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Dora C. Villarosa
01.20.99-St. Louis, MO

Dora Villarosa
January 20, 1999
English Composition

I am lucky. This assignment came with impeccable timing. Ordinarily I would have had an extreme amount of difficulty narrowing down which of my innumerable interests has enough universal appeal to be deserving of an essay topic. In this case, however, the story on which this essay is based is still a presence in my thoughts. It demonstrates what might be my greatest of all interests, the enigma of human behavior. As of now I have been witness to only three introductory lectures on Psychology, a fact which deems me indisputably ignorant concerning the human mind and leaves me with inadequate knowledge to make any psychoanalytic claims whatsoever. That is why I have not tried. Nevertheless, the subject of the following essay intrigues me to no end. I will get on with it.

Here is the story:

Succumbing to the On the Road mentality which sends those with youthful hearts on poorly planned excursions to faraway cities, a couple of friends and I ventured away from the pristine air and beautiful scenery of New Jersey. We took a three-hour road trip to visit a Wash U. friend of mine, Andy, at his home in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The point of the story takes place after the introductions, the first couple of awkward hours, and the characteristically teenaged quasi-discussion which involves a rotation of who is asking, "Uhhm…what should we do?" and who is responding with nondescript grunts, eye-rolling, fingernail-picking, etc. Andy was ultimately responsible for the idea. It was his town. We would drive about a half an hour to Northampton, Massachusetts, pick up a friend of his (Ben), and go out to dinner.

The action takes place en route to and from dinner.

It was snowing. We’re talking miserable, icy snow. It had been coming down for about two hours and was yet to be plowed. Between the snow itself and the effects of the frosty, foggy windshield, visibility was zilch. The roads might as well have been freshly iced by a Zamboni. They were fit for luging. The brakes were ineffective. For these reasons we were plodding along somewhere between ten and twenty miles per hour…giving consideration to New England’s steep hills and acute turns.

Immediately after one of these snail-paced turns, we noticed a staggering mass on the left side of the road. It looked like a beaten-down cardboard box. The prevailing sentiment in the car was, "What the hell is that?" We made uneasy jokes. From about ten feet away we could see that it was a man in a wheelchair. To my blitherings of sheer disturbance Andy replied without concern, "There are lots of halfway houses around here." We half-giggled at Andy’s dismissive attitude. I was confused and horrified for about thirty seconds afterward, but then conversation took up again and my attention was absorbed by anticipation of the evening’s events.

We picked up Andy’s friend Ben and went to dinner. We ate a big, warm meal with multiple courses, all of which we merrily took for granted.

Here comes the punch-line: There was a steep hill between the restaurant and Ben’s house. The kind of hill you don’t want to tackle in such precarious road conditions. Despite the snow and ridiculous ice we managed to get to the top without a problem.

Ready for the real killer?

After delivering Ben to his house we headed home. We traveled down the steep hill in slow motion, unwilling to be discomfited by the ice. Amid our descent at molasses-speed we noticed another staggering mass in the middle of the road. We started to laugh at the utter silliness of the thought. Take into consideration that the visibility factor was further impaired by the absence of streetlights. The snow created such a blanket in the darkness that we could not identify the slow and randomly moving, yet hauntingly familiar lump. Let’s rewind: we were on a steep, icy hill in a remote residential area of New England and there was an indistinguishable thing zigzagging in front of our car without control. It was the man in the wheelchair. The hill was getting the better of him, to say the least. He was half-sliding, half-just-about-falling in spasmodic intervals. One of the smaller front wheels of his wheelchair haphazardly spun while the other was unfortunately cocked. It was amazing that he was still upright. We expected him to topple face-first at any moment, leaving his wheels in the air–one haphazardly spinning and the other unfortunately cocked. Had we been travelling at a normal speed, our brakes could have done nothing to save him. The poor guy had been screwed, however, long before we arrived on the scene. It was perhaps the single most pathetic tragedy any of us had ever seen and we all did the same thing. We laughed. We laughed our asses off.

Rather disturbed by my own reaction to this, I subsequently related the story to various groups of people I know. They all did the same thing. They laughed their asses off. Some of them cried, they laughed so hard.

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