T h e N o t e
by Dale Wisely
Some of you will be too young to remember Archie Bunker. Archie was the lead character in the edgy and wildly popular 1970s sitcom "All in the Family." Played by the great actor Carroll O'Connor, Archie was an ultraconservative, blue-collar family man who spouted off all kinds of unpleasant and dumb remarks, often about hippies and ethnic minorities that, in 2015, would be considered most incorrect politically. Most. Even in 1970 they were.
Archie Bunker was an unlikely principal character in a show which was thoroughly liberal to the core. Among other things, Archie was a bigot. And over several seasons, due to wonderful acting and excellent writing, he became a loveable bigot. In one episode, his daughter had a miscarriage. Archie's wordless tenderness toward her was heartbreaking. I can still picture it all these years later.
I read a commentary on Archie Bunker some years ago that pointed out that the series made us confront the fact that a person can be a bigot, but that doesn't necessarily add up to being a bad person overall. The idea of a loveable bigot seems almost offensive. But, c'mon. Your Uncle Ronnie is a bigot and you love the big son of a bitch anyway.
Today I drove to a neighboring suburb to speak to a group of school counselors about non-suicidal self-injury, a topic on which I'm sort of a regional expert. I had extra time before the talk so I ran into the automotive section of the nearby WalMart. (Don't judge me. I know you're all poets and you hate WalMart. I don't like it either. But it was the closest and cheapest place to buy a deep-cycle 12-volt battery and a trickle charger.)
The guy at checkout had a gray pony tail south of an otherwise bald head and a rather hyperactive presentation. In an effort to get the plastic bag to open up so he could put my stuff in it, he licked his fingers and then quickly apologized for licking the fingers that would touch the bag I would be taking. I jokingly asked him if he had measles. The following exchange then happened:
Gene: "We're ALL gonna get measles if we keep getting all these illegals in here!"
Dale: "Well, really, I think the problem is parents who aren't getting their kids vaccina...."
Gene: "Well, they don't get 'em vaccinated because they don't want 'em to get the measles!! These government vaccines are what are making people sick. That's why I never get a flu shot!"
Gene had the kind of speech, cadence, posture, and demeanor that made it instantly clear that he was not going to be persuaded. I thanked him, exited, and got in my car. I got out my iPhone with a plan to post the conversation I had just had on facebook. You know, one of those, "this guy" posts. But, I didn't.
I drove to the school for my talk and just before I got out of my car, my phone rang.
"Is this Dale?"
"Is this Dr. Dale Wisely?"
"Yes it is."
"Hey, this is Gene over at WalMart. You left your wallet on the counter."
I was back at the store in 10 minutes. On the way back to WalMart, I became curious about how Gene knew my cell phone number.
"Gene," I said, "Thanks very much for this. But I gotta ask you. How did you know my cell number?"
"Well," Gene said, hesitating for just a beat or two. "I dug in to your wallet. Looked all through it. I found a slip of paper in the money part with a matrix of names and phone numbers on it, including your cell." This is a card of emergency phone numbers that all of the directors at my workplace carry.
You may be thinking, Gene went through the wallet. Dug through it, actually. You're perhaps wondering if I checked to make sure everything is still in my wallet.
I haven't checked. I already know the answer.
It's all there. Nothing is missing.
As always, thanks to my co-editors, Laura M Kaminski & F. John Sharp and to proofreader/copy editor F. J. Bergmann. Thank you for reading RHP, particularly when there are so many things you could be reading.