A Lesson Learned
The meals were outrageous, but Carol and I had visited Prince Edward Island, Canada only once in all the years we resided in New Hampshire (see Prince Edward Island on The Disconnected Traveler).
We went there to play golf, which used to be one of my obsessions. While we traveled to Canada’s Atlantic Provinces many times, P.E.I. was out of the way by quite a bit. Nevertheless, I had heard from some of my friends that the island was a golfer’s paradise.
I played a ton of golf in those days. There was a course located across the street from my office, so on every occasion I was able, I played a few rounds. In my usual style, I eventually got carried away. My game was pretty good, as I was a ten handicap, but as time marched on, knocking a little ball along the grass every day proved to be too time consuming for my taste.
In any event, Prince Edward Island is a fantastic place everyone should visit once in a lifetime. Lobsters abound, and the potatoes are the tastiest on the planet. Everything about P.E.I. was just perfect.
About three days into our trip, we bumped into a couple from Japan. They spoke very little English and aside from arigato and sushi, my Japanese was wanting. However, my wife hit it off with Mr. Goto’s wife (first name never known), and Goto loved the game of golf. He was a nine handicap and very competitive. While our wives went wherever wives go, we decided to play a round or two.
Of course, golfers are like addicts and cannot simply knock a ball around. There had to be something on the line to satisfy the male egos. We agreed on a lobster dinner as a wager. We figured the worst possible result would be a pleasant evening with new friends.
Well, Mr. Goto and I really got into it. One would have thought it was a Masters final. We both played way beyond our capabilities, and we were tied going into the 18th hole.
Unfortunately for Mr. Goto, his drive placed him with a poor lie and quite a distance from the green. Mine was terrific, right down the middle and much farther than my usual poke. I swelled up like a lizard in love – until the ball hit the ground. Unbeknownst to us, there was a metal grate in the fairway to help with water drainage. Of course, only Murphy himself and I could have hit it, and I did.
My ball hit that grate, took a violent right turn, and careened into the woods, landing right behind a tree. Mr. Goto’s ball was not in great shape, but certainly better than mine. All I remember was the extent of my complaints. I mumbled, kicked the tree, blamed the world, and lost the match by one stroke.
As we shook hands and decided where to dine on me, I continued my discontent with my circumstances. And then Mr. Goto spoke some words, in broken English, that not only shamed me, but stuck with me all these years. He said, “Mr. J. In life, not all the time go good. You play bery good golp. But some thing beyond you control. If you not forget, you big problem.”
It felt like I took a shot from a stun gun. I knew he was right, and I knew better than that. He had taken a philosophy I tried to live by and turned it into a reality I have lived by since.
We enjoyed a terrific dinner that evening, and our wives thought we were both nuts as we related the story of our game. But deep down inside, I had learned one of the biggest lessons of my life, for which I will be forever indebted to Mr. Goto. Over the next fifteen years, I must have said to myself a thousand times, “It is beyond my control.”
Forgetting untoward events in life keeps one healthy and happy. Thank you, Sir.