Al Batt: The road worked ahead and gave me some class

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

 I was certain it was a trap to lure me out of hiding and bring me to justice for not turning in my slide rule.

I struck out into the unknown. There had been bygone days when gas was cheap and I’d stay on a road just to see where it went. With so much road work ahead of me, I’m never sure where any road will take me. A GPS gives directions with a caveat on what could go wrong. I try to make good time getting from one place to another, but good time can be hard to make. A rational man adapts to the path. Road work has become my quicksand.

Al Batt

I used to worry about quicksand. It’s a flashback from watching Tarzan movies during my formative years. Quicksand is a mushy annoyance, but it’s improbable anyone shuffled off this mortal coil in the way depicted in movies and TV because quicksand is denser than the human body. I thought it was deadly. The sinking sand was shown in “The Lone Ranger,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Batman,” “Blazing Saddles” and “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” I don’t worry about quicksand now. Avoiding quicksand hasn’t been difficult. Avoiding road work has been impossible. I couldn’t leave home one day and I couldn’t get home another.

I needed to get out. Not for nothing. Things needed tending. I’d received an important invitation. A class reunion needed attending.

You know you’re getting older when your class reunion begins at the reasonable hour of noon instead of the night before. Many things that used to apply only to people much older than us, now apply to us.

We are a small class. We don’t need to pretend to remember people who don’t remember us. I graduated in the top 54 of my class of 54. In our small school, if you picked your nose, people knew which nostril.

Every member of the class still able to take nourishment has done well. That includes me. Years ago, my wife and I bought a new bathroom scale. I figure it’s been a good life if you’re on your second bathroom scale.

Each of us could still fit into our old high school gym. Reunions are where you hear, “You haven’t changed completely.” Like forgetting to send a forwarding address, we change without alerting everyone.

I was lucky. School wasn’t akin to being covered in honey and staked to an anthill for me. The Main Ingredient had a hit song, “Everybody Plays the Fool.” Everybody plays the fool in school. I remember my first push-up frozen treat. I removed the wrapper. It said to push up bottom. I did and could barely walk.

I liked my classmates and promised them if I won the lottery, no one around me would ever be poor. I didn’t add that would be because I’d move to a gated community of rich folks.

I was noted for my amazing ability to find my way to the correct classroom nearly 83% of the time. After turning my poor-quality homework into a high-quality paper airplane, I told a math teacher the three words that scared me the most were “pop quiz.” I got a weary smile in return. I wasn’t the only one who took Play-Doh to college.

For many years, in the company of my classmates was where the world could find me. We knew better, but we couldn’t picture growing much older. We thought we’d be immune to the ravages of time. The older we get, the more we’re reminded of how old we are. We’re holding up like a water-damaged ceiling, but the class has a few holes in it. I wish those dearly departed individuals were back where they should be. I never imagined the world without them. 

The lines between past and present blur. Memories, sometimes flawed, surface from the deep. In his book “Requiem for a Nun,” William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

The reunion was a welcome landing. We talked of the frivolous and of things that mattered. There was little tilting at windmills.

I plan to continue avoiding quicksand.

I want to stay on the road just to see where it goes.

Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.