Posted on March 14, 2011



            If you’ve ever ridden the bumper cars, then you are probably already familiar with the dynamics of driving in Istanbul. From what I can tell, you press the petal down all the way and keep it there for the next 10 feet until you are forced to slam on the brakes or hit something. I always try to keep this in mind while walking around the city. I was going home after work a few nights ago, I had just got off the phone with my wife, when I suddenly saved a girl’s life.

            It was over before either of us knew what happened, and in an instant, I was rendered a hero. So, when you see me next, I’ll gladly accept any free drinks or congratulatory hugs you may offer. In honor of this unexpected and humbling act of courage on my part, I’ve dedicated this post to myself instead of Turkey.

            There is a girl walking around in this city, going to highschool, and flirting with boys today because of courageous reflexes. And where were these instincts born? What are there origins? Today, I look within.

            The answers may lie somewhere in my past.

            I took the Scout Oath for the first time when I was around 10 and a half years old. Troop 127 was stationed in Elberton Georgia near the South Carolina border. The troop consisting usually of three patrols was small enough to meet in the tiny, damp, and windowless basement of the First Methodist Church. Our scoutmaster was a small town southern lawyer whose mustache was just wide and thin enough not to be an exact resemblance of Hitler’s. He was a man of both humor, gravity, and always permeated a recognizable scent of Brute and Camel cigarettes. While we stood at attention, he would pace back and forth between the American flag and the Georgia State flag which was the old one with the Confederate stars and bars, and it remained in our basement defiantly even after the state officially changed it. Our scoutmaster, Mr. Phelps, wasn’t like the other men who helped out with the troop. He was more urbane having once even argued a case at the Supreme Court. Much to the grumblings of the other men, He ordered the State flag retired and replaced with the new one. This was the type of man he was. He, along with the other men who donated their time, taught me many valuable lessons about life and what it means to be a good man and citizen.

            The Boy Scouts, like the Hare Krishnas, have become a staple for jokes in my American culture. Many people rightly and wrongly criticize them for discriminating who they allow into their organization, but every troop is unique. That means, everyone’s experience with scouts is going to be different.

            Troop 127 was renown for our knot tying and tree identifying prowess, but always came in last place in wussy things like campsite organization and popcorn selling. We saw ourselves as the “cool” troop whenever we went to state jamborees. This wasn’t actually a difficult feat since most of our competition were chubby, pasty, and bespectacled clusters of boys from suburbia.

            Unlike the popcorn pushers from Atlanta, we actually went camping about once a month. Our scoutmasters’ approach to guidance and oversight was generally smoking, chewing tobacco, and telling nasty jokes around their own campfire. This provided a large quantity of unsupervised and instructional time in nature with fire. I was homeschooled for most of my education until college, so the monthly Lord of the Flies night was especially beneficial for me.

            Boy Scouts taught us so much, such as, a tennis ball filled with lighter fluid will start a fast spreading and difficult to put out forest fire. North Georgia has little knowledge of just how many times it was a gust away from being engulfed in flames. We seldom camped in places with an electrical outlet, but the one time we did, we all learned that if you pee on one, there will be a large and costly explosion.

            Personally, I learned that, sometimes, you have to step up and be a hero.

            We were camping near the Nancy Hart historical cabin in Georgia, where the fabled frontierswoman killed two and captured four Tory soldiers in the Revolutionary war. The legend has it that the passing soldiers demanded she cook them a turkey dinner. She stacked their guns in a corner when they sat down to the table. She fed them and gave them drink. Once they were substantially drunk, she shoved their guns (save one) through a hole in the wall and then ordered them not to move. According to wikipedia, she was called “Aunt Nancy” and was rough-hewn, rawboned, and her face was scared with smallpox. The soldiers were hanged in a nearby tree.

            It was in this cabin where we all decided to play cowboys and indians with rocks. Hurling rocks at each other at night was admittedly foolhardy to begin with, but the real foolish decision was made by the “new kid.” He agreed to be in the small group defending the cabin. I was with the outside group and we both outnumbered and had considerably better aim than the chumps on the inside. Tired of fighting a losing battle the guys inside decided to turn on the new kid and string him up to the rafters by his ankles then quickly ran to join the attackers outside. This left him the cabin’s sole defense.

            He was dangling there wriggling like a worm on a hook. Rocks flying in through the window at him. Everyone was having a grand time, but when some of the rocks started to hit their target, I began to feel like maybe this is something that could start to go wrong. I formulated the most heroic plan I had ever had. I mad a dash into the cabin and performed a baseball slide all the way to the dangling kid. I pulled out my pocket knife and then cut the rope. Hands tied behind his back, he hit the floor with a thud. Then, we made a run for it into the tall grass. Shortly, we joined the rest of the guys and merrily continued hurling rocks into the now empty cabin. Everyone, was happy.

            Perhaps this incident was the seed that grew into the brave instincts I now have that saved the girl in Istanbul a few days ago. As she was walking towards me and laughing with some friends. She looked left at her friend and began to veer into the street. The car was accelerating towards her from behind and she would have…Well, this is getting pretty complex, I sketched it on Paint. Here it is.           

            As you can see, my arm extended out and stopped her forward progress. I yelled out “Dikkat!” which I think means “attention” in Turkish. She was stunned for a moment realizing that she had almost been killed or maimed. She said thank you, I coolly continued on my way. In a New York minute, something activated inside me and saved this girl. Was it my scout training? Was it the spirit of Aunt Nancy? The scout slogan is: Do a good turn daily. Check!

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