THE SONIC BOOMER
I have always wondered about charisma — who has it, how they get it and why I don’t have any. As a student of humanity, it’s easy to see that some people stand out more than others — sometimes in a bad way, through misbehavior or downright stupidity, and sometimes in a good way in that others are simply drawn to them.
But is this attraction born or made? And when, exactly, does it happen? Does a kid suddenly decide to become the class clown or does constant encouragement by appreciative classmates make it so?
I got a firsthand look at charisma in its infancy last week at the ice-skating rink, and I’ll tell you right now: it’s born. You either have it, or you don’t.
I hadn’t intended to go ice skating. In fact, I hadn’t intentionally slid across the ice for decades. But suddenly I had a chance to show my 2.5-year-old grandson Skippy what it was all about and, before I knew it, we were heading off to skate. (We had only intended to eat lunch at a nearby restaurant, but one thing led to another.)
I must admit the little guy was intrigued from the moment I told him we’d be wearing shoes with knives on the bottom. I mean, you have to present these new experiences in their best light. He turned in his shoes; I strapped us into the skates, and he wobbled across the rubber mats, astonished at first that the art of walking had become difficult again.
I held his hand (so he wouldn’t fall) and the railing (so I wouldn’t fall) and off we went, both of us tentatively sliding along. In time, my confidence came back, and I was able to hold both his hands, enabling him to slide more on the bottoms of the blades than the sides. Not wanting to overdo it, I suggested we take a break.
Skippy clomped right over to a small picnic table that held a gaggle of 10-year-old girls and all their accoutrements — feathery headbands, glittery sweaters and satiny leggings. Even a raccoon would’ve been attracted to them. But as he wedged himself into their midst, I said, “No, Skippy. This is their table. They were here first.”
The girls immediately protested. “Aww, no! He can stay! He’s so cute!”
And so it began. My lesson in charisma. The seas parted and Skippy was now in the place of honor in the center of the group. He took this in stride, patiently answering their questions and requests.
“I’m Brianna. Can you say my name?”
“Bri. Ann. Uh.”
“Aww! So cute!”
“Now say mine. Say Jessica.”
“Jess. Sic. Uh.”
After 10 minutes of this, I asked Skippy if he wanted to go back onto the ice. He did. After all, there were puddles out there. He stood up, and the entire flock of girls stood with him. On the ice, I took one hand and Brianna took the other. Jessica pleaded with me, and I turned over control to the 10-year-olds. My reasoning was that they were closer to the ground and easier for him to hold on to.
Skippy was in heaven. Plodding along, he was surrounded by nine — nine — girls. He couldn’t have fallen if he’d wanted to.
“I’m back-spotting him!” one called out as she cradled her hands just behind his head.
Back at the picnic table, the girls allowed him to admire their cell phones — loaded with bling — and he quickly took a selfie. (“Aww!”)
When it was time to leave, I bought all the girls chocolate chip cookies and thanked their mothers for allowing them to teach Skippy how to skate.
But they had taught me more. They had taught me that Skippy’s mother has her work cut out for her.