As a kid growing up, it was still routinely possible to catch showings of “Dennis the Menace” or “The Little Rascals” on Saturday morning television. These were not the animated variety produced by the lot in some anime sweatshop in a faraway subcontinent. Instead, they were live action films (sometimes shorts) often pitting the folly of youth against the stodgy recalcitrance of middle age. Routinely, it would seem, Dennis would find his new baseball in the living room of the neighboring Wilson home. Dennis’ intense focus on retrieving the ball was seldom daunted by the fact that the path from his long line drive to the Wilson sofa came directly through the Wilson’s front room plate glass window.
As an adolescent, I deeply felt the angst of young Mister Menace. He didn’t mean to break the window. In fact, it hadn’t even occurred to him that it might occur. Mr. Wilson, on the other hand, seemed inordinately bitter. Why would he keep the young kid’s ball? Did Wilson covet the ball for his own? Did he dislike little boys or baseball? Fortunately, as with much of early television, Mrs. Wilson would intervene and negotiate a truce. Dennis would get his ball, Mr. Wilson would get a freshly-made glass of cold lemonade, and Mrs. Wilson would enjoy knowing that she was the generational peacekeeper.
But today, I find Mr. Wilson looking back at me during the morning shave. Case-in-point: it is increasingly difficult not to scold teenagers on the streets near my own car not to text and drive. I want to honk the horn and shake my finger! Put that down! Don’t you know how dangerous your action is? Can Mrs. Wilson broker a deal, or have I simply come to know that Mr. Wilson was right all along?