Monday, September 23, 2019

Happy trails

It was an ordinary business trip for Howard last week. Up to North Jersey, consult with a customer or two, drive back on the NJ Turnpike and be home in time for dinner.

I got the phone call at about 5:15 p.m. Howard had just driven into our community, turned the corner toward our house when his car suddenly stopped.

It stopped.

No warning lights, no gradual shutting down, no coasting toward the curb.

Just stopped.

He called the dealership whose mechanics have cared for our cars for so long we've lost count of the years.

Have the car towed in as soon as you can, he was told. It would be checked out first thing in the morning.

Hours later, the car resting comfortably (and still quite dead) in the dealership lot, it hit me out of the blue.

What if that car had suddenly stopped, say in the middle lane of the NJ Turnpike, where cars routinely speed by at 75 or 80 miles an hour? I could envision a chain reaction crash involving as many cars as were behind him, or the cars he would have hit as he was being struck from behind.

Would he have survived? Questionable at best.

When the mechanics checked the car, they found that the fuse block, a piece of the car's equipment of which I'd never even heard, had burned and destroyed all the connections to the fuses that run the car... every function controlled by a fuse was stopped cold. They removed the burned-out fuse block and replaced it with a new one... there, problem solved.

Only it isn't. Not in my mind anyway.

There was no explanation of what caused the fuse block to burn out. Freak occurrence. Hardly ever see one of these. No idea why. Just one of those things when so much of what the car does is governed by electronics.

Gee, thanks.

The blame can't be laid on the make of the car or the model. As strong as was the inclination to leave it at the dealership and trade for a new one, in the long run it really wouldn't have mattered.

Nor would it have guaranteed the problem would never recur. Flukes are flukes. That's why they call them accidents.

So, a warning. Not that you can do anything to avoid the possibility that one day you may be riding along, listening to your favorite talk show, music play list or podcast when suddenly you stop.

It's the thing nightmares are made of.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Our 60th high school reunion

I recognized the first few people who walked in the door.

Funny, how after our high school graduation was 60 years ago, most faces look, if not exactly, much like they did then. Oh, there are some cosmetic differences... hair color change (a lot have gone to silver)... weight (most have gained, a few have lost). But I could walk down the Boardwalk in Atlantic City and recognize every one of my former classmates in a crowd.

There were only 62 of us to begin with. We have lost 12 to death and cannot locate three. There are a few who choose not to respond to invitations or announcements of events we plan, or who flatly refuse to attend, and I feel bad that they miss out on the warmth and genuine affection among us all.

We had 25 actual classmates attend the reunion on Saturday, September 24th, plus many spouses and significant others. Two of those at the party started school with us but moved, still maintaining affection for everyone and still coming to the reunions as if they had completed all four years with the rest of us.

Too many of our classmates who really wanted to attend could not be there due to illness. We remembered them and wished them well.

I wasn't what you would call popular in high school. I didn't have a very high opinion of myself and never felt that I fit in.

But I was academically successful and loved being part of the music programs, either as a pianist accompanist or as a vocalist. So, I was very much involved in the school.

And the reception I received from everyone who came to the party mirrored the way everyone was received... with love, hugs, smiles, laughter and reminiscences... kindness and friendliness, regardless of past history.

We were all members of the Class of 1959... we had memories in common: the teachers, the classes, the mischief, the seriousness and the sense that there was something good waiting for us someday when high school ended.

As Frank Anastasia said in his opening remarks as emcee, we were fortunate to have grown up with loving parents in the shelter of a small, South Jersey farming community (though some of us made the trip to Hammonton daily from Egg Harbor City where we grew up). We were naive, innocent and unaware that outside of our little corners of the world life wasn't as easy for many young people our age.

College, full-time jobs, marriage, whatever paths we chose after graduation changed all that. But we faced the world with a solid foundation of belief in ourselves and the knowledge that we were prepared to compete with anyone we encountered in the real world.

We will have another get-together soon. No way we will wait for the 70th... that's tempting fate. We are planning to meet to celebrate our joint 80th birthdays in two years, perhaps earlier in smaller groups with less organizing required. Everyone wants to do that. No one is content to call it a day at the 60th reunion.

That's how we relate to one another now and it's a joy to be part of it.