David Bruce: Resist Psychic Death — Problem-Solving

Problem-Solving

• In 1988 in West Seneca, New York, 12-year-old James Bliemeister ran into a problem when the three-year-old child he was babysitting caused a gas leak by ramming his pedal-powered fire engine into a gas pipe. Gas began hissing out of the hole, and James covered the hole with his finger. A gas leak can be dangerous because of the dangers both of suffocation and of an explosion. He knew that a pack of chewing gum was upstairs, and he sent the three-year-old to get it. Unfortunately, the three-year-old brought him some toy cars, so James sent the three-year-old upstairs again. When the child returned with the gum, James chewed several pieces and used the gum to plug the hole in the gas pipe. He then tied a sock around the hole so that the gum and sock would continue to stop the gas leak. James next telephoned his father, and his father telephoned the gas company. No suffocation. No explosion. One hero.

• Sherri Jean Phelps, a teacher in the San Francisco Bay area, ran into a problem with a young Korean-American student named Young. He was a very good student, but the crossing guard complained that Young would sometimes risk his youthful life by running into traffic when the crossing sign clearly said, “DON’T WALK.” Ms. Phelps talked to Young and discovered that he knew how to read the words “WALK” and “DON’T WALK,” as she expected he did. He even demonstrated what the word “WALK” meant by walking. However, when she asked him to explain the meaning of “DON’T WALK,” he replied, “Sign say, ‘DON’T WALK,’ so I run.” Of course, she explained that “DON’T WALK” means to stand still and wait for the sign to change to “WALK.” Problem solved.

• Soprano Frances Alda once was scheduled to give a concert at Versailles in the home of the Marquise de Brou. However, the audience was very noisy, and so she did not start singing even when her accompanist began to play. The Marquise asked her what was the matter, and Ms. Alda replied, “I know I am supposed to have a very strong voice, but even so it would be impossible for me to make myself heard above all this tohu-bohu.” This shocked the audience into silence, and she sang without distractions. By the way, Mary Garden once told Ms. Alda, “I am always having to explain you to people. Half of them think you’re a grand person, and the rest think you’re a b*tch.” Ms. Alda replied, “They’re both right.”

• Kathleen Engle, a middle-school physical-education teacher in Newcastle, Wyoming, is famous there for her toe talks. When kids are mean to each other, sometimes without realizing it, she makes the kids touch their toes when she lectures them “about their behavior, how it looks to others, and whether they realize what they’re doing.” Why make the kids touch their toes? She explains, “Because they’re staring at their toes, they can’t play off of each other with the rolled eyes and the shrugs and touching each other. Because when they’re looking at each other, they’re not listening to me.” This really works. She says, “Often kids will come to me and say, ‘I didn’t really realize what I was doing.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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