Friday, October 28, 2011

"Hold on to Your Penises!"

I'm going to tell you a story from way back in 1987 that I don't remember ever previously telling. (Of course, I could easily have forgotten past story-telling.) It's been 24 years, so some form of statute of limitations must be in place.

I haven't thought about this incident for many years, but for reasons that I cannot understand, John Steinbeck's return to San Francisco in Travels With Charley reminded me of this story.

It was the summer of 1987, I was 11 years old, and my immediate family and I were taking a 3-week trip up the coast of California up into Oregon and briefly into Washington. Unsurprisingly, one of the stops was San Francisco, which is where the incident occurred. Some of my family members and I were riding one of the trolley cars -- what are these things actually called? -- and some of the streets consisted of a serious of extremely steep hills. Even on some individual blocks, it seemed like we would go up at a 45 degree angle and then back at a 45 degree angle between consecutive street lights. The trolley was going pretty fast, and this proved to be a bit painful for a certain one of my appendages. Going fast downhill was particularly bothersome, and at some point I suppose I found that holding on to it eased the pain.

And I was a very helpful child. So when I saw a particularly steep descent coming imminently and I thought about the possible pain some of my fellow trolley-riders might be in if this caught them unaware, I decided that the prudent thing would be to warn them -- by saying the words in the title of this blog entry in a sharp, loud, insistent voice. I was only trying to help.

After my urgent words of warning, I remember an eruption of laughter coming from all around. But I could understand what was so funny. People were in urgent peril, and I was trying to prevent them from having to experience physical pain, because I knew that from my own painful experience.

I think it took me a couple of years to retrospectively figure out why people were laughing, and then I became retroactively embarrassed. (I don't remember anybody explaining this to me.) But it's been 24 years and I think it's a good story.

Anyway, I was only trying to help.


Lidarose said...

TOO Funny!!!! Thanks for sharing :-)

Mason said...

Sometimes the old stories are the best ones.

I guess I left my heart in San Francisco.