“I Don’t Know.”

The world’s most popular answer works wonders.

Sometimes I like to mess with young surfers. I remember being such a little shit out in the water that it’s incomprehensible to me why no one ever punched me in the face. In our early teens, my friends and I were your worst nightmare if you were out in the water trying to relax and catch a few waves before or after work. We’d scream, make fun of everyone else in the lineup, splash around, blow waves on purpose, and basically be obnoxious little f-kers.

Sure we’d get yelled at by older guys and sometimes even threatened. The problem for the angry person holding up a fist was just like in nature. We were a pack of frothing hyenas, and we never surfed alone. We were all skinny toothpicks with big heads that looked like lollipops in our wetsuits, but there were never less than ten of us.

Now cut to present day when the thought of surfing with ten friends is a nightmare. A party of three is just perfect, and out in the water we mind our own business. Now we’re the ones annoyed by those little shits. I even yelled at some obnoxious kid in the water yesterday. He was just like I was when I was younger. His high-pitched voice squealed obscenities after missing a wave, his little pack of gerbil friends joined in and laughed, causing a falsetto chorus of cuss words about ten feet away from me.

Here’s where it got funny: I turned to the kids like an old salty sea dog (bitter ’cause I was catching shitty waves) and said something totally stupid: “Hey kids, shut the f-k up.”

They did, but they gave me the sourest look ever. They huddled up and had a little rat conference. The circle opened up, and they yelled back, “What’s your problem?”

I knew I was being an asshole. I shouldn’t have had a problem with young kids having fun in the water-and for the record I did way more annoying stuff than that to other people. The only thing I could think of to say was, drumroll please … “I don’t know.”

The perfect answer to the perfect question-I didn’t know what my problem was other than I wish I were thirteen again.-C.C.