I do a lot of traveling, pulling my boat around on my trips, and it’s always interesting dealing with the different responses and agendas that folks have whenever I stop at a gas station. Sometimes, I find a real gem in the bunch.
The usual scenario seems to be the one where I pull into a station about 6 a.m., the boat fully loaded with up to eight poles sticking straight up, my downriggers in set position and the depth finder conspicuously sitting up on the dash. I’ve also got the boat wrapped with some obvious fishing decals and sponsors.
That’s when a guy will walk up and ask, “Hey you going fishing?” “Yep!” I answer. Their next question is the acid test, where I learn their real agenda. I find that most encounters fall into one of three categories.
The first is when I get a funny little smirk, as the guy slyly asks, “Hey, you catching anything?” They usually study my face intently at this point to see if I flinch. Many times, they’re looking for a chance to catch me trying to lie about catching fish. This line of questioning is aimed directly at getting me to admit I haven’t gotten much, and that’s where the questioner can whip out his phone and show me his latest big catch.
I find at this point that they want to tell you about how great a fisherman they are, since there is no one around to correct their version of the truth. I try to be cordial and give them credit because deep down they just want affirmation as a good angler. It’s a disease I think most of us have.
The next category is weird. These people will come up and proudly tell me that they don’t fish, almost like a challenge. It’s as if they think I’m going to argue with them, telling them they don’t know what they’re missing and that they’re in the wrong religion. On guard, they’re quite sure I’m a fanatic – just like their uncle, who badgered them to go fishing for years. I listen. “No,” I tell them, “I’m quite happy you don’t like to fish, and you’ve got reason to hate it, but we’ve got too many anglers already.” They look at me suspiciously, very sure I’m going to try to convert them.
Funny, once they see I won’t try, they usually switch gears, telling me about their fanatical uncle again, but now adding that I need to call him and go fishing with him. “You’ll love him!” I write the uncle’s number down to make them happy. I still haven’t figured out the whole psychology of it.
And lastly, yeah, then there are the genuinely nice guys who just want to talk. I feel sorry for them many times. They see a nice rig and wish they were going, too. They walk over and I can see that all they want to do is to share some of their fishing stories and memories with someone who might appreciate them.
They used to fish all the time, but because of finances, a disability or just no time anymore, all they can do now is relive the days they once spent doing something they treasured.
You know, sharing an important dream with someone who understands and cherishes it is one of life’s great blessings – for both people. When this magic happens, I can see how grateful the person is that you believe and understand their feelings about something for which they care deeply.
In those cases, he was just hoping to find someone who really cared in the first place. Few do. Wading through the other awkward encounters is worth it to find this kind of guy.
It’s a privilege to see someone’s eyes light up, knowing you’ve connected and encouraged them in a special way. Yes, we all need someone to believe in us and our dreams. Even at the gas station at 6 a.m.
Never give up!