Rest in Peace

I was reading a story about the Romney campaign in the Los Angeles Times yesterday when a headline on the side of the screen caught my eye: “Chad Everett, star of ‘Medical Center,’ dies.”  I immediately forgot about Mr. Romney’s problems and clicked on the obituary.

Not that I’m a Chad Everett fan, but it brought back memories.  Forty years ago, I was in fourth grade at St. Margaret Mary’s grammar school in West Irondequoit, New York and had a crush on a girl in my class.  I was pretty sure it was terminal, but it wasn’t concern for my health that made me tune in Medical Center.  (I remember the girl’s name, but I guard that secret as zealously now as I did then.)

I didn’t understand how one went about courting the object of one’s affection, so I went with the “What’s your favorite color, what’s your favorite tee vee program?” method.

At this remove, I don’t remember her favorite color (purple, probably) but “Medical Center” was her favorite show and she had a crush on Chad Everett.  All I had to do was watch “Medical Center” and then act like Chad Everett the next day at school.  A perfect plan!  What could go wrong?

Scheduling.  Scheduling is what could go wrong.  “Medical Center” was on at nine o’clock at night, which was also my bedtime.  Admitting your bedtime is (at least) an hour earlier than your would-be girlfriend’s is no way to convince her you’re the smooth, fourth-grade version of Chad Everett. (By the way, Mr. Everett’s real name was Raymond Crampton, which has some smoothness issues of its own.  Had it been known then, the whole chain of swooning may never have occurred.)

Clearly, the only thing I could do was apply for a bedtime extension with my parents.  They, of course, wanted to know why.  When I told them it was to watch “Medical Center,” I could tell by their faces they didn’t believe me; they knew I was concealing something, but they couldn’t figure out what.  (I doubt “romance” as an explanation ever crossed their minds.)

There were a few problems with my request.  First, my brother, who is two years older, had only recently been graduated to a 9:30 bedtime. (In one sense this was a non-issue as my brother has always retired early while I tend to be a night owl, but when one dissects sibling privileges, principle counts for more than practicality.)

Second, and I didn’t realize the importance of this until years later, parents treasure the scant moments available to them after the kids are in bed.  Now, not only did my folks have one sleepy 13-year-old forcing himself to stay awake until 9:30 for the sake of rubbing it in his little brother’s face, now the little brother is demanding yet another half hour on top of that.

On the other hand, maybe little Mark wants to watch “Medical Center” because he thinks he wants to be a doctor.  What working-class parent wants to stifle a dream like that?  Gaining a doctor in the family might be worth the loss of a little adult alone time.

Permission was granted on a trial basis and my parents determined to sit beside me as I watched (probably because they were still probing for my ulterior motive).  “Medical Center” was, well… awful, even an 11-year-old could see that.

“Why are we watching this?” my dad said.  “Do you really like this?  How’d you even find out about it?” my mom said. (No way I was answering that one.)  It’s hard to study the moves and lines of a (let’s be honest) mediocre actor with a parent on either side, conducting a bi-lateral interrogation.

By the time the 9:15 commercial break arrived my father declared the “Medical Center” experiment was at an end.  I had nothing to bring to school the next day other than bristling resentment at an unfair curfew.

So my plot didn’t work, I never got the girl and now Raymond “Chad Everett” Crampton is dead.  One thing remains: I believe it was my parents’ strict enforcement of early bedtimes that taught me at a young age (around 11) to put myself to sleep and as a result I suffer less from insomnia than any middle-aged adult I know.  Rest in peace, Chad, I do.

© Mark Floegel, 2012

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