Yesterday as I was driving home from Magistrate’s Court where I pleaded for leniency after receiving my first speeding ticket in nearly 20 years, I concluded that people have been right all along when they say I am one strange bird.
For as long as I can remember, which sadly isn’t as long as it once was, close friends, new acquaintances and even my children always cower when we head out in public together.
“What is he going to say this time?” or “I hope you don’t embarrass me” tops the list of fears they all seem to have in common.
If you are wondering what happened in court that took my thought pattern down this road, all I can say is my excuse for going a tad over the speed limit has probably never been heard in any court in the country, maybe even the world.
Because I am almost 100% positive my editor will strike it out of my column before going to print, let me just say it had to do with a medical procedure near my rear end that had me rushing home. This I described in extremely graphic terms to a fully packed courtroom.
With the unredacted version said, my ticket was reduced, and when I turned around to head out of the courtroom, every single person in there sat in stunned silence, mouths wide open and eyeballs as large as saucers.
I have two main philosophies in life that I often tried to teach to my children.
The first being, “Don’t shy away from saying something to people that they might, or might not, find offensive because odds are you’ll never cross paths with them the rest of your natural life.”
The second, which also deals with shying away from saying something that is either uncomfortable or may take you down the wrong path is, “Go ahead and say it because you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
Old Hilton Head
Unlike these days when you are vacationing somewhere far away, even in other countries, and people ask where you are from, your “Hilton Head Island, South Carolina” answer almost always comes with a response like, “Boy are you lucky!” Or, “You must be rich.”
Oh, how different that answer was when I was a kid. Not only was Hilton Head Island not known nationally, those who lived on the island then were considered country bumpkins by kids I went to school with in Savannah.
I attended grade school in Bluffton until right after the school burned down and from then on commuted to Savannah daily with my brothers and sisters, along with some of the Fraser and Hack kids.
While I wore blue jeans, T-shirts and Converse sneakers, the Savannah kids were statements in fashion, donning khaki pants, alligator belts, tasseled Weejun shoes and Barracuda jackets. I did have some good friends but, overall, islanders were viewed as “outsiders.” The “rich kid” comments didn’t start until the late ‘70s and early ’80s.
Thinking back, I believe it was during this slightly scorned period that I adopted my “what the heck” philosophy, where I would say whatever, and I mean whatever, was on my mind at that moment.
Since I can’t tell you exactly what happened in court, I will tell you a couple of things that happened during my formative years that no doubt added to my reputation of being sort of goofy.
The Petri dish
I was in the seventh-grade science class when the teacher gave each of us a Petri dish and we were told to press our finger in the middle of the dish, put the lid back on, and into a cabinet they went. He then informed us that in one week we would check on our dishes and see if anything had grown in the gel solution.
A week went by and it was time to see the results. Everyone had a tad of mold growing in the middle of the dish except one. There it sat and boy was there mold! Actually, there was so much mold it popped the top off right the dish.
All my classmates gasped, the teacher donned rubber gloves and picked up the hairy dish. Handwritten on a piece of tape on the bottom of the dish was the name “Collins Doughtie.”
In my defense, which I swear is the truth, I had eaten a lollipop right before class the day we did the experiment, but that excuse just didn’t fly. For me at least, the seventh grade marked a revelation within me that girls were actually pretty. All I can say is that Petri dish postponed my puberty a good two years. Upon seeing me after that day I would imagine girls in my class would whisper “Collins? Ick … he has cooties!”
But as difficult as the way of life here was when you had to travel long distances for common, everyday items, I wouldn’t trade my childhood with any kid in the country.
I certainly wasn’t polished, but the culture I was allowed to partake in was incredible. From ox-drawn wagons full of fresh shrimp and homegrown vegetables, to the Gullah language and lifestyle, it was an exceptional education that only a select, privileged few were afforded.
Do I still have cooties? Probably.