Sunday, January 29, 2006

Playing in Traffic

This is a late addition to the Dial "D" for Dumb series of misadventures I have gone through in my life.

I told this story to a woman I care deeply for the other night. She laughed so hard we had to stop at an all night convenience store for a quart of milk for her to force through her nose.

When I was a wee lad I lived in a much more northerly latititude than I do now. Not that where I live now is any great shakes when it comes to the rigors of winter. In fact, it still sucks. Put another way, "Bienvenito a Habana" (sans Fidel) is my idea of a place to pitch my tent for November through May.

At any rate, where I grew up forsook sunlight from early December through about the end of March. It got cold. Real cold. Real cold and uncomfortable and folks basically had to cope as best they could without resorting to axe-murdering.

My mother and I fell into the habit of taking long, after dinner walks. These were the times when, dinner eaten, the dishes and homework done, the old man having scooted back to the office, we would go out and reflect on why the fuck we didn't live somewhere like Florida.

There was one cold spell I remember where you had to suit up just to go out and get the mail. Snow would be packed hard on the streets and sidewalks and would make that squeaky, crunchy noise under your boots that said "Hypothermia is just an awkward moment away."

We still went out for our evening walks which, given the darkness, didn't really differ from, let's say an afternoon walk we could have taken if we had had a lick of sense in our heads.

It was bitterly cold that night. Uncomfortably so. And my mom advised me to keep moving so that nothing froze up. I complied and kept moving but it was still cold. My toes were cold, my fingers were cold but, worst of all, my face was cold and I was afraid of getting frostbite which is silly because it only could have helped. I was an ugly child, once voted "most likely to be set out on an ice flow just for the hell of it."

Funny thing is that when I finally did get frost bitten, it was at the exact opposite...

Never mind. Another story for another day.

So here I am, walking, holding my mother's hand (I was nine, it was still okay) and freezing my face off.

What to do? What to do? Whining didn't help. It never did. And we had just set off on our walk so turning back was out of the question because we "still had a whole lot of exercise" to get in. I pondered beneath my scarf and under my wool hat when it finally occurred to me: One of the benefits of being nine and holding mom's hand was that I had a built in guidance system. And I had a scarf I could pull up and a hat I could pull down and, are you getting the idea?

Yep. I yanked the scarf up over the bridge of my nose and pulled the hat down over my eyes and, voila, face completely covered and warm, I was happy to be led whereever.

Almost.

See, I could still see things through the wool weave of the hat that covered my eyes. Things like, oh, car headlights. Not things like, oh, sidewalks and what side of the street we were on and why are we suddenly on the other side of the street from where we usually walk when we always walk on the side next to the farmer's field? Don't know and I can't explain. All I know is suddenly, we are on the other side of the road, the one without the sidewalk and there's a car coming and we need to get back to the safety of the sidewalk and why isn't she taking me there???

She wants to kill me. That's it. It's cold and dark and she's gone axe-murderer crazy and she's going to walk me right into this oncoming car! Run! Break your grip, let go of the hand that is steering you into two tons of bumper and run like hell for self preservation to the sidewalk! It's over there!

Or would have been if we were actually on the side of the road I imagined we were on. Which of course, we weren't.

We were on the safe side of the road. Just like we always were. Thanks to Captain Warmface, I mis-perceived everything and got completely turned around and essentially, from my mom's perspective, pulled away from her to run into the middle of the road.

She screamed. I stopped. The car honked and swerved. Nothing else happened.

Except that I went axe murderer crazy in the eyes of my mom and some poor driver that night.

Explains why I was grounded until June that year.

Bunny on.

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