Not In There
Off The Wall, July 29
, 2011

The other morning I was working on a story and happened to look over at my coffee cup considering another swig when I noticed there was none to be had. This isn’t the first time that has happened. It seems more of a tradition than anything else.

But that got me wondering. When was the first time I decided to have a taste of this all-too familiar brew. I came to some conclusion it must have been in the early sixties when I was attending Ashland College in Ashland, OH. But then I’m not sure about that either. To be perfectly honest, I just can’t recall. But, one thing’s for sure. I’m glad I get that little kick of caffeine first thing in the morning. Gets me up and at it.

My mother used to tell the whole family, “Don’t talk to me BC, only AC.” What she was implying was “Don’t talk to me before coffee, only after coffee.” Just maybe some of us are a little grumpy early in the morning? Could this be our quick fix?

Anyway, I decided to do one of my famous surveys to see what other people’s firsts were, when they started them and why. Here were my results.

Kathy Harper from Falling Hills, MI said, “I had my first coke back in 1976. That was really cool. It was my 18th birthday and my mother and sister took me to the bar for my birthday drink.”

Jimmy Swagtail of Derry, quickly responded to my email by telling me, “My first survey from you, I got last year and thought it was really a great idea to have your friends write an article. I decided to do this because Paul is a friend and I like doing what I can to help a friend. I also like seeing my goofy answers show up in Paul’s column.”

Two fellows, George Twatter of Pittsburgh and Marvin Nicely of Hempfield Township both replied with similar answers. George said, “It was on a hunting trip. I drank coffee to keep warm.” Marvin turned to me and duplicated George’s response.

I asked Twatter if he remembered his first kiss to which he shouted out, “I sure do.” I followed up by inquiring whether he liked it or not. “I remember it well and I sure did!”

Willie Williams from Whitney recalled three firsts all at once, told me when they happened and then proceeded to recant the whole proceedings.

“A couple of friends and I decided, back in 1968, we were going to wade across Loyalhanna Creek where the Iron Bridge was. We started into the water and found it much deeper than we thought. It was almost up to our chests when we arrived in the middle of the stream. When we got to the other side, we felt we accomplished a feat. So we sat on the bank and smoked our first cigarettes and even had our first chew. We felt we deserved them.”

“I had my first broken bone when I was 39,” Jenny Joplin of Momalade, MO, said, “and I thought it was really a bummer. I didn’t need more reminders that I was turning 40.” She continued by stating, “I had always wanted a broken bone as a kid – especially you know, signatures and drawings on the cast by my friends…I think God is rather humorous to save the answer to this prayer for age 39!!! I did get a nice blue cast and my husband and kids signed it which was a real treat J. They drew pictures of ice skates on the cast which was how I fell and broke my wrist!!”

Amy Gray of Portland, OR, said, “I had my first college class back in 1976 and I thought it was really exciting, graduating from a community college at the age of 42. I decided to do this because I had always wanted to do something in the medical field, so I started working on a nursing degree. I found school invigorating and loved the academic environment. I was probably one of the oldest people in my classes, but there are advantages to that – you have a different perspective on life and learning when you are older. I ended up with a Masters in Nursing. I would have continued had it not been so expensive. I enjoyed every minute of it and would do it all over again.”

When I was seven, I learned how to ride a bike. I did so in my back yard. My father would give me a little shove, and down the hill I’d go, always ending up in my neighbor’s rose bushes.

Back in 1959, while working in a hotel in Maine. I dated two girls at once. I alternated my evenings. Eloise would turn out to be my first love. It is with her I experienced my first kiss. It was the sloppiest thing I ever experienced, with spit drooling all over my cheeks. Oh, the little things one remembers…

- Paul J. Volkmann
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