Fair to Whom?

Tap. Tap. Tap. The pointer hit the blackboard.
“Now today children I want to discuss fair.

I’m tired.
My Father died a couple of months ago. Fred’s contract ends soon. We don’t have anything else lined up.
Freedom has come and gone. I worry about Faith. I worry about Hope. I worry about Fred.

We’re poor.
Fred bought new shoes.
My shoes have a split in them and my socks show through when I walk. Water invades my space.
Faith complains about the tread on her shoes.
“My shoes are older than yours are Mom!”, she tells me, the word “Mom” turning into two syllables.
What is fair?
Faith and I argue.
Nobody wins.

“It’s important you pay attention!”
Tap. Tap. Tap.

It’s just before Christmas.
A twelve-string guitar Christmas selection plays out on tape.
I sit and type.
Ripley The Wonder Dog places his head on my knee begging to be allowed on the loveseat beside me.

I ignore him.
He sighs.

“The theory behind fair is…”

Pause.

“Fair. The Oxford Dictionary of Current English”. Tap. Tap. Tap. “1992 Edition, defines fair as stalls, amusements, etc. for public entertainment.”

Pause.

“Oh, pardon me”.
Some flustering and flapping of hands.
“As just, equitable, in accordance with the rules. It also lists sub-definitions including satisfactory and favourable.”

Fred has gone to work. He just phoned as I turned off the computer. He’s alone there today. He wanted me to bring him his lunch.
I will.

Bought some new shoes yesterday. They didn’t have laces. The laces cost more than the shoes. I’m pleased with my shoes.
I sat in the wheelhouse, my back to the dock.
It’s raining.
I sat in the wheelhouse. My back to the dock and looked at the boats and the rain and the sky and the water.
I sat in the wheelhouse and let my mind wander.


Gripping her chalk tightly, she strides to the blackboard.
Her chalk strikes the board and the words she writes are reckless and bold.
She writes quickly striking the board each time as she raises the chalk and then lowers it. Her movements are quick.
Precise.
Intent.
When done, she takes a half step back and then leans forward, reaching her arm to circle the words.
Done, she crosses her arms and reviews what she’s written and then slowly turns to face the class.
FAIR’S WHAT’S BEST FOR ME was written across the blackboard.
A small smile on her face she asks, “Any comments?”

The weaknesses that are a part of my character are plentiful and evident.
I continue, day by day, to find balance. It is much easier when I am alone but I do not choose that option.
I have spent a considerable amount of my life acting to please others.
I couldn’t.
I am now questioning what it is that I want.


I want to be appreciated. I want to be loved. I want to be useful. I want to be warm and dry and comfortable.
These are not unreasonable things to want even if what I want is irrelevant.
It is likely I can have these things.


The class is stupefied.
She strides to her desk and picks up the pointer.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Children. Children. Pay attention! Are there any questions?
“John”, she swings the pointer to aim at the tall boy in the second row, second seat down.
He is slumped in his desk, hands holding the seat in front of him. Legs sprawled in the aisle.
“Have you ever said to someone, ‘That’s not fair!’ Well, what did you mean when you said that?”
John in parody scratches his head and a goofy grin spreads across his face. He turns around and displays it to the rest of the class.
“I don’t know”, he drawls shaking his head, “Just that it wasn’t fair.”
“Fair to whom John?”
“Why…. me.”

My daughter Hope phoned me last Friday.
She calls often.
She told me among other things, “I went to a bank’s counter today to cash my pay cheque and the lady told me my account had been frozen”.
Her voice rising on the ‘why’ she continued,
“The lady said she didn’t know why!”
No malice. Just wonder.
“The lady said I’d have to go to my own branch on Monday and find out what’s going on.”


On Monday my daughter phoned me again.
“I got it straightened out”, she told me.
“The banks records showed I owed them nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand dollars.”

I told her she should have gotten a calendar.
She laughed.

“Exactly!” and the pointer slams down on the desk.
She turns to her class. “Fair to me”.
Punctuating each word, pushing her fist out holding the pointer.
“Fair’s!”
Bringing both fists closer to her chest, swinging the pointer
“What’s best!”
Pushing her hands and pointer out towards the class
“For me!”
“Mary-Ann”, she swings the pointer, “What do you think when someone says to you, ‘That’s not fair!”
Mary-Ann blinks.
“Henrietta” and the pointer swings.
“I, ah, think they, ah, don’t like what’s happening?”
“Class. Class. Remember the first definition of fair as just, equitable, in accordance with the rules”.
Henrietta stumbles on, “I think they think they are not being treated equitably”.
Henrietta sits up straighter. Nods her head and smiles a small tight smile.
“That the rules have been broken?”
“Yes”, Henrietta answers. “Yes, that the rules have been broken.”

“What am I going to do about (fill in the blank)?” I ask Fred.
Fred says nothing.
“Nothing”, I articulate for him. “That’s what I’m going to do about (fill in the blank).”
“Good”, says Fred.
“It’s against my nature to do nothing. Do you know that?”
“Yes I do”, says Fred.

Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Class. Anyone. Who makes the rules?”
Five or six hands are raised and the pointer picks one out.
“We do?”
“How?”
“Through our laws and social customs.”
“Do the laws or social customs change?”. The pointer swings.
A tentative “yes” is put forth.
“Then the definition of fair could change too?” The pointer lunges.
“Yes!”
“Good.”
“There is an audible sign of relief in the classroom.

They tell me stories. The fishermen.
They tell me stories of tempestuous winds and water.
Water everywhere.
They tell me stories of sleeping, hanging on with the rolls of the boat and tales about walls of water and pools of endless deep.


Tap. Tap. Tap.
“The word fair has no meaning to individuals.
It is a concept based on statistics.
Fair is defined according to the rules set by individuals who statistically have taken it upon themselves to define it.
On an individual basis, without the statistics, fair becomes the sub-definition, satisfactory or favourable or
‘Fair’s What’s Best for me’.

The teacher pauses.
“Listen class. Listen.”
She pauses again.
“An individual defines fair. You define fair”.
The pointer swings. “Doug. Someone says to you, ‘That’s not fair’, what’s an appropriate response.”
Doug is tentative. “I believe it is”, he says finally.
“Do you?” She pauses and walks across the classroom. “That is the question you might ask yourself before you answer”.
“Why?”
There’s a ripple of giggles and laughter throughout the class.
“So you can examine your reasons and articulate them. Say them aloud!” She strides across the classroom. “Otherwise”.

Pause.

“You must ask why that person believes in…” and with a flourish of her hand she said “(fill in the blank) is not fair and hear their answers”.

Pause.

“Then you must rebut. If you cannot, you lose.”
“These are the rules. You must understand the rules in order to play the game”.

Pause.

“Listen. As individuals you define fair and thus the game.
You pick the rules and decide which are favourable to yourself. To your survival as a species.”

Long pause. Hands on hip. Pointer to the floor.

“If you cannot define fair then you are simply part of the food chain.

Any questions?”

Comments