The importance of care

Story by Robert Tomlinson

Adieu, sweet winter. I knew you well.

You know you’ve lived in the great state of Wisconsin too long when you consider a big winter snowstorm as just a bump in the road. I saw the university’s one-day closure due to snow last winter as an “opportunity knocks” sort of thing – i.e., I can work in my office with no interruptions. No snowstorm can keep a big, strong guy like me from getting to the university on foot as usual (a 20-minute walk under a variety of conditions). I was wrong on both counts. Forty-five minutes into my 20-minute walk, and only halfway to the university, I said to my almost totally exhausted inner man, “I can’t do this, but I don’t know if I can make it back home either.” However, as you probably expected, I continued on.

The shallow breathing that I had hoped would conserve energy only resulted in a decrease in oxygen uptake. The attendant slowing of brain activity left me with a mild feeling of euphoria that actually was not too bad. I even got a bit excited because I figured that just before death the Great Truth would be revealed to me – that I had always been right, and other people had always been wrong.

Suddenly, I realized that I had no legacy to leave my daughter. I kept thinking, if only someone was out there taking a video of my “man struggles against death and loses” drama, my daughter would be left with the “Father – a Heroic Epic” video.

Then I thought of the security camera on the Acme building across the street. Ever resourceful, I reached into my pocket and retrieved a receipt for a book I had recently purchased at Border’s, entitled “A Scholarly Study of Adult Fantasy and Beyond.” I pulled a pen from another pocket containing a rather extensive collection of UW-Eau Claire ballpoints and hurriedly scribbled a note to my daughter.

“Purchase the AT&T Customer Designed Family Values Plan. List a copy of their security tape as an essential and unique part of your plan, as well as a purchase contingency. Give the video a jazzy title, copyright and market it on www.amazon.com.”

Suddenly a minivan out of nowhere pulled up. The driver, who had worked on my office printer 10 years ago, said in an unusually resonant voice that seemed to be coming from far above the mini van, “You work at the university, right? Can I give you a ride?”

On the way to Hibbard Hall, I thanked him to the point of seeming insincerity. So instead of having to prepare for the “your attendance is required” funeral, yet totally exhausted and feeling like a dimwit, I did make it to my office and slumped into my chair only half dead. I began to perk up, however, when I realized that with a bit of transitional drafting, so to speak, I could turn my dimwittedness into a how-I-laughed-in-the-face-of-death experience and brag about it to students.

Although this idea left me quite ecstatic, I kept recalling my rescuer’s parting words to my last thank you, “Well, we need to look out for and care about others.”

I was reminded of a long-forgotten movie I had seen about 10 years ago, entitled “Pay it Forward,” the theme and its importance. I felt a deep desire to pass it along. But rather than getting carried away too deeply with this message and meanings, I want to pass along another more specific message of which I am totally and absolutely certain – “God drives a minivan.”

Tomlinson is an associate professor of psychology and a guest columnist for The Spectator.