The Tom Sawyer Effect
Nov. 13, 2009 1:04 pm
Updated: Nov. 16, 2009 4:39 pm
Mark Twain knew what makes us tick. In Twain's novel, Tom Sawyer, young Tom has to whitewash Aunt Polly's fence in full view of his jeering friends. Faced with the double whammy of a dreary task and public humiliation, Tom teeters on the brink of losing his hard-won street cred.
Instead, he taps into the depths of the human psyche to convince his home boys that applying paint to a long stretch of fence was something so rare and pleasurable--an aesthetic high they were unworthy of attaining--that they end up paying him for the privilege of painting the fence for him. And they thank him for it.
In short, the rarer the object, the higher we value it.
I can't say if my friends had The Tom Sawyer Effect in mind when they invited us to pick their grapes. So what made the difference between labor and party? It was the rarity of the thing. After all, when does a city girl like me get to pick grapes, let alone see grapes on the vine? I was in!
Our friends wisely made it a contest to see who could pick the most grapes in a given time. They passed out clippers and let us loose. Now, are you picturing a sweet little grape arbor or a simple fence-and-vine thing on level ground? No sir! We're talking about stooping and cutting and picking our way down a steep, slippery slope, then lugging loads and loads of juice-heavy grapes back up the hillside at the end. But we scrambled around, laughing and sliding and racing to fill buckets, bags, and bowls. Then we weighed the haul to see who picked the most.
What happened to the grapes? We got to keep some to eat and our friends made wine with the rest. And yes, they shared. But I can't bring myself to pour out a glassful just yet. I want to savor the memory of what went into this bottle--I wonder if it will taste like liquid autumn? I'll love it, no doubt, for the labor it took to make.
Tom Sawyer was right. It was difficult, it was rare, and I'd do it again. Maybe in about a year.
Thanks for the visit; please take a moment to say hi and share your latest adventures with me.
Happy November to you!
Grapes ready for picking.
The hunt is on.
Picking grapes and loving it.
Hiding out under the grapevine.
The reward for our grape-picking labor party.