Wednesday, July 28, 2010

COLUMN: The Great Fall

I've been learning one fun thing during my extended move into my first house: when you're the new guy on the block, you are the center of attention. I feel like P.T. Barnum in the center ring of my own socially-awkward nightmare. My new neighbors have been keeping an overly-watchful eye on the happenings at the International House of Shane.

The other night my girlfriend and I arrived at the house with an armful of supplies. After unpacking a couple of boxes and setting some stuff up in the kitchen, I stepped out on the front porch to get some air... and, just for a quick moment, had a flash of sympathy for Justin Bieber. As I glanced around the neighborhood, I realized that no fewer than 14 sets of eyes from houses near and far were trained on me. No one speaking, no one smiling, no one waving -- but everyone staring with curious eyes and blank faces. Was my fly down? I ALMOST did a quick check before realizing that a spontaneous crotch grab would probably NOT be the best way to make a first impression on the neighborhood.

I started thinking deviously. Clearly, as the new arrivals on the block, we had the full and undivided attention of all the neighbors -- so why waste the opportunity? Fame, especially for a reason as lackluster as being a new arrival, is fleeting -- so maybe we should do our best to use our fifteen minutes to really make a splash. As Bonnie Raitt said, let's give 'em something to talk about. My ideas:

(1) Deposit one lawn ornament smack in the middle of the front yard, the tackier the better. Then we step outside and kneel before it as though it were our god of choice. THIS is the kind of stuff good dinner conversations were made for.

(2) Amy and I could stage a verbal argument in the front yard -- speaking only in Klingon. Perhaps we could even hold a mock battle in Klingon garb and make-up, and approach passersby with a hearty, "NuqneH tera' jIl! ghIj qet jaghmeyjaj!" ("Greetings, human neighbor! May your enemies run from you with fear!")

(3) After sundown, obsessively flick the primary lights of the house on and off for 2-3 hours straight. What's happening inside that place? Short circuit? Rave party? Mad scientists attempting to create life? We're the only ones who know for sure!

(4) Live a perfectly normal life, coming and going as we please... but every time we walk INTO the house, we first stop and put a ski mask on. Always leave the house wearing a ski mask and remove it once you're two steps away from the door. That should be enough to leave the neighbors in a constant state of "What the...?" "Are they robbing themselves? Do they have some kind of skin disease? Is their house contaminated?"

Sadly, though, my favorite way of life is to exist silently under the radar and out of gossip circles, so I wouldn't have the guts to do any of that stuff. It's okay, though. Fate took care of it for us.

As I detailed in last week's column, we were leaving the house that night when our escape was thwarted by Boris the Death Spider, who descended on a thin web smack in the middle of the back doorway. Even after giving it a shower in Raid, he was hanging on by a thread, as if to say "Am I gonna stay here and bite you? Or am I gonna freefall right down the collar of your shirt where I will implant my vorpal spider incisors into your jugular? Guess you'll hafta find out!"

By this time, I had already made it outside, but poor Amy was trapped in front of the doorway and the spider. It was up to me to make an action plan. No silly spider was gonna stop me from taking a mature and adult command of the situation. I probably could have shooed it away with a flick of my hand or smooshed it with a shoe. But no. This situation required utmost intelligence and planning. I assessed carefully and intelligently, looked at Amy, and issued my command.

"Run for it!"

And run she did. But did I mention that it had been raining out? Not cool. Here's how it went down: RUN. RUN. SLIP. THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP. There are exactly five steps leading up to my back door, and Amy had just gone down all five butt-first in a magnificent pratfall that was over before I could even blink.

Right after college, Amy got a job teaching elementary students in Egypt, where she lived for two years. During her stay overseas, she and her friends took a holiday to go see the desert and the pyramids and the sphinx and all that, right? At some point, she and her friends decided to take a short tourist-y camel ride into the desert. And somehow during that ride, the camel bucked and she went flying. This is a pretty funny story, and she laughs about it now... except that on landing, she broke her back. Now imagine having to deal with paramedics and an ambulance and a lengthy hospital stay in a foreign country where only a handful of folk speak fluent English, and you can start to see how one could get a complex about falling. At least, I HOPE she had a complex...

Because a complex would be the ONLY acceptable answer for the noise that proceeded to come out of my sweet girlfriend's mouth. Imagine Lucille Ball going "Waaaaaah!" combined with your run-of-the-mill civil defense siren and you'll be close. With a sound like that, I immediately thought her back had SHATTERED.

"Omigod! Omigod! Are you okay?"
"Is anything broken? Can you move?"
"Honey, shh. Shh. It's okay, baby, it's okay."
(I swear, at this point her head spun around like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist.")

She ended up with a seriously bruised tooshie, but was otherwise thankfully alright. And eventually I got the screaming down to a dull cry. This is a good thing, because it was, oh, 11 p.m. and a scream that clearly indicated, "Attention, the entire Longview neighborhood of Rock Island and perhaps even those of you drinking in the District, I am most likely being raped. Please send help immediately."

Happily, no one leapt out to her aid with a baseball bat or anything. Or maybe I'm not happy about all that - I've just learned that if I ever WAS mugged in the back of my house, screaming like a possessed banshee will get you absolutely nowhere. Still, mission accomplished: I think we officially made a splash with the neighbors. I'm now Shane, The Guy Who Makes Girls Shriek In Terror. Welcome to the neighborhood!

There were good bits, though. I'm happy that my girlfriend didn't break anything. I'm happy that Amy's banshee wail apparantly immolated the spider, because it promptly disappeared forever. And best yet, for the past week, I've had a perfectly wholesome reason to stare at my girlfriend's backside all the live-long day... out of concern for the well-being of her coccyx, of course.

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