Thursday, October 2, 2008

No Ducks Were Harmed in the Writing of This Post

People do stupid things. Let's face it. There's no denying it. I'm pretty sure that we can all agree on that.

We can also agree, I'm sure, on the fact that you are a person. Unless you're a government trained chimp learning to read blogs so you can assimilate into our society, in which case, leave me alone G-monkey. Everyone else is probably a person. Therefore, you have likely done something stupid. The variation, of course, is the degree of our stupidity.

Sometimes it's as simple as a stupid comment slipping out of your mouth, like this one that haunts me to this day from my first day in the dorms at a "get to know the other people on the floor" meeting.

RA - "So, Mike, do you think there are any pretty girls on our floor?"

Mike (in front of the whole floor) - "Oh yeah, and Stan (my new
roommate) is two of them."

What the hell did that mean? It sounded funny in my head before I said it, but when it came out of my mouth, I immediately wished I could grab those words out of the air and cram them back in my cramhole. I thought about making a cross dressing joke at Stan's
expense, but, this was my bed to lie in. Everyone else seemed to think that what I said was pretty stupid as well, evidenced by all the very uncomfortable chuckles and a whole bunch of weird stares. Other than that, all I got was a guarantee that I would not see a single girl from my floor naked that year. College started off with a bang.

Sometimes, the stupid things we do are more pronounced and have a greater impact, as well as bigger repercussions. "Oh, that was dumb, perhaps I shouldn't have stuck that fireplace poker through my step-mom's chest. Stupid stupid stupid. Why do I do these idiotic things?"

The stupidest thing I ever did was somewhere in between those two.

Back in my high school days, my friends and I caused a little bit of trouble. Never really bad stuff, no one ever died, and only one trip to the hospital was ever made, but being model citizens bored us. Somewhere down the line one of us must have come up with the goal to be included in the weird crimes section of the newspaper, because the stupid things we did were ... well, really really stupid.

There were several of our escapades that could easily make a top ten list, such as pulling over on the side of the road and tossing one of those orange blinky saw horse construction zone things into the car. For some reason we thought it'd be cool to have one. We didn't think the whole thing through, and our crime became very apparent as we
drove down one of the busiest streets in town, the backseat of the car glowing and flashing orange.

That was probably topped on the stupidity scale by the time we found a discarded kitchen sink, filled the back seat of the car with other randomly odd items, and drove around hoping to get pulled over so we could hear a cop say, "You've got everything, including the kitchen sink in there." We did. He did. He let us off.

We also got away with doing doughnuts in the middle of a corn field, even though there were corn stalks sticking out of the car’s front grill, removing all the flags from the local golf course and reinstalling them in strategic places throughout my friend Jerry’s house, sinking a stolen shopping cart in our buddy's pool, filling a neighbor's hot tub with laundry detergent, and "TPing" a friend's girlfriend's house with nearly 10,000 "found" shoelaces.

All of those pale in comparison to the dumbest thing we ever did. We decided to steal a duck crossing sign. Why? I have no idea. We must have thought it would look good hanging on one of our walls. There was just something about the silhouette of that mama duck and the tree little baby ducks that simply screamed out, “I got to have that.”

Our plan was simple. We found three potential Duck Crossing Signs to take. One near an apartment complex, one along a shopping plaza, and one in the middle of a subdivision. Each of them had their difficulties, so we weighed our options. It was decided that sign number two would be the easiest. It was in the parkway, adjacent to a mid-sized strip mall. Even though it was just a block off of a main street, in a high traffic area, we thought it was our best option because it wasn’t in a residential area. I mean, who would be hanging out in the Office Depot parking lot in the middle of the night? It would still be complicated, but we were up to the task. Of course, we were stupid.

It was decided that my pal Owen and I would do the deed. Matt, the Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes of the group (an insult I just don't get – don’t most people have two shoes?), would
drive the get away car.

Owen packed his socket set, just in case the bolts were different sized and we were off. Of course, we waited until the middle of the night when the cover of darkness, the lack of traffic, and those stores being closed would increase our probability of success. Matt
dropped us off and drove away.

This was to be a quick mission. Owen was taller, so he'd remove the top bolt. At the same time, I'd loosen the lower one. By the time Matt circled the block, we'd be ready to throw the sign in the trunk, jump in, and speed off. All plans have kinks though. Kink number one was that we could barely reach the bottom bolt, and the the top one was a good two feet beyond our outstretched arms.

We looked around, Owen humming the theme to Mission: Impossible. There, about fifty yards away, was the nicely done landscaping for the shopping center. Whoever did that did an excellent job. A little area filled with trees and bushes, mulch, all of it surrounded by a small retaining wall made up of bowling ball sized rocks. The rocks, probably about two of them when stacked next to the pole, would be about perfect for helping us reach that pesky top bolt.

Snafu number two. Those rocks, well, they were as heavy as... really heavy rocks. I tried to lift one, but when my eyes almost popped out of my head from the strain, I realized I was looking at a recipe for Insta-Hernia. We were going to each grab a stone and haul it over to the sign, but it took both of us to even budge one. Slowly, we lugged the rocks into place, Owen, all the while, humming the theme to The Flintstones.

Meanwhile, Matt had been driving in circles around the area to avoid the suspicion of a car parked in the shopping center lot in the middle of the night. He checked back on us, saw us messing around with rocks, and was confused. Figuring we’d be ready to go by now, he started to get nervous and instead of continuing around and around the commercial areas, he took a quick turn into an apartment complex and cruised around in there for a while.

Before too long, (thank God or my arms would have fallen off) we got both rocks in place. Owen got the bottom bolt off. Seeing as how he was balancing on top of a round stone that was balancing on top of another round stone, he was rocking back and forth, teetering a little, then tottering a tad. I tried to hold him steady, but there was nothing we could do. This incident with the rocks was slowing down our initial plan so much that we should have just called it quits and re-planned our caper. Did I happen to mention that we were stupid?

I was acting as lookout. At first, we didn't think we'd need a lookout, but the turtle pace of our scheme was keeping us exposed longer than we'd intended. Pretty soon, I had two things to say to Owen. "Lookout," and "Who in the world goes jogging at two o' clock
in the morning?"

Owen jumped down off the rock tower as fitness boy rounded the corner. He slyly shoved the wrench into his pocket and started humming the theme to Sanford and Son. I have no idea what significance that had.

As Mr. Ankle Weights passed, we exchanged pleasantries, as anyone would do when they encounter a stranger in the dark during the wee hours of the morning while he’s trying to keep his heart rate up and your plotting the demise of street crossing ducks everywhere.

As soon as Johnny Sweatbands was out of sight, Owen climbed back up, speedily spun that top bolt, and let the sign fall into the grass.

Suddenly, three cars in a row came down the street, their headlights shining right in our eyes. It’s hard not to look guilty when you are in fact incredibly guilty and your plan has gone kaput and your standing in the grass in the middle of the night next to an empty post and a road sign lying on the ground, so we probably looked pretty guilty. Panic took over. We started to walk away, in the direction that Matt would be coming from. Mission aborted.

I know what you’re thinking, “wise decision,” right? Haven’t you been paying attention? We were stupid. That’s the theme of this whole thing. Do you actually think we just walked away?

Matt swung out of the apartment parking lot, we jumped in, and took off.

We drove around aimlessly for the next hour or so. Kicking ourselves for not finishing the job. Upset that we were so close, but did not taste the sweet cigar. We decided to go back. We'd be cautious though. All we'd do is cruise down the street, pull into the shopping center, and take a lap or two to see how clear the coast was.

That's exactly what we did. Only, just as we pulled into the parking lot, a cop car pulled in behind us. We continued to drive along the storefronts, Matt started to freak out a little more than we'd have liked. The lot was empty, none of the stores had been open for hours, but there we were, being tailed by the police into a deserted mini-mall. Why were we in there? Why did we go back? What would our excuse be when those rollers started flashing?

Matt, good little citizen that he is, kept to the posted speed limit of 10 miles per hour, which made the whole event seem surreal, like a slo-mo action movie scene. He even stopped at all twelve of the little parking lot stop signs that most people don't even abide by during the day unless some old lady wanders out of the Honey Baked Ham store (yes, this mall had a whole store devoted to the heaven that is the honey baked ham) and into the road, Johnny Law right behind us at each and every one.

Then it happened. At the last stop sign, almost out onto the main road, the flashing lights went off. Since we were mid-speed bump, cruising along at a whopping seven miles an hour at that point, it really didn't take that much effort to pull over.

The cop strolled up to Matt's window and shined his ridiculously bright light into each of our faces. He seemed a bit jittery and nervous. "What are you guys doing out here so late at night?" He asked.

A fair question, but luckily our speedy lap through the parking lot gave us enough time to get our stories straight. "We're supposed to meet a friend here," Matt answered, doing a really good job at faking the calm, the cool, and the collected.

"Oh yeah, whose your friend?" Coppy Copperson asked, sure he was about to trip us up.

"Jerry," we answered in such perfect unison that I couldn't help but chuckle.

"Jerry who?"

"Schmutz," all together now, like a three man barbershop quartet. Come on, who could make up a name like that? He had to believe this story.

A couple more cop cars pulled up behind us and suddenly Barney Fife had his groove back. With a new found sense of confidence, he started in with the hard core interrogation tactics.

"Well, how long have you been waiting for your friend?"

Matt took this one on his own. He was in the driver's seat, so the questions seemed to be directed at him. Barney must have sensed Matt's weakness. "We just pulled in here right before you."

Coppy didn't buy it. He informed us that he had a witness that had seen us up to no good. Owen and I silently cursed fitness boy, assuming that he was the narc. Matt held strong.

The cop continued. "Don't make me go get the witness, guys. That will just make this
whole process worse."

As this game went on, Owen and I started to get the impression that the cop was bluffing us. We sensed that there was no witness. Good little Fitness Boy had minded his own business. The cop hadn't actually seen us doing anything, therefore had to get us to confess to something. No way. We wouldn't do it. We would never fall for such trickery.

"Come on guys, make it easy on yourselves, just tell me what you were doing."

"Ok, Ok," Matt started, falling for the trickery.

"Noooooooooooo," Owen and I shouted, in slow motion, inside our heads.

"We were stealing the duck crossing sign."

"You were what?" a very confused Deputy Fife asked.

"We were stealing the duck crossing sign," Matt repeated.

"Why would you do that?" the cop, who, on the off chance that we actually had been no good fired a lone warning shot into the dark cold night hoping to hit something. It was so obvious to Owen and I that he had no idea what we'd been up to, but that lone shot hit Matt square in the face.

"We're a bunch of idiots," Matt confessed, nearly in tears.

"OK. Hold on," the cop said, wandering away to chat with his cop buddies.

A minute or two later, after Owen and I had soundly chastised Matt for his cowardice and stupidity, the cop and his pals strolled back to the window.

"Now, what did you guys do?"

Matt launched back into the whole story and a group of highly entertained officers of the law stood there riveted. By then, we had seven cop cars attending to us.

They were all a bit surprised by Matt's confession, seeing as how they'd been called because some old woman had seen Matt's car circling around her apartment building for almost an hour. She was concerned that he was casing the joint for a robbery.

Eventually, they had us lead them back to the other side of the lot and show them the sign. Once they saw the sign on the ground, they pulled us out of Matt's hatchback and frisked us. I had nothing to hide but a wrench in my pocket, but since Matt had already confessed for us, there was no reason to worry about that. I'd completely forgotten, until Officer Friendly found it, that I had a little GI Joe figure backpack sound effects doohicky in my jacket. The cop got a little concerned about the unidentifiable lump in my pocket and pulled it out. Confuddled, he pressed the little buttons to hear laser beam
and hand grenade noises. At the same time, on the other side of the car, laser beams echoed back at us. I looked up to see that another slightly confused policeman had found Owen's noise maker. "What, do you guys communicate with these things or something?" cop number two asked.

Also in Owen's pocket, the cop found the bolts to the sign. Owen smiled in his Oweny sort of way and asked the cops if we could just put the sign back up and forget about the whole thing. They liked half that idea and pretty soon Owen was back up there, teetering on the rock pile to fasten the bolts. They didn't seem to care for the forget about the whole thing part of our proposition.

Later, at the police station, the three of us sat there quietly while a group of officers debated what they should charge us with. They only seemed mildly amused when Owen kept wandering over into their conversation and requesting that no matter what we were charged with that the word "duck" was some how included on the citation.

While filling out the paperwork for our "removal of traffic control signals" ticket, one of the cops asked Matt what his license plate number was. Too distraught to recall his own name at this point, Matt blanked. His car was parked out front, so the officer at the desk
used a little joy stick to maneuver a security camera to get a better look. He couldn't seem to get the right angle from any of the cameras he tried, so Owen offered to give it a shot. They said no, so he ran.

The cops started to scramble after him, but somehow, through my power of persuasion, I told them to stop and wait. This was Owen they were dealing with, he wasn't going to go all fugitive on them, he really wanted a ticket with the word "duck" on it, and he wouldn't leave without it.

Camera cop spun his eyes in the sky around, trying to pick up Owen on his monitor. Pretty soon he did, and there he was standing in front of Matt's car, reading the license plate number. Then, because he's Owen and that's what he does, he looked back at the building. Watching him on the monitor, you could see his eyes dart around to find the same camera the officer had been using, and once he did, he began to do what he calls "The Cantaloupe in Heat" dance, which consists of waving your arms about
like a slow motion stork and hopping from one foot to the other while bringing your knees almost up to your armpits. There's sound effects too, but I can't even begin to explain them. It's actually quite a sight. He used to do it all the time, but now he only pulls out the cantaloupe at weddings when the bride asks for it. Believe me, it's always requested.

The cops didn't quite know what to make of this sight, but I was loving it. The longer he did it, the funnier it got to the room full of lawmen. I took a shot and asked if the entertainment that is Owen could serve as payment for any fine they were going to hit us with. They found that funny too.

It took some time, but eventually they gave us our tickets and sent us on our way. We got a few laughs again when the court date came, but when we were told exactly how much our fine would be, there was no more ha ha. We'd learned our lessons. We were all reformed. Each of us is now completely pro-fowl. Never again would we interfere with a duck's ability to safely cross the street.

Still, I can’t help but think one of those signs would look good above my fireplace.

If you think the ducks are funny, give 'em a vote at


Drunken Dragon said...

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Bee said...

Uuhhh... I think dragons shouldn't spam while drunk!