THE FUGITIVE

How can a girl be blamed for baneful behavior when she has sat in front of the television tube absorbing the antics that shows like Dark Shadows and Have Gun, Will Travel presented? It was right around my seventeenth year of living when I subconsciously ran away. Never mind that I had every reason to take off after residing in a suburban Twilight Zone, where three sibling dames and six Dukes of Hazard were totally on top of me and my every move. Our Family Affair was a minefield. I would have liked more of a Laugh-In.

One high school chum and I thought the Days of Our Lives needed spontaneity and seeing what was beyond our stifling ranch style homes. It was characteristic of Bonanza, as if Little Joe was going to saunter in applauding our impetuous efforts to run wild and free. We were destined to play all day hooky then go see Jethro Tull in a downtown Detroit concert hall. And without so much as a mention to my makers where the teens in transit were going or that we would be gone for enough hours to put out an APB. I shoved my job aside and called in sick. Except that my curious boss unexpectedly phoned my house wondering how The Fugitive was feeling. I had a legitimate excuse. I woke up in a great mood and didn’t want to ruin it by going to work. I told him that I had contracted a severely infectious disease that was currently wreaking havoc on my household. In closing arguments, The Flying Nun messed up. And Patty Duke did some pretty intense scheming at times.

Parents fear that their daughters will get caught up in the shark-infested streets of the city. Where some girls might seek out thrills and fortune from street corner johns, this Maverick just wanted to hear some brilliant flute playing. Different Strokes for different folks I suppose. I like to say that a kid as innocent as the Beav got lured away by a female Eddie Haskell, or got Lost in Space. No one was going to believe the latter. Yet I had already moved on from Petticoat Junction to leather hot pants and platform heeled music theatres, though not yet ready for pimping myself out 77 times on a Sunset Strip. I was sure my parents Ozzie & Harriet wouldn’t have wanted me coming to them saying, “I’ve Got A Secret!”

Thank goodness my covetous caretakers didn’t call the Highway Patrol. The next thing we knew, we were plucked off the concert steps after closing and were returned to our rightful owners. I decided to Get Smart and go home to my Little House on the Prairie with none other than my uncle, who showed up depicted as Baretta. Dad didn’t come looking for me. It was the final night of hockey season. And Mom was too busy worrying and chugging a whole bottle of Chablis. I’m sure she was commiserating with Del Shannon, wa wa wa wa wondering why I ran away, and where I would stay.

I came home to a Bunch of lined up Brady’s ready to take jabs at me, right before they had my picture plastered all over milk cartons and got rid of all my stuff. With primeval gypsy articulation, I choked out the clarification that my girly friend was running away and I didn’t want her going alone. It was the truth. I doubt the speakers of the house believed me because they started mimicking Lassie by barking orders. They sounded like government interrogators with their systematic torture, ready to detain me for the rest of my tormented teen life. If we had lived on a Love Boat, I wouldn’t have had this much difficulty adapting to squalls. Although with my girlfriend fleeing her more turbulent household, I figured she didn’t have near as many Happy Days as I did.

My parents could have survived an earth shattering Scud missile, but not have their precious perfect Catholic daughter tainted by improper escapades. They would have preferred that I stayed chained in the dungeon…had our home been blessed with a basement. But I did have restricted air space within the confines of my bedroom with three sisters, and six Bewitched brothers whom every hour would open and slam my bedroom door and sometimes throw in a reptile, leaving me to be tortured by a blunt snouted scaly aggressor with freakish skin warts. I’d Dream of a Genie with high hopes that my every rub of the lantern would eliminate it, and my brothers. It was a painful transition from being worldly to becoming an imprisoned criminal. There was something very Alfred Hitchcock-y about it because throughout my formative years, I was told that there wasn’t a monster in the closet or under the bed.

My parents taught me The Facts of Life. But my pouty lips were prone towards kissing, largely due to the productions of Dallas and Knots Landing. I could have done worse than swapping saliva and running off for a day. Lucky for them I was just an American Bandstand-er, rock and rolling nights away on dance floors. My parents should have been grateful that I didn’t turn into little miss sure shot like Annie Oakley. Who knows if they considered disowning me, wanting to send me off in a Taxi to go live with pedigree that might mirror The Munster’s or The Addam’s Family, where I would have parents like Morticia and Gomez and an Uncle Fester providing me with maniacal life lessons. I would have been very leery of having another Pugsly type brother who pulled villainous pranks.

Once released from the bedroom shackles, I never cruised The Outer Limits again. However, I will be going to hell for making my parents sweat for fifteen hours. I’m thankful that my uncle didn’t come after me in a moving vehicle, making me a casualty of domestic war. Although ending up in a surgical care M*A*S*H unit under the watchful eyes of Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John would have been Good Times. They would have had mascara running down my face in a matter of minutes. I would rather have died from injury and laughing than be killed by my parents.

Adding to the list of influences, Lucy and Red Skelton have most certainly left lasting side effects as well. We are what we watch.

CALLS OF DUTY

One of my first jobs was driving one of those mobile hot dog trucks in Florida after I graduated from high school. Hundreds depended on me to fulfill their frankfurter dreams, which basically meant standing around yawning while waiting for someone to show up. I had unlimited access to fast food for eight excruciating hours. It’s a wonder I eat hot dogs today. My resume looked spectacular, despite the fact that they had to eliminate about fourteen pages of what I blew out of proportion. But I had tons of experience after serving my nine siblings pigs in blankets for a vast number of subservient years throughout my teen existence. Truth be known, I believe I got the job based on my bustiness at the time, which has now deflated substantially. It wasn’t long before I had to rely on whatever brainpower I had.

During my lengthy two week stint driving the weinermobile, I parked the vendored vehicle on a car dealership lot and never knew who I was going to serve that day. The hungry drive by’s, the ecstatic new car owners, or the disgruntled car salesmen who needed to close deals. One day I encountered the disgruntled drive by. I was loading on his double mustard when he asked me, “Don’t you know who I am?” I looked him up, down, and sideways before answering, “Not a clue.” Moments later, I didn’t think a hot dog would evoke such resentful emotion. I wanted to ask if he had a few hours to spare while pondering his identity. Working with the general public sometimes squeezes the good nature right out of a person. I had rather deep insight to his kind of human suffering and did two things. First of all, I kept a Pez dispenser on hand to boost the gaiety of crestfallen customers. Secondly, I joined a support group to comingle with other pity partiers who loathed their occupations. We met twice weekly at a bar.

I should have told the all-star to take my lack of football player knowledge to the complaint department. But mister football famousness left briskly without even so much as thanking me with a tip. I disliked that job for several reasons. Waking up. Certain customers. Wearing a bra for eight hours. Having mustard stained shirts. Measly pay. And the pressure of exactly how much relish should cover a cylindered piece of meat. Pretending to be pleasant all day got pretty exhausting as well. So I moved on to bigger and better things. My true calling was hanging out with my friends and shopping. Except that I needed money to do that.

Career plans were way more exciting when I was four. At seventeen, I thought about being a flash dancer. But I was afraid mom and dad wouldn’t take too kindly to me sauntering on a stage naked and whipping myself around a pole in front of strangers. I knew I wouldn’t want to glaze pigs at Honeybaked Hams and leave their premises reaking of brown sugar and corn syrup. And woe would be me if I worked at a movie theatre tearing tickets. I wouldn’t be able to contain myself when revealing all the movie endings. After graduation, I surely didn’t want to work for any corporation that has their own unique way of doing things, which was usually their way. After all, I have an opinion or three. I wasn’t cut out to be a cubicle girl. Those places require the work of three women and I could totally foresee an army of problems marching before me. In which case I would have had to fill the lunchroom sinks with pots of espresso and antidepressants, dunk my head in, and drink excessively until it was bone dry. I couldn’t get that at any Starbucks. No additives in coffee, no desire to workee. Besides, they could fire me citing unaccountabilities. Although other careers would be far more hazardous to my health, like a rattlesnake handler or a high rise window washer.

The parents said I could be anything. I ended up an artsy madcapped maternal patrol officer with major phobias. Which was mostly a fear of opinions, secondary to pointed objects and manic scares of manipulation. There was a time when I thought about being a flight attendant. Instead, I stayed grounded with children. But thoughts of sky soaring never left my mind. While feeding my babies in their high chairs, I taught them to make sure their tray tables were in the upright and secured position. I did find out that mothering was no different than being a cabin attendant since I catered to restless attitudal mortals who were always pushing my buttons. I encountered turbulence and wondered if I would ever make my connection. My mother even told me, “Tighten your brastraps, it’s going to be a very bumpy ride.” There was one difference between the two careers. An attendant can do all that she does for eighteen hours and still look good. I looked like a war torn Raggedy Ann.

In order to improve my productivity, I did regular Richard Simmons workouts. I basically rubbed up against the television tube hoping his energy was contagious. I didn’t know whether to model myself after Donna Reed, or use some of Roseanne’s rationale. I did maintain a job while mothering. And in doing both, I ended up failing at many things. Tried to get both myself and the kids ready and out the door in ten minutes. Failed. Tried to keep a daily diary of their growth patterns. Failed miserably. Tried to contact Duncan Hines to tell them yellow is not a cake flavor. Failed to get a response. Tried getting my kids to listen to me. Response failure mounting into the thousands. I must have totally forgotten to teach my sweet youngest child o’ mine how to sew after noticing her stapled pant bottoms when her hems came undone. But look at the highly achieved Hugh Hefner. In 2005, he tried and failed to create a no nudity version of Playboy featuring a Miss World contestant on the first cover. It’s just impossible to live without failing at something.

My life has been one long series of waking tired and going to sleep wide awake. I have a job, but don’t have kids keeping me up at night. Yet I awaken anyway because childbirth destroyed my bladder. Based on my calculations, I can pretty much retire ten years after I die. I have spent two thirds of my life looking for a career that would make me happy, and make me millions. Because I know I’d be pretty darn good at it.