I wrote an article recently about "signs" - the intuitive sort. As I said they are all around us all the time if you just pay attention. The ones we tend to take for granted and overlook are the most important of all. You know, the mysterious ones, nagging at us to warn us of things to come.
I'll admit, we were not much different than the next person, thinking that you have to be careful not to get too bent out of shape over such silly happenstance. However, when they come at you hard and fast in unfortunate but humorous ways (at least now, looking back) it left us asking ourselves - WHY THE HELL DIDN'T WE LISTEN?
For instance, when my husband and I first married he was invited for an interview at a company down in North Carolina. Mind you this was 25 years ago. Things were a bit different back then. The area was not as highly developed as it is these days. Being young, with an opportunity to go off on our own, buy our first home and establish ourselves in a new place was very enticing. So without further ado, we flew down to check the opportunity out.
SIGN NUMBER 1
The first sign occurred during the flight down there. It had been smooth sailing until we reached the Tarheel State. That's when the turbulence began. The plane felt as if it was a toy being tossed around in midair. Looking out the window the sky turned black, with lightening flashing all around us. We finally reached our destination without a moment to spare. The airport was shut down and on high alert as a tornado passed through the area. Not exactly the welcoming party we were hoping for. I had a bad feeling about this.
That night after a successful and promising interview, his possible future boss took us out to dinner accompanied by his wife. I knew the moment I saw his cold, steely eyes that there was something about this guy I really didn't like, but my husband was excited about the prospects so I put on my best smile and went along for the ride. But I couldn't help but think - this is a MISTAKE!
SIGN NUMBER 2
All throughout dinner this bastard verbally abused his wife, drinking like a sieve and becoming more obnoxious with each passing moment. It didn't take a psychic to detect that this was a real bad sign. If he's this way in public with his wife, chances were he would be an outright *#!$* to work for. Later that night, I told my husband that this was more than just a case of me getting bad vibes. THE MAN WAS A SOCOIOPATH! He, however, wrote it off as personal marital issues that would not necessarily influence his professionalism on the job. After all, he had quite a reputation within the company. Yeah? For what?
That night I had nightmare. This guy was creeping through the hallways of the company with an ax in hand, calling my husband's name and saying "Here's Johnny!" (Jack Nicholson - "The Shining") No kidding, this was another unquestionable red flag that this would be a BIG MISTAKE.
We went house hunting the following day and found the perfect home. Come on! It had a hot tub on the deck and was on a cul-de-sac no less! Okay, so I admit - material things can blindside me a little. I quickly forgot about my earlier reservations. I was excited and already planning on how I would decorate the place. My husband now admits, he was beginning to have doubts, but I was so excited about the stupid house that he didn't want to let me down. Sure - now go all generous on me why don't you? He called and accepted the position and we flew home to begin the ordeal of packing up our lives.
SIGN NUMBER 3
One night, a week before the move, we went out to run an errand. It was a dark, and foggy night. The roads were wet from a light rainfall, reflecting the streetlights. We sat, waiting for the signal to change. That's when I peeked into the rear view mirror and noticed a car rapidly approaching us. As it drew closer, it became evident that the driver had no intention of stopping. I let out a scream to warn my husband, but it was too late. It rammed into the tail end of his brand new Honda Accord at 45 miles per hour, pushing us into the middle of a fortunately empty intersection. The trunk of the car was now about six inches shorter and crumbled up in the air. Although drivable, it was totalled. Luckily we were unharmed except for burns and bruises from the seat belt.
Pulling out of the road and into a parking lot we called the police and waited. Looking down at the rear end of the other car, my jaw dropped. This guy was from - where else? Any guesses? NORTH CAROLINA. But hell - that's a one in fifty chance - right? After the cops arrived we also learned he was drunk, uninsured and driving a car he stolen from his ex-girlfriend who was also uninsured. Things were definitely not looking good. We should have known by now that we were making a VERY BIG MISTAKE, but.... it would take a much bigger sign than the previous ones to be convincing. I've got to learn to be careful about what I ask for.
SIGN NUMBER 4
All packed up and ready to move the following morning we finally went to bed. Actually it was our mattress which was lying on the floor of the basement family room at my parents house, but a place to rest our heads nonetheless. Now realize, my husband can sleep through anything, and I mean anything! So, when the thunderous roar and vibrations began in the middle of the night, I tried to wake him without any success. I felt like we were floating on a raft on a stormy sea. The noise was so loud I thought the furnace was blowing up. Either that, or a train was passing under us, only there weren't any trains out in the burbs. Immediately I ran upstairs to my parents room to see if they had experienced the same thing, you know, just to make sure I wasn't losing my mind.
They were both awake and listening to the radio and TV. Hmmm. Maybe I was sane after all! "What the hell was that", I asked? My mother looked at me and said, "We just had an EARTHQUAKE!" This would have made sense if we were living in California, but Connecticut? You've got to be kidding! This was definately a first! Now I was officially freaking out. Talk about big signs! It doesn't get much bigger than that! The forces were saying, "Man! What does it take to get your freaking attention?!?" I was just waiting for the four horsemen to pull up into the driveway. I was now certain - WE ARE MAKING A HUMONGOUS MISTAKE!
Still my husband wasn't totally convinced. Damn scientists! Not a lick of sixth sense! That morning the movers finished loading the truck. We kissed my parents goodbye, hopped into my car and began our decent into the BOWELS OF HELL.
At first things seemed - alright. The house was great, the neighbors nice, and all in all I thought that just maybe, I had been mistaken about this "sign" business. My husband didn't have to start work for a couple of weeks so we settled in and tried to get familiar with the area.
First day we stopped at the local hardware store to pick up some supplies. The clerk turned to us and bluntly asked, "So... are ya'll Yankees or DAMNED YANKEES?" We asked what the difference was. He looked us in the eye and said, " It all depends on whether ya'll are passing through or planning on sticking around." That wasn't a sign, that was a bitch slap. So much for Southern Hospitality!
The next day we foolishly took a drive out into the boondocks which were approximately 5 miles away in every direction. Running low on gas we stopped at a station. It had antique pumps and looked eerily like Gomer Pyle's station in Mayberry on the "Andy Griffith Show". I was just waiting for Opie to walk by with his fishing rod and had the urge to snap my fingers.
Outside was a line of American made pick-up trucks complete with gun racks, confederate flags and hunting hounds. I don't know why, but I had a real bad feeling about this. It may have started when we walked inside to pay. The air was thick with cigarette smoke and a bunch of good old boys were playing pool. This double wide trailer was a multi-functional establishment. It was a gas station, the pool hall, the local watering hole, the barber shop, and the Sheriff's office. Trust me, all the "signs" were hanging right there - above the door when we entered.
The guy behind the counter asked how much fuel we had pumped. The moment my husband opened his mouth, all pool sticks simultaneously hit the floor with a loud thud and the joint fell silent. That is all except for the sound of "Dueling Banjos" and a pig squealing in the background. I never saw my husband move so fast. He handed over a fifty dollar bill for our $15.00 purchase, grabbed my hand and didn't wait for change. We jumped in the car and he tore out of there, leaving behind a cloud of dust. We decided it was best to stay close to home after that.
His first day of work went well until - Damn! I knew there had to be whipped cream and a cherry on top of this heaping mess. His new boss turned to him and asked, "So, how do you like it down here so far?" My husband replied. "It's quite nice. We're looking forward to being here for a long time." With that his boss let out a maniacal laugh worthy of a low budget horror movie and answered, "Don't count on it!" Baa ha ha ha ha! You know this would be really funny, IF IT WASN'T TRUE!!!!
From there things actually managed to go - downhill fast. We would have tried to enjoy ourselves more those first couple of weeks had we known what lay ahead of us.
Each day my husband walked into the lab and would say, "Good Morning Ken. How's it going?" A deep shade of red would slowly creep up this guy's neck and face until it hit the top of his head and a train whistle would pop out steaming and yelling, "I'm your f**king boss! I'm a f**king PhD! Don't ask me how it's going! I know how it's f**king going!" (this is not an exaggeration except for the train whistle) My husband had fun with this and couldn't help but start each morning off with this shameless routine. After all, it just didn't seem to f**king matter anymore.
I like to say that by some miracle things improved, but they never did. We began to get the message when our American Flag was shot to bits on the Fourth of July, or when one neighbor, born and bred in the area, threatened to burn a cross on our lawn if he caught talking to "them other folk" - our neighbors of a different racial background from us and our only true friends. But when we took our son to day care and saw a decoration on the wall made by the teacher we knew there was no way we were going to remain down there much longer. There were a rainbow of balloons decorating the wall. Beneath it were cut out letters made from construction paper spelling - BALUNES. And no - they were not teaching foreign languages. It was clear that while schooling was mandatory, education was non-existant. At the time, teachers had a, illiteracy rate of over 40%. Scary!
I guess the final straw came when we found ourselves sitting on the back porch one night, drinking beer and watching the bug zapper light up, scoring the blasts as if it were the Olympics. We were officially becoming red necks. That and the fact that our son began speaking in a thick, slow southern drawl calling the thing holding up his pants a "buylt". It was time to get out of there. Fortunately, my husband's former company had an opening and was more than happy to rescue us. We packed up and moved to New York. Alright, it still wasn't New England, but it was a big improvement. We taught our son to say "Hey! Yo Man!"
So after enduring 1 1/2 years of an eye opening experience, we packed up and moved (almost) home to a place where a Yankee is a Yankee and can be damned proud of it! We learned our lessons and now knew to watch for hints of trouble and to heed the warnings - wherever they come from. It never hurts to obey those signs. They are there for a reason!