By Ken Bradbury
My Lincoln Land class was discussing the difference between men and women recently. That’s the nice thing about teaching a college class . . . they realize that there is a difference. Their comments revolved around things like males feigning a macho attitude, girls being overly clingy and namby-pamby when actually they may be holding the most brains of the pair, why guys seldom say what they mean and how girls are more concerned about feelings. Nothing new there, but the strange thing is that they all assumed that these adolescent mannerisms would fade away with time “when we grow up.”
Wish it were true. I was recently staying in a Bloomington hotel when a busload of Road Scholars checked in. Perhaps thirty or so tired senior citizens dripped off the coach as their harried group leader commandeered the lobby in a frantic effort to get her tired travelers to their rooms before they collapsed. Group leaders come in two colors: nice and not so. This gal favored the pleasant side of the sweetness scale so I struck up a conversation after her group had been shuffled off to their rooms with a final admonition of, “And remember! Breakfast begins at 6:30!”
And that was the last I saw of the group until they gathered at the breakfast nook the next morning. I went down early to beat the rush, completely forgetting that it’s impossible to beat a group of senior citizens to the food line. That was fine. The average hotel breakfast buffet is a kamikaze affair where you can dip in and out somewhere between the juice machine and the waffle maker. I took a seat in the corner, not wanting to turn my back on a group who’d traveled from Wisconsin looking for Lincoln. I didn’t want them to think I’d taken him.
So as I chewed my two-day old English muffin moistened only by a pat of cold peanut butter spread on with a flimsy plastic knife, I watched this male-female thing work its way out on the other end of the age spectrum.
Mike couldn’t open the wrapper on his cinnamon bun. At least his wife kept saying, “Here Mike, let me do it.” The problem was that she said it so loudly and so often that most of the inhabitants of our breakfast nook knew that he was struggling. I could sympathize. Sometimes the simplest little plastic wrapper will send me into fits of desperation. In my pre-denture days the solution was simple, but on that cold morning I sympathized with Mr. Mike. There was no way at this point he was going to give in and hand the bun to his wife to unleash. “I can do it, damn it,” he muttered under his hungry breath. It was becoming such a tension-filled moment that I was tempted to hand her my cinnamon roll and say, “Here, Mrs. Mike, I’m a bachelor. You can open mine.” As fate would have it, the three of us took the same elevator up to our third floor rooms. As I held the sliding door back for them to enter, she said, “Thank you!” and Mr. Mike murmured, “I’ve got it.” The poor guy’s pride had been punctured by a bit of plastic.
As the group stood in the lobby to board their bus to the next attraction, the male-female differences were evenstarker. They were headed to one of the town’s top Lincoln attractions, the Mitsubishi automobile plant. The ladies in the group wondered in which direction the plant was located and how long it would take to get there. To a man, the fellows all knew where to find the factory (four different directions), and exactly how long the trip would take. No one was going to open their plastic wrap for them this morning. As they waited for their ride two of the ladies opened their luggage at least three times to make sure everything was there. Not a man even looked at his luggage. With wives that meticulous, who’d need to?
When the bus pulled up two of the ladies had to tell their husbands which luggage was theirs. Of course the men already knew. . . even the guy who picked up the wrong bag.
The next time the subject of male-female distinctions comes up in my college class I’ll inform them that things tend to stay pretty much the same. If they disagree, I’ll give all the boys in class a cinnamon bun to open.