Michael and me

Many folks have tizzied themselves into a flop sweat about Michael Jackson and the now-notorious dangle caper, and some are getting a bit out of line. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with television and radio personalities screeching about how social agencies should be investigating M.J. for abuse. I’m usually all for our children being protected by raving fascist busybodies, but, doggone it, everybody makes a really dumb call once in a while, even a fading superstar with a nose that can open sardine cans. Ever hear of “no harm, no foul?”

I vividly remember one of my own super-dumb child-rearing moments. Daughter Catie was about a year old, in the living room, swinging in one of those wind-up swing things that most modern kids spend time in during their transition from carpet crawler to wobbly toddler. I’d been hoping that she’d conk out, but no luck. She was ridin’ hard, with a giddy look on her face that said, “Wow, it’s great to be one year old!”

Just then, my bad idea began to upbubble. It came from a dark, dumb part of my brain, the same part that gets a real hoot out of whoopee cushions. I had been eating Rolo chocolate caramels while in the room with Catie, and Rolos, as you may know, come individually wrapped. I ate the last one, then compressed its foil wrapper into a little ball shape, concentrating deeply on making it into as perfect a sphere as possible. It’s safe to assume I looked like a somewhat simple person as I did this.

That’s when The Dumb Thought emerged, in all of its dangerous dumbness: I should throw the Rolo wrapper at Catie’s head, because it would be funny to watch it bounce off her dome and onto the floor. All right! Big laughs! Then, deeper dumbness: the idea was reconsidered, approved and put into action.

Catie looked at me, still swinging and smiling. The Rolo wrapper was aimed, then gently arced toward my daughter’s large, round skull. But instead of landing softly and humorously bouncing away, the wrapper vanished into her head! My precious little mouth-breather had swung her gaping Gerber-hole upwards into the descending path of the Rolo wrapper, a move of perfectly timed physics that would have thrilled Isaac Newton himself.

But the wrapper didn’t just sail into her mouth; it flew straight down her gullet, lodging in her throat and completely blocking her airway.

Oops. My bad. And just like that, my dumb little goof had gone life and death on me.

I sat there, stunned, while Catie began to experience her first really good choke. Just then, her mom came in, assessed the situation, and dislodged the evil Rolo wrapper with one sharp slap to the back.

My feeble explanations for this tomfoolery didn’t do much to get me out of the Casa de Dog, as you can imagine. And it was interesting how I flashed back to that day in ‘89 shortly after calling Michael a dangerous knucklehead.