Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yeah? Well, I DOUBLE Dare You!

Yeah? Well, I DOUBLE Dare You!

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2005

On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones. This one is from September 2005.

I don't know what it is with teenagers these days.

For one thing, they make me feel old, especially when I say Old Geezer things like "I don't know what it is with teenagers these days."

They're so awkward and gangly, but are eager to take on the entire world. A dangerous, yet humorous combination.

I saw a perfect example a few days ago. I was at a stoplight, behind several cars, and saw a 14-year-old kid walking on the sidewalk with his girlfriend. Someone a few cars ahead must have said something to the kid, because he turned around and shot a dirty look at the passenger.

He held his arms out wide, as if to say, "You wanna piece of me?!" and shouted something at the other car. Then, with as much macho swaggering as he could manage, he turned around — WHAM! — right into a light pole.

As I laughed uproariously, and nearly missed my green light, the kid looked over at me with the worst case of raisin heart (that's when your heart shrivels up like a raisin). His accident and subsequent humiliation reminded me of when I was growing up. I never would have done anything like this. Not because I was some noble pacifist who didn't believe in violence. It was because I couldn't fight.

I lived by the "He who hides and runs away, lives to hide and run away again" rule. I learned at an early age that humor was a better defense, and if that didn't work. . . let's just say that my instinct for self-preservation lead to a semi-successful ten year career as a bicycle racer.

I can remember vividly the first time I discovered the humor defense. That's because I've relived the nightmare every day for the past 30 years.

My friend Eddie and I were at the bike rack one day after school, when two other kids started hassling us. I couldn't tell you what it was about or who they were. All I can remember is the four of us standing around, threatening to beat the crap out of each other for some imagined insult. It was like a kids' fight scene from "The Andy Griffith Show."

"I dare you to cross this line."

"No, I dare YOU to cross this line."

"You go first.

"No, YOU go first."

"Point of order. In Robert's Rules of Playground Order, the person who is dared first must accept the challenge on the floor, before another challenge is made."

"Really? I thought Robert's Rules were amended last year to allow an escalated dare to supersede the previous dare."

And so on.

But somewhere in all our challenges of "I'll kick your butt," "No, I'll kick YOUR butt," the word "kick" somehow managed to become to "pick."

These new, more powerful taunts were volleyed about with further promises of pain and violence. But I, being the wimpiest of the bunch, wisely kept my mouth shut to avoid further trouble.

"I'll pick your eye!" shouted one of the kids.

"Oh yeah? I'll pick your head!" shouted Eddie.

"Uh-uh. I'll pick your stomach!" shouted the other kid.

I decided I had heard enough to master this new threat, and offered my own menacing contribution to the pending melee.

"Oh yeah?! I'll pick your nose!"

It was like a nerdy-looking stranger had walked into a biker bar. Everything fell silent. All conversation and outdoor noises within 200 yards stopped, and 20 pairs of eyes locked onto me.

Eddie and our two opponents burst out laughing so hard, they nearly wet themselves. No longer was I one-half of an unstoppable team of whirling third grade mayhem. Now I was the dorky kid who threatened to go on a booger hunt in the middle of a fight.

The three of them laughed so much, they could barely stand. They did manage to squeak out several more jokes at my expense, like what I expected to find, and whether I had any other areas I wanted to pick.

So I did what any good comedian will do: end on a high note and leave them wanting more. I climbed on my bike and rode away as fast as I could, my face burning hotter than a steel forge. And while this pretty much put an end to any possibility of ever becoming a playground pugilist, it did launch me into my career as a humorist, and a possible career as a diplomat.

This could be a great way to bring peace to the Middle East. Booger jokes are hilarious in any language.

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