Nothing left to learn the hard way

Published 9:20 am Tuesday, March 5, 2013

From 1953 to present (even though I don’t recall a lot about ’53 to about ’56), I’ve had a chance to see a lot of change in this world we live in.

Take television for example. When I was a child, we’d gather around the old Zenith – after meals, not during, and after all homework was completed – where we had a grand total of three channels – 3, 10 and 13 out of southside Virginia – to choose from. But yet they carried quality family programming – Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy and Bonanza. Now with satellite TV you can get about a zillion channels, the majority showing nothing more than sex and violence. I’ve seen better content on the side of a soup can than what’s now on TV.

There were no electronic gizmos when I was growing-up. For fun, we’d go outside and let our imaginations run wild – building a submarine out of peanut poles and attacking the Japanese fleet right from my own backyard. To us, athletic competition didn’t come from a little hand-held unit or a computer-generated image on the TV screen. Rather, we’d pick teams and play baseball in the spring and summer, football in the fall and basketball in the winter. We’d cry if it rained because we couldn’t go outside and play.

We also dressed like we had good sense. We didn’t wear baggy pants and show off our underwear and we certainly didn’t walk around with so many holes in our heads, complete with studded jewelry, that it appeared we’d gone bobbing for apples in a tackle box. Even our bathing suits were respectable. I’ve seen more cloth in a baby’s diaper compared to the material now found in bathing suits.

One good thing about nearly 60 years on Earth is I’ve acquired a bit of knowledge over the years. That’s not saying I can tell you the exact population of Liechtenstein or the first person to reach the South Pole. Rather, my version of knowledge comes with practical facts, those we come face-to-face with nearly every day. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned over the years:

Do not follow someone who cannot lead and never try to lead someone who cannot follow.

Never test the depth of water with both feet.

If you think nobody cares that you’re alive, try missing a couple of mortgage payments.

You can’t learn much when your mouth is moving.

Don’t become irreplaceable; if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

It’s far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.

Always remember that you are unique, just like everyone else.

In order to save yourself a trip to jail, never ask a law enforcement officer if he was once a member of the Village People. Also, if an officer asks if you’ve been drinking, never answer by saying, “Hey, you’re the big shot detective, you tell me.”

I’ll close with what I see as benefits of growing older:

There’s nothing left to learn the hard way.

You can throw a party and your neighbors won’t even realize it.

Your eyes can’t get much worse.

Your joints are becoming more accurate than the TV weatherman.

Kidnappers have no interest in you.

Now when you talk about good grass, you’re making reference to your neighbor’s beautiful lawn.

You won’t have to read another lame column such as this one until I turn 65!

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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