By Tim Hayes

One day, while shooting the breeze with an old Safety Department veteran at the electric company where I had once worked, we got to talking about linemen who had suffered accidents while up there among the live wires.

My elderly friend told some stories – some hilarious, others terrifying – about linemen who had either failed or forgotten the protocols about de-energizing power lines, and had been zapped to one degree or another.  A few never came out of the experience alive, but most did – and learned the lesson of a lifetime, obviously.

But there came with the experience of electrocution another phenomenon that, to me, sounded even more troubling because it never, ever, went away.

They called it “spitting copper” – a taste in the victim’s mouth like you were sucking on pennies, day and night, without relief.  They couldn’t enjoy food the same way any longer, they couldn’t brush or mouthwash or gum-chew their way out of it.  It simply became a nuisance that they couldn’t hope to ever escape.

Think of being aware of how your tongue sits inside your mouth.  Or the fact that you’re wearing shoes.  Simple, stupid notions that, if you become actively conscious of them, would drive you nuts.  That’s what these poor dudes had to look forward to until the day they would drop dead.  Spitting copper.  Yuck.

Lucky for the rest of us, we can choose to ignore the minor nuisances of life.  They don’t need to become chronic conditions or sources of unrelenting irritation.  The person in front of you with 20 items in the 12-items-or-less supermarket checkout line, for instance.  Or, the driver at the turnpike toll booth who seems shocked that this privilege costs money, as a 10-car pileup forms behind him.  And then there’s MSNBC for some, Rush Limbaugh for others.

But, of course, some folks love to latch onto an issue or activity and, pitbull-like, just can’t let it go.  Jaws clenched tight, they can’t relax and they won’t relent until they either drag enough other people down with them to share in their glorious suffering, or create a mirror-image of opposing forces so as to create a fight.  A fight that, to most other objective observers, feels like a colossal waste of energy, time, and resources.  Some that pop to mind include:

1) Devotees of any TV show with the words “Real Housewives” in its title, or any “reality” show at all, for that matter.  Contrived, cheap-to-produce, high-margin programming.  If you could make money hand-over-fist pumping out sludge, like the networks can, you’d do it too.  But realize the sludge for the sludge it is.

2) Proponents and opponents of man-made climate change.  The planet’s been around for a long time, and the climate is constantly changing.  Does industrialization contribute?  Probably.  Is it the sole cause-and-effect?  Probably not.  Is it worth studying using objective, non-politicized science?  Definitely.

3) Believers in the sanctity and authenticity of professional wrestling.  Ugh.  See No. 1 above.

The list can go on and on.  I guess my main thought here is that life presents enough wonderful, beautiful, hopeful things to us every day, so why get consumed over things that cause worry, dissent, and conflict?  Sure, some things are worth fighting for, but not 24 hours a day.

Pull those pennies out of your mouth.  Life’s too short and too good to be spitting copper the rest of your life.

Copyright 2015 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting