“OK, Missy, get ready!” I shout to the small figure in the passenger seat. “Got your hands up?”
Just the slightest touch of gas and VROOM! VROOM! Our Hyundai rides through two dips in Gay Street like a champ, popping up and down in the world’s shortest roller coaster.
“Wooo!” our voices echo through identical smiles.
Now that’s a ride!
I’ve mentioned before that when you travel with Missy, our developmentally disabled ward, even simple things can be a lot of fun. But even before we met, I knew about riding the “ripples” in north Gay Street.
For those who don’t get up that way much, there’s a series of drainage channels that cross the road in that neighborhood. As a kid, I used to think of these dips in the road (as opposed to the dips on the road) as “reverse speed bumps,” especially after seeing cars new to the area creep through them at 5 mph or less.
I was an adult before I knew those things were built to hold water. But I was still a teenager when I learned the twin secrets of the dips:
- You went through them more smoothly if you applied a little more speed, not less …
- …except for the ones at each end of the run, which would smack your undercarriage like Mike Tyson if you didn’t watch the road.
The result: a combination of brains and nerve, learning to pick out which spots were opportunities and which were threats.
There are worse life lessons to have. Especially these days.
Let’s face it. A sense of proportion isn’t much in style. Everything has to be the end of the world, with or without ancient Mayan calendars to prove it.
I’m not saying it’s new. I was, after all, a child of the ’70s and ’80s, when we all got warned about the razor blades that could be slipped into any Halloween treat without a wrapper. (The real danger, then and now, was generally from cars not seeing you on a darkened street.) But it seems to have hit a fever pitch over the last decade or so. Maybe even an apocalyptic one – anyone else noticed a theme to the popularity of the Hunger Games, zombie fiction, the “Revolution” TV series and so on?
Now obviously, this isn’t a world of cotton candy. Real dangers are out there, real problems need to be solved. But when we over-fortify our airports for fear of dying in a terrorist attack (odds: 1 in 1.7 million) while seeing people step outside to watch a tornado (odds of dying: 1 in 60,000), something’s a little out of whack.
It’s time to learn from the dips. Scout the ground. Learn where the dangers really are. And learn which risks are actually opportunities in disguise.
Missy reinforced that last one for me.
When my wife Heather asked if we could become her guardians, I was terrified at first. What if Heather’s health failed? What if my job went away? What if we couldn’t hack it, if we ended up screwing up a life so dependent on the lives of others?
But eventually, after a lot of talking and a lot of thinking, we took the plunge. No holding back, hit the gas.
And what looked like a canyon turned into a sweet spot. Ups and downs, yes, like a small roller coaster, but no damage. No regrets for taking the ride. None at all.
I’m still glad we drove ahead.
Because if we hadn’t, I’d feel like a real dip.