Most mornings, I can be found in my fitness center sauna following a workout. Monday night was a rare exception. With a late business dinner on tap, I decided to hit the lap pool around 6pm to catch a second wind before heading downtown. Little did I know I was heading smack dab into the Sauna War.
I was enjoying my post workout sauna along with a fellow baby boomer when twenty something Mr. M (as in Millennial) sauntered in. Looking buff and sounding bombastic, Mr. M did what many (of all ages) do upon entering the sauna. He doused the hot stones with cold water to create the much coveted steam. A common violation of a clearly posted rule…one of many attempting to govern the Sauna Wars. Since it’s so common, I thought little of it. But my Boomer Buddy thought otherwise.
“Did you know that you’re not supposed to put water on the sauna? That’s why it’s been down for the last few days, due to maintenance required from putting water on it”.
“Yeah, I know”, says Mr. M quite dismissively.
“It’s right there on the wall. Rule #1” says Boomer Buddy pointing to the Sauna Wars Rules of Engagement Decree.
“I know. I’m going to do it anyway”, says Mr. M defiantly.
Boomer Buddy is not having it. The battle lines are quickly drawn. “So, what you’re saying is that the rules don’t apply to you”.
Mr. M is more than a bit agitated at this point. “Yeah whatever. I’m not gonna stop doing it. Saunas are supposed to make steam.”
Ever onward, Boomer Buddy seeks to set the record straight. “Actually, saunas are made to create dry heat. That’s why putting water on them makes them break down. But, I guess you don’t care about that.”
With this, Mr. M’s situational awareness training kicks in. Presuming the enemy has entered his sovereign hot air space, he reaches for the red phone. It’s time to exercise the nuclear option. “Go f@#! yourself”, he says, now verily foaming at the mouth. Having settled the matter in his clearly under developed frontal lobe, Mr. M then proceeds to violate Rule of Engagement #2, listening to Lukenbach Texas by Waylon Jennings on his phone…sans ear buds, of course.
I catch myself humming to the “feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys” line whilst head down fiddling with my iPhone, contemplating my move. Kudos to Boomer Buddy for calling out narcissistic Mr. M. Now, it was my turn to either pick a side or slink out of the sauna, leaving behind a portion of my manhood I couldn’t afford to lose. I knew I couldn’t just let it pass. But, not because I was out to win some sort of a manhood contest.
As our virtual trip to Texas was winding down, I struggled for something to say that might diffuse the situation. Risking a glance towards the very angry young man on my right, something I noticed gave me a starting point.
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?, I say more calmly than I’m feeling.
“What?” Mr. M responds derisively.
I proceed with caution. “I thought you were very rude and disrespectful to this gentleman a few minutes ago. I also noticed you’re wearing a cross around your neck. What does that cross mean to you?”
“I’m Catholic”, he states very matter of fact.
“And what does that mean to you?, I asked. Having already displayed his military training, Mr. M then demonstrated his sales prowess by answering my question with a question.
“What’s it mean to you?, he asked.
“I don’t know much about being a Catholic, but I do know that the cross you’re wearing means a great deal to me”, I replied.
At that point, feeling reinforced, Boomer Buddy couldn’t resist pushing the battle lines even further. Apparently not a country music fan, He points out Mr. M’s musical malfeasance. Yet another example of M’s complete disregard for rules and the rights of others. At this point Mr. M is seething.
“Why are you so angry?”, I ask. Before he has a chance to answer, another unsuspecting gladiator enters the sauna arena. With that, I decide to beat a hasty retreat and live to fight another day. I shake Boomer Buddy’s hand and tell the unsuspecting gladiator, “You can have my seat. Be careful though…it’s a hot one”.
Having pondered this bizarre encounter for twenty-four hours now, I’m convinced there’s a message here for every thinking American. Even more so for those of us attempting to run businesses dependent upon the generation of our children…the millennials. My faith ultimately left me no choice but to assume my rightful position in the Sauna War. However, I believe that any clear and fair minded American adult in a similar situation with a scintilla of a proper upbringing, would have and should have done something to confront that young man. Not to show him who’s boss. Not to shame him. Not to stroke your own ego at his expense. But hopefully, to shine some light upon the tragically dark direction his life is currently headed. A direction that will not merely, but most certainly, destroy him, but could ultimately destroy our nation as well.
Think I’m reading too much into a chance sauna encounter? I can appreciate that. To check myself, I reread Dan Turner’s recent letter to Judge Aaron Persky in which he pled leniency for his son, Brock, the convicted Stanford University rapist. You can read the letter for yourself here or you can read between the lines of this quote from it — “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” Many, if not most, parents (me likely among them) would write a similar letter in hopes of keeping their child out of prison.
I don’t blame Mr. Turner for what he wrote. It is quite telling, however, as to some of the problems our country is facing having failed to parent with the strength of our convictions. Or worse, having failed to form convictions sufficient to guide us in the daunting task of parenting. Many of our nation’s beleaguered parents have become professional excuse makers for their kids. Again, me among them at times. But, we still expect those sitting upon the judgement seats to bring us back to our senses and help us do the same for our wayward children. Instead, in the Brock Turner case, Judge Persky effectively gave a convicted rapist a hall pass and re-assaulted the victim of his heinous crime.
Yet, even this horror story has its heroes. Listen to what the victim has to say about them –“Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. Sadly, unlike novels and movies, many real-life stories have no hero. Many end tragically for lack of someone willing to stand up for the strength of their convictions. Understandably so, as that entails standing against the cultural tide polluted with participation trophies and rotting boards of morals and values no longer nailed down.
So, what’s a parent to do? What’s a teacher to do? An employer…employee? What is every clear thinking and fair minded American to do to stem the cultural tide that finds its end in toxic cesspools of moral relativism? What are YOU to do? Know what you stand for, then firmly stand for it. That’s what heroes do. So, be a hero today and a grateful nation may one day thank you.
P.S. – To the outraged millennials reading this post, your misguided parents, teachers and now employers were actually spot on with their fundamental assumption that whatever “it” is, it’s not your fault. It’s their fault. Pardon me…our fault. We’re the ones who first lost our way. We’re the ones who chose to redact the smallest, yet most powerful, word from our parenting manuals, lessons plans and employee handbooks. It’s the word we should have used early and often with you, yet now on those rare occasion when you do hear it, you’ve lost the ability to understand it. The word, of course, is “no”.