In the summer of '68, we spent a few days chucking water balloons at a cluster of cicada killer wasps that had gathered on a patch of sap on the oak tree in Billy Clifford’s backyard.
These wasps were huge. And really mean looking. We convinced ourselves that they were going to swoop down and kill the slowest of us unless we took them out first.
But it turns out cicada killer wasps only kill cicadas. It also turns out that these were male cicada killers, which means they didn't even have stingers like female cicada killers do. So rather than defending ourselves, we were, in reality, attempting to commit insecticide.
Since we were eight years old at the time and the patch of sap was about 40 feet above us, we went through a lot of water balloons before we nailed them. But once we did, those wasps exploded into a buzzing frenzy of “What the HELL, man??!! Are you serious?? What’s wrong with you goddamn kids?!”
One of them fell to the ground right in front of us. Well, it actually fell where we had been standing before we scattered like coked-out cockroaches.
Marius Overhand was the first one to go back to see if the wasp was dead. The rest of us followed a sensible distance behind. Once we all gathered around the body, we unknowingly acted out scenes from “The Crowd,” a short story by Ray Bradbury about a crowd of weirdos that would show up at car accidents to decide if the victim lives or dies.
“Is it dead?”
“Yeah, it’s dead.”
“So pick it up, but watch out for the stinger ‘cause they can still sting after they die.”
“I’m not picking it up! YOU pick it up. And no way they can sting you after they’re dead.”
Unfortunately for all involved, this wasp was very much alive—albeit a little stunned—and very, very angry. When it started flapping its wings—which I swear were held in place by rivets—we all bolted in different directions. All of us except Scott Lindholm and Eddie Foley, who banged heads together so hard that they, too, ended up flat on their backs surrounded by a crowd of eight-year-old boys who were busy determining their friends' fate.
“Are they dead?”
“Scott's eyes are open but they're crossed. And Eddie ain't moving. Let's get outta here!"
I bring this up because, much like the crowd in Ray Bradbury’s story, people will always try to tell your story for you if you’re not telling it yourself.
Look at Edward Snowden. After he let the world know that crazy ol’ Uncle Sam is also a "creeper," he fell off the grid, leaving the entire world to define him as a traitor, a hero, a self-indulgent narcissist, and a loser.
The same thing is happening right now with your organization. The Internet hates a vacuum. If you’re not telling your organization’s story, somebody else is. And you can bet that they're using this image
to describe you instead of this one.