Clearing the Air

Last year, in a conference room in St. Petersburg, I gathered with colleagues—including two supervisors—and explained with deep conviction how I would rather pound nails into my ears than listen to Air Supply. Let me put it all in context: 

(1.) Air Supply is a top-selling soft-rock duo popular in the 1980s; they are known for love songs and more love songs. They’ve got good voices, but they were never my cup of tea. Too sappy. Too whiny. Too lovey-dovey and desperate.

(2.) I support your right to listen to Air Supply. I understand good people actually enjoy Air Supply. I photographed an Air Supply concert once in a local retirement community; the venue was packed with hormonal grown-ups. A staffer had to peel a female fan off singer Russell Hitchcock. I’m told this is common.

(3.) My staff meeting in St. Pete was about customer service and other business stuff, and I don’t remember how Air Supply surfaced. But we tumbled down a rabbit hole and I learned most of my colleagues, including—this is important—those supervisors, love Air Supply.

But still I talked. And talked.

Later, when an Air Supply-loving supervisor asked us to write productive ideas on sticky notes, I wrote about productive ways to avoid hearing Air Supply songs, including the nail-in-ear method.

(4.) Oddly, I am still employed.

(5.) The point: After my recent 54th birthday, I sat down to ponder practical lessons I have learned. On top of this list is never apologize for what you like. Sports, movies, music, books, cargo shorts—if you dig it, don’t justify it. The heart wants what the heart wants, so crank up the disco and strap on those Crocs. There is no such thing—within reasonable confines of the law—as a guilty pleasure.

That said, one important lesson I learned too late is to shut up about things you do not like, such as Air Supply. These days, time spent disputing personal preference is wasted time. 

Other practical lessons at age 54:

— Life is too short for bad beer.

— Always accept a free cup of coffee.

— Always have pets.

— Listen more, talk less.

— Check with your spouse before selling things at a yard sale.

— Keep your record albums.

— Take pictures and print them.

— Be in family photos.

— When an out-of-state loved one is terminally ill, don’t plan your travel budget on the funeral. That plane ticket is better used visiting the loved one before that funeral.

My favorite lesson came in 1998 from a photo- journalism professor: “Just be a nice person.” 

That is where I will end this column, although I need to apologize first. Air Supply, I am sorry for insulting your love songs. Honestly, I like them better than Starship’s We Built This City.

In fact, I would rather snort sandspurs than endure We Built This…Dammit. So much for being nice. I will apologize to Starship when I am 55.

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