Betrayal of "THE PACT":
A while ago, I posted a tribute to my wife and the man who gives her Christmas present advice on cascadeclimbers.com
A recent story from her shows I'm still married to the most wonderful woman alive, but also demonstrates just how things can go wrong when you ask the wrong person for Christmas advice.
For background, here's the old post of mine, posted around Christmas time a few years back:
Title: Jim Nelson and My Wife:
So Lily and I exchanged stockings last night because we're leaving town tonight. Each year, Santa brings me a climbing widget.
The best part about the widget is that I get to imagine Lily buying the gift: Lily sure don't dig climbing (did it for a while to appease me) but every year tramps on down to Jim Nelson's shop to find something that I will be excited about.
Anyway, she walks in and talks to Jim, describes me and asks his advice on what to give. Jim may seem like one of the quietest guys around, but that doesn’t stop her from chatting him up, asking about his Christmas plans and what not. Each time she does it, she dutifully checks out the various pieces that Jim suggests and manipulates the gear. (It also has to live up to her definition of cool.). She asks a couple of questions about it, trying intently to mangle a couple of key climbing terms and then selects this year’s present.
Past years have resulted in my rack being supplemented with Loweballs (to which I am now addicted),
Micro Camalots, and the like. This year, she bought the second smallest zero cam from wild country. She refused to buy the smallest, insisting that she would never allow me to rely on something that small. Of course, I hardly ever aid climb anymore, so relying on the second smallest would also likely be catastrophic (it’s strength rating is somewhere around 4 kilonewtons – not rated for free climbing).
Jim recognizes the chance that something she gets may not actually be what I need, so he lets her know that we can take it back if it's off-base. This may be the first year that that may happen. Lily swears that next year, she’s just gonna grab my rack and show it to Jim in order to give him more to go on. . . .
Lily always returns and tells me how much she likes talking to Jim. I always picture a bemused expression on Jim’s face. Apparently the tradition has been going on long enough that Jim is starting to recognize her.
Anyway, Jim Nelson deserves all the business he gets and I love my wife. . . .
New Post: Betrayal of the Pact:
Lily was at a loss this year. I've got boatloads of climbing gear and, while I still climb, my focus has shifted to kayaking. As a result, the long standing tradition of asking Jim Nelson for gear-gift advice was not going to do it. She resorted to calling "Nick" an old friend, long time climbing partner and fellow newbie kayaker (The name has remained the same in order to denigrate the guilty).
Nick, of course, is bound by the "the pact." "The pact" governs the amount of information provided to those we love. As all people involved in sports like ours know, different people have different risk aversion levels. The description of our activities will often need be censored depending on 1) the risk aversion level of the listener; and 2) the relationship of the listener to the subject of the story. For instance, harrowing tales of daring-do are encouraged around the fire when reliving the experience with those who shared in the experience, but no one's mother needs to hear that their son or daughter almost died. The pact serves the purpose of preventing some people from needlessly worrying and allowing other people to continue to enjoy the activities they love. (This is not the only such pact in our society, nor are such pacts limited to our species. The responsibility of a parent to take care of its offspring is one other such pact, hell an entire episode of Seinfeld was dedicated to the pact between squirrels and drivers, but I digress.)
As each of my climbing/kayaking partners know, my wife is risk averse (very averse). I am not (very not). The difference in our risk aversion levels is dramatic, to say the least. My ability to continue in kayaking and climbing depends in large part on a careful balancing act of acknowledging the actual risks involved with my wife and explaining how I will minimize them (for instance, convincing her that the entire mountain won't fall down on my head, only portions of it, and I will minimize my exposure to those portions that are least stable.). This requires careful phrasing and attention. When I am successful, I climb/kayak a lot. When I am not successful, do so less.
Anyway, Lily called up Nick, because she knew I wanted a better helmet. Nick was more than happy to provide her with information. . . Lots of information. . . . Sadly, every bit of information he provided was a direct violation of "the pact." He regaled Lily with the details of why I needed a new helmet. Here are the details that she recounted to me (to the best of my memory, I'm probably missing a few . . .)
1) Kayakers hit their heads all the time.
2) Matt hits his head more than the others because Matt spends more time under water.
3) Hitting your head is dangerous.
4) The helmet Matt currently has is inadequate for a number of reasons, including
a) the coverage sucks
b) the fitting sucks
c) it shifts about on his head and leaves his forehead exposed when he come up from a roll
d) it make Nick and Todd (another climbing/newbie kayaking buddy) wince.
5) Both Todd and Nick will be relieved when I show up on the river with a new helmet.
6) Todd and Nick have talked about this before.
The observant reader will note that none of this was actually necessary to answer the question "What kind of helmet should I get my hubby." This was information that pertained to convincing a person to get a new helmet. That decision had clearly already been made, that's why Lily was hunting about for a good helmet.
Normally, the provisions of this type of information in such a heartfelt manner from such a trusted climbing/boating partner would result in dramatic stress for Lily and less fun for me. One of us might cry(probably me).
Lucky for me, Lily is aware of "the pact." She quickly identified this as a betrayal of "the pact” of colossal proportions (similar to a parent throwing a small child in front of an approaching bus). She knows that, while the pact is unspoken in many circles that is not the case in my group of friends. The reasons for it (Our differing risk aversion levels and the effect that has on her quality of life and my ability to have fun) are not only explicitly discussed among my climbing/kayaking buddies and Lily's friends, it is a matter of longstanding joke. She was so amazed by the seemingly oblivious nature of Nick's monologue that she focused purely on the betrayal. Evidencing that is the fact that she told me the story that very night destroying any chance of surprise in the giving of the present.
Her reaction confirms I'm married to the most wonderful woman alive: While Lily and I are both sure that this will come back to haunt my kayaking (and her sleep) at some point in the future, for now, all is well.
As indicated above, it underscores the importance of choosing the right person to give out advice: Jim Nelson's still deserves all the business he can get.
What remains to be determined is an appropriate response for Nick. While a proper response may depend on his true motivation, I doubt that can ever truly be known and I'm left to speculate on Nick's motivations:
• Was this, as Lily believes, an inadvertent transgression motivated by true concern for my well being, cementing Nick in Lily's eyes as one of the sweetest of my friends?
• Was this a calculating attempt by Nick to ingratiate himself to Lily, thereby assuring future invitations to dinner (Lily also happens to be one of the best cooks around . . . ).
• Is this righteous payback for some offense that I committed against Nick, long forgotten by me, but festering in Nick's mind?
So far, calling him out for public comment is all that I have done. . . Other ideas???