My father, who lived his last 25 years sober in AA, learned some valuable lessons about life that they don’t teach you in college and you can’t get in the psychiatrist’s office, lessons that help you make it through a day at a time — in addition to keeping you off the “sauce,” as they say.
During his first months in the program, his sponsor took him to a meeting where an old fellow, who sat in the back row, clicked his false teeth with such regularity that you could time it on your watch. It became so annoying that my father began to concentrate more on the clicking than on what the speaker was saying.
Click, click, click and more clicks — so many clicks he thought he was going to go berserk or dash from the room and head toward the nearest bar for a good stiff drink of Dewars … followed by several Buds, another Dewars, and possibly a Jack Daniels, at which point all the clicking in the world wouldn’t have bothered him because he’d be passed out on the floor.
Needless to say, booze isn’t the solution to someone’s annoying habit. But week after week, it was the same thing, and whenever he complained about the distraction, his sponsor’s simple advice was “Live and let live.”
Easier said than done. Eventually, my father started to tune out the clicking after he met the old fellow and realized he had more than 40 years of sobriety — he just suffered from a bad set of false teeth.
For the rest of his life, my father held on to that advice of “live and let live,” and every time he was about to pass judgment on someone else because of their behavior, their shortcomings, their imperfections, their political views — just about anything — he remembered, “live and let live.”
It takes all kinds, as they say, and none of us can assume the role of Supreme Judge because we don’t know the factors that go into making a person what he or she is.
Live and let live. I often have to remind myself of that precept, especially after the recent angry, bruising political season. Even now, the tension gets so high when politics comes up that it can lead to yelling, if not fisticuffs. We talk a lot about things like tolerance and diversity in America, but sometimes that’s all it is — talk, especially when politics is involved.
I often struggle to live and let live in other situations, which sometimes resemble the test of patience that involved the clicking false teeth. For example, the other day a guy pranced into the quiet car of the train, humming “Zippity do dah,” and sat down beside me, cracked open a cold beer and started eating an Italian combo grinder that was heavy on the provolone and pepperoni. I’d rather be sitting next to screaming 2-year-old twins than someone unwrapping a grinder and gnawing at it like a man who just survived 37 days adrift in a life raft.
I could feel my blood pressure rising, but God probably put that annoying guy beside me to teach me patience, which is something I desperately need. However, it wasn’t working. I was failing the test.
When I think about it objectively, this fellow wasn’t doing anything wrong, and 99.5 percent of the other people on the train probably don’t care or even notice. I needed to live and let live.
Did you ever meet some people who immediately annoy you, and you don’t have the faintest idea why? Am I crazy or just an angry person for no good reason? It seems that some people aggravate me more than others, and I’m not really sure why. At the same time, I don’t want to speculate on how many people I annoy for reasons I’m not even aware of. The number must be large. Live and let live.
This morning I sat next to a guy who reeked of garlic. There are occasions when I probably smell of garlic, although I try to keep them to a minimum for professional reasons, not to mention that I hate garlic and only use it to ward off vampires or people with loose false teeth.
I’m sure of one thing: The people who sit in judgment of humanity, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, rich or poor, white or black, will get a big surprise when the day comes and someone sits in final judgment of them. Live and let live.
Contact Joe Pisani at firstname.lastname@example.org.