January 11, 2008

Whack Jobs

Category: News — Ira @ 6:38 pm


“….you’ve got to ask yourself one question:
‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

—Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry”

I go to the gym regularly. Five or six days a week, if I can fit it into the schedule. I’ve been going to the same place for almost six years now. And gotten to know a few of the regulars. We chat. Talk sports. Kid each other.

Doc (not his real name) is a regular, an older guy, a curmudgeon-type individual. We got to be half-decent friends. Doc grumbles a lot, but he knows a lot. He knew more than the gym staff about which exercises I should be doing. And taught me. He got me started jumping rope, an excellent cardiovascular exercise. I now jump rope for at least two minutes every workout session, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Try it sometime.

Doc was a moody guy. Some days he’d talk incessantly; the next day he’d ignore you. I learned to not bother him when he was in one of his spells. But he always came around, and we chummed like good friends.

Then, one day last fall, I did something that pissed him off. For the life of me, I don’t know what I said or did. Something silly, probably, or thoughtless. But he gradually became more hostile and soon completely ignored me. Like I wasn’t even there. Which was, if not fine, completely within his rights. We didn’t have to be friends. But we did have to exist together at the gym.

And so it went for about a month. Doc getting increasingly hostile. I tried to be laid back and polite when we absolutely had to interact. Politeness only seemed to make him madder and moodier. It got so we just flat out ignored each other.

Both of us use the dry sauna after working out. Usually I was done first. I always left the heat turned on for him. If he was first, he left it turned on for me. Then he stopped leaving it turned on for me, even though he knew I was coming in to use it within fifteen minutes. Sometimes he even propped open the sauna door to make sure the sauna would be ice-cold by the time I got there. I became increasingly irritated, but didn’t confront him.

Then, around mid-November, one night he did it. Pulled a trigger he shouldn’t have. Ten minutes before finishing my workout, I strolled into the locker room to turn on the sauna, knowing he had shut it off. He was just getting out of the shower. The sauna door was standing wide open. I walked in, shut it, turned on the heat and politely asked him not to touch the controls. He mumbled defiantly.

Ten minutes later, after finishing my workout, I returned. He stood before the mirror at the sink, combing his long stringy hair. The sauna door stood propped wide open again, the heat turned off.

At this point, I suppose, I should have paused and considered, “What would Jesus do?” Sadly, I did not. Besides, I don’t know what He would have done. But I can tell you what I did.

Without a word, I turned and went back out to the gym and got Rick, the attendant and we walked into the locker room. I was fuming. I showed Rick the open sauna door and told him what had just happened. That this man had deliberately opened it and turned off the heat after I’d asked him not to just ten minutes ago.

“That man, standing right there at the sink, did it,” I said.

Doc finally turned, stunned that I had actually fetched Rick and was confronting him. He began yelling loudly. Rick, poor guy, was frantic that we would come to blows. He tried to soothe us, to defuse the escalating situation.

“Doc, you’re a !#%^*!# (bleep),” I said. I was amazed at my voice. From inside, it felt barely controlled. It came out flat and calm. Doc instantly started swearing back at me.

“You’re a !#%^*!# (bleep). That’s all you are.” I said again, firmly.

Doc went off on a two-minute tirade about how I couldn’t boss him around. “I’ll sit in that sauna all evening, from 5 PM until 8 PM, just so you can’t use it. What you gonna do then?” he yelled, somewhat irrationally, since he would shrivel like a prune if he did that. I waited until he stopped to catch his breath.

“You’re a !#%^*!# (bleep).” I said flatly, for the third and final time.

By now, he’d gathered his stuff and walked out, yelling that this gym wasn’t big enough for us both. Rick bounced about like an excited rubber ball. Then Doc was gone. All was quiet. I was fuming, so furious that I shook. Then, from one of the toilet stalls came a polite cough, and the sound of a flushing toilet. Some poor guy had been sitting on the pot the whole time and heard it all come down less than ten feet away.

Still fuming, I talked with Rick for a few minutes, then sat in the slowly-warming sauna to calm down. As I left, I apologized to Rick for all the fuss. But I was still steaming mad.

In the next few days, I thought a lot about the whole episode. I had never, in my memory, done anything remotely like that. At least not while sober. I felt a bit bad for swearing, mostly that others had heard me. Doc and I both claimed to be Christians. We’d often discussed our beliefs and the Scriptures in general. But there we’d been, heatedly swearing at each other like two drunken sailors. Any way you look at it, something about that seems a little screwy.

I didn’t see Doc again for about a week. On a Saturday, as I was leaving, he’d just started his exercise routine. Against all my will, and only because that was the way I’ve been trained all my life, I walked up to him and apologized for swearing. He was surprised. But we stood there and talked calmly for a few minutes. I told him that we could have disagreements. That was OK. But I regretted the swearing. That was wrong. He then apologized for what he’d said. Not that I’d expected it.

Strangely, as I walked away, and for weeks later, I was irritated at myself for having apologized. Seemed like such a trite, formulaic thing to do. So pat. I apologize. You apologize. Now we all sing happy songs and get along. Except we don’t.

Since that Saturday, Doc has avoided me like the plague. But he doesn’t prop open the sauna door anymore, or turn off the heat after I’ve turned it on. I guess one could say we’ve “reached an understanding.”

In my next counseling session, I ran the whole thing by my counselor, sparing no details, including the exact swear words. But, I insisted, I called Doc exactly what he was. To my surprise, the counselor seemed little concerned with my reaction or the whole episode, really.

“It shows that you are alive,” he said. “After all that’s happened to you this year, that’s a good thing. Not that you swore. But that you’re alive. And reacted like you are alive. Bristled a little.”

His analysis made sense. Seemed valid. About having life, and not being a doormat. Not that I plan to walk around swearing at people or anything. Unless you really work at irritating me. Then I might.

I’m not quite the same person I was when I posted my first blog back in April of last year, and throughout last summer. I’ve been a fairly passive, easy-going guy for most of my life. Probably still am, mostly. Except for a few small changes.

Now, if you bray incessantly at me, or launch poisonous life-draining arrows at me, I will shut you off. And cut you off. From my life. And my site. Just like that. Which is no big deal, not a huge important event, one way or the other, in the big scheme of things. But it’s important to me in that it affects how I choose to live. And I will do it.

I’m done with all the sly, sneering, caustic drivel disguised as “open inquiry” when it’s really just manipulative BS from small-minded people who have actually become what they claim to loathe. And have developed an elaborate art form of tearing others down. I’m done with all the crap about fulfilling others’ expectations about who and what I should be. And what attitudes, from hateful to barely tolerant, I’m supposed to harbor for the culture from which I have emerged. I deeply respect that culture and always will.

I’m done with all the condescending blather, all the subtle mind games, about what I should or shouldn’t write, and how it’s written. I’ll make those choices. Some may be wrong. Inevitably, some will be. I’ll live with that. And learn from that. Because the choices I make, right or wrong, will be my own and not the result of trying to appease the cynical disdain and colossal ego of some bitter, washed-up armchair critic who can dish it out by the pound but can’t take it by the ounce. And who couldn’t get 35,000 hits on a personal blog site from now until the next century.

It’s negative, draining noise. It’s just bluster. And it’s just bullying. I reject it. I rebuke it. And it’s gonna stop. It in fact already has. Because I’ve shut it down. As of about 10:45 PM last Saturday night, with the help of my “nephew network.” (Thanks, guys, with special thanks to Howard.) It really is like killing swarming rats trapped in a barrel. Just easier; point, click and delete. I don’t touch the vermin. Or read it. As do none of you. And you won’t. Not on this site.

I write what I want, about whatever catches my muse that week. I appreciate all readers. I try to respect my audience. To be honest. Not talk down to you. Or preach. You are welcome to agree with what I say. Or disagree. Or have no opinions what-soever either way. You may be horrified that I swore at a guy at the gym. You are welcome to post a comment stating that. Agree or disagree, or call me stupid or silly. Or wicked, even. As long as you respect the person you are addressing. If you don’t, you won’t participate. As some of you won’t, because you can’t. And that’s how it is.

How’s that for some bristling? I think my counselor might approve. If not, he’s got some work to do.

A few words to Buckeye fans. You’re good people, most of you. Salt of the earth, and all that. Great to hang with. And that string-cut potato salad you make, it’s the best in the world. You’re always welcome at any of my cookouts simply on the quality of your potato salad alone.

But your football team. Ahem. This is a bit awkward. Two years now. In a row. Blown out. In the Championship Game. Maybe it’s time you gave it a rest for a year or two. Regroup a little. Let Michigan, or even Iowa, have a shot. I’m just saying, is all. I was going to watch the entire game, but was so embarrassed for the Big Ten that I went to bed early in the third quarter. Score at that time: 31-10 LSU.

It was too much to expect, I suppose. That the Dems of the “Live Free or Die” state would have enough sense to rise up and drive a stake through the heart of the Wicked Witch’s campaign. Nah. Would’a simplified things too much, to do that. Now we’ll be inflicted with her screeching for another few months, or heaven forbid, the entire Presidential Race. New Hampshire Dems should just adopt a new slogan, “Enslave me ’til I die.”

Republicans there didn’t show much more sense, giving McCain the win. McCain is a sleazeball, and I won’t soon forget his gratuitous demonization of my Alma Mater, Bob Jones Univeristy, in the 2000 campaign. Or that he placed restrictions on the most valuable of expressions, political speech, in his unconstitutional and soon to be over-turned McCain-Feingold Act.




  1. It’s not “swearing” or not that makes speech good or bad.

    Human societies concoct categories of words that are “bad,” thereby showing they want to allow space for and make new ways to knowingly sin. Of course trying to pervert speech is wrong.

    But people can speak with evil attitude and intent even while using nice words and a smile. Context is everything.

    Glad you’re alive, Ira.

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — January 11, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

  2. I’ll second that, LeRoy. Keep writing Ira and if you get pushed too far, well, cross that bridge then.

    Comment by Bear — January 11, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

  3. I did think that Ohio State was reaching. I like seeing the Big 10 in the Big Game but not when the team gets embarrassed. I would have loved to have Penn State there but they are not a championship team now. I think that Coach Paterno can produce a good football team but not a great one anymore. As much as I find it hard to say, Iowa does have a good chance in two years for the BCS championship. This past year’s freshmen learned in the school of hard knocks and Coach Ferentz does have the ability to produce a great football team. If Peyton Manning drives a stake through New England’s heart, this “perfect” season will be a footnote in NFL history.

    The site still needs good debate but not screeds that attack the blog master or others, questioning their morals, taste, etc. I happen to support John McCain but part of that is that I was raised in then participated in the military and the deep sense of personal honor that attaches to that decision, and I like to see that characteristic in leaders. Yes, I now belong to a traditional peace church but the core of my personality was shaped in a warrior and honor culture.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — January 12, 2008 @ 12:13 am

  4. Dear Uncle–Know that I support your writing..all of it! I have been off line for a week or two and sure missed reading the newest posts…keep it up.

    Love you! Dorothy

    Comment by Dorothy — January 12, 2008 @ 10:09 am

  5. Well said, once again.
    I can relate more than I’d like to be able to.

    Comment by sms — January 12, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  6. Ira,

    This week’s blog is your voice. Print out this week’s and last week’s – put them side by side and see if/how you can inhabit both. I know what you are doing with the sketches, pulling out memory- blowing the dust off, etc., but you risk making them moribund and precious – rather than thought-provoking and alive.

    My favorite guru- Brennan Manning- would say that last week’s has the air of the Impostor. The Impostor in a nutshell is that persona we affect when we think we are doing or being right, and hold back the essence of our God-given and sanctioned self.

    Comment by Glo — January 12, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  7. Mark, sorry but McCain is over the hill. He needs a few years of nice quiet retirement with the grandkids.

    Comment by gideon yutzy — January 12, 2008 @ 2:59 pm

  8. I am also one of those that do what I want to do, and say what I want to say, and don’t care what people think or say. I am just being myself. Thanks for this post.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — January 12, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

  9. McCain appears to be a bitter man.

    Comment by John Wagler — January 13, 2008 @ 5:32 pm

  10. I have a suggestion for a motto at the top of your blog (or printed on your gym t-shirt):

    “Nemo me impune lacessit”

    (Latin for “No one provokes me with impunity”)

    As usual – great blog this week.

    Comment by Patrick — January 13, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  11. Gideon, sorry but McCain has more experience, expertise, and common sense than all the other candadates (both sides) put together.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — January 13, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

  12. Good football this week. Lots of close exciting NFL games. It is fun be a Packers fan. Keep your eye on number 4 next week. Go Pack go!

    Comment by titus — January 14, 2008 @ 1:48 am

  13. I will put my 2 cents’ worth in here. McCain is the father of many disasterous bills, mainly McCain-Feingold and many more. He is very staunchly anti-gun. You might say a little bit of a “whack job.”

    Comment by Andrew Yutzy — January 14, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

  14. ok guys, help a girl out … who the heck does one vote for…Hillary is out – I remember her “health care reform” a little to well. Also if one of the complaints about the current admin it that he recycled old cabinet’s- don’t ya think Hills will do the same? Obama is just green – a hard scrabble kid who’s still blinking that he’s made it this far. Rudy – I lived in NYC under him – once was enough. Edwards – middle class does not mean $400 hair cuts, he knows as much about the lower class as I do about quantum physics. McCain – Foreign policy, maybe, one question, can a former resident of the Hanoi Hilton deal with China evenhandedly? Not a big fan of Mc/F reforms but at least he has done something. Mitt – Detroit and good decisions can not be used in the same sentence and yes i think i do harbor a bias against LDS. Huckabee – well golly gee, the same bias might apply to Southern Baptist Preachers. I do like Fred T. Have you ever seen the Watergate trial tapes, watching him grill the witnesses complete with gin-slur and elvis hair? It is something to behold. I keep seeing this Ron Paul graffiti everywhere – CNN hasn’t told me what to think about him yet –so help a girl out who’s the best in this horse race and who needs to be shoveled out of the way?

    Comment by Glo — January 15, 2008 @ 12:31 am

  15. Rueben, McCain does have expertise on being a liberal, amnesty, higher taxes, the gang of 14; besides he’s an old grouch, and he’s boring!

    Comment by gideon yutzy — January 16, 2008 @ 12:48 am

  16. Ira, I’ve had to do the same. We all know some thoughts are better left unsaid, but in the heat of the moment it felt good, sad to say.

    To the girl, vote Mitt and I promise you won’t regret it. I can’t think of one thing about John McCain that I like.

    Let Iowa represent the BIG TEN in the big game, and I’m sure we won’t be embarrassed.

    Comment by Rudy Yutzy — January 16, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

  17. Go brothers,!! (Rudy & Gideon) on telling a girl who to vote for! You def. are the level-headed ones. Sis.

    Comment by wilmawagler — January 17, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

  18. I like your blog, and no, the swearing isn’t horrifying. Hello, it’s refreshingly honest, and your blogs are meloncholy-ishly, umm, have a drawing effect. And you perhaps have a way with words that help others identify what they are unable to express. And it just may be therapeutic for yourself. So, you go, Mr. Wagler. I look forward to reading your blog each week.

    Comment by R. Miller — January 18, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

  19. I love reading your writings! You are distantly related to my husand John Eicher who has Wagler blood too. In the case of calling people names. I am tired too of all the cold politeness when I am sure they cuss people out under their breath. Jesus called people dogs, snakes, foxes, wolves, whited walls, vipers, etc. It gets a certain point across. Thanks and keep writing!

    We live in Honduras.


    Comment by Ruth Eicher — February 12, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

  20. Wow! This post was stirring. A ton of thoughts flew through my head which I won’t try to sort out now. I’ll wait until this evening while driving home. But I do want to say that I was encouraged by it. Well-written frankness regarding life. That’s why I enjoy reading your stuff.

    P.S. I too always looked forward to the dry sauna after a workout but, regrettably, it’s been a few years since I made time for the gym.

    Comment by Eric — July 17, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

  21. Whack job indeed! I kept waiting to read what you really called the guy. And the man in the bathroom stall…doesn’t get any better than this. HaHa!

    I’ve had my share of whack jobs. Also known as passive aggressive …people. One lives right here in my building. He does all sorts of nasty little things-bullies people with notes he posts around the building like “45 minutes time yourself!” and “don’t use the rug to prop the door open!” The thing is he never ever signs them. He hides. He does his dirty deeds anonymously then acts somewhat friendly to your face. He has real control issues with the laundry room in the basement.

    One day while I was doing the wash my timer went off indicating it was time to switch things over from washer to dryer. I was on the phone with a friend who was having a hard time. “Since I’m the last one doing laundry this evening it shouldn’t be a big deal if I don’t go down this second.” I thought to myself. Au contraire mon fraire! It was a huge deal according to the mental case on floor 1. I’m jumping ahead of myself here.

    The counseling session, err, I mean conversation ended about 5 minutes after the buzzer went off so I made my way downstairs to collect and shift my clothes. As soon as I entered the stairwell my senses detected the air of a madman breaking ground before me. Sure enough they were right on the money. My clothes had been strewn all over the basement. Wet clothes, dry clothes, here there and everywhere. But, of course, it was the work of the Phantom-that unseen cowardly lunatic. What could I do? I didn’t see him do it (which is how he gets his jollies). I did the next best thing I could think of. With clenched teeth and a string of profane words bubbling around my brain I got on the computer and typed a warning letter. “If I find out who you are you inconsiderate swine (my exact words) I’m turning you in to the management company.” There, that ought to do it! Yeah, right. Well, it was all I could do.

    A few days went by, about four loads of dirty, smelly, streaked and stained clothes accumulated so it was back to the dungeon to fulfill my Stay-At-Home Mom duties. I was cautious. Being trapped in a basement with a man who’s half baked is something to be wary of. Whew! Empty. But why are my dryers open? I’d had it. I knocked on his door. He answered looking a bit shaken. Well, he looked like it to me. “Did you open my dryers? My dryers have been opened.” “No.” I turned and walked away feeling quite proud of myself. Quite smug. “Yeah, he needs to know I know what he’s about. Jerk.” Hmph.

    Life went on. We ate, we drank, we soiled our clothes. We all know what comes next. Time to replenish the underwear drawer. Nobody wants to associate with a day ole sock wearer. If there’s one thing that promotes avoidance it’s body funk. Ok, you know what I’m getting at. Time to do the laundry. Down I went with the kids in tow. (I will never understand what they see in the basement. Hoping for lost quarters I suppose.) I loaded em up then I hear this Slam! Boom, boom, boom, down the stairs. It was him, Charles Manson’s cousin. He started fussing, yelling, flailing about like a man with a serious wedgie. “Why did you ask me if it was me that opened your dryers?” he demanded. “Because you’re the only one who would have done it.” I retorted wryly, though shaken. Whaa, whaa, whaa, whaa! he shouted. The kids and I made our way up the stairs immediately. I stopped at the fist available door. The Indian family there let us in. We were friends prior to this incident so it was no surprise to have me knocking. The Mrs. greeted me with a smile and a head bobble. “Come.” I was shaking, I was fussing, I was telling them what happened. The Mr., being the head of this devoutly Hindu family, began waving his hand around the doors and windows stifling any evil spirits eager to piggyback on my ranting. Probably saw it as bad luck.

    Eventually I settled down and made my way back upstairs to my home. I shook as I called my husband. He said he would take care of matters when he got home from work. And so he did in his respectful, calm sort of way. From that day to this the laundry room has been free of conflict.

    Comment by Francine — June 13, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

  22. But… the whack job lives on.

    Comment by Francine — June 13, 2014 @ 9:08 pm

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