Around the bend: Haste can lay waste to risk-takers
“Why, instead of doing things the right way, do we do them in a way we know will end badly?”
When my friend Jenn called me the other day with this question, it wasn’t merely academic.
Jenn recently became a beekeeper. Over the course of just a few weeks she already had come to think of her thousands of honeybees as little buzzing friends. Watching their goings (sans pollen) and comings (fully pollen-loaded) was giving her hours of pleasure.
“Bees,” she told me last week, “are a calming influence.”
(Hint: In literary terms, this is known as “dramatic irony.”)
On the day of the phone call, Jenn had headed down to the hive to do a little housekeeping. In her short time with bees, she had learned some important tips: Bees can be dangerous when agitated, so a wise beekeeper should (a) wait for a time when the bees are mostly out of the hive, or are home but chilling in front of the TV; (b) dress in full protective gear; and (c) employ a smoker to settle the bees before opening the hive.
Yet for some reason Jenn said to herself, “Even though the bees are in the hive throwing a raging keg party, I will ignore everything I know to be important and pop in on them unannounced, without a smoker, and with my protective veil not securely attached, but sort of jauntily thrown over my head and shoulders. Maybe the bees won’t mind.”
To no one’s real surprise — least of all Jenn’s — they minded.
Why, she asked me over the phone, as she dabbed calamine lotion on her face, neck and forearms and made occasional ouchy noises, had she ignored her better judgment?
I’m flattered she thought I’d have the answer, but I had just been asking myself the same question, though without all that swelling. When the phone rang I had been outside picking up an assortment of foodstuffs scattered across the driveway, the result of my failed attempt to carry in three paper bags of groceries plus a gallon of milk in one trip.
It never works. But time after time I try, invariably ending up several feet from the porch, barely hanging onto two still-intact bags and one torn one while half a dozen cans of 9 Lives and a selection of easily bruised fruits and vegetables roll away in all directions. Why do I keep doing this?
I’ve always blamed it on haste. I take all kinds of shortcuts to save time. Maybe just this once, I say, I can run outside and grab the mail before I need to flip that grilled-cheese sandwich.
Ten minutes later, I’m relaxing on the porch with the newly arrived issue of Multi-taskers Digest, having forgotten all about lunch, when the smoke alarm goes off.
Other people say it’s laziness that gets them into trouble. They choose not to go through all the work of moving the living room furniture out of the way, for example, because they’re pretty sure they can get the new entertainment center in there without knocking over any lamps.
When pressed, every person I talked to admitted to knowingly doing something in an ill-advised manner, and soon after regretting it.
So are we all just too careless and in too much of a hurry to do things right?
No, a co-worker said. We’re risk-takers.
Total nonsense, but it immediately made me feel like less of a loser.
We do stupid things, she insisted, because daily life is depressingly predictable. When your idea of wild and crazy is drinking coffee after 3 p.m., you subconsciously create opportunities that generate an element of risk, however small. You don’t need to jump out of a plane to feel more alive; you can simply scrub the sink with pure bleach while wearing a new black cotton top.
Deep down you know you’re going to ruin your shirt — but then again, maybe this one time, you won’t.
Makes your heart beat a tiny bit faster, doesn’t it?
So for anyone who has ever attended a cookout in Salisbury without wearing bug spray; run the table saw and not used the little pushy stick; or left his or her sunroof open even once in 2011, take heart.
You’re not a fool. You’re a life-loving, thrill-seeking risk-taker.
And if you’re lucky, like Jenn, you’re not allergic to bees.