Necessary Skills

Barmaids can be interesting people. Typically they have deep histories and disturbing tattoos. Their presence can be both intoxicating and disquieting, depending on one’s sense of vulnerability at the time. When they don’t speak… or choose not to speak… English things become even a bit more mysterious.


A few years ago I found myself on a boat. Honestly, I don’t even remember what waterway we were plying at the time, but I vaguely remember I was somewhere out of the country. There were a lot of Russians… yes… that I remember clearly. Somehow I found myself at the bar at the stern of the ship. A decidedly masculine woman stood behind the counter and impatiently waited for me to tell her my poison. Through a mixture of pantomimes, grunts, and, in the end, vaguely obscene gestures, I thought I was able to communicate that I wanted whisky.


What she actually served me remains a mystery to the ages… but it was alcoholic and served its purpose.


What I lacked at the time was an effective means to communicate… or a partner in my “conversation” who had an interest in actually communicating with me. Regardless, what I lacked was “skill”. This, ultimately, manifested in my having to consume a tea-like liquor. Lack of “skill”, depending on the situation, could have resulted in an outcome far worse.


The other day Sandy was taking one of her power-walks through the neighborhood. She walks too fast for me and has fired me as her walking partner. That is probably a subject for another blog. Regardless, typically once a day she does her self-imposed Bataan Death March, paying close attention to any “irregularities” that seem to be afoot in the dangerous back alleys and boroughs of Aliso Viejo.


As she walked by the greenbelt lining our hamlet, she saw a father tossing a baseball to his son. The boy was endeavoring to hit the slow-pitch ball with his Louisville slugger. She watched in amusement as the father became increasingly frustrated at his son’s inability to connect with the ball. This provided her with a moment of inspiration and she texted me the following:


Hey… I have a blog idea! NRA #3 + stick-shift… respect + education, etc.


Yeah… I had no idea what the hell she was talking about either.


When we were finally able to talk she gave me a greater explanation:


“I saw the father getting frustrated. I have seen that with a lot with parents who want their children to be star athletes so they can get some sort of athletic scholarship to college. The chances of that happening are slim. The chance their kid is going to be pro-level competitive is astronomically slim. Still, the parents have this mindset. Yet, teaching them the skill necessary to be safe, or even to defend themselves, is of secondary, or even tertiary, importance. The NRA wants us to keep our guns unloaded when not in use (NRA Rule #3 for safe gun usage), however, most people keep their self-defense guns loaded since they are “always in use”. Yet, their children have no idea how to safely operate those guns. You have preached the “stick-shift” story before; I think this would be a great subject for the blog.”


And there it was… and she was, of course, as always… right.


Many parents have a hesitancy to expose their children to firearms at “too young an age”. Many who don’t own guns have never contemplated providing firearms safety training or weapons proficiency training to their children. Yet, they will move heaven and earth to expose them to sports that have a higher probability of injury, and even at times death, than developing mastery of skill-at-arms. Whether this is as a result of the politicized nature of firearms or just a manifestation of denial remains to be seen, but it is there. It is also seriously unfortunate.


A number of years ago when our daughters were heavily involved in Tae Kwon Do, I was having a conversation with a father. He knew I was involved in firearms training and wanted to know if and why our girls also knew how to shoot. He was, shall we say… not exactly pro 2A.


I gave him the “stick-shift” analogy.


“I want our girls to be able to survive and, frankly, thrive in any environment. Both of them are going to learn how to drive a manual transmission right after they turn 16. Now, the chances of them ever owning a manual transmission vehicle in today’s age is extremely unlikely. But, if either of them is stuck on a mountain, and the only way for them to get down is to drive someone else’s manual transmission vehicle, and I… the negligent dad… never bothered to teach them how to drive one… well… I don’t think I could live with myself.”


And that is really the point in the end, isn’t it?


Our goal as teachers, mentors, and parents is to ensure that those who look to us for guidance are given our best possible instruction on how to be self-sufficient, empowered, and, in the end, legitimately self-confident.


Expose your kids to sports? Of course! Exercise and competitive endeavors are good for them! Expose them to sports with the hopes they use it for college or a professional career? That may be misguided.


Refuse to expose your kids to the tools necessary to survive when things go sideways? Well, that may have disastrous consequences indeed. Those are not necessarily “life endangering” situations… sometimes it may be as innocuous as not having the skills necessary to order a proper drink from a tattooed barmaid on a barge in a foreign country.

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Comment (1)

  • Kenny Stuart Reply


    Great story and analogy. I taught our kids (firearm safety and stick shift), and have also taught our grand-kids (firearm safety … they aren’t yet old enough for driving). At age of 6 and 8, they were taught the five cardinal rules of firearm safety, and were required to recite them every time we went to the range. Yes, I said five. A few years ago, the grand-kids asked if I had a handgun they could shoot so, I bought a P22. Naturally, they were all excited to go with me to the store and pick it up (following the ten-day “cooling off” period).

    We entered the store, and everyone thought they were sooo cute. The owner asked if they new the four safety rules. They not only responded in the affirmative, but corrected him, saying there were five, and chuckled. Obviously, this peaked everyone’s curiosity, so they recited the four, paused, and then began laughing and gave the fifth, “Never touch a gun until Papa say’s it OK, or he’ll rip your lips off!”

    This is a threat I’ve used with a great degree of success. They all inherently understand that I’m kidding, but this is serious.

    04/21/2022 at 10:27

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