[WARNING: This blog post contains a visual image which some readers may find offensive and which could cause nightmares. Elderly people, young children and readers with weak constitutions may wish to avoid proceeding further.]
No, I have an even deeper personality flaw: I’m a chronic people pleaser. Throughout my life, I’ve been hard-wired to want to please people and have sometimes gone to ridiculous lengths not to disappoint them. A few cases in point (all of these are true):
In high school, the class I hated the most was Latin. But my teacher, Mr. Vandenberg, really liked having me as a student. So, at the end of the year, he asked if I’d sign up for Latin 2. I swore I would NEVER take Latin 2. But I caved, because I did not want to disappoint him – which is why I also took Latin 3 the year after that.
In college, I always gave my roommate the bed closest to the window. In grad school, I offered my apartment mate the nicer bedroom. Not because I was a great guy, but because I wanted them to like me.
Once when I was a sales manager my team had a record-breaking quarter. I took them out to celebrate. The reps only wanted one thing from me at the party: to watch me smoke a fat eight-inch cigar they’d bought just for the occasion. I don’t smoke. I’d never smoked anything stronger than a candy cigarette before that moment. But they all were cheering me on, and well, I didn’t want to disappoint. So, I puffed, gasped and choked my way through the entire cigar. It was torture. And they loved that I was a good sport. Then I excused myself to the bathroom so I could throw up.
A few years later, I was boarding a commercial jetliner on a business trip with co-workers. One of them urged me to walk into the cockpit, hold out my boarding pass and tell the pilot with a straight face, “I believe you’re in my seat.” So, I did exactly as he asked. Thankfully, I was not arrested. But that may explain why I’m now on the terrorist watch list.
I’m telling you, I have a problem. Too often I won’t be able to say NO if I think it will disappoint the other person. And sometimes this personality defect has gotten me into deeply unsettling situations. Like the time a friend and his wife joined my wife and me for a lovely summer evening in Victoria, BC. A charming city. There we were, me minding my own business, sitting in an outdoor crowd of roughly 500 to watch a magician.
And then it happened. The street performer asked for a volunteer. My buddy, whom I will call Mark Gravel (because that’s his name), grabbed my hand, thrust it into the air and shouted out, “Tim will do it!” I frantically tried to extract my limb from his iron grip, but it was too late. The magician had spotted his prey. “Tim, thank you for agreeing to assist”, he shouted with a menacing grin. Then he turned to the throng and urged them to applaud me for bravely stepping forward for his dangerous grand finale. I have a hard enough time saying no to one person, so you can imagine how quickly I wilted when a boisterous horde of 500 started chanting “TIM, TIM, TIM”.
So, I gave my (former) friend Mark a daggers stare and proceeded sheepishly to walk the plank to the center of the square – or perhaps GROUND ZERO would be more appropriate – because what followed was nothing short of the complete annihilation of my rapidly crumbling self-respect. The magician announced that to do this trick, it was advisable that I take off my sneakers – for my safety. Of course, I complied, because, well, that’s what people pleasers do.
He continued to describe what would ensue and then stopped to add, “Actually, this trick works best if you remove your shirt.” Okay, this is getting a little personal, I thought. I was 37 at the time. I’d long ago given up any dreams of having six-pack abs. But there they were, all 1,000 (by now the crowd was starting to multiply), building into a frenzy, goaded on by the magician who led them in a chant of “TAKE IT OFF! TAKE IT OFF!” I was powerless to resist the will of the mob. So, you guessed it – I took off my shirt.
Finally, the magician began his amazing show-stopper finale. There was just one problem. “I can’t complete this unless you take off your pants.” If you think for one minute this compulsive people pleaser would be so spineless as to literally strip down to his underwear, well…. then you would be right.
I have no idea what came over me. I was mortified. Terrified. Humiliated. For a moment, as I peeled off my last shed of dignity, I paused to reflect: “Did I remember to wear underwear today?” The mob had mushroomed to almost 2,000 – apparently on the rumor that there was a strip tease show taking place on the square. I felt like Adam in the Garden of Eden, covered by nothing but a fruit of the loom. All because I had a morbid need to please.
Of course, the street performer concluded that to make the trick really work flawlessly, there was one last step required of me. You guessed it. “Tim, I need to you please take off your underwear!”
And that’s where I am going to end this 100% true story. Did I once more crumble under the pressure? Did I serve 30 days for indecent exposure? Did I install a stripper pole in my living room? Is there a YouTube video? I’m not telling. But if you post a comment below asking really nicely, then maybe I’ll change my mind and reveal – because, as you’ve figured out by now, I have trouble saying NO.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017