As I look back now at my grammar school class photos I can see the first signs of my inherent awkwardness. From kindergarten on I’m the only bandaged or bruised kid in the pictures. My foot is in a cast in our third grade picture and it appears I have accidently swung it into Agnes Hoffsteader. She is obviously crying while the rest of us are smiling broadly.
I had a crush on Agnes back then and tried to spend a lot of time with her. However, she transferred to a private school early on. I heard a rumor it was at the advice of her pediatrician and the Prudential Insurance Company.
“Will I ever grow out of this clumsy stage?” I asked my father one day. He looked at me strangely and replied, “Before I answer that question, Son…”
“You’re standing on my arthritic foot and it really hurts!”
Dad tried to be encouraging, saying my fears were exaggerated and I was probably not more awkard than the average young boy. I began to feel better but then he made me promise never to get a job at the Picatinny Arsenal when I grew up. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other employees or to the nearby Morris County residents.”
But Dad had made an important point. I began to plan my future assuming I would probably always be ungainly or at least not gainly enough to handle a precarious career that might have the threat of consequential damages.
My paper route was not a good choice. I doubt anyone has calculated the ballistic potential of a tightly rolled newspaper, but it must be considerable. I found out a large weekend edition can easily break a window at 25 feet. When striking the south end of a stooped north-facing garnener it can send him flying into the tulips.
Then there was the unfortunate incident when my bicycle struck a fallen branch which detoured me into Mrs. Duffy’s lawn party. (You might have read the sensationalized newspaper account.)
All of my subsequent jobs were chosen with safety in mind, but I always managed to defeat the statistics. I lost my soda jerk job when a sudden hot fudge spill caused me to leap back into a stack of sundae glassware. I suffered a similar fate at the Five and Dime with the runaway floor waxer.
I almost got a job on the Palisades Amusement Park’s roller coaster until the manager recognized me. He said he was sorry, but there were lives at stake. “Try the Games Arcade or one of the games of chance stands near the carousel. But stay away from the shooting gallery!” he shouted.
What really decided me on being a work at home writer was the night a mini tornado whipped down our street damaging a couple of front porches and I was called in for questioning.