"You Don't . . "

    My first job at the toy factory was, using a chisel and a hammer, to chop out distorted plastic bushings from a long aluminum channel that a heavy suspension rod went through. The job was outdoors, on the south side of the building, in direct sunlight. I worked alone, breaking those bushings apart so that new bushings could be installed. I recall my foreman diligently checking on me and bringing me water and potato chips to keep me from getting heat stroke. Though I sweated profusely, the heat didn't bother me too much as I was somewhat used to very hot summers, living in Iowa as I had most of my life to that point. 
    His concern impressed me for he seemed genuine in his efforts. He had lived in the area all his life and did various jobs in the community as a youth. After he married his high school sweetheart and started a family, he began working at the toy factory because it offered workers good pay and insurance. He had been there five or so years.
    I don't recall the foreman's name but his friendliness, quick smile and sense of humor eased my uneasiness in my new work place. Although surrounded by people, I felt alone and let some individuals get under my skin. But I was never one to make friends readily. I had long thought it was because of my city upbringing: a stoic demeanor was the best demeanor; a stoic person wasn't annoyed by 'stupid' people, as they could see you weren't amused by their antics. A comment by one new co-worker, after a few minutes was, "You don't suffer fools, do you?" 
    I learned much later in life, that being from the city, though it had its edge of negative impact in a small town, wasn't the whole answer to my inability to make easily make friends: I just never learned how as a child. I was sort of a shut-in in my early childhood because of my asthma; I couldn't play outdoors all the time. I was raised, more-or-less, as an only child, although I had three sisters, the youngest of whom was eleven years my senior; the older two, nineteen and twenty-one years older, respectively. Memories of our interaction in the home are minimal as, by the time I was six years old, my youngest sister was seventeen and a year later had moved out of the house. 
    On the plus side, I never had to share my toys.
    Because of my asthma, I couldn't play sports nor apparently shared my dad's penchant for athleticism, so I took art classes instead, which is a sure fire way to be identified as a sissy, during those teenage-years of a boy's life. That, was no ice-breaker either. No wonder now, why I had so much trouble in junior and senior high school always running into guys that didn't like me for some reason.
    However I did manage to have two or more good friends through my high school years, one of whom had two older and one younger brothers, and had grown up, through no mindful effort of his own, with huge biceps and ample upper body strength. I could've used that body, given that my unfriendly attitude made me a target for anyone who disliked me in turn. Fortunately, for me, Arthur was often around just when things started to heat up and somehow influenced my opponents to leave me alone.
    I had many confrontations and a few good fights, though thankfully brief- -(I didn't have the stamina back then)- -but it finally came home to me, those many years later, that I was projecting this angry guy attitude, out of some sort of defensiveness and a critically low self-esteem, and just feeding the frenzy. I guess the turning point was when I realized humor could trump anger, in many cases, and I could turn a negative situation into a smile or laughter by telling stories on myself or satirizing the situation. Or, just by talking it out. 
    However, I was careful not to always act the fool, preferring a little caution to creating the wrong impression; the latter of which I have failed in several cases, wherein those wrongful first impressions remain lasting impressions and it's too late now to correct them, oh well.  

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