After the snafu this past week of failing to release the previous episode, I got to thinking about other things I’ve done that were easier to hide. Some stuff is so embarrassing, it’s easy to understand why a human will hide it. Other things are so horrendous that we would be horrified if anyone ever discovered it. There’s a lot of it that is just plain stupid. But one thing is for certain: your past makes you human.
Can you imagine your dog thinking “I hope no one saw me dragging my butt across that new rug in the living room last week!” Note to self: make sure no one is in the room when I need a little cleanup. Or do you think your cat is hiding from embarrassment because you posted that video where he fell of the counter?
It’s a uniquely human characteristic. I’ve done some stupid stuff. And they are things you would never know about if I didn’t tell you here. I started doing stupid stuff at an early age: dirt clod wars anyone? Any BB gun infantrymen out there listening today? How about roof jumpers? You know who I’m talking to…especially if you had a trampoline.
One of my earlier moments of human brilliance was when I used my dad’s two-wheeler (moving dolly) to pry up one end of the concrete lid that covered our septic system. I really wanted to see what was in there. The problem is that I couldn’t manage to lift it off by myself. I was only a little guy, probably six or seven.
So, I got my sister Jodi to help. I pried up one side and had her put her hands under it so I could go pry up the other side and then we would discover what was under that lid! Unfortunately, her little four-year-old fingers couldn’t hold it either and she started screaming! So, I ran to get Dad to take it off her fingers.
Jodi always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with me. So here’s one for the record books and I’m praying my folks aren’t listening to this episode. My sister and I were pretty young and she had broken her leg skiing that winter. THAT was not my fault.
She had a spiral fracture from a binding that didn’t pop off when the ski was turning…and turning…and turning…ouch! It was the beginning of summer now and she was still in an ankle-to-hip cast. This becomes an important fact momentarily.
The entrance to our neighborhood was right off a very busy street on the north side of Denver. Our next-door neighbor lived on the corner next to that busy street. Because that street dropped over a hill just past the entrance to our neighborhood, her backyard was elevated several feet above the street surface.
It was dark. Our parents had company and what were a bored boy and his sister on crutches to do? You do things in the dark that you would never do during the day. Actually, you do things that you would never do again no matter what time of day it is! I’m pretty sure you have to be human to realize this.
Jodi and I went out of our backyard into the neighbor’s backyard. I swear, there was no malicious intent at this point…just tremendous opportunity. So as we are watching the cars go by, we are standing on some dirt…and rocks. Rocks. A badly behaving human’s best buddy. So I pick up a few of these little gems and do what you only wish you could have done.
I toss them as high into the air as I possibly can. Over the road. Let’s see what happens. In fact, I can’t recall how many I threw before one connected with a target. And boy did it cause a stir! A real hornet’s nest at that point. SMACK! It wasn’t a big rock, but I can still hear it. Then squealing breaks. Then a lot of swearing.
And I was running. I was almost in the backdoor of our house when I realized that Jodi was missing! She did her best to beat it out of there as fast as she could, but the crutches had slowed her down. It turns out that she only made it to the back patio of our neighbor’s house where she was hidden from the road.
And I knew that any moment, the lights were going to go on because swearing guy isn’t calming down and I would think everyone in a two-block radius can hear the commotion. So I carefully sneak back over to the neighbor’s patio and Jodi is scared.
Somehow, I convince her that we have to go NOW. Screaming guy is going to come flying up over that little hill in about two seconds. So we make a dash for our backyard…or at least as best you can on two crutches. We get into the house and nonchalantly make our way back to our bedrooms to get ready for bed. I’m not kidding – I remember brushing my teeth…trembling.
That’s not the end of it. I don’t know if anyone came to the door that night. Maybe I’ve blocked it from my memory. But from my bedroom window, I remember seeing the flashing lights from a patrol car and I was sure that these were my last moments of freedom. I was going to the big house. Kiss your mom before you go, son. Maybe she can bring cookies once in a while.
You might think that I immediately told the truth and made my confession to my parents about what I did. Nope. That’s what I would expect from my kids, but that’s not what I did.
And lest you think stupid stuff stops after elementary school, nope. Not for boys anyway. Part of the reason we behave like paranoid parents is that we know what we did as children. Because we were teenagers, we know what heights of stupidity are achievable.
Try to top this human achievement: I had multiple accidents…in a single night…on my way home after work ON MY BIRTHDAY on snow-packed and icy roads. I had a great vehicle – a 1969 Volkswagen bug. I was coming up to an intersection with a stop sign. The car in front of me had already made his turn and was waiting at the next stop sign.
He was driving a 1970 boat and the rear end literally reached all the way back to the stop sign that I was desperately trying to stop at. Alas, an object in motion tends to stay in motion when there’s no friction to slow it down. It completely caved in the hood of my car and there wasn’t even a scratch on his.
If you know anything about VWs, you know that it wasn’t the most formidable of vehicles. It was low-impact, but damaging to my car. I’ll never forget it: the boat captain got out of his car and I expect he was in his 70s. The first thing he says, and I quote “What the hell are you doing?”
Um…testing out the strength of your bumper compared to the weakness of my hood? Trying really hard to stop? Fortunately, he agreed that SS Boaty McBoatFace was not damaged and he could sail on home unimpeded by this blustery storm. I, on the other hand, would have a lot of explaining to do…and would experience two more “bumper kisses” before arriving unsafely home.
Even as an adult human, I did things that I wouldn’t do again. For instance, when I first landed a job as a Systems Administrator for Jacobs Ranch Mine in Gillette, WY, I wanted to make an impression…and boy, did I! The mine was about 50 miles from town. There two buses that left each morning a little before 7A. Everyone had an opportunity to ride the bus out to the mine in the morning and back in the evening instead of driving out to the mine each day.
Cool benefit, right?! Right. Unless you stand out like a sore thumb because you wear a tie every day to work…at a mine! In all seriousness, I suspect that a high percentage of the men on those buses didn’t even know what a tie was, much less own a tie. I’ll bet the majority had not worn one in the last 25 years.
The kind of men I was working with were rough. They grew up in hard and harsh country. Their dress clothes were clean jeans and their favorite boots. There’s a reason why there’s a bucking bronco on the Wyoming license plate. These are men who rode horses, not bicycles.
One man, I loved him. His name was Jim Land and Jim was the plant manager. The plant was where they crushed and stored the coal in silos, then loaded it out into gondola train cars. Jim had been at the plant for a long time. He told me one time that when he was a kid, one of his favorite things to do was catch rattlesnakes, then put them in the freezer.
After several minutes he would get them out and play with them because they would be cold and slow. When they started to warm up, he would either put them back in the freezer or take them out and release them.
I felt like I needed to reflect a professional image – they felt like I was an idiot. No one ever counseled me otherwise. It didn’t matter that I had worn a tie to the office for 8 years prior. This was not that environment. I certainly didn’t know my audience as well as I should have.
At the same time, standing out isn’t always a bad thing. It’s good to be remembered…unless you are in your underwear. White briefs. That’s the worst my friend. And for whatever weird reason, that dream still happens once in a while. I’m in the office and suddenly realize…yep, nothing but whitey tighties! Dang it! Not again. And of course, you have to leave the meeting to go find your pants. It’s SO embarrassing.
And here’s the thing: I am telling on myself today. You have your own naughty, cooky, laughable, embarrassing stories. And that’s cool. Tell them. It makes you human. You aren’t perfect – you’re relatable. And the next time you get nervous before talking to that person or that group, the next time you start to sweat and your heart pounds as you dial that number, just remember that on the other end is someone who has some screwed up stories just like yours.
Yep, you’re human. Welcome.
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