January 2012 Bee Newspapers column

A dear friend of mine who was home sick with the flu a few years ago claimed she virtually became a recluse in her apartment. She was so sick she avoided all social contacts. She claimed she hadn’t spoken to anyone in a couple of days and was beginning to wonder what her voice sounded like.  As a person who loves to talk, that almost struck me as eerie. How could anybody be quiet for a couple of days? But the truth is many people are without someone to share a few words with. 

I don’t know where I inherited this gift of gab, but as a child I remember my aunts calling me a little gaduła. Gaduła is Polish for talker. Maybe it was that I was the baby of the family and all my parents and relatives just tired of telling kids to be quiet. I do remember my father saying that children should be seen and not heard. But I think that only pertained when guests were coming over for a visit. My father used to say to my sister and me: when the guests arrive, come downstairs and greet them and then go back upstairs and play quietly. This by no means was a punishment because we were allowed to take with us some pretzels and potato chips and a couple of those little bottles of Coca Cola. Back then, there were no TV’s and computers in bedrooms so my sister and I played Rummy or Dominoes until it was time to go to bed.

At the age of 12, I took on my first job as a newspaper delivery boy. I delivered the Courier Express which meant that I was up and about at 5:30 in the morning. It’s no wonder that I still like to get up at 6am to walk the dogs. I had good early training. But it was on Saturday afternoons where I got my best training to learn how become an effective talker. On Saturdays, I had to go to my customers and collect so that I could pay weekly bill on Tuesday. I was a pretty good delivery boy and seldom received any complaints. Although one woman said to me, „you know Mazur, you’re one of the best paper boys we ever had, but do you have to whistle at 5:30 in the morning? You must wake up every dog in the neighborhood.” I still like to whistle, but I usually don’t start until much later in the day.

Anyway, Saturdays for me were like a full time job. I would go from house to house to collect and for many customers, I would sit down and chat. It was on Saturdays that I learned that even though we all lived in the same neighborhood many of us had different stories to tell. This was the Bailey & Delavan area of our city. It was a lot different than the Polish-American East Side of Buffalo where I spent the first eight years of my life. It was through my paper route that I learned that not everyone I encountered was Polish and Catholic. But that people would want to talk to a kid and share some of their stories had the greatest impact on my early life. And for this I am grateful. For me, talk was never cheap, it made me have to go back out on Monday's to collect enough money to meet the bill.