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Jim Ozella: An unexpected lesson on a Saturday morning

SCV Voices

Posted: June 19, 2010 9:45 p.m.
Updated: June 20, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

“The best laid schemes of mice and men, go often askew.”
Robert Burns, translated from “To a mouse”

The upcoming Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend was going to provide a serious opportunity for some necessary rest and relaxation. The spring semester had dragged on with not enough motivated students focused on General MacArthur’s invasion at Inchon, too many close losses on various missed opportunities and too many days of toeing the line at work, and not relaxing in the sunshine of a beautiful day. 

However, that Saturday would be the day. The plans for the day were being formulated in my mind and the timetable was set in stone. Up early for a jaunt around the neighborhood with the family dog, a quick stopover at school to check the latest e-mail roster and then a lively trip down Interstate 405 to visit Jackie Robinson Stadium.

The old baseball stadium named after one of the baseball heroes of yesterday would be my respite. The scheduled game at 2 p.m. would provide an opportunity to witness the continued growth of former players and a quick chit-chat with coaches, but most importantly, the chance for day at the ballpark without deciding who was starting in right field, who would be the first relief pitcher out of the bullpen or who could hit-and-run in a key situation.  

My family knew the necessity of the day. Even my youngest daughter’s visit from college for the extended weekend would not trip up these plans. 

Like an alarm clock, the dog awakened me to the timetable.

This was going to be a day of incognito, so the dress outfit for the day would be truly undercover. The dark canvas hat pulled over my eyes, with sunglasses for protection from the brightness of the 10th row of the stadium’s home-plate bleachers. Most importantly, no usual Hart High School baseball gear to bring attention from the accompanying crowd. 

The daily visit through the neighborhood with a sniffing 2-year-old Yorkshire puppy did not provide any surprises.

Stops at various trees along the way had been on the scheduled planner, and my estimated 11:30 a.m. arrival at the stadium would have no delay. 

The sights and sounds of the day were mixing in my mind as the dog and I returned home. The clangs and pings of the early batting practice rang in my ears, the upcoming smell of two Dodger Dogs with ketchup and mustard whetted my appetite and the chance to waste some time in my baseball world motivated me to maintain my schedule. 

My car roared into action down Bouquet Canyon Road. Engrossed by the schedule of the day, I pulled mindlessly close behind a white BMW being driven by a lady near the intersection of Bouquet and Soledad Canyon roads.   

The light turned green and autos purred into action except for mine. Snapping back to reality, I saw the inaction of the BMW in front of me and suddenly my schedule was being thrown into a quandry. 

My waiting seemed forever as I refused to honk the horn, and in the next instant an elderly woman stepped out of the BMW with her arms outstretched in a show of exasperation. 

“Lady, are you kidding me?” I muttered under my breath and through clenched teeth.  

The image of a devil on one of my shoulders and an angel on the other clicked into view in my mind. 

“Forget her,” whispered the devil as I nodded my head approvingly. 

“Do onto others” were the only words that briefly captured my attention as the smiling angel leaned over on my right shoulder.

“Lady, are you kidding me?” I repeated quietly to myself as I opened the car down and moved quickly with guilt toward the elderly woman. 

“Ma’am, do you have the car in neutral? Shift into neutral and I will push you to the gas station,” I politely mentioned to her as I pointed with my right arm to a nearby gas station. 

My efforts to push the motionless BMW to the gas station stalled as the car’s weight and my loss of strength due to the years of inactivity brought no results.  Now, I raised my outstretched arms in a show of exasperation as braking motorists began honking their horns. 

As I turned to meet the braking traffic, two men from the gas station and one woman who’d stopped her car quickly ventured toward me after obviously listening to the angel on their right shoulders. In unison, the four of us pushed the car, with the elderly woman guiding the wheel, to the safety of the gas station. 

Later that day, with two hot dogs in hand and settled into my powder-blue seat at the old stadium, my mind recaptured the events of the unscheduled lesson learned earlier in the day. I raised my first hot dog to toast the elderly woman in the BMW, the three guiltless heroes of the day and the smiling angel on my right shoulder.         

Jim Ozella is a teacher at Hart High school and has been the school’s varsity head baseball coach since 2000. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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