I married a Boy Scout.
I don’t mean that figuratively, as in an honest, loyal and trustworthy guy who assists old ladies in crossing the street — although he is certainly all of those things. My spouse is a real Boy Scout — an Eagle Scout, to be exact — who lives and dies by the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.
Once, when we were dating, I saw his old Boy Scout sash hanging in the closet. He had earned so many merit badges that his mother had to sew some of them on the back. (Snide aside: You’d think maybe with all the sewing required, the Boy Scouts would offer a Needlework badge.)
My spouse’s obsession with preparedness has taken many forms, each utilizing something learned from his merit badge work. From the cords of firewood he chopped every fall (Woodworking badge) to the extra 12-pack of beer he keeps in the garage refrigerator (First Aid badge), my man is always ready for any eventuality.
Remember Y2K? Well, for the record, neither one of us really thought the world’s computers would shut down and suspend life as we knew it, but The Scout purchased a gas generator and propane cook stove (Camping badge), stockpiled gallons of drinking water (Soil and Water Conservation), withdrew an unnerving amount of cash from the bank (Coin Collecting), and stashed extra canned goods — including beer, of course — in the basement (Wilderness Survival), just in case.
Midnight 2000 came and went without so much as a blinking light. But the generator and stove served us well in future power outages, the cash went back into the bank, and we ate a lot of Bush’s Baked Beans that winter. Suffice it to say we found a unique way to ring in the new millennium. (Music.)
My better half’s favorite merit badge was Orienteering, defined in the Boy Scout handbook as “the use of map and compass to find locations and plan a journey.”
For as long as I’ve known him, The Scout has taken enormous delight in navigating territory, familiar and strange. Ladies, this isn’t a man who refuses to stop and ask for directions. He doesn’t have to. For every new destination, he ventures forth equipped with one, sometimes three maps: road, physical and/or topographic.
Prior to last year’s trip abroad, he printed maps and directions for every one of our nine stops. It was enough to fill the loose-leaf binder he would break out of his backpack at every respite.
You’d think such a person would be the first to jump on the GPS bandwagon. But no! The ubiquitous satellite navigation system that works in snow, rain, heat and dead of night is a distasteful crutch to The Scout.
“That’s cheating,” he huffed, as I demonstrated how my iPhone could instantly map the way from Lawrence to Sturgis, if we should ever take a notion to buy leather chaps and a couple of Harleys. Which we haven’t, for the record. Not yet, anyway.
“Embrace the technology!” I cried, remembering the fat stack of road maps stuffed in my glove compartment. “Think of all the trees you’ll save.” (Forestry.)
“Orienteering is about finding your own way,” he said. “With GPS, you might as well be traveling by taxi.”
Then, just when I conceded that my spouse was stuck in an endless paper trail, he discovered Google Earth.
“Look at this!” he screamed from his computer the other night. You can see the entire route from the Tube station to our hotel. On street level! You just drag the little man into the road and — boom! — you can see McDonald’s and a little pub and — look! — it’s Starbucks!”
“Yes, I know,” I replied gently. “And guess what? I have Google Earth on my phone, just like GPS. You don’t need all that paper.”
My words fell on deaf ears. I left him wending his virtual way from our hotel to Westminster Abbey.
Two hours later, he emerged from the bedroom, holding the binder. It looked like the New York City phone book.
“Check it out,” he said. “I copied street-level photos of every place on our itinerary and inserted them next to the corresponding map. We’ve got visual landmarks at every corner!”
I sighed, wondering if the weight of that binder would put his suitcase over the 50-pound limit. That’s 75 bucks, you know.
In the end, I smiled and said nothing. But, sometimes, I think Eagle Scouts’ wives deserve our own merit badge. (Sainthood.)