There’s no greater feeling than having your parent say, “You don’t have to come shopping with us today.” To a teenage boy there’s nothing more humiliating than going to a department store to join the family in line behind Mom lingering in the lingerie department while the rest of the brood watch Dad fidget and cast furtive glances around to see if friends are gleefully watching the drama.
A man doesn’t linger in that department unless he’s prepared to be ridiculed by his friends at the next boy’s day out. So when Mom announced she had to go buy some things at the department store the children’s heads spun around to see Dad’s reaction.
For a brief moment a look of intense pain passed his visage, but he recovered quickly and unhappily nodded his head in agreement. Misery loves company, so he turned his gaze on the children. “We can’t leave them home by themselves” he added hopefully.
“Well the younger ones will have to come with us, but Ian is old enough to stay home by himself if he would like to. What would you like to do Ian?”
They say teenagers run on hormones that by pass the brain in their journey through the system, but let me tell you this is a myth. It was crystal clear what needed to be done under the circumstances, and in defense of teenagers I have to state life has given enough bumps for them up to that stage of their life to have learned the rudiments of diplomacy. If the response is not carefully crafted you end up on a line behind Mom and the fidgeting Dad. If the response is too eager to reject the generous offer of a trip to town with family you end up incurring every member’s simmering displeasure. So diplomacy is called for, and the response must be measured and unhurried.
First I paused to lift my eyes in thanks above for intervention on my behalf. Indeed I was being well protected and cared for.
Diplomacy was called for now. “Well, I really should stay home and clean up under the house. There are a lot of items still lying around after our move and its time we stored them properly.”
Mom beamed with pleasure and gave me an affectionate hug. “You’re a good boy Ian. That’s very thoughtful of you.” I self consciously adjusted my halo. It didn’t seem to fit properly.
Dad gave me an incredulous look and a cynical smirk appeared at the corner of his mouth. He opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it and turned to shepherd the rest out of the house pausing at the door to give me one last accusing look. I had not fooled my Dad, and that caused me to reflect my ruse may have been a genetic male response for him to recognize it so quickly.
As I stood at the head of the stairs hand raised in a wave to the departing car like the Captain on a ship’s bridge it suddenly occurred to me I’d not been so clever after all. When the family returned from their pleasant outing to the department store there’d be high expectations of a neat and tidy room under the house. I knew Dad would be at the head of the line in the inspection team. He was suffering without full family support, and he’d be out for blood.
So with a sigh I descended to the little chamber of horrors under the house and surveyed my punishment. The boxes were heavy and would require a lot of effort to get them placed and accessible as needed. I hauled out the tool box and began opening, classifying labeling and resealing. Then with all the strength I could muster forced those boxes into position. I was dirty and sore but moved quickly to get it finished knowing that an inspection was not too far into the future. It was beginning to look like progress had been made and I started to feel good about my work. I adjusted the halo with more confidence and moved back to survey my glorious achievement.
But in doing so my head came in contact with the power board protruding from the rafters and the impact blacked me out momentarily, I picked myself up off the floor in angry righteousness. Had I not done glorious things? Was this hard work not from the goodness of my heart? Had my motives not been pure from the beginning?
The fellow who perches on the left shoulder at times whispering insurrection and bad thoughts whispered to me. “Throw the tools out the window! You have a right to be angry!” I think you know the fellow I’m referring to?
So I took the suggestion of the voice and picked up those tools one by one hurling them out the window and into the shrubs and trees in our back yard.
Then reason returned. Who was not careful where they were walking? Who’d hoodwinked their Mom into thinking this was a contribution of a pure heart? Who’d left their Dad to suffer without the full support of his children? Who listened to the evil fellow suggesting it was a good idea to distribute those tools around the yard where they would be difficult to find. How would the loss of even one of these tools be explained to my Father who took such pride in the maintenance and preservation of these precious objects?
So I staggered out to the lawn and began a search for the missing tools, and that’s where I was when the family returned home and found me rummaging around in the bushes of the back yard. Dad headed straight for the store room and emerged looking surprised. Ian had actually done what he said he was going to do! Dad shot me a puzzled look, and then asked the obvious question, “What are you looking for?”
So the story came out. I told of the evil fellow who suggested I dispose of the tools after colliding with the power board. Dad was not pleased and I could see the work in tidying up the room instantly cancel out in his mind. Trouble was brewing! But Mom saved the day by giving a cry of alarm when she examined the lump on my head with beads of dried blood like chocolate sauce on an ice cream. Everyone inspected the wound and sympathies were expressed. The family spent the next hour rummaging around bushes retrieving tools while Dad took mental inventory of his treasures.
The general consensus was Ian had been a very good lad and hadn’t been well treated by fate for his efforts. The evil being on the left shoulder sputtered in laughter only I could detect.
What did I learn from that episode? Well for starters I learned that diplomacy actually works, but mostly I learned only an idiot will react when they’re angry. There is always a price to be paid for such indiscretion.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2012, all rights reserved”