Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Slow, Children

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I was walking along delivering my route this afternoon, wondering what to write about for you all today, when I looked up and saw a sign. Now, I was in a neighborhood that lies right between a school and a park with a playground, so there’s lots of foot traffic, especially kids. Thus, it made perfect sense that I should look up to see a “Slow, Children” sign. An old story popped into my head from when I was about 10 years old, and even today it still had the power to make me laugh. From that sign to my mind, and from my mind to yours, ‘The Slow Children’.

I was about 10 years old at the time, so that makes this something like 33 years ago. I was out playing at a friend’s house, and I’ll call him JL. JL, if he ever reads this, will probably know who he is.

So there we were, spending an end-of-the-summer evening playing catch with a tennis ball in the street in front of JL’s house. Now it was, and still is, a narrow street with a congested, sort of small-town feel to it. With parked cars lining one curb there was barely room for one car to pass down the street, and there was no way two cars could pass each other going in either direction, so it was a good thing it’s a one-way. The game had progressed from playing simple catch to playing catch by throwing the ball over the streetlight, and then to trying to hit the streetlight with the tennis ball; although if any adult had asked we would have staunchly insisted that any contact with that light high above the street was purely accidental. This lie would have only worked on someone who had not seen our little victory dances each time the light made a pong sound, but we weren’t thinking that far ahead.

We were 10. Thinking ahead was not something we were known for.

The summer sun was getting low in the sky when, as so often happens when one plays in the street, a car came around the corner behind me. In a custom that I continue to follow while playing in a street with Handsome to this day, JL called out “Car!” and headed for the sidewalk. I scooped up the ball on a bounce and did likewise.

Well, sort of.

Keep in mind that it was the end of Summer, and I had been out of school for a while. Add that to my age of 10, and quite often you get one thing: a wise-ass. I turned toward the sidewalk and performed a beautiful ‘Bionic Man’ run toward the sidewalk.

For those of you who are too young to remember the television show ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, I’ll explain. It was a sort of superhero television show from the late 70’s, starring Lee Majors. The premise was that a man, physically destroyed in an accident, is rebuilt as a cyborg (this, though, was before the term ‘cyborg’ was even known) with one artificial arm, eye, and both legs, all called 'bionic implants'. There weren’t a lot of special effects in the 70’s, especially on television. What they would do to let you know he was using his ‘bionic implants’, they would run it in slow-motion. If he used his super-strong arm to bend bars, or used his super-strong legs to leap 30 feet in a single bound, he did it in glorious slow motion. They did splurge and give it a strange mechanical sound-effect as well.

Now, all this means that if the Bionic Man ran anywhere, which, according to the show premise he could do at upwards of 60 mph, he did so in slow motion. The faster he ran, the slower he moved. With splurgy mechanical sound effects, just in case you hadn’t caught on yet.

So, 10-year-old, end of the summer smart-ass that I was, I scooped up the tennis ball and ran across the street in front of the waiting car in glorious slow-motion.

With sound effects.

When I was finally out of the way and the car could proceed, the car did not pass. The driver pulled up only far enough that he was level with me and he laboriously cranked down the window (yes, children, this was way back in the days when cars with power windows were not widely owned, and we had to physically wind the car windows up and down. We also had to get up out of our chairs and cross the room and twist a knob to change to another of our 12 television channels, but that’s another tale). The window slowly lowered, and a hand was thrust out to beckon me over.

I was 10. I was a wise-ass. I was ready to ignore and possibly rebuff the tongue-lashing I was certain was in my future as I strutted over to the car. I thought I was ready for anything. But I wasn’t ready for this.

Did the driver berate me for crossing the street so slowly? Did he ask me what my problem was? Did he, as he probably should have, call me an ass?


He pointed to the sign on the light pole we were right next to, and spoke in a flat, deadpan voice.

“Are you one of the slow children?”

I gaped at him, but he simply rolled on up the street, cranking the window as he went.

I looked at the sign.

I started laughing.

I kept laughing.

By the time he reached the other end of the street and he was sitting, waiting to pull into traffic, one amber directional flashing and flashing, I was sitting on the curb right where he had left me, still laughing. I had tried repeatedly to tell my friend what was so funny, but every time I started telling the story I started laughing again.

That was the first time I can remember that I laughed until it actually hurt.

Talk to you later!

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