Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Story time!

Cindy asked for stories in her blog. I was going to put this there, but it's far too long. Sorry, Cindy.

Maybe I'll drudge up another (shorter) memory and post that in your little commenting box.

In the meantime, sit back and prepare yourselves for a tale that I've never told any of my internet friends. (Yay! New revelations!!)

The time: 1991. I was 16 years old, and of course, still living with my parents. We had just moved from Elmendorf, Air Force Base in Alaska to Williams AFB in Arizona. (talk about culture shock).
I hated it.

I hated the heat (and yet, here I am in Vegas [/digression]), I hated the school (Bartlett High in Alaska had had maybe 2000 students. Gilbert High, in comparison, had at least 8000. Probably more. Okay, I did some investigating, and currently Bartlett has 2000 students, while Gilbert has 3041. Although the year I was graduating, they were building a new school in the same area, so perhaps that new school (Highland High - we joked, "Yeah, that place won't have a drug problem" [/another digression]) absorbed a number of the students. Even so, an additional thousand students is a big jump. ANYWHAT ...)
I hated the school, I hated the city, I hated pretty much everything in Arizona. I missed my Alaskan friends. We wrote to each other constantly during the summer that I had moved (dude. I wrote letters back then. What happened??)
The fact that I had made my first girlfriend (Lola) in Alaska before moving didn't help matters.
We had agreed to try and keep a long distance relationship, and to our credit, we did make it work for a while.

But I didn't want to be in Arizona any more. I had had enough.

I'm not sure when the plan formed in my mind, but sometime shortly after school had started, I decided I was going back.

To make a too long story a bit shorter (and also because I can't remember a large percentage of the details), I'll sum up the Arizona part.

I called an airline (it may've even been Alaskan Airlines) and ordered a one-way ticket. I honestly don't remember the cost, but it was somewhere in the hundreds. I took the money out of my savings account (yep, I had a savings account, and yes, it had several hundred dollars in it) and managed to buy the ticket. I did all of this without my parents being aware of any of it. The ticket was for a date in October. I had to keep the ticket (and my drained savings account) hidden from my parents for a few weeks. I do recall that there were several close calls. Like when my account balance arrived in the mail, and I had to make sure that I opened it and destroyed it before my parents did.

Finally, the day of the flight arrived. I can't remember if I used a sick day or not. Ah! It's coming back to me now. I had told my folks that I had an interview at McDonald's after school that day. (I think that may have been true.) That way, they let me keep the car. That morning, I drove the car out of sight of the house, then waited until my parents would have left for work. I then left the car parked nearby, and walked back home.

Once I got home, I quickly packed my clothes and whatever few possesions I was going to bring. I called a taxi company, and while waiting for the cab, I wrote my 'runaway' note. I, of course, don't remember the details of the note, but the gist of it was along the lines of: "I'm not running away, I'm moving out. I fully intend on getting a job and a place to live. I am not happy here."
The sad(?) thing is, I did intend on getting a job and a place to live once I got to Alaska. I was going to rehook up with Lola, and find a small apartment and a job (maybe a McDonald's would hire me) and everything was going to be perfect.
Oh. I also told them where I had left the car. I wasn't completely cruel.


Anywhat, the cab gets there, and I haul my suitcases out. I got in and the guy didn't even comment on the fact that a (very young looking) 16 year old is leaving a house with luggage all alone. [shrug] Guess most people wouldn't.

I got to the airport and went up to the airline where my flight would be leaving. I was about two hours early, but I didn't mind waiting. As far as I was concerned, I had all the time in the world.

As soon as I got there, a woman told me that a flight that would be leaving an hour earlier than my scheduled one had a free seat, and if I wanted to take that flight, I was more than welcome to. (!!! I KNOW!!!)

Of course, I said "yes."

And so, around 11:30 in the morning of October somethingth, I got on a plane in Arizona, and began to fly to Alaska.

I spent most of the flight looking out the window at the clouds, and seeing shapes. I remember making up stories to go along with the shapes I was seeing. I dont' remember much of it, but there was something to do with dragon-serpents and castles. Suffice to say that my mind was not really focusing on what the hell I was doing. Or maybe it just didn't really bother me. [shrug]

Got to Alaska safe and sound, (and earlier than I had planned!) then got my luggage. I stepped outside and realized a huge flaw in my plan.

I was wearing clothing that was fine for October in Arizona. October in Alaska is a vastly different story. First item to purchase: warmer clothes, I noted to myself, as I hailed a cab.

It was evening (or maybe it was afternoon. I dont' remember, but it was dark already) as I had the taxi drive to my old stomping grounds. My across the street neighbor was also one of my best friends, Brian Ogram.

I paid the taxi fare, then knocked on Brian's bedroom window. (I did the 'shave and a hair-cut' knock, which was what I always did.) A second or three later, and the curtains parted.

I grinned.

Brian's The look of shock was so priceless.

He opened his window, and let me in. We spent most of the night catching up (after, of course, I had explained what I'd done.) and planning my next move. The idea was that I would go to school with him, just to see all the old gang. I don't know what (if anything) we talked about doing after that.

I guess we slept, eventually, although I have no recollection of that. The amazing thing is that I had managed to get inside his house, and was talking to him through most of the evening, and his parents had no idea.

Of course, back in Arizona, my parents had found the note and had already been in contact with the police. They found out what flight I was going to be on, and had the cops in Alaska search everyone who got off of that plane. If I had gotten on the flight I was supposed to, my adventure would've ended a lot sooner. (I found all this out, of course, after the fact.)

Anywhat, morning rolls around, and Brian gets ready for school, and I more or less do the same, in the confines of his bedroom. At one point, his mother knocked on his bedroom door. Panicked, I scrambled into the closet (my stuff had already been put in there).

His mom came in, and I could hear her talking to Brian about various things. Brian was talking too, but either I've forgotten what was being said, or it was muffled through the closet door anyway. The last thing I do remember hearing was Brian saying (loudly), "No, Mom! Don't!" and then the closet door opening. Brian's mom screamed. I think I may have as well.

Then came the explanation part. I don't remember what I told her, or what Brian told her. But in the end, she let me go to the school with Brian! I don't know if that was the most mature thing for a parent to do, but I was quite relieved. [up]

We rode the bus, and more than a number of folks recognized me. I was a celebrity! (It was a very small school, and living on an Air Force Base is a lot like living in a small town. Most of the kids knew each other.)

We got to school, and of course word spread quickly.

I'm trying to remember the details now, because things happened kinda fast. Plus, it was 12 years ago. I think I went to Brian's first class. I do remember that the rest of the 'gang' had already met up with me. I think overall the reaction was happiness, although I think Cherry said that I was insane. Nigel gave me a huge hug. I still hadn't found Lola.

At Brian's class, the teacher asked who I was. I said, "I'm Pat." (hee. I didn't have the "the" title yet.) She was like, "Oh. Okay."

During that class (I wish I could remember what it was), nothing major happened. Probably just a lot of talking and catching up with friends I'd not seen in four months.
Somehow, I'd learned what Lola's 2nd class was, and I was going to meet her there before it started. I still hadn't seen my girlfriend, and she was one of the reasons I'd returned to Alaska in the first place. After the first class ended, I went to Lola's classroom and waited.
When she came around the corner and saw me, she didn't look as happy as I was. She didn't greet me with a hug, but instead said, "So it's true." It was at this time that the bell rang. I went into Lola's class, but that teacher wasn't as liberal as the first one.
I ended up getting kicked out, and I went outside of school grounds (I didn't want the truancy guards to bust me for wandering the halls) and waited until lunch. (I figured I'd be able to blend in with everyone during lunch time. Plus eat. I was starving.)

Side note - I remember while waiting for the lunch bell to ring, standing in a ..well, "forest" is a bit strong, but there were trees. I passed the time by singing "99 bottles of beer on the wall" to myself as fast as I could numerous times. That, and hoping that it wouldn't snow.

Finally the Lunch bell rang, and I proceeded back to the school grounds. Nigel, Brian, and Cherry gathered with me, and we got some food, then proceeded to a science classroom where we normally ate lunch. Once we got there, the science teacher (who remembered me as well, told me to stay there. Or maybe go to the principal's office. I don't remember which. Either way, I wound up down there, along with some police officers. It turned out that Lola had gone to the principal's office, and reported the fact that I'd run away from home. The police showed up, and took me with them.

I don't rememeber where they took me, but I recall that they bought me a bacon cheeseburger. That was pretty cool.

After being in conference with my father, the police turned me over to a friend of the family, the Mahoneys. Dana was a friend of mine, and my folks knew her parents from church. (Yeah. We used to go to church.) Apparently my dad had talked to them, and they had agreed to 'hold' me until he flew up there and picked me up.

That evening I know I talked to Dana's dad, and I talked to Dana, but I sadly don't know what we talked about. Except that I promised Mr. Mahoney that I wouldn't do this type of thing again. (!!)

I think the next morning my dad arrived. He took me back to the airport and we flew back to Arizona. I slept most of the flight, as a way to not have to deal with ...well, everything. I do remember looking out the window on that flight, and sorely missing the dragon-serpents.

Once back in Arizona, and back in school, I told some people I kinda clicked with the whole sordid tale, and slowly became friends with them. As for my Alaska friends, the letters continued for a while (although my parents screened them, to insure I wasn't planning another "flight" - not that I could afford to if I'd wanted to) and then, as is so often the case in life, they slowed and then stopped. I haven't heard from any of them in a decade. =(

As for Lola, she sent me a letter a while later, telling me that she had done it for my own good. And (paraphrasing here) she told me that she had never really loved me, but had, instead, seen someone that had "needed rescuing" and was trying to do her best in that regard. Yeah.

This wasn't the first time I had run away from home, and it wouldn't be the last, but it was, at the time, the most outlandish.

And, that, I suppose, is the end of the story.

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