Way back in 1998 I had a job where I had to fly to Kansas City each week and work, then come back home to Raleigh, NC for the weekend. There were no direct flights either way, but the layovers were always the same. They were not the same in each direction, for some reason, but each direction’s layover was the same week after week. It all became pretty routine after a while, well except for this one time there was a thing that happened…
I boarded the plane as usual and took my seat. Most times there were empty seats and people could (and did) move around a bit once the plane was loaded and we knew the seats were empty for the flight. After taking my seat, a window seat, a couple came on board with their young son. I could overhear their conversation a couple of rows ahead of me. Apparently they had not bought their tickets in a manner that their son’s seat was with theirs.
The couple took their seats and asked the other person on that row, who was already seated, if he minded switching seats so their son could sit with them. He didn’t mind, but he didn’t exactly switch seats either, instead he just sat on the next row. As you might expect, soon the person came aboard who’s seat he had taken and after a brief explanation that person also took a random different seat instead. This all continued until the plane was almost full.
Literally the last person on the plane was a slightly older than middle-aged woman. I mention that not to disparage her in any way, but just to give some weight to the story. As she continued down the aisle looking for her seat, my brain started to churn a potential what-if scenario… and as fate would have it, she approached the aisle where I had the window seat, and our row was already full. She told the man in her seat that he was in fact in her seat. He asked if she minded sitting somewhere else. She was adamant, she had requested an outside-aisle seat and that was hers.
Seeing there was a problem, a flight attendant approached and asked about the problem. The woman said this man was in her seat. Realizing that the “can you sit elsewhere” idea had already been floated, and after verifying the seat on the lady’s ticket. She asked the man where his seat was and why he was not in it. He, of course, explained that someone else was already in his seat when he had boarded the plane. I’m sure you can see where this was headed…
A few other people around me started cluing in to the mess that was about to unravel as the flight attendant was now trying to reverse the cavalcade of randomly mis-seated people that started when the couple wanted to switch seats to have their son sit with them. I don’t remember exactly how it all settled, but I remember the couple and their son stayed together and the woman got her aisle seat on my row. I also remember a lot of people being mad at that woman.
During the flight, I explained to the woman what had happened… I told her that I completely understood her wanting the seat she had specifically requested and that the other problem could have been solved in two different ways. Either that couple should have bought their tickets together in the first place or that first seat-switch should have been a literal switch rather than the cascading thing of everyone taking a random seat that trickled down eventually to her not being in hers.
As it happens, she came across as a little gruff, but the truth was she requested that seat because she had difficulty getting up and down and needed the aisle seat to be able to do so comfortably. I just remember the comedy in my mind that I enjoyed first as I knew instinctively how that first seat switch might be a problem if the plane filled to capacity, and then again later as it all came to fruition and the poor flight attendant had to try and unravel it all as each thread she pulled uncovered another passenger in the wrong seat!
When I was a kid we lived for about seven years in a trailer park. The streets of this particular trailer park wound themselves inside a heavily wooded area, so there was lots of forest in which to get lost and explore. You could also find lots of evidence of other people having been in and around these woods. There were lots of well traveled paths all over, and there was a trash-pile in one part of the woods not too far behind where we lived. As a kid, somehow other people’s trash is interesting. Looking back on it now, I really miss the enthusiasm I had for the simple things.
On this particular day I was exploring the woods alone. Rummaging through the trash I stumbled upon some old cans of house paint. These were small cans, so I was able to carry several of them back to the area just behind my trailer to play. As I look back on this, I do not know exactly what was fun about cans of paint as I didn’t have anything with which to paint or anything upon which to apply the paint.
I remember playing with the cans for a while, until I finally managed to open one. A nice teal colored paint was inside that one. Before long I had managed to get it all over my hands and arms. At this time I was not aware of having spread the paint elsewhere. I did realize soon enough, though, that I could not simply wipe off the paint and I became concerned. I did not know what to do, and I figured my parents would think me truly stupid for having gotten into the paint… so I rode my bike around the neighborhood for a while. I probably did not help myself by doing this, since it meant the paint I had on me just had more time to soak into my skin and dry.
Eventually I did go home, because I couldn’t realistically stay away forever. I think they were disappointed and a little concerned, but I looked humorous enough with paint all over my hands and arms… and though I could not see it, my face as well. We then spent what seemed like hours with some rags and some gasoline rubbing the paint off of my skin. This was not fun. Once the paint was off, I then had to spend time in the shower and bath to get the gasoline off lest I trade one kind of poison for another!
This was not an adventure I repeated again… but for a brief time, I was Smurftacularly blue. Remember, Papa Smurf says don’t smurf with paint or you might smurf yourself blue in the face.
Even at pre-school age I had unusually free roam of the neighborhood in which we lived. Maybe it was the naivety of the 1970s, but I was without adult supervision a lot more than it seems in retrospect was probably prudent. On this particular occasion I wasn’t alone, but with a group of similarly aged friends. We were all five or six years of age, tops.
I was at a neighbor’s house, maybe eight houses down the road from my house in the subdivision where we lived. So, I guess technically we were in someone’s yard and theoretically could have been observed by that kid’s parents. I do not believe that we really were given what ultimately happened.
This house had one of those u-turn driveways, paved, that curved in front of the house. To the left of the house was a forest and, as I was soon to find out, a creek. Angled between the forest and the left side of the house was a bike path. On this particular day my friends and I were riding our bikes from the right side of the u-turn driveway, following that turn as it passed the front of the house, taking the sharp turn right onto the bike path, and then sliding to a stop in the dirt. I can’t actually remember why this was something we were doing or why it was fun specifically.
On one of my rides I remember thinking… why do we keep turning onto the bike path? Why not just keep straight and go into the forest. There seemed to be an opening there. So, on my next ride I decided to do just that. In hindsight, I suppose I should have asked someone before blindly going forward. Pedaling as fast as I could, I didn’t take the sharp-right onto the bike path, and instead continued straight.
Here is where I had my Wile E. Coyote moment. As my bike exited the paved driveway and entered the opening into the forest, I realized I was temporarily suspended in mid-air, maybe three to four feet above the surface of the water below. This was where the creek ran up to, and ultimately under, their driveway. I do not know why I did not know this previously, but in that suspended moment I could feel myself hover for what seemed like an eternity before first the bike, and then I quickly thereafter, plunged straight down into the creek.
Somehow, and I do not fully understand this, the bike and I were beside each other in the creek. I’m not sure how this happened. My friends came over to help me climb out of the creek and back onto the driveway. It helped that for some reason there were boards nailed to the side of the ground that held while I climbed them.
The rest of the memory is a blur. I remember being soaking wet. I remember not being hurt. I remember borrowing some clothes from my friend whose house we were all at. I remember my parents coming to get me because my bike was in the creek. I remember coming back at some point with my father and him using a shovel to fish my bike out of the creek.
I don’t remember ever playing with any of those kids again. I do remember being at that house again, though, at some point in the future… and where the creek was, there was now a large pile of variously-sized boards, each with large nails protruding from them. I remember thinking how it was a good thing those were not there that time I had ridden my bike off the edge.
A new semi-regular feature on the blog begins this evening, regaling a strange-but-true tale from my past…
When I was a kid, I had unusually free roam of the neighborhood in which we lived. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but whenever I reflect on my childhood I am amazed at the good fortune that bad things did not happen to me. Back then I thought things were rough, but looking back I realize I often led a charmed life.
One day I was out riding my bicycle. I used to really like riding my bike and I think I liked riding alone more than with friends. So, I was riding by myself and this car pulled to a stop in front of me. The driver rolls down the window and calls to me to come over. I don’t remember responding, but then the person asked, “do you want a puppy?”
I don’t remember how old I was, but I was probably between eight and ten years old, based on things I can remember of the time. Anyway, I remember approaching the car while still straddling my bike… and when I was right beside the car, the driver reached out of his window and handed me a puppy. No sooner than I had taken the puppy in my arms, the driver rolled up the window and drove away.
I had a tough time getting both the puppy and my bicycle home. My parents were not pleased. I don’t think any of us thought of the potential danger of strangers or child abduction, but rather that we already had three dogs at that time and no place in the yard for another. We kept the puppy for a few days but ultimately had to take him to a shelter. He was a good-natured puppy, and would have made a good pet if we didn’t already have too many. I sometimes wonder what happened to him.
As an adult, whenever I think of this experience, I can’t help but think of all the horrible stories I have seen on the news of child abductions that began much like my story. Strangely, this is not the only non-abduction story I have from my childhood, but that will have to wait for another time.
Thus ends the first installment of… A Thing That Happened!