Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bonus Sunday Story

Hi again - I'm back, but fear not, this time I'm dressed and out and about. In keeping with my personal goal this week of conquering my reluctance to change I have forced myself to change venues for this afternoon's fun and excitement of paperwork (from which I am currently procrastinating). I am currently sitting in the Portage Starbucks instead of the Valpo one. My friend Shazzer (Sharon), the former juvenile delinquent cheerleader, is probably having a seizure reading this because she is convinced that Starbucks is not actually coffee, but oil drilled from the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. I repeat: WE DON'T HAVE CARIBOU COFFEE HERE YET.

Ok, so moving from one Starbucks to another is not a big change, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?

It is kind of weird for me to be here, actually. See, I went to Portage High School, so these are my old stompin' grounds. Starbucks wasn't here back then, but it is currently located right down the street from the Burger King I got kicked out of on homecoming night my senior year for being too rowdy, and it's across the street from the middle school that my brother attended and where I learned the immense power of nonverbal communication. I just saw a girl walk by in her letter jacket, and that reminded me of that horrible day so many years ago...

I was 17 years old, so lessee, that was 20 years ago. WOW. Anyway, I had my driver's license and to boot, a lovely 1976 Chevy Impala boat on wheels that was the color of acid rain mixed with regurgitated pea soup. It was ugly, but it got us where we wanted to go. The downside of having wheels, though, was that my mom didn't have to be the taxi anymore. She could (and did) delegate such menial tasks to me.

On that particular fall day, I was supposed to pick my brother up after his band practice at the middle school. I remember it was fall, and late fall at that, because I, my boyfriend Phil, and my best friend Vahona were all piled into the front seat of the car and we were all three wearing our letter jackets (big ol' band nerds, the three of us). At that time, the road in front of the school was only two lanes with wide shoulders for passing any cars that were turning left. Traffic was congested because it was around 4:30 or 5 p.m. and people were getting off work and on their way home from the steel mills. As I neared the school, I signaled my impending left turn with plenty of time before I actually turned, just like they taught me in driver's ed (I'm very rule bound, you see). Unfortunately for the old fart and his wife driving their big old Caddy behind me, he either wasn't paying attention or had a major senior moment. He didn't get over onto the shoulder to pass me on the right, but everyone behind him did and they wouldn't let him over to pass me while I waited for a break in oncoming traffic so I could make my left-hand turn.

Now I realize just how annoying it is to get stuck behind someone who is turning and nobody will let you get over. I have a little less sympathy for the one who gets stuck behind someone, though, because he's not paying attention. I have even LESS sympathy for that same monkey when he starts honking and shaking his fist at the turning driving as if it were the turning driver's fault that he got stuck in traffic!

This is exactly what happened. As I said, I signaled appropriately and then waited for a chance to turn. All the while, the man behind me honked repeatedly, flashed his headlighs, shook his fists at me and generally caused his poor passenger wife to curl up in the fetal position under the dashboard. Feeling righteously indignant and invincible in the way only teenagers can master, I rolled down the window, stuck out my arm and tossed the ol' bastitch a great big 'California Howdy' (that's the bird finger if you've never heard it referred to that way before). Of course Phil and Vahona were equally mortified and delighted, and shortly thereafter I pulled into the parking lot of the school to wait for my bro.

The fun didn't last for too long, however, because psycho-geezer must have figured that since he waited so long behind me, he might as well make a left turn too. That he did, and apparently his parking skills were just as good as his ability to read turn signals because he parked his dark blue gunboat perpendicular to my car, effectively blocking me from escape. Here's a visual - three teens in red and white letter jackets with eyes as big as saucers.

It wasn't enough for the dude to scare me by means of blocking us in, but he got out of his car and made his way to the driver's window. He indicated that I should get out of the car. Although I was a snotball kid, I wasn't stupid. I rolled down the window about two inches to hear what he had to say. You can guess - he was screaming and ranting at me about what an incorrigible satan-beast I was etc. etc., and how my parents should be ashamed at how horribly I turned out. A crowd of middle school kids were gathering in the doorway and I think someone even ran to get a teacher. I'm pretty sure my brother disowned me right then and there.

I was tough even then, though, and I suppose it doesn't hurt that I suffer from the effects of cumulative post-traumatic stress disorder. I have a perverse reaction to critical stress. The 'flight' part of my internal 'fight or flight' mechanism only works for spiders. When faced with crisis I become very calm and sometimes even aggressive. Scary, huh? I agree. This probably explains a lot of the reason I have behaved like an idiot most of my life.

But I digress.

Anyway, the geriatric lunatic is like a vicious lap dog jumping up and gnashing his teeth at me outside my car window. His wife got out of the car and tried to convince him to stop the insanity and he just yelled at her to get back in the car. Then my old 'fight' kicked in. I told him that if anybody's parents should be ashamed, it should be his for attacking a poor kid. I also told him that the minute I could get out of the car safely I was going into the school and calling the police and pressing charges against him for imprisoning me (again...omen of impending lawyerhood). Phil and Vahona assumed the same position as the man's wife - fetal, sub-dashboard.

Apparently the threat of the coppers was enough to get his attention. He called me a few more names and finally got back into his car and tore out of the parking lot. After a few deep breaths and some serious coaxing, Phil and Vahona came up for air and my brother reluctantly climbed into the backseat.

To this day I am very careful about my non-verbal communication with other drivers. Too many loonies are out there with guns. That's not to say my lack of impulse control doesn't get the better of me once in a while, so don't think I learned a whole lot from this high school lesson. You can be sure, too, that if I ever encounter a jerk like this again or see one like him picking on a poor dumb kid, I won't just roll the window down two inches - I'll take my chances, get out, and kick his a$$ to avenge my helpless teenage self.

See why I don't come over to this Starbucks? Too many memories. All the more reason not to change. :-)


Nancy said...

Dear Rocky:

I just love your stories. You have such a colorful way with words.

Your Blogger Friend,

My high school colors were green and gold and we were a railroad town so our cheer leaders would yell something like this...who are who are who are we, we are we are the proctor rails, rails rails were the best. High School ugh!

Rocky (Racquel) said...

I see from your memories of the high school cheer that you too are a victim of the cumulative effects of traumatic stress. hehe

I think that kids should get more than just a diploma for finishing high school - maybe something akin the purple heart? :-)