Local BioClown Runs Over Child, Ruins Christmas
That was the headline going through my mind as we steered the motorhome through the crowd of people lining Mohawk Street for the Springfield Holiday Parade. No, let’s make a correction there, the crowd wasn’t so much lining the street as standing in it, and I felt like a “Wide Load” truck driver being asked to drive through a meadow without hitting any grass.
Without having a good feel for the dimensions of the RV yet, it seemed like the candy-minded children were just inches away from the tires, and sitting in the cockpit, there was no way to see anyone within ten feet of the front of the bus unless they were eight feet tall. Unfortunately, Eugene and Springfield have yet to produce any eight-foot children, so it was just a matter of using The Force to detect any scampering kids or pets.
I guess it was with us, because we managed to make it through the sea of people and safely onto the rest of the parade route without even maiming a poodle. Not to bad for a first-time float-driver. I’d cajoled the significant other and associates — Allison, Jamie, Marc and Caroline (and Jak) — into coming along as a waving and candy-hucking support team. But, it turns out that old-fashioned candy-hucking is prohibited for fear of eyeballs lost to a Roger Clemens’ Jolly Rancher fastball. You’re supposed to hand it out. Kids under eight feet tall dancing in the streets? Fine, just no flying Tootsie Rolls. So I turned the wheel over to Marc, and exited the coach Marine-style to pass out sweets. The rest of the team leaned out the windows and became discrete candy droppers, and we went through six bags roughly half way through the parade. That explains the huge crowds at the beginning: parade veterans.
In addition to the candy rule, I wasn’t aware that we were driving in a place of honor, directly before Santa Claus and directly after the Horsey Clean-Up Crew, or as they were affectionately called by several parade-watching screamers, “The Pooper Scoopers!” Armed with Santa hats, wheelbarrows, shovels and Christmas Cheer, they made navigation much easier and more pleasant, and we were grateful for it.
While everyone loves you when you’re packin’ chocolate, it was still amazing to see the reaction to the bioTrekker campaign. We got thumbs up from manicured older folks in sweater vests and peace signs from shaggier folk in tie-dye. A lot of people said, “Thank you for doing this,” which still hits me in the spot usually reserved for Old Yeller.
The kids’ comments were the best though. One of our favorites was, “It IS the hippies!” (Hard to escape that one.) Or, “Look, there’s slime on the side of it!” (No, those are “biodiesel flames,” kid, they just look a lot like the goo out of Ghostbusters.) This last one must have been a teenager, because he turned from watching the scoopers ahead of us, looked at the RV and said, “Biodiesel’s made from horse shit.” Don’t tell that to the Soy Farmer’s Lobby, my man, or the whole industry might lose its momentum.
When we finally turned off Main Street at the end of the route, everyone inside the motorhome could now stop smiling, but we didn’t. I thought it might feel sort of corny to drive in the parade, but it filled me with a holiday spirit that I honestly haven’t felt in a while. People smiling and waving to each other, it seems like a small thing, but it doesn’t happen as often as it could these days. The small things make a big impact. At least, they do for me. If a giant oak tree is uprooted in a storm and crashes into the motorhome tomorrow in Portland, I’ll be happy just knowing that, yesterday, I took the opportunity to smile and wave at the town of Springfield.