Ed Ackerman

Ed Ackerman The Optimist

“Life’s for learning,” Joni Mitchell wrote in the song “Woodstock” and the longer I live, the more I believe it. It seems I learn something every day.

One of the latest involves flagmen working at a road paving site.

But before we get to that, I must add that I’ve learned I shouldn’t say “flagmen.” After all, some of them are women. I know that. But in this case, I’d like to use “flagmen” as a generic term referring to all people whose job it is to control traffic.

I’ve learned statements like that last one can get me into trouble with some people. There’s no end to the number of landmines out there when it comes to removing gender references from our language. That’s how we wound up using “they” as a singular pronoun, now that “he” and “she” are four-letter words. But I’ve learned I just cannot use “they” to refer to one person. Although I am making an effort.

Anyway, back to the flagmen.

One day, when a flagman rotated his sign from “Stop” to “Slow,” I waved at him before I pulled out. Kind of a little, “Thanks, Buddy, I know this ain’t easy.” And you know what he did? He waved back. I did the same at the other end. He waved too.

I continued it for the entire two-week duration of the project and one day while sitting there, I put the whole thing to music. Borrowing from the “Guess Who” song “Clap for the Wolfman” about deejay Wolfman Jack, I came up with this (suggestion: listen to it on Youtube while you sing these lyrics):

Clap for the flagman.

There’s a person behind those shades

Clap for the flagman.

They’ve been standing there the whole, hot day.

See what I did there? With “they”? I told you I’m making an effort.

I flew to Texas last weekend to meet my 1-year old grandson for the first time. You learn a lot hanging around an airport. Such as: men 40 or more, whether it’s years on the planet or inches around the waist, or both, wearing shorts on an airplane is a bad look. Deduct 10 style points if they’re basketball shorts and another 10 if he’s wearing flip-flops. If there’s a tank top, just look the other way.

I grabbed a burger and a beer at a counter seat and was reminded of something I learned years ago: watching a short-order cook in action is as entertaining as a Broadway show. Also, the better the french fries, the less the need for ketchup.

Sitting there with time to kill, I pulled out my cell phone and began typing in other things I’ve learned over the years. I included:

Sometimes, there’s nothing like a cold beer.

The slowest thing on earth has to be kids boarding a school bus in the morning.

I enjoy pumpkin, but I don’t want it in everything. The same goes for bacon.

Now that it’s trendy, I occasionally go a day without shaving. But it never feels right.

I recall every stupid thing I’ve said in my entire life. No matter how hard I try not to.

It’s impossible to replicate the taste of a ballpark hot dog at home.

The best thing about college teaching is not summers off. It’s the fresh start each semester.

I’m convinced right after God created apples, he created cinnamon. And right after olives, the martini.

No matter how big the screen in your living room, nothing beats going to a movie theater.

Sundays are best when I get to church in the morning.

If you can overlook their politics, Texans are darned friendly people.

Halloween might as well be Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving might as well be Christmas. Then time slows to a crawl until Mother’s Day.

I work best early in the morning. After dinner, I’m off duty.

Teenagers are under a lot of pressure these days. The America we’ve created has robbed them of their youth.

As with anything, it can be abused, but when all is said and done, texting is awesome, a milestone in human communication as significant as the invention of the telephone. Still, I cannot use textspeak. I cannot write LOL with a straight face. Which is probably the way it should be.

Speaking of texting, my friend Joe DeLucca texted me this prayer of Father Mychal Judge, the Franciscan priest who was killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center as he ministered to a fallen firefighter:

Lord, take me where you want me to go.

Let me meet who you want me to meet.

Tell me what you want me to say,

And keep me out of your way.

I’ve begun every day with it since.

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.

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