By Tim McGrath
Don’t be misled by the title. It’s not intended to be vulgar, coarse, nor lowbrow. It’s a recognition that our lives, in many ways, are really made up of the small moments: the good, bad, ridiculous, joyful, sorrowful, and all those in between. Then, there’s the ones that stand out on their own.
You know what I’m talking about: the Oh, S**t! ones. They’re the kind of moments that take us by surprise, and the only logical response is, well, you know. It’s an almost automatic response that I’d say many of us have uttered in the moment. Let’s face it, though, these are also the ones we like to hear about from other people. I think it reminds us of our shared humanity. Or, maybe it feeds something in our dark side to hear how someone else has come to grief. Whatever the case, we all have them.
With that in mind, consider the following…
I suppose I shouldn’t admit it, but when I heard it, I was horrified, yet couldn’t stop laughing. Even imagining the scene makes me chuckle out loud. I was at a local grocery store putting my cart away. There was a mom with what appeared to be about a three-year-old child. The youngster was near the gumball and tattoo machines strategically placed by the door. Mom gave him a quarter, he put it in and turned the little crank thing. I stood and watched as the gumball rolled down the spiral staircase tube and into the tray at the bottom. Reaching in to grab the prize, his elation quickly turned sour. “Oh, S**t! I got this gween one. I hate gween!” he hollered in his unbelievably loud, high-pitched, three-year-old voice. Mom, red-faced, quickly grabbed him by the wrist and dragged the little fellow out, still screeching about the unfairness of green gumballs. We could still hear his caterwauling as mom wrestled him into his car seat. I noticed the other shoppers in the vicinity looking at one another with the same startled expressions, only to be quickly replaced by knowing grins and soft laughter. Could have been the first of many of life’s “Oh, S**t!” moments for the little guy. Get used to it, kid.
Mom never cussed, ever. Always delicate with her speech. Perhaps she thought any verbal indiscretion would start my brother and I down the dark path to juvenile delinquency. That’s why what happened that night was so extraordinary. Typical evening in the McGrath home. Mom in the kitchen, Dad ensconced in the recliner; feet up, puffing away on his pipe, reading. My brother and I watching something inspirational like Green Acres or The Munsters. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Mom stealthily creeping up behind Dad’s recliner. Putting her finger to her lips to silence us, she stopped short just behind his chair and hollered, “TOM!” Dad jumped, and Mom, who’d been carrying a bag of Frito Lays reacted in kind. I think the fact he jumped so much startled her. In the next instant she came down on the top of his head with the chips. Instantly, the bag exploded spraying the greasy crisps everywhere. Dad’s head and shoulders were liberally festooned with the salty morsels. That’s when it happened. Out of my very proper mother came the thing I’d never heard her utter. “Oh, S**t! I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to startle you like that. Are you OK?” Dad turned around and stared. Seeing the tortured look on Mom’s face, and the words that had just come out of her, erased any grumpiness from him. They both burst out into gales of laughter. Chris and I looked at one another, amused at this ridiculous moment. We watched as they picked the mess out of dad’s hair, down the back of his shirt, in the cracks of the chair cushions. Even picked out a couple tidbits from his pipe. Years later, when this story would come up, she’d smile, and say,” Oh, you…”. I think she secretly liked to hear it over again. Probably made her feel a little naughty and unpredictable.
Then, there’s this…
It’s about 10:15 on a sultry Tuesday evening a couple weeks back. I’m reading a latest used book find from Flying Bear Books in Newaygo. Typical summer evening sounds: crickets, katydids, the occasional owl. Everything seemingly hunky-dory. That is until, CLICK. The power popped off. What happened now, I wonder. Somebody probably plowed into a power pole. Shortly thereafter, though, the crickets’ and katydids’ night music went silent. In its place, straining to hear it, I picked up a low rumbling, growling sound coming from somewhere in the distance. In a matter of minutes, the rumbling quickly grew to a roaring that was indeed frightening. It dawned on me that a nasty storm was racing my way. “Oh, S**t!” I hollered out loud to Cheryl as the wind blew in with a fierceness that reminded me of the Derecho of ’98. One minute nighttime tranquility, the next a wild maelstrom. For about fifteen minutes the world went topsy-turvy, upside down. Looking out at the trees silhouetted against the lightning flashing and crashing, I wondered how many would be either down or ripped to pieces. And, then, just like that, it was over. I went outside with a flashlight to make a quick survey and found lots of branches down, but trees mostly intact. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for lots of other people in the area. Some were without power for days. Makes me think there were a lot of people out there uttering that same oath.
Cash is king, I’d heard the self-help, personal finance gurus say. Pay for everything you can with cash. Stay away from those little wallet-sized plastic devils sure to suck you down into the hellhole of credit card debt and financial ruin. Didn’t have issues with using credit cards, but I really did like having a wad of cash on hand. A guilty pleasure, probably. And, with a wad of cash comes the potential for having one of those you-know-what moments.
Payday came every two weeks. Queuing up at the window of the credit union that Friday, I conducted business as usual: transfer such-and-such amount into checking, then $650 in cash – all $20s (and 1 $10). The teller efficiently completed the transaction, and asked, “Would you like the cash in an envelope?”
“No, thanks,” I jauntily replied. “I just stuff them in my coat pocket right here and zip up; safe and sound.” I patted my pocket and the teller smiled indulgently. The scene was reminiscent of a kindergartner heading out to school under the watchful eye of a doting mother. I waved a little wave as I walked out. Hopping into my truck, I zipped next door to the gas station.
It was one of those particularly nasty cold, wet, late March mornings. Wind, rain, snow. I fueled up, then got out my wallet to get the cash required. Uh-oh, not much left in there. Wait a minute, I thought. You were just at the credit union. Duh.
I unzipped the pocket and retrieved the wad. As I pulled it out, and peeled off the bills, as if on cue, a particularly big gust caught the carefully collated wad. Instantly, all $650 riffled out into the March breeze like so much confetti. “OH S**T!” I yelled to no one in particular as I watched the cash sail off with the west wind to parts unknown. What could I do except give chase? And, chase I did. I was able to collar a few of the escapees that had landed in a puddle just in front of my truck. I followed the trail of $20s much like a bloodhound on the trail of an escaped convict. Across the parking lot, picking up bills, soaked, dirty. I gave chase out into the street oblivious to cars screeching to a halt. I halfheartedly gave each offended driver a little wave and half smile hoping they understood my plight. Across the street picking off the ones that were glued to the chain link fence. I spotted a number in the curbside gutter floating merrily downstream toward the storm sewer. Gingerly plucking and picking up each one, I stuffed them into my coat pocket. Back and forth I roamed hoping to retrieve all the lost sheep. I got down on hands and knees into the shrubbery sniffing them out. Satisfied I had got as many as possible, I scurried back to the warmth of my truck. Egad, how do these things happen?
When I got home, I laid all I had retrieved on sheets of newspaper to dry. Sure of the fact some had gone missing, I comforted myself in the knowledge some lucky soul would look down and find one I’d somehow missed. I counted them anyway. Got to the last one; there were… 32 $20s, and… 1 $10.
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