Epilogue Written 12/1
I am sitting at my little makeshift desk at home in Missouri. The Rams are trailing the Niners at halftime, 13-3.
I have gotten a number of things done today. These include: running an extension cord out of an attic peek-a-boo window and adding a few nail hooks alongside the uppers of the exterior of the house to route the cord through before dropping it down along the front porch so that, for the first time in right years in this home, we can sport a little “holiday cheer” in the way of lights out in front of the house; then cleaning the gutters, mostly of oak leaves, because I realized once I got up there that they really could use it. Then I fired up the lawnmower to act as a vacuum-powered leaf shredder and I stuffed two-and-a-half lawn bags full of leaves. After that I swept up the garage.
But it all started with me going to B at 7:00 this morning and shaking her from sleep because I needed her to go with me over to the nearby auto service place where my poor Jeep sits, dead as a rock. We had it towed there last night because it would not start when we got back to it in spot 315 at Park Express. It made this minimal, pathetic clicking sound when B turned the key.
It seemed to be the battery. So we went into the little Park Express office and I signed a liability waiver and the gal there had a shuttle take use out to the Jeep so she could use this little battery re-juicing machine they keep on site for just this sort of thing. She put the red on red, the black on the black, and I gave it a try… it sounded more like a standard start-up, the interior lights came on at full, the clock had numbers (12:00)…but the engine still would not turn over. I tried again, again.
Another Park Express employee came over and suggested maybe the Jeep battery needed just a little bit more time to take the charge from the charging kitty. So we waited, maybe just a minute, just kind of all standing around dumb. I tried it again, no difference. We waited a little longer, I tried it again. No charge, no start. We got back on the shuttle and B and I started to talk. I figured our best shot was to consult Pat—maybe get him on site and see what he thought. Maybe we’d just leave the Jeep there for another night, get a ride home from him or someone, or take a cab home, then come back and do a full car-to-car charge tomorrow if need be.
But B was already moving on a tow, and had USAA on the phone as we got back to the Park Express lounge. They would tow it for free—to a service station—and we would have the service station look at it in the light of day. The Park Express gal had told B that “it wasn’t the battery”…so what it could be, who knows, it deserved a professional look, was B’s thinking. Admittedly, the Jeep has had problems before—including electrical problems. But it has never refused to start. The tow truck company had gotten the call and they would have a truck reach us in 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, I am checking first one sports score app and then another to figure out what is going on in the 2013 Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn). When we landed earlier, it was a 21-21 tie at the end of the third quarter. The ScoreCenter app was telling me—with much deliberation—that the score was then 28-28, with only a few seconds left. Then it was showing 28-28, end of regulation. So it was going to go to overtime, eh? I had a feeling…. But then the app was telling me that there was still a second left in the game. This didn’t make any sense and I got aggravated so I went to Yahoo’s SportsTacular app. That app runs a lot quicker—it gave me the news I feared: 31-28 Alabama. The damn Tide had kicked a last-second field goal and won the frickin’ game. I’m not sure why but I went back to the ScoreCenter app to verify this result. But now ScoreCenter was telling me that Auburn had won 34-28. In a situation like this (confusion, chaos) there is only one app worth consulting: Twitter.
And so when I went into Twitter and looked at the trending it all became clear: Auburn had won! One tweet said: The greatest finish to a college football game ever! Another: That kid who ran the kick back is gonna get so hammered tonight! Another pasted in screenshots from the telecast showing a shocked, crestfallen ‘Bama fan. Another showed a sullen Nick Saban. At this point I’ve gathered that Auburn has won but I still don’t understand how. Did ‘Bama indeed kick a field goal to go up 31-28 but leaving one second on the clock and then let Auburn run the ensuing kickoff back?
Not exactly. I had to play a clip of the Auburn radio call back to understand. With one second left, Alabama had attempted a 57-yard field goal to win. It fell short but was caught near the back of the end zone by Auburn’s Chris Davis. In that scenario, the play is still live—the ball is not dead just because it was kicked. So the Auburn player catches the kick and runs it all the way back for a touchdown and an Auburn win! Can you believe it? The link I had found for the radio call was from a DropBox site—thanks to whoever posted that on Twitter. B and I just sat there on Park Express’s crappy pleather couch and listened to it: “To the 45, the 50, the 45—oh my God!—Auburn is going to win this football game!—Oh my God!—You’re not going to keep them off of the field tonight! Auburn is going to win the Iron Bowl!” Thinking of it even now—I’ve since heard the same clip another five or six times—I still get the chills and my eyes well up a little bit. I’m not sure why, I’m not an ardent Auburn fan. Maybe because it was incredible regardless of how I followed it. Media-transcendent. I texted Roy—he had no idea. B got a call but it was just the tow truck guy. He was across the street.
He pulled into the Park Express with his long, flatbed tow truck. He shined a light on the little tag at the bottom of the Jeep’s windshield. “What year is this?” he said, with a tone of disbelief. I told him it was a 1998. He said, “Man, it looks a lot better than the 2001 I just got rid of.” I probably just said, “Hmmm.” My job was to steer the Jeep as he pushed it back out of its spot. He said, “It’s gonna be hard to steer without the power steering.” It was. I tell ya—my parents have done as much as they could have done—and I have often been a willing accomplice—to keep life outside the walls, beyond the moat, for as long as possible. But it creeps in, doesn’t it? At some point life will track you down and get you in its teeth—and it will bite down.
Looking at my Jeep up on that flatbed, wondering whether it was worth holding onto, thinking about work on Monday, not having any control over this night or the next: this was life and this was how it was going to be. Take it or leave it. B got up there with the tow truck guy. I walked back to the Park Express office and paid for our six days. Then I hopped in. His name was John. He had lived in Texas—Galveston. We spent a Thanksgiving there once, in 2004. He asked us if we liked living in U City. I had little to say. I think I was in shock.
He got the Jeep down from the bed and had me steer it into a slot in the back of the auto service station. It went in all catty-wumpus. We just left it there. We’d have to wait until Monday before we could even tell them it was there or try to make an appointment. We thanked John and tipped him $20. He said, “It was super nice to meet y’all.” And it seemed he meant it.
So there we are at the intersection, me with the rolling suitcase in hand. It really was not a bad weather night—it could have been much colder. We waited for the walk signal so we could wheel our stuff across the street, down the sidewalk, and back to what remained of the rest of our lives.
Seattle/St. Louis, 2013.