Friday, July 20, 2012

Could'a, Should'a, Would'a: Sprinkler Dash

I had a healthy respect for my Dad when I was a kid. Still do. Back then, it was kinda like the fear of God thing. Dad came from a strict upbringing. He was disciplined as a kid by my grandmother, Nellie Murphy. I only knew the sweet, wholesome steel-cut oatmeal cookie version of Grandma Nellie. But from what I understand, she was a real whipper snapper in her day. When my Dad got out of line Grandma Nellie would tell him to go find a switch from the thicket out yonder. And before he could get out the door, she'd add, "if you don't find one of adequate size, I'll find one for you."

We depended on Dad for most things. He ran a very traditional household: he was the bread winner and Mom took care of the daily house duties and raising five kids.  Mom and Dad made up a good pair in many ways. One of the things they did well was the good cop/bad cop routine. Mom was good cop, Dad was bad.  This basically meant when we kids would mess around, she'd threaten, "Wait till your Dad comes home..."

You didn't want to hear that.

Dad was much softer on us kids than Grandma Nellie was on him. I never had to find a switch. Instead, Dad went to the leather belt. In truth, we rarely got the belt. Hand spankings were common (and plenty). What Dad did do with the belt was to fold it over and snap it together loudly. CRACK!! That got your attention quickly.


The swimming pool was open six days a week. It was closed on Mondays for maintenance. When the pool was closed, we had one legitimate option for cooling off: the golf course sprinklers. Pool-hopping was strictly off limits. Dad once told us that summer would be cancelled if he ever caught us pool-hopping. I'm not sure exactly what he meant by that, but I made a mental note of it that I didn't want to find out.

I came pretty close to finding out once. One summer Monday, I had invited my friend Tom Chiapelas (hi Tom, I live in Omaha now: brady dot murphy at gmail) for a sleep-over. Tom was one of the coolest kids I knew: he was good at just about every thing he did, he played all the sports, dressed well and listened to the best music. He just oozed of smug coolness and having him over for a sleep over was a big deal.

That particular summer Monday was a scorcher. The heat and humidity drove the heat index over 100 F. As such, Tom wanted nothing to do with the golf course sprinklers. Instead, he suggested to my older brother Matt and I that we forgo them for pool-hopping.

Instantly, I heard Dad's belt cracking inside my head. I envisioned a hand-painted "SUMMER IS CANCELLED" sign hanging on my bedroom door. I opened my mouth to protest, "But what about Dad --"

Matt cut me off.  "Shut up Brady, we'll be fine. We'll only go for five minutes. It's now five o'clock.  Dad doesn't come home from work until 6 PM. Trust me, he won't even know."

They grabbed some towels and were out the door. I followed sheepishly.

I have to admit, the pool was refreshingly cool that day. Five minutes slipped to ten. Then ten to 20 minutes. By then, we were going off the diving boards. First the low board, then the high one. Time kept slipping by: the clock now said 5:40 PM.

It was about then that I saw Dad's company issued fleet car, a maroon Buick Century, enter the neighborhood. And as he drove by, I swear I saw his head turn and take a long hard look at the swimming pool. He was keen as a hawk. At that very moment, my buddy Tom was standing on the high board, getting ready for yet another cannonball.

"IT'S DAD!!!"  I yelled in panic.

Tom, still standing on the high dive, sorta crouched and covered himself as if he suddenly realized he was naked or something.  Meanwhile, all that was left of brother Matt was a trail of wet foot prints across the pool deck that ended abruptly at the fence. From there, at about 100 meters, I picked up his trace. He was sprinting ass and elbows towards home.

I was quickly at his feet. Till this date, I wonder if I had ever run any faster.

Now remember just a few paragraphs ago that I said that Tom was good at just about every thing he did? Well, he sucked at running. Really. He was an awful runner. I mean, he must have had double-triple-jointed  hips and knees, because when he ran, it was comical.

Somehow, Matt and I beat my Dad home. With a whoosh of the sliding glass door, we were back inside our living room where we had plopped ourselves on the couch. We were fully dressed, and our chlorine bleached straw hair was mostly dry.  Matt flipped on the boob-tube's Wheel of Fortune just as Dad had walked in. He had a surprised look on his face.

"I just saw some kids up the pool. I thought they were you for a second," Dad said.

"Nope, not us, Dad. We've been watching Vanna," Matt lied.

"That's good. You know how I feel about pool hopping."

"Yeah, Dad, summer will be cancelled or something."  Matt was pushing the envelope.

"That's right," Dad said as he fiddled with his belt-buckle. "You two will be sorry if I ever find out you're pool hopping on Monday."

-- uncomfortable silence --

"I thought Tom Chiapelas was spending the night tonight?" he continued. "What happened to him?"

-- whoosh, the sliding door opens. It's my buddy Tom. He's panting out of breath, dripping wet and standing in a speedo --

"Hi Mr Murphy! Did you have a nice day at the office?"


Tom's parents had arrived to pick him up before his hair had dried. Party over.

Matt and I were spared the belt and/or switch. We were too old for that stuff.  If I recall correctly, we were grounded from the pool for a week and had to do manual chores like weed pulling and hand-picking dirt out of the carpet.  Dad called that the "human vacuum cleaner". It was one of his go-to favorites.


Fast forward to the present: Golf course sprinklers are an excellent way to cool off during the dog days of summer.  I've been checking out the local scene. With this drought, they're running the sprinklers every night at the Elmwood Park golf course. So in honor of my good old buddy Tom Chiapelas, who chose pool hopping over sprinklers, I propose a could'a, should'a, would'a re-do for him/us to get it right.

I'm serious. Here's what I propose:

The Inaugural Tom Chiapelas Sprinkler Dash 5K
Where: Elmwood Park Golf Course
When: Friday July 20
Meet: 9:30PM in the Elmwood Park Pavilion parking lot
Pace: what, are you kidding?

Bring: running shoes and extra clothes. And a towel.  Don't forget your towel.  Whatever else --  speedos --  I don't care.

First round of beers on me at the Crescent Moon to whoever joins in.

Hope to see you at the park.

1 comment: