by Rich Folkers
“How do we lead?”
“By example, sir.”
Two sentences containing just seven simple words. A question and response that are spoken, some might even say chanted, by an instructor, as his class responds in unison. They are seven words that say volumes about respect and leadership, discipline and teamwork. Their directness and clarity are models we could follow in so many types of communication.
“How do we take out the trash?”
“By example, sir.”
Then again, you have no clue how much of my life is dictated by martial arts. Every day, through every class, no matter how hard I try to tune it out, I am enveloped by all things Tae Kwon Do. I watch more drills than I can count. Front kick. Round kick. Side kick. Snap. Power. I know every detail of every technique. Make your uniform pop. Focus. Intensity. Technique. In my sleep I could teach this stuff.
But you know, as much as I respect the honor and discipline, sometimes it all just gets on my nerves. In fact, there are days when the mere sound of counting in Korean makes me want to scream.
But I can’t do that. I can’t scream.
I’m a dog.
Sure, you think it’s easy being Midas. Just lie around the office sleeping. Grab a drink when you feel like it. Wander the floor once in a while. Look cute. Shed. Chew on a toy. Get petted. Get walked.
They may not like it, but I’m going to tell you what it’s really like to be a Tae Kwon Dog. It’s my turn.
Let’s start with my home life. There are those two people that adopted me. She’s perfectly nice. But him. Geez. We go on a walk, and all I want is to do my business, and maybe sniff something new here or there. But no. Every single time I walk up to a tree or a fire hydrant and do my thing, he has to yell at me: “Did you refold the leg?”
And his driving. If I had knuckles, they’d perpetually be white. Have you ever heard a fifth-degree blackbelt singing along to a John Denver CD? Dude, it’s not “Rocky Mountain Sky.”
I also know what he’s got hidden in that office. You ever notice how there is one locked desk drawer? You might think he’s got money or something valuable in there. Nope. Just a little paperback book, Belt Tying for Dummies.
Some days “Dad” disappears for a little while, and I have to hang out in the cage. I really don’t know where he goes, but there seems to be an inexhaustible supply of Krispy Kreme napkins around here.
Some days Mr. Surage takes over. He seems like a nice enough guy, but he’s got his secrets. His favorite thing to do between classes is grab a student’s card at random and color in all the squares. And he’s the one who keeps using black tape (the stuff that’s supposed to be for stripes on people’s belts) to spell dirty words backwards on the inside of the studio windows.
That other guy, Mr. Jeffers, comes in a lot, too. He’s all about being Mr. Internet, with all of his technical savvy and books about blogging. What he doesn’t want you to know is that his favorite weekend activity is buying a pint of Haagen-Dazs, cozying up on the couch, and watching DVDs of Notting Hill, Terms of Endearment, and Runaway Bride. He’s also the moderator of an AOL chat room strictly for fanatical fans of Hugh Grant.
Now, I’m not going to say that guy Cameron Johnson is secretly more straightlaced than it might appear, but if he became President, his Secret Service callsign would be “Cameron Johnson.” He didn’t even get his tongue pierced for real. It’s a clip-on.
There’s no question that I know all the dirt. Ms. Beeson? Huge gambling problem. Mr. Gelb? Not really British. Christina Folkers? Thinks bare feet are “icky.” Blonde blackbelt Dylan Cooper? He’s actually 42. That tall kid Ivan? Likes my chew toys more than I do.
And, finally, there’s my “mom,” Ms. Pucciarelli. She’s perfect. Call me a liar about that one if you like, but I know which side my dog food’s buttered on.