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Monday, September 12, 2005

Safety Dance

A long, long time ago, before wearing seatbelts was a law, my dad resorted to other means to keep us safe. If ever he had to come to a sudden stop, his arm had a mind of its own. It would swing out to hold back the person sitting next to him. There were many variations to his homemade safety belt.

He had the High-Karate belt. Dad only used this version when a car in front of us stopped really fast. He would swing with Karate chop action to keep us from hitting the dashboard. Height determined where he landed his chop. For me, it usually got me right in the throat. Every single time he would look at me, ask me if I was okay and then proceed to yell at the driver who caused him to Karate chop me.

Then he had the Whack-A-Mo belt. This is when Dad was doing something while driving. He'd have something in his hand. Probably, because he was distracted doing other stuff, is why this method was most used. Dad tried like hell to multitask. When he ran errands, he did as many things as possible while he drove. It was common place to experience a checkbook to the forehead or a Quarter Pounder with cheese to the chin or a grocery list resulting in a paper cut and a pen stabbing me in the eye as he tried to "save" me from getting hurt by hitting the dashboard.

The Double Whammy was one of the scariest of all safety belts. If we were within inches of rear ending someone, he would swing that magic arm around, securing me deep into the seat, while his other hand held his heart. If you can visualize this, you'll note, Dad's hands were no longer on the wheel and we were about to crash. Scary? Yes.

The Sunshine Day belt, also was quite scary. Whenever the sun shone brightly in the sky, it would trigger something in my dad's nose that made him have to sneeze. Like a deer in the headlights, Dad was drawn to that light. He wasn't just drawn, even in the heart of winter, he would open his window, stick his head out and sniff the air and take in the sun. He loved to sneeze. The best ones came from his toes, or so he said. There we were, on many occasions, his head out the car window, one hand over his mouth, the other across my chest, his eyes closed tightly from sneezing repeatedly and our car inches away from the car ahead of us. He actually rear ended someone once during one of his sneezing fits.

An angrier variation of the Double Whammy was the A-S-O Bird. Dad really tried not to cuss around us. Instead of yelling "Hey Asshole!" He would yell "A-S-O" sometimes while flipping his middle finger up. Again, no hands on the wheel. I asked him once what it meant when he stuck that particular finger up. He told me it was a friendly way to tell someone that they were number one. I believed him. Until I told my mom she was number one. If memory serves, that was also the day I ran to my room and yelled "A-S-O" into my pillow.

God help you if you were bending over to tie your shoe during one of Dad's safety belt testings. I like to call that one the original, People's Elbow. Sure that wrestling dude made it world famous, but trust me when I say, my dad invented it. I often wondered if maybe I would have been better off if he'd let me take my chances on hitting the dashboard instead.

Whenever Mom was riding shotgun, Dad used the Cop-A-Feel method to protect her. There were lots of times I didn't see things in the road to cause him to reach over to Mom. He'd say, "Wow, did you see that?" I guess while I was looking around for whatever had been in the road, Dad was feeling Mom up. (Hmmm... that thought just made me throwup.)

Car placement was essential to us children. The problem was, there were too many of us and the minivan hadn't been invented. If Mom was not going on an outing, that only meant we also could fight for shotgun. Hours before leaving to go anywhere, I would sneakily ask, "Mom, are you going with?" If she said no, I yelled at the top of my lungs, just so everyone knew and there were no doubts. "I'm sitting up front! No recalls!"

I don't know why "I'm sitting up front" was always sang rather than said. But adding "No recalls!" was like adding insurance that my spot was secure and no one could take it away from me. Crazy enough, it actually worked. Unless the evil one, my mother, changed her mind at the last minute. By then, everyone had already "called" their place in the car. So I would usually get squished somewhere in the middle, or placed onto someone's lap.

If I had advanced warning that Mom was coming with, I'd yell, "I get a window seat! No Recalls!" It was all but carved in stone.

Thankfully, I only have two kids. There aren't fights for seating arrangements in the car, but as I get older, I notice myself doing the same things my dad did to protect my shotgun rider. I rarely have anyone sitting in my passenger seat, so this is all quite new for me. Up until June, both of my kids were too young to sit up there. I had no idea there was this built-in safety mechanism within me. Of course, I have not mastered all of Dad's methods, but I have tried a couple out.

I've also began to create my own versions. Like yesterday, on our way home from my mom's. My son, Lane 1, was riding shotgun. He and I just finished fighting over the radio. We were in the middle of nowhere and none of the stations were coming in clearly. I wanted to put one of my CDs on. He wanted to put one of his CDs on. There was no compromise. I am Mom, and I went to put my CD in the stereo. Someone in front of us slammed on their brakes to avoid a plastic bag in the road. At that very moment, I created the Chinese Star belt. My CD whacked the boy in the chest as my arm took over my body.

"OUCH! Paranoid much Mom?"

"Sorry. And no! I'm not paranoid!"

The last time I went out with Katey, I drove. Some schmuck cut me off and I had to not only use my brakes but I also had to resort to the Cop-A-Feel Safety Belt. Although she was wearing a seatbelt, and I do have airbags, I had no control of my right arm. It swung wildly across to where she sat. I think I was shooting for the High-Karate belt, but my hand cupped itself at the last second, accidentally cupping around her boob. Sorry about that Katey.

I guess it's true. We do turn into our parents inadvertently. Dad probably didn't know that I was learning the Safety Dance, just as I didn't know. What things do you do that you have picked up from one of your parents?