinois that I have completed at least 30 hours of continuing legal education. One option that’s available is to purchase and listen to audio recordings of presentations that have been made by attorneys at legal conferences. I recently purchased a package of 30 hours of audio recordings that were assembled from several different presentations.

One presentation that was included in the package was titled “Attorneys and Alcoholism.” The lawyer who gave the presentation is the executive director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc. The organization was established in 1988 and operates as a confidential helpline service for Pennsylvania lawyers, judges, and law students who are in distress because of substance abuse or mental health disorders.

The lawyer who gave the presentation — Kenneth J. Hagreen — is a former alcoholic who has been assisting other lawyers with alcoholism and addiction problems for more than 35 years.

In his presentation, Hagreen explained what most of us already know: that some people have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism or drugs that causes them to react differently than people who do not have the predisposition.

He also talked about how our life experiences provide the foundation for how our minds develop. He explained that the ability to communicate effectively, make good judgments, control our emotions, solve problems, and set goals depends on the type of environment we grew up in.

Hagreen outlined the three different types of environments that children can be exposed to while they’re growing up:

  1. Safe and Nurturing Environment – Children who are raised in a safe and nurturing environment generally develop better communication and coping skills. As they are growing up, they are exposed to stability and order, and their parents treat them as worthy individuals. As problems and issues arise, they become accustomed to discussing the problems with their parents and coming up with reasonable solutions. As a result, these children develop a strong sense of well-being and confidence. When they have their first experience with alcohol or drugs, they are usually more resistant to the impact and the emotional high that alcohol and drugs would otherwise have on them.
  2. Unstable and Dysfunctional Environment – Children who are raised in an unstable and dysfunctional environment don’t learn how to communicate effectively, and they fail to learn how to adequately cope with disappointment, frustration, and negative feelings. They generally feel that it’s safer to stay out of sight and remain quiet rather than try to communicate or work through a disagreement they have with someone. For them, life can be a constant struggle. Ultimately these children end up being more withdrawn and insecure. They feel as though they are not in control of their lives. They may also feel a sense of hopelessness. They are constantly on the lookout for someone who will provide them with direction, leadership, and approval.
  3. Abusive Environment – The last category of children are those who have been subjected to mental, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. These children have been severely traumatized. They live in fear and constantly have a heightened sense of alertness. They perceive typical life situations as threatening, when in fact they’re not. This chronic state of fearfulness, coupled with a lack of communication and coping skills, sets the stage for them to misperceive events. They are more likely to overreact to stressful situations with angry outbursts and, at times, violence. They are gravely insecure and feel as though they are completely powerless.

When the second and third groups of children experiment with alcohol or drugs, they are at a higher level of risk to develop problems. The alcohol and drugs create a sense of well-being and completeness that they can immediately latch onto. With continued use, they begin to believe that alcohol and drugs are an appropriate and acceptable way to deal with their problems and difficulties.

February 21, 2015

Trash Compactors and Depression

Walls Closing InOn a Friday evening in June 1977, while I was in the family room of my parents’ home, the evening news came on the television. The news opened with a teaser announcement about a movie that had recently been released that was surprising all of the critics and was wildly popular among viewers. Of course, if we wanted to know what that movie was, we had to sit through 20 minutes of the news before the newscaster would tell us about the movie.

At that time, I was 20 years old and had recently finished my second year in college. After the announcement about the new movie, one of my younger brothers asked me if I knew what movie the announcer was talking about. I told him that I had no idea. My brother asked, “Do you think it’s Rocky?” I replied that I did not think that it could be Rocky because although the movie about the rise of a small-time boxer was extremely popular, it had been released in late 1976 and had already run its course.

We hung around the family room and waited for the story about the movie. At that time there was no Internet so the only way to learn about newly released movies was from network television, the print media, or by word of mouth. It turned out that the movie was Star Wars, a science fiction film that had been released by 20th Century Fox on May 25, 1977. In addition to discussing the main characters, the news story also showed clips from the movie and talked about the popularity of the “droids,” C-3PO and R2-D2.

Within a week of seeing the story about Star Wars, I went to the theater to see the movie with a couple of my friends. At one point in the movie, to escape from enemy fire, the main characters, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Hans Solo, and Chewbacca, duck into a room-sized trash compactor. After discovering that they are trapped, the enemy activates the mechanical system that causes the walls of the compactor to close in on and crush all the trash that is in the compactor.

January 17, 2015

The Vanishing Pause

Coca-Cola-PauseIf you read my article last week, you know about the May 2013 Internet Trends Report that revealed that the typical smartphone user checks his or her phone 150 times a day. I finished writing the article on a Saturday, and the following Monday I met with “Tim,” a 27-year-old man who was in need of legal assistance. During the first five minutes of our meeting, Tim received four text messages on his iPhone. Since he was holding his phone in his hand, he immediately read the messages. On two occasions, he stopped talking to me so he could respond to the messages.

When he received the fourth message, I abruptly said, “When I meet with people in my office, I don’t have my cell phone with me and I tell my receptionist not to interrupt me with any client calls. The reason I do this is because I want to focus all my attention on the person I’m meeting with. I don’t want any interruptions. I expect the same courtesy from the people I meet with. If you want to continue having a conversation with me, you’ll have to silence your phone and put it away until we’re done with our meeting.”

I was surprised by Tim’s reaction to my statement. He was visibly shaken. He started stammering and stuttering in an attempt to come up with an excuse for his behavior. I’m probably the only stranger who has ever challenged his rude and inappropriate behavior.

I always forget how intimidating I can be when I confront someone. When I saw that Tim was stuttering, I tried to make him feel at ease by telling him that whenever I sit down with my college-aged daughters to watch a movie, I require that they silence their phones and put them away so they cannot see any calls or messages that come in during the movie. The statement about my daughters didn’t help.

Tim did what I asked. He silenced his phone and put it away. We were able to have an adult conversation for the next 30 minutes. He asked several intelligent questions and did his best to be courteous and attentive. Most people who have become addicted to the constant activity of checking and reacting to calls and messages have either never learned basic manners or have forgotten what they were taught when they were growing up.