Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WACKY WEDNESDAY....Where Anything Goes

Today: Taking Risks - Living Dangerously (or basically, driving to work during rush hour.)

Miss me? Remember, I have that big ass Vidal Sassoon weapon! (new meaning to "blow you away). 

Still have one class wrapping up, one in which my bluff and dazzle routine at writing a show piece blurb and query letter has been shredded (and rightfully so). I'm in the corner cowering right now, licking my wounds. But now I see things from a perspective I hadn't before, so the lesson learned is worth the risk of putting myself out there.

Jump into your time traveling machines, buckle you seatbelt and set your instrument panel to take you back to your teenage years, some a short blimp - barely rounding a corner, others will need to pack a cooler of food and make a few potty stops, and even a few may need an overnight stay at a docking station until you get there. In particular, I want you to zero in on the ages 15-17, when your brains were sucked out - your parents were idiots, having no clue about "real life" and you...had "no fear" of real life.

What were the some of the most stupid, dangerous, stunts you pulled (and you all did - so don't give me any crap about being the "best child ever born")? Now of course, to start our tour down memory lane and have to face the numbskull we once were, I'll go first. (I know, how can I top the first date?) I performed several asinine (being the only word to describe said behavior) stunts. However, to keep anyone just waiting for the opportunity to have me locked away and throw away the key, I will only divulge one.

First, we must have a sense of the geography of where I grew up. Hills. Lots of steep hills that led to huge mountains. The "big city" sitting a few miles from my sleepy town was full of "ups and downs," literally. Nice steep streets for the green teenage driver to test the durability of the braking system on the family car. Sometimes, I wondered if my dad worried that the brakes would stop him at the end of the driveway after I'd had the car out the night before (which, I'm telling you "my driveway" qualifies for a blog all on its own, and anyone reading who knows me from those early years, is breaking into a cold sweat right about now).

There was one street in particular that qualified as the "death slide." A popular thrill ride. E Street. Started just below the Capitol building and was a straight shot to the lake, I swear. Now enter from stage left, three darling girls with big eyes, curvy shapes and great hair - but no brains. Zip. You could shine a flashlight through my ears. Whisper in one and there was an echo. But I had a valid drivers license and a car. Grant it, back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, cars were built of real metal, had hoods big enough a family of ten could sit comfortably on, and bumpers that were strong enough to push a building off its foundation. My car was a station wagon (yeah, go google that one!) - putrid green, inside and out, but the only car my family had (did I mention the dinosaurs?)

When the "trio of stupidity" went looking for a thrill, we followed the Friday night crowd to the top of E Street. Several side streets branch off of E Street, but E Street only had two stop signs. One at the top, and one at the bottom. When it was our turn, we'd put the car in park, take our shoes off and put our feet on the dash (I had to keep the car clean or I'd be grounded from it if I brought it back dirty. Of course Dad never discussed punishment if I crashed the car, but I assumed if I did, I would just ask the officer to shoot me and end my life to save my Dad from having to do the task). 

I (or whoever was the thrill ride operator for the night) would put the car in drive and we'd let the car go....all the way to the bottom....without touching the brakes until we hit the bottom of E Street (granted, we didn't touch the gas either but centrifugal force pretty much took care of accelerating the vehicle far beyond "safe") . Can you hear the screeching sound of metal rubbing against metal (not fancy disc brakes - again, T-Rex was my neighbor's pet) in an effort to stop the hundreds of pounds of metal rolling on four rubber tires (probably "retreads")? Smell the stench of burned rubber wafting through the billows of blue smoke? Of course being inside the car, we missed the whole "sparks" flying from beneath. Don't ask me why we had a smidgen of common sense to not drive back to the top and do it again, but we only did it once. Each night. Maybe it was our guardian angels "bitch slapping" us on the way down that our "need for speed" was satisfied.

Time out. I have to hurl my lunch. Just the memory has breakfast begging for exit as well.

And I was considered a model teenager. Studious, good grades, picked up my little brother on the way home from school from the babysitter, had my homework done and dinner cooking by the time my parents arrived home. Perhaps after 5 days of being "good" I needed a thrill. Or maybe I wanted to "fit in" with my peers, or wanted to impress them by not letting them know I had "fear cells" in my body. Whatever my excuse, I abandoned common sense at inopportune times, and of course, with friends.

Would I have the guts to do something like that alone? Oh hell no! When "flying solo," my brain drizzled back through my ears and filled the vacant cavity. I became "smart" again. I had good friends. No one was a bad influence, either. But in groups, kids think differently.

I did other stupid things, too, some probably considered felonies by today's standards (toilet papering someone's house is now a Class B misdemeanor), but this one sticks in my mind whenever I think of dangerous stunts that could have gotten me and my friends killed. A car could have pulled out of any of those side streets and we'd never have known what hit us. But those watching would. The trauma would stay with them, influencing their futures - something making their world spin a different direction. Luckily, no one was ever hurt, and after a few weekends, the thrill was gone, at least for my small entourage. We took up dragging State Street for boys after that.  Not sure which one turned out to be the most dangerous....

The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree either. My kids are thrill seekers. They love repelling cliffs, motocross racing, and snowboarding deep powder off the backs of mountains instead of groomed trails. I'm certain they performed their share of dangerous antics, which I hope I never discover, although in cleaning one of my tag-team's room, I found a picture someone took of him on his motorcycle....suspended in air....several feet above his truck, between two cliffs.

Am I still a risk taker? Yes. Every time I get on my Harley I take a risk (refer to last Wacky Wednesday). That's the real reason for "loud pipes." If not seen, heard works. Deciding to become a writer and throw myself in the wild publishing world is a huge personal risk. My biggest risk, however, was becoming a parent. Talk about dangerous, unpredictable, and thrilling. The ride's still going. I'm just keeping my arms inside until it comes to a stop. If ever.

The point to this blog, while not as jovial, is that kids do dumb things. Be prepared. Teach them everything safe you can, then hug them when they walk out the door. A friend's 15 yr old granddaughter was killed by a commuter train when she and her cousin decided to slip under the safety arms and cross the tracks. Wonderful girls who made a stupid decision. One made it, but watched in horror when the other didn't. Her world stopped the same time and will never be the same. We can't put them in bubbles, or we'd be arrested for child abuse because they would be considered "imprisoned." We can't make them grow up safe. All we can do is hope their guardian angels bitch slap them when we're not around.

Thanks for walking through a memory. Hope your "thrill zone" is safe and your guardian angel nearby.



Sandy B said...

I probably did a lot of stupid things in my teens, but at my age I can't remember anything outstanding. We were pretty carefully watched (by the entire neighborhood) and had no access to a car anyway.
One summer when I was around 10 I stayed with my grandmother, who had a more lackadaisical attitude toward child minding. My cousin and I went swimming in the Allegheny River, something so dangerous no one warned us not to do it. I do remember the strength of that current and fighting to get back to the bank. Never did it again and never told anyone, especially my parents. Maybe that episode instilled a little voice of caution for my teen years.

J. Coleman said...

Good thing my parents don't read my blogs. I think as parents, we'd shudder if we what dangers our kids had encountered and kept secret. Thanks Sandy.

Calisa Rhose said...

I remember driving my dads car (coincidentally, also a green inside and out station wagon) to church one day without him. I had just gotten my license the week before and he let me drive myself and sister alone. 7 miles of hills at 90 mph... It took five minutes to get home.

Christina Wolfer said...

Growing up as the only girl with three older brothers, on a farm, geez, when weren't there risks? We just didn't see them as all that dangerous. If I wanted to hang out with the boys, well then I had to try things first. But Joelene, I think your's sounds a lot scarier than my risks ever felt.

J. Coleman said...

And now, you can't get me to try anything that looks like I could get hurt. Always wanted to skydive. Now? No way! I guess I'll "write" my dangerous antics in my characters' stories and see what happens. Thanks guys!

Debora Dale said...

I often think about things I did as a teen and wonder if those things weren't as crazy as I think or if I just got really - really - lucky. After school, a friend and I used to take the 'shortcut' to her house. We'd walk through the woods. There were always pockets of people hanging out there. Most were drinking or smoking weed. Others were making out or just looking for trouble. We always got through without a care or scratch but if I knew my daughter were doing the same thing now? I'd be following her with spy gear and 911 ready for connection on the cell.

Thanks for another great and thought-provoking post.