Today a friend of mine did something really strange that made me worry great harm had suddenly come upon him.
We were going to our church to do our stint as volunteer, one-day, Saturday-morning custodians. When we arrived in the parking lot there were no cars in it except his pickup truck. It was parked askew, behind where the lines were painted. It was just sitting out in the middle of the parking lot and it was crooked. It was clear that it hadn’t rolled backward. It had been suddenly abandoned.
I immediately came to several probable logical conclusions:
- He had been abducted by aliens that focus on big guys in pickup trucks.
- He had been abducted by the NSA for not writing enough e-mails. (He doesn’t impress me as the e-mail type.)
- He had suffered a heart attack and then ran to the building to perform his duties before he died. (He’s very dependable like that.)
“Maybe he just wanted to park like that,” she said.
My wife watches the Hallmark channel and doesn’t understand things like Mafia hits, alien abductions and the honor code of a dying volunteer custodian.
I got more worried when his wife and three kids showed up. She did not know where he was or why he parked that way. If a man was about to park askew wouldn’t you think he’d tell his wife?
I began to get real worried.
“Oh don’t worry about him,” she said. “He’s a big boy. I just talked to him 20 minutes ago.”
The fact that you talked to someone 20 minutes ago doesn’t mean that something couldn’t have happened in that 20 minutes. A full grown pickup sized guy can be beamed up to an alien invading craft in 20 seconds, 30 seconds tops. I wanted to run outside and shout at the sky to see if he would respond.
No one else even cared.
After just three or four minutes of high stress he strolled in and was not dead. He was fine. He made up a story about the truck. He had parked that way just because he wanted to.
The fact that I’m always expecting bad things to happen is sort of a twisted, left-over side effect from the days when I was a real journalist. Skepticism was rewarded and encouraged back then. On election night when our newspaper bought us all pizza, we encouraged the intern to have the first slice. If Mother Teresa had shown up in town to speak, there would have been some reporter trying to see if she had ever posted silly pictures of herself partying on Facebook. (That’s an exaggeration because only Al Gore had Facebook back then.)
My wife hates this because it means if she goes out for a walk and is gone three minutes past the time I expected her back, I start organizing a search party. Have you ever watched the beginning of CSI? That is exactly what happens to people who are gone too long. And need I point out that CSI is based on actual “police techniques” and DNA? There’s no arguing with DNA, that’s for sure.
One time when I worked as a reporter in a bureau I came down to visit the newspaper’s main office. As I walked through the door someone shouted, “Hey, Eaton’s here!” and everyone cheered and applauded. I just stood and stared. I then turned around, walked back out and came in again. This time someone said, “Oh no, Eaton’s here,” in a really depressed tone. Everyone moaned. I smiled and sat down to go to work. I never did find out why for one short moment I crossed into a happy-newsroom dimension. But my instincts were right. Something was wrong even if it was a happy wrong. No one fooled me.
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