Avoid a Guaranteed No
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. – Nora Roberts
I couldn’t afford to be late. I was 16 years old. My teacher had warned me that if I was late again for the class or particularly for my upcoming presentation, he was going to call my mother. Feeling pleased and rather smug, I smiled and told him it wasn’t a problem if he had to call my mom. But then my teacher continued, “I know you have been deleting the voicemails I have been leaving. I have your mom’s work number. I will call her at work.”
My face paled because I knew that I would be in serious trouble if my mom knew how often I slept in, skipped morning classes and arrived late for my afternoon classes. I got away with it because of my mom’s work schedule. Even when I went to school on time, I woke up after her and I always got home before her in time to delete the messages.
At the moment, I took what seemed like a threat to my life very seriously. The day of my presentation arrived. The class started at 1 p.m. So while I was taking the teacher at his word, the teachers in my morning classes had not said they would phone my mom at work, so I decided to sleep in and set my alarm for 12:15. The alarm went off and I leisurely got ready. There was no rush. I took my giant bristol board and walked to the bus stop. I could see the bus further down the road and I calculated that I would arrive at school 5 minutes before the end of lunch. Perfect timing!
The bus pulled up to the stop. Suddenly, an older gentleman pushed past me and boarded the bus. Soon every other adult was doing the same. The bus was packed and before I knew it, the bus doors were closing and it left without me!
Completely shocked, I looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed this injustice. But I was the only one left at the bus stop. I checked the time – 12:37. I looked down the road, and there was no other bus coming. Now I was starting to sweat and panic. I didn’t know what to do.
This was long before Uber and I didn’t have money for an Uber or a taxi anyway. I was stuck. Suddenly, a cop car pulled up to the intersection and stopped at the light. Without missing a beat, I took a chance and knocked on the passenger side window of the cop car. The cop rolled down the window as I said “Hey, can you give me a ride?”
The cops were both confused and amused as they asked for clarification. But I boldly continued. “Yes! Please can you give me a lift?” They could sense my desperation and panic. I was almost crying at that point. “My mom is gonna kill me. I can’t be late for my presentation! Please, please! The bus driver let everyone else on the bus but me. Please can you give me a ride?”
Thankfully, the cop who was driving started laughing and I think both took pity on me and appreciated my bravery in asking. He said, “Sure kid, get in.”
Thanking them profusely as they were driving, I checked the time. Even with the ride to school, it was going to be cutting it close. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I asked, “Hey can you speed up and drive a bit faster? My class starts at 1:00.” I don’t know where that confidence came from but it worked.
The cop glanced back, sped up and said “No problem. We will get you there on time.”
As we were pulling up to the school, lunch was ending and everyone was outside. Obviously, a cop car pulling up to a school had drawn everyone’s attention but no one had yet seen me in the back. I had one chance to make this look good. Every request I had made had worked so far. With my newly found confidence, I said, “Hey can you do me one more favour? When you let me out of the car can you pretend I was in trouble?” This was my one chance to score some cool points. Yes, I skipped classes, but I was a good kid. I didn’t get in trouble. This was a chance to make me look cool and be a bit more popular.
The cop smiled again and said “No problem.” So he opened the door for me and made sure he was super loud as he said “Okay kid, watch it! Get out of here and don’t cause any more trouble or we will take you away next time!”
As I stepped out of the cop car, I could see all the students with their jaws agape and I knew it had worked. But I had to make it look even better. “No! You know what? You watch it! You’re lucky I’m at school now!”
I might have pushed it a bit far because the cop became very serious and stern. I panicked, smiled and mouthed the words thank you without anyone noticing. I rushed into school and I crushed my presentation. I was popular and a topic of conversation for the rest of the school day. The popularity waned after about two weeks, but it was sweet while it lasted.
My confidence and courage in asking for help reminded me of an important lesson. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. People fear rejection. But the only way to grow and move forward is to keep asking. Ask for help, ask for what you want and you might be surprised at the answer. Even if one person says no, another will come along and you will get your yes. Keep asking and you will get to where you are going.
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