You might not know this but I was in the Boy Scouts way back when I was in school. That’s right folks, before dinosaurs got it into their thick heads that it would be a good idea to roam and rule the Earth, I had given education the old college try and and even mucked about trying to be a Cub Scout, a Scout, and a Cadet. For some reason (actually several reasons, but that’s another story) they wouldn’t let me near any musical instruments so the School Band was off limits.
‘Be prepared’ used to be my motto… although, come to think of it, I can’t remember a time when I actually was prepared for anything in my life.
In those days our Akeyla, (that’s Scout Leader I think, or it could mean ‘grumbly old coot’ since our Akeyla happened to be Mrs. George — who some older Majeedhiyan’s might remember — used to gather us around in the playground every day and ask us what our good deed for the day was.
Now, I’m still not sure exactly what it is that Boy Scouts are really supposed to do besides learn to tie a lot of complicated knots (the best I managed was to tie my hands and legs together in particularly complicated knots that ended with me crawling to the Scout Master for help in getting free) and go on Jamborees (that’s sort of like a picnic in an uninhabited island and exclusively for boys. Very gay!) but I do remember that the official promise of the Boy Scouts ended with the phrase: “…and I promise to do a good deed every day.”
Ergo, (Yay! I’ve really wanted to use that word ever since I saw “The Matrix Reloaded”) the question by Mrs George. Ergo also the reason why the gathered cub scouts furrow their brows in deep concentration as they quickly tried to come up with something that could be considered a good deed.
For myself, I usually went with the ol’ reliable, which was: ‘I helped an old lady cross the road today’, never mind the fact that she never wanted to cross any stinkin’ roads in the first place and would beat me over the head repeatedly with a closed umbrella or a rolled up newspaper while I navigated through oncoming traffic. I played it safe, as do a couple of other kids, but there were also those overachievers in our midst who just had to stand apart from the dweebs (that’s me and a few other kids) and draw attention to themselves by their breathtakingly adventurous good deeds. Saving infants from burning buildings, landing stricken airplanes about to blow up, snatching drowning babies from the jaws of death in shark-infested seas, it was all in a day’s work for these young heroes who apparently lived to do good deeds and help their fellow men and women. Man alive, how I hated them! If I could have come up with stories half as good as theirs I would have been able to pass English with better marks in Grade 7 and 8, instead of barely making a C.
All this ‘good deed’ stuff came back to me today, as I opened the door to the house where my office was located, and mentally prepared myself to climb the stairs to the fourth floor and saw a pile of boxes with a pair of human legs below it coming slowly down the stairs. Due to the boxes I couldn’t see above the guy’s waist, as they were piled one on top of the other so high that it went well above the man’s head, but judging from the tremble in the man’s hands as he carefully put one foot down on the stairs below the one which he was standing, he must have been carrying the boxes from some time.
The man took another slow step down and I could finally see his face from a side: a middle-aged man with thinning hair, a moustache and sweat pouring down his face in rivulets. The staircase was located straight in front of the door and there was no way I could have gone past the man because of the wide load he was carrying. I could have ducked under the boxes but that would have been so impolite, right? The dormant Boy Scout instincts in me kicked out and I realized here was a chance for me to do my good deed for the day. I immediately opened the door as wide as it would go and held it open for him so that he could easily make his way out without having to pull the door open with his foot or something. The door was equipped with an automatic door closer that kept the door from slamming shut. Due to that I needed to hold the door open until he could go out.
So there I was holding the door open, with a smile on my face that would have shamed a Halloween pumpkin, when I realized that it had been a good minute and the man carrying the boxes was still standing at the bottom of the stairs and not making any effort to go out. The slight tremble in his hands had progressed to full blown shaking and even the boxes on top were now teetering. I could even hear his breath coming in short gasps. In that small enclosed space at the bottom of the stairs there really was no room for any maneuvering and I wondered whether he had even seen me opening the door for him.
“Er… I’m holding the door open,” I said, finally. “You can go out. The door’s open.”
The man said something but it was too muffled by the boxes in front and I had to ask, “What?”
“I’m not… taking the… boxes… outside,” the man gasped.
“Oh?” That’s strange, I thought, maybe he’s exercising. I wondered whether I should close the door or not but the Boy Scout instinct in me wouldn’t have none of it. Help the man at all costs and do your good deed for the day, it said.
The man said something, I wasn’t sure what, but the boxes were definitely keeling over now. The man drew a sharp breath and pitched forward slightly to straighten the pile, inadvertently taking another step down the stairs. “So…” I said eventually, seeing as I was now face to box with the man and he was not making any move to go back up. “What are you doing with the boxes?”
“Could you… close the… door? — wheeze! pant! — I need… to put these… in the storage space…. under the stairs!”
The what now? Oh right. The storage space under the stairs. Finally, realization dawned on me. He wasn’t taking the boxes outside. He was trying to keep the boxes under the stairs! But he couldn’t get past me because I was blocking his way in my effort to hold the door open. Yeesh! Just my luck, I thought. Try to help a man and you end up doing the opposite.
“Sorry,” I mumbled and after deliberating about it for a second, ducked under his arms and started climbing the stairs behind him. He should be able to drop the boxes under the stairs now. Too late, I realized that the door was equipped with a door closer and it was now swinging shut, with glacial slowness, forcing the man to wait, holding the precariously balanced and heavy pile of boxes on his hands, until the door closed completely before he could move down.
Should I go back, duck under the boxes again and close the door for him? I scrapped the idea. I had done enough damage already. The man was sweating buckets now even his legs seemed to be very shaky.
Yep, definitely time for me to go, I decided, and began bounding up the stairs. I had reached the fourth floor, where my office was, when I heard a loud scream from downstairs followed by a tremendous crash. A few seconds later I there was the sound of the door closing softly.
NOTE: This is an old blog entry from my Multiply account. I’m transferring some of the old blog entries here to my new blog at WordPress.)