It’s in the Genes

By Lyle R. Hill

I answered the ringing phone as it clanged for the third time and offered up my usual salutation.

“Hey, Lyle , it’s Earl Nels on and I’m hoping you got some time to talk.”

I have known Earl … aka “Earl the Squirrel” … for about 25 years. I have written about him before. A nice guy. Runs a clean shop over in Indiana. But, a little squirrely in actions and appearance. Thus, those who have known him for a while and call him friend, also usually call him Squirrel.

“Of course I’ve got time for you Squir … Earl. What’s on your mind?”

“I don’t know what to do, Lyle. I am at a crossroads and I’m hoping, maybe, you can help.”

“Well, I’m not sure how much I can help, but I’m always willing to listen. What’s bothering you?”

“I think I’m burned out, Lyle. Or maybe I’ve reached that mid-life crisis stage and I feel a little lost. I’m questioning the choices I have made and yet somehow, I kinda feel like I really never had a choice.”

When he was younger, Earl was the lead singer for a very popular garage band by the name of Open Heart and the Carotids. They were country western and actually had a hit, “A Buzzard Hit the Windshield but Didn’t Lay a Feather on Me,” that a lot of people thought would be a springboard to success and fame. But outside of rural Indiana nobody seemed to pick it up and soon Earl gave up the music business and went to work for his dad in the glass business.

“Explain what you’re feeling, Earl. Is your business in trouble?”

“Yes and no, Lyle. I’ve got more business than I can handle, but I can’t find workers so I’m constantly juggling work and rearranging schedules to try to keep customers happy. Vendors aren’t reliable, customers are harder to deal with than ever and I often think of ways to escape all of this and do something else with my life. But how? And what would I do? I feel trapped.”

“Yes, Earl, I’ve heard this before—from a number of people in the glass industry. You are not alone, my friend. Your malady is a lot more common than you might think. In fact, after a great deal of in-depth study and analysis, I actually wrote an article about this problem in the spring of 2005. My studies on this have continued to this very day and my findings have been incredibly consistent.”

“You know, Lyle, I vaguely remember that article, and at the time I laughed at it. I mean, you have to admit, Lyle, that it’s a bit difficult to take you seriously.”

On this point, the Squirrel is pretty accurate, although it is a mystery to me as to why people don’t take me seriously. I am one of the deepest thinkers I know. And let’s admit it, just because I see the absurdity that others often do not and am happy to point it out, does not mean that I should not be taken seriously. Trust me, it’s not easy to be misunderstood. I lose a lot of sleep over this situation. But let’s get back to the Squirrel …

“Earl, didn’t your grandfather start that business and then after your dad retired you took it over? That means you are a third-generation glass guy. Correct?”

“Yes, and I have an uncle and a cousin in the glass business, as well. My whole life seems to be centered on all things glass. Sure, I’ve got a great family and lots of friends, but I see everything in terms of glass. I feel cursed, actually.”

“And let me guess, you often look at others with cushy, mindless, high-paying, nine-to-five jobs and ask yourself, ‘why isn’t that me?’ and there is never an answer, is there?”

“I do. I do, Lyle. And you’re right . There is never an answer. What is it?”

“Just as I thought, Earl. You have all the symptoms. You have Terminal GFS and there is no cure.”

“So it’s hopeless? But wait a minute, what in the world is Terminal GFS?”

“Yes, it’s hopeless. I’m sure you’ve seen it in others. They get into the glass business and they may move around, but they rarely move out. They have contracted GFS. And it regularly passes on to their kids and generation after generation finds they are stuck in the glass industry. It’s an insidious disease.”

“But you still haven’t told me what GFS stands for!”

“Genetic Flawtification Syndrome. You get it, and you are stuck with it. If you doubt this, Just ask my son.”

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