Future Fire Extinguishers of America

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, a toast to Dave Linane who unexpectedly woke up dead. If you are new to this blog and want to know more about Dave click the link. If this is your first read, this is about 20 something chapters into the book. Scroll down to March 13 to start at the beginning if you wish by clicking the BLOG link above. You will have to load older posts to get to the beginning. As always, I appreciate your comments, stories of your experiences with Dave or if you are new to me, stories of your loved ones who have had their own Viking Funerals. Thank you all for joining me as I recover in my grief through dark humor. XO M

***

I interviewed many people ADLB (after Dave left the building). On this occasion, my husband and I met with Brian, Steve (who rode with Dave in the Ambulance way back when), and Peggy A and Al B. All three guys retired from successful careers serving the SBFD. Peggy had been a paramedic early in her adulthood before becoming a mom. All were friends of Dave’s from High School or younger.

We spent the afternoon swapping stories over wine from Steve and Peggy’s vineyard right outside the door. One would not think great wine could come from grapes grown on a couple of really rocky acres of land in Devore, California, but it is possible! I shared way more new stories with them than I learned in trade. It was still the fun I imagined Dave would have had while he would have theoretically been reminiscing with them himself and writing his (this) book.

This was the occasion I was finally able to ask Steve, “What was the ride to the hospital with Dave like?” Steve knew what ride I meant, but he couldn’t remember anything specific. I wondered if “Dave said anything, or was he silent?” Ultimately, he thought it had been a quiet ride. Having worked in emergency response as a career, I imagine he had experienced so many traumatic events that even Dave’s really bad, terrible, day had blended in with so many thousands of others that he couldn’t remember after 40 plus years. I understood.

We laughed about Dave’s antics following their wedding, another could have ended up in the hospital adventure, but that story is for an upcoming chapter. Peggy went on to keep us laughing as she dramatically acted out her 20-year-old self’s response to her perfect wedding day, being probably ruined before the ceremony started. I had not heard this part of the story before.

The wedding was held in her parents’ backyard. The average age of their friends attending was 19 to early 20s. Tempers and hormones can run hot among young men at that age. A ruckus occurred between two male guests completely unrelated to the wedding party. Envisioning the characters involved had me laughing harder with each additional detail of the story. The scuffle was sparked by nothing more than unfounded and stupid young male jealousy over a girl. There they were, guests all dressed up for a wedding, but instead, they knocked over chairs set up for the event as the two pointlessly rolled around in a knot on the grass. It was a complete misinterpretation of facts and was quickly squashed. They brushed themselves off and sat down after righting their chairs.

As news of the brief tussle reached the darling bride Peggy, up in her childhood bedroom-her bridal dressing room, she couldn’t help but be overcome with tears from the stress of the big day combined with the unpredicted drama on what should have been her magical perfect day. She mimed a pose that conveyed that moment in time, a sulking pout, with eyes closed, head turned to the side, nose in the air, clearly…put out. Four lovely children later, grandchildren, their marriage soon approaching 50 years provided more than enough perspective needed to laugh at that day, at herself, and had us laughing with both of them.

On the heels of the laugh wearing off, Peggy and Steve were smiling with each other, I could see them remembering all of it in their collective memory, living their decades of a lifetime together in the two-second pause where we caught our breath. Keeping eye contact with Peggy, Steve added as the thought came to him probably for the first time in decades, “Dave made the reel-to-reel tape for our reception.”

I had no idea that is what WE were making that tape for, but Dave had selected all the music from his fab collection of records and had me queue each song up on the turntable to record a six-hour reel-to-reel tape of music. This was decades before DJs played at weddings. I cracked up as I realized and asked, “DAVE made the tape for your wedding? I mean, OK, he DID choose all the music but HOW funny that he didn’t tell me what it was for. (Pause as the realization struck them with the obvious-Dave was paralyzed, he could not possibly have MADE the tape without some help), I hadn’t thought about the fact that he or we never listened to it after spending all that time making it.” I saw Steve connect the dots with the flash of a micro-expression on his face, “We listened to that reel for years. It was great music.” Peggy added, “Ya until Pete (placeholder name of someone I don’t know, the name did not stick in my memory, nor did I think to write it down) spilled beer on it.” They looked at each other again and nodded once as they both recalled the demise of the tape while the rest of us laughed about this Pete guy and his destructive beer.

As I edited this section, I realized that I had to have been about 10 when I helped him make this tape. Six hours of music is a big project and this was the first big project I ever worked on. This was also the first time Dave shared interesting insights about music in general but about specific songs he chose to have me record. He wanted it to be done correctly, and he was very particular about how he wanted things in general done. He taught me how to listen to and adjust the sound as we went so there wouldn’t be jarring differences between each song. He explained how to make sure the transition was smooth from each song to the next. I learned about what quality control meant but it wasn’t given a name. He just wanted it done well, and it was. I learned more from him about how to do things carefully and thoughtfully, thinking about the end-users experience by both helping him with daily tasks of living and needing assistance and working with him on that and many other projects. No wonder I want things done a particular way, lined up in a particular order. “Babe, (addressing my husband) it’s all Dave’s fault!”

Al is a reserved guy. He was quietly smiling along with us as the stories were shared. After the laughter quieted a moment, he contributed the second story of the two stories I learned that day. He has a really nice deep, clear voice and is also great at telling a tale. He set the scene of another occasion where they, any of them could have ended up in the hospital.

The guys, Dave, Brian, Bruce, and Al, were out cruising in Dave’s van. Among the silly things they did besides stopping and leaving Dave in the van with the doors open in the middle of E street in town, they also loved, LOVED to prank people, random people, anyone, everyone. It didn’t matter. This was an equal opportunity group of pranksters.

On this occasion, they had at least one old fire extinguisher filled with water with them. They drove around looking for innocent young people to lightly spritz with water. Likely people they might spray on a night like this were people standing outside the adult book store, (apparently, there was frequently a line), people waiting to buy ice cream, lined up for the movies or the parking lot after at a game. There were many scenarios. Any crowd might get the rain out of the clear blue sky treatment. They didn’t spray people in a point-blank manner. From the inside of the van, they would spray one quick burst of water up in the air so it would broadcast down on unsuspecting people from above, making the source of water hard to determine. They would enjoy the shock in response on behalf of the now wet victim(s) and then feel sly as they casually drove away. They did this all the time.

This time they sprayed someone, a random guy in a crowd who did not take the practical joke well at all. He ran to his car, got in, and started chasing after them. Bruce was driving the van and sped around town trying to lose this guy, which they finally did. Plenty of rolling around happened in the back of the van for the untethered Dave and Al in a lawn chair. They laughed and laughed, incredulous that anyone would get so mad about a little water.

After they were sure they had lost the guy, they decided to celebrate by stopping for more beer at their favorite liquor store. Al posed the question to the group, “What was the name of that liquor store we always went to down on… what street was that, like 9th street?” Brian, Steve, and Al remembered simultaneously and laughingly said, “BLISS LIQUOR!!” They didn’t exactly confirm the location, but anywhere south of Baseline Street would have been sketchy after dark. A “sketchy part of town” in San Bernardino, is a strong statement. Al asked me, “Are you familiar with Bliss liquor?” I shrugged no as Brian laughed, “She wouldn’t know where that is!” I’ve never been much of a drinker, and I had zero reasons to be in a sketchy part of an overall pretty gritty town. Al continued, “So we went to Bliss Liquor. Bruce and Brian went in, and I stayed in the van with Dave.”

A yellow van is not exactly easy to hide. The mad, wet guy had not stopped looking for them. Unbeknownst to them, he spotted the van, pulled in next to them, and surprised the shit out of all of them when, in his rage, he “Ripped the side door of the van open to find… a guy in a wheelchair and me on a lawn chair. The guy was livid, screaming, and ready to kill us with his bare hands. Bruce and Brian came out of the store just in time to divert his attention from behind. They tried to calm him down. ‘Come on, man, it was just water. We’re just having a little fun.’ Who knows if it was their words, counting four of them against him, or the crowbar Bruce inexplicably produced from nowhere, held by his side that convinced the guy to let it go, but he did, and he left.”

I could not believe I had never heard this, another potential brush with near-death story. “Did my mom know about this?” Al and Brian in unison laughed, “HELL, NOOOO!” This was in the very early years of nights out on the town for Dave after returning home from the hospital. My mom probably would have had what we called a “conniption” if she had found out. Dave would likely never be allowed out of the house again if she knew how close the group had come to Duking it out over a silly water prank gone awry. Turns out, they did have an idea of her reaction, and they all kept their mouths shut. Dave, obviously taking it to the extreme, by taking it to the grave. I told my mom of the mad escapade the next day. She had not heard it before and shook her head with a giggly sigh of “those boys.”

As a child, I knew all too well these guys had fire extinguishers, sprayed people out in the world, and fully enjoyed every minute of laughing along the way. One of the extinguishers lived in Dave’s bedroom. I had heard about many other occasions that ended with people wet, confused, and these guys driving away laughing.

A few years after the above incident Al described, I too was pranked with water from the sky but multiplied by infinity. I was jogging a block away from home with my bestie Suzie in our neighborhood park. The park was located directly adjacent to the fire department where Brian worked, Al and maybe Steve worked there too at that time, but definitely, my decade in the future son’s father was there. He was the captain of these knuckleheads.

Suzie and I were roughly 13 and jogging an easy few laps around the park when we were sprayed by a shocking surprise of water raining down from above. Instead of a few random little unexpected water drops from a hand-held fire extinguisher, it was from a regulation size fire hose attached to a fire truck or hydrant on the other side of the wall in the fire department training area. They rained a stream, wait, more like a deluge of water down on us. It fell from probably 60 feet at its highest point in the arc of the stream and created a circular shower of water pelting us that was at least 10 feet in diameter. The stream followed us as we ran like a spotlight on a stage. I am talking about enough water to extinguish a house fire torrenting down on us.

It took me a moment after being stunned to figure out exactly what in THEE hell was happening. This was Brian’s signature water prank… on steroids…times a thousand. I have no idea why we continued jogging, but we did. Maybe we thought we could escape it, but we didn’t. The deluge just followed us. It was impossible to talk with, through, or over the inundation of water to explain to Suzie what I knew to be happening. I tried to, but all I could do was sputter out water as we laughed hysterically, trying to slog our way out of the torrent. We could have wet our pants, and no one would have known we were laughing that hard and that completely soaked.

I am sure the prankster firemen got a laugh out of raining on our parade. When we made it about a couple hundred feet away, we were finally out of the reach of the stream. We both laughed incredulously as we headed our separate ways home. Imagine me returning home after a simple run around the park looking like I washed up on shore waterlogged after being lost at sea during a storm…for about a month. We, our family, had heard about epic water fights between those guys at the fire department that sometimes spilled into the street and stopped only when people started calling 9-1-1 to tattle on them. Dispatch would effectively stop the shenanigans by contacting the station with an announcement over the public address system that they would respond to by stopping in their tracks to listen thinking a REAL call was being dispatched, “Station 4, we’re receiving numerous reports from the area of Fire Personnel chasing each other around the street with fire hoses, please grow up.” I think they probably said “Desist.” but I like substituting “grow up” in there.

My mom knew where I had been, took one look at me when I sloshed in the door, and before she could open her mouth, I said one word loudly, “BRIAN.” If there was a practical joke with water involved, Brian was behind it. She just laughed, and I went to peel off my clothes. This was a hilariously unexpected way to get cooled off on a hot summer day, a deluge in the park. No one else was home at the time, and I never mentioned it to anyone, namely Brian. Not because I didn’t want to, I loved this story I just got sidetracked with likely some other shiny object of the day and forgot about it until I remembered when Al told us his story. This is a good reason to share good stories!

I told my tale of water woe to the group, somewhat digging for a confession retroactive to the mid-70s from them. The guys looked at each other and shrugged, not saying anything but conveying a “could have been” noncommittal group eyebrow raise. They didn’t specifically deny it. I followed up with, “Did you drench that many people that you could not remember?” They look at each other again and collectively shrugged again in a very non-excited demeanor, admitted nothing. That was hilarious too. I was WAY WAY WAY more drenched in comparison to that pissed off guy. I could not help but think about his perspective when he thought he was going to beat someone up. Outloud I wondered how many times he told the story of pulling the van door open and seeing Dave in his wheelchair and Al… What in the hell must he have thought? I hope he learned how to chill the fuck out.

Still Cruising E Street 1975

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. If you are new to me and this blog and figuring this all out, consider scrolling down to start at the beginning chapter (blogpost) March 13 or clicking here to read about Dave

***

When the weather was nice, the guys would mix things up and plan a Guy’s Night Out, GNO, somewhere in town to get Dave out of the house. Usually, a drive-in movie morphed into the par-tay that followed Dave everywhere. A long caravan of cars lined up to enter the drive-in with ONE lone driver in each and a suspiciously low-riding trunk full of several unaccounted for passengers. My husband observed, “that was a flaw in planning on their part, having just ONE person in the car. Two would be the perfect cover for a low dragging trunk like that.” Regardless, this is the standard protocol all of their friends followed when they entered the drive-in. I love thinking about the perspective of the attendant taking their money, they were fooling no one. Somehow though, each car was always waived on in.

Dave had a Chevy van that was a pale yellow, early 70s vintage, somewhat like the Scooby-Doo cartoon’s Mystery Machine. My dad cut two boards that were used as ramps, they were inexplicably blue. Knowing my dad, they were likely made from scrap wood found in our garage. The guys called them “the blue loaders” and used them to get Dave in the van and up steps at a variety of places as needed. His van was not designed to have anyone sitting in a wheelchair, which I am sure is no surprise to anyone, especially since this was the mid-seventies, years before The Americans with Disabilities Act, wheelchair ramps anywhere or cool retrofits for disabled-use were conceptualized.

Dave could not sit up straight in his wheelchair in the cargo area of the van. He was 4-6 inches too tall between the height of his wheelchair, which was slightly higher than a regular chair and his own height. He was not that tall at 5’11,” but maybe he had a long torso. The guys were very careful to avoid hitting his head when getting him through the van doorway, but he also had to tilt his head to one side or the other the entire ride from point A to point B.

Someone thought of the elegantly sophisticated placement of a spare tire laid flat on its side between the two front seats, the only seats in the van, by the way, to place and elevate his front wheels. This tipped his wheelchair back enough to keep his head from hitting the roof. He couldn’t see out of the van all that well having to bend his head to the side, but with no windows in the side of the van, he really couldn’t see anything but the roof being tipped backward. Going anywhere with his friends was always worth it and usually a short duration, so not a big deal.

The guys brought folding lawn chairs to sit on, and they rolled around with Dave as you would expect not being formally fastened to the vehicle before the federally mandated seatbelt law. Having spent untethered miles in the back of that van myself, I can picture them in their aluminum lawn chairs, more than likely a bit tipsy, rounding a corner, arms, and legs flailing as they bashed into the walls or for balance, well, not Dave’s arms or legs, Dave just had to go with the flow. Everyone would be shouting in escalating pitch to no one in particular, “Whooo-ooo-oo-aaaaaaa, Buuuddy!!!” In time all the guys learned how to drive quite gently with smooth starts and stops, considerate rounding of corners, going over speed bumps or rough roads extra slow to give Dave the smoothest ride possible under very, very crude passage conditions.

They unfolded themselves from the trunks of all the cars, spread themselves out at the movies with their ice chests, food, illegal beer, chairs, their favorite people. They always had a great time laughing at their uncanny ability to sneak in. That was before they were old enough to discern that the attendant at the gate was the same age as they were and didn’t give a shit about allowing a bunch of people to smuggle their way in.

After the movie-par-TAY, even after the consequences of arrests, court dates, fines, and probation, they would still cruise E Street. This is apparently how young people connected when they were too young for bars and obviously decades before social media. I feel like I have to outline that last part for those who are young and cannot fathom a time when one had to leave the house to socialize.

Kids of driving age from all the surrounding towns arrived to cruise E street, and the convergence of so many cars with no real intention of going anywhere fast always turned into an enormous traffic jam. People purposely abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the street, doors left open, to mingle about as if at a traditional house party but in the middle of a four-lane wide street with a suicide turning lane in the middle. After a few years of this popular phenomenon, local law enforcement figured out a way to stop this from happening altogether, but not tonight. For the time being, it was the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night. I can’t say there is much more for young people 16-21 years of age to do in most cities to this day other than the movies, so I’m glad the internet is an option.

It may not be surprising to learn that on this occasion, we are way past the statute of limitations on drinking and driving, so I will assert that the guys were a bit beyond tipsy. They, I know three of the they at this point, no one can remember and I didn’t stop to ask who was in the van back when I first heard this story so we know Brian and Dave were in the van. I know Dennis B was driving. I think Paul K and Bruce R were in the van too. Anyway, THEY were in the middle of the cruise traffic jam of abandoned cars. They decided to abandon the van to join the crowd and more efficiently cruise on foot. Dennis put the van in Park, and they all hopped out. They went to find ladies with whom to mingle in the dead stopped traffic social scene.

The threat of getting some sort of ticket from local law enforcement was ever hanging in the balance, so they had to remain vigilant and always be prepared to dive back in the van to make a fast getaway. I do not understand whatever it is about the potential of getting caught doing something we’re not supposed to be doing that adds to the thrill of doing that thing. I can only assume they were but moths to this particular cruising (girls, girls, girls) flame and could not help themselves.

They like everyone else left the doors open, the two front and the double-doors on the side of the van open for the getaway. Dave stayed in the van because it took way too long to get him out or back in to have been plausible. He was perfectly happy to be with them in the middle of any adventure, enjoying their hilarious selves. People always stopped and poked their heads or jumped in the van to chat with him, so a bit of the cruise came to him. It was all fun and games.

The guys milled about the forbidden social scene. An unfounded murmur filtered across, and through the crowd, the mere thought of a cop was headed the general direction, and everyone bolted back to their cars to speed off, the guys included. All the doors in the general vicinity slammed, cars split. Dennis floored it.

The sudden jarring momentum caused Dave to fly over backward, toes upward, his legs always straight out in front of him in his wheelchair, stopping abruptly when his feet (protected by the boots of his braces) hit the roof of the van, thankfully lodging him in place and protecting his head from hitting the floor of the van behind him. As Dennis floored it, everyone else in the van realized and shouted that Brian was not in the van. He was running toward the front passenger door yelling for them to “WAAAAIT!!” Dennis reacted by stomping on the brakes causing Dave to slam forward into his original traveling position with his front wheels crashing down on the spare tire. The guys were busting up laughing at Dave jerking back and forth with Dennis’ subtle, concrete-heavy foot on the gas and brakes.

Brian had reached the van, but instead of getting in, he was banging on the passenger door, yelling, “My fooooot! My FOOOOOOOOT!! You are ON MY FUUUUUCKING FOOOOOOT!!!” Dennis overreacted by flooring it again to move the van the mere inches necessary to get off Brian’s fucking foot. The van instead lurched several feet forward and caused Dave to repeat his flight over backward, boots bashing into the headliner. Dennis slammed on the brakes again to fully stop the van’s forward momentum so Brian could get in, Dave thudded back down on the tire. Brian hobbled into the van quickly and slammed the door. Dennis floored it for the real getaway this time. Dave flew backward again and remained there in suspension, his head a foot above the van floor as they proceeded home. The guys were already out of breath, laughing at Dave flying around in the back of the van after the first false start. Brian’s fucking foot thing took them all over the edge with convulsive pants-pissing laughter.

The next day Brian called Dave and mentioned, “Man, I don’t know what I did, but my foot HURTS LIKE HELL.” After Dave caught his breath from laughing his loud barking seal of a laugh heard anywhere in the house, he reviewed the sequence of events that led up to Brian’s foot hurting like hell, “You don’t remember Dennis running over your foot? STOPPING on your foot? You shouted, ‘YOU’RE ON MY FUUUUUCKING FOOOOT?’” Brief pause. Brian remembered with a drawn-out sigh of, “Oooooooh, yeeaaah.”

The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time 1973

Excerpt from the upcoming biography, Viking Funeral. Thank you for all your comments and love. Scroll down to start from the beginning around March 13. Or click here to read about Dave

Right before high school graduation Brian and Dave were out in the world on a Saturday afternoon. They were down the street from our house when some friends drove by and asked them if they wanted to hop in their car to cruise E Street. Day or night E Street in San Bernardino was the place to connect with people.

Brian and Dave shrugged at each other with an unspoken why the hell not? and hopped in the back seat of the station wagon, joining their friends. The back seat floorboards were littered with empty beer cans level with the hump of the transmission that separated the two sides of the car. There was no room for their feet and no way to avoid the crinkle of the cans as they got in.

The car reeked of a range of beer fresh and stale. The two guys in the front seat had been playing softball all day and subsequently had been drinking all day, pitching the empties over their shoulder into the backseat spilling the dribbles of beer at the bottom of each can in the process. Dave and Brian had had nothing to drink so far, but it was early, and they JUST got in the car.

The guys headed for E Street and cruised up and down the crowded street, socializing loudly out the windows at people they knew and people they didn’t but maybe hoped to know. At some point, they were side-by-side with a car full of people they knew. They were shouting and laughing as they went. The question of beer came up as in, “Ya got any beer?” shouted to the guys in the station wagon. The guys in the station wagon did, in fact, have beer. They had loads of beer in the cargo area in the way back.

Dave decided to crawl back there, all 230 pounds of him over the back seat into the way back of the station wagon where the beer was in an ice chest. Ever friendly, helpful, considerate, and generous as he was, through the open back window of the station wagon, he proceeded to lean out of the moving car as far as he could to hand the requested beer to the passengers in the also moving car beside them in the next lane.

That is when they all heard the distinct sound of a siren make a single WOOOooooo. The car in the lane beside them took off. The guys in the station wagon were stuck and busted.

The two guys in the front seat threw their half-full open containers of beer into the back seat, pouring their contents all over Brian, who this early in the cruising process had had NOTHING to drink. Yet, he was now saturated in beer and worried. He was very worried.

The officer got out of his car and approached the station wagon from behind. Dave was the first one ordered to step out of the vehicle, which he obliged by awkwardly climbing, again, 230 pounds of bulky him out the window. He was directed to stand by the side of the road. “Yes sir, Officer.” Next, the three other passengers were ordered to get out. The driver and front passenger obliged quickly and moved beside Dave in line at the side of the road.

When Brian opened his door, empty beer cans unavoidably crinkled and fell out as he moved his feet to get out, he stopped, panicked at what this specific noise ‘looked like.’ He froze in place in the car as he made first completely sober eye contact with the young cop who was watching intently. The cop motioned impatiently for him to continue out of the vehicle. The empties crinkled and clanked as they uncontrollably fell out in the gutter with his every move. The noise that only an empty beer can make when hitting the ground echoed around them, and the stench of beer specifically exuding off Brian was stinky and heavy in the air. Things were looking really bad for Brian, the only sober one in the group. He moved to his obligatory place in line at the side of the road with the other guys, practically regretting the day he was born.

The officer gave the field sobriety test to the driver. The other boys stood in a line waiting for their fate, whatever that was. There was only one officer, and there were four of them.

Brian’s thoughts began racing. ‘I wasn’t driving. I haven’t even had ONE beer. There is only ONE cop I can probably make it through the field on foot, and he probably wouldn’t be able to catch me.’ He was torn away from his thoughts by reality and the handcuffs being slapped on his wrists.

Back-up officers arrived. All four boys were arrested. The driver and passenger were legally drunk, had open containers in the car as well as illegal possession of alcohol. Dave was hanging out the rear window of a moving vehicle with an open container of alcohol. Brian, the self-described innocent lamb on this day of days, was charged with illegal possession of alcohol. He was totally in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was so unfair.

Brian and Dave had the same date for their court appearances for their violations and planned to go together. Brian got dressed in his suit at our house and had my dad help him tie his tie. My dad was the kind of dad who would help you tie your tie if you needed it.

Sidebar: Brian had my dad tie his tie for many years. It was very sweet. They both enjoyed the special connection between found dad and found son. I didn’t realize this was a thing until years later, Brian was walking through the house with a necktie, tied properly but on a hanger that he carried in front of him on his way out the door as he said “Bye” to my mom and me. He closed the door and left. I looked at my mom, pointed his general direction, and inquired “What was that?” My mom said, “What?” “The tie?” “Oh, your father ties his ties for him as needed.” “Brian can tie a tie can’t he?” “Pretty sure he can, but he likes to ask your father to do it, and your father likes to do it.” Brian was a little older than mid-twenties, but then again he didn’t wear a tie very often as a fireman. I thought it was the sweetest thing that showed the nature of his relationship with my dad with our family. His tie on a hanger was a physical representation of that relationship, I loved it and giggled.

Back to court: The boys were assigned different courtrooms. Understandably they were both very nervous. They were less than a month away from graduating High School, their whole lives stretched out ahead of them. This day felt ominous. They each went to their assigned courts. Dave awaited his fate meeting his ‘judge and jury’ which was actually just a judge. He received a simple fine. An 18-year-old, hanging out of the rear window of a moving vehicle passing alcohol to another moving vehicle. He got a $50 fine. Dave paid his fine and left the courtroom, feeling very relieved. He waited in the hall for Brian to finish.

Brian came out looking defeated. He asked Dave how it went. Dave told him he had to pay a fine. Brian was stunned, “You ONLY paid a fine?” “Ya, $50 bucks!” “Fifty Bucks? I had to pay a $75 fine, AND I got six months’ probation!” It was so unjust! He reminded Dave and anyone who would listen to this day of this travesty of justice, “And I didn’t even have one beer!”

When the boys returned home, they dragged themselves pitifully through the door, heads hung low with long pathetic faces. My mom took one look at them and just knew something was terribly wrong and asked, “How did it go?” In concert, the boys sputtered “TERRIBLE. (Pause here for dramatic effect…emphasis on dramatic) The judge sentenced us to jail!” My mom went into panic mode at this TERRIBLE information. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE TO GO TO JAIL? TO JAIL? JAIL??? WHAT ABOUT GRADUATION?” Her voice climbing in tember with each mounting question. “Did you tell him you are two weeks away from graduation?” Boys both nod without looking up, still with the long faces. “He said it doesn’t matter; we have to report to jail right away!” “Right away? What does right away mean?” “Today! We just came home to change clothes, and then we are off to jail. (pause again) Today.” My mom began to really panic at this point, so the boys finally burst out with a JUST KIDDING!!!

“OH MY GOD, DAMN IT, YOU TWO!!!”

Brian then had to tell her about his travesty of justice compared to Dave’s sentence for the very first time. It was the equivalent of being a five-year-old telling his mom about his skinned knee that he got at school at the end of the school day and animatedly reliving the pain all over again.

A few years later, Brian was a young Fireman on duty and ran into THE arresting officer. The officer remembered him clearly. They laughed about it at that point. If Brian had made a run for it at that moment he had fantasized about doing so; he probably would not be where he was, a fireman, the job, and career of his dreams. Good thing he only got probation.