Don’t Miss The Exit
Edward at eleven:
He likes watching accident videos on YouTube.
Just the fun ones.
Fun = nobody gets hurt. Or not too much.
Truck tops not clearing overpasses delight him.
His parents are concerned. His gratitude list, in which he writes down five items every night before going to bed, repeatedly lists “invention of the dashcam”.
He has asked for a GoPro camera for the upcoming Xmas, with a mount for bicycle and helmet.
This preoccupation began last year as a result of his puppy, Chance.
His Uncle Zeb had a circus act with dogs and when one got pregnant he had puppies to disperse.
Mom and Dad thought getting Edward the dog was a good idea. Something to distract him from his then blossoming obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Not stepping on cracks on sidewalks when he walked down the street, retying his shoelaces constantly, and repeatedly rearranging his stuffed animals were just three among his many habits. He could not begin his homework or any household chore without first repeating the mantra-prayer—Luck, be a lady— which he’d picked up from a Frank Sinatra record his parents played.
While playing outside one day, Chance started running out into the street just as a car was approaching. The pup must have accessed some of that Big Top DNA because he leapt an amazing distance up into the air and over the car hood, avoiding something that would certainly not = fun.
The awed driver happened to have a dashcam, showed the clip to Edward’s family—and up on YouTube it went. (It still shows up in Amazing Pet Trick compilations.)
Edward began to regularly watch it on the family computer, and when he wasn’t being supervised, he started checking out the amazing accident compilations in the side panel of links.
He also liked watching the extreme weather clips, the building demolition implosions, and occasionally sports bloopers.
Edward at twelve:
He thrives on the excitement, the tension building as the camera follows the moving object or subject. He turns off the sound, wanting no reactions or commentary to interfere wth his experience.
It was an accepted fact that in each clip something somewhat catastrophic was certainly forthcoming, but it was always a surprise as to how it would go. Eventually, as he’d made his rounds through the hundreds of available clips, he discovered that even with the outcome already known, repeated viewings could still be fun and exciting. Eventually he had to resort to the anthologies that were called If It Weren’t Filmed You Wouldn’t Believe It, but steered way clear of the UFO and conspiracy ones.
Edward at thirteen:
As the volume of posted videos increases Edward gets anxious when it looks like the accidents are not going to stay fun.
Like the one recently where the back wheel had come off a truck and the rim started scraping the road, shooting sparks. Or the car repeatedly spining on black ice on a busy highway. And especially the one where the motorcycle ran into a car, sending the two bike passengers flying onto the street.
But still, even when in doubt, he stays with the video—until he is sure everyone is basically okay. Occasionally he still finds himself whispering— Luck, be a lady.
Edward at fourteen:
He no longer trusts people to post content warnings on the accident videos. He has seen some things that he can not un-see, things that were not fun at all.
He finally asks himself—Why am I watching this?
He tries shifting to video games — running around dystopian landscapes, gunning, stabbing, mauling, dismembering, and chainsawing—but the fantasy and sci-fi worlds just seem hackneyed, unreal.
Looking for the excitement he lost with his accident videos he turns to TV—briefly pursuing an interest in the National Football League, which he quickly finds to be the antithesis of fun. Occasionally he watches World Wrestling Federation bouts, the sweaty brutes thrashing somehow akin the sillier collision videos. By the time he clicks around to the Reality Television shows he comprehends the story his father told about Elvis Presley once shooting out a TV.
Edward at fifteen:
He and some friends have discovered the pleasures of sex.
Whatever it was he was searching for in screen excitement is gone.
The TV in his room is now a permanently dark box where entertainment news and soap operas are firmly locked up so they can do no harm.
Edward at sixteen:
He deletes Candy Crush and Snood from his cellphone and mostly uses it to check in with his parents, listen to music through headphones, and for playful sexting with his boyfriend and girlfriend.
As far as using his computer, it only comes alive to briefly glance at his friends’ activity on social media, see how the elections are going (he’s excited—he’ll be able to vote in a couple years), and to write short stories and articles for Medium.
© words and art — AleXander Hirka 2019. All Rights Reserved.
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