There were rules about riding in the car when I was growing up. Being safe of course took priority, so seat belts were usually worn. I don’t know how much good they would have done in an early 70’s Volkswagen Bus. One rule was clear however, no sirens. I had a knack for sounding like an actual siren to the point that my neighbors would look out their windows as I pedaled by. My dad made the rule: no sirens while riding in the car. He explained that he would think there was a real emergency vehicle bearing down on us and have to pull over.
One evening we were returning home from Phoenix. This was a two hour drive we took every few months. We had stayed at my grandparents and now were tucked in for the drive home. My sister had a bed made up on the first bench seat and I was on the rear seat playing with cars. We probably weren’t buckled up. I knew the rule about sirens in the car. But I had just heard a new siren on TV. This was the European style “hoh-hee hoh-hee hoh-hee” and one of my toy police cars was going to engage this siren. I wouldn’t be breaking the rule. The local police and highway patrol cars were hulking Ford Galaxies with traditional wailing sirens. There were no European Police cars anywhere so my dad would not be fooled or distracted by this new siren. So I started in. “bee-boh bee-boh bee-boh”
The order from the front came to stop the noise. I continued, just a little quieter. “bee-boh bee-boh bee-”.
Sounding very tired and angry, my father told me to stop. I had halted on “bee” without completing the sound with a “boh”. I felt the sound in me aching to get out. The van was so very quiet even the motor’s noise faded into the background while I wrestled with the last half of that sound. It only took seconds and I gave in and spoke the last bit of the siren. “boh”
I’m not sure what happened after that. My mom may have had to take the wheel.
I wanted to share this story as an addendum to my blog two weeks ago when I confessed to being “a destructive roughneck” as a teenager. I had a friend point out to me that I really wasn’t the punk I may have been painting myself to be in that entry. And he’s right. I did manage to stay out of trouble, not just because I was slippery and never got caught, but mostly because I tried to do the right thing a lot of the time.
But I wanted to make something clear. When I did do the wrong thing (there were plenty of things I did wrong) I was fully aware of my actions. Just like laying in the backseat of the van feeling the urge to make one little noise and knowing it was wrong and doing it anyway. My young mind made itself up that evening to go against what was right. I was fully aware that I would get in trouble. I knew all of that and felt I needed to make that noise anyway.
The same thing applies to every other time I succumbed to temptation to do the wrong thing. I knew it was wrong to tip an outhouse. The same goes all the other things that don’t deserve mentioning. The unfortunate thing is that as I grew older, my self-destructive behavior was shrouded. Things I kept at began to not seem wrong anymore because of denial.
There was a clear view of the right thing to do that I ignored in the back seat of the van. Decades later it wasn’t as clear. But I still knew what I was doing and want to take responsibility. Stepping out of denial was the first step in my recovery. It was one of the most difficult things to do. But once it’s done there is a relief to it. I feel better sharing the amusing stories and a little wary of the more sensitive ones. But I just want to be honest and real.