I’ve paid this tax more than a few times in my life, the first as a youngster when I sent home via a friend and his vehicle a couple of sleeping bags, a ton of photos from flight school and some clothes. They never arrived.
Don, the flight-school friend, had been just another Canadian who went down to the U.S. to enroll in the Army in order that he might fly helicopters in Vietnam. He swallowed the recruiting station line, and ended up sitting on an airport fire truck at a domestic Army field somewhere in the southeast. Not satisfied, he jumped ship and hightailed it back to Canada where he saved his cash and ended up with some of us at the same flight school.
Of course, I didn’t learn any of this until one night when some of us piled into Sok’s Chevy and shuffled off to Buffalo, the land of cheap beer and friendly women. While we were watering down a wall framing one of the more cheaply financed sections of Buffalo (there were many at the time), a cruiser pulled up and we were confronted by a couple of Buffalo’s finest who took some exception to our need for urination.
Fortunately for all of us, a radio call ended up dispatching the officers to a more pressing matter of a break and enter, and we thankfully piled back into Sok’s car and headed north where we belonged. It was during the ride home that Don regaled us with tales of his bitter disappointment in the U.S. Army and his subsequent jump from active duty to Canadian reservist, so to speak. If anything, that should have told me all I needed to know about Don.
Ten years later, I ran into Don while we were both flying on large fires in northern Canada. He was still shifty-eyed. Needless to say, while we were in the fire camp we never spent any time reminiscing over the good old days.
Occasionally, I still pay the optimism tax when someone takes advantage of my trust in humanity, but there’s no point in worrying about it. It’s simply not worth it, although I must admit that I still miss those photos and the accompanying negatives.
I’ve never missed Don, and the sleeping bags and the clothes were all replaced.