Yesterday I received the second book about Rachel, Chain Reaction
. If you have been reading my blog for awhile you'll know that she is a role model of mine, someone whose gracious spirit and caring attitude I seek to emulate in my daily life. She is the only hero I've ever had in my life. I mean--I've had plenty of people I admire, even idolize, but she is the only one who I honestly thought was another level of remarkable. The book itself is amazing. And, even though I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of further insight into Rachel's life like the first book had, I am finding myself in the process of stumbling upon an absolute treasure of information. There is so much to learn about being a better version of you that I find myself stopping constantly and commenting, "I have to remember this quote" or "I should use that in my next story or post." To give an idea of how much I enjoy the book I took it into work with me and, starting from page one, I almost managed to complete the whole thing while sitting at my desk.
you can start a chain reaction...
While reading the book I started to ask myself if I have ever done anything extraordinary, something quite so noble and unselfish that it warrants recounting here. Honestly, I do not know if any of my meager attempts at kindness and altruism come even close to matching the degree of benevolence Miss Scott showed everyday of her life. The following story possibly is the closest I've ever come, though I think it still displays my sense of hedonism and reveling in the randomness of life. I do not think that spirit runs contrary to kindness, but I think it illustrates more the strange, strange life I lead rather than the good and saintly life I'm trying to lead.
I was fourteen when I got lost at Epcot Center at Disney World. I didn't get lost for long--unless you count six hours as long--and it wasn't because I was angry or upset with any particular member of my family. I was stupid--plain and simple. I had asked to be excused from lunch with my two aunts and my brother because I wanted to go check out one of the scientific displays in one of the technology buildings. I went to the building, got bogged down on one of the virtual reality displays and the next thing I knew it was eighty minutes later and no one had come to pick me up like I'd asked them to. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have chosen to spend my time waiting for them in a booth at the back of the building, behind curtains, and with absolutely no view of the front or back exits. What they said had happened was they went looking for me ten minutes after I had finished lunch, couldn't find me in the building after searching every nook and cranny for twenty minutes, and then they went off on their merry way, figuring I'd catch up with them later.
It was another twenty minutes of my searching the technology building and the restaurant to realize that, damn it all, I'd been ditched. I could have been upset, annoyed, or scared that my aunts, who my parents had put in charge of my brother and me, had decided that I could, in fact, be left behind with no problem. Yet I knew in my heart of hearts that this was all my fault and that I would have to be the one to rectify it.
It was after another thirty or forty minutes of searching the immediate vicinity that I learned that, not only had they left me behind, but they were definitely off in the rest of the park having the adventures that I should have been having at the time. I made up my mind then and there that I was not going to waste another minute of my only day at Epcot during our seven-day stay in Orlando on looking for them. I trusted in fate that I'd run into them eventually. Off I went into the huge park, seeing all the attractions I wanted to see that I had been outvoted earlier in the day from seeing. I have to say, when you're still relatively young, the best way to view an amusement park is to do it alone. Not only do you get on the rides faster because they're always looking to fill seats, but you have a feeling of absolute freedom. You don't have to take anyone else's preferences into consideration, you don't have to stop for the slowpoke of the group, and you don't have to deal with cantankerous aunts who were almost always squabbling with each other.
I had fun.
I may have been lost, but I almost had no sense that that condition was a bad one to be in. For all I knew I might have had to call a taxi to take me back to the hotel at the end of the day, possibly book a flight home, and then have to explain to my parents why I never managed to hook back up with the family I'd come there with. I didn't care. Even if I possibly got stuck in Florida because my family hadn't been able to find me all week I still would have had no worries in the world. I think about that time and how different the summer of 1990 was compared to now. If I was fourteen now and got lost like I did it'd be a short call on my cell phone and they would have been able to rendezvous with me within minutes. But back then, like Eponine, I was truly on my own.
It was about two hours into my adventuring that I came across a kindred soul. By a fountain near Cinderella's (or was it Snow White's?) Castle was a brunette, a girl no older than ten or eleven, and she was crying and obviously lost. I don't know what drew me to her--possibly the idea that that very well could have been me if I had only been one or two years younger or possibly the idea that I was having such a good time being lost and she wasn't. I don't think I shall ever know the real reason why I walked up to her. All I know is I did.
"What's wrong? Are you lost?"
Shuffle, shuffle, away from me.
"It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to help."
So it wasn't stopping to change someone's flat, or giving away a kidney, or even donating to charity, but you have to understand I wasn't a very helpful person growing up. I pretty much lived and still of kind of live by the code that I should be happy before anyone else. It just wasn't like me to do something like that, especially considering how much of a damper it put on my solo expedition through the Epcot wilderness. I was concerned, though, and so I stopped for her. I don't know why her either. I'm sure there had to be other boys and girls lost in the park that day--many of whom I probably chose to ignore--but for her I stopped.
"I don't know where my parents are," she said quietly through her sobbing. "And I can't find them. I've looked and looked, and I can't find them."
"It's alright. They'll find you. You shouldn't cry out here like this. Here," I said, giving her a leaflet from the maps they give you at the entrance. It wasn't a napkin or a handkerchief, but it was all I had. At first, she didn't understand. I told her to wipe her face and I'd help her find her parents or, at the very least, take her to the front entrance where all the other lost kids were supposed to wait inside the front security building.
"Follow me. I know exactly where to take you where you'll be okay."
She definitely didn't trust me yet so I had to have faith that she would follow in behind me. I turned around and started making my way back towards the front gate. I couldn't hear her trailing me and yet I didn't want to turn around to check for fear of scaring her off.
As it were, even if she wasn't following behind me, there was another building I wanted to see by the front entrance anyway so the trip could have been construed as being personally motivated as well. I walked and walked, never once did I turn around or hear someone following me. I honestly thought I'd lost her until after ten minutes of walking suddenly she was right beside me.
I didn't say anything to her, but from that point on she turned when I turned, sped up when I sped up, and slowed when I slowed. And after about fifteen minutes of walking further we arrived at the security office.
"Just go in there and they'll help you out," I told her, turning around to go back into the park. I looked back to see her go in and then cleared my conscience. My mission was complete. I thought I had done a good thing with the minimum amount of effort. After all, the most I had done was shown her something that she could have seen on any map to the park. Notch one in the good column for Patrick.
I had just gotten in line to The World of Tomorrow display when who should pop in line right next to me but this mysterious brunette. I turned to the side and smiled. She sort of laughed and sort of blushed, the whole while trying to not look me in the eye.
"You're lost too, huh?" she asked after we'd been standing in line for a minute or two.
"I noticed when I was following you. No parents, no older brothers or sisters. You're alone too."
"Uh huh and loving every minute of it. We're at Disney World, goddamn it. I'm not going to let the fact I'm lost ruin it."
She continued to stare ahead. As we were about to head through the front doors to the building she spoke again.
"I'm Brandy. And your name is Patrick."
"How could you tell?"
What can I say? Every time before that when I went to Disneyland with my family I always bought a pair of the personalized mouse ears. Mouse ears are cool--I don't care what you think.
We went around the building, looking at different displays and trying out all the gadgets we could get our hands on, all without talking very much. I think the extent of our conversation was limited to "Take a look at this" or "Over here." It went like this for the next thirty minutes or so as we explored all three floors of the exhibition. We eventually stopped walking when we neared the last display. I stood over the railing, peering down at the crowds walking below, and got a good look at my dimunitive walking partner.
As aforementioned she was ten or eleven. She had brown hair and brown eyes. She wasn't all that pretty, but that could have been the crying and the stress of her situation. She was a good foot shorter than me. I think to the casual onlooker we could have passed for cousins or maybe school friends, but we definitely did not look like brother or sister, and, heavens to betsy, nothing resembling a couple. I thought to myself other than Brandy I didn't know a damn thing about this girl. I decided to remedy that.
"So get lost often?" I joked.
"No," she said uncomfortably.
"So this is a first for you too?" I tried again.
She paused, contemplating her options. "Yeah, I'm a rookie," she replied, showing the slightest hint of a grin.
"I'm thinking of going professional next year... maybe get lost at Hershey Park."
"Oooh, I've been there!"
And then she proceeded to tell me all about Hershey Park and how her parents were originally from Pennsylvania so they took her there, oh, about four years ago. Then she went into telling me about all the rides there and the food there and the great, great time she had. Finally, she ended her small story on a note about how her dad must be worried about her by now.
"Do you want to go back to the security station?"
"Yes, but I want you to come."
"I don't want to wait by myself."
"You talked to me, go talk to somebody over there."
She shot me a look of dejection that could have been truly annoying if she hadn't been so practiced at it. I had no choice but to accompany her. But before we left I made one small caveat to my complicity.
"I'll wait with you there for awhile, Brandy, but I've got to eat something."
We walked over to the nearby fast food stand. I looked up and down the menu until I came across what I wanted to see. Pizza. It'd been a good two hours of walking and slightly stressing out. I had built a sizable hunger again and a slice sounded about right to quell the stomach until I figured out what to do about dinner. The line was atrocious, though, and what I thought was going to be a quick grab and go turned into another game of patience. While I was waiting in line Brandy and I talked some more. I told her how I'd gotten lost. She told me I was stupid for waiting there. I told her I knew and then I asked her how she had gotten lost. She said that she had stormed away mad at her parents, basically thrown a fit when they wouldn't go where she wanted to. She had ran hard, faster and faster, when they had tried to stop her from making a scene. She had lost them in the crowd. She told me she had only meant to sulk by herself for a short while. Yet when she returned to where she had first lost them they weren't there any more. She had looked around much like I had for a few minutes, but whereas I had chosen to embrace my freedom, she had gotten deeply scared and panicked. She had been crying there at the fountain for a long while--people stopping to ask her if she needed help and she shaking her head no. She had even been approached by security but had told them that she was waiting for her older brother while he had gone into the nearby bathroom. And when asked why she was crying she told them she didn't like her older brother and that he was being mean to her. They asked her if they wanted her to wait with her and she told them no. So they had moved on.
I asked her why she didn't just let them help her.
"I don't want to get in trouble." In her mind she thought she'd be in less hot water if her parents had found her without having to be escorted by park staff. Her mom was always deathly afraid of Brandy causing a scene so she didn't want to cause a big one with the guards having to present her mom with her "lost child." I told her that didn't make sense, that her parents would be happy just to find her, and she simply told me no. In truth, I think the real reason she didn't want help was that she had been fighting to go see something on her own and had been told no. For her, I think, this getting lost had as much to do to prove to herself and her parents that she would be okay on her own as much as being scared. Thought she wouldn't admit it, I think she wanted to be found by her parents and act all nonchalant about it--"Oh, hi, mom and dad."--rather than have them realize she had been crying her eyes out and then have to call security for her mommy and daddy to come pick her up.
After I'd gotten to the front counter I did some math in my head. If I'd only eaten two hours ago and Brandy had mentioned she had come straight to the park from breakfast that meant she probably hadn't had lunch yet. With the last twenty dollars in my Hulk wallet I ordered four slices of pizza and two cokes. How her eyes had lit up when she realized I was buying her food as well.
We sat down at a table and ate our meal in quiet silence. Truth be told, she was very hungry and was visibly wolfing down her food. I don't think she could have talked if she wanted to. I laughed at her a couple of times when she proceeded to go from one bite to the next with nary a pause in between. It was definitely the most interesting "snack" I had all week. Afterwards, I tried talking to her some more, but she really didn't have much left to tell me without getting into family stuff. And every time we came around to the subject of her family it only made her realize she was still lost. We eventually ran out of things to talk about ten minutes later. We decided to start heading back to the station.
But instead of going back to the station she made a sharp right and wandered into the rest of the park. This time it was my turn to follow her. This time we didn't do much talking. It was obvious, to me, at least, that we probably wouldn't be friends after that day. What we needed most on that day of days was a companion, someone to go see things with, go on rides with. Talking wasn't going to be our strong suit. So for the next four hours we explored the whole park, even the city streets near the back, where each block was taken from a different culture. We went into the giant golf ball ride which was fun. And it was even more fun because she genuinely was enjoying herself like I had been before meeting up with her. She too experienced the joys of not having to answer to anyone. True, there was some minor bickering about where to go next, but, all in all, the spirit of independence ran deep in both our blood. We made the whole day about seeing as much as we could before we were found.
it's a big world after all...
Then as we turned the corner of the waterboat ride, she saw her parents.
And with no good-bye, "it was fun", or even a look back she was gone. I was a little sad to see her go. However, I was glad she had found them finally. Also, I felt a little proud I'd kept her company all that time, bought her food, and made sure she was safe while she was with me. Again, I don't know if it equates to Mother Teresa tending to the poor in Calcutta, but I think it was a nice thing I did. I think it sticks out a lot also because I never got a thank you and that didn't bother me either. I did it to help someone out and it was reward enough to see she had been reunited with her parents.
About an hour after Brandy left me I found my aunts and brother. When they asked me where I'd been I simply told them, "here and there." I had fun and if Brandy Brunettehead is reading this I just wanted to let you know that a lot of that had to do with you.
So it is I who will thank you for a day I still haven't forgotten.