The Cast: Erich (the ever vigilant), Myself (Icarus).
In the town where I lived there is a pageant that runs about eight nights a year during the summer. And because of where my house was I had a unique opportunity to earn a simple living that would bring in enough money to last me the rest of the year. I would park cars on my lawn and in the dirt lot behind my lawn for $5 a car. Due to the proximity of my home to the pageant’s location and the main thoroughfare of the town, customers were never in short supply. You may be familiar with the saying, “The three most important things in Real Estate are: Location. Location. Location.” I had the perfect location.
My mother had come up with the idea. Because our house had a small grassy island in front of the property it remained in public view but also allowed relatively private access*. My mother suggested that I should stand near a corner of that island with a sign “PARKING $5” and then point to our property. It worked like a charm. For the first little while, she would assist in guiding the cars in and collect the money, while I stood and pointed. Eventually, we were able to work it out so I did it all.
Over the years the operation really evolved. I stopped standing out front and just sat in a visible spot on my lawn. I procured a banner that would be strung up between two trees, one on each side at the front of my driveway*. I would get repeat and word-of-mouth customers, groups even. This process helped me to learn lots of valuable lessons in responsibility, management, even customer service (I got a few dates out of that last one). As a result, I didn’t need to work during the school year. Depending on how I tightly I packed the cars in, I could easily earn over $1,000 in just eight days.
On one of those summer days, there was a very gentle breeze coming from the East (this will be very important later) and Erich was working with me. We could play games and “look good” for the ladies while doing pretty much nothing and making good money. Everything was going like it did any other day and then the RV rolled up.
At first, we didn’t know what to do. The RV (recreational vehicle, Winnebago, camp trailer, camper, house trailer, mobile home, motor home, trailer, whatever you call it) pulled up and the driver window rolled down, “Can we fit?”
The guy at the wheel was referring to the gap between the bottom of our banner and the top of his family’s summer home. Erich and I exchanged looks and I’m am pretty sure you could hear the “Duuhhh” of stupidity our faces were showing. I don’t refer to the driver. No, he was smart. He asked. I am referring to our stupidity. Erich’s and mine. We had never had anything taller than a van drive up so we didn’t know.
“Hold on. We’ll look.” I heard Erich spout with his trademark friendliness and charm that I have become accustomed to over the years. However, all I could think of was “How?!? It’s too tall!” Well, it wasn’t. It just looked that way. It was just right. Also, there was now a challenge. This was clearly a family vehicle and there might be a cute girl onboard. We must be friendly and make this work in order to win her over—if she exists.
A plan was hatched. Team effort: I would use the ladder on the back of the RV to climb to the top and lift the banner up and over anything sticking up too high while Erich would remain on the ground and guide the vehicle forward based upon my topside movements. I totally trusted him. He had already saved my life once (I’ll tell that story another time). Erich would let the driver know when to go. How fast to go. When to wait. It worked perfectly.
I found myself walking backward, lifting the suspended banner over exhaust vents, antenna, sunlights, etcetera when the unexpected suddenly unfolded. I was near the back of the RV and needed it to stop so I could climb down the ladder and was about to let Erich know that when the very gentle breeze suddenly ceased. That’s when it all became horrifyingly clear.
Have you ever seen one of those moments when the really smart character in a movie stops and you see all their thoughts? Flashes of earlier moments in the film or television show move past their face and fade away. Or sometimes mathematical equations will float past their head showing you things you can’t solve but instinctively understand. Then suddenly everything returns to normal speed and then they act or are acted upon. I had that moment for that same flash of an instant. I saw all that was about to occur but lacked the time to do anything about it—including brace myself—and then was acted upon.
Let’s take a brief moment to talk about the Greek legend of Icarus, shall we? How he was bestowed with the gift of flight. How he had failed to pay attention to his surroundings. How—as a result of that failure—he plummeted to his death. A lesson all should keep in our foremost thoughts when found up high in unfamiliar surroundings.
There was just enough room between the end of the RV’s roof and the banner to walk to the ladder and climb down. Just enough. The problem was that we had not taken into account what the very gentle breeze was doing to the banner. It had been breezing all day, and we had forgotten about it! Then just at the wrong time the breeze stopped and the banner that was suspended, tightly, between two trees, about 10 feet above the ground, snapped back into position. I tried to back up but the roof’s short railing stopped me, hooked my heels and allowed the banner to act like a giant slingshot the coyote would use to hunt the road runner with and I was airborne.
I flew into the air, tumbling, and I knew I was going to land on my head onto the crumbling cement that was my driveway. I was sure I was dead. I must have closed my eyes because one moment I was 15 feet in the air and the next Erich was calling my name and asking if I was alright and if it was an adventure**. I awoke on my right side, curled in the fetal position, in less pain than I had anticipated. The driver was standing behind Erich and a small crowd of onlookers was closing in. I popped up with an, “I’m fine.” and the would-be crowd dispersed and I found myself with a $5 tip “for my troubles”.
*The once through road is now a private drive, accessible from only one direction. And one of the two trees that guarded my drive is now gone. Thus the tree and road drawn into the photo.
**An ‘adventure’ means there is bleeding.