Friday, June 04, 2004

Ped Xing

When I was a teenager, one of my father's favorite things to say to me was, "How can someone so smart be so stupid?" It really wasn't as cruel as it might sound because, well, I can be. Stupid, that is.

Yesterday morning, I regaled my mother with various things I did as a kid that fell into that category. There were a few that she'd never heard. She asked me to repeat them over dinner last night, so my boyfriend could delight in my dorky stupidity, and the three of us laughed ourselves silly waiting for dessert. They may not translate well to the written word because you'd probably have to know my father and his particular exasperated inflection, but if you'd like to know the depths of my stupidity, here goes:

1) As a kid (thankfully, not a teen but honestly older than I should have been to believe this), I thought every song I heard on the radio was being performed live in the studio of the AM radio station in my small town. It was a station where my mother had worked at one time, so I was familiar with the facility. When I heard the songs on the radio, I visualized the studio space at the station filled with world-famous musicians and their gear, playing live. So I might be sitting in my grandmother's kitchen listening to our local AM station and marvel over the fact that the Rolling Stones were playing there, followed moments later by the Beatles. Aside from a really impressive logistical feat, this also seemed to me to be something the townsfolk had agreed to keep quiet. Because there were never any items in the paper about the bands being in town, nor did anyone ever mention or discuss it, which only added to the mysterious nature of this occurrence for me.

2) Let me preface this one by saying that although our town was basically halfway between Portland and San Francisco, most everyone we knew went to San Francisco when they wanted to go to "the city." It was a place I'd been quite a few times. One day when I was in HIGH SCHOOL, I was sitting in the living room with my Dad when something triggered a memory for him and he started telling me about taking a road trip to San Francisco with his family when he was a young boy. He said something about "before the bridge was there." I said, "What?! What do you mean 'before the bridge was there'?" And my schoolteacher father looked at me and said, "What, did you think it was just always there?! Did you think God created it on the 8th day?!" And I realized in that moment that, well, yes I guess I had thought that. At that point, he had to excuse himself from the room...

3) I learned to read quite young. I point this out so that you'll know that this next one haunted me for years, because I'd been reading the signs for years. The signs I'm referring to were the yellow ones that seemed to crop up everywhere on the roadsides that said "Ped Xing." And in my head, I pronounced it "zing"...the same X sound one uses to pronounce xylophone. I'd sit in the backseat of our Ford Fairlane and look out the window on Sunday drives and think, "Who or what is 'Ped Zing'?" It drove me crazy...for YEARS. But I was too embarrassed to ask anyone because I assumed everyone else knew what it was, because no one ever mentioned it. I thought it was some kind of code that only I wasn't privy to. Finally, one day I couldn't stand it any longer. Again, in HIGH SCHOOL (it must have been before I took my driving test), I finally asked my Dad, "What's Ped Zing?" He looked out me like I was an alien and said, "What? What's what? What are you saying?" I said, "Those yellow signs all over town that say 'Ped Zing." He looked momentarily stumped and then realized what I was referring to. He gave me a world-class eyeroll, said "Pedestrian CROSSING!" and got this strange look on his face that I'm sure meant that he was now convinced they'd switched babies at the hospital.


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