The alarm roused me from my slumber at 5 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 28. At first, I didn’t recognize the annoyance residing so close to my head. I think I was distracted by a dream that I needed to finish. No such luck. I pulled myself up and reached over to the night stand and silenced the disturbance. Hopefully, I will continue the dream at a later date. Yes, it was that good!
The funeral for my cousin Alfred Pinsonneault was calling me to Bennington on this morning. I was honored to serve as a pallbearer and I needed to be on time and this meant that I could not be distracted and/or lose my focus. The evening before I (last minute) text-messaged a friend in Bennington (Tad Downing) and suggested a meeting at Jensen’s for coffee. Meeting at Jensen’s Restaurant might also afford me an opportunity to meet some of the resident Rattlesnakes of Bennington. Again, no such luck.
Heavy fog greeted me as I opened the breezeway door on the way to the garage. I knew this would be a distraction and I would need to adjust my driving habits to the conditions of the road -- in this case, the dense fog causing very poor visibility. Pulling out of my driveway and easing down the hill, a fawn leapt across the dirt road not far from my front bumper. It was 5:30 a.m. and I was on my way!
Reaching Jensen’s by 7 a.m. seemed a bonus! I didn’t need to be at the church until 9 a.m. Grabbing a Bennington Banner, the waitress said in a very welcoming tone: "You can sit any where you like." I took a booth near a window, ordered a coffee and read the newspaper hoping that Tad would show. Upon inquiry, the waitress told me that: "Yes, the Rattlesnakes come here about every day. They begin coming in around 9 a.m." I realized that this was the third time I stopped here and came up emptyhanded. It’s all in the timing.
I finished my breakfast and paid the check and still no Tad. Stalling for some additional time, I wandered around outside and took a couple photos of the catamount at the front of Jensen’s when who should drive up? It was Tad. We went into Jensen’s had coffee and chatted. He wanted to know what had happened or what was going on that my column had not appeared in the Banner over the past few months. My response: "I have been a bit distracted."
Good or bad, distractions are a part of our lives and I have learned for the sake of survival to endeavour never to be distracted. Allowing one’s self to be distracted can bring on calamitous (how often do you see that word!?) catastrophic consequences of death defying proportions! To exemplify the possibility of extreme dangers in distraction, I offer this sample taken from an experience I had during the summer of 1966 as a laborer for Vermont Highway Dept. District No. 1 of Bennington.
"We’re heading for Danby Four Corners and you are riding with me. Grab your lunch and let’s get going." Sometimes John Andrews was all business with never so much as a: "Good Morning, Tom," before passing out orders. But, I had worked with John before and sometimes he was very abrupt and had other "stuff" on his mind. He probably did not want to be distracted today and he knew that I was pretty good at the distraction game!
Rumbling up Route 7 North to Danby Four Corners I sat quietly. Not wanting to admit I had absolutely no idea where Danby Four Corners is located. So, I asked the usual. "Where are we stopping for coffee?" I have discovered it’s all in the wording, so I say "Where" in place of "Are we." John pondered and momentarily responded: "I know a diner in Manchester, along the way."
The taste of coffee was fresh on my breath as John pulled his truck to the side of the road. "Take the flag. You will be directing traffic today. I will be back later. Stay in the road." I moved to the center line, in the middle of nowhere, watching the truck’s tail lights fade away into the morning mist. It was cool and damp, the sky was heavy with clouds. There was a rumbling in the distance, thunder no doubt. "This is boring," I thought.
A slight glimmer caught my peripheral vision off to the right. Enough of a glimmer to distract my attention and draw me to it like a moth to a porch light! In a split second I had leaped the ditch and clambered up the short embankment. "Hey! Cool!" A fence post with several yards of barbed wire wrapped around it! Maybe, I could find the end of the barbed wire and unravel some of it. And, as if making some grand discovery, I thought:"Ok. So this is how farmers get rid of the extra barbed wire!"
The more I thought about how to take some of this wire as a souvenir, an louder rumbling seeped into my consciousness. "Uh, oh. It’s John! John is returning with the trucks! The paving crew is close, very close!" I leapt almost to the center line, scooping up my flag along the way! I no sooner assumed my position in the road and came to a standstill when the sky rumbled and cracked and screeched and BAM!! A bolt of lightning crashed onto the barbwire-wrapped fence post where I stood only seconds ago! Still no trucks! Now, it’s going to get really hard standing and waiting. I promised myself, on the spot, never to become distracted again! But, it sure is boring here!
There I go again! Distracted over a story! (Focus, Tom). As I was saying, my cousin Alfred’s funeral was at 9 a.m., beginning with prayers and mass at St. Francis de Sales. I explained to my wife, Sharon, that the funeral was totally impressive with an Honor Guard and rescue vehicles lining the street. Hook and ladder trucks formed an arch and citizens all along the way stopped and watched. What a tribute to Alfred Pinsonneault whose favorite saint was St. Theresa of the Small Way.
It was a brief meeting with Tad, as it was really a work day for him. Next time, Tad!
Tom Pinsonneault is a Banner columnist. Je Me Rappele Quand means "I Remember When" in French.