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be prepared

What comes to mind when you think boy scout? A neckerchiefed, good-conduct-badged apple-seller? The old-lady-helper-across-the-street? All I recall from my own experience with the organization (I was a scout for three weeks) is standing in the gym, holding out my hands for a fingernail check. (Yup, a middle aged guy inspecting a hundred boys' fingernails. Creepy even for a scoutmaster. And that's saying something.)

Don't worry -- I have nothing sordid to reveal. My point was that our scoutmaster was very keen on cleanliness not for its own sake but because it meant you were prepared. He shouted that motto out at us every week after inspection. Be prepared! he said. With clean hands you can take on the world! (I know. I know.) Later, when I had kids of my own, I heard an echo of my scoutmaster in my son Ed. It took me approximately skady-eight trips to load the van for a simple weekend vacation. Then I kept having to run back into the house for stuff I had forgot. When we were finally ready to go, and I couldn't start the van because the keys were sitting on my dresser, I started to laugh. Ed frowned at me from his booster seat. Dad, he said, I have three words for you: Plan. A. Head.

So yesterday I saw a kid roller blading down Division Street in Cobourg, and wanted to applaud. Talk about planning a head. The kid -- he would have been fourteen, I guess -- carried a hockey stick and a baseball bat, and had a skateboard sticking out of his backpack. Be prepared for fun! I wasn't close enough to check the state of his fingernails, but I felt sure that my old scoutmaster would approve.


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