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The Dash and Duck

Have you ever been beaned by an acorn? I’m not talking about the kind that fall from low-hanging branches and barely cause the ground to take notice. I’m referring to the ones that rain down from giant oak trees, pinging off the sides of houses, thunking on shed rooves and smacking interlocking brick walkways at such a high velocity that they smash apart.

My oak trees (well, all the oak trees in my neighbourhood) have it out for me… and anyone that isn’t lucky enough to own their own car. Or body armour.

Let me set the stage…

As a former downtowner, I was used to waking up to the dulcet tones of crazies yelling obscenities and ranting as they passed by on the street; the dull thumping of a car stereo system playing too loudly; the rumbling whoosh of the streetcars passing by and the wailing of sirens.  When I moved to the Beaches neighbourhood, I fully expected to hear birds twittering, tree branches swishing in the breeze, neighbourhood kids playing outside, and dogs barking. Instead, I awake to what sounds like small missiles being launched at all the houses and vehicles in the neighbourhood. Imagine what it would sound like if I actually had my windows open.

At first, I figured there was a raccoon problem in the area. I live near a ravine, so it wouldn’t be entirely wrong to assume the neighbourhood wildlife aren’t attracted to the rich scents and posh hiding places of the surrounding houses. Then I got up to go to work.

If it weren’t for war movies, I’d have no technique at all.

As I rounded the corner at the back of the house to make my way along the sidewalk up to the street, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: acorns were raining down from the tall oaks scattered around the property, pinging off whatever obstacles were in their way. Pausing briefly to survey the area, I noticed this was happening all over the neighbourhood. Acorns pinged off cars and houses, some smashing to bits on the ground, others rolling onto lawns or into the street. Had I been smarter, I would have gone back to my place, grabbed an umbrella and hoped that the velocity at which the acorns fell wouldn’t puncture my safety net.

I wasn’t smart. I decided to brave it instead because who walks around with an open umbrella when it isn’t raining?

I was all good until I came to the end of the street and the harsh ring of an acorn pinging off the side of a trailer parked in the street ahead of me caught my attention. At that moment, one of the local housekeepers, on her way to work, kind of yelped. Acorns 1: Passersby 0. I figured I had a pretty good chance of making it unscathed because what were the chances of another acorn falling in that precise location so soon after the other one?

Acorns 2: Passersby 0.

Yup, I got beaned and it frakking hurt. And it’s the kind of hurt that goes beyond physical pain. It also delivers a blow to your dignity. Talk about undoing your calm, cool and collected street cred in one fell swoop!

Since that momentous day, I’ve adopted the technique known as “the dash and duck.” When you hear the acorn dislodge high above (marked by the sudden rustling and jostling of leaves and branches), you dash (or “haul ass” as it’s otherwise known) and cover your head at the same time and hope that you’re not running toward the sound because it’s impossible to discern exactly where it’s going to come down. It’s also imperative to keep on eye on where you step. Stray sidewalk acorns are just as big a hazard to your health – particularly to your ankles and legs – and your dignity (yes, you can end up spread-eagled on the sidewalk or, in my case, rolling down the hill into the ravine).

So dignity be damned. “Whatever works” and “eyes to the sky” are my new mottos. I’d rather not get beaned again and provide fodder for the local squirrel population (not that I’d blame them). I’ve even noticed a few of the housekeepers and nannies using the same techinque. We all share a knowing look as we pass each other in the street.

Who would have ever suspected that my new neighbourhood would be more dangerous to my health than my old digs? The crazies might hurl insults, but at least they don’t come careening down on you, leaving a mark in their wake. ;-p

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