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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sometimes getting into trouble is the right thing to do

Sometimes getting into trouble is the right thing to do

It is sunny and headed for 48 degrees on this February morning in Fallon, Nevada, USA. I hope that your weather is playing nice too.

I would say the birds are chirping, but it is really just Sgt Mikki defending her domain against all intruders, real and imagined. She has learned to bark in short bursts so that I don't bother getting out of my chair to yell at her. By the time I could get to the back door she will be stretched out in a "who me?" pose on the patio. Manipulated by a dog! Some great Mensa brain I have. At least I realize that I am being played, how many others out there have a dog or cat that gets what they want in spite of your best intentions?

The telephone rang earlier and it startled me to the point that I thought that I would need surgery to put everything back in place. I was awake and sitting at the dining room table about to toss my morning meds down my throat and I guess I was just concentrating really hard or something, because the sudden sound was like the bell on the starting gate at the race track. Fortunately when I jumped I closed my hand or I would still be looking for all of those little pills.

We all get older and forget things; that is just a physical reality. Our short term memory suffers the most, as I am experiencing right now. Last night I heard something on television about Alzheimer's and remembered saying words to the effect that I was sure to be included. Of course, I don't remember what it was they were talking about. But that's alright because I know that advertisement will come on again and I'll have another chance at it.

A lady once commented that at her age she didn't buy green bananas because she didn't know if she would be around long enough to eat them. I say buy your bananas green. That way you at least have a chance to find where you put them when you brought in the groceries before they spoil!

The good side of our memory function is that we can usually remember things from long ago. I find it has worked best for me to write those things down when the memory is clear so that I can share them with my kids, grand kids, and now a growing group of readers who like reading my stories.

So let me tell you about a time long, long ago, but in this galaxy, when getting into trouble for doing something was the right thing to do.

Always in trouble

I had gone to the library at my elementary school after the last bell rang. I knew that I had just a few minutes to return the books that I had checked out at lunch and get more. The librarian allowed me extra privileges, to the point of whatever I wanted, she would allow. Most students checked out books once a week and then only were allowed two books. They lost them, damaged them and quite often didn't even read them. I consumed books, usually reading six to ten books a day (elementary school books, most are thin) and I cared for them like they were my own.

As happened nearly every time, I reached the time limit and was late leaving. To make it worse they were painting center line stripes on the sidewalks and I couldn't go through the school. The lines were just like on the street and you had to stay on the appropriate side for your direction of travel or you would, I kid you not, get a "ticket" for misconduct for crossing the line. I tried my best to see if they would revoke my "walking license" by walking backwards or hopping back and forth across the line. I really wanted to know if they would push me in a wheelchair, or give me a piggyback ride, or maybe have to bring my lunch and books to me, but they just whacked me with rulers instead.

So instead of exiting the school at the NW corner which would be closest to my house, I had to go out the SE corner at Hollywood Boulevard and 63rd Street. This was where the teachers’ parking lot was at the time and right next to one of the busiest roads in the city.

I was already late getting home and had at least ten minutes added to my walk by the route change. I knew that I was in big trouble, as I had just been warned (again), about getting home late the day before. At least I wasn't hanging out with the bad kids, smoking, drinking and plotting criminal activities, right? My father didn't see it that way. I was violating orders and would be dealt with. So with that kind of incentive I should have been running for home.

When I came out of the school I was contemplating my travel route and walked to the corner of Hollywood Blvd and 63rd St. to make my choice, reading a book as I walked of course. I could have just violated the rules and walked through the school grounds, but there were signs posted saying that I couldn't do that.

From the corner I could turn right along Hollywood Blvd and then right again to follow the sidewalk down 64th Avenue. That path was easier walking, but took me through a gauntlet of high school kids and worse yet, junior high kids. Those younger boys who wanted to hang out with the older kids constantly tried to show off by pounding little kids like me.

If I turned left and walked north on 63rd Street there was no sidewalk and lots of bad dogs running loose. It was an older neighborhood with no street maintenance and very little property value since the Florida Turnpike had been built through their backyards. The idea was, as people died or moved, their property would be condemned and houses leveled. That never happened, the lower rent kept the houses occupied.

My choice was dogs or bullies, and as soon as I finished the chapter I was reading I would decide. Which is what caused me sit down on the bus bench next to the crying lady.

A new friend in need

The woman was small and beautiful with jet black hair and delicate hands holding her Kleenex to her face as she cried quietly. At first I wasn't sure if I should speak, or leave. So I just kept my face buried in my book. I really did need to get home.

When she turned those sparkling eyes to me and I could see the panic in them I was lost. Just as certain as if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had opened a new Sherlock Holmes story just for me, I had to find out what was wrong and solve the mystery. Even as a boy I suffered from terminal curiosity and there is no cure.

Juanita could speak only a few words of English and I knew very few in Spanish, which wasn't a big help, but somehow I found out that she was from Cuba and more importantly, was lost. She had gotten off of the bus at the wrong stop and had no idea where she was.

My first instinct was to find an adult at the school who spoke Spanish and could help. I motioned to Juanita to follow me and we went to the Administration Building which would be the only place likely to have someone there. Luck was with us I thought, as the Assistant Principal came out of his private door locking it behind him. Surely he would be able to help, he was a major authority figure and someone we were all trained to go to in time of crisis.

I am not sure if shock or embarrassment were the stronger feeling when the man responded to my plea for assistance for the lady in distress, by telling me to, "Tell her to go back to Cuba, she won't be lost there." He then walked to his fancy car and drove away without looking back.

Juanita started crying again and I must have gone into a "testosterone fueled protect mode" because I no longer cared how much trouble I was in or how bad the beating was going to be, I had to help her.

With my mind scrambling for an answer the word "casa" was brought to my lips and Juanita recognized  "number" as the same as "numero". The sun was still shining on us!

She pulled an envelope out of her pocket and there was her address in black and white! I knew where the street was and it wasn't that far away. As lucky break for me, it was even in the direction that I needed to go.

The choice of routes was still there, but I knew that her address was closer to 63rd Street so we went that way. Juanita took my arm like I was a grown up escorting her and we walked through the neighborhood like we owned the place. The dogs ran out and barked a couple of times but since we didn't run or yell they gave up and went back to their naps.

In a few minutes we arrived at her home, where I met her sons Rafael and Juan who were one year older and a few months younger than me, respectively. They had just arrived from Cuba and the boys wanted very much to go to school, but were having difficulty with the permission forms. Trying to resolve the paperwork at the school district office is where Juanita had been on the bus. The stress and frustration of that trip was what caused her to get off at the wrong bus stop coming home.

They lived in one side of a duplex apartment about a half mile from where I lived in a straight line, but nearly double that in walking distance due to street layouts.

There was a great coconut tree right outside of their front door, which I promptly climbed and dropped a couple down. Doing that spontaneous silly activity made me pop two buttons off of my shirt.

It was while standing by that tree looking at my open shirt that I realized that I was supposed to be home a full hour earlier and I was dead meat. I knew that I was going to get a beating but I didn't regret what I had done.

Sometimes getting into trouble is the right thing to do.

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