Monday, November 29, 2010

Born to Win ~ my telephone story

Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gesalt Experiments ~ by Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward, 1971

I remember a day when I was reading a book while eating lunch at my desk and ran across an intriguing sentence:  "If you had only one hour to live, what would you do?" That same day, I wrote what I now think of as the telephone story, describing what I thought I might do in that situation.

The book was Born to Win, and I had spotted it when I went out to grab a sandwich. From other thoughts I associate with that day, like taking my lunch and the book back to my tenth-floor office in the Chattanooga Bank Building, I think it may have been 1979.  I was enjoying the book, not reading it straight through, but finding bits here and there that grabbed my attention.  When I came across the question, "If you had only one hour to live, what would you do?"  I thought, What, not even a whole day?

One of the possibilities that occurred to me was having my sister Ann spend that hour with me.  She and I had decided years earlier that the one who died first would try to "appear" to the other.  Yeah, I thought, I'd spend my last hour with Ann.  So before the lunch hour ended, I picked up the phone on my desk and called her.  The line was busy:  "Brrrtt, brrrtt, brrrtt." I was stymied when I tried to "reach out and touch someone" as the phone company's slogan suggested.  After my lunch break I got back to work, occasionally dialing Ann's number again.  "Brrrtt, brrrtt, brrrtt."  Over and over I got that busy signal and wondered who on earth she could be talking to for so long.  Late in the afternoon I had one of those lightbulb moments when I realized, "I wasted the final hour of my life trying to call Ann!"  If I'd truly had only one hour to live, I would have spent it unsuccessfully attempting to get through to my sister.  I would have died alone!

After work I drove straight to Ann's house and learned that rain had knocked out the phones in her area.  Water in the system caused a problem and the lines were out.  Ann had not been talking an inordinately long time; she was marooned by a faulty phone line.  And thus I "died" alone.

There's a metaphor in this story!


Helen's Book Blog said...

Wow! I am so glad you drove to your sisters to check up on her. How nice that you lived close enough to one another. I have no idea what I would do with one hour left. Oh wait, I'd sit and hug my daughter

Bonnie Jacobs said...

My children were in their teens at that time, so the truth is that I would have chosen to be with them -- or my mother, who lived with us -- if I'd really been dying. My sister, who lived 20-25 miles from me (I worked downtown, between our homes), had three children and a husband, so I wasn't exactly checking up on her as much as wondering what was going on.