You might remember Wrongway Feldman, one of my favorite childhood TV characters. A old WWI Air Force pilot, Wrongway appeared in several episodes of Gilligan’s Island. To put it mildly, Wrongway was not a very competent pilot. He had the reputation of, well, going the wrong way. It seemed Wrongway could bungle up any flight plan and he never knew exactly where he was nor how to get to where he was going.
Perhaps one of the reasons I still remember Wrongway Feldman is that I often share Wrongway’s propensity to get turned around. Often, I end up in places I never expected to be and am not sure how to find my way out. Today’s blog is about one such episode. Fortunately, I did find my way out; but, like Feldman, I have a feeling I’ll continue to end up in unexpected destinations. However, I’ve found that these unexpected destinations often bring with them some of life’s most treasured experiences.
I remember saying to myself, “Any sane person would think I am nuts for being here.” It was a cold winter night, the time was nearly midnight, and I was traipsing around one of Lexington’s most notorious housing projects. It was too dark to see and I struggled to stay on my feet as we made our way along an ice-covered earthen path that ran between two rows of single story housing units.
Reed, a good friend, and I had taken Profitt, another friend who was homeless, to the grocery after a Friday evening social that Leslie and I hosted in our home. Profitt was temporarily staying with a pregnant single woman and her most recent boyfriend. Both the young woman and boyfriend were known drug users and were trying (unsuccessfully) to stay clean in hopes of maintaining custody of the baby that would soon come. We had bought groceries for the three of them. Reed was staying with my car as I didn’t feel good leaving it unattended. Groceries in hand, Profitt and I were making our way to the apartment.
When Proffit finally turned and stepped up onto a porch, I thought “Ok, this must be it. I may actually get out of here fairly quickly and mostly unscathed.” The grocery bags were heavy – especially the two containing several pounds of raw chicken. I was looking forward to setting them down.
As Proffit began to quietly unlock the door, he looked over his shoulder and whispered a warning to me, “Stay back until I get these dogs settled down.” DOGS??? I was not reassured. Proffit restrained the dogs and I stayed close behind him as we crept quietly into the dimly lit kitchenette. Unimpressed, the two PIT BULLS quickly pegged me as an intruder. Both dogs broke free and lunged in my direction. Fortunately the dogs were more interested in the chicken than me. So I did my best in the dim light to find a place to unload the raw meat. As I clumsily heaved the bags up on the counter, I was startled to see a herd of roaches scatter off into the darkness.
With the groceries on the counter and the dogs distracted by the chicken, I relaxed a bit and was able to take a look around me. The small, dingy apartment appeared to consist of a single large room, a bathroom and two closets. There was no sign of the mom-to-be. I figured she was out.
By this time, the druggie boyfriend had emerged from the darkness and was attempting to corral the dogs. Profitt made the introductions and after a few seconds of small talk I was more than ready to make my departure. Wishing the best for mom and baby, I bid farewell and turned to leave. As I grasped the doorknob, a piercing scream came from behind a door I previously assumed was a closet. But the door apparently led into a small bedroom – which is where, I soon learned, the third roommate – the mom-to-be – had been resting. Obviously pregnant, she waddled quickly and clumsily from the “closet” into the large room. Both of her hands were high in the air and she kept glancing down to here sweat pants; they were soaking wet. All the while she was screaming, “My water broke! My water broke!”
Within a few minutes of placing the 911 call, the blasting sirens and flashing lights seemed to be in the room with us. Two hard pounds on the front door and in rushed three fireman in full gear. Abruptly they stopped, backed out the door and sternly commanded, “Tie those dogs. We are not entering the premises until those dogs are leashed and tied.” (Wow! I wished I had tried that….) Once the dogs were restrained, the firemen looked around the room. As soon as the first fireman spotted me, he blurted out, “Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?” (I couldn’t have asked a better question myself.) Obviously I looked as out of place as I felt.
Finally we were able to get mom-to-be in the ambulance. Profitt, the boyfriend and I made our way back to my vehicle where Reed sat looking as though he was in a state of shock. Reed had imagined the worst when he saw the fire trucks and ambulances. After reassuring Reed and loading some baby stuff in the back of my car, I delivered Profitt and the boyfriend to the hospital, Reed to his apartment, and I finally returned safely home.
I learned the next day all had gone well. Baby and mom were doing fine. The episode turned out to be one of the last I would have with Proffit. He passed away several months later. I have many great memories of the times my family and I spent with Proffitt and I expect, if you continue to read my blog, you’ll learn more about this interesting character and dear friend.