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Song and Dance
What would you do if, in the distance, you saw two passenger trains heading towards each other at a high speed on the same track? My first reaction, same as yours, would be to try to stop them. I could shout out a warning, but it wouldn’t do any good. Bad luck would at that moment be beyond my control. So what’s left is a choice—do I close my eyes and turn away? No. I’d watch. I would watch as fate did what it had to do. How often in the course of a life would I or any of us get to watch a train wreck? I’d bet you’d do the same. Most behavior I think of as my own, and you probably feel the same, but you’d be surprised how many people out there don’t. All of us—we’re not that different.
Most people also choose to stay put, and I think highly of them. Me? I’ve been coming and going from one place or another all of my life. That’s probably no way to live.
As many times as I’ve run to someone or someplace, or from people and places, I’ve tried to make decisions based on good judgment; other times, I’ve made some questionable choices. There have been plenty of times I’ve had no choice.
I share an office with five guys. We teach basic English language skills on an army base in the Kingdom—Saudi Arabia. From 8 till 9, three of the guys are in class. Bob and I start teaching at 9, so for the first hour of the day, we sit in desks opposite each other and prepare for our classes.
Bob is a good dancer. He gives free ballroom dance lessons in the compound gym every Wednesday night at 7. Nurses from the adjacent compound come by. It’s the highlight of my week.
This morning, Bob breaks the silence, takes his eyes off his computer screen, looks at me, takes a deep breath and blurts out, "Have you ever had a song suddenly come into your head that you just couldn't get off your mind?"
“All the time,” I tell him. I stop what I’m doing and I asked him which song.
He says, "The Laotian national anthem."
“Can't say that I know it,” I tell him.
He tells me a story about the time he was in Laos, in the 70s. He had lived very near the Laotian army barracks as the civil war was nearing its end. Every night as the flag came down, the national anthem played on loudspeakers, mortar rounds exploding just a few neighborhoods away. The Pathet Lao were about to take control of the government. Recalling the song, he begins to remember all of those Laotian ladies trying to get the hell out of Laos by any means possible before the Pathet Lao took over. Nobody knew if they were going to be bad boys, like the Khmer Rouge. Bob had had dozens of marriage proposals in those final weeks. I ask him if he'd considered taking any of them up on their offer. He shakes his head firmly and says, "No.”
I ask, "Why not?"
He says he wasn't interested in marrying at the time.
I ask him why he hadn't considered holding auditions.
Again, he shakes his head, "No. No."
I tell him, "You, sir, have ethics!"
I would have held auditions.