– By William Cooper
My father was a believer in simple and unchanging things – strong coffee, burnt toast, steak and potatoes, the security of keys in your pocket, local news, and inexpensive and reasonable family vacations to relatively nearby historical places.
Vacations for us meant a mad scramble to overpack as much crap as we could into bulging suitcases as my father sat impatiently in the driveway, beeping his horn. He believed that the car horn was a singular, infallible remedy for whatever temporary stupor we’d found ourselves in, a way to shock us back from the brink of our idleness and listless wandering into the real world of Things to Be Done and Ways to Do Them Quickly. There was beeping when we lingered too long in a restaurant, when we weren’t walking fast enough from school, and often when one of us was trying to remember if we’d forgotten anything before we left the house. Nobody was spared this treatment, for there was always a place to be and barely enough time to get there.
And this is how, one year, we left on vacation with a trunk, yes an actual trunk, strapped to the roof of our Impala that my father had forgotten to latch closed. Halfway between Columbus and Sandusky, Ohio, the lid flipped open, spilling all our belongings one-by-one along the highway. It is also how somebody finally beeped at my dad – the car behind him with paper plates plastered to its windshield, swerving back and forth across the lanes.
Nobody was injured in this event, luckily. We bought all new crap, secured the trunk, and continued on our journey, causing my dad to excitedly exclaim, “No matter what we do, we still come out smelling like shit!” My mother, knowing that he really meant “roses,” said nothing, as she’d long ago given up on this kind of fiasco, and simply returned to her crosswords.
Many years later, after I had moved to and settled in Seattle, a major Earthquake struck in the early hours of the work day. After carefully reviewing everything I’d ever read about how to survive quakes, I knew what had to be done. I mentally shred the documents in my brain, shrieked, and ran. I stumbled down the rolling hallway, down the swaying, creaking and disturbingly popping stairway, and out onto the undulating lawn where the earth was grass pudding. I wrapped both my legs around a small tree about half my size and hung on for dear life. I did not break my ankle, as I probably should have, and I was wearing pants, which I realize now would not have stopped me were I not. So everyone around me won that day.
When I told my Californian friend about this, she replied, “Ah, ‘twas a roller then, not a shaker” in the kind of way a weathered, grizzled sea captain discusses the strength of a Nor’easter. “Shouldn’t have run, you know.” And yet, there was no way not to. Had I not been stopped by the fact that the earth had turned sideways, I would still be running today.
What’s the point of all this? If you count up all the events in your life that were near-disasters, you’ll be amazed at how any of us manage to get out of this life intact, how many of them we cause or worsen ourselves, and how little we know about how to handle them when they occur. Also, if you beep at a growing teenager each time he takes too long to urinate, he may end up battling a shy bladder later in life. I mean, hypothetically of course.
In this episode, we are confronted by a tapestry of disaster. William motorboats through a disaster of an opening segment, as Scott, juiced on java bean elixir, patiently explains the finer points of multi-track editing. William plays “Shoot Right for the Dumb” with a rant about underhanded Discovery Channel tactics before we dive headfirst into a discussion of our staggering Wendy Carlos ignorance. Moral of the story? We are the ones who are out of potatoes. We break the stupid loop of perpetual correction by checking in on the hairstylings of the local delousing treatment center, the amazing word technology that is “Carplay”, and William’s misguided plans to bulk purchase Tesla automobiles. Goodbye, combustion engine! You were a gas! Then, surprisingly, we go beyond the porch as the Horns set their cat alarm and take a Family Duty Spring Break at a state park lodge that promises all the dry snack food you can eat, wandering hallway moose, and a very shaky notion of fire safety. As the howling wind and darkness force the Horns into the cold, we all know this can only be William’s fault. Time to find Someplace Interesting. In a full-blown potluck panic, William faces an intense obligation to supply a Midwestern-sized feast, the sickening potential of cod roe, and the desire to attempt a daring IKEA meatball heist. At least he beat Sherlock Holmes at his own game. Scott isn’t worried. He’s a potluck wizard, and sounds the whooo alarm to begin Music in Rearview. Disaster abounds with the soundtrack of Airport. Also abounding, much illicit sexy times, Oscar-winning stowaways, and a shortage of track-naming ideas. We end as we began, with Scott patiently explaining the concept of two-dimensional media, and with a disaster of a close as William forgets where he is and what is is doing. Sound the Klaxons, Moneypenny, and join us for Up And Cumberbach! Who’s the Dope Now?