July 25, 2003

"Getting Off on the Wrong Foot" c. Ryan Rhodes, Nov. 19, 2001

An older post, from an older column, that I feel needs to be repeated

It's generally understood by myself and most of my old high school classmates that I was pretty much considered a geek. I was one of those brainy guys who didn't study but managed to attain the A honor roll any way.

Regardless of the obvious benefits in the real world, being a brainy guy in high school is a guaranteed ticket to being a social pariah. I was accused of "reading the dictionary" and "going through encyclopedias for fun," neither of which were true.

Despite my brainy designation, I was perhaps guilty of doing some of the dumbest things imaginable, which only contributed further to my geeky image and added to the verbal tauntings of my classmates. Perhaps no other act resulted in more mental high school trauma than the time I shot myself in the foot with a B.B. gun. This was a very stupid thing for a brainy guy to do.

My freshman year of school loomed before me, it was the weekend before football practice began, and I was out walking with my Crossman 10 pump air rifle firmly in my grasp. I believed myself to be the blackbird assassin, and with my trusty mutt, Ray, bounding playfully by my side, we were a daunting duo to say the least. I can't really explain the appeal of shooting birds with a B.B. gun, and the thought actually disturbs me today, but at 15 years old, I considered it quality time. My dog, also, seemed to enjoy the outings, although I suspect he was just happy to be outside, where he could empty his bowels without fear of reprisal.

Ray was an enthusiastic rabbit chaser. And, even though he possessed half the speed and one quarter the intelligence of most rabbits, he managed to come close once in awhile, with 20 feet being considered "close." On that particular day, Ray surprised a rabbit, and, judging by the startled yip, himself as well. The two spooked and confused animals started an awkward chase in which Ray actually had the edge, and I absentmindedly lowered my gun just over my left foot to watch the show.

In a surprise move, Ray managed to make contact with the rabbit, and I overreacted to the close call by pulling the trigger, initiating a series of events that ultimately led to a steel ball crashing through my shoe and lodging firmly in the joint of my little toe. And it really kind of hurt. I hobbled hurriedly homeward, where I explained my situation to my father. He gave me a deeply concerned look, which most fathers probably give sons who have committed acts so stupid, they can only be rewarded with deeply concerned looks.

Then, it was off to the hospital, where I was certain there would be a crack team of experts who specialized in the removal of B.B.s from the feet of stupid kids. Much to my surprise, my crack team of experts seemed genuinely unprepared for the task. They took a series of x-rays, which proved what I already knew, namely that there was a metal ball lodged in my foot. I was, however, surprised at just how well a B.B. showed up in an x-ray. You may be curious as to how long it takes a crack team of experts to remove a B.B. from a foot. The answer, in my case, was four hours.

For four agonizing hours, a doctor, whom I was convinced obtained his medical license from a box of Lucky Charms, dug unsuccessfully in my foot using a glorified tweezers. They brought in a special x-ray television monitor, which they used to navigate to the metal orb that they consistently couldn't remove. Finally, just as I was about to demand that they leave my foot alone, Dr. Mengele freed the ball from my toe and held it triumphantly for all to see. Then he threw it away. I was sewn up, given a pair of crutches, and sent on my merry little way.

Unfortunately, my crack team of experts didn't offer any advice as to how I should tell my classmates what I had done come Monday morning and the first day of football practice. Initially, as I crutched my way into the locker room, every face was etched with concern. That concern gave way to boisterous laughter after I told them what happened.

I think I told the same story roughly 50 times that day, mostly to people who didn't believe me the first 49 times. On that fateful day, I spiraled forever into the realm of geekdom, never to emerge. I was no longer one of the brainy guys. I was that brainy guy who shot himself in the foot with a B.B. gun. Even the other brainy guys shunned me.

I guess I should blame myself for the whole incident, but I find that it's easier to blame Ray for almost catching that rabbit.

Stupid dog.

UPDATE: But, you know, it pays to stay positive.

Posted by Ryan at July 25, 2003 03:57 PM
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