“Assume makes an ass out of you and me,” the saying goes. Unfortunately, even at my age I’m still untangling my donkey ears from overhead fan blades.
Moving to a more rural area before Anna entered high school, I’d assumed, would take us farther from so-called urban issues like hard drug use. So confident was I that I’d returned to the Leave It to Beaver land of my youth that I even made a pharmacopic joke about our new neighbor Wayne’s trash shortly afterward. His house contains but two people, yet, week after week, I noticed, he puts out mountains of refuse at the curb. “Must have a crystal meth lab in their basement,” I yukked.
Uh, no. Wayne apparently is disposing of detritus from his Lions Club softball soirees. The closest he comes to being Walter White, we’ve learned, is mixing concoctions at neighborhood gatherings that would bring a water buffalo crashing to its knees. No worries there.
But I should have known that, just as Leave It to Beaver turned out to have a subversive undercurrent, with Jerry Mathers being gay, the larger picture of controlled substances in our area would have a pentimento.
Anna tends to be addicted only to things she can control, like her smartphone and Marsha’s ATM card. Cigarette smoke makes her sick, as does booze. She’s not a big experimenter and tends to be OCD about routines. Obsessing about the next fix would disrupt binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy.
Nevertheless, you can’t be too careful about peer pressure. A higher-rated school district, we were convinced, would help Anna resist the temptation to hybridize poppies for the Science Fair. So it was like a right to the jaw to read in our local paper that the county commissioner had earmarked an additional three-hundred-thousand dollars to combat rampant heroin use.
Say what? When did the “hood” come to Cleaver land? Heroin’s a downer. What did people in Geauga County--- the second wealthiest in Ohio, with horse farms everywhere--- need to get down from, except for a Democrat being elected to public office?
We knew Geaugans were a curious mix of couth and roughness, yuppie and hillbilly, sort of like an opera diva in a leopard bikini, and have curious ways of expressing it. Comic Richard Lewis contends that, whereas most of the world starts its morning with an omelette and toast, LA denizens wake up and say, “I think I’ll have a rib removed today.” Something similar happens around here: People jump out of bed exclaiming, “We need a pole barn! Where’s the Kubota?”
We also learned they have a fascination with firearms that makes the Old West seem like the birthplace of the Brady Bill. Fact: Geaugans own more gun than driver’s licenses. Dinners on our deck are punctuated by range fire nearby, sometimes with automatic weapons. And--- perhaps the best illustration of the mixed mentality hereabouts--- our mail contains both requests for donations from the Public Animal Welfare Society and flyers from a local gun dealer. Hopefully, no dogs or cats have been euthanized with an AR-47.
Even so, it was hard to believe that all these rubicund GOPs were making the leap from horse farms to horse, from shooting to shooting-up. Might all these junkies simply be deviants who root for the Steelers instead of the Browns?
That’s what I was telling myself, anyway, when I went to buy wellies and windshield wash locally. At least until the cashier wanted my phone number.
“The fluid contains alcohol,” she said. “We’re asking everybody.”
It was all I could do not to swallow my breath mint. As the nerd who thought 3.2 beer was high octane in college, I hardly ever got asked for an ID. Now that I was on the verge of prune juice cocktails, the hooch patrol was after me?
The guy behind me, wearing a Vietnam vet cap, got carded for an aerosol can of Rustoleum. “You can’t buy paint at Wal-Mart after ten o’clock at night,” he said, laughing. “Even with an ID.”
On the way home my brain felt like I’d inhaled something way stronger than Sherwin-Williams. “The Beaver,” apparently, was now selling nickel bags on the streetcorner. It was a relief to get back to my drug-free zone.
But before I could buy a bazooka to fend off all those windshield-wash-imbibing paint-sniffers, our handyman needed help finding the hot water line in our basement. Removing a bathroom ceiling panel, we found ourselves ducking a shower of cigarettes, zig zag papers, roach clips, and a Corona Light bottle. The previous owners’ teenagers hadn’t needed Wal-Mart.
Excuse me while I untangle my ears.