Before You Say ‘Yes,' Take One More Look At The Details



Editor's note: Tom Garrett's "Your Turn" column usually runs on Fridays. It was held last week for space considerations, and will return to its normal slot this Friday.

"It'll only take half an hour," my brother-in-law told me, trying to talk me into installing a French door in place of a sliding glass one in my house on a day when I didn't think we had enough daylight left for it. "It'll be a piece of cake."

"No," I told him. "(We'll do it) next Saturday when you're up here again. When we have a whole day."

He did not look altogether happy, but he agreed.

"See you then," he told me.

It was a classic conversation for me: Someone trying to get me to agree to do something I didn't want to do, an utter impossibility. I don't budge. If I don't want to do something, nothing can change my mind.

That doesn't mean I'm hard to get along with. It simply means that I can't be talked into doing something by someone who is using all the little ploys people use to get us to do things we really don't want to do. They tell you it won't take long. They say it will be easy. They gloss over the details.

You can't convince me that way. I know better. I may be a little slow, but given enough time I eventually learn, and one thing I learned a long time ago is that the devil is in the details.

"The town's right there," Earl LaFlamme told us, pointing through the pitch black night at the lights of the town far below. "Why can't we just slide down on the snow?"

He was trying to convince Bob Pray and me to take the direct route back down to a town located below a Carmelite nunnery sited atop a low mountain in Iceland. We had climbed up the snow-covered road to visit a nun who taught his third-grade class back in Connecticut, by request of his mother.

The road was so deeply covered in snow that the tops of tall telephone poles were just even with the top of my head. It was a long walk up, and it looked like a longer one back down on a pitch black moonless night. Sliding down the mountain on our heavy blue Air Force overcoats was a tempting idea, but little bells kept going off in my mind, telling me it was a bad one.

Nevertheless, against my best judgment, I agreed. Down we started, sliding on our overcoats through the snow, laughing and yelling, three idiots on the way down what looked like a thousand foot slope that ended right in town.

Then came a rock -- a very large rock, one that loomed up in front of me out of the darkness. My right ankle bone smashed into it, stopping me dead. Earl LaFlamme stopped when he heard me yell. Bob Pray slid on for another ten feet before he could stop. I could feel bleeding, but the flow of blood very quickly slowed because it was so cold that night -- well below zero.

"Is it broken?" Earl asked. I had a finger stanching the blood in what felt like a deep slot in the bone, but it did not feel broken.

"No," I told him.

"C'mon. Let's get into town as fast as we can," he said.

"Whoa," Bob Pray said as he came up to us. His arm moved against the lights of the town below as he pointed. "Look."

It was just possible to make out what he was pointing at. The lights of the town were cut off by a sharp line just twenty feet ahead, the edge of what we later found out was a three hundred foot cliff. If I hadn't hit that rock we would have made it into town in record time all right.

We would no doubt have landed in some poor Icelandic's back yard, screaming all the way down. I still have the chipped bone in my right ankle to show for that learning experience. My advice? If you don't want to do it, don't agree to do it, no matter how easy they make it sound. But if you don't learn how to say no right away, don't let it worry you. Maybe you're as slow as I am. It took a second mountain climbing experience to teach me when to say no.

Oh, and that French door? Took five and half hours.

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