My beginnings weren’t glorious. I lived almost all of my formative years in a trailer house. I knew it was different from the other kids at school but I knew it was what we could do at the time. My parents worked multiple jobs to feed and clothe our family of six and my gratitude was lackluster. Watching my Dad work a long day, come home, eat supper, and then head back out to the shop to bang out some side work with a welder or a spray gun stuck with me. It just wandered around as a memory and sometimes made an appearance in the form of “oh yeah, that’s an option.” Like most hard headed teenagers, it took a while to seed.
I spent many of adolescent years wanting what my peers had. They had bigger houses, nicer cars, nicer clothes, plenty of money for lunch, and access to pretty much anything they wanted. I had a couple of part time jobs and a bad attitude about it all. I wasn’t very happy when I was alone, thinking about the opportunities I could have if only I was someone else.
Growing up I got upset every time someone shared what they did over summer vacation. You remember the obligatory sharing exercise in every English class? It made for a bad start to every year for me. One year in school I even made up a vacation that we took to the beach. I had never been to the beach and in fact, didn’t see the beach until five years later. I wrote this long, elaborate story about going to Port A. I had heard kids talk about it as a great place to go. I didn’t even know at the time that Port A was Port Aransas. I wanted so bad to belong and have a different life.
In my parent’s defense, they had always told me I could do anything I put my mind to; I just hadn’t found a way to lift the anchor of doubt that buried me in my surroundings. In the same year in school I got straight A’s and had the cops come get me at school because I was running an illegal gambling ring.
At 12 years old I figured if I couldn’t get the money the rich kids had, I’d take it playing Craps at lunch. It worked for two months before some sore loser ratted me out. It wasn’t my proudest moment but it was a valuable lesson about money, the right and wrong way to get it, and consequences when you break the law. Luckily the police went easy on me. At the advice of my mom (who worked at the school administration office) my Dad didn’t find out until I graduated high school. My greed had embarrassed my family, almost gotten me arrested, and gave the kids at school one more reason why I was different.
So why bother to tell this story on an Outdoor website? Because it applies believe it or not.
All outdoors folks are at different places in life. Some have money, some don’t. Some have kids to feed and a spouse, some don’t. Every situation is uniquely different. Student loans, medical debt, double mortgages, braces for the kids, shoes for mom and fishing lures for dad. We all have bills in varying amounts. Let’s get to the point.
When I see someone ask for a kayak recommendation under $700, I try to honor that request. I don’t take the Marie Antoinette approach and tell them to buy a $3,000 kayak. I don’t do this because it was done to me growing up so many times. When I needed money for a school tshirt and didn’t get one, I got asked why my parents couldn’t just give me money. The kids didn’t understand and the truth was, I often didn’t ask. Taking $20 for a tshirt meant $20 of milk, bread, and other groceries we wouldn’t be eating. It was a double edged sword. I felt left out and obliged to a budget at the same time. I swallowed it for years. So about the Marie Antoinette thing:
From history.com: At some point around 1789, when being told that her French subjects had no bread, Marie-Antoinette (bride of France’s King Louis XVI) supposedly sniffed, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”—“Let them eat cake.” With that callous remark, the queen became a hated symbol of the decadent monarchy and fueled the revolution that would cause her to (literally) lose her head several years later. [We can debate whether or not she actually said that later.]
When we as a community don’t honor the request for help by giving an answer that will fit the asked for requirements of the seeker, we further create class warfare. It makes the seeker feel that only big money (or more money than they have) is allowed in the sport. That just isn’t the case. Many of us came from cheap, floating plastic and DIY’d a milk crate to get off the bank. 15 years ago the ego didn’t have a place like social media to grow and fester. It’s here now though. That’s why we have to be diligent in honoring the budget, the question, and the advice sought by these newcomers.
We need to restore the community feel. We need to welcome. We need them to know you DO NOT have to buy a certain kind of kayak to be in the family. Sure there are more expensive kayaks with more bells and whistles but to get into the club, a PFD and a good attitude should be enough.
Help me this month to give good, reason based advice for those that ask. They are out there. We need to welcome them and not tell them to eat cake. Or buy a Hobie. Unless it’s in their budget.