I don’t remember if I was in first or second grade.
What I do remember is that I was with my friend who lived two houses down from mine. She was a girl and girls were not cool. But she owned the first Schwinn bike I’d seen, and that was very cool. All I had was a puke-yellow skateboard.
As we walked home from school, I remember my friend slowed down and then nearly ran over me while screaming for her mom. I was oblivious to the car that had pulled up next to us.
I turned towards the street to see a gorilla looking at me. What’s a gorilla doing driving down the the street? His head was out the window, and he was growling at me. He never said a word. I stopped walking and just stared at him. He slowed his car but didn’t stop.
When my mom asked me to describe the make and color of his car I drew a blank. All I saw was the gorilla. But now I understood that I hadn’t actually seen a gorilla driving a car; I’d seen a man dressed in a gorilla mask.
And that bummed me out a bit.
I was too young to recognize the potential danger. I didn’t feel threatened at all. I couldn’t wait to tell my dad I’d seen a gorilla cruising down Van Buren Avenue.
Since having children of my own, I’ve often thought about that hairy but mobile primate. I don’t know what I’d do if my children encountered a such a strange sight. I don’t remember my parents overacting. I don’t recall any meetings with the principal. Imagine the warnings and training we’d bombard our kids with if the same thing happened today.
It took a while to settle my friend down before our parents could remind us again never to accept a ride from strangers.