Thursday, September 22, 2005

On Being Pin-Headed

As I was growing up in Sarasota, I was both a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout. The first Boy Scout troop I belonged to was in the south part of town, meeting at a church quite far away from my home, but my then-best friend belonged to it, so I joined it as well. They "didn't believe" in tent camping, so our camping trips out in the nether regions of Sarasota County were spent in lean-tos, open to the elements and, needless to say, to what some say should be Florida's State Bird, the mosquito. Some of the most miserable nights I've ever spent under the stars were with clouds of skeeters buzzing around my head while I tried to keep a very inadequate netting from letting the little buggers drain me of blood. It's surprising that more of us didn't develop encephalitis.

My friend eventually left the troop and I stayed in, though it wasn't the same. I became an Assistant Patrol leader in my little group and, because the Patrol Leader couldn't attend a camping trip one weekend, I became the Acting Patrol Leader, with all the privileges thereunto appertaining (to lapse into lawyer-speak). I pretty soon figured out that the position wasn't exactly all it was cracked up to be (adolescent boys, even in the Scouts, not being amenable to taking orders, even those that made sense). It got worse in the night, when I was laying down in my lean-to and overheard some of my erstwhile charges talking about the "pin-headed patrol leader".

A few months later I was called during a troop meeting into a little conference with one of the adult leaders; he asked me a few questions about what I thought about the troop and my experiences (which naturally I sugar-coated a bit), then proceeded to tell me that he thought it would be better for all concerned if I left the troop. So, here I was, all-around nice guy, being asked to leave a Boy Scout troop! It was a pretty shocking experience for me and it really hurt my feelings. I eventually joined another troop, one much closer to home, with boys that I saw in school everyday. My time in that troop had its moments as well, but at least I remember the names of a lot of those guys and attended a reunion a few years ago with the remaining leaders and some of the now-grown up boys and their families.

Ever since then, I've hated the idea of people talking about me behind my back. It isn't that I'm paranoid (although I'm really getting tired of those aliens sending me messages through my fillings), but it seems to happen on a pretty regular basis. When I was clerking at a State agency during my last year of law school, I found out that my supervisor was saying some pretty ugly things about me behind my back. When I went to him to see what the trouble was, all was sweetness and light. No wonder all of us referred to him (behind HIS back, naturally) with a pun for a lunchmeat based on his name.

When I worked at a small, two-theater mall cinema in high school and during my first summer back from college, I noticed that some of the old-timers there (remember, this was Sarasota, second only to St. Pete in Florida as a retirement town) got downright odd around me at times. I finally overheard one old doorman talking to the much-younger manager one day about me, with the manager making it sound like it was SO hard to get help that he HAD to keep me on, despite some unnamed shortcomings. I never really figured that one out; I was a bargain at $1.10 per hour, popping the best popcorn in Sarasota in pure coconut oil and the finest artificial flavorings and I could change a roadway sign in the middle of a thunderstorm with the best of them.

My church days were always full of fun and excitement, particularly when one of the "older" brothers told you what was wrong with you. At least they were being honest, in a biblical sort of way, about it. I did find out one time that one of the respected couples of the church saw me go into a liquor store and apparently felt compelled to share that with everyone but me (not that there was anything unbiblical about the liquor store itself, but rather the "impression" I would have given to others, saved or not, about me).

Even now I sometimes wonder what's being said about me when I'm not around. Perhaps that begs the question of what it is that I'm doing (or not doing) that leads others to talk about me. Maybe I worry about it too much, that talking about others behind their backs is a time-honored tradition, a way of blowing off steam or expressing frustration that doesn't necessarily mean that they truly think ill of you. Sure, and that's probably what Abraham Lincoln was thinking at Ford's Theater that fateful night in 1865 when John Wilkes Booth so rudely interrupted his enjoyment of "Our American Cousin".

Maybe being a pin-head has its advantages. I suppose those folks who think that I'm a pin-head, who talk behind my back, think that I never notice or don't care. Maybe they feel superior to me in their criticism, running me down so that they'll feel better about themselves. Maybe they think I'll never do anything about it.

All I have to say is this: I know where you live and you've GOT to go to sleep sometime.

I'm stocking up on Ben-Gay, Super-Glue and indelible dye packs.

Sleep well!

No comments: