Yep! I Was Really That Suave

About a thousand years ago, when I was in grade school, I had the distinct displeasure of wearing an enormous traction cast on my arm. The indignity of that awkward fashion accessory was compounded by the fun fact that I got to sleep in a sitting position. Holding a badly broken bone in position is, after all, the entire purpose of traction.

The horse-ride-gone-bad, that led up to the whole cast scenario, was a great story until I had to admit it was a Shetland pony. It's hard to be cool telling people you broke your arm when thrown off a Shetland pony.

For the record, that was one vicious little horse! I'm not sure if other people believe ponies can be possessed by evil spirits, but I am convinced that one was! There was a reason we only paid $35 for that beast.

But I have digressed. Back to the story of the cast and my suave eleven-year-old self.
There was an upside to having a huge cast. It had a lot of surface area for signatures. Whoever invented the tradition of having friends sign a cast was a genius. I never had to ask anyone to sign it, as they all volunteered. That was a good thing, because, other than family, it would have been blank. Painfully shy introverts tend to not run around asking favors of others.

As in most good stories, there was a love interest. And that's the part where my debonair charm came into play.

You may be asking yourself how debonair charm and painfully shy introvert can coexist in one person. I admit, that is somewhat of a paradox. But within my shy mind there existed a fanciful persona of myself that has never actually made it to the surface.

So upon that plaster prison that weighed heavily on my shoulder and psyche, I “signed” the name of my crush du jour. I don't remember who she was or even what her name was. But undoubtedly she was a vision of beauty with the elegance of a princess. I do remember I even put a little heart by the signature. Naturally, that was all done on the part of the cast that was held against my body and, consequently, out of view. I didn't want to get busted.

Looking back on the event, it was hysterical.

I only ever showed that brilliant forgery to my two closest friends. I wanted someone to recognize how suave and charming I was. I don't know if they fell for it. They may have just played along to patronize my idiotic fantasy life. Or, maybe they recognized that I would someday be a fiction writer, and were foresighted enough to support my early effort. I had never thought of that possibility before.

The bottom line is, if you think I'm an awkward misfit now, you should have seen me forty-odd years ago. 

We Can't Seem to Channel Normal

I don't normally cross over purposes here. But this weekend has been filled with a lot of interesting personal experiences. It has been exhausting, unnerving, and actually even uplifting.

My wife and I run a small non-profit that builds and sends work boats to missionaries in third world countries. Mission Navigation is a tiny operation, as I have a day job building yachts for the rich and famous. So, I am essentially a weekend missionary, of sorts. We have sent one boat to a mission in Haiti, and a second, for the same mission, is nearing completion. We have been doing this as volunteers for about five years and feel led to work at it full time.

Normally, when someone begins to raise support to enter the mission field, they circulate within the safe confines of their church affiliates. Somehow we can't seem to channel normal.

This weekend we have begun promoting our mission and introducing ourselves, with the intention of raising support, at a boat show. Sounds innocuous enough. Except there are strangers everywhere. For a hard-wired introvert like me, that is exhausting. But it has been fascinating as well.

We have met some very crusty individuals who can't fathom the concept that our faith motivates us to labor for insignificant and forgotten people. We have had complete strangers affirm us. And we have met some genuinely nice, down-to-earth folks.

We have not asked anyone for money. We believe that is a private decision between an individual and God. But we have had a few people who acted alarmed that we would try to pressure them into giving. Evidently there was another non-profit up the way from us that was calling out to people to donate as they walked by. Personally, I thought that was tacky and a bit presumptuous, but I suppose it is effective.

One of the coolest things is, we have encountered people who seemed to be inspired by our mission work. I would not go so far as to say that I am an important part of someone's life, but that is pretty cool.

In all, it is has been exhausting. But it has been a great way to take some vacation time.


Don't Worry Mom, I Didn't Talk to Any Strangers Today!

My kindergarten career lasted two years. It was a long, stressful time of my life. A time filled with kids who wanted to invade my personal space and even engage me in conversation.

I was too smart to be drawn into any of those traps. Planet Familiar was secure inside my head and Planet Alien was everywhere else. As frightening as it was, it turned out to be an effective training ground. By the end of my second year, I could anticipate the logarithmic movements of a playground mob and surreptitiously take evasive action. It was fairly simple to avoid contact except for the teachers.

The teachers were somewhat of a wild card in playground dynamics. While they had a generally predictable pattern amongst themselves, occasionally they would conspire to entrap me and engage me with crowd torture. Crowd torture usually involved abusive statements along the lines of: “You should go play with the other kids. It will be fun!”

I would have preferred to be locked in the broom closet. Those kids were strangers! The teachers were strangers! When those dangerous confrontations would arise, I would slink away into one of my pre-calculated escape routes. To me, watching the crowd of kids was entertaining, engaging with them was not an option.

I'm sure if I was a little kid today, I would have to be seen by some expert who would label me an extreme introvert, possibly Asperger's, and whatever the opposite of ADD is.

Fortunately I did not have to endure the examination of a behavior “expert.” I eventually came out of my shell, sort of. I can function in public like a human being. I can ask directions if I must. And I can offer a helping hand to unknown, to me, people when the situation arises. In a short five decades, I've come a long way.

Or maybe not.

Recently, while on a sortie in a store, I all but walked past our pastor's wife. I was certainly not trying to avoid her. She is a gracious lady who is always very affirming. I just did not see her until the last second, because I was inside my bubble, locked in on my mission.

Yes, I was tired. Yes, I had a long to-do list. Yes, I had all the right reasons. But the truth is, when in doubt, I had reverted to my familiar comfort zone. It would seem that after a half century, I really haven't progressed so much after all. It's kind of lame, but it's also amusing. I suppose if I can't laugh at myself, who can I laugh at. Maybe I should just get a pack of crayons and sit quietly in the corner with a coloring book.