Featured Column
Week of 7.25.2005
Growing up with "Don't"
           From the time I could first understand the spoken word I was taught to fear a great many things. There were so many things I had to learn – and I learned them the hard way, complete with the drastic and terrible penalties for noncompliance.
           Between my mother, father and grandmother I had my waking hours filled with the rules of how to live a safe, wary and cautious life.
           To this day I have second thoughts about going outside if I’ve just taken a shower and my hair is wet. I still hear, “You go out with that wet hair, young man, and you’ll catch a terrible cold.”
           Another sure way to catch a cold is to go barefoot. I was also told that going with out shoes would cause my feet to grow to an embarrassing size and I would have problems finding a shoe store that would sell footwear to fit my grotesque feet.
           I was 6-years old when I answered the call to come in for dinner. At the table I excitedly told my dad that I was playing baseball with the guys – “real hardballs,” not those big softballs. “A hardball,” my dad barked, “A softball is one thing, but a hardball. Oh, my. You know what could happen you get hit in the head with a hardball. You see that young Louis Corso from down the street. His mother has to hold his hand when he crosses the street. He’s not right. He maybe got hit in the head with a hardball.”
           A year passed before I gained the courage to throw a hardball around. I had confided in my friend Chester Neshitz about what my father had told me about young Louis Corso and his condition. That’s when Chester told me that Louis had been born retarded. Even though, I remained very cautious about a hardball banging into my temple, causing my mother to hold my hand as we crossed the street for the rest of my life.
           I never questioned when my grandmother and mother told me, “Be sure to wear clean underwear when you go out. You never know when there could be an accident and you have to go to the hospital.” Made sense then, makes sense now.
          Although, in my whole life, I’ve never heard or read about anyone being carried away in an ambulance for not waiting at least an hour after eating before going swimming I still make sure that I wait that important hour. I can still imagine a full body cramp convulsing me as I wade in 3 feet end of the community pool after eating a cheeseburger. A guy could sink like a stone!
           I know that I wasn’t the only one told that a certain good feeling would later be followed by God striking me blind, first in one eye, then the other.
           My grandmother was the guardian of the family eyes. Anyone caught walking, especially at a fast clip, with a sharp object in their hands, like a pair of scissors, a knife, a fork, a pencil - would be intoned, “You dasn’t walk like that with a sharp thing in your hand – you could fall and poke your eye out!”
           Electrical outlets and appliances were a constant source of immediate danger. My mother used to admonish all of us, “Don’t you dare touch that light switch with a wet hand. That electricity will find the water and go through your body and electrocute you like a lightning bolt”
          The first time I tried cutting a bagel in half sideways I heard, “What are you doing with that knife! Don’t hold it that way. One slip and you’ll lose a finger or two.”
          My father implored me time and time again not to run after a loose ball if it goes in the street. “Let it go, let it go. You run after it in the street and a car could hit you and you’ll wind up like that Louis Corso kid.”
          Once, in the 5th grade, I wrote the name of a girl I was madly in love with on my arm, feigning a tattoo. I walked in the house and my faux tattoo, “Jean Darling,” written with a ball point pen, was spotted by my grandmother, who told me, “God doesn’t want people writing on their skin. Now go wash that off before He sees it.”
          I was always told, “Don’t touch the stove. You’ll start a fire and the whole house will burn down.”
          “Chew good. You don’t, you could choke to death.” 
          “Do good in school or you’ll wind up a bum.”
          “You have to wear white at night so a car won’t run you over.”
           I learned a lot from my family. I realize now that they were just looking after my welfare. It’s been many years, but I still want to ask a doctor if it’s true that going outside with a wet head will give you a cold.
The rules we learn - or else!
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger