We like numbers. We really do – as people we are obsessed with numbers. We like to count our money, our minutes, our cars or our hockey cards and so on. Some people love to be able to say: “I’m number one!” For example in the Hip-Hop industry people die over ‘who is number one’.
I must admit in a fair and competitive manner the goal and quest to be number one (whatever that number one means) is not only good but necessary. Without our competitive trait as human beings we would be a lot worse. We would not have the Olympics or FIFA (unimaginable!). There is a lot more than that though to this point. On an intellectual level we would not strive to learn more or do research if we did not want to surpass the norms. To want to be able to do more requires the spirit of competition – to get further.
On the other had, to want to become number one (in whatever field) at any cost is wrong and even harmful and I have a perfect story for that:
“I woke up to the sound of my buddy’s voice and quickly crawled out of my tent. There was perfect silence all around; it was chilly and I could see my breath. Quickly I put on a jacket and lit a Dunhill.
‘What time is it,’ I asked.
‘Like ten after six,’ my buddy answered.
The silence was only broken by a few singing birds and the wind shuffling through the leaves. I grabbed my walking stick and my buddy and I began walking to the main office of the campground.
I was truly happy. I managed to wake up after sleeping ten hours in two days but it was necessary because the campground was almost full and in order to get a campsite we had to work on the first come first serve kind of service. The main office opened at eight in the morning but from previous experience I knew the line-up began even before six. Nonetheless, showing up anywhere between six and half past six was still a good time.
To my astonishment as we approached the office I saw a whole bunch of people sitting around the door. We approached the group and I counted about six or even seven people. A few guys and girls were huddled in their sleeping bags, leaning against the doors of the office. It turned out that they were there since midnight the night before. The second in line were a couple who had showed up there at half past three in the middle of the night.
‘Nuttiness, who cares about being first,’ I would have never spent an entire night sitting on concrete in front of the main office. My buddy and I were number six and I knew that being within the first eight was still good enough for getting a campsite.
We were all quite cheerful including those who had slept there for most of the night. We chatted about how Killarny is perhaps one of the best Provincial Parks in Ontario and one lady began telling us how different it all was in the late ‘70s. The sun was slowly rising from behind the forest and when the park’s superintendent came with a pot of coffee for everyone, it all seemed like heaven.
By eight when the office opened there were lots of people around. I knew that some would not get a camp site but what can you do . . . a Romanian proverb says something like: “Those who wake-up early get far in the day.”
In general though, everyone knows what number they were and when the door opens everyone forms a line inside the office in order to get a number. Yet, this was the first time when I saw a man in his mid-thirties elbow his way to the front desk to get the first number. I was stupefied. This dude showed-up at like half past seven and got ahead of people who slept against the door the whole night!!
That obviously was not going to happen. The lady who was third in line – there since like five or something began complaining telling the man to wait his turn. The man’s answer left me even more stunned than his rudeness of butting the line.
'It doesn’t matter who was outside first – it’s who gets to the desk first,' he said while he stormed outside with a little tag in his hand which read: ‘1’.
I could not believe it. Did he think that six or seven people who were there way before him were going to let him play by the rules of the jungle . . . like the strongest wins? If we did play by that game I would have knocked him out with my walking stick and stepped over him while getting my number. Yet, we no longer climb trees and beat our chests with our fists.
He wanted that number ‘1’ so badly that he was ready to ignore a whole bunch of people, disregard their effort of being there hours and hours before him and disrespect them by using force to get ahead. If this was a line-up for ‘Hallo 3’ with just kids in line I could understand but this was a grown-up man who seemed to have no morals or values and was ready to do anything to be first in line.
Of course, after he left the people in the office still waiting to get their numbers felt so insulted that they called the superintendent of the park and placed complaints. It turned out that he really was number eight I think and ultimately that day only seven camp sites opened-up – he did not get one.
I was so upset by his ignorance and I remember going on a trail by myself the following morning and thinking that if I see him I would break his legs and leave him there to crawl back the bastard. It is because of people like him that this world has problems, ignorant, selfish donkeys. He did not get his way that day though because people stood up together against him.”
So ya, that is my little true, short story. And I guess by now you get the point: if you chase that number one at any cost stepping on people’s heads, you create hostility against you and a lot of times you will not even get to that number one!
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