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Always Know What Game You’re Playing

February 11, 2010

Around 1985 I stopped in the city of New Orleans as I drove across country.  The French Quarter has always been an interesting  place to spend a few days.  It offers many wonderful distractions and provides great fun and excitement.  Like any town that has a vibrant tourist industry, the Quarter has street vendors; they add local color to say the least.  You really have to watch your step with the various vendors that earn a living off  naïve visitors, visitors like me.  A lesson I learned on that trip that still serves me well today.

I was in the Navy back then and very much a man of the world.  After all, I had been all over and dealt with all sorts of people.  I walked around with a self-assured confidence that I could handle anything the city could throw at me, bravado if you will.  One evening, as I walked down Bourbon Street, a teen-aged young man asked me if I wanted a shoeshine.  I did not agree to the shine but the young man seemed interested in my boots asked if I would put my foot on his box and let him look – to that, I agreed.

Smiling at me, the young man said, “I know where you got those boots at!”  Of course, there was no way he knew, I purchased them at a shop in Naples, Italy the year before.  I told him he must be mistaken, he could not possibly know.  Then it came, the hook.  He said, “I bet your $20.00 against a free shine that I know.”  I made the bet.  Of course, by now there was a small crowd standing around watching this interaction between us.  Taking his time, he studied my footwear, looking over every detail.  Suddenly, he stood up, board straight and said with a big smile, “you got those shoes on your feet and you at Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.”  Perhaps the bravado I spoke of earlier was simply arrogance.  Having learned my lesson, having provided the onlookers with a hearty laugh, I gave him the $20.00.

There are many axioms that come to mind when I think about that evening.  In the end, I was playing a man at his own game and did not even know it.  What’s worse, we played in his backyard.  Game, set, match to my young friend.  Somehow, he knew out of that whole crowd, I was the one that simply would not walk away.  My own arrogance was the weakness he sensed.  I thought we were playing one game – he knew we were playing another!

This sort of interaction happens everyday on many different levels.  We hardly ever understand the true motives behind people we come in contact with.  Whether that contact is at a personal level or in the form of a speech we hear.  With that in mind, think about the recent Tea Party excitement, do we really understand the motives behind the controlling elements?  The words they say are easy enough to understand, their true meaning is another matter.  These are the same people that rallied behind conservatives over the last twenty years and now, after they made the mess, cast their own actions aside and accept no culpability at all.

The current course is not the best one to be on, at least it avoids the rocks the conservatives headed our country toward.  Now, they simply repackaged the same old rhetoric, added a few new twists, threw in patriotism for good measure, and want another chance.  Just because I don’t like what is going on now does not mean I want the silly idiots that created the mess back.  This time, let’s not get their shoeshine, more importantly; let’s not place a foot on the shoebox at all and walk on past.  What’s at stake is a lot more than $20.00; it’s the nation as a whole.  Let’s make sure we know what game they’re truly playing.

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