Passive aggressive, anti-social, and easily-irritated. I'm a chip off the old block.
My Fishing Trip
At 38 years old, it’s finally happened. I experienced a rite of passage that just about every man since the dawn of time has gone through at some point in their lives—I became my father. Having spent at least one day a week on the lake with my father every summer of my childhood, it’s not surprising that this transformation took place on a fishing trip.
Fishing with my dad was an odd experience, inasmuch as he didn’t do nearly as much fishing as he did sitting, drinking and generally complaining about the fish not biting (or the car not running right, or the mosquitos, or whatever was bothering him on a given day). Actually, what he liked to complain about the most was people, and that’s what I’d like to focus on today.
My dad didn’t hate people—in fact he loved to watch them. Under the right circumstances (those being in a bar or flea market) he even liked talking to them. But when dad was fishing, he wanted to be left alone. In fact, he only begrudgingly took me along because he knew I would be far more interested in wandering up and down the banks trying to catch a fish (or a frog or a snake, or whatever) than I would be in bothering him. His fishing trips with me would have been ideal for him if it weren’t for the fact that everyone else in the world seemed to find him so darned approachable.
We could be alone on a 250 acre lake and if one person showed up to fish or walk their dog or get a suntan they would insist on doing it right next to us, or more particularly, right next to my dad. He would start griping the minute we saw them at a distance. "Look at this (insert your own racial, sexual or geo-political slur here). He’s gonna come right up to us. Watch him! Five miles of lake and this (insert your own favorite curse word here) is going to sit down right next to us." The griping would continue as the person got closer. "Oh look, he’s got a mangy mutt with him. We’re both gonna get fleas now—you’re gonna have to take a bath when you get home. I’d like to toss him and his mangy dog right into the..." The person gets within earshot. "How y’all doin’? Nice dog you got there; is that a labrador? Fine animals. Y’all want anything to drink? I got some cold Pabst and Slim over there has got some Co-cola..." You get the idea. Finally, the person would manage to tear themselves away from us after an hour or so of my dad’s southern hospitality, then the grumbling would begin again. "Can you believe that guy? Drinkin’ my beer, scarin the fish away—Clem, go make sure that mongrel didn’t squat on my rod and reel—if he did, I’m hangin’ his hide on my wall."
This passive-agressive drama played out just about every trip. To be honest, I thought he was a nut. Now fast forward about 30 years. I sneak out of the house on my day off to do some fishing. For the better part of an hour, it’s just me and the fish. I’m able to relax, to think, to enjoy nature. Then they show up. Two guys and a young kid, maybe 8 years old. I see them walking down te path to the lake and the voice starts in the back of my head: "Two hundred and fifty acres of lake and they’re going to come right up to me. Watch them. These chuckleheads are going to set up right next to me. Great, they got a kid with him. He’s probably going swimming. There went any hope I had of catchin’ a fish." But this time it was not my father’s voice, it was mine. Sure enough, the visitors set up right next to me. Thankfully, they didn’t come over to chat first. Then I found out why. They started talking to each other loudly in Russian, or Polish or some other Eastern European language. Now even if we set aside my long-standing belief that any person who insists on speaking a language other than English in a public place should be instantly deported to the country of their choice, it’s very rude to hold loud conversations while fishing. Especially when you’re fishing right next to someone. Especially if that someone is me.
These guys did eventually do some fishing of their own and, as will inevitably happen when you have a child fishing in close proximity with a man who wants to be left alone, the kid threw his line over mine. Being courteous and not wanting to be untangling lines for an hour, I quickly reeled in my line out from under his, nevermind that I think I was getting a bite and one more minute might have given me the opportunity to land a fish. I looked over to the parent, hoping he saw my selfless sacrifice and would give me a nod, a smile, a "What are you gonna do" shrug. Nothing. He saw the whole thing, he just didn’t care. Now I was ticked. The next inevitable activity occurred when the fish failed to bite for almost three whole minutes, and the kid got bored and started tossing rocks into the water. I mentally ran through my inventory of curses and derogatory slang words for Eastern Europeans and, finding none, spontaneously invented several that I have every intention of copyrighting. Needless to say, this was about all I could take. I packed up and started walking back to the car, but as I passed them, I stopped. I stared at them long and hard, then finally said..."Well, I’m done for the day. You all want the rest of my bait? Good luck to you." They gratefully accepted my offer with a smirk and I walked back to the car thinking "Rotten stinkin’ commies. Taking my worms...I should’ve dumped them down their throat, the ungrateful, stupid..." You get the idea. I guess the apple didn’t fall nearly as far from the tree as I thought it did. My dad would have been proud.
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