The Boy Scouts have a motto. Perhaps you’re familiar with it: Be prepared.
Yeah. How nice. I was never a Boy Scout.
I was a Cub Scout for a while. I’m pretty sure we didn’t have a motto. We were a bunch of nine-year-olds who weren’t allowed to tie our own neckerchief knots yet. If the Cub Scouts have a motto, it’s nothing as noble or vigilant as “Be prepared”. It’s probably “Put on clean underpants once in a while”, or “Stop eating all the damned cookies; those are for the whole troop!”
For a brief time, I was also something called a ‘Webelo’, which stands for We‘ll Be Loyal scouts.
Evidently, all that other stuff Boy Scouts are supposed to be — friendly, cheerful, thrifty, brave, (I forget the rest), punctual, conciliatory, jovial, tall, (I’m just making shit up now), hypoallergenic, circumsized, Peruvian, combustible, all the rest — is okay to pick up later on. But loyal, they teach you right up front. That’s the most important trait a good Scout can have, and the Webelos exist to hammer it home like a tent peg into soft campground peat.
“If the Cub Scouts have a motto, it’s nothing as noble or vigilant as “Be prepared”. It’s probably “Put on clean underpants once in a while”, or “Stop eating all the damned cookies; those are for the whole troop!””
I lasted maybe two weeks. So clearly the indoctrination didn’t take. Basically, I found out there were no badges or awards given for rocking the high score on Gauntlet at the arcade or cramming more Funyuns in your mouth than anyone else, and I took a hike. But not a real hike. And not with Webelos. (“Wizard gets bored… EASILY!“)
(You old-school Gauntlet jockeys will get that reference. The good old 8-bit days, eh? How I miss ’em.)
Anyway, I never made it to Scout initiation, where they drag you out of bed in the middle of the night and drop you naked in the middle of the woods with just a compass and a soggy packet of Zesta crackers to get you home.
(Maybe that’s not the Boy Scouts, come to think of it. Could be the Navy Seals. Or the Salvation Army. Sierra Club, maybe?
I’m always getting my armed forces mixed up.)
Still, since my fledgling Scout days, I’ve done what I can to ‘Be prepared’. I just never had the proper training to be prepared in all possible ways — whether the situation calls for repelling a hungry bear (with soggy Zestas, presumably); starting a fire using only dried moss, sharpened flints and thinner-soaked rags from dozens of failed ‘Artistic Badge’ projects; or sewing little bits of fabric onto a long green sash and then putting that sash on in public as though you really wear that sort of dubious thing every day and it’s all the kids in jeans and T-shirts standing around you laughing and pointing who are really the weird ones, and here, have some cookies. It’s okay. We can always make another batch for the rest of the troop, champ.
So while I can physically prepare myself for a tough situation — by playing dead in staff meetings, say, or drinking heavily before the in-laws come over — and I can sometimes manage to mentally ‘be prepared’ — I’ve trained myself to shout “I NEED AN ADULT!” when I feel threatened, and I’ve almost managed to memorize that 9-1-… something number that people are always chittering about — there are definitely gaps in my being preparedness repertoire.
Take tonight, for instance. It’s Monday. I had a long day at work, got pooped out entirely, and was ready to shuffle home and slip into my footie pajamas, grab a pint of rocky road and snuggle under a blanket on the couch dozing off to Friends reruns.
Or, you know, the version of that which preserves some tiny shred of my masculinity.
(Would it help if the ice cream was butter pecan? How about if the pajamas have a Superman emblem? One of the episodes has Ross’ hot ex-wife who turned out to be a lesbian. Do I get points for that? Something? Hello?)
At any rate, I was looking forward to a nice quiet night off. But no. Late in the workday, I was reminded that I’d promised to go hang out tonight with a few of the guys. Drink a few beers, watch the basketball game, have some yuks. Only I had no yuks left in me. I was all yukked out.
In other words, I was socially unprepared to deal with the evening. Not like a Boy Scout. I bet those kids can booze it up and yuk it off and party like Woodsy the E-dropping Owl at the drop of a hat. Not me, sadly. I’m old, and I never had the training. I’m afraid I’ve had the ‘prepared’ beaten out of me.
So I joined up with the crowd, but never really got into the festivities. And as soon as I could extricate myself, I excused my yukless carcass and wandered home. I just couldn’t prep myself for an unexpected bit of socialness. I don’t know what badge that would have been — ‘The Butterfly’, maybe, or ‘Chatty Cathy’ — but it would have been a big damned help for me tonight. I spent an hour or two on the outside looking in, then beat a path straight home to my door.
And my couch, where I now sit. Footie pajamas, check. Ice cream scoop, at the ready. It’s a little later than I’d hoped, and I’m drained even more now — but I’ve got the TV remote in hand. If I can find ‘Smelly Cat’ or the one with Ross’ white teeth, then I’ll sit here all night basking — finally — in a little R & R.
And that’s something I’m quite ‘prepared’ to do.