■ David Porter / Contributed
Somebody asked me the other day: What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done? I had to think hard because that’s a lot of material to cover.
I’m pretty sure the stupidest thing has yet to come, but I got to thinking — pretty much every stupid thing I’ve done in the 24 years I’ve been writing this column, I’ve already shared. And why do I share the stupid things I’ve done? I dunno. Maybe that’s the stupidest thing.
I tried to think whether there is anything I’ve done that I haven’t shared. So, I drove down to the memory warehouse. That’s where I keep all this stuff.
The memory warehouse is a four-story concrete block building, not counting the two stories below ground. It has a gate in the front where you punch in a code and the iron doors swing open. Once inside the building, there’s a large hallway on the first floor that leads to a dozen rooms. And in each room are 30 or so large filing cabinets — the four-drawer metal kind. Each cabinet drawer is overstuffed with files.
Each of the floors in the building has the same setup — long hallway and a bunch of rooms that each house 30 or so overfilled filing cabinets. And this building is only for the stupid stuff I’ve done.
The brilliant stuff is kept in another building. It’s a much smaller structure. One room. One filing cabinet. Just two drawers, and one of them is empty. I only go there when I have something brilliant to file. Needless to say, I haven’t been there in years.
But the stupid warehouse is like a home away from home. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. After all, how could anyone be that stupid? Let me tell you. Stupid covers a lot of ground; it depends on how you define it.
There are stupid things I’ve said to people. That fills a whole room. Stupid ideas I’ve had take up another space. Then there are the physically stupid things, like times I could have killed myself or when I have brained myself being careless.
So why do I keep all these things hidden away in the memory warehouse? I would say it’s so I can review all the bad decisions I’ve made in my life in order to not repeat them. But that’s a farce. There’s a whole ’nuther room devoted just to stupid things I did again.”
Just glance at the index cards and you’ll see things like the time I was 16 and tried to see how fast my mother’s car would go, which turned into a drag race at 110 mph. Then there’s the doing donuts incident, same car, different day, where I almost parked the vehicle inside the school cafeteria. Oh, here’s an oldie — the time I was 10 and climbed a rope up to the catwalk under a bridge that was 40 feet in the air.
That wasn’t the stupidest thing ever, but it’s on the list. I remember I was with my pal Eric, and it was just too tempting to reach the ladder that led to the catwalk. There was a rope tied to the bottom rung of the metal ladder, which was attached to the concrete wall of the bridge. But neither one of us could reach the rope, let alone the ladder.
So, we stacked our bikes on top of each other and Eric stood on top of the bikes. I stood on Eric’s shoulders and then could barely reach the end of the rope. The thin rope was knotted about every foot, so I was able to climb it to the ladder. Pretty soon, I was crawling around on the boards that formed a scaffold under the bridge. It was all fun and games till one of the boards gave way. Only then did the thought occur to me: This is stupid.
Continuing with the index cards, I see there’s a whole room devoted to stupid things I’ve done with firecrackers. It’s kind of amazing that I still have all my fingers. You cannot underestimate how stupid a kid with a firecracker can be.
So why do I keep all these things hidden away in the memory warehouse? I would say it’s so I can review all the bad decisions I’ve made in my life in order to not repeat them. But that’s a farce. There’s a whole ’nuther room devoted just to stupid things I did again.
I suppose I’ve kept them so I could reference them when raising my own kids — so I would recognize stupid things they were about to do, and I could share with them the probable outcomes so they would learn from my mistakes. However altruistic that concept is, my kids were always bent on making their own mistakes.
Really, I can’t say that I’ve “kept” these things as much as they’ve kept me. All of the things we do and say become part of us. They shape us and build us for better or for worse.
I gave up searching for the stupidest thing I’ve done. I exited the warehouse and closed and locked the door behind me. There are just way too many files to rank them.
It doesn’t matter, anyway. All that stuff is behind me, ancient history. Until the next stupid thing I do. That’ll be any minute now.
Copyright 2017 by David Porter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In my defense, I have done some pretty cool things, too. It’s just a much shorter list.