Tuesday, January 18, 2011

3 brothers, a shopping cart and a very steep hill.

By special request.

     So, I think I have mentioned before that my brothers and I used to belong to the Columbian Squires.  It was the junior order of the esteemed Knights of Columbus. We held our meetings on Monday evenings in the K of C hall above a furniture store in Canandaigua.  It was downtown, so it was walkable for us. I laugh at that statement because surely the definition of "walkable" has changed since the 70's.  Case in point, I have a sister who drove her kids to the high school each am, which really wasn't much further than where the High School that we went to was located, so it must not have been "walkable" any more.  When I was a kid, the lake was walkable, Roseland Amusement Park was walkable, and when I started college, CCFL was walkable, all from my home at the north end of town, on Fort Hill.  So, we walked to the Squires meetings and it was on one of these walks that we encountered divine providence. 

     It had no business being there.  It didn't.  There were no grocery stores near where we found it, the closest at the time was the Star market on West Avenue, but we were many blocks from there when we found it.  A perfectly good shopping cart, and placed at the top of Wood street in Canandaigua.  Now, for those not from Canandaigua, a description of Wood street is in order.  It is a steep street bi-sected in the middle by Gorham street (right near one of the two octagon houses in the county), and terminating at the bottom at a T intersection with Ontario street. Railroad tracks lay about 20 feet further at the bottom if you continue in a straight line. 

At the time this story takes place, it was winter, and the cart we found was on it's side, in the snow, just waiting for us, at the top of the hill. There were 3 of us as I recall it, brother Redface, brother Ace, and myself.  For some reason I don't connect my brother Aquaman to the Squires, or that night.  If he joined, it's been lost in my memory, but I'll bet that he was at least hit and miss for meetings if he was even a member.  On this evening, the sun was starting to set, and we three were staring at the cart and the incongruity of it in the snow, at the top of the hill.  It took us a while to come up with " Hey, maybe we should push someone in it?" 

Now how we decided who would ride in it has been lost to the ages, but we had the standards like everyone else, Eeenie, Meenie, Minee, Mo or Rock, Paper, Scissors, or Bet I can hold my breath longer, but in the end, it was brother Redface who ended up in the cart while we pushed.  I'm not sure if he felt at the start of that ride if that was a win or a lose, but I know how he felt at the end of it.  It was not a win.  To this day, one of the things I ponder is why he got in the cart the way he did.  In retrospect, I would have crouched on my feet and knees, but brother Redface entered ass first forming a V of sorts, legs and arms up, and almost completely unable to change his position once seated in the cart.  He always trusted us more than he should of.  This story needs to stay on point so here's what happened next..
Brother Redface (before we pushed him)

Neither Ace or I had more than a fundamental understanding of gravitational force, momentum, and Newton's laws, but we were about to get a quick education.  I started pushing the cart and it's occupant quickly down a rapidly descending slope, and the road surface was slick with snow.  You would think we might have anticipated that I might slip and actually propel the cart more as I fell to the ground, but you would be wrong, and that is exactly what happened.  I had only just started to push the cart, and lost my footing, and my momentum caused me to fall forward and push the cart as I fell.  As I quickly scrambled to my feet, I realized that the cart was accelerating more rapidly than I could, so in essence, it was out of control.  Everyone realized this, that is, except my brother Redface.  He was enjoying the wildly careening ride, oblivious to the fact, neither Ace or I had any control of the situation.  We screamed at him that we were no longer steering and he laughed, we yelled it again and again until his brain finally realized that our voices shouldn't be sounding that far away if we were still hanging on to the cart.  Then the panic set in, and with good reason.  I did mention that the hill was steep and bi-sected by Gorham Street, right?  It's a 4 way stop, or at least is intended to be.  On that particular evening, my brother Redface seemed to be blatantly ignoring the stop sign and as the cart continued downhill, the 30 mph speed limit as well.  There seemed to be no solution to his predicament, and it was getting increasingly more dangerous too.

The T intersection with Ontario street was rapidly approaching, and brother Ace and I had a bird's eye view of the impending crash of the cart and the curb.  We really weren't into praying much then, but I have to say I think we both prayed at least there wouldn't be a passing car at an extremely inopportune time.  Back to Redface, now screaming, pleading and making his own deals with God.  I suddenly had an epiphany, but unfortunately it wasn't a solution to the problem, rather it was a clear recollection of Newton's first law of motion, which roughly paraphrased is " A body in a shopping cart in motion will continue to remain in motion unless acted upon by a superior force". You see, the curb would do a great job of stopping the cart, but not necessarily of stopping my brother when propelled from the cart towards the railroad tracks.  A quick thought of explaining this to the police crossed my mind, " Well officer, he was still moving when the train came through, so I can't see how we could be considered liable...."   Back to brother Redface, now hoarse from screaming, and with fear tremors starting.

     We were feeling pretty helpless, unable to catch the cart, slipping on the ice and snow, and unable to even shout any soultions to our brother.  He was 2/3 of the way down the hill and destined for an abrupt stop, when he had an epiphany and fortunately this time it was a solution to the problem.  He couldn't get out of the cart, he couldn't steer it, but he could ROCK it, so rock it he did.  He started shifting his weight back and forth, realizing that the fall on the asphalt was far preferable to the ending at the bottom of the hill.  He shifted it enough to actually change the trajectory and suddenly the cart veered left and ran into a snowbank and ejectied our brother into the same snowbank, shaken up, but unhurt.  We gathered up our shaky legged brother, left the cart, and headed off to our meeting, and chalking this up as another "Remember that time you almost died story".  I remember being chilled in a different way that winter evening, not relating to the cold, but to the calamity narrowly avoided, and not by me, though I had started the cart running downhill. It made me more aware of the possible unintended consequences of my actions, and I have to say, that it was a long time before I used anything other than my own two feet else to propel myself anywhere, well, after all, most the places were walkable.

The End.


cdyarger said...

I recall a similar story of my brothers, but it involved an enclosed staircase and a large cardboard tube/can. They remember that one as "Niagara Falls down the stairs"! It is amazing that we all survived our childhoods!

kathleen minnich said...

Oh Bill, I laughed so hard. These are so good. I hope you have kept hard copies of these. Really funny...