Thursday, 6 October 2011

Making My Mark

I have left my mark in Glasgow. Dozens upon dozens of schoolchildren will never forget me.

Glasgow is normally a wet city, but yesterday, the heavens opened up and instead of the usual gentle drizzle, we had torrents of rain, rivers of gutter water, and lakes of puddles. At one point, the wind was blowing so hard, it was impossible to use an umbrella. I pulled my hood over my head, prayed all the books in my bag would stay dry, and sprinted out of the cafe where I had been marking papers. I had to walk a mile in that rain and I cursed silently as I found myself in a huge crowd of small children on some sort of field trip. They were all carrying sports bags, and for all that they had enough energy to scream themselves silly, they walked very slowly.

I was in a hurry and desperate to break free of the crowd, but no matter how I dodged this way and that, I could not seem to get through. A few of the teachers leading the group gave me sympathetic looks, but the sidewalks were crowded with other people too, and it wasn't their fault I had left myself only ten minutes to get to my next class.

"Excuse me," I said several times, to no avail.

For the next two minutes, I trudged along, inwardly fuming, getting wetter and wetter as we moved along at a snail's pace. All around me, children giggled and yakked and horsed around, driving me half wild with impatience. And then suddenly, I saw an expanse of empty sidewalk the kids were, for some silly reason, steering clear of. Gratefully, I leapt into it -- and felt my feet sinking into the cement. Wet cement, and not just from the rain. My feet sunk in a good half inch.

I took two, perhaps three steps, the wet cement sucking at my feet and my face flaming. Too late I saw the ribbon with WET CEMENT, KEEP OFF clearly printed on it.

"But that lady walked on it!" I heard a child's voice pipe behind me. "That one there, in the bright red raincoat!" This was followed by the disapproving rumble of her teacher's voice.

I made myself as small as possible and wished to God my raincoat was any other color.

Next week, I'll be back in Glasgow. If it's dry, I'll try to find where I made my mark. Long after I'm gone, I'll bet my foolish footprints will still be there. And the kids won't forget me in a hurry either.

No, it wasn't the way I wanted to do it. It wasn't the way I've dreamed of doing it. But at least I've made my mark.


Chocolatesa said...

I've always wanted to do that :) I've never had the chance yet though.

Vijaya said...

I would've done it on purpose, Mary :) My kids too! Anytime we've poured concrete, we've made a little mark, whether a footprint or handprint, or maple leaf print. It's fun to leave marks.

Years ago, I got a citation because I wrote "fresh foxchops for sale" in front of a new grocery store. Someone saw me and reported it to the police. At first they thought I was a kid, but then I had to own up (I was 22) and pay $50 to have it sandblasted.

As a child I was punished for drawing in the margins of my notebooks. So I wrote on the wall ...

Gee, I sure hope making my mark in the publishing world won't get me a spanking.

Mirka Breen said...

Oh, you really meant to mark Glasgow, and now you are part of the landscape.
One more reason to visit the city. Mary was here. :)

Lisa Shafer said...


It's rained all day here in Utah today, and I keep thinking of Scotland. (sigh)

Cat said...

That has to be the funniest thing I've heard all night. Thank you!

*sigh* I miss Scotland. I wish I was back there. Next time I am, I'll be sure to look for your footprints. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

I could see myself doing this. Funny in retrospect, perhaps. Not so in the moment.

Anne M Leone said...

How embarrassing! But I'm so glad you shared it with us! We got the torrential downpours Wednesday night. My shoes are still drying out! But thankfully, if this weather pattern continues, sun should be on your doorstep soon!

Bish Denham said...

I'm with Vijaya. I scratched a big heart with my and Stan's name into the concrete slab of our porch. Someday, when we are long gone it will still be there.

As a kid our dog walked through the wet concrete of our new driveway. Forty some years later Happy's paw prints are still there, a precious reminder of a beloved pet.

Marcia said...

Mary, I hope it's okay that I'm giggling. You have the funniest stories.

When I was in kindergarten, a couple of sidewalk squares were replaced on our street, with sawhorses blocking off both sides. I climbed over the first sawhorse, walked through the fresh cement, climbed over the second horse, and went on my way. To this day it bothers me that I didn't just walk on the grass. I mean, can you say, "Think outside the box"? But my way makes a funnier story. :)

No, my footprints didn't remain. Somebody had smoothed the concrete by the next day.

Angela Ackerman said...

BWAHAHA!! Wearing red will mess you over every time. :)

Great story as always, Mary!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Anonymous said...

I've never had a chance to step in or write on wet cement.

I can envision myself doing this simply because I'm an impatient person.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Mary Witzl said...

Chocolatesa -- When you have the chance, seize it. Then look shocked, as though you had no idea you were stepping into wet cement. And go back frequently to inspect your work. I certainly plan to.

Vijaya -- 'Fresh foxchops for sale' -- that is PRICELESS! You were a storyteller from the word go, weren't you?

I got into trouble once because I corrected someone's misspelling on a sign. I changed 'avacado' to 'avocado' with a red felt-tip pen and got told off for my troubles. The proprietor argued that it was his right to misspell something on HIS sign if he wanted to. It still sets my teeth on edge, but he was right.

I STILL draw in the margins of my notebooks and did this all the way through graduate school. The more boring the class, the better my doodles were. The doodles in my transformational grammar class were first class, if I do say so myself. Here's to both of us making non-fine-incurring marks in the publishing world. ;o)

Mirka -- I'd love to leave something more uplifting as a mark than the soles of my shoes, but if that's the only way I'm going to do it, at least I've managed SOMETHING. Or so I tell myself.

Lisa -- I'll bet you anything there are hundreds of Scots pining for Utah, especially when it rains. Think of them the next time you hear it's wet in Scotland. (Like in another five minutes or so...)

Cat -- I've still got hard litle bits of cement on my shoes, too.

We could get together a lived-in- (or lives-in-)Scotland club of writers someday! At last count, there were almost a dozen of us, including Lisa who commented above.

Charles -- I thought one of the teachers was going to tell me off. Not just for stepping in the cement, but for doing it in front of the kids and being a Bad Example.

Anne -- When is that good weather due? It's STILL raining here! We've got five pairs of wet shoes steaming by the fire and a ton of damp laundry hanging all over our flat. Ah the joys of living in the U.K. At least our garden is green, though.

Bish -- I always love seeing the prints of animals in cement, especially old stuff that's been around for decades. It's as though the animal is still alive and frisky, with its pawprints so carefully preserved.

I was stripping wallpaper once in an old house and I found a heart with two names in it. That's a story I've got to write into a book one day.

Marcia -- The fact that you went to so much trouble to walk through wet cement tells me a lot about the kind of kid you were -- and makes your childhood self infinitely more interesting. But I've never met a self-respecting kid who could resist mud, wet paint, or unset cement. Adults, on the other hand, are supposed to behave themselves...

Angela -- I love red, especially when it's bright and shiny. But I really wished I'd worn my nondescript grey coat that day.

Medeia -- You'll get the chance! And when you do, you'll know what to do with it, right? Better start planning what you're going to write now: something intriguingly cryptic would be much better than a couple of footprints.

Lisa Shafer said...

The last time I was in Scotland was the summer of 2008 -- when it rained so much even the Scots were astounded! I have pics of swampland in Charlotte's Square between the wooden sidewalks set up for the book festival and pics of ponds in Holyrood Park with Arthur's Seat reflected in them. I had to buy wellies that summer -- and I never had them when I lived in Edinburgh for a whole year.
Actually, our summer in Utah was nowhere near as hot as it has been the past several years. But misty rain still makes me a bit homesick for places where moss grows on city steps -- cuz it sure doesn't do that in Utah!

Robin said...

What happened to your poor shoes? I think those rotten kids forced your poor innocent self into that terrible shoe mangling situation.

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

It poured all day here in Moldova, but fortunately I did not have to be out in it, but I sure felt your pain ;). So you suffereed, but hey, now you have a great story!

Pat said...

I can't help wondering if any expletives escaped form your mouth and if so what they were?

Mary Witzl said...

Lisa -- I still love the rain here, even if I am tired of putting on wellies. Moss grows right up our stairs, along the pavement in front of our flat, and all over the tiny front lawn. It's treacherously slippery stuff to walk on, so I don't feel quite as warm and fuzzy towards it. But at the same time, it's comfortably cushion-like and beautiful -- and I know I'll miss it when we leave Scotland.

Robin -- For some reason, my shoes have remained unscathed. They're really ugly, functional shoes, but I bought them NEW, from a real (non-thrift) shop. I'd have squawked like crazy if they'd been ruined!

Miss Footloose -- Whenever something like this happens, I always console myself with the thought that it will make a good story after the fact.

Pat -- Many words sprang to mind, but they stayed there; I was surrounded by impressionable little kids! Holding it in took nerves of steel, I can tell you.

Anonymous said...

Wish you'd stopped to sign your name too ;)

Marian Perera said...

Many moons later teachers would bring their Sunday school classes to witness the scene. "...And the reason there's only one set of footprints in the cement, children, is that God was carrying her."

Chocolatesa said...

Lol! @ Maria :P

Carole said...

Very funny. Your stories are such a treat.