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When I was a teenager, I was into BMX dirt-jumping, spending many summers building ramps in the fields behind my best friend Nick’s house. While the rest of the world was having fun at city pools and water parks, Nick …...

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Fortune Favors the Bold Proverb

Filed Under , , on June 6th, 2015

Erring on the Side of Recklessness

By Seth Kabala

When I was a teenager, I was into BMX dirt-jumping, spending many summers building ramps in the fields behind my best friend Nick’s house. While the rest of the world was having fun at city pools and water parks, Nick and I and our cohorts were digging holes.

We used the extracted earth to create mounds six-feet-high, packed these down until they achieved near concrete hardness, shaped the launch to an ascending curve just short of suicide, the landing with a gradual descending plane 20-30 feet away, and then, aboard our fine-tuned Standards, GTs, and Huffys, hurled ourselves up the launch, over the gap, and down the landing, decelerating of our own volition–most of the time.

On the occasions where we tilted left or right in the air, diverting from true up-and-down posture, finding ourselves in the dreaded squirrely zone, we bailed, counting on the packed dirt and nearby weeds to inflict less damage than engaging the face-to-dirt brake. Better to get out while you had the ability to choose your landing than getting dragged to the ground by a few pounds of possessed steel and aluminum.

That’s a lot more eloquent than I would have stated our reasons for bailing back then. As a teenager, my justification for bailing would have been something like, “Don’t want my fuckin’ nads to get crushed, dipshit. Of course I’m gonna bale,” said with an exaggerated Southern drawl, infused with a dollop of trailer-park dialect regardless of the pedigree, or lack thereof, of the speaker.

I have often wondered if the tendency to assimilate the least common denominator of speech of those surrounding you is a weakness of character or an adaption technique for acceptance and success. At 34, I consider myself to be a mature man in both business and life. However, my reversion to acting like a hooligan when in the company of my younger brothers, ages 22 and 20, is a sample worthy of further consideration, for it appears youths do not only assimilate the speech of their contemporaries; they do this within the construct of dangerous activities in which their fathers before them engaged.

Perhaps I shouldn’t lump all fathers into this bucket of responsibility. My youthful craziness wasn’t necessarily pervasive. Saying it was does not create a statistically valid conclusion. But one of my favorite t-shirts says: “To err is human. To blame someone else shows good management skills.” So I will mollify my conscience by including myself within the statistically invalid, albeit reasonable, conclusion that all men were, at some youthful juncture, crazy.

Sometimes God punished our youthful indifference to safety and the laws of physics by breaking bones, splitting skin, and, as mentioned, crushing testicles, but not all punishments were as austere; some were just plain annoying, e.g., flat tires. I could never escape the curse of the flat tire. I must have changed dozens of inner tubes over the years. (Light bulb: this is why, despite not having a girlfriend, I never had any money. Mind. Blown.) Like the indulgence of crazy behavior, a father apparently also passes petty, annoying problems to his children. In particular, to his son.

My son, Will, 9, had a slow leak-turned supermodel flat tire. I bought a Bell stick-on repair kit to fix it, applied the patch, and commenced re-inflation. Wouldn’t inflate. I broke down the bike again, found a second hole, patched it, and the tire inflated just fine–for about 10 seconds. Then, with the force of a semi-tractor releasing its air-brakes, it blew out, deflated, and I blew up.

Couldn’t believe it. Earlier in the week, I’d been successful troubleshooting and repairing a dead outlet. How could this happen? I thought. Am I fallible? In many ways, yes, but here? No. I’m no masochist and had no desire to heap burning coals on my own head, so I blamed Bell. Had to be their fault for selling me an inferior patch, for the thing felt no thicker than a piece of plastic wrap. Before I started the repair, I even thought, How in the hell is this thing going to hold under air pressure?

Got my answer, and I’m pretty sure it came from the image of a 15-year-old boy, sans helmet, flying through the air between mounds of dirt, freedom in his head; consequences of actions, as inconsequential to him as the summer breeze.

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, musician, family man, and juggler of balls--big ones. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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