All told, I prefer the wasps as metaphor

Written By Neil Steinberg Posted: 07/29/2014, 08:38pm

I’m a cautious person, so nothing bad ever happens to me.


I’ve never broken my arm. I’ve never lost my wallet, or accidentally set myself on fire, or any of the accidents and happenstance that seem to afflict so many people.

I’ve developed rituals to help. Stepping out of a cab, I pause before closing the door and scan the seat to see if I’ve left anything behind. I suppose that creates a different risk — the cabbie driving away while I’m holding the door, tearing my fingers off, a reminder that trying to skirt one peril sometimes puts you in the path of a worse one, like somebody who jumps away from a speeding bicyclist into the path of a truck.

But in general, being careful pays off.

It must be genetic. My father was always a very cautious man. He would no sooner ride a roller coaster than take heroin. My older son, when he learned to walk, would mutter “keh-ful, keh-ful” as he gingerly placed one foot in front of the other.

But even a careful person manages to bumble into harm’s way, eventually. 

Such as Monday night. Guests were coming over after dinner.  My wife suggested a fire. This being a cool summer, we’ve had a lot of fires in the fire pit in our backyard — a dish of bronze set on a cast iron base that people admire as if it were some exotic accouterment, even though it cost 50 bucks.

Anyway, lots of fires, going through lots of firewood. The pile was almost gone after I stacked wood up for the fire; down to kindling and one half-hollow log, a curving piece of what had once been a large catalpa tree that blew down, years ago. Picture an arc of bark, maybe a foot wide and a yard long. I looked at it, and thought, “I can break this apart and use it to feed the fire while our guests are here.”

So I stepped on the log, hard.

It broke easily because of all the wasps living inside.


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