I took today off from work, simply because as we move into a holiday weekend, about 75% of our company’s workforce will be doing the same. And while there’s plenty to do, the prospect of a 4-day weekend was too tantalizing to pass up. But still I ended up riding my bike to work and back home (as I’ve been doing often since April) just for the exercise. I got a haircut, then walked out of the Great Clips to a flat tire on the car. The valve stem had failed (it failed on one of the other tires last year). I started changing it, but the bolts were rusted in place and I had no WD-40 (or any penetrating liquid) in the car. And I’d left my cell phone at home…it was just a haircut after all.
So my wife’s boss very generously drove some spray to my car and (because he’s stronger than me) helped me break the bolts free. After he left I still had to wrestle them off…any idea how hot bolts get just from the friction of removal? I got the spare on (one of those hideous little donut tires), then made my way to Costco (where I’d bought the tires)…only to find out there was a 3-hour wait in the tire department. I’ll go back on Monday. I got back home at 3:30 in the afternoon (my haircut was at 11:30), thinking that a day in the office may not have been so bad.
Sometimes, in our weaker moments, we’ll think things that we shouldn’t. When I’m driving and someone in another car acts foolishly (which I never do), I wish I was a passenger in his (or her) car so it would be easier to hang up their cell phone and hit them with my shoe. Or maybe a co-worker oversteps his (or her) bounds of authority at your expense, and you begin plotting retribution.
Thoughts are powerful things, particularly when they don’t just stay thoughts. I can’t name all of the famed “Seven Deadly Sins”, but at least some (lust, greed, pride, envy) definitely start out as merely thoughts. And as long as we kill them while they remain in our brains, we’re alright. It’s when the “translation to action” happens that the real trouble begins. Years ago, comedian Jake Johannson had the idea of “safety rhymes”. When talking about drive-by shootings, he joked that maybe a rhyme would prevent people from pulling the trigger. He humorously suggested, “I’m going to shoot that guy…let’s have some pie!”
Clearly a safety rhyme may have done some good for Charles Guiteau, who had nasty thoughts running around in his head. He had repeatedly been denied a job working in the U.S. consul in Paris, and it made him angry. The new U.S. President, James Garfield, had been in office less than 4 months, and was putting the final touches on his Administration…and it didn’t include Guiteau. But rather than seek gainful employment elsewhere, Guiteau let his thoughts get away from him.
On July 2, 1881, an angry Guiteau took a gun and used it to shoot President Garfield as he walked through the Washington, D.C. railroad station. The Commander-in-Chief was hit twice, in the arm and the back. But it was the bullet in the back that did the most damage, and ultimately took the President’s life nearly three months later.
We’ll never know what Guiteau’s life would have been like had he disposed of his evil thoughts properly. But we know for sure that his actions cost the life of the President, and ended his own the following year on the hangman’s noose.