Years after the Cold War thawed, Air Raid Drills were still nabbing casualties

cause and effect

People, let’s talk about cause and effect! This story doesn’t end well for a certain little girl with Leukemia, but I’m not the one to blame here. Leukemia isn’t even the one to blame here. Like many others here on this site, this particular story doesn’t paint me in a very good light, but I’m willing to risk that to get right up on my soapbox and tell you about the effect Air Raid drills had on the children of America. (If you don’t know what an Air Raid drill is and never had to duck and cover read this LINK HERE before you go any further or I’ll just sound crazier than I normally do).

Air Raid

My being a neurotic mess didn’t happen overnight; I was the only newborn in the maternity ward kvetching over the fold in my swaddled blanket – Why does my blanket have stripes – he’s got one that’s plain blue, why can’t I get plain blue? Why did he get a second tuck? When is that nurse gonna start warming her hands before she changes me…But this isn’t about a newborn – fast forward to that neurotic mess as a teenager…

swaddle

My friend MariaElaina was like my partner in crime. If there was a box of Entemann’s cookies in my hand, her hand was covered in crumbs as well. If there was a sixty-five year old woman to play cards with, she was right there shuffling the cards while the old bag cheated us for pennies…If she had a flour baby in Health Class and mistakenly let me babysit, I was the one that got it kidnapped…As with everyone, High School can be tough – so we used to combat that by cutting classes and attending the other person’s class with them to make it bearable.

MariaElaina was enrolled in a vocational program that was teaching her practical skills to become a dental hygienist and so for half the school day, she was bussed over to a satellite school for the program. It was career and technical programs, so you only went there if you were enrolled in one. Always up for a road trip, I ditched my classes for the day and got on the bus with her to learn the tricks of the dental hygentistry trade. The bus ride over was about twenty five minutes to a half hour and without incident. I had never been there before, so it was fun to see the facility and get out of my school for the day.

dental hygenist

We went into her classroom after arriving and were stoked to see that it was a substitute teacher for the day. Now we figured that there wouldn’t be anyone the wiser for me being there when I wasn’t supposed to. Little did I know…

Of course, all the kids were fooling around and being High School kids as the Substitute took attendance. We figured that if I just didn’t answer she wouldn’t know anything; we were all just standing around anyway so she wouldn’t realize I was extra. As MariaElaina and I were chatting it up, I was starting to get a headache from my eyeglasses so I took them off and held them in my hand. One of her classmates started over towards us and I couldn’t help but squint and stare because I didn’t have my glasses on but that girl was obviously sick. She wasn’t walking okay and she was literally the palest person I have ever seen in my life. Translucent if you will. Knowing I cannot be trusted to not say dumb things, MariaElaina tried to blow her off and get her away from us as soon as possible, but the girl couldn’t take a hint. She kept talking to us and asking questions: Are you interested in dental hygentistry? Is that why you’re here with us today? It was almost as if I was all of a sudden going to don a pair of rubber gloves and ask to scrub in…

As we were talking, we were standing in the doorway of the classroom. MariaElaina and I were in the room and Leukemia Girl (I call her that because she had Leukemia and quite honestly, I can’t remember her name) had her back to the doorway facing us. As Leukemia Girl was overstaying her welcome and ignoring my confused stares, there was a random girl passing by the open doorway of our classroom. I gave it no notice until another girl about a minute later started down the same hallway screaming out to her. I will swear until the day that I die that she screamed “AIR RAID” and not “ADRIAN” to the girl that passed by before her, but I have been told repeatedly since then that I am mistaken. I don’t know if it was my late 1970’s grade school training to move fast to duck & cover in the hallway, but I hit the Holy Shit button big time and freaked the freak out! It was almost as if a bolt of lightning shot right into me and my body jerked into action mid-conversation. Thinking back about it, I can see it in my mind in slow-motion: me screaming at the top of my lungs “AIR RAID!!!AIR RAID!!!” and then proceeding to throw my eyeglasses out of my hand like a World Series Pitcher and then those airborne eyeglasses smacking right into the young lady with Leukemia Girl’s forehead with a thud resulting in her first bruise of the day and then me bum-rushing for the door screaming “AIR RAID!!!AIR RAID!!!” as I knocked her out of the way and onto the floor in order to get into the hallway and down on all fours with my hands covering my neck.

duck and cover

Needless to say, since this wasn’t an actual drill – no one else took part in the safety precautions and just stared in disbelief at first, then disgust as I accidentally assaulted the girl with Leukemia. As I lay there crouched on the floor, she was writhing in pain on her back like a turtle turned upside down and carrying on like she had been shot…

MariaElaina was, of course, laughing hysterically and rolling on the floor as the substitute teacher shot up like a rocket screaming. She made sure Leukemia Girl still had a pulse and had someone was take her to the nurse and then turned on me: “What is wrong with you? Come with me – You’re going to the Principal right now!”

“The principal? I don’t even go here…” it slipped out before I could even hold it back…MariaElaina looked like she was about to wet herself right there. Tears streaming down her face and just bellowing. Her laughing wasn’t helping because it always made me laugh even harder and this was no exception. I was escorted to the front door and told to leave immediately.

“But I don’t even know where we are? How am I going to get back? I took the bus here – is there another one going back to the High School?”

“There’s another bus in in two hours when classes are over for the day – but you can’t wait in here.”

Guess who had to sit outside the front of the building for two hours and wait for the bus as MariaElaina and the kids in her class looked out the window hysterical laughing at him? Did I forget to mention that it was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella or even a coat on?  I didn’t really mind it and it wasn’t so bad until the girl with Leukemia popped her bruised head into the window and proceeded to give me the finger…I was literally sitting out there on a cold slab of concrete they were calling a bench for two hours soaking wet and laughing to myself like a psycho at the absurdity of it all.

I guess I did kind of deserve that one...

I guess I did kind of deserve that one…

I’m not saying she was milking it or wasn’t really hurt, but come on – it’s not like I was a linebacker. Even though she was sickly and paper thin, she still definitely had more muscle tone than me and they were eyeglasses that I hit her with – not nunchucks!

If you’re wondering the lesson I learned from that – it’s obviously that the Air Raid drills work because I have literally been in a house on fire twice and didn’t move that quick but you mention Air Raid and I’m off like a prom dress…

prom dress

Someone help me – I’m afraid of turning into my father!!!

Unlike The Incredible Hulk who changed immediately, one of my greatest fears is that fate will sneak up on me and I’ll undergo a slow and painstaking transition into a heightened version of my father. Some people might think this is a compliment, but I’m not sure the world is ready for another one like him. To know my father is to laugh because he is crazy and hysterical (even if it is at and not with him), but for people that don’t know my father, let me explain.

This might as well be my father's Birth Certificate.

To say that my father is one-of-a-kind is to do a disservice to unique glacial formations created to bring beauty to the world. My father was actually created in another era from spontaneous combustion. He was one of ten children and called Baby Boy at the hospital. They literally named him Baby Boy. Every time he presents that birth certificate, there’s an issue. I guess if you have ten kids, who cares what you name them after a while, right? It’s not like you can remember all of those names anyway. We all think it’s funny, but The Department of Motor Vehicles never got as much of a kick out of it as we did.

Patience was never his strong suit either. How being the father of five kids that should have been caged and tranquilized at times didn’t teach him patience, I’ll never know. I don’t know how or why, but one of us always did something that would force him to clasp his hands outward with disgust while chewing on his tongue and chanting “You Kids…” For instance, “You Kids…Always go out of the house with a wet head-you’ll be barking like as dog”, You kids…think it grew legs and walked out on its own? “You kids…Always think I’m supposed to remember to come back and pick you up when I drop you off somewhere…”

I will say that my father unwittingly taught me the best quality that I possess: the uncanny ability to laugh in someone’s face. He didn’t teach me that skill outright, but he put me into situations which instilled in me a sense that it was something that just couldn’t be helped. Don’t even get me started on his car either, because it was crazy. It was a Navy Blue Diesel Mercedes that you had to plug in during the winter nights. Imagine how awkward it was to go over to someone’s house after dusk and have to ask them for an extension cord to plug it the car in with. That car was always a very sore topic with him anyway; Hit one gas pump and then two parked cars in the middle of the night looking for alcohol all in the span of one week and he brands you a bad driver for life…

  

  

Speaking of that car, anyone who knows my father can see where this is going. One day, my sister and I were sitting in it (more than most likely making fun of him) as he was adding more air to the back tire at a gas station. He was always convinced that it was “riding low” whatever that meant. Don’t you know that as her and I were dancing around and being stupid (No, we weren’t young kids – I was twenty and she was seventeen) my father looked away from the inflating tire to peek into the back window and yell at us to stop horsing around. No sooner did he turn back to the tire before it exploded in his face. BOOM!!!  Seconds later, we were immediately laughing hysterically, and then looking at each other with that knowing glance which said that in his version of this story – somehow this was going to be our fault. All of a sudden, this bald head launched up into my window like a jack in the box and screamed “IT BLEW!” as if we wouldn’t have heard the boom. Talk about thanking God for a strong bladder – those are actually the moments Depends were created for. Needless to say, we were steps away from walking home because he didn’t find it half as funny as the two of us did. His response (with hands were clasped outward and chewing on his tongue “You kids…Think everything’s a fucking joke…”      

  

My father always says that things aren’t made the way they used to be and he means it; Proof of this being the pair of brown pants that he has worn to every family function since 1978. When I said earlier that patience wasn’t his strong suit, I meant it. Those brown pants are his strong suit! Birthdays, Christenings, Backyard Barbecues, Anniversaries, or Card Games there hasn’t been one function that those pants haven’t been invited to. The OCD part of me likes a good ritual as much as the next guy, but when it becomes a uniform something is wrong. When actually confronted with this query, my father swears that he’s never worn those pants. Apparently, all the pictures from over twenty family functions in the past three decades while wearing the little brown knickers isn’t what he would refer to as “proof.”

This is actually the very first of many, many pictures of my father in the brown pants...

My wife actually owns the pants now, believe it or not. Two years ago, my family did a Secret Santa Yankee Swap gift exchange and my father (never one to be thought of as funny) really rocked the Yuletide Spirit. Not only was he wearing a new pair of brown pants, but he wrapped the classic brown knickers as his Secret Santa gift. My wife opened that box and did everyone a public service by taking one for the team and retiring their number. Now if only I could get her to stop wearing them when we go out…Apparently her and my father are in a sisterhood of the Jimmy Carter pants!!! Talk about a pair of pants lasting a long time! Hit me with an Internet High-Five below if anyone in your family has clothes that are older than you…  

One thing that my father has never been mistaken for is sentimental. One only needs to ask my brother Angelo to repeat the conversation he had with my father in January to illustrate this.

 Dad: “I don’t know if I told you this, but this year was the best Christmas I’ve ever had. Everything just couldn’t have been better”

Angelo: “Dad, I wasn’t even fucking there! What are you talking about? (Angelo was bedridden at home with the flu when we got together)

Dad: “Either way, it was the best one I can remember in a long time…”

He’s never been one to worry about feelings or to not kick someone when they’re down I guess…

I am omitting the incriminating and obviously embarrassing parts of his insanity for everyone’s benefit. Does anyone need me to tell them about my father’s uncanny ability to fart on command and he will do it no matter where or when it is? Your friends are in the house, there he goes. You’re in the church for a christening – oops, he did it again! You get the point – the less said the better. How about I put the next part this way? I’m not saying that this actually happened, but if it did – this is how I imagine his response to be: If he were to start selling illegal cable boxes (I’m not saying he did, just projecting here) and I asked for one to take with me to college, I imagine that he’d reply “That’s 250 bucks – we’re not doing this to make friends!” Shortly after that, I’d find out that he sold one to my friend Annie for 200 bucks. So much for a family discount!!!

How it doesn’t chafe a testicle I will never understand, but the waistline of my father’s pants rides so high that his belt could actually be mistaken for a choker necklace. Upon first glance, you scratch your head because you can’t tell if his shirt collar is sagging or if he just got an atomic wedgie…It defies explanation and just cannot be comfortable. I guess after all these years it must seem normal to him, but Oh God if it isn’t a conversation starter for the people passing by. My wife and I actually have an unwritten pact that if one day she sees me going to leave the house and my pants are pulled up past my nipples like his always are, she will euthanize me immediately!!! People wonder how I turned out to be so crazy – No need to look any further than the chap in the faded brown pants for the answer to that one…

Remove the glasses and jacket and this is my father!

As a postscript for this post, I promise that I will record an audio version as well because a lot is lost in the text. You need the inflection and overall, the insanity translates much better with audio…