It is Good to be Right, but it is a lot Better to be Smart!

One of my Toastmaster friends gave this speech recently and I asked him if I could share his story on my blog.  He said sure it would be an honor.  Here is his true story in his own words of a lesson learned.  ~ Patti

It is Good to be Right, but it is a lot Better to be Smart

Sometimes in the course of living our lives events occur that teach us important lessons.  When I was 16 years old I received one of them.

At the time I was working as a dishwasher at Furr’s Cafeteria.  I worked there for about three years while I was going to high school  It was a great job and even though the work could be pretty hard it was also enjoyable because many of us that worked hard together also became great friends and we would spend a lot of time hanging out together after work.  Frequently during summer vacation we would stay out a little later and we would all go to a restaurant or somewhere else where we could hang out together.

One warm summer night after work we were contemplating what to do.  We met at the apartment where my friend family lived.  Behind the apartments there was a narrow bridge that crossed over a canal.  It was wide enough that two opposing cars could cross at the same time, but they would have to slow way down because there would be only a couple of feet between them.

On this particular night for some reason six of us guys walked over to the bridge and we were all sitting on the short cement retainer walls that were on each side of the bridge and we were just talking together and killing time.  A truck approached and suddenly we all noticed that he was weaving back and forth.  We scattered like cockroaches when a light is turned on to get out of the way and luckily no one was hit although it was pretty close.  Some of the guys I was with yelled some rather unkind words at the driver. But I said nothing at all – I just got out of his way.

The driver pulled over on the other side of the bridge and he got out of his truck.  And then he yelled at us, “You guys want to mess with me”?  I have changed the wording slightly as to not offend. My friends all took off running, but I did not.  You see, I had this silly smug sense of security inspired by the thought that because I had done nothing wrong that I had nothing to worry about  So like a dummy I did not run, I stayed right where I was,  leaning with my back up against a wooden light post.  The man came walking towards me.  I waited till I knew he could hear my voice and I told him “I didn’t say a thing to you”.  Even as he walked up close to me I was still clinging to the thought that because I had done nothing wrong there was no reason for me to fear.  At least until I saw him pull out the bar from behind his back.  It was quite impressive.  It was a round solid steel bar about 14 inches long with a rubber handle grip on it.  It was designed for business.

Suddenly I came to the realization that things were not ok.  The man was obviously drunk and he was out of control.  Fortunately when he took his first swing I was able to duck down low and he missed me and struck the wooden post behind me.  However this left me in a bent over position that made it very convenient for the next blow to come down across my back, knocking me flat on the ground.  Then he began to inflict upon me a number of painful blows, one right after the other. I remember as I laid there being hit thinking that I was probably going to die that night.    I yelled at the top of my lungs.  I yelled for him to stop hitting me, and he didn’t.  I yelled for help, but nobody came.  With my hands and legs I did my best to shield myself.  I mostly tried to protect my head and I was successful at doing that, taking the impact on my arms and legs instead.  I thought that the blows would never end.

Then he did something really amazing for which I was very grateful.  I had my arms up and my hands open to protect my face and as he swung the bar at my head he placed the bar right into my open right hand.  It was almost as if it were set there on purpose. With lightening fast reflexes my hand instantly closed tightly on the bar and I yanked on it really hard and with enough force to rip it right out of his hand.   Then with all the strength I could muster while lying on my back I threw the bar towards the canal and it rolled down the bank stopping just a couple feet short of the water.

Having got rid of the bar I immediately felt a huge surge of relief but it was short lived because now he began hammering me with his fist.  However, after you have been hit a number of times with a steel bar the pounding of a fist is like a welcomed guest.  I can remember that as he was hitting me that I actually had a feeling of comfort come over me, and I knew at that moment that I wasn’t going to die that night after all.

Finally the hitting stopped.  He got up and started heading towards his truck.  I slowly got up with the thought that I would get his license plate number, but in my beat up condition I was moving too slow.  About that time a neighbor came out to see what the noise was all about.  As the man walked towards the neighbor I heard him mumble some words. I didn’t hear what he said, but I remember being shocked when I heard the neighbor reply, “I know what you mean, sometimes these kids are out here throwing grapefruit at the cars as they go by”.

The drunken man got into his truck and sped away.  I walked over to the neighbor who then became aware of what really had happened.  Then my friends came back and we went into Mike’s apartment where his mother helped clean me up.  I had a lot of nasty bruises and some half circles where the end of the bar cut into my skin. Fortunately there were no broken bones and I was more sore than damaged. A little later I went looking and found the iron bar on the ground down the canal bank near the water’s edge.  I kept it.

I am not sure why we didn’t call the police.  However, we did spend a few days afterward driving through the neighborhoods in the area in an effort to find the man’s truck.   We thought that if we could locate it we would return the bar to him.  We figured that we would let him find it sitting right there on his driver’s seat amidst all the broken glass.  We never did find the truck. And I am very glad we didn’t.

If I had it to do over again would I still have stood up to him again like I did, knowing that I had done nothing wrong?  No way!  I would lead the pack running.

The lesson that I learned that night it is good to be right, it’s a lot better to be smart.

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