Shortly before leaving for college, I went to a party at my friend’s house. It was an odd time because many of us were about to leave town and start new lives. There was an anxious energy about, at least for me there was.

The party was much like the others we’d had that summer, involving a few drinks, maybe watching television, and talking about girls. It went until quite late at night, and Eddie got very antsy and wanted to go for a walk. This was three in the morning. I went with him.

It was a calm night, and warmer than normal. We walked through residential streets and across our city park and past the municipal building where the police station was. We were probably the most dangerous things on the street, so there were no worries about that. We talked mostly about the girls we knew and liked (and which I was too shy to approach) and what college might offer us. I was very hopeful that the fresh beginning would bring me an interesting social life.

Eddie was prematurely nostalgic for the world he was about to leave. So much so that he wanted a souvenir from our home town. At around three-thirty in the morning, he decided that he really wanted a road sign to hang in his dormitory. We made our way back to the party, but with a renewed interest in the signs along the way. Eddie was basically shopping.

Back at the party, we announced our grand design to those still awake, borrowed some tools, and returned to the streets.

A street sign was the first choice, but it was mounted too high to reach. Nearby was a Stop sign; we could reach the nuts and bolts holding it in place, and realized that it was really a much better choice than the street sign.

The nuts proved very stubborn. In fact, we couldn’t budge them one single bit. Perhaps it was the fact that it was past our bed time, or that we were somewhat inebriated, but struggle though we might, the sign was not coming free from its mounting.

Eddie was frustrated. He really liked the idea of the souvenir, and refused to surrender it. He thought perhaps we could pull the post from the ground, and we tried that, nearly soiling our pants with exertion.

Near desperation, Eddie began to rock the sign back and forth, hoping to loosen it where it was planted. He leaned against it, then pulled, back and forth, over and over again. Once more we tried to lift it from the ground, but the earth would not release its grip on it.

Eddie tried once again pushing and pulling. He was voicing his frustration at this point, and about to surrender, pulled back on the sign so that he was almost flat on the ground. He released his grip and the sign snapped forward like the lever of a catapult. Eddie also sprung up, so as not to fall backwards, and took a step forward.

The sign’s forward movement was halted by the same forces that had frustrated us so many times already, and pushed it back with nearly the same energy it had on its flight forward. This time its movement was halted when the sign smashed into Eddie’s face. Mind you, this all happened in less than a second, the pull, release, snap backward into Eddie’s step forward, and then bang, smack in the forehead like something out of a Three Stooges movie.

Eddie was knocked flat to the ground into the street. Luckily, his skull had not been broken by either the sign or the pavement. He did, however, have the distinct imprint of a hex nut in his forehead, just above his nose.

Dazed, we returned to the party. We had failed on our quest, but learned a valuable lesson.