"Hey, do you remember where you were when EVENT GOES HERE?"
How many times have you heard that question? Because everybody has had those types of life-defining days. The days you mark against history. The days that stop time -- and affect your life, forever.
Doyourememberwhereyouwerewhen Days become Doyourememberwhereyouwerewhen Days because something happened on that day to touch you in some special, emotional way.
Do you remember where you were when you found out Reagan had been shot?
Do you remember where you were when you found out about the Gulf War?
Do you remember where you were when you found out that your mom and dad actually have sex?
Sometimes, Doyourememberwhereyouwerewhen Days affect millions. Other times, it may have been some small, seemingly insignificant event that caught only you at the right moment and will never leave your memory. It hit you in such a way that whenever you hear about it, you can instantly recall where you were, what you were doing and how you felt.
Me? I've been through a lot of history in my forty miserable years. The death of JFK. The death of Princess Di. The death of New Coke.
A lot of heavy stuff.
But through it all, the deaths, the births, the victories, the marriages, the Scott Norwoods, there's one day that I'll never, ever forget.
October 16, 1988. The day I got hit in the balls.
Not just a little peck, mind you. Christ, I'd been grazed a couple of times.
No, October 16, 1988 was different. October 16, 1988 was a flesh-pounding-hammer- to-the-testicles-so-this-is-how-it's-gonna-end-gee-doesn't-this- figure-mallet-boom-nick- knack-paddywhack to Nuggetville.
The details will hang with me until the day I die, which I thought at the time was October 16, 1988.
Jesus, typing this is even making my groin ache. And not in a good way.
I knew I should've just written about lesbians this week.
October 16th, 1988
I was working at my first real job at an advertising agency in downtown Cleveland. The stories you've heard about ad agencies are true; when we worked, we worked. And when we played, we weren't working. Because we were too busy making up games.
One of our favorites was a dart game called AccuDarts. AccuDarts had a list of rules three pages long. Single-spaced. And the rules were not exactly, um, traditional.
For example, rule 14b: "If a player scored exactly 17 points in the 5th inning of a game, the other player must retrieve the darts for the other player and while handing them to the opposing player, mimic the sounds of a monkey in heat."
Swear to god.
Then there was BARTS, which was a combination of bowling and darts. Without going into details, let's just say we got really, really good at throwing little metal pushpins in a 3 x 4 square on a corkboard. From 15 feet away.
There was Ten Point Weenie. This was a highly sophisticated game, probably beyond your comprehension. Four people sat in the four corners of an office. The object of the game was to throw an inflatable ball at one of the other three people. If they didn't catch it, they got a point. If you got ten points, you were a weenie and you were out. Last one left wins.
Told you you wouldn't understand.
And of course, who could forget Get The Grape? I had a plump green grape thumb- tacked to the wall in my office. Every day, you were allowed three darts from 20 feet away to puncture the grape. After about three weeks, the game became Get the Raisin. Eventually, somebody got it. I don't remember who it was or when it happened, but it was a truly joyous occasion and a victory everyone could take pride in.
(I know this is going to come as a huge shock, but that company no longer exists. In retrospect, maybe we should've put as much energy into the success of the company as we did with our games. But I guess the guy who ran the company was a complete idiot for letting us play games all day. So there.)
Anyway, on this one particular day, October 16, 1988, we decided that we had done enough work for the day and it was time to play a friendly game of Tapeball. It was 10 AM. Tapeball was our version of the classic kid's game, Stickball. The bat was a yardstick. And the ball was layers upon layers of tape.
The game started and a guy named Chuck was pitching, a guy named John was batting, and a guy named me was the catcher. Chuck was a really, really big guy. Chuck was one of those guys who always had to play hard. Chuck couldn't just play catch. Chuck wanted to be Nolan Ryan. Chuck didn't believe in the theory of playing for the sake of not working.
Chuck was pitching. I was catching. I think we all see where this is going, don't we?
The game was taking place in the narrow hallway of our department. The first pitch came in. John swung and missed. I actually caught it. Strike one. Then came the second pitch. The ball bounced about three feet in front of John. John swung and missed. So did I.
Well, with my hands.
Y'know how when a ball bounces on Astroturf, it picks up speed? Apparently, the same thing happens on brown industrial carpeting.
I don't care if that ball bounced twenty feet in front of the plate. It was a strike. Right between my legs.
At this point, the areas including my left testicle, my right testicle and all points in between my left and right testicles were now throbbing in pain.
This was about as close to a war wound as I was ever gonna get.
I was lying there, writhing in pain, not really sure I would ever walk again. I looked up and saw John and Chuck hovering over me.
"Are you OK? Should we call an ambulance? What can we do? Do you need some ice? Anything? Tell us…how can we help?"
Those were the kind, caring words I needed to hear. Only they came out sounding more like this:
"Hey, um, do you think maybe you could roll over or something? You're, um, kind of in the way."
I was in the most horrible pain of my life. But hell, I understood. Where else were they gonna play? Do they stop the Super Bowl if somebody breaks his leg?
I was a warrior. A Tapeball warrior.
And so battered and bruised, I pulled myself into the bathroom and took a peek.
Geez, I'd heard of blue balls. But magenta?
I spent the rest of the day sitting in my office contemplating the future of my balls.
Poor guys. They had suffered a merciless, senseless death. And now, I was going to have to drag their sorry dead asses around for another sixty years.
John and Chuck? Sympathetic beyond belief -- they kept walking by my office, laughing.
You'll be happy to know that it's 13 years later and the sad sacks are still with me. Oh, I've flirted with death again a couple times since that fateful day. Two years ago, in fact, I walked up to my nephew, held out my hand and said: "Hey Matt, gimme five." He must've thought I said, "Hey Matt, would you be so kind as to slug me in the balls," because he slugged me in the balls.
I'm not worried, though. He'll get his someday. I can only hope I'm there to see it. Or do it, one of the two.
The fact is, no one ever anticipates getting nailed in the balls. It just happens.
It may happen again today for all I know. But even if it does, it'll never be like October 16, 1988.
"Hey Lane, do you remember where you were when you got nailed in the balls?"
Why yes, as a matter of fact, I do.