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Chris Piombo: There are times when quitting seems okay

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Posted: Friday, February 3, 2017 11:23 pm

It was just after halftime of the Steelers-Patriots AFC championship game last week when I made an emotional decision. My Steelers were once again going to fall short of the Super Bowl.

The Patriots were pounding them, looking like a bunch of teen-age boys playing against their 9-year-old siblings in the street. I believe I actually saw their quarterback Tom Brady tell one of his receivers in the huddle, “Go down to that blue Chevy and I’ll hit you by the Pattersons’ garbage can.”

It was smooth and easy for them. I gave up on the Steelers and quietly shut the television off.

My meaningless gesture got me to thinking; at what point do people give up on things?

Let’s start with pants. You see someone at the movies wearing beat-up baggy gray sweats similar to the ones you wore in Mr. Coykendall’s junior high gym class in the 1970s (“That’s not a sit-up Piombo! That’s a convulsion!”) Has that person given up or are they rewarding themselves for a hard day at work? How many days a week do they wear those sweats, the ones with the oil stain on the right cheek that bears a weird resemblance to Ronald Reagan? Does the frequency of wear increase at the same rate as the days after retirement increase? I wonder. We all have a predetermined number in our heads when we walk into a grocery store or a restaurant. If that figure is met or exceeded by the number of people in line we immediately give up, bang a U-turn and blow back out the door.

When do you give up on a hairstyle? If your barber refers to your look as the “Smokey and the Bandit” it’s time to give up, shave the mutton chops and mustache and move into the 21st century. The same statute applies to the “Carol Brady” shag.

Speaking of Hollywood, your favorite actor has hit the skids. Back in the ’80s he was virile and tan, smiling on the cover of everything from People to Cosmo to Mad Magazine. Now he’s lucky if he’s one of the first “stars” gobbled up by Megashark. His movies go straight to Netflix, stored in the “long shot cult classic” section. When do you stop making excuses for him (“He’s doing smaller, more meaningful films now”) and give up on him and his new “hair”?

A call to just about any company or government agency outside of Lodi tests your resolve to not quit. You navigate through a phone extension menu that’s so long you nervously jot down notes on your hand or a greasy Jack in the Box bag so you don’t miss a vital hint and have to start all over again. You consult your crib sheet and eventually choose the appropriate number. You get the recording that tells you they are really super interested in your business but all of their customer service representatives are busy or have been abducted en masse by extraterrestrials but stay on the line for the first rep to be returned post-exam and they’ll be happy to help you. You wait and wait, pondering how they found a Muzak version of The Rolling Stones hit “Sympathy for the Devil.” (Latvia perhaps?) Fifteen minutes tick by and still no service rep. How long do you wait until you quit and punch the button with “I’ll show them even though they have no idea who I am” anger?

We don’t like to quit things but sometimes, especially when it comes to worn-out sweats or mutton chops, it simply makes the world a better place.

Chris Piombo is a local family man, coach and marathon runner.

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