Things I Remember

Being Late and the Perils of Carbon Monoxide

It could be said that my father will be late for his own funeral. You’d likely get many who agreed with this statement, considering his long track record and consistent performance.

Some examples: My brothers and I were well known around the office at our grade school, because of the many mornings we had to stop in after we’d been dropped off late by our father. He was late for my middle school graduation, a not insignificant thing to a 13-year old (though it seems perfectly justifiable to this 39-year old).

Sunday church received no more respect than daily school dropoffs. Of the many ‘walks of shame’ one can encounter in life, I would contend that one of the worst to a 10 year old is the 10.45am walk down the center aisle of packed 10.30 mass, looking for seats.

And something he’s probably most remembered for, a move that was well known in some circles around the tri-state area, was his pre-road trip delay. It would never fail that once the car was completely packed, doors and windows of the house all buttoned up, family all smashed in Caprice Classic, garage door up, keys very possibly in the ignition, that he would realise that he needed to make a long overdue visit to the toilet, to have a seat and complete his preparations whilst reading the obituaries.

Mostly these instances were harmless, although there is one that sticks in my mind where a bit of time wasting went awry. It was a regular morning, and Dad was taking us to school. He’d started the car and was about to pull out of the garage when he remembered something he needed to do. He got out and went back inside, leaving the car running because I assume he only intended to be inside for a short period of time. Time passed. Minutes clicked by. After awhile, my 4th grade brain started mulling the potential bad outcomes of us sitting in the car with the garage open and the car running. Someone could come in and kidnap us out of the car. A criminal of some sort could spot the car running and steal the car, taking my little brother and I with him. With my dad’s return unknown — for all I knew he could be on the toilet — I decided to take action, what I thought was a fool proof defense against potential kidnappers and the odd lurking criminal needing a getaway car: I closed the garage door.

So there my brother and I were, sitting in the backseat, the car quietly filling up the garage with poisonous gas.

Spoiler alert: we survived our run in with death when my father soon returned from who knows where. This doesn’t make me stop thinking about the incident, though, and the confluence of innocent actions that could very easily have ended in an outcome much different to us getting to school late and my dad winning the award for ‘Father of the Year 1984’. Coming close to death, even if you don’t realise it until much later (and even though my dad went a little crazy to find us in the running car with the garage door shut, I don’t think it dawned on me until later the gravity of the situation) is something you do not forget.

Over the years I have begun to carry my father’s torch in a small way. I have one group of friends that calls me the ‘slowest man alive’, and another group that jokes that I cannot go anywhere, no matter the urgency, without first taking a shower, making a pizza, fixing my hair, etc etc. My wife likes to tell the story, a story always told with much disdain, about how I was three hours late for our first date. Despite all this, in general I think that my reputation has been based on the exaggeration of a few wildly misconstrued and unrepresentative instances, though I will admit that I dislike being rushed and prefer to take my time and do things properly. Indeed, it is highly inefficient and illogical to take off on a road trip, only to have to stop one hour in to make use of some dodgy roadside watercloset. I can only hope, however, that this little piece of my personality doesn’t end up causing anyone to get hurt.

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