I totally, absolutely believe that kids should never talk to strangers, but when you're completely lost in the wilderness, seemingly abandoned by your boy scout troop, having not eaten anything or drank anything for four freaking days, I think exceptions should be made. Call me crazy.
Have you heard about this? Brennan Hawking, a boy scout, got lost while hiking with his troupe. Got lost for four days. Didn't eat anything. Didn't drink anything. And they found him, alive and well.
Great story. Marvellous story. Almost makes me want to become a Mormon, given that that's the kid's religion. (And he hails from the impossibly idyllic sounding town of Bountiful, Utah.)
Maybe I've got a weird sense of humor, and maybe I tend to find humor where it's not supposed to be found, but some of the comments from his parents just struck me as, well, funny.
One thing they said was that Brennan was born premature, so he's therefore a bit socially immature.
Wait a second. Maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't 'being born premature' mean that you're born at, like, six or seven or eight months, instead of the normal nine? And, if that's the case, given that the kid is now eleven, hasn't he had enough time to get over it? I those first three or four months of life are tough, but get over it. And wait another second -- why should being him being born premature mean that he's socially awkward? I mean, shit -- he had a head start on the world, if anything. The kid had two, three more months than the rest of us to scope out the land, check out the chicks, get that whole 'pissing' and 'shitting' thing down to a science.
(Oh, wait. I just realized: maybe being born premature means that you also look a little young, forever, and, come to think of it, he did look a little small for an eleven year old. So I've just gone and mocked a kid who probably has image problems already. Damn, I can be a cruel and heartless bastard sometime. But it was an accident, I swear!)
The parents also told the kid to never talk to strangers, and to always stay on the trail. When a horse or an SUV came by looking for the kid, he didn't flag them down or beg for a Slurpee or hop on the horse like the Lone Ranger looking for action. Instead, he hid from the homies looking to save his ass, and then resumed rambling down the trail where they were off in the distance.
Wow. I mean, you would think the 'never talk to strangers' rule could be bypassed on this special occasion. But maybe the kid's brain shortcircuited -- 'stay on the trail' would have meant 'talking to strangers', and he wasn't supposed to do that, so he had to choose one rule to violate, I guess.
Also noted by his proud pappy was the fact that perhaps the kid didn't go screaming for help because the strangers wouldn't have had the 'secret password' that the family shared. But you would think, being lost in the desert (or mountains, or wherever), thirsty as hell, hot as hell, the kid would have been tempted to toss aside those rules for the present.
But he didn't. Those rules were so ingrained in his brain that he couldn't do it, even when his life was in danger.
I find that fact interesting, and it dovetails with a comment made by Thomas 'tommy-boy' Friedman in a recent column in The New York Times. He noted that, as children, we're taught not to talk to strangers, but that, as adults, it's absolutely essential that we do so. You have to talk to strangers to understand the world and your own place in it.
Perhaps the source of all of society's ills comes down to that simple maxim shoved into our heads by our well-meaning elders: Don't talk to strangers. That's the first thing we learn. We internalize it, fetishize it, and make it our own unconscious mantra. The result being that, as adults, we're locked into our own little universes, convinced we're right, desperate to be right, and not interested in what other, stranger people have to say.
Well, I'm here to say: Talk to strangers. Repeatedly. Every day. You'll learn something.
Especially if you're lost in the desert. (You might even get some water, too.)