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Connectors

I have these “things” in my brain I call “connectors.”

They are typically not understandable to others, and when I try to explain them to people I usually get this twisted-face look in response.

They are the bells that ring when one thing is said and another thing immediately pops into my mind.

I’ll give you an example:

If I am watching football and there is a fourth-down situation and whether or not they got the first down is in question, the refs will call for “the chains” to measure if the yardage was achieved.

Have any of you stopped to realize that the refs pretty much already know? It is my opinion that the reason they call for the chains is to transfer the blame to an inanimate object.

Do you understand what I mean? Typically, if it is a short-yardage situation and the defense is all pumped up to stop the opponent and the offense is all pumped up to achieve the yardage, emotions are running high.

Everyone is yelling and screaming, there is this huge buildup, the play is run and the air fills with anticipation. Well, if the ref just ran out there waving his arms and signaling “NOPE--you didn’t get it,” the crowd would go for his hide.

The same holds true the other way. If he came out and said, “OH YEAH, you got it,” the other fans would go for the tar and feathers.

By saying, “GEEZ--I AM NOT SURE … let’s measure,” the focus goes to the inanimate measuring device, not the man in charge of it.

The chains are pulled, the ball is an inch short of its intended mark, the crowd says, “AWWWWW,” and the ref trots back to the line saying, “WHEW!”

See the beauty of that? So in the moment they say “they’re calling for the chains,” my connector kicks in and I immediately am transported back to a day when, at 8 years old, I broke the lid to my mom’s antique cookie jar while a bunch of people were at our house.

The jar was glass and cracked in two complete pieces. I was able to put the two pieces back on top of the jar as if they were one, and it wasn’t until a day later that someone went to open the jar and it fell apart as they touched it.

Everyone said, “Oh no,” including me, and I had to hide my smile when Mom said, “With all those people over yesterday it could have been anyone. Plus, it is very old--you never know.”

One of the greatest victories of my childhood--which I probably just blew wide open with this story, by the way, but I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed in the last 42 years.

So that’s an example of my personal connectors. I have a bunch of them bouncing around in my head all the time, little snippets of things that made an impression on me that somehow connect to something familiar.

Here are a few more:

• Former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning will be playing for Denver this year after a long, illustrious career with his former team. Before leaving town to report to Denver, he called 10 or 15 of the most prominent sports news reporters in Indianapolis and thanked them for being so kind, generous and accurate in the years they covered him.

That is such a classy move, in my opinion. It reminded me of the kind of lessons I was always taught by my father. I think of the day I lettered in football and came home that evening and propped it up on his dresser, where it stayed till the day he died. He taught me the importance of strength, discipline and class. He earned it as much as me.

• I recall reading Lee Iacocca’s first book as a very young man and being impressed with his disciplined rules of work and personal time. He said in the book that he refused to work weekends no matter how important the business needs were that week.

He wanted to be sure his children could grow up without ever having to say, “Dad was never around.” He figured they could always at least say that for a minimum of 2/7ths of every week, he was completely theirs.

For a man as powerful as Iacocca was at that time, that was a pretty neat trick. It reminded me of the change box my grandpa built with me. A solid wood box nailed together with a slot at the top. I could put money in but not take it out without destroying the box.

When it was completely full, we broke it open and I had enough to buy my first 10-speed bike when I was 13. The rule was whenever I had change in my pocket, at the end of the day, I’d drop it in there before bed.

You know I still do this to this day? I break it open before the Christmas holiday and it buys a big dinner out for my wife and all of our kids.

• Recently deceased 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace was the topic of a recent interview with his son, Fox reporter Chris Wallace. Chris talked about his father’s impressive career and how he unfortunately suffered from some dementia in his final years.

Chris noted the irony of the fact that his father’s illness prevented him from remembering any part of his career and all of the famous people he had interviewed, yet he had perfect recall when it came to his children and grandchildren.

The connector for me there was confirmation of the fact that one should always keep perspective about the priorities of life. Those lessons were hammered home by my mother every single day I can remember. She was always pointing out how ridiculous it is to take yourself or anything too seriously.

“Now you’ve got yourself all upset over something no one else even knows or cares about. What’s the use of that? Let it go,” she would say. She was so right. She is so connected.

• Here’s one that drives me nuts. People--what is up with Christmas cards? I mean, I just don’t get it. Now, if you write out a beautiful verse or include a very personal note or photo with your holiday cards, that I understand. You are reaching out to family and friends at a special time of year to show them how your children have grown or to update them on your lives or to reach out and ask them to please to make some time for you soon in the coming year; I get that.

But if you mass produce hundreds of cards with some lame deer and a bunny in the snow on the front with some trite drugstore verse inside and all that is in the card is an illegible signature because the sender was clearly signing piles of cards that night--why waste the postage?

I know so many people who talk about the drudgery and duty of “getting the old Christmas cards mailed” every year AND THEN they pester you after and ask, “Did you get my card? Did you get my card?”

And it’s someone you see every day. “Yeah, I got your card for crying out loud--great bunny?” What IS UP with that?

You know what this reminds me of? Talk radio.

Talk radio is where they say, “Gee, Eddie, if they only get another pitcher I bet they take the division.” And Eddie says, “Think so?” And the caller says, “I know it!”

Why does this drivel get air time?

“Well, Bob, if Korea does have nuclear power it’s because of Reagan in the ‘80s.” And Bob says, “Think so?” And the caller goes into a five-minute lecture about space capsules that landed but were covered up in the ‘80s and the host covers the fact that he just ate a whole sandwich by ending with, “Wow—well, thanks for the call.”

What purpose does that all SERVE?

Here’s what callers are really saying, “Hey mega dittos Rush, I am retired and haven’t had anyone listen to me for decades and my grandkids run out of the room every time I show up and tell them what to do so I sat on hold for the last 45 minutes to tell you and America how pitiful, twisted and bored I am.”

“OK and hey, thanks for the call!”

Seems like much ado about nothing, but I am finding that to be the case in a lot of places these days.

My connectors provide the vines I swing on to get from one end of the abyss to the other, and that works for me. I don’t expect you to understand what makes me tick; I just appreciate the fact that I’m allowed to do it as I see fit.

I trust it is a privilege you exercise as well.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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