Friday, August 31, 2012

The Numbers Game

It's not that people don't like numbers, it's more that they can't always get comfortable with the stark certainty that comes with them.

"I was only late a few times." 
"Fourteen out of twenty days last month?  I'd say that's more than a few." 
"Shut up."

As is often the case, the numbers tell the story, the real story.  Educated as an engineer and currently responsible for the dollars and cents and operating metrics of several decidedly unsexy businesses, I live and breathe numbers.  It's a language I speak better than English and it makes me the unpopular winner of many an argument.  If anyone knows Huey Lewis, ask him if it's still hip to be square.

Being number-oriented is an affliction of sorts; people without it generally think things are either better or worse than they actually are while the rest of us are constantly hazed by the bare burden of reality.  It comes with a reflexive urge to count, to track, to analyze anything and everything.  It has its pluses and minuses.

When I lived in a ski town the magic number was 100.  Ski 100 days in a season, a season holding roughly 150 possible days, and you'd done something.  You were legitimate. Women would swoon, bartenders would give you drinks all over town, you'd get a $5 an hour raise, Hollywood A-listers would invite you to parties.  No, not really.  A couple of your boys would say 'way to go, dude' and you'd most likely be a better skier than you were in October but that's about it.  But that would be good enough because you'd lived it.  It's not the number, it's everything that happened along the way to the number.

If there's such a number for bird hunters it's less an accepted standard and more of a personal thing.  Last year I shot dove 9 or 10 days, hunted quail 12 or 13, didn't make it pheasant hunting at all.  And I fancy myself a bird hunter?  That's only 6% of the year spent doing what I enjoy most.  Even if I stack the deck in my favor and consider that I can't (legally) hunt birds but six months out of the year, I still took advantage of barely 12% of the available opportunities.  I should call myself a grass cutter, or a trash taker outer, or bill payer.  Problem is that I have about, oh, zero passion for any of these.

But it's unavoidable.  I'm gonna count, and then I'm gonna compare and rate and rank based on that count, and then I'm either gonna smile or think it's pathetic and swear to do better next year.  What I should do is look past the number.  Ten more days this year would be great, but it's not just "10" at all.  It's knowing that I spent those ten days - days I can't ever get back once they're gone - carrying a gun or walking behind a dog or both if I'm really lucky, about as happy as this boy gets.

The count currently stands at zero, but come tomorrow I'll be on the board.

Blair Witch or GoPro?  Either way, he was on to something.


  1. There's quantity and quality. Until I can spend more time on the former, I have to foolishishly attempt to convince myself that I live in the later.

  2. the amount of time you spend in the field isn't what defines you, its how you spend the time out of the field that marks the measure of your dedication to the sport. there have been several years in a row where I sadly couldn't chase birds, but there wasn't a single day I was happy about it, and I still considered myself a bird hunter to the core.