When something goes wrong, I'm the first to admit it. … When something goes right, it's likely to lose me. It's apt to confuse me. It's such an unusual sight. —Paul Simon
I've always liked those lyrics, but they make more sense to me now that I'm older, and have learned to approach the world with a defensive stance—assuming the source I'm calling probably won't want to talk to me, the day won't work out quite as we planned, it may well rain the whole time we're in Florida, who knows?
It's a useful mindset, because it deals with disappointment ahead of time, and generates gratitude for days when things only go according to Hoyle.
But when amazingly good things happen, we guarded grown-ups can find ourselves a little lost.
Like the other night, when, passing by the little fire station on the way home from dinner in Chinatown, my friendly out-of-town brother-in-law Lewis said hello to the firemen sitting around in front of the station.
One of the firefighters, a bald fellow a couple years younger than me, introduced himself to Scout as Guy, and asked if she'd like to come inside and look at the trucks.
Within moments she was up in the cab of a truck, having it explained to her the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine (the truck has the hoses, the engine has the ladder). Now she's holding the fire ax. Now she's looking up the brass fire pole. Now she's putting on the uniform, as Guy passionately explains to both of us his firefighting technique, and what he's learned over 15 years on the job.
We were there for more than 20 minutes, and I had to drag her out of there or I think Guy would have insisted on taking her on a run.
Guy was obviously having a great deal of fun—fire shifts these days are long and mostly quiet on account of buildings aren't made of wood any more—but I was so grateful for this experience that I was embarrassed.
There's a lot of glib talk in corporate America about making employees "ambassadors of the brand."