Whittle: Working under pressure



Doctor friends diagnose there's "good" and "bad" pressure.

I've worked with folks who do their best work "under pressure."

Former newspaperman Dan Goodwin, with deep Cannon County roots, is the most talented "word smith" I've known personally. He was a pro at making deadline pressure.

But, I can't imagine the pressure of his present-day job as a nationally-recognized murder cold case detective.
First newspaper editor Bob York said this about newspaper deadlines: "You ain't a professional if you can't make deadline."

Great Grandson Jon Beckett Nelson thrives on pressure … pressure to be all he can be since he was severely injured at age 6 months by a baby setter who let his head get caught between an adult head-board and mattress, resulting in lack of oxygen to the infant's brain.

The initial prognosis was not good.

But doctors didn't take into account Beckett's fighting spirit to not only live or the thousands of pressurized prayers that went up globally for Beckett.

Now, with the miraculous help of Special Kids, he's walking and talking at age 3. His young parents, Patrick and Amanda Nelson, handle the pressure of helping Beckett amazingly well.

Pressure helped launch America's industrial revolution in the 1800s. Think about it. Steam-propelled trains opened up America from coast to coast. And steam ships opened up northern states and cities for commerce on the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Too much pressure can be tragic when not handled efficiently, as evidenced in BPs catastrophic explosion down in the Gulf earlier this century. Their scientists and oil field workers didn't handle "pressure" in the over-pressurized oil refinery pipelines that killed 15 workers and contaminated much of the Gulf Coast with oil slicks.

I have some religious friends who claim there's no praying in schools. When honored to be asked to speak in area schools, the children confirm to me, as long as there are "tests" in the classrooms, there'll be "pressurized prayers" from pupils. Amen!

Pressure is what a single parent feels when working multiple jobs to provide food, medicine and clothing for their child. That's raw never-ending, gut-jerking pressure.

I felt good fun, high-tension pressure recently. But my deodorant still had a chemical breakdown while up on stage at a Reading to Succeed Celebrity Spelling Bee with 400 of Murfreesboro's brightest in the audience.

I felt uncomfortable pressure a few years ago when asked to eulogize friends' C.L. Vickers and Steve Fitzhugh, of Cannon and Rutherford counties respectively.

Speaking at funerals where a loved one is involved is a unique form of prayerful pressure, while its one of the highest honors a grieving family can bestow upon you. I still miss my buddies.

I felt embarrassed personal pressure last decade when having to ask for help when I stumbled as a pall bearer, while toting former Smyrna Mayor Knox Ridley to his final resting place in beautiful Maple View Cemetery. I can hear Ridley now, instructing "never give the ball to Whittle."

Some athletes, such as Cannon County High's Abbey Sissom, thrive on pressure while making game-winning basketball buckets with thousands of wild-cheering spectators ringing the rafters.

Can you imagine the pressure felt by athlete Jackie Robinson, who received death threats as the first black man to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947?

As a young reporter, I felt great pressure when preparing to interview the late Paul Harvey, a nationally-recognized radio star news broadcaster.

I felt some pressure at the nation's White House during a luncheon when doing a story on the life of the late U.S. Sen. Albert Gore Sr.

I didn't feel pressure about being invited to the White House, but I did when I knocked a stupid green bean off my plate in front of those famous law makers and their gussied-up wives.

I can only imagine the pressure police officers, fire fighters, physicians and preachers feel when confirming deaths to families.
The closest I came to that kind of pressure came while holding and attempting to console a 3-year-old child at an accident scene, as the child repeatedly asked: "I want my mama!"

The mother was a smoldering corpse as all the state troopers and available firefighters were attempting to extinguish the inferno vehicle engulfed in flames on Interstate 55 between Memphis and Sikeston, Mo.

That accident changed my course in newspapering, from doing "hard news" to doing personal feature stories and columns.

Oops, gotta run now, in order to make "deadline" for this pressurized column!