I'm on the beach with Charlie, watching him play in the sand when a man about my age approaches. My thought is always the same:
"Damn. He knows me, but I have no idea who he is. I hate this."
It happens all the time.
But no. Instead, he reaches down and plucks one of our plastic shovels from the sand beside our wagon.
"This is our shovel," he says.
I look around, hoping to see Elysha. I'm sure that the shovel is ours, but Elysha bought it. She can turn my 99% certainty into 100% certainty. But she's nowhere to be seen. I'm on my own.
"No," I say. "I think it's ours." I look at the other shovel in the wagon. Different colors but same design. "In fact I'm sure it's ours."
"No," he says, "It's mine, sir."
Now I'm annoyed. The man isn't speaking in a voice to conveys a desire to discuss. This is not a negotiation. He's right, and I'm wrong. In fact, he might think we stole the damn thing. And he called me "sir." How annoying.
But Charlie is sitting at my feet, slowly becoming aware of the situation. I can't just lay into the guy while Charlie is listening. I can't just initiate my usual attack mode. Instead, I decide to respond with a bit of delicacy.
"Just because you're holding the shovel doesn't make it yours," I say. "And just because you think it's yours doesn't make it yours, either. But if you need the shovel that badly, take it. But it's ours."
"It's mine," he says forcefully. "It's my shovel."
"Yeah," I say flatly. "You said that already. Repeating yourself doesn't make it yours either, but go ahead. Take it."
The man starts to turn when Charlie reaches out and grabs the shovel. The man pulls on it, and I start to say, "No, Charlie!" when Charlie stops me.
"No," Charlie says, "Look." Charlie points to a sticker on the handle of the shovel. The sticker bears Charlie's name. His full name, in fact.
It turns out I wasn't alone after all. I had Charlie.
"Is that your name?" I ask, pointing.
"Oh," the man says. "Well, it looks like mine."
"Maybe we shopped at the same store," I say. There's so much more I want to say. So much more I could say. But Charlie is here, and it's his moment. Instead, I smile. It's not a nice smile.
Then the man steps away. I watch him circle the beach, continuing his search for his precious, plastic shovel.
I'm ecstatic. A brilliant triple-teaming by my family.
- Elysha has the foresight and wisdom to label our beach equipment.
- I avoid an angry confrontation on the beach by being direct, specific, but flexible in the face of arrogance. I keep my cool.
- Charlie makes the man look very stupid.
I had a wonderful weekend. A child's birthday party with lots of people who I like a lot. Dinner with the next-door neighbors. Swimming in the backyard pool. A trip to a new ice cream shop. A morning spent at the Coventry Farmer's market. A couple visits to the gym and an hour spent at the driving range. An afternoon at the beach, playing in the sand and water with the kids. Elysha in a bathing suit.
I even got some work done. Wrote some letters. Recorded and edited a podcast. Started the final revisions of my next novel. Worked on my musical.
But those 90 seconds I spent on the beach with that man and Charlie constituted my favorite moment of the weekend. It's not even close.
I like to win. I like to win verbal confrontations a lot. And I love decisive victories like the one we experienced today. A clear-cut victory.
Charlie said he liked it a lot, too.