The holiday crash heard 'round the Twin Ports
I'd like to take you back to a more innocent time, a time before internet trolls, flash mobs or Michael Bay films. The phones were still rotary and Republican presidential debates came without a parental advisory.
Television had only three major stations, plus PBS, the "sometimes y" of networks. Schools had no metal detectors, and the only drug that parents gave their kids was sugar, often in the form of a breakfast cereal or perhaps a Flintstone-shaped "vitamin."
It is into this miasma that I attended first grade and was forced to participate in a local Xmas choir show. In those days, atheists like myself never requested deferments from such duties, because it never dawned on us to be crybabies. Unless, of course, Santa brought us the wrong stupid Bobba Fett action figure.
I was singled out for a particularly choice duty: I was to light the candle in the fireplace during "Silent Night." And by "candle" I mean "turning on a light bulb," because even then teachers weren't stupid enough to trust me with actual flame.
The show was to be broadcast on a local radio station, as it was the 1970s and there were no shock jocks to entertain us by making fun of cripples.
During rehearsal, everything went without a hitch. The choir began to sing, I stepped off the riser to a makeshift fireplace, turned on a switch in the back to light the "candle," and returned to my spot on stage, basking in a glory not experienced since the time I brought my Hot Wheels to show and tell.
During the actual broadcast, however, there was a bit of a snafu. As the auditorium watched and the radio spat our warbling to the world, I stepped off the riser and had a feeling of impending doom, like the time at the fair when I realized I was about to barf on the Tilt-a-Whirl.
It turned out that no one had thought to leave enough room for me to reach the light switch behind the fireplace. I was looking at a narrow passageway just inches wide between the fireplace and the bleachers, a passage so narrow that Twiggy couldn't pass through without sucking in her gut.
I started to approach the fireplace from the other direction but found that area covered in cables and extension cords. Try to image a closet floor full of wire hangers or of several knotted, old-fashioned telephone cords. And then imagine that those things mated and reproduced like rabbits, and that's the foot-tangling quagmire that lay before me.
The idea of tripping over those cords in front of a large audience was terrifying, so I did the only logical thing: I tried to squeeze through an area that was half my circumference. And then I promptly toppled the fireplace to the gymnasium floor.
If you were listening to the radio that morning — or like me, you listened to the re-broadcast, because one humiliation wasn't enough — you would have heard this:
"Siiiii-ilent Niiiiiiight ... "
My only saving grace is that this happened in an era before cell phones and YouTube. Sure, we didn't have cable TV or video games more sophisticated than "Pong," but I'm glad I grew up in a time when the closest thing to a "viral video" was getting sick from watching too much Scooby-Doo.