Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Shyness
My daughter Jackie was extremely shy as a child and teenager. I empathized with her, having gone through the same thing when I was young. We both have grown out of it, to say the least.
Jackie was an excellent student, breezing through her classes, all the time trying to stay under the radar, not wanting to be noticed or called on to respond in class. At the same time she was eager to have a job, and even though it was scary at first, she took jobs at Dairy Queen, delivered pizza,and waitressed at the Town and Country while on summer breaks from college. She discovered that if she pictured herself in her mind as a waitress, she could act the part until she eventually knew what she was doing, then she was comfortable. As an interior designer for a large company in Idaho, she had to make presentations to large businesses and governmental agencies. I was concerned about how she would handle being up in front of a group like that. I called her after her first big presentation in San Francisco to check on her. “I did fine,Dad. I just pretended I was a super salesperson, and before I was done, I was!” Jackie became so outgoing over the years as a professional, a wife and a mother, that you have to be careful what you ask her because she won’t hesitate to tell you what she thinks. She is so passionate about her favorite game, basketball, that her family won’t always sit with her at a game because they are afraid she will get thrown out for coaching and refereeing from the stands. She may not be shy, but is a very humble, compassionate lady, and I love her so much.
My school years, from grade school through high school, were much like Jackie’s, except my shyness was most evident around girls. My salvation was working in my folk’s store after school, on weekends and during summers. I discovered early on that making a sundae with extra chocolate syrup was a great way to make friends with girls and a conversation starter. When Jack Bohning , Herb Auch and Art Ingle came in for coffee every morning, they began including me in their conversations, teasing me about my non-existent girl friends, or giving me pointers on how to win the next basketball game. Some customers were hard to get along with, some were always in a hurry, some would talk all day. I found myself becoming comfortable with all of that, something that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been working in the store. Mom contributed to my battle with shyness by signing me up for voice lessons, which led to singing in front of graduation crowds, at Christmas programs and at church. There is nothing more lonely than singing a solo with your legs shaking so bad you feel like you will collapse. I never did, and eventually it became fun and exciting.
I worked at Osco Drug, Super City, and Herbergers while in college, and having my work experience at Dad’s little store was always the deciding factor in getting the job. Much of my student teaching interaction with the students came from my dealing with people at my jobs. I, like Jackie, had found that pretending to be good at speaking, teaching, or singing was the first step to actually being good at it. The work I do, the performing I do, all stem from the time spent in the little store in Harrold. And I still remember that a great way to make a girl smile is with extra chocolate on her ice cream.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood, for the Feb. 20, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News