I wanted to be an archaeologist. I wanted to be an archaeologist because I wanted to be Indiana Jones, travelling to exotic lands with beautiful women, duffing-up the occasional Nazi. However, when it became apparent that archeology was less about globetrotting with a bullwhip and more about crouching in the dirt with a trowel, I sought adventure elsewhere.
My greatest adventure began over 12 years ago when my son was born a month early one cold October morning. Since then he has taken great delight in waking me far too early every morning and has shared in my adventures ever since. One of our recent adventures was a race against time with the odds of survival stacked against us. My son is in his first year of High School (an adventure far too terrifying to relay here) and, despite the risks involved, we had decided to meet for lunch. Neither of us possess a bullwhip or a trowel, but it’s worth considering that adventures are slices of life with the dull bits cut out and it all just depends on your perspective.
It was a bright cold day in April, and my fitness tracker was striking thirteen. It’s a 24 hour watch, you see. The 86 steps of our tenement stairwell offered me 86 chances to stumble and fall and break who knew what - my wrist, my arm, my leg. My God, even my neck! Peering down into the gloom (think Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo), I gripped the smooth, slippery wooden handrail and descended, accompanied by the mantra, “more haste, less speed!”. Or was it, “more speed, less haste”? Either way, I was running late. I made it to the bottom in one piece, yet still gripped with fear, for there were many more dangers awaiting me outside.
The sky was clear, the sun lacking any semblance of warmth. Having not seen the sun for many months, I resisted the urge to stare at it. At least the sky was clear of meteorites, I thought. There had to be millions of rocks out there, hurtling towards me. Keep up the good work, mesosphere. FOCUS! I told myself. He’ll be coming out of school in 15 minutes and it’s a 30 minute walk. RUN, MAN! RUN!
I ran for almost a whole minute before exhaustion overtook me. Determined not to let my son down, I then walked at double my usual ambling speed, wondering if my heart would give out at any moment. I like to think of myself as healthy, but I also think of myself as one of those healthy people who drops dead during a marathon. My fitness tracker told me my heart rate was normal, but technology lies and I suspected it was trying to kill me.
The cars and buses all around were certainly trying to kill me. They sped by, one bicycle courier on the pavement passing but a hair's breadth from me. I didn’t have the time or oxygen to remonstrate. Not out loud, anyway. Besides, I needed all my wits about me to cross the many roads that lay between me and my son. Somehow, against all odds, I made it to the school in one piece and on time.
The doors of the school opened. A herd/flock/menagerie of youth spilled forth; a torrent of North Face logos and black puffer jackets cascading down the steps, flooding the surrounding streets and eateries. My natural instinct to flee was tempered by the sight of my son and I waved like a drowning man to a passing lifeboat.
I embraced him, holding on for dear life as the cascade of bad language and substandard grammar rushed by us, leaving us untouched. I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea.
QUICK! I told myself. Seek refuge before they realise you are not one one of them and turn on you, pointing and screeching. Taking my son by the hand and quizzing him about his morning, we found refuge and a table for two in a nearby Starbucks. I would normally avoid corporate coffee houses, you understand, but we were pilgrims in an unholy land and my son only had half-an-hour for lunch.
‘Are you ok?’ I asked, looking him over for any sign of stress or wayward attire. ‘Surviving?’
‘I’m fine,’ said my son with a smile. ‘Can I have a coke?’
One coke and one interestingly-priced sandwich later, he had told me of the uprising in mathematics when the proletariat were informed of an upcoming assessment, followed by the fascist oppression of urinary rights by the older kids who commandeered the boys toilets for vaping at break time.
‘Things will get better,’ I said.
‘How?’ my son said.
‘Because you’ll get used to it,’ I said.
We then discussed the school bullies and I considered buying him a bullwhip.
‘Anyway, how was your morning?’ he said.
‘Incredible,’ I wanted to say. ‘I conquered my vertigo, avoided being run over by countless maniacs and not one meteorite has struck me yet.’
‘Pretty dull,’ I actually said. ‘But I’m not complaining.’
‘I’d better get back,’ my son said. ‘The bell will go in 5 minutes.’
I checked the coast was clear of bullies and bicycle couriers and accompanied him back to the school.
‘See you later, dad.’
‘See you later, buddy. I love you.’
I looked on as he entered the school and disappeared into its shadows. I then looked at my fitness tracker. My heart rate was normal, not that it felt that way. All that remained now was for me to get across town and collect my daughter from her primary school, but she’s another adventure altogether.