After the old insulation and axles were out from under our previously mobile home my dad required me to re-insulate and but up some nice permanent skirting. He gave me vague instructions and left for the day. Cole, my brother Matt and I went right to work under my direction cutting boards setting posts and screwing on panels. I was so proud of how much I had gotten done and how good it looked I could not wait for my dad to come home to show him that the job was about two-thirds in the bag. He rolled up after about ten hours and immediately started complaining. My dad is a constitutional contrarian by heart and feels most validated when he is correcting someone and setting them strait. I discovered this at an early age and to keep from having to redo major jobs I would usually leave an obvious flaw in the work that would be easily repaired and them let him catch it fell validated and then we could be done. In my excitement to show him what a good job I had done I forgot the decoy problem and he started scrutinizing the whole project. He immediately told me I had done it all wrong and the the boards should not have been parallel but have staggered joints. A specification he had never mentioned before he left. He started right in with taking off boards and complaining about how the whole day was wasted because I couldn't follow simple instructions and how I would not be paid and that I would have to take it all down and start over. I had plummeted from the tippy tops of pride right strait down into the deepest depths of sulfurous pulsating rage. I had a hammer in my hand and wanted more than anything in the world to bury it in my dad's fat, stupid, ungrateful, wrecking-my-whole-days-work, head. He was kneeling in front of me turned away unscrewing the panels and ranting about some part of the not-done-right he had not covered yet and it took all of my will power to set the hammer down and walk away for a good cry. He came to talk to me a couple of hours later and told me sorta-sorry with a blame-pology that consisted of the fact that he was sorry I had not listened and that I had screwed it up and he had to yell at me. Thank-you? You're welcome? What should I say? I didn't know at the time that the proper response to the absurdity that is the blame-pology is to say something even more absurd as a forgiveness. For example, I should have said I accept your apology for being a massive a-hole and an insensitive jerk. What I did say was that he could put the rest of the F-Wording siding up his own self. Somehow that didn't smooth over the situation and he grounded me for a week for saying the F-wording siding and back sassing him. I wasn't sorry. I am not a person that is good at staying mad though so the next day when I had simmered down I helped him put on the siding the way he wanted and got paid for both days.
After gaining somewhat of a reputation for top notch insulation removal from under mobile homes my dad offered Cole and I another job. It was to remove the insulation and axles from our mobile home. There is an old saying about how a word to fooling me once is a shame to a wise man again – or something like that that means you should learn your lesson. We had not. We saw that sweet cash dangled and once again opted to shave a couple of months off of the tail end of our lives by inhaling a good amount of fiberglass and animal parts, hair and urine. The funny part of this story was when we loaded all of the refuse into a little trailer of my dad's we hooked it up to the truck and solicited my mom's help in driving it to the local dump. Cole and I had not had a lot of experience hooking up trailers and when we were driving to the dump my mom hit a pot hole and the trailer came off the hitch and passed us to the right upended in the ditch and vomited a load of dirty insulation onto the lawn of the kid who had been multiply kicked from the school bus from my previous stories. I joked that we should just gather up the trailer and leave the insulation and tell them that they could keep it because we had plenty still at home. We righted the trailer and quickly gather up the insulation and loaded it for the second time because the kid and his family were a lot a bit crazy and we didn't want to get yelled at or roughed up. We finally got it to the dump and dropped of made it through another day removing insulation from under a trailer and I called it a career and have never done that again.
So, Cole reminded me after he read about this concert experience that I had left out some rather major details and some follow up experiences. It was not just Cole and I that went to the Areosmith concert We actually were there with a third kid, the consensus coolest kid our age from Santaquin Mark. Not the goofball Mark from my previous stories but a heretofore unmentioned Mark. He was a cool kid who was also a very good athlete and had been Cole's friend for a very long time and he and his brothers were the ones who actually were the really big Areosmith fans. All of us being much to young to drive ourselves we relied on a threefold delivery and pick-up scheme that was able to inconvenience every one of our parents. First, we had Cole's dad drive us up to the concert and on the way up he got a speeding ticket for trying to get us to the show on time. After the show Mark's parents picked us up on their way to a family get away up at a local ski resort. I was not a friend of the family so they were taking me along as a favor to Cole and on his recommendation. They had a room for the parents up at the resort and one for the kids which included Mark's older and two younger brothers Cole and I and one bed and a hide-a-way. The two little boys slept on the bed and the four of us teens tried to all sleep on the convertible couch without touching each other while all sharing a single blanket. I was on the outside edge and not complaining but in the middle of the night Mark's big brother rolled up in the blanket leaving me without any covers in a meat locker environment. I was intimidated by his brother but I was still really cold so I tried to gently apply pressure to the blanket to get me back a corner without waking him up. I had enough to half cover me when Mark's brother mumbled something about the covers in his sleep and took back a good swatch of what I had passively tried to recapture. I decided to just suffer through a little half shoulder covered fetal position shivering to generate heat as I made it through the night. Morning came with not enough sleep between setting down and picking up and I was sore from my sleeping position and my shivering. So I was grateful when we were able to tuck into one of those wonderfully scant offerings from the Continent that the joker hoteliers try to passe off as breakfast. After breakfast we happened upon a basketball clinic that was being run by some coach of something and he was not really impressed with Cole and I but he was salivating over Mark's basketball skills and the space between where his feet touched the ground and where his head left off. Later that morning my mom was finally completed her leg of the inconvenience trifecta by driving up to the resort to shuttle Cole and I home after our adventures.
I was not really an Areosmith fan but my friend Cole and his friends were big fans so I figured I should like them as well. I didn't dislike Areosmith it just wasn’t something I had searched out and not something I ever got a hankering for but there I was at my first official concert seated behind the gold-flake hefty rockers. We had endured the musical stylings of the tragically inept Jackyl and we were watching the roadies set up and tune up the real bands gear and I never having been to a concert before was not sure what kind of time we were looking at. The tune up roadie picked up a guitar and sound checked it with a little Led Zeppelin and I thought that was cool and then he played a little AC/DC on the next guitar. Ironically they were both bands that I guess, if pressed, I would have preferred going to see. The lights went down and the smoke came up and we were treated to the dulcet and memorable opening riff to 'Sweet Emotion' and in that instant, with their much greater musical skill and vastly professional production crew then the opener, I understood the appeal of live concerts. Everyone stood up and cheered which meant that I had to stand up if I still wanted to see. The Goldy ladies started twitching arrhythmically in what they must consider dance in their culture and Cole and I got a really big kick out of there awkward lurching. As the concert went on I was getting into the mood more and more and the highest praise I can offer the band was that they played the songs just like on the album without a lot of musically masturbatory and self indulgent solos and flourishes. The show wrapped up and Cole I were getting our stuff together because as concert virgins we were not aware of the fake ending thing but were clued in because everyone else just kept cheering and chanting and yelling but definitely not moving or leaving. Sure enough as I later found was pretty much concert ritual they came back and played three of their all time greats for everyone to sing along to and leave fully satisfied. We headed out and Cole bought a tee-shirt then we found our ride and recounted the evening to a long suffering mother who got all the pleasure of hearing a concert recap. My ears rand for a day or two and I had the concert bug especially when I was able to see how jealous all the non-concert people got when I told them I had gone unchaperoned to a gig. That was worth more to me then seeing Areosmith live.
The saw in this is about twice the size as the one he used live but even in this production version he still cuts the cushion off the bar stool.
We took a good bit of our earnings and rolled them right back into an investment in the music industry. Cole and I both paid about thirty bucks for an private concert with Stephen Tyler and his band Areosmith. We we pleased to invite about 6000 of our closest friends to the intimate little gathering and by the time we had all gathered around Cole and I ended up sitting about 200' feet away from the stage behind a couple of rather robust middle aged ladies who were both dressed in gold foil shirts and rocked out to every song in the deranged manner of a lobotomy outpatient. Before we got our semi private audience with Mr. Tyler he treated us to a little set by a lesser known band by the name of Jackyl. I think the reason why the creatively misspelled Jackyl was less popular then Areosmith was because they sucked. Bad. He lead out with a tune that for some reason had not gotten a lot of radio play on the top 40 stations my the charming name of 'Mental Masturbation'. A not catchy little tune that must have been before its time because to me it sounded like the cacophonic death rattlings of a garage band being run over by a bulldozer. After a few more forgettable butt rock offerings came their piece of resistance – 'Lumberjack'. The chainsaw in the song was a carefully cloaked metaphor for the lead singers penis and he was able to work in a surprising number of unsubtle saw and lumber related double ententes. For the song's finale he brought a standard looking bar-stool out on stage and then cranked up what looked like a toy chainsaw which he placed in front of his hips while he gyrated and thrust provocatively while revving the pitiful sounding engine. While the band ramped up into a musical frenzy he gunned the motor and attacked the bar stool in a comically under-powered display of futility. The saw was unable to even cut through a single leg in a reasonable amount of time so the Jackyl lead man decided to teach the stool a lesson of an entirely less rigorous sort and cut the cushion off with a measured motion. By this point Cole and I were laughing pretty hard at this unintentional comedy and that got us a poopy look from the gold plated hefties who were there to enjoy a little hard rock and not listen to a bunch of smart-asses laugh at a little impotent rock pageantry. When Jackyl was done abusing some furniture they headed off to clear the stage for the roadies to do their magic in preparation for some real rockers with expensive perms and androgynous styling to sing to us.
There was a time in my life that a hundred dollars sounded like a lot of money. It sounded like so much that I thought I only really needed half of that so when my dad found a bit of dirty work for a hundred dollars I offered half of the money to my friend if he would do the job with me. The job was to remove the cat and cat piss infested insulation from underneath mobile home for a older couple and then load it onto a trailer and haul it to the dump and unload it. Easy money. Cole and I headed over there one morning bright and early full of hope and the dreams of what a crisp fifty would buy us. We quickly found out why we were being played so relatively well for a couple of teenagers it was because this job was absolutely bull-crap. The insulation was hanging down in tatters and the air was full of cat pee and dander and dust and fiberglass particles. It felt so bad in our lungs that it seemed like we should take up smoking to clear our lungs. After a couple of hours my friends mom came by and checked on us and made fun of us a little for how terrible we looked. We worked about seven hours before we had the last of the infectious and carcinogenic mess loaded into a trailer ready for haul away and my dad came and drove us over to the dump where we still had to unload our cargo under the watchful eyes of our majestic garbage-eating state bird. We got home dirty and with our eyes swollen and irritated and exhausted but fifty dollars richer. That was not nearly enough I concluded as I laid in a tub of scalding water trying to soak the fiberglass our of my tender skin. You would think that deciding that we had been underpaid would cure us from further enticements but when a second hundred was dangled we were back under the same mobile home removing the axles and that money was more in line with the chance of long-term damage to our lungs and psyches.
I got my prized jacket for Christmas after waiting for the horrible knowing weeks of having it in the house and having to act surprised on Christmas morning. I was assisted in my acting by actually being really, really excited to finally have my strait up legit Chicago Bulls gear. I was only frustrated that school was out and no one could see how awesome I looked in my sweet new threads. I waited out my time until school blessedly reconvened. I wore by jacket to school the first day back and it got a fair amount of respect and that was the first time an article of clothing of mine was impressive and I liked it. I decided to wear it the next day and not leave it my locker for one moment. I wore it all day and all week and then all month. In the second month of my owning this amazing jacket it was actually getting to warm many days to legitimately be wearing a jacket in the heat of the day but it was the coolest thing I owned so I pushed through the discomfort. One morning I was actually unable to find a clean shirt and instead of doing the sensable thing of washing a shirt and going late or not going at all I decided to go to school just wearing my jacket zipped up with only my bear nakedness underneath. As it turned out we were having one of those unseasonably warm February thaws that Utah gets on occasion and by the time I was at school I realized I had made a tactical error as I was already sweating and the slick liner of the jacket was not doing any of the absorbing that I liked my shirts to do. I was wearing the zipper quite high and tight to not give away the fact that I was shirtless and it looked a little weird to everyone who was enjoying a rather balmy day in the sunshine. A couple of people had asked me why my jacket was zipped up all the way and I just tried to change the subject. I was getting hotter and sweatier and more and more uncomfortable as the day wore on. I was cursing myself for making such a dumb decision. At lunch I cracked and decided that something had to give I was all soggy wet and boiling in my own juices so I broke out. I started walking home and let my jacket loose a little to let out the swelter and had made it about two miles down the highway towards home when I was stopped by the cops. He flipped on his lights and then popped out to see what I was up to. I told him that I was feeling really sick and that I was walking home because no one would answer at my house. He had me come sit in the car as he had dispatch call my mom who was actually at home. He told he I was sick and walking home and skipping school and asked what he should do with me. She said to bring me home and he took me I got a lecture about being in school and checking out and being safe and whatnot but I was just glad to head home and take off my plastic lined sweatsuit jacket and put on a shirt without being terrified that someone would find out I was not wearing any clothes. I wore the jacket less and less and lost track of it when I went to college. I have abuse outer clothing since then but usually only to run t the store or to answer the door or something short term and never a all day charade again.
I had mentioned that my girlfriend had a rough go of it before we were going out but I was not really sure how bad it was. She was evidently having a lot of trouble coping and her parents took her to see a psychologist. The problem with that was that she told her psychologist about me and her doctor told my girlfriend that it was probably not a good idea to have a boyfriend. She didn't tell me this for a while and she was just growing more distant and standoffish. I was concerned that she was mad at me or something so I asked her over and over what was wrong and she wouldn't tell me. I would ask how her counseling was going and she would just say it was fine. We hung out less and less and she started avoiding me pretty obviously then. She finally told me that she was avoiding me because she had told her doctor that she was still going out with me and she had gotten in trouble but she didn't want to break up with me but she didn't want to get into trouble again so she was conflicted and really sad. We were still going out when the school year ended but we only saw each other once or twice a week for the summer and never really were together again. Curse that stupid pseudo-science.
We didn't have access to television at all let alone cable growing up but I was going through junior high at a time when basketball was becoming really mainstream on the talents and marketing power of the consensus best player of all time Michael Jordan. Everyone was talking about him, even non-fans knew who he was and about his transcendent talents. I had to get on board with something that cool but in the pre-internet world television was your only real option to see Michael in action. My trick to be able to fit myself into sports conversations was to listen carefully when people were talking about the game or highlight that they saw an d I would pretend from then on that I had seen it myself. My dirty secret is that I had never seen a Bulls basketball game in my life but I wanted so badly to be into what was cool that I would talk like I was a Jordan expert. This would get me in trouble whenever a person who had actually seen whatever sporting performance I was referencing would either ask me about a specific moment or correct my erroneous retelling. I was so caught up in the hype that I pent a good deal of my hard earned cash on Jordan and Bulls related paraphernalia. I had posters, a bulls basketball, shirts and hats but what I really wanted was a leather bulls jacket that was in the window at the sports store at the mall but it was a totally unattainable 250 dollars. I told my mom that I didn't want anything else for Christmas or my birthday combined then that one jacket. I hoped, perhaps irrationally, that she would get the money together somehow and make my Christmas wish come true. A few weeks before Christmas when I knew that my mom had locked all of the presents into a unfinished bathroom in the add-on to our house I jimmyed the lock and took a peak at what was in store for my holiday surprise. The small room had no lights so I had to look at everything from the light that would filter through the door. I carefully searched some of the bags on the ground and didn't find my coveted prize but then I looked up and hanging from a nail on the wall was a Bulls Jacket, not the all leather one I had really wanted but a Letterman looking one with leather sleeves and a big embroidered mull head on the back. It was awesome, my heart was beating fast and I was overcome with pure joy as I slipped into the garment and it felt amazing. I sneaked out to the other bathroom to properly appreciate my reflection in the three-way mirror, and it was even better then I had imagined it could be. I reluctantly put the jacket back where I found it and arranged the bags and boxes the best I could to make them look undisturbed. It was killing me to wait the couple of weeks till I could wear my jacket and I was genuinely overjoyed when Christmas morning came it was not a surprise but there was pure joy in my reunion. I thanked my mom most copiously and gave her and my dad a hug, almost in tears about my great fortune. The one great thing about being poor is that when you finally get something good it is really good, rich kids just getting one more thing for the pile cannot understand what having one good thing feels like. I have had other good Christmas gifts but never one that pleased me so overwhelmingly.
I wish this was the day I got to tell you about how my massive intellect and production capabilities catapulted my friend, girlfriend and I to places one through three in the state science competition. I cannot, because a dim kid won. I thought the competition was about cool stuff but it turned out to be all about butt kissing and cheating. As is the custom in award giving they started out with some lame speeches while we all ate out our insides with anxiety. My friend got honorable mention, which was good because that left the other honorable mention and third through first wide open for me. The other honorable mention got mentioned and it was Mr. Mad Scientist. That's fine we're down to the real prizes now. Third place went to my girlfriend which was nice for her because she was going to get some recognition for my work and there was still, not second because they announced that, which was a girl who's project I hadn't seen. Just the big daddy left and I was starting to worry it might not be mine. It wasn't. They called up a eighth grader with an unbelievably magnificent project. I mean that it was not within the reasonable realm of probability that he constructed his project. It was a massive 8'x8' map of the United States with thousands of color coded flags witch showed where major electrical plants and substations were and other flags showing statistical clusters of cancer cases with some analysis that demonstrated no correlation between cancer rates and electrical infrastructure. Wow, I guess. The kid is called up on stage to explain his electric company vindicating offering and when he is given the mic it is instantly clear to everyone that he was rather dim and clearly not involved in the conception, researching or execution of this project. He was an idiot who went on vaguely describing what he was seeing in front of him on the project he purportedly made. After about a floundering minute his dad took the mic from him and spent 10 minutes explaining the science and the implication of the project while his kid cried on stage. I was mad that I lost but I was more mad that I lost again to a kid who didn't do his project. I was sick to death of competing against adults and the idiot judges who gave prizes to projects clearly not made by kids. I vowed that was never going to happen to another kid who honestly competed under my watch. Any chance I got after that to judge a science or art or anything contest, which was several times a year I took it and used my powers of persuasion to get all of the judges to vote for the passionate smart kids who did their own work and I would leave nasty notes on the judging papers for projects that were clearly built by adults.
The morning of the state competition we loaded up our projects and drove the twenty miles to the community college that was hosting the affair. We each had a table space and chair assigned to us and told to set up because the judges were going to come by any second. We hurried, they didn't. I thought for some reason that the judges were going to be people who knew something about electricity or science in general but they were just the Governor, the mayor, some suit from the electric company and another official looking pantsuit woman who was ushering the judges around and reading off the names and schools of the participants. Not a scientist or engineer in the bunch, pathetic. They were schmoozers and I am not from that tribe and have never picked up the nuances of the dialect with its strained over-chipper bullshitty tones and meaningless facial expressions which usually include too many teeth and not enough substance for my taste. They were working up and down the isles and I had to sit next to the kid who had won the eighth-grade state science fair competition last year with a rather nasty looking Jacobs ladder mad scientist looking thing. The contraption was magnificently load and dangerous looking and made the whole room smell of ozone and I knew we were not in the same league with this kid. I thought that because I would have voted for him if I had a vote because his was the most awesome. But who knows what a bunch of business and political types would think, who knows indeed? They came to our row and Cole demonstrated his and explained the science but had to admit unless there was some need for static hair there was not a ton of practical use for his machine. My girlfriend was up next and she did an awesome job of explaining what the concept of tidal and wave generation was all about. It was all I could do not to jump in when I felt the information was a little inaccurate but these yahoos didn't seem to notice that the way she was describing the process was not very practical. When it was my turn I explained the hydro electric pros and con and showed them my working model but knew they had no interest in my project so I wrapped it up and let them go on to Mr. Mad Science. He fired up the machine and produced a magnificent lighting bolt when the voltage difference was sufficient to jump the gap and far from being properly impressed these morons jumped back and told him to turn it off and not to turn it back on in the building. A scientist in his own country, amaright? They moved on and the minders told us we were free to go until the awards ceremony in a couple of hours. We went to the mall up the road to hang out for a bit while I waited nervously to see if by some miracle I would be called up to the podium. We went to the arcade and window shopped and then my girlfriend tried to molest me in a public place as was her custom and we ran out of time and we headed back for the big news.
I decided my girlfriend should take on a project that was at the time fascinating to me undersea turbines and elliptical wave generator. I built the models in an aquarium with a motor to generate waves and currents. My girl friend didn't really know what I was building but she would sit by me and talk to me while I put together a rather snappy looking project. Her job was to learn what the diorama demonstrated and to make really good looking posters for the fair. I am no artist or even a handwrit-ist she had the easy flowing poster script that girls seem to be trained in at a very young age. She did a really good job of all of the signs and she could cover the highlights of the technology being demonstrated so we were in business. The only problem, at this point, was that I had spent all of my time making Van de Graaffs and undersea turbines that I only had a day and a half to build my project. I made a hydroelectric dam with a pump and generator that was honestly not quality work but I had not planned well. All that was left was to get them to the school and go through the obligatory trumping of the locals at the school wide science fair. It was a massacre, there were three spots from our school to go to the state competition and the kid to the left of my friend and girlfriend and I was shocking a He-Man figure in a model electric chair. The other paint eaters around the room had posters or crude models and my nervousness about not being the three selected to go to state dissipated and we just waited to get our awards. We were all three selected to represent our school at the state finals and so we did.
|One of these bad mamma jammas, some boys don't like science like this - but some boys do.|
About this time in ninth grade they announced the science fair. Okay everyone calm down, I know you are excited as I was to hear the news. I started planning while the amateurs didn't even read the entry rules and deadlines. Hold up, did you all get the same handout I got here? Science fair? Put on by the electric company? Prizes and possibly, but not really likely, glory? Why is no one but me putting down preliminary sketches? Lucky for me I had a friend who was on board for a little hardcore unsupervised power tool action and my girlfriend liked to be with me so we all worked on some really cool projects. My friend, Cole, decided to build a Van De Graaff generator which is a static electricity generating shocking machine for you lay-yokels. We decided to make a rather big one and started out by sawing a Freon bottle in half for the collector dome. We took a few hours to saw it in half with a saws-all because it was such an odd shape and size to try and hold down. After we had liberated the mostly round hemisphere we popped it in into the vise to hold it steady while we sanded the powder coated finish off of it. It was some really good paint and our belt sander was barely touching it. It was flopping all over the place and jumping up and down like a chicken on a hot griddle but by taking turns and sticking to it we relived the half-cylinder from its covering. With a dome in hand we built a motor into a wooden base box and put a pulley and extractor at the top and then tried to find the best belt material to generate static and stay on the pulleys after hours and hours of trial error and trial again we found that underwear elastic band did the best job of staying on and generating sparks. We tricked it out really pretty and then went on to build my girlfriends project.
It is hard for me to remember exactly what the weight of overflowing hormones constantly pushing up against my brain was like when it has faded into the resignation of adulthood. There was a time in my life that I would drive 80 miles, each way, for the chance to make out. Well, in honesty that is not a accurate statement, I would have driven much more than that it was just that was how far away my girlfriend was staying all by herself at a relatives house for a couple of weeks. Also, it was not me who was driving but my sister she of the recent driving endowment. I bribed her into lying and driving far far away. I figured that my girlfriend was frisky anytime we were not alone together so naturally alone together would b e even better because I would not be constantly anxious about being caught. I thought that because I was young and naive and didn't understand women. I had, in error, applied standard mathematical principles to my logic, if-this-then-that type of stuff. Oh, I have to chuckle-cringe at myself now I am older and naive and don't understand women, because from this vantage point my error was obvious - I needed to use a subtler calculus to get the correct conversion factors. She liked teasing me physically while we were in the presence of others precisely because it made me uncomfortable and it couldn't go to far, she didn't want to really have some time to ourselves because that had worked our rather poorly for her in the past with the other guy. She was however, flattered that I would come all the way out of my way to spend time with her. There she was, happy to see me but not really excited about having her bluff called. I came into the house ready for some smooching and maybe more and she was all of the sudden really interested in putting together a 1000 piece puzzle in the living room with my sister. I was irritated because if we were in the back seat of a car that her mom was driving all she wanted to do was make-out but in a house practically to ourselves she wanted to find all of the sky pieces. This went on for hours and I was getting increasingly frustrated with her defense and was wondering why I even bribed my sister to come down here, full disclosure I would have instantly driven 80 more miles if she was that far away at that moment, but still. My sister had a thing or something to get to and so a few minutes before zero hour my girlfriend asked me to come look at something in the bedroom and then got all kissy kissy on me with a firm time limit in place. At the time I really didn't have any idea what had changed I was just glad to be getting to the point of this trip. We had to leave really soon for my sister to make it back in time and I, still not understanding what had taken so long, was happy anything got underway but wished it had happened sooner so we had more time. Still I went home happy 160 miles poorer but one kissy-face richer.
As is the case with many a young love my girlfriend and I didn't get to always choose when we would spend time together. We could hang out at school but we usually had to wait for the weekend to go out to do something and then the constraints of having no transportation would weigh heavily on our plans. My girlfriend came from a big family, even bigger than mine and so there was not much chance of her getting in the getting driven somewhere rotation and if Rob was not available there was almost no chance I was going anywhere so many times I would, of an evening, walk up to her house and hang out. We would listen to music or talk with her brothers and sisters. She had, as her prized possession a rather large stereo that had a remote control that when the volume button was pushed actually made the knobs on the unit turn. Her mom, knowing that her daughter was vulnerable usually kept us in view or close to it to make sure there was no funny business going on but I didn't mind I thought her mom was nice and I really wasn't that comfortable with the level of physical intimacy my girlfriend seemed to be heading to. I was not entirely unworldly; heck, I knew my way around a standard make-out, a tongue kissing make-out, and even a little light petting but my girlfriend was always hinting that she had done 'IT'. I didn't want to establish parity and for that reason a little chaperoning was not unwelcome in my opinion not unwelcome at all. We would usually end up in her basement great room watching movies with her little brothers and sisters while her mom did craft projects in the back half of the room. Her craft table was turned to see the back of the couch while we watched TV which I guess she thought would keep me honest and if it was me she was needing to keep honest it would have worked a charm but it was her daughter who was the gas, I was the breaks. As soon as the movie would come on my girlfriend would throw a shared blanket over us and immediately cuddle too close and start nuzzling me and putting her legs over mine while her mom glued and sewed ten feet behind us and her younger siblings reposed on the carpet in front of us. Sometimes she would even start to kiss me and try and take it from some light cute kissing to some make-out level stuff while I squirmed to keep her at bay. She thought that was hilarious so she would do it more. At one level I was a regularly wired young man who would normally really enjoy the physical attentions of a young lady but on the other I am a irregularly wired hyper-anxious sort that is not really a huge fan of getting caught and possibly humiliated. One night when we were watching 'Fern Gully' she was getting particularly handsy and loud I started looking for a way out so when Robin Williams made a joke about a rapidly transforming animal by quipping 'Oooh, Darwin's grab bag.' I laughed over much to get her mom's attention. It worked and her mom remarked how she was impressed that I got that joke I took that opportunity to go and have a quick chat with her mom about my love of science and stuff in general. My girlfriend knelt backwards on the couch watching us with a scowl while I tried to keep a lively conversation going. As the movie was ending I came and sat back by my girlfriend but on top of the covers and then walked home as the credits rolled. My girlfriend was a little testy about the situation the next time we talked on the phone but seemed like she was over it at school.
We were fairly poor growing up and didn't have the nicest or newest of anything. I wanted nice stuff and to impress kids and make them jealous but with six and sometimes seven kids at home we had sufficient for comfort but not much more. My one friend Cole was in a much smaller family, just him and his brother, so he had a few nice things that I coveted. They had a Nintendo with some games, he had a TV in his room, a water bed and poster of Shaquille O'neal which said 'FUTURE SHOCK' on it and looked awesome. When we were in junior high though he got the coolest thing I had ever seen, a five disk CD changer. It was part of a stereo system that still had a duel tape-deck which was great for copying the best albums tape to tape with speed dub but the best thing was that the five disk changer had a program that would figure out from your selection of songs how to best organize them onto tapes for a flawless mix tape. Up until then my mixology was limited to quickly7 pushing record on the tape-deck when a song I really liked came on the radio or I could dub a single song off of an album and then que up another. The work was tedious and often times error prone but that is what we did because that is what we could do. This new system was amazing it selected the disk you had programed stated the recoding paused it to go to the next song and cut right in with robotic precision. This was the future we were promised and it was as good as I could have hoped. It turned out that a machine that could make really good copies of CD's onto tapes had a very limited useful life and I have not listened to an audio cassette for at least ten years, it has actually been about that long for a CD for that matter. But there for a few glorious months I had some really great mix-tapes, some real top shelf stuff that the ladies really appreciated.
Rob wanted to rebel a little but only a very little because he liked living with us and working with my dad and kissing my dad's butt whenever he could. He wanted to show he was no lock step conformist so the way he did that was to go to church. I know you are thinking not very rebellions to go to church every week as was expected from all of the occupants of our home but here was the coup – he wore sandals. Embrace the chaos, because he was coming at you all non-conformist all Sunday long right there in your face if your face happened to be right near the ground. Not many people's faces were right near the ground so he was not having the boat rocking effect that he was hoping for. Ideally, I think he wanted people to be a little shocked and a little disturbed and in response he wanted to play it all cool like he didn't mind ruffling a feather or ten. No feathers were ruffled and that made him disappointed being judged and looked down on by the pious is the payoff to most rebellion. When you are left there with inappropriately clad feet and no indignation the only logical choice is to raise the stakes. He upped the ante by investing heavily in ridiculously colored pants, specifically some gawdoffle purple rayon monstrosities that he was banking on to draw the appropriate attention to his devil-may-care badassery. Most people just made funny remarks about how ridiculous they looked. One particularly funny member-joker made a do-not-look-directly-into-the-pants joke that killed. Being judged and being mocked are two vastly different things a nice judging can generate some much needed validation and vindication but being teased is just humiliating. Well, it is to most normal people, Rob misinterpreted it as him blowing there little parochial minds and wore that as a misguided badge of honor for the rest of the time he lived with us.
My brother, always the practical joker, constructed a practical joke in the bedroom that we shared with Rob that drove me crazy for years. He had artfully super-glued a stack of coins to the top of the dresser in such a way that made them look to all the coin gathering world like they had been tossed there carelessly. A couple of times a week for years either Rob or I would glance over, see a pile of likely looking coins and make a grab for them only to remember, too late, that they were a prop. We would curse and move on and promptly forget that it was a set up and repeat the process in a few days. I don't know why the urge to collect coins was such an overwhelming drive in my subconscious that I couldn't just leave them alone but I could not. One day though my little sister fixed us up and cured the joke with a little unfettered greed, some free time and some elbow grease. One day she had had enough and pried the coins up off of the dresser and separated them and spent them. That is some hard earned money that I remember my brother being really mad about her stealing. She also left a odd shaped scar in the plywood top of the dresser where she cleaned up the joke. I believe my mom still had that dresser today and it still has an ex-joke mark right in the lid.
About this time my friend Jordan and his brother started getting into rock climbing and they took Rob and I along one day. That got Rob excited about it so he invested in some climbing equipment that he didn't use as often as I would like, so to make sure that the gear was getting the proper amount of attention I decided to pitch in and use it for him whenever possible. It was pretty much always possible. After we caught the bug Cole, Jordan, and I were up the canyon that was near our houses climbing several days a week. When we started out the resources were pretty thin consisting of a few carabiners, some carabiner and strap sets called quick-draws, or just 'draws if you were bad-A, and we were bad-A. We had a rope, a belay device called a figure 8 and a few harnesses and that was about it but that is all we needed because we were young with time to kill so having some fancy shoes that would help you climb the rock better didn't seem like they would be worth the $80 investment. At first we would go up and climb a group of three routes that were right off the road and then maybe go do some rappelling off of the aptly named rappelling wall. As the years went on most of the other guys stayed somewhere between mildly and somewhat interested and Cole and I were the only ones in our group of friends who stuck with it and eventually bought some real gear and actually worked at getting better. I have, in my more robust and pasty dough like body of adulthood given up climbing and I think Cole is the only one of my contemporaries still in the game. I tell you all this as a framework for what we got up to for the next four years always seemed to have climbing involved or related somehow.
There are long days when you are a kid and in the early nineties there were not that many options in small town for entertainment. Once when I was over at my friend Cole's house without any adult supervision we were hanging out in his room when he mentioned that he had some firecrackers. Firecrackers you say? Well then good sir, let us have a gander at them. Firecrackers and pornography were the two types of mythical contraband that many boys claimed to have but not everyone who could talk a big firecracker could demonstrate their ownership when pressed. Cole not only had the goods he had a huge string of them and was willing to do a little exploding for a diversion. Like all frugal boys with a string of crackers we took the time to dismantle the chain so that instead of a long chain we had hundreds of individual ordinance. It was a cold and icy day with that over-bright and long shadowed dimness of a winter afternoon when we went out to find something to blowup. We fooled around with some snowballs and action figures until one of us decided to place a cracker inside a pile of dog poop. When it exploded and spread poop all over the place it struck us as really funny. We invented an impromptu game right there on the spot, we were going to play dog poo explosion escape. Cole went first and he buried his cracker in a fresh pile, lit it and ran across the icy driveway sure he had avoided the poo-splosion and was standing by the porch laughing when a few seconds after the blast a piece of crap the size of a marble it him right in the face. He started hollering and ran inside to wash the fresh manure of his face and came back outside to make sure I got mine. When I was up I placed my charge and lit it but as I turned the excrement blew up all over my back. Cole and his brother were both laughing really hard about my misfortune and now all that was left was to see if we could get his brother to loose the game. His brother was in a bit of a cowboy phase and was wearing some authentic cowboy boots with smooth soles which made walking on ice all but impossible. He had on a billowy western shirt and tight pants and looked like the least likely person on earth to outrun the crap-tastrophe we were planning. We gave him a firecracker and he placed and lit it and then slipped around comically trying to make his escape while his fuse slowly smoldered for the longest time I have ever seen a non-dud burn. He got back in plenty of time and watched the show with us from the gallery. Undaunted, Cole and I both took our uneventful turns and then we tried to set his brother up with a artificially shortened fuse. Still he lit, slipped and came back un-pooped. We set him up a second time and still no go. It was dark and cold and we called it a game with Cole's brother technically winning, I guess, but when you blow up poop isn't everyone a winner? The next day at school Cole and I were relating what we thought was a hilarious experience to a cute girl who sat by us in geography. In spite of the obvious entertainment value and funny outcome the girl looked at us while we laughed our way through a recounting like we were brain damaged. I didn't care what she thought, blowing up dog crap with my friend was one of the funniest things I had ever done.
As is the case with young romance we were not the masters of our own destiny's. We were not able to hang out again outside of school for more than a week but then my girlfriend was able to come over. In the intervening time my pure altruistic love for her had slightly devolved back into y testosterone driven motivations. When she came over we talked and hanged out and I was trying to figure out someway to bring up the moment we shared post breakdown but she was not interested in talking about it so I was trying to find my angle and then I hit upon it - Guns and Roses. I had both 'Use Your Illusion' albums and I knew just the thing for showing sympathy and building intimacy, the 7th greatest rock ballad of all time 'Don't Cry'.
How can this not work to build a deeper relationship? Thanks Axl, I did have to give you 20 bucks but it was worth it.
I popped in the disc and skipped to the song I needed and there I was sitting with my emotionally vulnerable girlfriend listening to a great tune that showed my sympathy and emotional depth and I knew this was working. I ran into a little bit of a backfire when she did exactly opposite of what the song instructed and started crying. I had to work fast to keep this from devolving into a situation where making out would be inappropriate. I suggested we go for a walk and she agreed. We walked down towards the dump which was about a mile down a relatively secluded road. As we walked she cuddled up close to me and as we were away from all of the houses she pushed me over to a patch of grass in an apple orchard and started kissing me. We sat and talked and kissed until it started to get dark and then we headed back home. I thought things were going really well but after that night nothing ever went so well again.
My girlfriend, prior to being my girlfriend, had a really rough go of it with a older boyfriend who had been abusive so she was many times on the emotional edge. If anything set her off she might start crying out of the blue or say something like she was starting in the middle of a thought that was really rather dark. The night that Rob had driven us up to go to the dollar movies the car was having some type of electrical problem and we broke down twice and had to be jumped once before we even got to the theater so we decided it would be a good idea just to head home and skip the stranding. The events of the night were really just mildly inconvenient but the stress of it coupled with whatever was going on in my girls troubled mind pushed her over the edge and she started getting really panicked and hysterical. Rob was starting to get very worried because she was freaking out and he was trying to get us home and into someone else's realm of responsibility while I was in the back seat with her trying to calm her down and tell her it was okay. When we got home I stayed in the car with the now calm girlfriend while my mom took the other two boys home in her car. I stayed in the back seat with her head on my lap stroking her hair and talking to her for about an hour. She didn't say anything back to me but I just told her over and over that she was safe and that everything was going to be okay. I didn't feel like I was sure if it was going to be okay but maybe I was telling her and hoping myself. My mom, naturally nervous about me spending so much time alone in the backseat of the car with a girl in the dark hovered between the front door and the car just to make sure she didn't become a grandmother I guess. At one point before we took her home I told my girlfriend that I was really worried about her because I loved her so much and I, for the first time in my life, really meant that I loved someone for no other reason then I wanted them to be happy and safe with no ulterior motive. We had to take her home eventually despite her protest of wanting to stay. The next day was Saturday so we didn't see her at school but I called and her mom said that she didn't want to talk to me right then. I was crushed thinking of why she would not want to talk to me. She came by my house a couple of hours later carrying a bouquet of white flowers and I was so relived and excited that she was not trying to avoid me for some reason. I assumed that the flowers were for me and was flattered but she had actually brought them for my mom. I was a little sad that she was giving my om credit when I did all the comforting but then she asked if she could talk to me and she did thank me and told me that she loved me too. She went home and I was about as happy as any kid can be.
The really good thing about having Rob live in our house was that he could drive a car which is something my brother and I were legally prohibited from doing by reason of age discrimination. There is nothing more damaging to the dignity of a wanna-be player then to show up at the party, dance or shindig being dropped off by one's mother. The shame and the horror of proving to the world that you were not old enough to drive and not cool enough to have a older brother, sister or friend to ferry you about. When people wax nostalgic for the freedom of youth forget the feeling of having to sit around and wait for a ride. If I were to relive my youth I would want more money and a car or no dice. If I am presented with the actual opportunity to relive my youth I may back off these demands. Rob had another great benefit besides being recognized by the state for his ability to operate a motor vehicle, he had virtually no social life. This was in large part because he had moved into a new small town at the exact wrong time to try and make new friends and the night life would need to be hit with a defibrillator to get back to dead. The upshot of all that was that he was available most night to take us somewhere and then at the end of the night be there to pick us back up again. He wasn't scoping out the joint as he rolled up seeing if it looked like a boy/girl party he wasn't double checking to see if the parents I firmly swore were there to chaperon were actually there. It was a very one sided situation though and there were many times that Rob would get sassy about having to drive my friends and I around – and then he would, more often than not, take us any way. It was one night when he had driven two of my friends and I to the medium sized bigger city 18 miles to the north to watch a movie at the dollar theater, that my girlfriend had breakdown and made for a exciting night for all involved.
Two Days of This - Two Whole Days. The Horror, Oh The Huge Manatee.
Rob was caught in that hormonal no man's land of late adolescence and early adulthood where he was trying to be bold and manly but still have tastes that caused one to question his manliness. He worked out and liked to get his shirt off to display his newly developed muscles whenever possible. He had a assault rifle that he would break down, oil and clean about once a week. He was quick to flip off and threaten if there was not a good chance of being observed. All really manly things right? Dang right they are. But then there was those paradoxical behaviors that were fun for my brother and I to tease my dad's kind-of young charge, which he loved. He really like euro-invasion techno pop music that made me want to explode with rage when he would turn up the tunes and put it on repeat. He would be getting fired up on a little Depeche Mode or something equally horrid and my brother and I would tell him to shut if off. He would decline, we would insist and battle would be joined. At first it was a physical confrontation but turned into full blown sonic warfare when Rob bought a more sonorous radio then we owned with money he had earned working for my dad. Then when he wanted to listen to INXS or the Cure he would do so to his hearts content and he would just drowned out our Guns-n-Roses, Metalica, Sir Mix A Lot, Nirvana, or Beastie Boys with a little volume from his musical arms race nuclear bomb. In a most unmanly display one day he got the bug for a little Dead or Alive – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), so much of a bug that he took the single he had recently purchased and put it in powerful CD player and not just played it in our room at high volume but played that repulsive tune on repeat for no less then two full days. No Joke. Every second he was awake and in earshot he was playing that song over and over and over and over. I hadn't minded the song that much at first but by the 50th and 500th trips down the banal paths of late eighties techno-pop insipidity I was ready to destroy anything of beauty in the world. Every beautiful thing. We started making disabling sorties risking physical harm to keep what shreds of humanity were still left in the tatters of our minds. Rob would angrily restart his ritual of sonic horror and threaten death and dismemberment on anyone who would stop his tribute in kind to spinning right around like a record. . .baby. The issue was finally resolved by my anti music dad saying that no one could listen to anything at any time from the moment of his decree until the end of time. The mandate was not strictly followed but it did break the spell of the Dead or Alive repetition and Rob lost interest in the song and I had not heard it again until I found the link for this story. I still hate it.
Right around this time a kid came to live with us because he was a problem for his family. His family had lived right through the block from us in the mobile home park Where we lived when I was four. They had moved to Colorado but we had remained friends with their family and exchanged visits every couple of years. The parents were a great big tree of a man that was a cop and twisted faced termagant that seemed like a witch to us kids. They had a crew of kids who got into all kinds of weird trouble probably because they were home-schooled and were not really aware of the socially acceptable methods of rebellion and acting out. After a youth spent home schooling Rob had graduated high school early at a young 17, tried a local junior college and dropped out after one semester and started acting out. To help him get some direction his parents asked my parents if he could come and live with us learn a trade and get straitened out by my dad. That is how when I was in ninth grade I got an older brother for two years who was a pretty okay guy for someone who liked to have power struggles with 12 and 14 year-olds. My brother more than I loved to power struggle back with him so we had an arrangement of conflict that kept a low level of hostility always in the air. We only had the four bedrooms and my mom and dad had dibs-ed the largest one for them selves so my little brother and I shared a room with Rob while my older sister and younger sister shared a room and the two 'babies'(what we called my youngest brother and sister) shared the fourth. There was always a little territorial battle going on because Rob wanted to be king-boss of the world and we didn't recognize his authority. He would carve out rules and regulations for his side of the room and the room in general and then try and lecture us on what is was like to be grown up and responsible and obey his rules. We would impolitely decline his offer to run the joint and antagonize him for entertainment. I think that is enough intro to know who Rob was and how hit fits into many of the next stories so we'll fill out the details as we go.
Speaking of reports, I always hated doing these long projects and putting in all the work of plagiarizing to turn in some really quality piece on a state or country and not knowing if it was being really deeply and truly read and appreciated. To this end I started a game where I would put in a really funny but never distasteful phrase or comment into the body of the text to see if the material was being thoroughly reviewed. The paper would read something like: Washington’s state song was inspired by the fact that gerbils can not only be taught to fly but to derive existential meaning from it. Then right back into some blah blah blah and heretofores and whatnot. I always expected to be caught and marked down but I learned the most important lesson anyone can from a formal education - proper formatting and a great folder make up about 90% of perceived value in this world. Most especially when you have to grade 30 of them and you know what kind of work you will be getting from every student before you start. I ran this little joke with every long paper from junior high on through my first year of college and only had one teacher or professor ever mention it. I even had a philosophy professor ask to use my essay on the importance of cultural context in aesthetic judgment, joke and all, as a prototype of formatting for midterm papers, I had received an 'A' undiscovered joke notwithstanding. I told him sure, I mean it wasn't an ethics class after all.
When I was in ninth grade we were all assigned a country to do a report on in geography class and in those dark days before the widespread availability of the inter-webs we had to plagiarize from actual books, like poor people. There were no books in our small town library on much at all let alone a given countries major exports and cultural touchstones.. The solution was to get a ride up to the college library twenty miles away and do some research (copying) there. My mom was willing to take my friends, Quin, Garret and I and best of all my girlfriend, up a couple of different times. My mom would drop us off on campus and we would heard to the library. While we were supposed to be researching my girl friend liked to find secluded spots and make out with me. I say she liked to do that because I am actually uncomfortable with PDA and terrified of 'getting caught' so I was never enjoying it fully. I was always just looking around, ready to get my lifetime ban from the college library. We spent all of our time making out and then when we about to leave we would get some books on our country and copy the pages on the Xerox and head home to get some work done. My girlfriend was insatiable though and the whole way home sitting in the back seat she would be still trying to make out with my mom driving us home. I would actually be relieved to get her dropped of so I wouldn't have to be scared of getting kicked out of something or getting caught by my mom. After my friends and her were dropped off I would head home and retype the info I copied from the books and fill out a report outline our teacher had provided. We went a total of three times and I ended up plagiarizing so well I got an 'A' and a bonus for letting the teacher keep my report to show other students what a good report should look like.
I think I maybe played it too cool because my girl's friends started asking me why I hadn't asked her out. Did I not like her? Was I leading her on? Was I a jerk? I made up excuses and rationalizations to explain why I had not but the real reason was that I was too scared. One day I resolved to do what had to be done and I told her in between classes that I wanted to ask her something when we went home. I was doing this so that if she didn't want me to ask her out she could avoid me because I figured she would have to know what I needed to ask her. She did not avoid me but gave me a hug then and then sat really close to me on the bus, like PDA close which made me a little uncomfortable. We got off the bus by a park that was a bout equal distant from our respective houses and we started a leisurely stroll up the road while I tried to hammer out the proper phrasing in my mind. She leaned gently into my side nudging me toward a nice spot of grass and a tree to lean against. My heart was racing my hands were soggy and my throat was dry I sat down with my back against the tree and made some small talk. When I went into the actual asking out, I farted, which came as a surprise to me and her. I had no warning no chance to hold back and I was mortified. What I did was not acknowledged it and she did me the dignity of returning that favor and we went on with the formality of asking out. When I got the words out she excitedly said yes and leaned forward, grabbed my face with both of her hands and kissed me on the lips. It was a warm fall day and the sun was warm and over-bright, the temperature was just right and I was so excited to have a girlfriend who wanted to be my girlfriend. After the initial warm glow though all I could think about was farting, I mean, what the hell? I was and still am embarrassed about that but she never mentioned it and because it is only she and I that know anything about it and she has probably long long ago forgotten it all I need to do now is keep it super secret and no one will ever know my shame.
I had the same floppy bowl cut hairdo from the time it was long enough to look like a floppy bowl cut until I was 19. It was an easy look and easier to maintain because all I had to do wash wash it, condition it and boom - hair did, done, do. I wouldn't cut it until it was to my chin or there about and then I would lift it back over my ears with a snippy snip and done. Int the meantime I would shave the underside quite short with a buzzer so that the hair would lay flat to my head and no look so puffy. This hairdo did me fine except for it looked like I was a skater and that made cowboys boil over with white hot visceral rage to see someone with long hair that was not subtly coiffured into a luxuriously permed mullet. Like a real man, you know? Once in an attempt to be sweet and cute I had my sister carve my possible girlfriends initials into the hair under my flop. I don't really know why I thought that was a good idea but who knows when love in in the air and a poor dumb boy with more testosterone then miles on him is trying to impress a girl. I was really nervous to show her what I had done so I just hinted at it for a bit and then I finally decided the time was right so while we were waiting for the bus I told her I had something to show her and pulled up my mop to show her where I had her initials in my scalp. The main problem I think was that she didn't know what she was looking for and I had really light skin and really light hair and there was very little contrast between regular hair and initial carved hair so she just looked confused. I tried to get her guess a couple of times and then gave in and told her it was her initials. She was confused why I did that but said it was nice in a weird tone and then she changed the subject. I had the distinct feeling that this girl and maybe girls in general are not terribly interested in having someone carve there monogram in their hair. I took the lesson to heart and have kept all of my protestation of undying love verbal so there is no paper trail, or hair trail as the case may be.
When I was in ninth grade I started collecting key chains for some reason I cannot recall. I think I may have acquired one by happenstance and then decided to run with it until I had hundreds in a huge ball. My passing fascination with key chains coincided with a fascination with a girl from my home town that I had not really noticed before but all of the sudden started paying a lot of attention to me and that can make anyone more attractive. She had just broke up with an older boyfriend who was a little abusive and she had the easy physical contact of a kid from a large family that is used to sitting really close to someone and not thinking anything of it. I really liked the way she smelled, like warm vanilla candy, and I really liked all of the attention she was paying me. She noticed I was collecting key chains and every day she would bring me another one for my collection. She did this for weeks on end and where she came up with them all I don't know and maybe don't want to know. After several weeks of sitting next to each other on the bus and getting key chains I felt the relationship was ready to go to the next level and we should move in together. I didn't have a locker-mate and she was not really interested in keeping hers so we moved all of her stuff in and started doing annoyingly cute sweet things. Between every class whomever got to the locker first would hold it open and wait for the slower partner and have a cute little chat and then walk as far to the next class as we reasonably could together. At some point our locker was overflowing with a volleyball sized clump of key chains and it was time for the ball to move on so I took it home and decided I should ask this girl to be my girlfriend for reals. This is how tragically anxious I was though, I was still too nervous to ask her out because I was not sure what she would say. I decided to take it slow and see what happened but my plan was to 'ask her out' which was junior high jargon for not much changes.
We had to ride the bus to Payson most days and which meant that we had to get up pretty early and get ready and then go stand in the dark and cold until the bus rolled up. That was the easy part of the trip, when I was in junior high our bus driver was not cut out for work with children. He was constantly on edge and that is no way to deal with children. Kids are like vicious wolves and if they scent blood you are in a world of hurt. They have nothing to do all day and when they see they got a funny or dramatic response from a adult in authority and not get in trouble they will do it again and again until someone has to intervene or just kill all the kids. Our bus driver had a hard route full of hard kids who were biding their time until they were sixteen and legally allowed to drop out of school. They were the types that had weapons and lighters and used them. One kid was melting and cutting up the back seats which the bus driver told us one day came out of his pay to repair. The oldest and most sacred rule of bus ridership is that hard kids sit to the back furthest from the watchful eyes of the driver. No normal kid would dare to challenge the seating order because we liked to not be punched and a kid with a knife might even put your guts on the wrong side of your body. This bus driver thought that he could mess with the ecosystem of the bus without causing an environmental break down. He started placing good kids at the back of the bus and making the hellions sit in the first two rows. The poor nerds who got put to the back where caught smack in the middle of their two worst fears, the fear of disobeying or disappointing an adult and the fear of bullies. What was a good nerd to do? The tough kids were also caught in a double bind of having to sit at the front and obey. What was a good bully to do? After two days the levy broke and the bullies revolted in mass and just went to sit where nature intended and they kicked the nerd out of the seats they never wanted to begin with. The bus driver stopped the bus a couple of blocks from the school and tried to control the situation but when it spiraled badly out of control he had to call the cops to come and arrest the bullies and take them away. We were late getting home but it was worth it for the story of the cops on the bus. The police action cooled the situation down for a few weeks but after the initial shock wore off the bad kids started to raise hell again. One day on the way home smoke started to fill the bus and the bus driver pushed to the edge for the last time took more drastic action. There was a deep ravine about a mile from the school and when the driver scented the smoke he told us he was pulling the bus right the fetch over right fetching then but he wasn't saying fetch. What was more troubling then his use of the 'eff' word, in my opinion, was that he was looking backwards in the big student watching mirror and not watching where he was going. He pulled off the road into the soft gravel shoulder without slowing down first and we were only a few hundred feet from the ravine when he realized his mistake and fought to control the bus to a stop. We finally skidded to a stop about thirty feet from the edge of the slope down into the dry riverbed. We were all quite relived to have not died and I think the bus driver no more so than us and he must have decided this was not the job for him, he told us to sit tight and that help would come soon. He called the dispatcher and then opened the door walked out of the bus and walked away. We sat in stunned science fro a little bit and then started talking about what happened. A new driver showed up in about twenty minutes and we were home safe soon. Our replacement driver was a no nonsense 50ish woman with nothing but hate in her heart and a very calm bus. I never heard anything about the driver again.