Jumpin' Jacks
Off the Wall, June 12

There is one thing I’ve liked about being a reporter. I am able to write stories as a result of collecting and compiling pertinent information about any subject. As a result, I have found that telling stories to others through my journalistic pursuits teach people something. Thus, my columns have become educative tools, as I like to call them, informing readers about things, behavior or events.

In my last 50-some years of doing this type of work for five different newspapers, I never really hit many snags until coming to this area. Then the volcano erupted and I found myself involved with what I have titled the ‘Jumpin’ Jack Syndrome.’ These individuals are people who raise their voices to me suddenly, stating ‘verbal piercings’ that catch me off guard, set me a back and/or leave me in total bewilderment. Now, to make this perfectly clear, I believe psychologists and psychiatrists have no such terminology. This is another one of those ‘PeeVeeisms.’ The only thing I can say is I write it as I see it. It is what it is, and so forth and so on…

Years ago, there was a favorite rock n’ roll song called ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash.’ I know its title and the music, but not the words. It is from this title, I decided to coin the JJS.

The first real ‘kicker’ that goes back a number of years concerns accompanying a group of students on a bus trip. I had gone with them several times in the past each time acquiring knowledge that intrigued me to the point that I wanted to write an article sharing information with the public. Isn’t that what reporters do? It’s always easy to write about activities when we become fully immersed in what is being taught. It was my conclusion that if I found the trip interesting, others would, too.

After spending a day on this outing, I went home and typed the story as it was fresh in my mind.
I felt I had accomplished my goal of accumulating specifics and then spelling them out word for word. It was a good feeling for a while, that is.

Days later, I received a phone call from an officer of the school who said, “If you print that story, you will be sued.” Instead of taking any chances, I deleted it. This Jumpin’ Jack had gotten to me, to say the least. I guess I could have published it, for there wasn’t anything written that degraded anyone or the organization noted. All was on the up and up. Yet, instead of causing further anguish and putting the newspaper in jeopardy, possibly, I decided to take the easy way out – remove it from my hard drive. So went all my endeavors.

Another time, I was visiting a retailer to make an inquiry about his product. I asked what I thought was a simple question. Since I was still unclear about the subject at hand, I decided I wanted to know more. With his tone of voice, he inferred, “No more!” Were my 40 years of being a reporter coming to plain view here, or just the fact that I wanted to learn the pros and cons concerning the subject at hand? I definitely felt intimidated by this ‘Jumpin’ Jack.’

And last, I received a telephone call from a man who wanted to tell me of an event he attended. I proceeded to ask a question. Right away he got onto his high horse, raising his voice stating, “You really need to get with it, you know!” A typical JJS response...

Taken aback, I calmly stated, “You need not raise your voice to me.” I told him I was unfamiliar with the subject and needed clarification. Even though I wasn’t doing a story here, I was interested in learning more about what he had to say. I never knew simply asking a question would lead to such uneasiness on the part of this informant.

After thinking about the various people I’ve interviewed over the many years, there are conclusions I have drawn. There is always something to learn and pass on. Of consequence, we should always strive to ‘know more.’ Second, when one exclaims, “No more,” calmly state, “Could you be so kind as to explain why?” without being pushy, and third, please abstain from being a ‘Jumpin’ Jack.’ That way we all can get along peacefully.

- Paul J. Volkmann
Contact me by email

To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-8850.