Judging from the last few stories, you might think stubbornness was the cause of most of my problems at the age of five. Not so. Curiosity was really my major weakness and, though it didn’t kill me, it caused me some serious problems.
The first incident took place when I found a book of old matches while walking home with my brother. Since I wasn’t allowed to touch matches at home, I was trying to see what would happen if you struck them on the cover like I’d seen my parents do. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried they just crumbled without lighting. Bill turned around to ask if they would light, and instantly screamed at me to go get Dad. One of the discarded matches had ignited the grass field we were walking across, and flames were heading straight toward the only gasoline storage tank in town. While Bill fought the flames, I rushed to get Dad. Luckily, the two of them were able to extinguish the fire, though Bill was not happy that he had lost his eyebrows in the effort. Dad just plain wasn’t happy. I wasn’t too curious about how he felt and had enough sense to stay out of sight as much as I could until he returned to Seattle a few days later.
The second incident ended up, at least for me, much more disastrously. Most readers probably aren’t old enough to remember that wash machines once had wringers to dry out the clothes rather than spinning them dry. I was watching our apartment manager wash clothes and was intrigued by how the clothes fed into the wringer. So, when she went outside to hang up some of the clothes, I decided (using that word rather loosely, of course) to touch the wringer to see what caused the clothes to go through. I found out, and nearly lost all the flesh on my left hand in the process. When the manager returned, I apparently asked her calmly to stop the machine. She stopped the machine, took one look at my hand, nearly fainted, then ran off to get my mother without ever releasing the wringer.
Needless to say, the hand was mangled beyond recognition. The doctor proposed skin grafts, but my mother couldn’t imagine how I could manage to keep my hand fastened to my stomach for a month while the new skin healed. Though self-conscious of my hand for years, I secretly felt it was kind of neat that my hand perfectly fit the shape of my baseball mitt. I never became the great pianist I could have become, but that might have been good thing considering the neighborhood I grew up in. Two of my fingers are still scarred enough to remind me that if you’re not careful you can pay a price for being too curious.
Though I’ve seldom suffered such consequences again, I have stubbornly stuck with curiosity, one of the great driving forces in my life. It explains why I seldom get bored and why I have piles of books on strange topics waiting to be read. It’s helped me to get through some rough periods in my life. It might even explain why I’ve continued to plug away at this blog for years now.