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Rant and Rave

In Our Humble Opinion

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The IMM Syndrome

by Tom Magliozzi

We Italians like to think of ourselves as tough studs. It's a sham.

The truth is that some people are tough and some just aren't. If you have some vague notion that you're tough, let me give you a "working definition" of tough. My wife is tough. I aren't. She gets it from her father, Pete.

A little background:

My father-in-law, Pete, lives in a big old house in Maine. I discovered to my dismay that the place has no heat. No heat! He and Florence (the infamous mother-in-law) have a wood-burning stove in the kitchen and a couple of fireplaces scattered around other rooms. But on the second floor-there's no heat.

The second floor-the floor where the bedrooms are. The place where you take off your clothes to go to bed. There's no heat on that floor. The second floor-the floor where the bathroom is; i.e., where you take off ALL your clothes to take a shower. There's no heat on that floor. (I found all this out one weekend when we decided to visit. We don't do that anymore.)

For a southern European like myself, this is inhumane treatment. When I complained about the lack of heat, I was accused of being a wimp. My masculinity was called into question. I overheard words whispered to Joanne like "What were you thinking?"

So, whence does the wood come to feed the various wood-burning stoves and fireplaces? This is Maine. The woods are all around the house, and when Pete wasn't working, he was out in the woods felling trees and cutting them into bite-size pieces.

One cold winter Saturday, Pete is out in the woods felling trees. There is no one else at home. Pete happily fires up his trusty chain saw. ("You don't have a chain saw?" he says to me incredulously one day. No, I don't have a damn chain saw! I only recently got an electric drill! I stopped shaving because I was afraid of the razor blades.) Anyway, he starts to fell his woodstove fodder. Unfortunately, speaking of felling, he drops the chain saw, which-still running-fells [sic] on his leg-almost cutting it off at the knee.

Ouch.

Think about what you'd do in this situation. I mean, after you started to cry. And after you fainted. And after you bled to death. After all that. Think what you'd have done.

What does Pete do? He calmly removes his belt and makes a tourniquet for the affected leg. He then hobbles about a mile back to the house.

Dial 911? Call an ambulance? Call a neighbor for help? No, he's going to drive to the hospital. HE'S GOING TO DRIVE TO THE HOSPITAL!!!

But he can't drive to the hospital dressed like he is. He's filthy. After all, he's been felling trees all morning. He may run into someone he knows. Not in these clothes, he says. So, he removes the tourniquet and hops into the shower, changes his clothes, and drives to the hospital-20 minutes away-where the emergency room doctor sews him up with 40 or 50 stitches.

Does he call in sick the next day? Take a guess.

That's what I call tough.

Coming from this kind of background, you can imagine Joanne's attitude toward other people's pain and suffering. My poor kids never get to take a sick day from school. ("Malaria? It'll go away. Get dressed, the bus is coming.")

Joanne simply cannot abide wimp behavior.

Nor do I get to take a day off from work. ("You're not going to work because you fell off the ladder onto your head? That was yesterday! Get OVER it! Get dressed, the bus is coming.")

But I have a low tolerance for pain and suffering. When I hurt, I hurt. When I'm in pain, I'm in pain. She laughs when I tell her my hair hurts. "How can your hair hurt? Hair has no nerves!" I'm telling you, when I get sick, my hair hurts.

She's been trying to toughen me up for 20 years. It's not working.

Now she has a theory.

She's even come up with a name for it-Italian Male Malaise Syndrome, or IMM for short. She claims that Italian males-despite the Italian stallion persona they attempt to project-are a bunch of wimps.

So, if you're Italian and you have the misguided notion that you're tough, fuggedaboudit.

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