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Six-Year-Old Heroism - July 25, 2013

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Once when I was six years old, I was in the back seat of my mom's blue Toyota Corolla sedan as she ran errands. It was an overcast day, and I held one of my airplane Transformer toys up to the window and pretended it was flying.

Mom pulled into a bank, locking the doors and leaving me strapped in the back seat so she could run in, make a transaction and leave.

"I'll be just a couple minutes, Mike. OK?"

I dropped my toy on the seat. "But Mom -- "

"And after that" she said cutting me off, "I'll drop you off at your friend's house to play."

"No mom, you're in a handicapped spot!"

We both looked forward through the windshield, and sure enough, there was a reflective metal handicapped parking only sign attached to a concrete stanchion in front of the space.

"Eh, I'm already parked. Don't worry about it. I'll only be a minute or two." Before I could voice my disapproval of her plan, the driver's side door shut, the keys jingled outside the door and the locks bolted down in unison shortly after.

Gripped by anxiety, I watched her disappear through the bank's glass doors, and then the burden of our situation descended on me all at once. At some point before this incident took place, I had deduced that handicapped spaces were for mentally challenge people, as if they were all out driving cars around town with us normal folks.

*Oh man, this is bad. This is REAL bad. We're in a handicapped spot and we're not handicapped at all. We're really healthy and smart. What if a cop walks by and sees us here? This is against the law. We're criminals. He'll haul us both into jail for life. I can't let that happen. I have to take matters into my own hands here. I need to do it for both of us.*

After much internal conflict, I finally decided the ONLY WAY to ensure our freedom from the American legal system would be for me to pretend I was retarded until Mom got back to the car.

As a six year old boy, I knew very little about retarded people, so I combined several examples of special needs children who went to my elementary school, and used them as inspiration to create an improvisational fruit salad of retarded. I rolled my eyes back in my head and attempted to bite my own ear off as I repeatedly slammed both of my fists into my chest, attempting the classic "reap" motion. I made a conscious effort to conjure excessive saliva in my mouth, and let it cascade down my chin and dribble onto the front of my shirt.

A man in a blue and yellow striped polo shirt exited the bank and walked by my car, glancing at the entity in the back seat. Fearing he would contact the police and send my mother to some unforgiving Russian gulag, I turned my performance up a notch. *It's showtime, Mike.* I continued everything else, but added the stomping my feet on the floor of the car and a rhythmic grunt that can only be described as a car with alternator problems trying to start and a pelican's mating call. "REHHHH. REHHHH. REHHHH."

The man quickly averted his gaze, picked up his pace and half ran/half walked to his car in the parking lot. I breathed a sigh of relief. *Good. That was good. You're getting the hang of -- *

My thoughts broke off as a woman in a grey business suit with overly padded shoulders and her hair in a bun stepped through the doors of the bank and advanced toward our blue Corolla. My heart began to race. As she got closer, I panicked and over-amplified my acting. My tongue lolled out of my mouth like a panting collie as I smeared the saliva still dripping from my chin (you'd be surprised at how hard it is to will enough spit into your mouth to do this) all over the right-rear passenger window. "REHHHH. REHHHH. REHHHH" was replaced with a garbled Gerber Baby cooing mixed with an inquisitive inflection, as if I was trying to ask the woman a question with a mouth full of Legos. "AHHHHH AHHHHHGGHHHHH?! AHHHHH AHHHHHGGHHHHH?!"

The business woman turned to the car, saw the saliva drenched whirlwind spinning out of control in the unsupervised interior of Mom's car, and instead of awkwardly fleeing like the last adult, decided to wave to me.

"Hello, little guy!" She smiled and looked me right in the eye, freezing my performance in its tracks. It was everything I feared the minute I realized where Mom parked. This woman was going to realize I wasn't actually retarded, and Mom and I would be in handcuffs going to prison ten minutes after that. That's how it worked, right? *I can't let that happen. I can't let that happen. I can't -- *

"AAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOGGGGGGGGAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!" Almost as if my body took over the control panels that ran my motor skills when my brain cut out, I bellowed my impression of an old-timey car horn and waved back, smearing more saliva on the window, and followed it up with a toothy, crooked smile.

Just as her smile widened and I realized I'd saved the day again, I heard the jingle of Mom's keys and the clump of the driver's door opening.

"MICHAEL, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!" She had left her perfectly normal son in the back seat of her car for four minutes, and came back to a flailing, drool saturated special needs child having some kind of heart-to-heart with a Good Samaritan from the back seat of her car.

"I HAD TO MOM! YOU PARKED IN THE BAD SPOT! WE WOULD HAVE GONE TO JAIL IF I DIDN'T PRETEND I WAS HANDICAPPED!"

"NO WE WOULDN'T HAVE! I WOULD HAVE JUST GOTTEN A TICKET, THAT'S ALL! AND HANDICAPPED SPOTS ARE FOR PEOPLE WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES, NOT MENTAL ONES!"

"...oh."

Mom sighed, started the car and began backing out of the parking spot. The woman in the business suit, locked into position by conflicting feelings of confusion, anger and disbelief, stood there and watched us drive away.

Posted by KungFu Mike at 8:01 AM

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