Readers' Submissions

Still Seeking The Cure

  • Written by Phet
  • May 3rd, 2013
  • 30 min read


Amazing Properties


One of the simple pleasures of my life (other than removing my tight boots at night) remains writing my inane ramblings to the Stickman site. I fancy myself as a diarist in the tradition of Samuel Pepys which is clearly pretentious and for which I apologise. My pleasure is enhanced by the subsequent correspondence my missives prompt. I am a humble man but I take great pride in the friends from the site who correspond with me. It is not just the quantity of replies I sometimes get but the QUALITY of the fellows on the Stick site who I exchange notes with. I will admit I am sometimes a little tardy in my replies but assure everyone I never take for granted the friendship expressed and feel quite privileged to receive such comradeship.

You may think I am a silly old fart to be so gushing in my praise for a bunch of pen pals but I have shown my sons some of the correspondence received and they are amazed at the articulacy and insight of my co-respondents. My youngest son often declares that even rich and powerful men could not boast the diverse group of friends and support structure the Stick site represents. It is a more genuine social network than Facebook or Twitter. I could list the first rate fellows concerned but would not wish to embarrass them.


xxx


I do sometimes feel a reticence to submit my ramblings as I consider I have nothing particularly interesting to say but as my old pal Union Hill has often remarked “having nothing interesting to say has never stopped you in the past” so I will continue to impart my thoughts and observations.

I will also concede that much of my output of late refers to the vagaries of living in the UK although they do invariably involve experiences with capricious Thai women living here. My concern is that one day the blessed Stick will decide that my missives do not have sufficient Thailand content to justify inclusion on the site and I will be excluded. I know I will have to either force strong liquor (or good coffee) upon said kiwi on my next visit to ensure my continued inclusion or agree to give testament at his next bible class ….whatever it takes to prevent my exile. <Don't be concerned about that, there'd be a massive backlash from the readers if the thought even crossed my mind. Besides, those who have submitted a lot are given more leeway than those who are new contributorsStick>


xxx


I received an email this week from China that lifted my spirits. Some of you may recall my Chinese adventure last year when I did a few weeks on a project at a Chinese foundry in Kunshan. This involved living in the factory dormitory with the Taiwanese owner and his family. It was a fascinating interlude in an alien culture that remains a total enigma to westerners. It also funded a brief Siamese sojourn on my way and a two week visit to the kingdom on my way home once the project was completed. I had a memorable time as always in the salacious sois of Suhkumvit and Sin City.

The first week in China I managed to break a filling in my teeth chewing on a piece of meat of indeterminate origin which gave me some discomfort. The Taiwanese owner of the company suggested I wait until the weekend when his daughter would find me a dentist. The daughter Julie was a delectable little item in her early 30s, educated in the west and an absolute treasure. Her English was impeccable, spoken with a soft mid Atlantic accent. She was also fluent in French and Japanese and was learning Spanish. She handled the international marketing for the company and thankfully had taken me under her wing. She had a pretty face but I must declare I have no idea what her figure looked like. Like her Father and mother, she never removed her overcoat, scarf and woolly hat even when eating meals at the dining table.

On the Sunday Julie took me to the Ji Ching Memorial Hospital in the city to ask about a suitable dental clinic. We were met by a young orthopaedic surgeon who turned out to be a helpful fellow. He recommended a dentist friend and gave me the address of the clinic. He then offered to give us a tour of the hospital. I suspect this was more to impress the delectable Julie than me which was perfectly understandable.

The hospital was Taiwanese owned. It was a very impressive facility; clearly well managed and spotlessly clean with the most modern medical equipment in pristine condition. It put anything I have seen in the UK or USA to shame. Our doctor friend was clearly (and quite rightly) proud of his hospital and would have kept us there all day. I was a little restless and felt a bit of matchmaking would provide a diversion. I teased Julie that this doctor chap was clearly interested in her and she should flutter her eyelashes at him. I later suggested the doctor should ask her out for dinner. They feigned great embarrassment but I could see I had piqued their interest.

We finally take our leave and collect Julie’s parents for a drive to the nearby historic city of Suzhou. Later that afternoon Julie takes me to the dental clinic recommended earlier. Again this clinic was spotlessly clean and well equipped with the most modern dental apparatus. I am a big baby around dentists so I was both impressed and relieved that the dentist drilled and refilled my tooth painlessly and with great efficiency in less than 15 minutes. Even more impressive was he only charged me the equivalent of £15.

This was twelve months ago, I had continued to correspond with Julie’s father and recently sent him some DVDs. They were of a series of lectures given by an eminent British professor he admired. I did so in an attempt to keep in favour for possible future projects.

He replied thanking me for my gift and he also took the opportunity to inform me that last week Julie had married the young doctor I introduced her to. It was nice to hear I had made some small lasting impression on China.


xxx


I have mentally been in a strange place for a couple of months and can not quite put my finger on it. I am enthused about my new adventure in technical education and am certainly invigorated when I am actually standing in front of a class teaching. However I am lethargic about my life outside of this. It is as if I am merely going through the motions. I am indifferent to the thought of dating a woman and have no interest in the dating sites I used to frequent with enthusiasm. I suspect I am getting so set in my ways subconsciously I feel a female would disrupt my equilibrium.

Mercifully I can report no recurrence of the dreaded “Black dog” of depression which so afflicted me a few years ago I attribute this to being kept busy by the new venture and as always the support of my friends in the Stickman community.

I received a note from my old pal BKKSW in which he enlightened me about the “six hour rule”. It is a fascinating theory that all women have a yearning to be sexually wanted and desired and are constantly seeking a man to satisfy that aspiration. But if you do not convince them (through statement, deed, or plead), within 6 hours of meeting them, they stop looking at you as a possible source for their fix. You then enter the friend zone from which you will never recover. Whatever looks or skills you have, you must make them work for you within those six hours or all is lost. Once you become a friend all hope of ever getting into their panties evaporates.

I must admit it certainly explains a lot of my recent experiences with women.

I recently dated a well-presented, cultured English lady in her mid fifties. Our first date was agreeable and we seemed relaxed in each other's company. On the second date however I could not discern any amorous interest from her and began to suspect she was just being polite. She is a sociable lady with lots of interesting friends and an active social life. I was getting perilously close to the 6-hour deadline since meeting her and could sense my slipping inexorably into the friendship zone. She is a member of many societies and clubs and already has many male friends who dote on her. I wondered what I could do to distinguish myself from the perceived competition. It would seem “being myself” was clearly not enough.

With half an hour to go before the deadline I considered slipping into a stage performance mode and deliver a routine of humorous stories interspersed with jokes. The sort of performance you give when you are centre stage with inebriated friends at a football or cricket club function. Then I stopped and thought did I want to be perceived as a performing monkey? And would I want to keep it up indefinitely?

I questioned if my desire to poke her was sufficient to go the extra mile and jump through all the necessary hoops required…. I am afraid the answer was no.

I did not phone her the next week, she did not phone me, the moment passed.


xxx


In my last missive I reported my concerns for the future of the Welded Wallet, my local watering hole. As a result I changed my drinking routines slightly for a couple of weeks. I had been exploring a few alternate hostelries in search of amusement.

I have ignored the nearest establishment, the Benefit Claimers Arms, although it is only the same distance from my flat as the exit of “Lollipop” in Nana Plaza is to the entrance of the Nana Hotel. I have frequented this pub intermittently for 30 years and still no one speaks to me when I go in. Most of the clientele have an additional finger on each hand and the normal reaction to seeing a stranger is “Heave a brick at him”.

A pub I have explored is the “Pisshead and Ponytail” a place frequented by the local biker community. On Saturdays they have a rock band play and there is so much leather on display I imagine the herd of cows that supplied them must have been quite impressive. Although this biker fraternity appear menacing at first sight they are all pleasant and amiable people (as long as no one crosses them). I enjoy the evenings they are in as they keep the riff raff out.

However on the following Friday night I popped my head in to hear my leather clad pals had gone to see a concert and to my despair see the establishment now populated by the local underclass. It is “Mongsville central” and the only women that are there look like the Two Ronnies in drag. All I can see is Neanderthal young men in shell suits and baseball caps. These specimens all sport misspelt tattoos and most have their knuckles scraping on the ground. The mindless aggressive tension is quite palpable so I quietly depart to explore alternate hostelries.

I avoid the “Footpad and Cutthroat” and find myself next door in the “Pig and Trumpet” a lively pub in the town square. They have a disco on and the place is jam packed with its usual clientele. I peruse the dysfunctional revellers the establishment attracts and observe it is an absolute paradise for an amateur anthropologist.

I am reliably informed the Eskimos have 17 different names to describe snow.

I am less reliably informed that Welsh farmers have 17 names for a sheep’s fanny.

On observing the examples of womanhood in view I am immediately struck by the total absence of any discernible waistlines and the inadequacy of my vocabulary to accurately describe them. The description “Fat arse” will clearly not suffice and I require a lexicon of around 17 words to adequately classify the range of corpulence I see before me.

The Thesaurus offers the following; stout, tubby, chubby, plump, chunky, podgy obese and corpulent. My knowledge of colloquial phrases suggest; stiff lass, big unit, large boned, heavy hips, butter buttocks, fat wench, rubinesque, lard ass and f**k me what a porker. These are the best I can manage at present and remain totally inadequate.


xxx


So it was back to the Welded Wallet. In my previous tale I mentioned the young Sikhs who were using the pub and I was concerned their swaggering attitude would eventually lead to conflict. However I am happy to report the issues have been resolved. One evening four of the lads bought their girlfriends with them. I took the opportunity to chat with them and found they were delightful young ladies, dark skinned and sultry. I explained what a nuisance their boyfriends were and suggested they should not be allowed out unless they were accompanied by them. The young ladies were amused and were in total agreement with my observations about their boyfriend’s behaviour without feminine influence. Since then these lads have only come in with their ladies in tow. This is great, the Sikh lads now behave themselves meticulously and their young Indian girlfriends provide an exotic distraction.

I am once again optimistic about my local; the new landlord claims he has procured the lease from the charlatan management company who were slowly killing the place. He has introduced simple Indian cuisine which has bought the daytime and early evening customers back in droves. He has resurrected the weekend entertainment which is attracting evening punters. Fridays see either a disco or live entertainment. Saturday evenings it is karaoke and I always manage to get a few numbers in. My rendition of “A Portrait of my love” still gets the matrons moist and I continue to receive complaints from the cleaners who have to mop the seats the next morning.

For many years this was always the best pub for miles around and has a great history. Before its closure some 30 years ago the National Foundry College was nearby. The college hosted students from all over the UK and the British Commonwealth who used the pub as the college refectory. There are ex students now working back in Malaysia, Singapore, India, Rhodesia, Kenya and South Africa who can claim the pub as their local. Back in the 70s members of the famous Albion team used the pub on a weekly basis. It was quite common to see greats like Bryan Robson, Len Cantello, Cyrille Regis or Laurie Cunningham standing at the bar. This was in the days when the top footballers actually lived in the community and not in gated enclaves.

The other Saturday there was a birthday party and the place was full of lovely young girls aged between 18 and 20. Compared to most young women these days who dress like Patpong tarts, this particular group were modestly dressed in long tight pencil skirts and high heels. They looked quite ravishing yet still demure. They were all extremely slim if not decidedly skinny. Most of them exhibited small but shapely breasts which accentuated their exceptionally slender waistlines. The overall effect was quite striking. However I could not fail to notice that each had a quite substantial arse. This did not detract from their allure. A generous well rounded buttock is part of the charm on a woman of more mature years (think Jennifer Lopez or Marilyn Munroe ) as long as she retains a discernible waistline it is quite appealing if not downright sexy. But I could not fail to consider it did not seem natural for adolescent girls to develop Junoesque proportions at such a tender age. Such delectable derrieres should not be acquired until they are at least in their late 20s.

I wonder if the cause of this phenomenon is genetics, evolution or diet.

Of course Thai women have neither ass or breasts…. their charm is quite different.


xxx


Many of these younger girls who frequent my local are friendly charming and quite amusing. They are still finding themselves and have not yet developed the strong sense of entitlement of their older sisters. In particular are two delightful twins who often chat to me and give me an insight into that parallel universe known as the young female brain. The daughters of an old friend they are only 17 and would definitely be defined as “Jailbait”. Last Saturday at the karaoke I had just given a rendition of an old Drifters number when the one twin remarked how much she loved to hear me sing. She then spoilt the effect by remarking “it is lovely to see you old people still getting about and enjoying yourself”. I could not fail to smile and asked her “how old do you actually think I am?” She hesitated for a moment and I could see her mentally knocking a few years off her initial estimate out of politeness, and then exclaimed “64”.

As I am only 57 this did little for my fragile ego. I immediately resolved to get the “just for men” into my hair again at the earliest opportunity. I had refrained from the use of said product for over a year and let my hair grow grey in order to develop the persona of a distinguished older gentleman for my adventure in China and my teaching activities.

Bugger being a distinguished elder gentleman; pass me the hair dye with all good speed.


xxx


I imagine many of you will find this enthusiasm for my local somewhat odd but everyone needs a social meeting place. If I were living in Bangkok I accept I would not be trolling the naughty bars every evening in the week, unless I had won the lottery I assume my being there would involve some gainful employment so I would no go out in the week. But at weekends I would certainly be enjoying the delights of Suhkumvit. Fridays could see me picking up a part timer from some establishment in the Nana area. Saturday evening would see me in Soi Cowboy or Nana Plaza perusing the pleasures of the pole. Sundays I would probably be in Soi 33 enjoying a relaxed evening in one of the hostess clubs. I may even be persuaded by Union Hill to accompany him to a karaoke as none of his other Bangkok pals will do so.

Unfortunately I am not living in Bangkok but in a rust belt town in the Balkan enclave known as the Black Country so a good local is fundamental to a social life and maintaining my sanity. I do acknowledge there is an alternate view that if I were to stay home every night I could possibly accrue the funds to make more frequent visits to Thailand. However I can not countenance living as a total hermit for 50 weeks of the year just for 2 weeks in Thailand. How sad is that?

I do concede some compromise is required. When I realised in my current reduced circumstances I could not afford a Thailand visit I did overcompensate in search of a social life here. I am fairly frugal and usually work closely to a tight budget. However at the end of January I found my current bank account was £1,200 in the red which I could not initially comprehend. Then I thought of my dates with Dee the Thai lady I reported on in my last epistle. Two months of that relationship plus succumbing to my ex wife’s request for her son's wedding contributed to the amount. Also the trip to London to meet Thip another Thai lady friend for lunch was not a cheap exercise.

I could therefore attribute £1000 of my overdraft to my spending on Thai women. I came to two conclusions. The first was I lose all sense of judgment in the presence of Thai women. The second was the horrifying and sobering realisation that I just can not afford a woman of any description.


xxx


Whilst on the subject, there is a final postscript to my story about Dee the Thai lady who led me a merry dance. Last week I paid a visit to my favourite Thai restaurant. I hadn’t been since Christmas when I was accompanied by the capricious Dee. I was unsure how my friend Anne the restaurant owner, would receive me since I had kicked Dee into touch. I have been good friends with Anne but she is Thai and Dee worked a few weeks as a waitress for her.

I did not need to worry; Anne explained she fully understood what had happened. She did not like Dee, she considered her rude and the other girls did not like working with her. Anne was irritated with the way Dee was leading me on, she had observed that Dee was expecting me to entertain her without reciprocating the slightest affection. She also felt Dee should not have entered into any relationship whilst she was in dispute with her husband, it was one sided and selfish.

Anne also told me Dee had recently bought another man into the restaurant for lunch. Naturally inquisitive I asked about him, assuming he was younger or better looking than me. Anne laughed and said “he was certainly not as nice as you, he was balding and what hair he had left was….ginger”. I am not sure I felt any better hearing this but Anne’s comments confirmed I had done the right thing in cutting Dee loose.

I also found out the identity of the two Thai women Dee referred to in her tale about them losing money at the local casino and making it up by finding customers for sex. The information will not be any use as I know them and their husbands. I certainly don’t fancy either lady or relish the problems they present.


xxx


My adventure into education remains precarious, as previously reported I am barely scratching a living but remain optimistic there will be great opportunities when the industry finally wakes up to the huge skills gap that exists. There are a few irons in the fire but I can not help feeling I am on the Normandy beaches on D Day waiting for an uncertain and perilous breakout from the beach head.

Since my last submission I have returned from another session of the project in Cumbria. With the exception of the odd day when I can persuade a foundry supply company to send a representative to make a presentation I am doing this on my own. It is hard work preparing lessons and keeping the apprentices entertained in a classroom for five day stretches but it is only one week a month and I am managing to get away with it. I can always find one of my interminable anecdotes to amuse them. Or deliver impromptu lessons on some of the more esoteric aspects of the foundry craft such as casting Church bells, or making bronze statues which are always well received. I still have a presentation of Thai girls in West Bromwich Albion shirts (small youth size) in reserve for emergencies.

At break times I go out side for a fag (oops I mean a cigarette) and my chosen spot overlooks a housing estate. Directly opposite there lives a Thai lady who sometimes watches me through her bedroom window. I have established from one of my students she has been married to the owner of a local taxi firm for about 5 years. I have observed her daily routine for some time now. Every morning at 10.30 she goes out in her Land Rover Discovery and returns at 12.15. Ten minutes later her husband returns home in one of his taxis. The lady is a graceful slim creature with shoulder length hair and in her late 30s. Her husband is a tubby balding bloke in his late 50s.

With nothing better to do whilst having a smoke in the cold wind I have fashioned a story about them. They met whilst he was on holiday in Pattaya and he brought her back as his wife. The narrative becomes more detailed and outlandish with every break I take. To date the storyline involves a secret Thai husband back in the Kingdom, furtive morning visits to a gambling den and complex money laundering operations. I have yet to have my fictional speculations confirmed but suspect the stories I mentally construct are far more interesting than the truth will turn out to be.

I will admit I have far too active an imagination and it is sometimes a burden to me.

I must also confess I used to have an irrational envy of all English guys I saw with a young Thai girl on their arm but lately my experience suggests most of these fellows are probably being led a life of misery by their Siamese spouses.


xxx


On the subject of an overactive imagination, I have been trying to write a novel. This is my third attempt as I am easily distracted. My previous efforts got to about 20,000 words before I realised my plots were dreary and the characters excruciatingly boring. I probably need to include car chases and references to AK47’s. With this latest attempt I made the mistake of reading John Burdett and Jake Needham and realised I could never match their craft so gave up the thought of a novel. I resolved to focus my efforts on short stories. I then made the mistake of reading Steven Leather's incredible short stories on Kindle and realised I would never achieve that standard as long as I had a hole in my anal orifice. I must resort to continuing to submit to Stick in order to satisfy my compulsion to write. So gentle reader I am afraid you will have to suffer my inconsequential ramblings for the foreseeable future.


xxx


In my last epistle I spoke of being cured of my obsession with Thai womanhood. I was being far too optimist and I should qualify this statement. I feel I am definitely cured of the urge to find a woman amongst the westernised Thai females living in UK. I do however acknowledge that I remain enamoured of Thai women in general. I have had generally good experiences with Thai women living in Thailand. It confirms the assertion that Thai women should not be removed from Thailand and is compared to removing a flower from a garden.

I remain hopeful that one day I will move to Thailand when resources permit. I am convinced that once in country I will meet an ordinary Thai lady of mature years who will dote on me and give me the affection we all yearn for. As long as I have the wherewithal to support and “take care” of said lady in the traditional manner I envisage a level of care and attention I would never receive in the west. I acknowledge this will be pursuant on accumulating the means and appreciate at present I am living from month to month, a situation Korski in a recent note to me recognised was my principle problem. However I am a resourceful fellow, occasionally melancholic but always resilient. If I could not believe my circumstances will one day improve all hope is gone.

I recently read an article about Japanese sea slugs that apparently can grow a new penis, so anything is possible.


xxx


I rent a second floor one bed roomed flat designed for old age pensioners. It is quite spacious and I have a nice bedroom with a comfortable double bed. It has a tasteful decor and two good solid stylish wardrobes. It struck me recently I had not used the second wardrobe since Nat my Thai wife left me in 2009. It still has some of her clothes hanging within. Some of her dresses are quite exquisite and were hand made by her sister who was clearly a skilled seamstress. They are in a very traditional and conservative Thai style. They conjure up visions of those scary sour faced Chinese Thai women with their hair piled up in that strange beehive style that we occasionally encounter in Thailand. These dresses are quite unique which is why I have not taken them to a charity shop or clothes bank. I will send them back to her one day when I get around to it.

Looking at these clothes gives a stark reminder that Thailand is a strange and exotic culture that remains totally alien to the western mind. For this reason I feel a fair degree of sympathy for Nat even though she did me wrong. It must have been difficult for her living in a strange cold miserable country but she was willing to give it a go. The catalyst to her actions was when I lost my job in October 2008. I can imagine her anxiety at the prospect of being destitute in an alien world. With the benefit of hindsight I can see when I lost a second position six months later it is understandable that she panicked and left me to take a job at a Thai restaurant in London. Fear and the urge for survival is a strong motivation for what the western mind perceives as irrational actions. But to an Asian mind they are perfectly logical.

When I lost my job it merely confirmed that I was not the solution she sought. Her Asian pragmatism saw the job in a Thai establishment in London as a vital source of income and the opportunity to be back amongst her own kind. I have no doubt she was happy in her time with me but I now see our aspirations were on parallel tracks that would never meet. I had ceased to provide what she needed; she had ceased to need what I was providing so I became unnecessary

For this reason I do not feel particularly embittered or resentful to her although at the time I was desolate. We divorced at Easter in 2011 which was completely amicable. We spent a few pleasant days together in Bangkok in 2012. I am reconciled that we have regained the relaxed friendship we had before we married. I strongly suspect I do not know the full story of her departure in 2009 and also suspect that chapter in my life has not yet completely closed.


xxx


I am clinging to the wreckage but in general all is well with my world. Although disheartened with the Thai women in the UK I am clearly a long way from being totally cured of my Jasmine fever.

I certainly do not see a white English woman being a cure for this ailment; I find the recent rise of the cult of the “cougar” quite disturbing. The idea that women in their 40s and 50s can attract men 10 to 20 years their junior is becoming widespread. This has been prompted by certain film stars and celebrities being seen with toy boys which is understandable but when overweight plain elderly women feel they are entitled to a younger man it is worrying. Even more alarming is the increasing number of examples of men in their 30s I actually see with women in their 50s. This phenomenon requires further study but I attribute it to the fact that women in their late 20s and 30s are so busy being liberated and career focused they have failed to notice they are losing the men in their target age group who are being snapped up by perceptive old trouts.


xxx


At the karaoke last week I opened the proceedings with “Knock three times” to get the evening going and followed it up with a couple of old Drifters numbers. Sitting near the stage was a group of ladies I had not seen before. As I later stood by the bar to my surprise I was approached by one of these ladies. I enjoyed your singing” she said “could I do a duet with you later?” I took a step back; she was quite striking with an exquisite slim figure. Not only did she have a discernible waistline (which is as rare as rocking horse droppings hereabouts) she was wearing a short tight skirt which accentuated a pair of very shapely legs. “My name is Louise” she offered and for some inexplicable reason added “I am 45 but I don’t look it “I must admit looking at her face although pleasing, her ravaged features confirmed all of her 45 years…. and then some. But I am no oil painting myself and the rest of the package more than compensated. It has been suggested my only criteria in women on Friday evenings is that they have a pulse. This is a vile calumny and you will be hearing from my solicitor on the morrow.

I bought her a drink and she told me she was single and all her previous boyfriends had been considerably younger than her. She continued “I don’t usually chat with older men but you seem interesting”. She sat with me for a while and I bought her a few more drinks until the DJ called us up on stage for our duet. We sang “Don’t go breaking my heart”. She could not sing worth a knob of goat shit but having her arms around me through our rendition was very pleasant. At the completion of our number she went to the toilet and I considered I may have been in luck that night. She never returned, in fact she disappeared. I spent the rest of the evening looking for a glass slipper.

Later one of my pals informed me that this Louise was a confirmed alcoholic with a long history of problems and had just been released from a clinic that very afternoon. I laughed and remarked “This was just my luck, if I fell in a bath full of tits I would come up sucking my thumb. My pal suggested I actually had a lucky escape


xxx


To men like me in our 50s we are now precluded from our own target age group. I know from my own experience on the dating sites it is only women in their 60s and 70s who show any interest.

There is a lot of pressure in our society on older white males to just accept our fate. It appears it is considered our lot in life to be miserable. I am not alone in this view. I see an ever increasing amount of men disillusioned with western womanhood and see Thailand as a feasible alternative. Are we sad, lonely bastards? Or men of spirit who refuse to know our place?

Although I do not see a Thailand trip in the foreseeable future there is always the lottery draw on Saturday….remember the Japanese sea slugs, there is always hope so watch this space.




Stickman's thoughts:

It's interesting to hear about the plight of an older guy in the West and I am sure that your anecdotes strike a chord with many.