Headmaster’s Thoughts – November 2005

When I was young, my only definition of crazy behavior was that of people who walked down the street talking to themselves. If they did that, quite simply, I thought them crazy.

Modern technology has turned this definition on its ear, since half the people in New York seem to be talking to cords on their necks. Cell phone technology makes us into walking self-talkers.

Actually, I really dislike cell phones. You can’t have an open house without a cell phone interrupting. When Rudy Giuliani addressed our graduating class (of which his daughter was a member), a cell phone went off. He handled that with such patience and grace that the incident made me instantly hope that one day he would be our president.

I almost never carry a cell phone—although I know Jayme would prefer me to—because they invariably go off at the wrong time. And if I carried one in a “turned off” mode, I would never remember to turn it on until after I arrived back at school, by which time I would have been given all of my messages.

For the obvious reason of a nuisance interruption, we don’t allow students to carry turned on cell phones to class. If they must be reached, they can always be reached through the school front desk.

Anyway, back to my need to re-define my concept of “crazy behavior.”

Recently I got into a taxi in New York. The driver was an ancient Sikh. I thought he was at least eighty, with a wispy white beard and little white hairs creeping down under his turban.

He smiled at me in his mirror as we left the curb.

“You would like to hear my music?” he asked.

I am not a fan of Indian music, and what did he mean by “my music,” I thought. Had he recorded or written it? I wanted to ride in peace.

“It is not necessary,” I replied.

“You will like my music!” he firmly stated, and turned on his tape deck. The undulating tones and wailing melody of Indian music flooded the cab.

“You would like me to sing?” he asked.

“It is not necessary,” I said quickly.

“You will like my singing!”

He sang in a small high-pitched voice, the language totally new and strange to my ears. He sounded surprisingly emotional, and I thought I saw a tear in his eye. “You would like me to translate?”

“It is not nec….”

“You will like!” he interrupted, and proceeded to half sing the translation. It was a song about a young man with three girlfriends. All of them wanted to see the young man all of the time, and none of them knew of the other’s existence. It was, at least from the way he sang it, a very tragic song.

He sang. I listened. I began to like it.

We arrived at my destination.

“Go around the block again,” I told him. “I want to hear the end of the song.” Now that’s my definition of really crazy behavior.

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org