Just Deserts

My story for today tells of a time when I probably got exactly what I deserved. Like many people, I always thought the phrase was ‘just desserts’… meaning that, when it was all said and done, I got a dessert that fit with the rest of the meal. However, the Phrase Finder web site set me straight. A desert is a dry desolate area and if you took a group of people to such a place for a day of fun and frolic, you might have more than a few people desert you. Thus, a person’s ‘just deserts’ implies that a person has been left alone in a dry desolate area – exactly what he or she deserved.

With that out of the way, let’s go back in time to 1984. Perhaps Big Brother was looking over my shoulder and shaking his head on the day I left work early so I could watch the Olympic Torch pass near my home in Roswell, Georgia.

Because traffic was blocked on the road to my home, I had to pull into a shopping center parking lot. I then joined the throngs of people anxiously awaiting the once-in-a-lifetime event.

We waited. And we waited. Then, we waited some more. The runners must have stopped for a long lunch; they were more than an hour behind schedule.

Finally, in the distance, we could see a police car followed by the news media vehicles. The excitement built to a crescendo as the torch bearer finally came into view.

The world class marathon runner I expected to see turned out to be a pudgy preteen who was walking. A more athletic looking man was walking beside the boy and seemed to be urging him to move faster. The boy seemed oblivious.

Needless to say I was extremely disappointed and angry. This was obviously the son of some fat-cat who paid off somebody so his darling little spoiled brat could be part of the Olympic games. The kid should have been home playing video games. (I think Atari was around back then.)

A few days later I was at a social function and began a tirade about the experience. I was soon interrupted by a friend who explained that the boy was one of several special needs children who were representing their school. Yes, a fat-cat did make the donation, but, No, the child I saw was not related to the donor.

After I got my foot out of my mouth, I apologized for my ignorance. I felt terrible at the time, and it still bothers me that I was so judgmental without trying to learn the whole story.

Now, fast forward a few months. It is still 1984, and the Olympic Games are about to begin in Los Angeles. The torch is making its final approach and passing through Atascadero, California. My family and I are there visiting my brother and his family.

Once again I find myself in the midst of a crowd of anxious onlookers. This time, the torch is on time and being carried by a man who has obviously run in many long distance races.

One major difference this time around is that I have my camera with me and I manage to get some terrific shots of the man and the torch. Life is good and the photos will look great in the album we’ll eventually put together.

Let’s fast forward a week or so. We are now near Vernal, Utah and visiting the Dinosaur National Monument. I took a few pictures and looked at the indicator to see how many more shots I had left on the roll of film. The indicator showed that I’d already taken forty-two.

The roll of film was supposed to be for thirty-six. Rather than take any more chances – this roll had pictures of my nieces and nephew as well as the Olympic torch runner – I pressed the rewind button. Nothing happened.

I guessed that the film had pulled out of the canister and feared that if I opened the case, the film would be ruined. I asked a guide if there was a dark place I could go to remove and try to save my roll of film.

The guide did more than find me a dark place, she took me to the dark room used by the palaeontologists. When I opened the camera, the film was in the canister. I must have rewound it and forgot to remove it. At least that is what I hoped happened.

A couple of weeks later, we were back home in Georgia and I’d dropped off my fifteen or twenty rolls of film. When I picked them up, the truth finally became clear. The roll of film in question was never properly loaded. The entire roll was blank.

Now the 1984 Olympic Games experience is nothing more than the memories in my head. And the picture that is most clear in my mind is that of a pudgy preteen walking through Roswell with the torch.

I think I learned my lesson, but that image is a constant reminder to not jump to conclusions.


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