I am a highly imaginative person. While I usually use my powers for the good, there are times when they threaten to propel me into controversy or trouble. Not to mention the times when they don’t just threaten to get me into hot water, but actually do it.
Fortunately, my imagination can be preventively harnessed. One of the few smart things it does is prevent me from doing all kinds of tempting, stupid things by giving me the ability take a step back and imagine how people would talk about me afterward.
I was driving, white-knuckled to work the other morning in extreme, sub-zero weather on extremely icy roads when I happened to look in the rearview mirror and saw a stray, age-indicating hair sticking straight out from the rest of my bangs. This was not a subtle, gray hair, but a thick, pure white hair that was actively daring me to do something about it.
Just as I started loosening the grip of my right hand on the steering wheel and strategizing how to best ambush the hair before the light of early dawn shifted and I could no longer clearly see it to pluck, another image popped up in my head: the children of the dead driver of the oncoming car I had hit head-on while my eyes hair-focused instead of on the road. The children were testifying in the manslaughter trial that I thought my hair was more important than their father’s life. There was no justification for my behavior other than vanity.
A regular diet of such unrealistic, imagined scenarios has me paying close attention to the stupid explanations other people have when they find themselves in equally unjustifiable situations. I am not alone. Take, for instance, the 33-year-old Oklahoma man for whom a pair of tightie-whities will be “Exhibit A” during his eventual murder trial.
In case you missed this headline online or in the supermarket checkout lane tabloids, on December 21, former Marine Brad Davis was arrested on a homicide complaint in the death of his step-father, Denver Lee St. Clair, 58. Allegedly, after St. Clair made disparaging remarks about Davis’s mother, Davis hit him in the head multiple times before knocking him to the ground and executing a highly-humiliating move known as an “atomic wedgie.”
In case you’re not up on schoolyard pranks, an atomic wedgie is the turbo-charged, nuclear-sized version of the basic wedgie, which involves abruptly pulling someone’s underwear up into their crack from behind. An atomic wedgie is a regular wedgie on steroids. It’s when a bully pulls the underwear up impossibly far, then over the victim’s head.
Just when it doesn’t seem there could be anything more degrading, we learn the atomic wedgie Davis gave St. Clair cut off St. Clair’s air supply and asphyxiated him. If convicted of the killing, however unintentional, Davis will likely do some time. Can you imagine the initial conversation between Davis and a new cellmate?
CELLMATE: I’m doing my bit for an armed robbery. How ‘bout you?
DAVIS: Atomic wedgie.
CELLMATE: Come again?
DAVIS: I pulled a guy’s underwear up over his head and he choked to death.
CELLMATE: So you’re that “Fruit of the Loom Killer” we’ve been hearing about.
DAVIS: Actually, they were Hanes.
CELLMATE: Hanes, Jockey . . . . it makes no difference. I’m gonna watch my butt around you!
It was unusual to read about death by atomic wedgie. Almost as weird as it would be to read that someone had been rendered a paraplegic from a standard issue towel snap in the locker room at the YMCA, or had drowned while being given a swirlie in the bathroom of a senior center following a BINGO dispute.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I graduated to adulthood, I pretty much left behind my short-sheeting, spitball-throwing, wet-willying, noogie-giving, titty-twisting, cow-tipping, bean-dipping, flat-tiring, Indian-burning, mooning ways.
Should I elect to take them up again, you’re welcome to stick a “Kick Me” sign on my back and let the air out of my car tires after toilet-papering my yard. And if I don’t like it, I’ll simply pants you back!