I’m a pretty gullible guy and that trusting nature often gets me into predicaments from which I cannot escape without some harm coming to me. I’m a scam artist’s dream and have my own wanted poster in the Con Man Union Building. That said, I’ll give you some examples of various people who have used their leadership style to take advantage of my naïve qualities.
Take Reverend Jim for instance. If you’ve kept up with my exploits in this column you’re aware that the Right Reverend was my boyhood companion and that youthful misfortune was our middle name. Reverend Jim’s leadership style could best be described as similar to that of a slick used car salesman. Truth of the matter was that the Rev. didn’t have to trick me. I was usually ripe for the picking. Any old adventure suited me. So when he informed me that he had an actual pilot’s license and access to a for real airplane I was ready to rock and roll. What he failed to mention was that he thought his aviation skills were similar to those of a fighter pilot and his daring quotient hovered somewhere between dauntless and audacious. The end result for me was an over-full barf bag, a field full of Daddy’s cows scattered to the four winds and constantly recurring aerial nightmares.
Then there’s Lieutenant Dan. He got his nickname because of a striking similarity with the officer in the movie Forest Gump. Kind of gruff around the edges. I call the lieutenant’s leadership style “aggravate the fire out of you till you comply with what he wants to do,” for lack of a more scientific name. For example the Lieutenant kept calling me one winter telling me that the big old stripers on Lake Hartwell were everywhere. Not being a cold weather fan I tried to tell him nicely that I didn’t want to go but his constant aggravation and my gullibility concerning the probability of countless stripers wore me down. On the morning I was to report to the boat ramp at Hartwell we had just begun the Second Ice Age. The summary of events on that particular trip was four fold. 1.) I busted my behind on the slippery boat dock; 2.) He forgot to bring his ice-breaking gear for the bow of the boat so we just slid around on top of the lake for a while; 3.) I got frostbite from zooming around the lake at 60 miles an hour in sub-zero temperatures; and 4.) The fish had, I assume, had gone south for the winter. The Lieutenant is now aggravating me about going fishing somewhere in Oregon where the fish are swarming.
Then there’s Coach Larry Campbell. He’s been the football coach at Lincoln County High School for the last 42 years and presides over the best small school high school football program in the country. He was my boss and mentor for eight years before I landed a head job of my own. Coach’s leadership style is what might be best referred to as the “Vince Dooley break out the crying towel” style. So one day after I’d taken my new job he called me and wanted to schedule a game. He said, “We’re way down this year and are going to have a hard time beating a junior varsity team.” Had my common sense been anywhere close by I would have easily smelled that rat. However my trusting, innocent nature kicked in and we decided to play each other. Coach C then proceeded to bring Garrison Hearst and a bunch of guys who looked like they’d just finished their first year in the NFL over to Madison and turned them loose on our little country bumpkins. Score one more for the old maestro.
Last but not least is Big Al. Big Al was a guy with whom I caught hundreds of fish and played thousands of basketball and softball games alongside. He was a trusted friend with a leadership style that used shame to get you to participate in something totally off the wall. Big Al came up with tickets to go watch the University of Georgia play in the Final Four. This was the early 1980s, and Big Al had not as yet mastered his geography lessons. I told him the game was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which he seemed to think was just around the corner. He started in on me immediately.
“Do you mean to sit there and tell me that UGA is in the Final Four, that we’ve got tickets and you ain’t going?” So, despite my suggestion that air transportation at least be considered we loaded up in an old car and drove 40 hours. To sum it up as succinctly as possible, Georgia lost, we sold our tickets to the finals, stayed one night in a motel that had running water but not hot water, ate at the worst cantina in Albuquerque and headed home. Showerless and full of bad cantina food the smell emanating from that vehicle was decidedly foul and the mood was worse.
So the moral of today’s story is this: Think before you act and don’t trust anyone. That includes men of the cloth, military officers, guys who wear a whistle around their neck or even old fishing partners. They will get you in trouble.
Alvin Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org