Sometimes it doesn’t pay to take a nap. Following a hearty meal and cheap wine, I kicked back in my easy chair to watch The Sixties on CNN. They were exciting times for me. I graduated at Athens High in 1960 and enrolled at Athens College that fall. I was in love with a willowy brunette, Carol O’Conner, knocking down $30 for a 90 hour week at a week working 70 hours at McConnell Funeral and carrying a big dream; one day I would attend Alabama Law School.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in November about the time I turned 19. Carol and I married in 1961. We moved into our love nest, a small downstairs apartment in an old 2-story house on South Beaty Street owned by Mrs. Ben Peck. I was riding a gravy train. The following year, the gravy train almost derailed when we edged closer to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Surveillance photos revealed that missile launching pads that pointed toward the U.S. had been constructed in Cuba. During a break in classes at Athens College, several of us were standing in front of McCandless Hall smoking cigarettes when one of the students said he saw a long freight train rumbling south through Athens around midnight. “It was the longest train I ever seen and was loaded with tanks and artillery,” he said.
Sobering information. I realized I might not live long enough to become a big shot lawyer, not to mention that millions of people might die. I fired up another Winston. President Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba. Russian ships carrying missiles kept coming and we inched closer to nuclear war.
Watching those events play out on TV brought back frightful memories. I hadn’t smoked a cigarette in 47 years, but suddenly I wanted a Winston or, maybe two. As we know, a compromise was reached and the Soviet ships turned back. Whew! Nuclear war had been avoided. I relaxed.
There was a commercial break on, and that’s about the time my eyelids grew heavy and I dozed off. Later, I woke. And what I heard brought me straight up in my chair.
“The stock market dropped 400 points today…,” a newscaster said.
“My God! I’ve lost every dime I have!” I exclaimed, now fully awake.
My friend (and sometimes read-head) Pat was seated on the couch. “What are you talking about?” she asked.
“Didn’t you hear? The stock market crashed today!”
“No it didn’t.” she laughed. “They’re talking about the sixties.”
“Whew, thank the Lord, I thought it was now.”
Folks, if you’ve never experienced being suddenly broke and penniless and in the next second learn that your riding lawnmower hasn’t been repossessed and you still have an income, you haven’t lived. It’s a wild ride. I felt like I had won the lottery and wanted to do a little jig to celebrate my newly acquired wealth.
It caused me to think. Many consumer products carry warning labels and TV screens should do no less for the benefit of senior citizens.
“FALLNG ASLEEP AND SUDDENLY AWAKENING COULD RESULT IN HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, URGE TO URNIATE, SOILED UNDERWEAR AND HEART ATTACK. CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE WATCHING THIS PROGRAM.” It never hurts to be cautious.
Several years ago my good friend, Joe Langster, told me a story about his elderly father, Alfred, who went to sleep on the couch while watching “The Waltons.” The movie “Pearl Harbor” had just been released and was being promoted on TV. Mr. Langster woke during the commercial promoting the movie and what he saw scared him half to death. The Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor. Joe drove up about this time and Mr. Langster jumped from his couch and ran outside.
“Darn if the Japs ain’t bombing Pearl Harbor again!” said Mr. Langster.
“How you know?” Joe asked.
“I saw it on TV.”
It took some talking to convince Mr. Langster that he had seen a commercial, and not current news. He could have had a heart attack or worse. Like I said, sometimes it doesn’t pay to relax.
By: Jerry Barksdale