Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Best Advice I Never Took

My first year of high school Spanish was taught by a fresh-from-Spain import named Fidel Roderigues. He spoke English with a thick accent, had the stereotypical swarthy complexion and thick, dark mustache of a cartoon Spaniard--the kind of Spaniard you could easily imagine running from the bulls in Pomplona or some other equally stereotypical Spanish enterprise. He would also often scratch his butt while writing on the blackboard at the front of the room--and he wasn't delicate or subtle about it either: he stuck his hand right in his pants (one unforgettable time I swear it was in there up to his elbow) and scratched merrily away. Needless to say, this did nothing to make us take him more seriously.

Anyway, in addition to all his other charming characteristics, Senor Roderigues had a short temper and was given to barely intelligible outbursts that often seemed completely unprovoked.

One morning during a vocabularly drill, he called on a kid named Bill.* When Bill didn't immediately respond, Senor Roderigues shouted, "What is wrong with you, Bill?" (Only Bill came out "Beeel," of course.)

Bill mumbled, "I'm thinking."

And then the fine Senor uttered something I've been quoting for twenty-odd (very odd) years now: "Bill, don't think too much because chances are you will understand nothing and your head will explode." Maybe it loses something in the translation--you know without the thick accent and the visual image of a dark, lanky, poorly-dressed immigrant whose hand was often down his pants--but I think it holds up pretty well. Granted, it's kind of fatalistic to assume that we'll never understand anything, but the truth is a lot of people do way too much thinking to no avail. I know I overthink practically every aspect of my life. (For example, I spent the afternoon with my siblings and their significants and my dad and his significant and for the last two hours, I have been replaying moment after moment from the afternoon wondering if I was too loud or too brash or too pushy or talked too much or not enough, or, or...And what's the point because even if I do come to some worthwhile conclusion, the afternoon can't be redone?)

So, I'm going to say it again: "Don't think too much because chances are you will understand nothing and your head will explode." and hope maybe this time, it will take.

*Though Bill was pretty innocent the morning in question, Roderigues's attack on him couldn't be considered completely unprokoved as the two of them had an intense and ongoing mutual provocation that lasted the whole year. An example of one of Bill's offenses: for an assignment we were told to "create" something that illustrated our knowledge of Spanish culture. Some people made salt clay models of famous Spanish buildings or drew maps of Spain, that kind of thing. Bill brought in a gigantic pile of brown modeling clay in a pie plate. When Roderigues snapped, "What is that?" Bill said, "It's bull shit--you know from a bullfighting ring?" Is it any wonder that the following year found Mr. Roderigues out of the classroom and on a sales floor at Sears? The pay was probably almost as good and the grief considerably less.


  1. HA! I kind of like Bill, I think! We had a coach that used to scratch/touch himself all the time like that too. One practice we counted--48 scratches. Now that's disturbing!

    I need to live by your quote. I think waaaay to much as well!

  2. that is funny. Get's a A+ for creativity!