Oh My God A Girl!Written by Debbie Jacobs
Word Count: 810
Oh My God A Girl!
“OH MY GOD A GIRL!!” This was cry I was met with when I arrived to meet our group for a 5 day canoe trip down New Zealand’s Wanganui River. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?!” a wary fellow in his 50’s exclaimed. I assured him that since I knew a heck of a lot more than he did it was in his best interest to stick with me. The rest of group, a collection of 10 men and women from New Zealand, looked on with some amusement and guarded concern. This fellow had voiced what many of them had inwardly felt when they discovered that their guides were ‘girls’. Some had assumed that Sue, a nursing student in her mid twenties, and I, a ‘Yank’ only a bit older, were greeting committee. I suspect many hoped at best we were cooks and at worst that we were driving bus. Discovering that they were heading out for an adventure under guidance and protection of two young women was not what they had imagined when signing on for 80 kilometer paddle through one of New Zealand’s newest river parks.
This immediate shock upon discovering that they are trusting their lives and limbs to a ‘girl’ is something I have become used to when meeting groups of clients for first time. Working as a white water raft guide in United States I have seen covert glances as names of guides are called out for each group of paddlers: “The Taylor party, your guide will be Rich.” “The McKenna party your guide will be Kevin.” “The Kelly party, your guide will be Debbie.” You can almost hear collective gulp.
The men in United States are rarely so blunt as to come right out and ask me if I know what I’m doing, but they are not alone in their concern. The women often share their uncertainty as to whether they can put their faith in a female guide. It doesn’t take long before I’m asked, “So... how long have you been doing this?” To which my standard response is to look at my watch and reply “Oh, since about 8 this morning,” hoping a bit of levity will calm people’s nerves.
Sometimes knowing that I’ve been guiding for 10 years helps allay fears, in other cases it’s not until we have made it down last rapid, loaded boats and are safely ensconced back on bus (which I may also drive, prompting someone to worry aloud about ‘women drivers’) that my crew sighs with relief of having survived not only river, but me.
Leadership styles vary from person to person. It is difficult and perhaps dangerous to generalize variations according to gender, but fact remains that men continue to be central figures of authority in most of our lives. While many of us have strong female role models, heroes of young Americans are typically male sports figures and action film stars. There are fewer ‘scripts’ for women assuming leadership positions commonly held by men.
Faces of MomWritten by Vic Peters
I grew up living with my mother, and sometimes my father when he wasn’t underneath ocean in a submarine. I wasn’t only child at home, but it often felt that way, and not just when I would lock my sister in basement, either—my mom was good at making me feel like best pumpkin in patch.
My mom was a working mom. She scrubbed floors and washed our clothes and sometimes even finished my science projects for me. I don’t remember her ever just sitting around. If she wasn’t in house, she was at blood drive or elementary school or outside crying because she had just put another dent in car. Our car had lots of dents.
She was a woman who wore lots of different faces. I called them “looks,” and I knew all of them. Being kind of kid that I was, this was a handy thing to know—especially if her look involved my rear end and her left hand.
When kids were gone and Mom’s house was empty, she got herself a “real” job in town. Although it was a respectable place of employment, I never had any desire to visit her there while she was on duty. One day, though, I had to. It wasn’t what she did that bothered me; rather, it was that look on her face—the one that I knew I would have to see when they brought me in. My mother ran ER desk of local hospital.
She saw lots of things every day—the kind of things that would land on counter and make a mess. Things like blood and throw-up and tears. She was good at her job because she was a strong woman. Even I knew that. She had beat up Billy Whitehead for me in fourth grade; he was a bully. My mom was tough and could take a lot, except when it came to children. Then she acted like every little one carried through those mechanical doors was hers. I had even seen her tell great big blubbering men to sit their butts back down and grow up, if they complained about having to wait. Mom was no one to mess with—I remember what she used to do with those thermometers.
I tried to put on a smile for her that day, as I slid down wall of emergency room, desperately fighting effects of shock. My pale white appearance couldn’t lie to her, though—the concern in her eyes told me that. Though injuries to my hand were not that severe, I still wondered as world around me began to darken.
My mom isn’t that much different from anybody else’s mother, although I’d like to say that she is. I’d like to say that she is best mother in world, but then where would that put my wife? Married guys hate this dilemma, because even broaching subject means only one of two things—sleeping on couch or going into one of those little “card shops.” Ugh.