Every once in a while some one makes the comment, “It must be wonderful to focus on the humorous aspects of outdoor adventure.” In reality, recognizing the humour is easy, determining that which is worthy of print, in reasonably good taste and inside the parameters of current public acceptance is much more difficult. Given that the words written are permanent and submitted with my name attached, a plethora of considerations come into play.
Though somewhat unfortunate, epic failure, stupidity, ignorance, thoughtless haste and compromising circumstance are the basis of that which we find funny. With self-preservation first and foremost in my mind, I have to determine the extent of truthfulness that best serves the story and my future well-being. Understanding that most of my yarns are derived from outings with good friends, it’s extremely important to protect those whose actions ultimately provide the fodder for smiles and chuckles. If an exact account of a bungled endeavour is transcribed, changing the names simply isn’t good enough, as the participant and their families are likely to recognize the story line and take exception to the light in which they’ve been portrayed.
I think the best way to convey the importance of what I call “Protective Censorship”is through example. Everyone seems to find falling out of a boat somewhat humorous, and I’m only referring to those situations that result in fractured egos and wetted clothing; personal injury is not a laughing matter (zero anglers were harmed in these yet to be outlined scenarios.) You see? I just employed PC! In any case, a truthful uncensored account of self-induced boat ejection might go as follows: “When the trout struck, Sebastian jumped to his feet, as he turned to face the stern the bare calf of his left leg made contact with the glowing end of a freshly lit Cohiba which he had just balanced on the edge of the middle seat. In an attempt to separate himself from the Cuban branding iron, he lunged forward, slipping on a moderate collection of beer cans unsafely deposited at his feet. In an attempt to counter his fall he awkwardly lunged forward, performing a testicular grab of the upright motor tiller arm and effectively catapulted his own self to the surface of the lake.”
With the “Protective Censorship”template in place, my analysis of the aforementioned boating incident would likely involve several changes. Firstly, there’s really no need to mention the cigar. If I do, it could lead to an uncomfortable spousal confrontation. The last thing I need is to pick up the phone and hear, “the b@$tard promised he’d quit, after 10 years of not smoking he goes fishing with you and bam: he’s smoking stogies.” Secondly, I’d probably address the reference to beer cans as it alludes to the fact that Sebastian’s balance may have been impaired. From a social perspective and given the justified negatives associated with beer and motors I have two options: change the boat to a canoe or the beverage to a nutritional supplement. Given that loaded canoeists garnish little favour amongst the paddling purists, I expect the latter will be adopted. Thirdly, I may have to re-think my use of the word testicular. Though regionally descriptive as it pertains to bodily location the word seems to induce fear and quite often amongst those without. Upon further examination, and in the essence of removing any aspect of gender bias the name Sebastian should be replaced with a more unisex name like Tracy or Jesse.
So under the pretext of “Protective Censorship” a truthful rendition would likely be altered to resemble this: “When the trout struck, Tracy jumped from a seated position. While turning to face the stern the angler’s exposed calf inadvertently caught the sharp corner of the sunscreen tube, which had been conveniently placed on the edge of the middle seat. In a knee-jerk response Tracy’s right foot shifted forward and came to rest on a nutritional drink container being retained for recycling. With balance compromised, this fisher swivelled sideways, cleared the gunnel and entered the world of wet.”
As is usually the case I carefully and repeatedly re-read the revised account until my gag reflex is tested. It’s at this very moment in the creative process that truth bubbles to the surface and I come to the realization that a story must be told as it actually occurred. Yes, beer was a factor! Yes, a fine cigar was appreciated! Yes, testicular discomfort was endured. Most importantly a humorous memory was shared with honesty and the application of “Protective Censorship” averted. Let’s be clear, it is wonderful to focus on the real humour! Mrs. Sebastian, I await your call!