When that stupid brace-face flouted all the traffic laws to hurl his bike into the side of my car, where it crumpled as he somersaulted over the hood to disappear onto the opposite pavement, well, that was the most terrifying moment of my entire life.
The dumbest, however, might have been the time Dom lent me his moped and I accelerated it directly into Chuck’s parked car.
“What u doing?” read a text message I received shortly afterward.
“Oh, I’m O-ing Under the I in my friend’s driveway,” I replied, and now I’m making the rest of this up because I couldn’t possibly have known it at the time: “I can’t hang out because this mess is going to cost me $1,000, but there are hot dogs here so it’s cool.”
Connecting the dots? Yeah, I’m not okay with anything on two wheels.
I am coming out, though, as heavily in favor of anti-sidewalk bicycling laws, because these people are breathing a humid new life into the term “reckless endangerment”. There is no regard for appropriate pedestrian lanes or the fact that people sometimes just want to walk in a straight line, and I couldn’t even listen to the Peter, Paul and Mary that shuffled onto the playlist this morning because it didn’t properly reflect how much I wanted to kick these people right in the spokes. If you want me to walk on the left, you should also stay on the left! Or go in the road. Or put out your cigarette, fold up the umbrella, and control that wobble-fest you’ve got going with the front tire.
There, I said it. Can I get back to being a role model again? My schedule says “handicap class” next and- assuming that’s a description and not an order- I feel strongly that I ought to be prepared.
Dang, that cutie’s in a wheelchair. I feel like a heel. Turns out I’m okay with some things on two wheels… sorry about before, kiddo.
So the class, okay: the thing about people who somehow have the patience and diligence to work with- or be parents to- handicapped children is the sheer amount of patience and diligence they actually have to have. I think this about parenting in general, actually. It’s a full time job with no breaks and no outs for like 18 years, and you choose to do this and maybe allow your spawn to have sleepovers, too? I have the utmost admiration for good parents (my parents) because it seems like a hell of a lot to ask of yourself. Teaching is an amazing, fulfilling job, but I can’t imagine going home to more of the little wankers instead of a sandwich and a satisfying nap. I think the sense of responsibility would squash me like a bug. Plus, I sometimes have these vivid hallucinations of having a child who goes through this tortuous pain, and I’m helpless to stop or even ease it. The thought of Lila, Molly, or David getting sick or hurt just kills me, and even though I think they’re mine, they technically belong to my sister so that doesn’t even count the same way. So much worry.
And that’s when you have healthy kids.
These poor children who are trapped inside unforgiving brains and bodies require constant care, and it blows my mind that there are people in the world with such heart, who are doing it daily and even loving it.
I’m having a really hard time writing about it, because, okay, maybe I’ll try to explain this another way:
A few years ago, I did the cross-country trip thing with a couple of friends and a sorry excuse for a vehicle, and it was great. We picked out a bunch of landmarks we’d heard of and drew up a rudimentary itinerary, and then just drove around taking silly pictures and checking off the “to do” list. We fell romantically in love with Savannah, Georgia, stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and deftly defied Death in its aptly named, sweltering Valley.
The Grand Canyon, though, now that was where I felt all the feelings.
The Grand Canyon is not at all something that can be studied via textbook or captured via Nikon. It’s a completely overwhelming expansion of your entire being: your eyes get bigger, your breaths get deeper, and your sentient abilities threaten to blow your hippocampus as you’re finally slapped with the vastness and ancient magic of earth. And as you marvel at the raw magnificence and sheer gaping unreality of the whole thing, you remember that after all, it’s just this tiny little place on a tiny little planet on a tiny little branch of relative nothing.
The contradictory nature of the whole thing leaves you grappling with life’s unknowable cosmos. It’s maddening, really. You’re left wanting simultaneously to save the world and give up because you’re just such a wee little bugger in comparison. And there’s all this strength and beauty around you and you’re a part of it and it’s good, but say what? with how the whole thing came to be.
It’s with that same appreciation and total incomprehension that I view the angels who devote themselves to taking care of the helpless and unlucky. I don’t totally understand how people this full-hearted exist, but they’re some of the best folk we have to offer and humanity is better for their presence.
Wow, y’all. I’m overcome. Wanna hear what shop class was like?
It was art class, really, with fourth graders. Since the younger the kids are, the more they’re on my level art-wise, I figured it would be a good fit. The teacher kindly agreed to let me watch, then started explaining what were probably the rules for his class. Rules that involved clamps and saws and hand tools.
That was when I got a little hesitant and started an anxiety-fueled head count. I mean, kids here are clearly more in control of themselves than my usual American wild thangs, but I’ve still seen them tackle each other at will in the middle of a lecture. Assuming there were 36 pairs of arms connected to the same number of 9-year-old bodies, and assuming I don’t count as a responsible adult because I can’t call the Japanese equivalent of 911, there appeared to be a dangerous ratio of all of the above plus one teacher and a box full of carefully sharpened shop weapons.
I like my own arms and not those odds, so I thought, “aw, nuts,” and bolted.
A filling lunch of maybe horse meat and scallops followed, and then I found myself in the midst of an absolutely delightful rat pack of sixth graders. With the help of one friendly, attention-whorey extrovert and another, internationally schooled English speaker, I found myself subject to the most interesting q and a yet. How much money do I have? How much taller am I than the teacher? Am I interested in dating him, and if so which kind of noodle is best?
(That’s ridiculously funny, by the way. I wish it had happened in exactly that word order and not the way it did before I took poetic license…)
This really is a lovely bunch of kids. If they hadn’t got so excited about wanting to know my favorite bike brand- seriously?- I might even deign to classify them “perfect”.
Eh, the truth is, I’d probably say that about any group who’d line up for my autograph. Solid day, though…
Solid, solid day.