A few years ago my friend Rich asked me if I’d be interested in talking with an older guy in his late 70s who was experimenting with hydrogen generators for retrofitting onto his vehicle. I wasn’t looking into hydrogen generating, but I’m a curious sort of fellow. I didn’t require any persuading. I just told Rich to give Bryce my phone number. About a week later he called me.
Turned out Bryce had spent his career as chief mechanic for the Ford and General Motors Speed Teams, or Racing Teams, some such thing. He was part of the group that put together the hydrogen powered vehicle that established a record for the highest speed ever recorded for an internal combustion engine driven automobile.
Using what he learned from all that, Bryce had created a series of hydrogen generators for his own vehicle, trying to maximize efficiency and deal with other shortcomings with the system. He did it all from salvaged materials. Heck of an interesting guy the first few times we talked. I wish I’d taken notes and drawn sketches of what he told me.
At first during our acquaintance Bryce and I had conversations. Two people brainstorming things he was doing, and I was doing. But gradually the hydrogen generating conversational possibilities ran down. Bryce was calling me every day or so, telling me all manner of things I didn’t want to hear, such as what the waitress in the cafe where he took coffee and meals said to him, what he said back, what she said back. Or what other customers said to him and what he said back. Or his brother.
Bryce would call, ask how I was, not wait for an answer, and talk non-stop for an hour, two hours. I could put the phone down, go feed the chickens or make a cup of coffee and come back to the phone without him noticing. Sometimes I’d tie a bandanna around my head attaching the phone to my ear and read a book waiting for him to wind down.
This went on for months. I didn’t know what to do about it, except straight-on explaining to him that this wasn’t conversation and wasn’t a source of joy to me. I mentioned it to Rich, and it turned out Bryce was doing the same thing to him.
Finally, as gently as I could manage, I interrupted one of his monologues and explained the problem, as I viewed it. I told him I liked him, that I’d enjoy conversations with him, but that I didn’t want to hear the same stories over and over about people at the restaurant, his brother, etc. That if we were going to continue having communications there’d need to be exchanges and some level of concern as to the amount of interest the other person had in hearing it.
Despite my attempt to soften the words, Bryce got his feelers hurt badly by this. He never called again, which I preferred to the alternative of things continuing as they were.
Sometime a few months later Rich finally got his fill of it and tried the same tactic on Bryce, with the same result. He was more reluctant to do it than I’d been, because he felt sorrier for Bryce than I was willing to allow myself to indulge.
Bryce came up in conversation between us a couple of days ago. Turns out it’s been almost exactly a year since Rich has heard from him, and a few months more than that for me. We wondered aloud how he was doing.
But neither of us is willing to bite the bullet and call him to find out, on pain of maybe starting the whole mess again.
I began this post figuring on saying some things about hydrogen generators but drifted off into Bryce and his problems. Maybe some other time, the hydrogen generators.