For a very brief time in my life, I was actually a cub scout. Now, the idea of joining was not mine, nor was I overly impressed with being a member. I was very young and really had no idea what was going on or why I was there. Thinking back, I am assuming that my single mom probably put me into the program to give herself a night off.
At any rate, my fellow cubs and I met in a large room in the basement of a church two blocks away from our house. There were probably around 8 or 10 young boys like me, all as confused and nervous as myself, as well as the scout leader. He was tall and wore a similar uniform, but it was covered in badges and his hat looked like something a Royal Canadian Mountie would wear.
I don’t remember the night I joined, but I recall having to wear a uniform. The cub scout uniform consisted of a green shirt, matching shorts, a green hat, and some sort of scarf-type tie. I can remember having to wear specific socks and shiny shoes, either of which I didn’t have back then. I was also given a kind of field guide book on how to conduct myself out in public while in the uniform of the boy scouts.
During one of those meeting nights, the head scout had us line up side by side for an inspection. I remember feeling very nervous and worried that he would find something wrong with what I was wearing, or what I was doing. Sure enough, he asked me to present my handkerchief that I was supposed to have in my left pocket at all times. I started to shake, worried he would start yelling at me. I was reprimanded for not having this item with me, and I started to cry, feeling very vulnerable and intimidated that he had approached me in the first place.
When I got home, I told my brother Tom about what happened at scouts, and begged him to tell my Mom so she could get me out of that whole atmosphere. Whatever Tom said must have worked, as soon after, I was no longer a cub scout.
Oddly enough, one Saturday morning shortly after this experience, and for whatever reason, I donned the uniform and strolled down to the Safeway grocery store, located around the corner from the church hall. When I was just outside the store’s front door, this kind elderly woman walked up to me and bent over so I could hear what she was saying. She told me that I looked great in my uniform, and that I should be proud to be a cub scout. She said that joining the boy scouts is a noble thing to do, since they always are helping people in our society. She patted me in the back and the top of my cap, reached into her purse, and handed me a pocket full of change. I stood there for a moment, totally confused, but I did remember to say thank you. I looked at my windfall, then ventured inside the store and bought a bottle of Coca Cola and a giant chocolate bar. Leaving the store, I disappeared into the alley behind the store and wolfed down the sugary treat like I hadn’t eaten in a month. Later that day, I had stomach cramps like you wouldn’t believe.
Poetic justice perhaps?