Good Saturday folks. I’m back with another ‘lesson learned’ story. Last week I told you about my partying ways and in part, what they cost me both during college and after college. I’m going to rewind a little bit to my teen years and one day specifically. A day or rather a night, where my actions nearly got me killed. Got your attention? I’ve told this story once before on another blog so it may be a little familiar to a few of you. Last weeks special though had me thinking about it again so I’m retelling it with a different thought in mind than I had then.
I’ve said before, I was no angelic teenager though I didn’t go much in for partying. It just wasn’t my idea of a good time. The first time I ever got drunk was at a party in 9th grade with some friends and I paid dearly for it at the throne that night. Mom took me to that party and picked me up. She never knew what had happened until I told her a few years later. That isn’t the night I’m referring to though. There were two types of teenagers in my neighborhood. Those who were in school trying to do the right things, many of whom partook in the spirits and herbs if you know what I mean. Then there were the others who, for whatever reason, were too cool for school. I could have been too cool for school but then I also would have been homeless. Remember go to school, get a job, or get out? Those were my options most of my life. In fact, I once told my parents I didn’t care to live by their rules anymore and I was going to run away (I think that’s the dumbass phrase I used). They said goodbye, don’t let the doorknob hit you in the ass. Yeah, empty threats didn’t work with them either.
I had a friend in the neighborhood named John. He was a year older than me and was one of those too cool for school types. He had a job working at a local restaurant as a busboy and one day, I let him talk me into skipping school. I guess I talked myself into it, it isn’t something I did on a regular basis and that is the first time I ever did it. I can’t preach personal responsibility and then blame someone else for my actions now, can I? His mother was divorced as were many in the area, probably working two jobs, and barely making ends meet. She always liked me for some reason, probably because usually when her son was with me, there was no trouble. For the most part, that was true but as you’re about to read, not always. This particular day was his payday and we were killing time so he could go get his paycheck. I had called the school as my father telling them I wouldn’t be there because I was sick (to keep them from calling the house). Then we walked down to the local K-mart. It Neither of us drove at the time so it was all walking for us. I would say we spent a couple hours messing around in the store, followed a couple girls around until Security stopped us and asked if we knew the girls. No, we didn’t know them, just found them interesting for some reason. Apparently, they complained. Why they were there is beyond me, they were our age and also should have been in school. We had a couple pops (you people probably call it Soda, Here, it’s Pop) in the cafe and then went back to his house. What I didn’t know when we were stopped by security, was that John, had lifted a few record albums and had them under his coat. I wasn’t too happy to find this out. My grandmother was head of security at a different store for a time and I can still remember the stories she would tell of stalking the suspects. What I Also didn’t know was, my guidance counselor at school had seen me walking into the restaurant where John worked while she was on her way to school/work. When she got there, she was a bit surprised to read the note that she was to pass on to my teachers, that I was home sick for the day and she called my house and talked to my father who WAS home. Like I said, I didn’t know this. After sufficient time passed and the school buses started bringing everyone home, I went home as though I had gotten off the bus as any other normal day. Dad didn’t say anything to me when I got home about it, he just asked how was school. Naturally, I lied and said it was fine thinking I had pulled it off. In truth, I was never so bored in my life as I was that day. Nothing to me, made the clock drag slower than waiting to get caught, hoping I wouldn’t be caught, and not being able to do normal things for fear of being caught. That day was nearly proof positive that a watched clock, will stop. Well, I don’t quite remember what happened later that day. Either I got knocked out and don’t remember it or nothing physical happened (I think it’s the latter). What did happen that I remember is that I was grounded for a week and was no longer allowed to associate with John. That was their punishment for me. I still had to deal with school and I still didn’t know (at that time) how the folks found out I had skipped school that day. When I went to school the next day, I learned the rest of the story. The punishment from school was I was kicked out for 3 days and I had to grab the ankles for some old fashioned corporal punishment. I never really understood the suspension punishment. Kick someone out of school who has demonstrated they didn’t want to be there. Maybe it’s an exclusion thing. Yep, the counselor had a huge wooden paddle and she could swing it like Babe Ruth. By this time in my life, mom and dad were working on their construction business and he made sure I wasn’t bored for those 3 days. There was plenty to do on some job somewhere for a person who was too cool for school.
I stuck with the ‘rule’ that I wasn’t allowed to associate with my friend for about a year or so. We saw each other somewhere in the neighborhood and started hanging around again. By this time, he was into stealing his mother’s car and going for joy rides. There were others in the neighborhood that did it too. I never had the balls to do it but my sister did it a couple times. At this time, I would take midnight bike rides or take the dog out for a walk. I really couldn’t say why, what I was looking for, or any of that. I guess I was just restless. This would be after the folks went to bed. One night, my friend and I had pre-arranged to meet up. I don’t remember why but I wound up in the car with him for one of these joy rides. For the most part, it went without a hitch and we safely arrived back at his house a half hour later. My parents knew I would take the dog out for these late night walks and probably figured I just needed to work something out. Who knows now. On another night, we had arranged, my friend and I, that he would pick me up at my house after everyone was in bed. He arrived, I put the dog on his leash, grabbed a pair of shoes because John said he’d let me drive a little, and off we went down the street.
We didn’t get 3 blocks (country blocks) from the house when it happened. Either he was passing a cigarette to me, or I was passing one to him. I can’t remember now. The dog, a large poodle c0cker spaniel mix (mostly poodle, named Charlie) was in the back seat. This was before seat belt laws and I can’t even swear the car had them. The car was a full sized Detroit steel, sedan. No compacts in this neighborhood. Fuel crisis be damned. On each side of the roads in my area are ditches, about 4-5 feet deep and there are no sidewalks. The roads weren’t paved at the time but graded and oiled to keep the dust down. I can still remember the oil trucks coming by and spraying down the streets. Anyway, as we were passing a cigarette (real, not funny type 😉 ), he veered off of the street and nailed a wooden light post, complete with power lines. I couldn’t say how fast we were going but the impact broke the post. I think when he saw the pole coming at us, instead of stopping, he pushed the pedal to the floor and all 200 plus horsepower of that old Pontiac did the rest. We probably hit it at 40mph or so. On impact, I swear if there are really guardian angels, I had one that night (so did he as well as my dog), the top of my face scraped the sun visor stopping me short of hitting the windshield. He had the steering wheel to brace himself so he was little more than shook up. I can’t even tell you what the dog must have felt. I’m sure he hit the back of the seat pretty good. Needless to say, for our persons, and my dog’s well being, it could have been a whole lot worse. As the lamp post was tipping towards the yard near where it once stood, we looked at each other, got out of the car, and took off in different directions to run home. That my friends was my brush with death. Like I said, guardian angel. The post snapped, the wires came down, and it apparently took out power for several adjacent blocks. I don’t think I ever moved so fast in my life, then or now. I beat the dog home. Yes, I was that scared that I grabbed the dogs leash and hauled serious ass, racing the hound. Well, perhaps beat him home is an embellishment. He was after all on a leash so he was never more than a couple feet behind me. Maybe he was in as much shock as I was.
As it happened, my sister’s friend was spending the night as she did quite often. The two of them and I went back to the scene of the crime in part to see, and also, I had left my red shoes in the car (remember the story now?). The only damage to me was a scraped eyelid. Talk about getting off easy from a potentially deadly situation. Any number of things could have happened but didn’t. I managed to hide the injury from my parents the next day by simply staying in bed until they left (this was summer time). When they got home, I had to tell them what had happened however. All day long I had been worried about getting caught and hadn’t heard from my friend. I told the folks at dinner what had happened and afterwards, Dad took me down to the police station and made me tell them what had happened. They informed me that the car had been reported stolen, they were looking for a fat kid with a white dog (Charlie was mostly white), and if they had arrived on scene while I was fleeing, they could have shot me to stop me. I don’t know if that last part is or was true or not but it definitely put a healthy fear of running from the police in my head that exists to this day. Apparently, my ‘friend’ had suggested I had taken the car. The police must have believed my story over his because that’s the last I ever heard of it from them or anyone else. All his mother knew for certain is she was awakened to learn her car was wrapped around a broken lamp post.
I only saw my friend a couple times after that. He at some point got his shit together, got married with kids, went to school, all that stuff. Wherever he is, as long as he’s not in a prison cell, good for him. As for me, a brush with death and a brush with the law in a single 24 hour period, was quite enough for a lifetime. I spent the better part of that day with my sister and her friend trying to come up with a believable story. I got in a fight, I fell down the stairs, the dog bit me (as he was known to do on occasion because I was a bit rotten to him), Anything had to be better than the truth, right? In the end though, the only believable story I could come up with Was the Truth. You see, were it not for the truth, the story that I had stolen the car, may have stuck. The Police may have found that fat kid with the white dog. Since I left my shoes in the car as ‘evidence’, they would have fit. Get the picture? The Truth did in fact, that day, set me free. I know that isn’t really what that saying is meant to be because the truth of situations also gets many incarcerated. I didn’t escape this incident unpunished however. That little joy ride and disobeying my parents about hanging around my friend, cost me an additional year of wait time to get my drivers license. That was my parent’s punishment for me, not the authorities (never heard from them about it again). 16 wasn’t the magic number for me, it was 17. Imagine how uncool I felt riding the bus with all the common folk as a junior in HS, for a 10 minute joy ride.
That’s it for this week folks. See you next time. Til then,