Did I Do It Again?
Did I do it again? I have always had a weakness for accepting a dare without thinking about the consequences of my so doing. It’s not knee jerk, just pure jerk when I do that. This one now just happens to be the biggest dare of my life. People who I grew up with, and who know me well were not surprised at all when they first saw or heard what I was doing, even with the great magnitude of this particular dare.
So it is alright then that I just go on a long rant, and you record it so you can write it into an article for your paper? I have a lot to say, and it might help me understand better what I have been doing for the last few weeks.
I think that the first dare I ever accepted was from a couple of so-called friends of mine, Mike and Steve, when I was eight years old, and they were nine. We were exploring the local swamp, as we did many a day in the spring and summer of that year. I had just managed to capture, and hold in my hand a painted turtle, something they had been unable to do. It was May 14th, my birthday. They were going to come home with me once it was dinner time, and be guests at my rather small birthday party. They looked at each other with a look I now know was one of conspiracy. Then Mike said to me, “I dare you to kiss that turtle right on the shell. I’ll bet that you are too chicken to do it.” Steve then agreed, “Yeah, too chicken to kiss a turtle.”
Of course, without much of a thought in my head, I bent my head down and kissed that turtle right on the shell. It tasted pretty much like how the swamp smelled. Steve and Mike laughed, but I felt at the time, rather foolishly, that I had earned some respect from them. I know now that wasn’t about to happen then, or later, even much later.
They told my parents that evening about what I had done. My dad then ordered me not to do anything like that again. But there is a streak in me that will not accept someone telling me not to do something. That pushes me in the same direction as a dare. The next day, on my own, I went back to the swamp, and caught and kissed another painted turtle on its shell. Maybe it was the same one as before. It certainly tasted just the same.
From that year on, Mike and Steve and some of my other buddies often dared me to do some pretty damned foolish things. I can’t remember ever backing down, no matter how crazy the dare was. In high school it involved dropping three textbooks very loudly at two o’clock in French class, causing our easily-rather easily spooked, somewhat effeminate male French teacher to jump up into the air in fright. I received a week’s eight o’clock detentions for that little trick. Did I learn from that? No I did not. I was dared yet again, and I did it yet again. Another week of detentions, plus a letter to my parents. I met my future wife the third time. She is a bit of a daredevil troublemaker too. She is totally behind what I have been doing over the last few weeks.
But I wasn’t suspended for that third time unlucky. Did I forget to mention my suspension? I was dared to moon the principal’s office through the outside window. I was especially foolish that day and wore my football jacket with my number, printed large upon it. They well knew who I was, despite the mask.
So why am I here outside the factory with my four foot by four foot protest sign and wearing battery-powered lights of red and yellow that flash on and off? Well, it goes like this. You remember Mike and Steve from when I was eight and they were nine years old, and the dare to kiss a turtle’s shell? Well they went to university to study business, while I went to college to study welding. Let me show you something. I will just roll up my left sleeve. See the burn marks? They will never go away. In my first welding class, someone I went to high school with dared me to pass my left arm through a torch’s flame as quickly as I could, fast enough that I wouldn’t get burned. He claimed that he had done it himself. Of course, he had no proof of this, but he dared me.
I digress. Mike and Steve and I all got hired to work in the factory. They rose to management, while I became lead welder – with good pay based on my experience and expertise. That is, it was good pay, until management (that is Mike and Steve) decided that a lot of money could be saved by paying all the manual workers the same low amount, whether someone was experienced or a new hire. We are not a union shop here.
When we received our first low paycheques, I took the elevator up to the top floor where upper management hangs out, to question what had just happened. There I ran into Mike and Steve in their posh offices. They laughed in my face, calling me a loser. Then they dared me to do something about it. They figured that I would respond by doing something stupid. They felt that they knew me well, and would get to laugh at me one more time.
So that’s why the protest signs and the flashing lights. A month of protests until today. They fired me the first week, again with Mike and Steve daring me to do something about it. I continued my protest, and they had the security guys kick me off factory land. That is why I am standing on public property now, easily seen by the workers and management through the windows of the factory.
Fortunately, you guys in the media picked up the story. A couple of folks at head office in New York saw me on television, and found out about the protest and the unfair way in which local management treated the manual workers. Today, Friday, is my last day of protest. It is also the last day of work here for Mike and Steve. They’ve been fired, while I have been hired back, at my old rate of pay, starting Monday.
You know, now that I think about it, this time it is more than just my reacting to a dare. My response has served more of a purpose than just trying to prove myself by defying a dare. There is a genuine cause here, not just my usual bloody mindedness. I have been doing something constructive for my family (wife and kids) and my co-workers. I dare anyone to say different.