Disaster can be our own making

If you have been visiting us, don’t leave without driving over the Butt Memorial Bridge, named for Maj. Archibald Butt, one of the heroes of the Titanic. If you’re a resident, don’t miss the many TV programs in the coming days about the famous sea disaster that took place 100 years ago this Saturday and Sunday.


Not all disasters are as, well, titanic as the luxury liner-iceberg bout of 1912. They threaten us every day, often on a personal level and often because we fall asleep at the wheel of life.

Think back, and you will remember a few times that could have channeled your life into dire straits. (If, on the other hand, you are locked up as you read this, you certainly know what I’m talking about.)

High school alone just about sidelined me. There was the night, for instance, when an officer pulled over my car, which was full of teenage boys with rifles and shotguns, sighed and said, “Boys, just what do you think you’re up to?”

After we breathlessly explained to him that we were tracking down a gorilla-like creature that had chased some friends’ car at 40 mph, he told us to go home and put away the guns. (In the old days in a small town, the police knew we were just being boys, not felons.)

Instead of listening, we drove into the woods around the rock quarry and shot up the place in search of Bigfoot (before any of us had even heard of Bigfoot).

The night could have been a really big mess, because we found out later that moonshiners plied their trade in those woods.

Last month, I read about 19 high school students in Atlanta being charged with painting “Seniors 2012” on their school. Shame on those thoughtless vandals.

On the other hand, I did the same sort of thing, sort of. I got caught, but I didn’t get arrested. I got worse.

For weeks before graduation, a group of us seniors planned to paint “Class of 1912” (or thereabouts; it was a long time ago) at school.

When I got off work at the supermarket the night of the escapade, though, I first cruised a circuit of the town’s three hamburger joints, which was what teens did back then.

I encountered an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages, and we got to talking. Other people pulled up and got into our car, and we cruised the drive-ins again and chased girls.

The next day at school, I noticed all the “Class of 1912” markings and remembered what I had forgotten the night before. Oops.

Somebody let it out that I had been in on the plans, and I was pulled out of class by the football coach, an oak of a man who wielded a long, thick leather strap that was used for administering corporal punishment.

I don’t remember past the first whack because of the pain, but jail would have been preferable at the time.

I was lucky not to get shot or arrested while growing up. I actually learned some lessons, so let my stupidity guide you.

Guns and spray paint are icebergs lurking in your path. Steer clear.