December 3, 2020 – Rebel Without a Cause

I got yelled at today. I hate getting yelled at. It makes me feel like a child. But I brought it on myself. I insisted on walking down a trail with my dog even though it said the trail was closed. It actually said ‘Road Closed’ but that’s beside the point. I saw the sign but I walked right past it and then I came upon a work crew for a tree company. The first guy I encountered pointed back towards the trail entrance and shouted, “Didn’t you see the sign??!! It said ‘Road Closed’!!” He then proceeded to lecture me until I finally turned around, red in the face, and went the other way. I felt really dumb and ashamed but worst of all, I felt like a hypocrite. I’m always telling people to ‘read the signs’ and yet I don’t even follow my own advice apparently. And I wish I could say it’s the only time I’ve been yelled at, but it’s not. And I can assure you, it WILL happen again. What is that all about anyway? Does my brain short-circuit when I’m advised NOT to do something? You’re telling me I cannot do such-and-such? Hmmm. “Zap!” goes my brain. You can almost see the puff of smoke come out of my ears. “I think I’m going to take that as a challenge. I bet I will find a way. Just give me a minute.” It’s the most bizarre thing!

Tell me I cannot cross the river, I will find a way. Say I cannot do something? Let me prove you wrong. You don’t want me to play in the construction zone? I don’t know, that half-built house looks awfully tempting and I’m pretty sure I can scale the fence! I’m not even sure where the origin is for this need to ‘break or challenge the rules’ but it’s burrowed down deep, deep enough where it is as much a part of my being as all the rest of my characteristics. Curiosity or the need to prove a point always gets the better of me. Did it come from having so many siblings telling me what I could and could not do? “You cannot do that!” I was often told. “Watch me!” is what usually went through my head. And all these years later, I’m still thumbing my nose at authority, still refusing to color inside the lines, still refusing to completely submit when I am told, “No”. Honestly, I’m no better than the knucklehead that drove down my street the other day and ended up in the canal along with his truck. He must be another ‘rebel without a cause’. The sign says ‘left only’? Hmmm. Maybe I’d better turn right and check, just in case. Oops!

That’s me! I’m that person that will pull into a parking lot and walk up to a store and check the door even after I’ve checked the website and it says the store is closed and there’s an actual sign on the door that says it’s closed and I’ve already watched three other people walk up to the store, look at the sign, and return to their vehicles. It’s like a sickness. Maybe when I check the door, it’ll be open? Nope, not this time! And there have been other times when I try to order take-out from a restaurant and one website will say it’s open while another says it’s closed. Which one’s right? I will call and the phone will ring and ring and ring. I will then hang up and call the number again. Fifty rings later, still no answer. “But it says they’re open, at least on one of the websites. Why isn’t anyone answering the phone?!” You know why no one has answered the phone? Because they’re closed. How do I know that? Because after I gave up calling, I drove all the way to the restaurant to verify because maybe they were just too busy to answer because they’re short staffed or maybe they muted the phones and forgot to unmute them or maybe their phone system is actually down?

Oy vey. I did the same thing when I was a kid. When I’d see signs that would say ‘No Trespassing’, ‘No Admittance’ or ‘Adults Only’, you might as well have changed the ‘No’ to a ‘Yes’. Yes! Trespass. Yes! Come on in. Yes! If you’re under 18, welcome, make yourself at home!! I guess in my mind, they’re more like a guideline than a hard-and-fast-rule. You don’t want me to trespass? Hmmm. I wasn’t going to, but now I feel like I have to because what is it that you’ve got ‘secreted away’ up on that mountain? Are you hiding something? Oh, I see. Now you’re telling me I can’t come in? There’s a reason the sign says ‘No Admittance’? I beg to differ, Sir. You’ve got to do better than that, otherwise, I’m going to find a way. I feel compelled to come in now because you just told me I couldn’t. Oh, I see. Now you’re telling me I cannot swim here? Why not? The alligators seem to be having a grand old time. Why can’t I? I’m hot and the water’s cool. What’s the big deal?

Those poor teenagers (and other folks) that work after school at the movie theaters? I gave them a run for their money when I was a kid. You’re telling me I cannot buy a ticket to see ‘Cujo’? I have to be at least 17 years of age? Ok. How about I buy a ticket to see ‘Snow White’? Fantastic! Once I got that hot little ticket in my hand, I would nonchalantly walk past the door to the room/theater playing ‘Snow White’ and continue on until I reached the room/theater playing ‘Cujo’ and then make a run for it. They always managed to catch me though! It didn’t matter how low I got in the seat, they’d traverse the theater, one row at a time, until they’d reach my row and shine the flashlight directly in my face. Busted! The pool hall, however, was a different story. My older brother Clover loved to play pool and I generally tagged along with him wherever he went. The folks that ran the pool hall weren’t supposed to admit minors but they let us have the run of the place. It was one of the few establishments that treated signs as I did, that they were more like ‘guidelines’ and less like ‘hard-and-fast-rules’.

When I see a sign that says ‘Trail Closed’ or ‘Road Closed’, something inside of my brain pops, almost like a circuit breaker. Are they bluffing or is there real danger there or did the road crew just forget to take the sign down? I have to investigate. When I’m driving, I’m less likely to ‘explore’ because of the consequences. Roads can suddenly ‘drop off’ or there can be slides that obscure them or they can even be underwater. But that doesn’t mean I always follow the detour (like all of the other law-abiding citizens driving cars ahead of me). I really, seriously, don’t understand it. I did it a few years ago when I went to Arizona. I had flown out via Southwest Airlines with my mom and rented a car. Once we loaded up the car and got situated, I put the address of where we were staying into the GPS and we went on our merry way. At some point, I noticed a bunch of flashing lights ahead and saw some barriers up. Apparently, there had been an accident in the intersection. Off in the distance, I could see a cop trying to guide the traffic to the right. My brain just couldn’t grasp it. What’s going to happen if I turn to the right? The GPS says to go straight. I need to go straight!! I couldn’t will myself to turn right, no matter how hard I tried.

What did I do? I stayed in the middle lane until I almost reached the barrier and then I jerked the steering wheel to the left at the last minute and pulled into a trailer park. When I realized there was no way out other than through where I entered, I turned around. And when I pulled back onto the street, I noticed a very pissed off cop approaching my car. I saw his mouth moving so I lowered the window. “I saw what you did!!” he screamed at me. “I need to cross the street.” I told him calmly. “NO!” he shouted. “I tried to direct you across the street and you refused. Now you can figure it out on your own!” And he stood in such a way to prevent me from directly crossing the street and forced me to turn right, back where I came from. Wow. I’ve got to say. That was pretty intense. It really shook me up. But as I’ve said before, sometimes it’s as if my brain short-circuits when I’m on a path and there’s a detour of some sort. I go into a weird panic and sometimes do some idiotic things. That was definitely one of my most memorable. Anytime there’s a cop involved, the memory has a tendency to get lodged in my gray matter. I’ve got a few other ‘cop’ stories but I’ll save those for another day.

The interesting thing is that I see this same behavior in my own kids. I don’t know if it’s because of the example I set for them or it’s due to how they were ‘put together’ when they were forming in my uterus. Nature or nurture? I haven’t the slightest! All I know is that as much as I try, a part of me has to rebel. It’s no wonder I wasn’t suitable for the military. And how I’ve made it this far is also pretty amazing! I’ve gotten myself into some real predicaments but somehow have managed to survive. So maybe instead of telling you to ‘read the signs’ and ‘follow the signs’, I should tell you this instead, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Got it? Good. However, if you’re anything like me, you’re still going to continue to ‘break the rules’ despite my warnings. I totally get it. Say no more! You want to act like James Dean? Just know that you’re bound to get yelled at from time to time. You don’t care? Cool. Stay put, would you? I need a boost to get over the fence. I’m not as agile as I used to be.

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