Does anyone know why, when a plane is going down, the pilot is supposed to yell into the radio, “Mayday! Mayday!”? Wouldn’t it make more sense to yell “Crashing?” Or scream “Holy-Sweet-Mother-Of-All-Things-That-Bounce…” It’s bad to have to remember a code word while you’re wetting your pants. “Easter! No, wait—Labor Day? Dangit… Oh yeah—Mayday!”
At least the control tower guys would know immediately that you have a problem. Yell “Mayday” and they’re likely to check the calendar. “Wow, Jim, is it May Day already? I need to go get Margaret a basket. I forgot last year, you know, and never heard the end of it.”
May Day! Well, that’s today. Omaha folk don’t seem to make such a big deal about it, but when I was a kid in Kearney, Nebraska, we made May baskets. Simple premise: you leave a May basket at the door, ring the bell, and run. The recipient is expected to try to catch you and kiss you, so be sure you have the right address.
It’s kind of a cross between Halloween, Tag and Spin the Bottle. I was a competitive kid, so I didn’t get kissed much. But I was sissy enough that I genuinely enjoyed weaving pink paper baskets for people and filling them with candy.
I didn’t really get the point that it was a rite of Spring. To me it was all about outrunning someone. I didn’t see any difference between it being a boy or girl. I have since learned a great appreciation for that difference.
On any other day if a boy came to the door hoping to kiss my eight-year-old daughter, I’d beat him into a Raisinette. But on May 1, there I was at the dining table with my mom, forming a neat basket out of construction paper, staples and Scotch tape, listening dutifully to her instructions on how to be chased by a girl whose name was, appropriately enough, Candy. “Now remember, Dear,” mom said, “make sure her dad knows it’s May Day, so he doesn’t kick your ass.”
And really—try on any other day to run a girl down from behind to tackle her for a kiss. You’ll end up on the corner of Reform School and Mace. (With the possible exception of Reverend Wells’s daughter.)
It is also the only sport I can think of where you get rewarded for running not quite your fastest. Race more than a block and your pursuer will give up. Now you’ve won, and lost.
By the way, no one, including Candy, was at home when I rang the bell. Is it bad that I went back for the basket?