Monday, December 03, 2007

A Benefit of Reminiscing

Reminiscing has several benefits one of which is the pleasure of reliving simpler times. This story comes from a period in my life when the biggest challenge was to earn enough for gas, junk food and entertainment for the coming weekend. The future never extended more than fives days into the future. Beyond the pleasure, this reminiscence reminds me to be more tolerant, understanding and forgiving of young people.

It was the summer of my eighteenth year when the world was a playground filled with boundless opportunity. A friend and I were doing nothing in the middle of a warm sunny day when his brother came with the news that a car was in the bottom of a pond about two miles away.

Two railroad tracks skirted the east end of Lake Erie. At one point the tracks separated near an area with cliffs that dropped into the lake. One set passed between the lake and two large ponds. The second set bounded the ponds on the east side and rejoined the western tracks. The only road into the area was a gravel road that came from the north and ended near the ponds. The area was an isolated paradise for deer, smaller mammals, turtles and golden carp. It was one of my favorite destinations after a snowfall.

A submerged car in the bottom of one of the ponds was an opportunity for adventure. Without thought or discussion we set off. We discovered a relatively new model convertible below the surface of a pond that covered a few acres. Tire tracks marked the point were the vehicle left the gravel road, descended the high steep bank and entered the water. The distance of the car from the entry point indicated the driver was driving at a reckless speed.

Like two normal teenagers, we decided to swim out to the car. The top of the car was down but the back windows were up. By standing on the back windows and treading water, we could keep our heads our of the pond.

It was fun sitting in the driver’s seat, checking out the instruments, rummaging through the glove box (two dimes and some papers) and swimming around the car. Periodically we had to surface to breathe. On one occasion as we were balancing ourselves on the back windows the fun ended when my friend said “Uh, oh! The police.”

Fortunately, we knew the sheriff and he knew us. He asked us to get the license plate number. We swam to shore and heard him radio for the owner’s name and then ask the dispatcher to phone the owner and ask if she knew the location of her car. Yep, it was stolen.

Here’s the real benefit of this memory for me. When we first saw the car it never occurred to us that it might be stolen, that we might be tampering with a crime scence or that the driver might be dead on the bottom of the pond. We were eighteen, we were male, we were brain dead -- and would remain that way for several years more. Perhaps I need to think of this memory more often and lower my expectations of young people. They may be eighteen or twenty or more but they are not yet responsible adults.

Recently a group refurbished abandoned bicycles, painted them yellow and distributed them around campus. Anyone needing a bicycle can take one, ride across campus and leave it for someone else to use. The program is in danger. The bicycles are being stolen, vandalized and abused.

I came out of my office week before last and had mixed emotions. Some students were at different levels in a large tree. One young man on the ground was handing yellow bicycles up to another student who passed them higher to two other students. They were hanging the bicycles on limbs of the tree.

One emotion was “Darn, these kids are making this program fail. Who will take them down? It would be bad to read headlines “Student Killed by Falling Bicycle”.

My second emotion was “All right! That looks like fun. They’re making memories.”

My first reaction is tempered by memories of my youth. I got to enjoy my carefree, irresponsible and fun period and these kids should have the same opportunity.


Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

Research is suggesting that the male brain does not fully develope until sometime after the age of 25. That leaves plenty of time during young "adulthood" to do dangerous, counterproductive, idiotic, clueless, and downright funny things. Perhaps there was a time when this was the "weeding out" period when those who couldn't develope common sense fast enough got selected out and didn't inflict their offspring with defective genes. Now that survival of the fittest has been bypassed by "progress" much for tried, it really did.

12/03/2007 08:29:00 PM  

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