Jeremiah's School of Levitation


Friday, October 27, 2006

Daddy and the Train

(This is a long post, but you have the weekend to read it!)

When I was introduced to my team the first week I joined the Big Giant Software Giant, our manager told me "Okay, give us a short history of yourself, and, tell us a shocking story about yourself."

My gulp was audible. I do not like public speaking. I can feel every syllable of every word I say when I speak to an audience, and it is like I'm throwing up those words. And, they don't come out of my mouth and disappear. They curl back into my ears and sit there, buzzing, mocking me, echoing in my head. I sweat and stammer. I want to yell out to the crowd "Quit looking at me! Why are you looking at me? And, you're listening to me too! How dare you! Can't you see I'm dying up here?"

On top of that, 20 people awaiting you to tell them a dang IMPROMPTU story, which you know also has to be funny, yet clean, and fairly coherant, is more pressure than having to explain to your boss why you missed a critical deadline three weeks in a row. There's this singeing, anticipatory silence as forty eyes (80, if you count the glasses) and zillions of (overactive) brain cells await your enlightening words which will lift them from the drudgery of the moment and send them sailing on the winds of glee, with a memory of a delightful story that they can recall and still grin about as they sit on a freeway later.

Pressure! Hissssssss! I almost just got up and sprinted out of the room, trailing my notebook and pencils, my badge, and my shoes and socks.

Instead, I remembered the words of the goddess Nike who said: "Just do it...we ain't got all day. And, besides, you look ridiculous just sitting there shivering." (That's the original quote--the shoe company edited it. I bet you didn't know that...).

So, I did it. This is the story I told:

Well, the most shocking thing I've ever done, that I can say in public, is that I jumped off a train. Yes, a moving train.

See, it was my oldest son's 6th birthday, and he loved trains, so we decided we'd take a trip to a neighboring city, and back, on an Amtrak. We invited a couple of other kids and their parents and we all boarded with a smile. All went well on the trip to the neighboring city, which was about 40 miles away. However, as we arrived and pulled into the train station, my son got out a bag of peanuts and tried to open it himself.

Well, he opened it alright. All the way. Peanuts went everywhere. But, I just shrugged (okay, I winced a little bit...okay, I put my hands over my eyes too...okay, yeah, I MIGHT have said a couple of things under my breath too) and told everyone in the party to get off the train and that I'd clean up the peanuts and meet them in the station.

Dutiful Dad set to cleaning then, and feeling pretty glad, actually, to have a few minutes of time to myself, even if it was on my knees with my hands under a train seat. As I put the last peanut in one of our trash bags, though, my mood took a sudden dive.

The train was starting to move.

I at first couldn't believe it, but, that disbelief only lasted a second because the train REALLY WAS MOVING.

I quickly found a ticket-taker and I told him that I needed to get off here and that he needed to stop the train. He looked at me like I said "So, this is the train to Hawaii, right?" Well, actually, I think he was looking at me strangely, with a hint of amused incredulity, because I told him to stop the train and let me off.

"Sir," he said, "this train will stop when it gets to its destination." This destination was the next city--40 more miles away.

So, I had to sit down and think. I might add here that no one in my party had cell phones. This wasn't unusual. This was before the general public realized that not having a cell phone when you left the house was akin to not having pants when you left the house.

I said to myself, "Okay, self, here are your options: Face your wife's wrath by inexplicably staying on the train until the next city, thereby leaving your son's birthday party and leaving them wondering what the heck happened to you, and you probably will spend the rest of the day reconnecting with them. Or, jump off the dang train."

The decision took a split second to make.

I went between the cars and opened the door there and looked out at the ground. It truthfully didn't look like we were going that fast. I could see every rock in the graveled yard as we passed them. My addled brain said "Now, if we were going fast, those rocks would be blurry. So, we're going slow." I'm not sure where that logic came from, and how that was supposed to apply, but I don't suggest using it very often to judge safe speed.

Anyway, I figured we were going about 20 miles an hour. My brain said "See! That's SLOW!"

Without another thought, I jumped.

I don't know much about physics, but here's something I learned, or rather, something I forgot that I learned back in grade school: If the train is going 20 MPH, then, so am I. The ground, however, is going ZERO MPH. Therefore, leaping from a train going 20 MPH is like firing myself at that speed, directly onto the ground, which isn't moving. Top human running speed is around 20 MPH. So, jumping from the train onto gravel is the same as me running on a sidewalk as fast as I possibly can, and then, when I reach top speed, suddenly launching myself into a dive to the ground. And, I won't even be going 20 MPH if I do that since I can't run at top human speed, unless, maybe, it's last call.

The conclusion is: I'm going to get really hurt. And, I did. When I hit the ground, I rolled uncontrollably for about five seconds. I spun, flipped, cartwheeled, and bounced before coming to rest about two feet from the train wheels. I could smell the oil on the wheels, and see them turning. They were not blurred, so they were turning slowly, but, I don't think that would have made any difference if I'd ended up under them.

So, anyway, I stood up and assessed the damage. The fact that I could stand up was a good sign. However, I was a mess. My jeans and shirt were torn. I was bleeding in about twenty different places. My knees hurt. My fingers, of all things, hurt. And, my back hurt. Otherwise, I was fine.

I sprinted back to the station, which was just a couple of blocks away, and entered the lobby. Now, my wife had no idea what had just transpired, so you can imagine her shock when I walked in looking like I'd just fought a lion. The last time she saw me, I was clean and smiling.

Just as I walked in, the guy in the ticket booth ran toward me and started yelling at me. Apparently, HE knew what happened because the conductor had radioed the station because, I'm sure, some passenger witnessed the whole thing (and didn't tape it--darn!).

So, there I was, tattered, hurting, and getting yelled at. And, I thought this was the BEST choice to make.

Anyway, on each following day, the pain just got worse and worse. I was so sore that I hurt if someone even THOUGHT about me, much less touched me. It was a week before I felt somewhat normal again. And, I got no sympathy for my pain, deservedly so. My wife said that she would have been mad if I had continued on the train, but would not have expected me to JUMP off the train. In fact, the fact that I did jump off the train made her so mad that she wanted to push me in front of a train for being so stupid.

And, that's my shocking story.

(People laughed continually throughout it, so I guess I did incite some glee. Though, now, they look at me funny when I walk past them. I think they worry about me now.)
Jeremiah, 9:20 AM

11 Back at me:

Perhaps they are just checking to make sure you're not blurry as you pass...
Blogger Maggie, at 10:12 AM  
I didn't laugh until i got to the lion fighting part. I was imagining your wife looking up to see you after an absence of a few minutes and you looking like all kinds of hell.
Blogger meno, at 2:36 PM  
there is a lot to be gleaned from this. let me start with the math. every number you mentioned can be factored into the highest number you mentioned which i think was 80? but you messed me up when near the end of the post, you threw in a "week". because that is 7 days, but if taken into the context of just a "week" we could technically say it is the number ONE, which would be a factor into 80 as well. so i guess that all the numbers do go into 80. so that makes me happy.

and lastly, i'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that there was nothing you could have done that would have made your wife happy at that point. i hate when that happens
Blogger Susiebadoozie, at 8:15 PM  
oh i messed up. your son was 6 yrs old. was it exactly the day he turned 6? the minute and hour? because if not, then he was technically 5, which would indeed factor into 80. then we have the business of the three weeks, you mentioned earlier in the post. durn it!!!

yes, i'm insane.
Blogger Susiebadoozie, at 8:18 PM  
OH! So THAT's what happened!

That explains a great deal, indeed!

(Kidding! ;-)
Blogger Sarah Elaine, at 7:55 AM  
Maggie: I wonder if my bleary-eyed weariness makes me blurry.

Meno: I should have put that line earlier! Yeah, it actually was funny to think about, though, at the time, no one was laughing.

Suoo: You ever think of getting a job in the Bush economic cabinet?

Sarah: I think my loss of a few key brain cells came long before I hit the ground. I think it happened at about the precise moment I thought I could jump from a train. Poof! Crackle! A thousand dead brain cells, right there!
Blogger Jeremiah, at 8:23 AM  
Well, I'm still laughing, mostly at the sight of you returning from the most stupidest moment of your life, looking like lion food. Great story!
Blogger Gwynne, at 4:21 PM  
Wow. Great story and now I see there is more to your blog name than meets the eye.
Blogger EmmaSometimes, at 7:46 PM  
Damn! That SO beats my story of "the time I set my bra on fire, while I was wearing it".

And that, dear fellow, is why I tell the kids, just leave that mess...someone else will clean it up. Damn peanuts, some damn conspiracy....
Blogger Mona Buonanotte, at 3:35 AM  
Gwynne: I looked like food that the lion spit out!

Emma: Like I said, I wish I had a photo or a video of me "levitating" from that train.

Mona: We can't really tell if my story beats yours unless we hear YOURS!
Blogger Jeremiah, at 8:47 AM  
I may use some of what you've said here in my up-and-coming audio post on public speaking... if you don't mind.

What a tale! Your wife's reaction is most certainly predictable... and expected. However, some sympathy might have been nice. After all, you did it for the cause.
Blogger Turtle Guy, at 2:56 AM  

Say sump-tun