Published August 29, 2008
It was a rainy day Thursday at the Canfield Fair, and there weren't large
crowds of people to talk to at The Vindicator booth.
That was unfortunate for three teenage boys who happened by our tent.
One of our many freebies at our tent is a free, handy-dandy
(nonenvironmentally friendly), plastic carrying bag. It will be in a
landfill for 3,000 years, but it is darn handy for three hours of carrying
around the free fair stuff.
We have a great tent location for many reasons.
• It's next to the $2.50-cent soft serve ice cream.
• It's across from the "mens" and "womens" restrooms.
• It's also a corner location outside the grandstand, so we get folks from
two key directions, plus the grandstand crowd.
On Thursday, three teens came from one such direction. A Vindy staffer asked
them if they wanted free, handy-dandy (nonenvironmentally friendly), plastic
They accepted them.
They then walked around the corner, where our tent still continued, and
opened a garbage can and disposed of their free, handy-dandy
(nonenvironmentally friendly), plastic carrying bags.
I was befuddled.
The poor little bags never had a chance. In their future was three hours of
life before their 3,000-year banishment. I can only imagine the seconds of
joy they felt being the proud possessions of these teens. Pencils,
notebooks, magnets soon would be joining them, they thought. Poor little
fellas. Life was over just as it started.
I stopped the kids. I asked them "Why did you just throw out free bags that
you just accepted 30 seconds ago?"
One kid immediately threw the others under the bus: "I didn't get one. I
didn't want one."
The other two were sheepish. They just didn't want to say "no" to the person
handing them out, they said.
Well how could I be testy at that?
So I switched gears.
I explained to them that "no" is a beautiful word.
Two letters so convenient and powerful when used together, I said, that Daniel
Webster even put them side by side when he wrote the alphabet. (OK --
they knew I was joshing with the Webster fact, but they were OK with the
I explained to them a whole life of horrors that possibly awaits them if
they do not learn now, as teens, the ability to say "no."
Alcohol, pre-marital sex, youth sports coaching, Scrabble leagues ...
One kid got into the speech a bit.
"It even sounds powerful," has said before bursting into an Marine-like use
Off they left with smiles. Still no bags. But with a bit of knowledge to
spew to their friends.
And there I stood – for three more hours in the rain – employing the word I
taught the boys as I looked at person after person walking by me with the
$2.50-cent soft-serve cone -- and wondering if I should buy one.
No, no, no, no no ....