Tuesday, April 22, 2008
By RICK RANTAMAKI
Published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on 5-4-2008
It’s early morning, its dark, and I’m on my way to the office. My thoughts are on the day ahead (project deadlines, appointments, networking tasks) when I realize the radio is on. It’s playing; “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by The Police. The song’s ominous beginning is in rhythm with the dancing shadows my headlights form along the tree-lined corridor between my house and the highway (where the deer gather each morning to see me off to work).
Usually, the soundtrack for my commute is a CD (or a lively Hispanic station – as if there’s any other kind), but since my wife drove my truck over the weekend, and she abhors my “weird” CD collection, she set the radio on some local station.
What kept me from changing it, though, were the memories that came rushing back with the music. Memories of my high school “Senior Day” – an occasion marked with soaped messages on car windows, fake legs sticking out of trunks (or, at least that’s what we told the cops), and honking the horn like it was a newfound language.
Senior Day was also when we officially turned the school over to the juniors (ha-ha suckers) and the school’s faculty imparted their final words of wisdom. (Funny, I can’t remember a word they said.)
I, too, was a part of the ceremony. I stood at the podium before the darkened auditorium packed with giddy juniors and seniors and performed my impression of Mr. Davis, our chemistry teacher (a giant leap for a once-introverted young man labeled “the new kid” at nine different public schools). I held up one finger and slowly wagged it back and forth and then, in the deepest voice my scrawny body could muster, I said, “Don’t make me get out my soapbox.” The room erupted in laughter and applause as Mr. Davis, shook his head and ascended the stairs into the spotlight.
Then the radio transitioned to, “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins– which, coincidentally, happens to be our class song. Our classmate, Judy, sang it during the Senior Day ceremony.
Granted, it’s a sappy song from a crappy movie. A movie I successfully avoided for 22-years – until I was saddled with the flu and couldn’t find the remote. (To date, this has been the only non-sports related moment were I’ve seriously considered throwing something through the TV.)
I thought about Judy standing there, alone in the spotlight, accompanied by a piano. She sang the first verse as if the words were radiating through her, but the gravity of the moment stole her composure between verses and her voice became choked with tears. She covered her face and the piano slowed, waiting for her to recover.
Now that I think about it, I really didn’t invest much in Judy as a friend. In fact, I didn’t invest much in most of my classmates I considered “friends” (funny how life is constantly refining your perspective). Today, this song eerily reflects the “empty space” where the flimsy friendships established in high school have collapsed.
“COME ON JUDY, YOU CAN DO IT,” yelled a voice from the audience.
Judy wiped her tears, took a deep breath and continued, half-singing, half-crying. And, as much as teenagers rejoice in exploiting the weaknesses of others, no one heckled. No one could.
Collectively, with a crescendo of whistles and applause, our class carried her through the finish. It might be a crappy movie and the song may rival Aunt Jamima’s syrup inventory, but that moment cemented that song into our class history.
Then the morning radio crew interrupted my train of thought with the time and temperature and told me to, "stick around for more great oldies”.
I’m listening to an “oldies” station? My parents listened to “oldies” stations, not me! This stuff isn’t old! I’m not old! I can’t stop using exclamation points!!
Then it dawned on me. It won’t be long before “Senior Day” takes on a whole new meaning...yay.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to take my radio in for repairs.