On tv the other day, I saw a golfer conferring with his caddy, and I was reminded of my 1-day caddy career when I was 14.
A friend talked me into going with him to a local golf club where teen-age boys worked for no pay, just the tips they were given for a round of caddying. At that point I didn't know the slightest thing about golf, and had never actually set foot on a golf course that didn't involve putting through a windmill or the legs of a giraffe. "It's easy," my friend said. "you just have to carry their bag!"
I wore my best Tigers sneakers and cut-off shorts, and was assigned to a stout man with gray, slicked-back hair. It didn't take long for the man to realize that I didn't have the foggiest idea of what I was really supposed to do. It seemed like I was always standing in the wrong place or handing him the wrong thing. There was also some issue with where I was putting the clubs back into his bag. As the sun got hotter, the strap dug deep into my shoulder and the bag clunked harder against the back of my leg.
The man was getting more and more frustrated with me and began yelling incomprehensible things like "The WEDGE, the WEDGE!" and shaking his head making sighing noises. I don't think I was ever rude or disrespectful to him; that's never really been in my nature. But I was definitely happy when he decided to quit after 9 holes.
At the end, the man looked me in the eyes and firmly pressed a quarter into the palm of my hand. I can still see the dull old coin and feel the ridges on its edge as I put it into my pocket. I hadn't known what to expect, but I was pretty sure I'd seen other golfers handing bills to their teenage caddys. All I got was a quarter and a sunburn.
At the time, I thought I'd just gotten unlucky by getting a cheapskate, but I realize now that he thought HE had been the unlucky one. The quarter was an insult, but that didn't occur to me until many years later. I've since made it a point to be better prepared for whatever I was getting myself into. And to be kind to people making an attempt to help me.
And the quarter? I invested that in a tiny little startup company called Microsoft and am now a trillionaire! Take that, cheapo! Okay, this last part is made up. I probably spent it on Bubble Yum.