Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My dad can beat up your dad...

Early on in this hobby of audiophilia, I learned a very valuable lesson I wish to share in hopes that many of you can learn from my mistakes.  I was going to Oklahoma State University at the time and the guys in the electrical engineering program were all pretty close. We studied together, shared stories together, worked in labs together and shared our strange attraction to the love of a certain field with each other. Much like a fraternity or sorority, bonds of friendship grew that continued long past graduation.

In college, several of us struggled financially, myself included, and although our love for that particular field was intense and a high priority in our lives, there was only so many funds that could be dedicated to that love. After all, we had to eat, pay the rent, buy books, tuition, gas, you know, the usual stuff all college students struggle with to keep their heads above water. It was no different for me and Henry.

Right next to the picture in my wallet of my wife was a picture of my stereo, yes, my stereo. Although a color Polaroid (for those of you who do not know, Polaroids were the early instant gratification photographs that allowed you to see a picture about 30 seconds after it was taken), this well worn photo was shared with each of these friends and they also shared similar Polaroids of thier HAM rigs, Tesla coils, mixing consoles, and the like. Henry also shared a picture of his stereo and we found an instant kindridship

One day, I went over to Henry's house with a few friends to audition his rig. I don't even recall what his system was but here is where my life lesson came. At the time, I had a McIntosh MC2100 and MX110 tuner preamp with AR5 speakers. Henry, less financially fluid, had something else, let's say hypothetically a Garrard turntable, KLH speakers, and a Sausui tube receiver. I truthfully do not recall but that is not important.

Henry was very proud of what he had managed to assemble, deomnstrated it with bliss in his eyes, and we listened to numerous cuts of his favorite pressings. Then came the question, one that you typically hear audiophiles ask of folks with similar interests, "So what do you think?  How does it sound?" This is where I put my foot in my mouth. This is the moment that if I could I would choose to do over again differently I would. Again, I do not recall my exact words, and again that is not important.

I replied immediately in as honest of a tone of voice as I could muster up and said, "I think it sucks." Althougn I said this in a half-joking manner, in my knee-jerk unthinking response, I crushed a friend, and in a single moment I lost a relationship that should have lasted decades. With brutal honesty, I engaged my mouth and then my brain. I was a jerk, a complete idiot, and I did not even realize it. My utter insensitivity to the situation caused me to lose a good friend and I have regretted that moment for its results but I am also thankful for that moment since it changed me for the better.

I was oblivious to the damage I had just caused to our friendship and left Henry's house completely unaware of my idiotic egotistic answer. Henry shyed away from me from that moment on and I did not, at that time, understand why. When I would walk into our study group, Henry found an excuse to leave. When I arrived in class, Henry turned away and started talking with others so he would not have to talk to me. It was a behavior I had never encountered and just swept it under the rug.

One day, long after I had graduated and moved to Denver, another classmate called me and told me that Henry also lived in Denver.  I was shocked but glad to hear this. Henry and this other classmate were very good friends I wanted to take the opportunity to try to reconnect. This other classmate told me about what I had done that fatal day that crushed Henry's spirits. I was only slightly more mature then than I was at the time of the tragedy, but still a complete amateur at being right-brained person.

I called Henry and we chatted. I thought to myself, "This time, I am going to praise his system regardless of what it was." I did and missed the opportunity to get past the symptom and down to the problem. I did not tell him what I felt, but rather what I thought. I believed at that time it was my words that caused Henry pain and it was not; it was my attitude. In the conversation, no matter how I tried to be someone else, my attitude still prevailed and it was this ingrained part of me that caused the split.

That was in the late 1970s and I have not heard from Henry since. The story itself is sad but its telling I hope touches the hearts of some of you out there who suffer from similar insensitivity and are completely unaware of your attitude. Here is the bottom line: if you want friends and quality relationships, when you get ready to point a finger, look at how many are pointing at that person and look at how many are pointing back at you (4:1, hmmm...that should tell you something). When you are telling someone in all honesty about what is "wrong" with something or someone for that matter, what you are really saying is what is wrong with yourself.

Take time to evaluate your attitude own and think about what you want the outcome of your words to be. It is easy to say whatever comes to mind and I am not encouraging you to lie, in fact it is always bet to express your feelings and doing so keeps you emotionally healthy. Another firend recommended this technique and I encourage you to consider it also: when asked, take a moment to respond and ask yourself this question, "What do I want my outcome to be?"

There are many ways to say the same thing. All I am encouraging you to do is to get over the infentile attitude of "My dad can whip your dad" and get more mature. Honesty is always the best policy but temper it with kindness. A person's stereo cans till suck, you just do not have to be that brutally honest in your response. Count to five, stroke your chin, and think about what it is that you want your outcome to be. What is five seconds out of your life if it saves a relationship?

Henry, if you ever read this, I am sorry for my juvenile insensitivity and apologize for what I did. I was too young to see how what I said did what it did. I was wrong. I hope you have had countless hours of listening pleasure on your system and hope that you can forgive me.

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style, it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.


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