Monday, June 30, 2008

It’s Who You Know

(Puzzle piece number 13 of 38.)
When I was in college, I dated a poli sci graduate named Paul, who served with our university’s campus security. Those were the days when Brian “Kato” Kaelin and the Killer Cushman raced across the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire footbridge. Then in 1994, O.J. Simpson boosted Kato’s visibility.

My friend Paul was a kick. Highly intelligent and articulate, he loved a good party and made life the best adventure. He’d write notes to me that led me to the dictionary. He engaged me with deep questions that only years later could I answer, such as “What are you doing later?”

Paul was a member, maybe even the instigator, of a fraternity called Phelta Thi. I caught on to that name right away, though Paul was always a gentleman. One day he called to say that he and his roommates were going to throw a beach party. “We’ll be playing Beach Boys tunes, wearing Hawaiian shirts, and we’re having a truckload of sand hauled in, so we can play volleyball between the houses.”

True to his word, all components pulled together to create a fabulous event. That night, to the guys’ excitement and the girls’ horror, a bat flew into the house, which the guys brought down with a tennis racket and threw into Paul’s snake’s aquarium. The sight of the snake eating that bat still gives me the willies.

Years passed, I moved to Colorado, and new lives ensued. Then one summer, maybe 17 years later, I flew back to Eau Claire for a visit. My former client–friend with whom I was staying loaned me a car and away I drove, exploring my old city.

I must have looked like a codfish, mouth agape at all the development. In my amazement, I stepped on the accelerator and quickly soaked in the surreal changes as they flew past my window.

Pulling me abruptly back to reality, a siren sounded behind me. Discovering the brake, I went from 50 to zero in record time. The young officer, about my age, announced my speed and how different it was from the posted limit. He asked me to present my driver’s license and registration, which further shocked me into reality. Do I even have them?

“Well,” I tensely began. “I don’t live here. This isn’t my car, and I don’t know where the registration would be. But here’s my name, which is different from what it used to be when I lived here.”

The officer raised his eyebrows and walked back to his cruiser without a smile. I started seeing bars—and I don’t mean the ones on Water Street.

About four minutes later, he returned to my side with a smile, which prompted me to scoot right a bit. “You’re clear,” he said. “I’m going to let you go without a ticket. And Paul says hi. He’s investigating a robbery, or he’d come to see you.”

A whoosh of relief coursed through my body, and I quickly sped away.

copyright © 2008 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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