My Lost Dignity

dignity

When I was in high school our family lived in an apartment building which was located on a street in which a trolley car ran. This was wonderful for me because the view of the oncoming trolley car from the second floor enabled me to sleep to the last minute.

My mother alerted me when the trolley first appeared in the far distance, and I washed, dressed and ate breakfast in four minutes. At times I was too slow and the streetcar took off without me. I didn’t let this deter me because I was very fleet of foot and ran until I caught the streetcar. The passengers on board cheered as I ran and clapped when I jumped on the platform and grabbed on to the pole for dear life. It wasn’t easy because I carried my lunch and my books under my arm.

This one day, my friend Stuart was on the car. Stuart was a 5’-9”, 260 lb. tackle on his high school football team. The car was jammed with people because of the inclement weather and they weren’t running on schedule. I told Stuart that he was going to have a rough time when he transferred to his second car because of the horde waiting for cars.

We loved to chat ,but when Stuart insisted I get off with him so we could continue to talk, I tried to reason with him but to no avail, and we ended up getting off together. We went to different high schools, but I could take a third street car to get to my school.

As soon as I saw the throng of people waiting on Kedzie Ave. I knew I had made a huge mistake. ”Stuart, thanks for making me late for school,” I said in a disgusted tone. Stuart told me not to worry; he would see to it that I boarded that car.

When the car finally came, it was bedlam with everyone pushing and shoving. I was standing behind Stu, and I told him there was no way we could get on. ”We’re getting on,” he said with a determined tone in his voice. Stuart gave a burly guy a forearm shiver and told me to get on. I had room for one toe on the platform step and one hand on the pole. They were packed like sardines but another push and Stuart was able to get his enormous body half on the platform with two feet on the platform and one hand on the pole.

The car ran on tracks with overhead electric wires that provided the power. There were cars and trucks parked along the curb without too much clearance for the street car. I was standing backwards on the step, gripping the pole and holding on for dear life. The rear conductor told us to get off but we didn’t pay attention. He pulled the signal cord to signal the front conductor to accelerate. OMG, did he take off. He didn’t stop at subsequent stops, only increasing his speed. Then I heard a woman scream. I looked back at Stuart, and I could see his eyes widen in fear.

”JUMP,” he screamed, “A truck is in the way!”

No way could I jump. I was slender, so I tried to flatten my body to lessen my profile and bury my head in the passenger’s back that I was pressing against. The impact was like getting slapped on the back with a paddle, but when I opened my eyes I was still hanging on.

I turned to Stuart, but he was gone.  The conductor finally stopped the car and Stu was flat on the ground, with his legs in the air like a wounded turkey. I started running towards him, concerned he was badly hurt, but he started laughing. I’m thinking that Stuart is a heck of a sport. He almost gets killed, and he’s laughing about it.

Then I felt the breeze. I looked behind me, and my pants were laying on the ground in tatters and I’m standing there in my gaudy boxer shorts. I was SO embarrassed. Stu stood up, brushed himself off, and said while laughing, “Jer, I’d like to stay here with you, but if I don’t get on the car I will be late for school.” With that he gets on the car and waves goodbye.

My sandwiches were lying in the street along with my books and notebook with pages everywhere. I threw the sandwich in a garbage can and started picking up my papers. I removed my shoelaces and tied them around my thighs to hold my pants up. I was two miles from home. But I had no intention of taking the trolley and enduring more embarrassment, so I decided to walk home through the alley. One girl spotted me in the condition I was in and backed off in a different direction to avoid passing me.

When I arrived home, my mother saw my sour face and thought something bad had happened. ”Were you attacked?” she asked me. ”Naw, I only got my pants ripped off.”

“Why did you have to put on your new pants?” she asked me. ”Mom, I’m just thankful I put on clean underwear.” She fell down on the floor laughing. After that, when we had company, she would bring out the pants, and I would share the story for everyone’s enjoyment.  Regaining my dignity was not easy.

(photo courtesy of Robert Hale/Dreamstime.com)

Jerry Goldberg About Jerry Goldberg

Jerry Goldberg grew up on the west side of Chicago. After high school, he was drafted in the Army during the Korean conflict. Upon his honorable discharge, he joined Local 130 in Chicago as a plumber, working from 1952 to 2000. Jerry has been happily married for 60 years, residing with his wife, Gloria, in Huntley, Illinois. They were blessed with two wonderful children, and have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When his son encouraged him to get online, Jerry replied, "What do I need that for?" But all that changed a year into his retirement, when his daughter gave him a modem for his birthday, opening a whole new chapter. Finding stained glass insufficiently fulfilling, Jerry discovered the AARP message boards and began his one-finger magic. Eventually, he became quite proficient (two fingers), starting a board called, "Jerry's Corner."

This board was the second most popular board on AOL. Jerry bantered with any and all, and began writing humorous true stories of his past life. The stories you see here are a compilation of most he has written ... enjoy!

Jerry Goldberg About Jerry Goldberg

Jerry Goldberg grew up on the west side of Chicago. After high school, he was drafted in the Army during the Korean conflict. Upon his honorable discharge, he joined Local 130 in Chicago as a plumber, working from 1952 to 2000. Jerry has been happily married for 60 years, residing with his wife, Gloria, in Huntley, Illinois. They were blessed with two wonderful children, and have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When his son encouraged him to get online, Jerry replied, "What do I need that for?" But all that changed a year into his retirement, when his daughter gave him a modem for his birthday, opening a whole new chapter. Finding stained glass insufficiently fulfilling, Jerry discovered the AARP message boards and began his one-finger magic. Eventually, he became quite proficient (two fingers), starting a board called, "Jerry's Corner."

This board was the second most popular board on AOL. Jerry bantered with any and all, and began writing humorous true stories of his past life. The stories you see here are a compilation of most he has written ... enjoy!

Smiles For All