Monday, August 02, 2010

The Boy Who Couldn't Be Helped

     So, I was at the annual conclave meeting of the Super Mega Awesome Fantastic Team of Justice, Inc. the other day and I had a run in.  What that really means is that I was out having a boys weekend with David Nathaniel and The Pharaoh and I had a run-in.  A run-in with an 11-ish-year-old kid.  And he got me thinking about what the fuck is wrong with me?
     So the kid and two of his friends are carrying three kayaks, which would not normally be a difficult thing to do except that they were pretty little and kayaks can sometimes be heavy.  So they had this setup kicking that the 11-year-old was in the middle trying to carry the back of one and the front of two kayaks at the same time. Friend one was at the front carrying one and friend two was at the back carrying one, if you can follow that logic.  Anyway they were laboring because in truth that is a difficult setup, and David Nathaniel and I noticed this as they worked their way down a small hill and across the campground to the beach.  Well, I should say that he noticed and told me.  So he looked at me and said "Should we?"  I responded that we should so we got up, hitched up our pants, and sauntered over.  One of us, I can't remember which, shouted "Would you guys like some help?  We will help you carry them down to the beach."  To which the little 11-year-old snotball replied "No."
     Bold strategy Cotton, let's see how that works out for them.  We sort of asked if he was sure and he repeatedly declined, so we did the grown up thing and beat the fuck out of him.  No, that's a lie.  I made that part up.  We just said okay and walked away and continued to watch them struggle.  We heard his little partners in crime asking him if he was nutso and sort of giving him the business, but he seemed to be set in his decision.  Which is okay.  And he must have had some sort of hushed, convincing argument for friends one and two because when they all decided to carry their own boats the rest of the way, and I offered them some advice they didn't want anything to do with it.
     Now maybe it was because I haven't shaved in like six days, or maybe it was because I was wearing no pants (again, just kidding), or maybe even it was that they were well trained and didn't want to talk to strangers, but I think it had to do more with something that we like to call pride.  Pride and gratitude.
     Because when I was sitting there watching the aftermath of this little meeting and I was attempting to think about how stupid they were to decline our generous offer, after I stopped being a little angry over being rebuffed, I couldn't really peg them as being stupid because I would have done the exact same thing had the shoe been on the other foot.  Or had the proverbial paddle been in the other hand if we want to continue with the kayaking theme.  There is just something about having to ask for help from a stranger, who is obviously seeing you fail miserably, that most people just don't want to do.  Ask any boy who might need directions but won't ask for them (you have to be old enough to have driven before GPS to understand that one).  I would have continued to struggle on in that situation, just as the kid did, even if a couple of harmless looking goons were offering.  And I would have done it out of pride.
     Partially.  I also would have done it because where I come from, and the way in which I was raised, I would have felt as if I had owed them something.  Little Jeffy and I have always had a saying between us that goes as follows: "It all comes out in the wash."  And it does, when you are good friends and you see one another all the damn time.  But not when receiving help from an anonymous stranger.  What am I going to do to repay my debt to them once they have helped me if I don't know them and never see them again.  Or worse, what if I DO end up seeing them again and then I feel like an ass.  I can't pay it forward because 1.) that just doesn't work for me and 2.) everyone I know feels the same way and wouldn't accept the help.  So I am damned if I am helped and damned if I am not.
     So I guess that in the end I sympathize with the kid, and I am not ever that irked that he rebuffed me anymore.  I understand his thinking.  Or at least I think I understand it.  Or at least I have rationalized the hell out of it.  So no harm, no foul.  He made it to the water so all is well.  He just looked like he could have used a little help.

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