Raiders of the Lost Arc

We assume, I think, that children like to dress up and wear costumes and pretend, and indeed most do, but there are a very few who don’t. We knew one little boy (I forget his name or what family he belonged to) who hated dressing up as someone else by the time he was six or so. His mother put him in little Halloween costumes until he was that age, and then he absolutely balked at trick or treating as Casper the Friendly Ghost (vinyl edition). He told his mother (she later told me) that he would forgo getting candy rather than wear a “stupid costume.” She asked him who or what he would like to go out as, and he said himself. She sighed and told him to pick out some clothes he typically wore and come back out to go visiting the neighbors.

He went in for a minute and came back outside wearing the same clothes. He spread his arms wide. “Here I am!” he pronounced. “It’s me.”

He proudly went from door to door, easily telling anyone who would ask who he was supposed to be: “I’m me!” I think that confounded most people into giving him more candy than he would have gained otherwise.

Sometimes it pays to be yourself. Except when it doesn’t.

I was wearing what I call my “Indiana Jones outfit” one day last week since it was a bit chilly out. I didn’t deliberately set out to dress like Harrison Ford in the movie role: it just all came together. I got myself a leather flight jacket for a retirement present eight years ago (at Kohl’s–how unlike Indy is that?), and I was wearing some cotton khakis with my boot like brown shoes. I checked out and put on a random blue shirt from the closet but did bring along my Indy-like brown hat. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror before I left and thought, surprised, man, I look like Indiana Jones. All I needed was a bull whip…

I headed for the CVS and strode in from the parking lot. As I was about to go through the automatic doors, a little boy about eight years old was coming toward me with his mom. He caught sight of me, stopped dead in his tracks and with a voice full of wonder, exclaimed, “Are you Indiana Jones?!?”

I hesitated a second as his mother looked at him and then back at me and then at him with an expectant smile on her face.

I thought, I’m an adult and adults shouldn’t lie, especially to little kids. And so I said, “No, I’m not.”

I regretted it instantly. His face fell and he reached up and took his mother’s hand. She gave me what I thought to be a mildly reproachful look that I didn’t understand until I thought about the situation for a bit.

I crushed that little kid’s sense of belief and wonder. It would be as if he saw Santa Claus walking out of the store carrying a gallon of milk and asked him if he were Santa and the elf replied, “Nope, not me, kid.” Of course he isn’t Santa, but what would it hurt to say he was? It would be the thrill of a lifetime for a little kid.

Later on, I was telling a good friend about this encounter. She said, wisely, “You should have said, ‘Yeah, kid, that’s me,’ and winked at him.” She is also honest. “You blew it.”

“And I could have said, ‘I hate snakes'”(which I do).

“Now you’re getting the idea,” she returned. But it was too late.

Sometimes it pays to be yourself. Except when it doesn’t.

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