The most enduring lessons I learned from Boy Scouts: Buy Your Own Cake, People Don’t Want You to Win, and Don’t Trust Scout Leaders
“Whoa, dang, H2 – what kind of scouting was this?”
I couldn’t tell ya, but my experience with Troop 666 in Fairfax, VA turned me off of scouting and left me with smarting observations on how I felt I was different.
Mind you, I was 7. I only had the world half-solved by then.
Let’s talk about the cake walk. Why this was a Boy Scout thing, I don’t know. The mechanics remain fuzzy, but I remember the important components: scouts got a number, a number got called, a scout wins a cake.
I never won.
To a normal seven-year-old, that’s just a way of life.
But in the life autistic, not winning is yet another reinforcement of difference, of inadequacy. Normal kids win. Kids like me don’t.
That is, until one week, the auctioneer bellowed out “NUMBER SIX!”
I dashed up to the Scout Master, furnishing my card that said 6. The number six. It looks like this: 6.
He didn’t seem to notice me at first, which was odd, but I managed to get his attention – also odd, given that they were, uh, looking for claimants to these cake prizes and all.
“Oh ho ho,” he cackled, flipping my card this way and that. “This is, uh, it’s a 9. Sorry kid — it’s a NINE!”
No, it was not a—
I didn’t have the courage to correct him, since everyone was laughing me off, as if no one could possibly confuse a 6 for a 9.
Which, I didn’t.
I had the number. Again, I wasn’t the type to have the kind of confidence to go out there and be wrong. That’s not me.
Sulking away, I looked up at my other troop leaders for support, and . . . nothing.
On the face of it, this is kind of a dumb, pitiful story. It really is. People sell cakes. People make mistakes.
I didn’t know I was autistic back then, but I knew I was different. My scouting experience cemented this even further.
Normal kids get to win, get the benefit of the doubt, and get support.
I just wanted a chance to be normal that night.