Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Superhero Too Late

Superheroes don’t always show up on time. Remember when Superman responded to a house fire call only to touch down at a pile of ashes? Or the time Batman waited until the bulb in the Bat Signal had already burnt out, and the bank robbers had gotten away? Or the time Captain America let Hitler slip out the backdoor because he made a pit stop for a double cheese burger en route to the Eagle’s Nest?  You never hear about the times superheroes are late, but sometimes they are. A certain superhero appeared a bit too late to save me once.

About fifteen years ago during my stock-person days at Kmart I was hanging a
cardboard display signs from the ceiling; there was an Independence Day Blowout Sale. I was using my trusty 12’ pole to attach an over-sized sign to the metal ceiling braces when the plastic anchor dislodged from the end of the pole, causing the sign to plummet straight down toward my head. My short life of gathering carts from the parking lot flashed before my eyes as I dodged the sign milliseconds before it nearly cleaved my head like a guillotine blade into a tangerine.

As I staggered about, a figure emerged from behind a Pepsi floor display. He strode toward me the way a brazen cowboy enters a saloon; he wore a 10 gallon hat, snake skin boots, a tight leather vest worn over an impressive beer gut and an expression that said “I’ve been everywhere and done everything.” He halted inches short of where the near-beheading occurred and then glided his weathered fingers over his scruffy chin and punctuated the most petrifying moment of my life by stoically peering up at the rafters, then down at the sign resting by my feet, then back up at the rafters, then back down at the sign again and shaking his head while muttering, “Well…sonabitch.” Then he simply meandered behind a nearby rack of Martha Steward bed sheets, and out of my life.

"Sonabitch Guy" is a superhero, albeit one a bit too late.

I imagine that Sonabitch Guy’s modus operandi is a lack of punctuality. People should be able to set their watch by his appearance, even if it that means setting the big hand back 5 seconds. When a bumbling waiter drops a heaping bowl of piping hot soup all over his trousers, Sonabitch Guy strolls to the scene from behind the reception desk...“Well, sonabitch,” and out the front door he disappears. A hapless jogger snags her foot on an uneven slab of sidewalk then careens into a park bench...“Well, sonabitch,” before she begins to gather her wits.  Some poor electrician toiling to restore the cable lines slices into the wrong wire..“Well, sonabitch,” as the freshly limp body droops from the wires.
Sonabitch Guy is like Batman or Superman, but rather than showing up seconds before the calamity and saving the day, he shows up seconds too late and simply adds insult to injury.  But I think Sonabitch Guy teaches humanity an important lesson.

In reality, there is no Batman who is going to knock the gun out of the mugger’s hand in the nick of time, and there is no Superman who is going to swoop from the sky to rescue a baby from a house fire. However, I believe that there is a Sonabitch Guy, or at least the spirit of a Sonabitch Guy, who appears mere seconds after every moment of hardship anywhere in the world, muttering the only reaction that is truly appropriate.

In the years since I’ve gathered my last cart and hung my final sign, Sonabitch Guy has granted me a new perspective.  Whenever I’ve suffered a near-disastrous goof or found myself in a dysfunctional situation since, I haven’t expected a Superman or Batman to bail me out.  I haven’t expected anyone to bail me out, for that matter.  However, I have come to count on that unflappable inner voice to materialize from nowhere: “Well, sonabitch.”

And life goes on.

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