Double-Check Your First Impressions
by Ryan Clements
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all judge others from appearance at first. It's to be expected though, because if you don't know someone, then what else is there to judge them on other than appearance? Just remember, you never really know who you're talking to, or talking down to, for that matter.
I got myself into one of those pre-judging situations a few years back and it came back to be a big reality check for me. It's been a long time, so I'm going to try to be as accurate as possible.
As you probably know, if you've ever read any of my other stuff, Brian Schaefer and I announce the demos at ASR and Surf Expo. One year, at ASR in San Diego, Grind King hosted one of those switch high ollie or high nollie contests (I can't remember which one) and we organized and announced that event, too.
When it came down to getting the course cleared and setting everything up, there was a bit of commotion with people trying to get good seats for viewing, making a runway for the skaters, etc. I went over to one of the bank ramps and asked everyone sitting near the bottom to move up. One blonde-haired kid was taking his time and I told him to hurry up. He gave me one of those "Who the hell are you?" looks (probably justified). Next thing you know, someone spills a beer and I blame it on that kid. Schaefer is on the mic and sees what's going on and then this kid gets some serious verbal abuse. He's obviously embarrassed as about 3000 people are looking at us, and he's the one that looks like the ass that spilled the beer on the ramp.
The kid got up and made his way to the other side of the course and sat in the runway area. The contest began and skaters started taking turns going over the bar. During these types of contests, the crowd gets super-hyped and the runway begins to get thinner and thinner as the spectators creep closer. A large part of my job consists of running back and forth with the mic saying, "Back up! Back up! Give these guys some room!" I did that for a few minutes and the runway looked great. Next thing you know, someone is completely chilln', sitting down and leaning back on his elbows, with both legs completely stretched out into the runway. I couldn't believe it - it was that same kid again! This time I gave him the verbal abuse. You know how it goes, "Hey, Asshead, are you on the dope? First you spill a beer on the ramps and now you're blocking the way. Wake up and pull your feet in." That's not exactly what I said, but I'm sure that it was something close.
The next occurrence made me seriously flip my lid. The little blonde-haired bastard didn't do anything except shoot me a bird! I was dumbfounded - I couldn't believe it. You could hear crowd mumble, "Ooooooooh." I walked over to him and looked down upon him sitting there and said to him personally (not over the mic), "You're lucky I like my job here. If you ever did that to me in Tampa, I wouldn't have to kick your ass myself because 10 other people would have already dragged your ass out of here." I can't recall what he said to me, but it something to the effect of "F*&k you," and he kept talking smack as I walked away.
Since I was kind of new with my gig at ASR, I didn't want to cause any turmoil by roughing up some kid, so I just kept my mouth shut, hoping that the situation would dissipate. I'm sure that Schaefer was continually wrecking him over the mic though. To my aid came Ian Deacon, owner of Flip Skateboards. As the kid was still yelling, Ian snatched him up by his shirt like a schoolboy and told him that he should have more respect and to leave the building. The kid still refused and was cursing up a storm, that is, until Karl Watson came over. If you don't know Karl, he's probably one of the most sincere, honest, and peaceful persons that I've ever spoken to. From what I was told, Karl simply said, "Hey Man, I think you should leave." Karl's magic worked, the disruptive kid was gone, and the event resumed.
For me to come to a point with this story, I'm going to need to shift to an entirely different situation and time period. Late in 2003, Robin Flemming from Baker Skateboards asked me if I could get one of her guys in Tampa Am 2004. I had a few spots left, and since Baker is a great supporter of Skatepark of Tampa, the spot was hers.
In January, about a month later, back at ASR in San Diego, I was introduced to the guy that Robin was sending to Tampa. He and I pretty much hit it off there at ASR and then again in Tampa for the Am the following weekend. Actually, this guy and I became friends…saying hello each day, seeing each other out on the town, and so on.
This same kid came back to Tampa with the (nearly entire) Baker Team for a demo on this past April 3rd, just a few weeks ago. Once again, he was super-friendly, skated very well, was great to the kids, and simply just fun to be around.
As I was up on the stage announcing the demo, Schaefer pointed and asked, "How do you say that kid's name?" I replied, "That's Braydon Szafranski." Brian informed me, "Did you know that's the same kid that spilled the beer at ASR and then flipped you off? He's the one that Ian Deacon and Karl Watson asked to leave." I couldn't believe it. I asked, "How do you know that?" Brian continued, "Because he told me. He was wondering if we were still pissed about that."
I felt weird, but I can't explain it. Braydon Szafranski was that same dumbass kid? The kid that I wanted to choke out at ASR? And now he ends up being the same kid that rides for Baker and has been nothing but totally polite and respectable at Skatepark of Tampa.
It's all about circumstances. He made a poor first impression on me, and I, in turn, made a bad first impression on him. But through the people we mutually know, we were both told that each other was "cool." And really, it's all cool now. If I had given Braydon a chance to speak to me about the spilled beer, we probably would have cleared the entire thing up right then and there. Braydon recently informed me that he didn't spill the beer and that it wasn't even his. He claimed, "That's why I was so pissed. You guys were accusing me of something I didn't do and all of those people were looking at me. I had to do something."
Apparently, the night before the Baker Demo (at this point I didn't even know Braydon was that kid), Michael Derewenko was out with some of the Baker crew and suggested, "Hey, I should call Clements." Braydon said, "I don't know, Man, I don't think that guy likes me," and proceeded to tell Michael the story.
'People skills' are of the utmost importance, and I definitely learned some people skills from this experience.