I had a dream last night. Yeah, I know. Listening to someone else’s dream is really boring, so it’s okay if you want to stick your fingers in your ears and loudly sing La-La-LaLa-La-LaLa-La for the next few minutes.
The dream harked back to my academic days. A young protégé came to me with a dilemma. He had a chance to take a Very Important Trip, capital letters and all, but it would mean missing an important test in his golf class. I should have known then this was a dream as the phrase ‘important test in his golf class’ doesn’t come up often in real life. I helped my friend brainstorm solutions to his problem. He could take the test early, before he left. Or late. Or perform a special project in lieu of the exam. I even offered to help find responsible, respectable persons—like me—to proctor the test at alternate times if the instructor was not available.
The instructor, however, rejected all our suggestions, drunk on the kind of power that only golf instructors can know. Finally, I burst into the break room where my friend, the instructor and a Greek chorus of bored bystanders was lounging about. I straightened my back, grasped my coat lapel between thumb and forefinger, and then channeled my best Mr. Smith Goes to Washington inner persona.
“I have one last suggestion to offer,” I said in my high, reedy voice. “Just take the fucking F, man. Pack your bags and take the damned trip.” I swept my eyes around the crowded room. “It’s a freakin’ golf class, for God’s sake! Twenty years from now, you won’t remember a thing that happened there. But his trip–” I jabbed my finger for emphasis. “You’ll remember this trip for the rest of your life. Hell, it might even determine where you are twenty years from now.”
I took out an oversized handkerchief and mopped the sweat from my face. I sank weakly into my chair and issued my summation with the last of my strength. “Just take the freakin’ F.”
My dreams are not nearly this coherent. At my age, they are mainly running water metaphors, interlaced with images of falling from high bridges, of four-foot owls with a broken wing shuffling through the desert, and of very-disturbing-but-I-assure-you-perfectly-normal sexual images, all smothered under a heavy blanket of existential ennui. The usual stuff.
So, when I woke at 12:10 am this morning, soaked in sweat and the words ‘Just take the freakin’ F’ ringing in my ears, I knew this was Very Important Life Message, caps and all. This was clearly the answer to a critical question in my life. The fact that the question is currently unknown is irrelevant. Someday, somewhere, this will be just the retort I need. I’m prepared.
As children, we learn the right things to do by having our hands slapped every time we do the wrong thing. Eventually we learn to behave by internalizing those hand slaps to become a Model Citizen and all-round Good Boy.
There is, however, a higher law of maturity to which few of us attain. A truly mature person acts, not from threat of external coercion, but upon reflection. A truly mature person examines the situation, decides the correct course of action and acts accordingly, ignoring external threats and custom. Such people tend to be Royal Pains in the Ass, Upsetters of Apple Carts, as well as being Jimmy Stewart channelers. Basically, arrogant golf instructors. May we all achieve such enlightenment.
Okay, you can take your fingers out of your ears now. There’s a large, dusty bird waiting to see you. He looks pissed. Something about missing a golf test. Probably something important.