“Where should we go for lunch?”
This was a question I asked James and Tony almost every day of our Sophomore year. We had a few viable options that didn’t have the institutional flavor of our alma mater’s lunch program. It was a nice day so we walked to Dermer’s Sausage Kitchen. If time allowed, we would play a game of pinball, eat lunch and get back to school with time to spare. We talked about how cute girls were and how our football team had played. The next thing I remember is looking up at two anxious faces. I had apparently looked at the ground instead of what was in front of me and in the midst of this unplanned, yet scientific, experiment my head came into direct contact with an air conditioner. My feet had continued their journey forward while my head refused to follow. That must have been the moment that gravity and the subsequent lack of consciousness kicked in.
That day my scientific mind concluded that when one object comes in contact with an object of equal or greater force, then the object of the first part must yield to the force of the second part. In this case it was me, on the ground, knocked out - a victim of a random act of physical violence perpetrated by a rather smug air conditioner.
When my eyes focused there were three things that became rather clear to me. 1) My head hurt, 2) I was really embarrassed and, 3) my friends were looking at me as if I were a foreign exchange student from Mars. I hopped up as if nothing happened. This simple, yet undesirable movement, caused blood to race through my body like a sanctioned NASCAR event. Waves of nausea and dizziness pounded my inner beach. James and Tony followed in silence.
My mind wandered, suddenly I was watching a Jerry Lewis movie as he walked into an air conditioner. This action caused him to fall like sun softened taffy. I chuckled - now that was funny! Suddenly I heard James and Tony bellowing a bull moose duet. They were laughing at ME - I couldn‘t blame them. We laughed until we cried, we laughed as people looked out their windows to see if there was a pack of coyotes loose in the neighborhood, and we continued to laugh as mothers rushed their children indoors.
James and Tony were my best of best friends that year. James and I signed up for a trial program in aviation, but when terms like ailerons, altimeter and G-force came up we became paratroopers. We had signed on to learn to fly, not to learn a new language.
Tony and I sang in the choir together and had many of the same interests. The biggest difference was that Tony grew up in a family that was ‘economically confident’. It was amazing to see all the things that he was couldn’t do because of his privileged status. When he played golf I was his caddy. When I stayed overnight at his house, I would do the family dishes while his parents were gone because he and his brother were arguing over who was actually responsible to cleanup.
We went different directions after that year. Yes, we were still friends but new friends made an appearance on life’s stage and that special bond of tenth grade loosened.
Many years have passed since our noon excursions in search of greasy food and perfect pinball. The paths that each of us followed have taken us far from the sidewalk to Dermer’s.
Friends come and go but God has promised to take care of us, “You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!” (Psalm 139:5-6 - NLT)
I think it’s possible God laughed with three teenagers who found humor in a close encounter with an air conditioner causing our collective funny bone to be tickled mercilessly.
After all this time, the memory still brings a feeling of humiliation that fights for equal time with a belly laugh. Do you think God might just understand? He suffered humiliation, and He listened as people said things both unkind and untrue. Yet I wonder if He might just be smiling right now or perhaps laughing in joy knowing that His greatest humiliation was the only thing that could make a difference for His friends?
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