Do you ever wonder why there are yellow lines in the parking lot? They are there to protect us. Do you know what happens if you park askew? Bad, bad stuff. Don't try it. For the sake of your friends, don't try it.

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:

  1. He had been abducted by aliens that focus on big guys in pickup trucks.
  2. He had been abducted by the NSA for not writing enough e-mails. (He doesn’t impress me as the e-mail type.)
  3. 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.)
My wife had her own explanation.

“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.

I have some good friends I’ve been trying to reach and although they are nice to me every single time they see me they will not return my calls. The other day I slowed down and listened to their voice mail message. They had gone as far as to have a different lady, with a different name record their message for them to make it sound like I was dialing the wrong number! That’s how much they didn’t want to talk to me. Now how could I be misreading that?

If you think you can handle the truth, I’ll tell it to you. There’s stuff out there waiting to get all of us. It’s sad but true.

If I was allowed to rewrite Louis Armstrong’s strange song, “What A Wonderful World,” I have a concluding verse I would have added this week.

I see cars parked askew

And an indifferent wife

Was the pickup attacked?

Did they use knives? And I say to myself, What am I going do?

I say to myself,

What am I going to do?

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at [email protected]