Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When "It's a Sign" Isn't. A Cautionary Tale...

A few days ago I was forced to venture into town for milk and gas. My normal driving ritual for such errands involves punching the "seek" button on the radio and cursing the absolute wasteland that is the radio landscape in my little slice of paradise.

At home I had long since given up on local radio in favor of Sirius, but I've never had it installed in the truck for fear of coming back to a public hunting parking area some morning or evening to find a smashed window and a stolen radio tuner.

So for 14 years driving for me has been an auditory nightmare. For roadborne entertainment I rely on my ancient factory cassette player (yes, the truck's that old) and a half-melted, worn-out collection of cassette tapes from my youth.

But that evening, something happened. As I was traversing the dial and wincing at the normal melange of hellfire and brimstone preaching, Christian rock, lobotomizing pop country and loony-toon talk radio weirdos, the tuner locked on a frequency, one I recognized  from a long-defunct local radio station that had begun life as a really cool classic alternative rock format before the economic and social realities of conservative rural America doomed it to a quick and ignoble extinction.

But what I heard coming from the speakers was...Thelonious Monk? Could it be? Yes, in fact, it was. NPR, at last! One of our state stations had apparently installed a local translator station at that frequency. Spirits buoyed by this fortunate turn of events, I turned up the volume and jazzed on down to the road. It was...a sign.

A mile down the road a strutting tom strolled imperiously across the highway in front of me, shadowing a small group of hens. His metallic bronze feathers shone in the late afternoon sun. Turkey season was about to open. It was...a sign.

Upon reaching town I hit the main stoplight, and while waiting I heard the sudden, ear-splitting roar of an aftermarket motorcycle muffler behind me. That could mean only one thing, so I looked in the rearview mirror. Yep, there he was, right on my ass: a typical representation of the genus douchebaggus,  imperiously revving his engine, strutting, as it were, in a vain attempt to draw attention to his large reproductive organ. Or lack thereof.

The light turned green, and being the model driver I most certainly am, I simply stayed abreast of the car beside me while maintaining a safe, legal speed limit. Evil Knieval did not like this. He revved his cycle, he gestured, he got within inches of my tailgate and roared. He sped up, slowed down, sped up, slowed down and finally when the car beside me turned he passed me at a high rate of speed (in a school zone). I offered a friendly gesture as he passed, which was ignored. He then repeated the procedure with the car in front of me before disappearing down the road.

I stopped, got milk, and as I was walking back to the truck I noticed a police cruiser speeding by, sirens blaring and lights ablaze. Then another. And another. I got in the truck, pulled out toward the gas station and as I was driving through the next intersection, there was Evil, with his helmet off, standing next to his motorcycle, which was on its side and jammed completely under the rear-end of a one-ton Dodge. He was surrounded by three unsmiling police officers. It was beautiful. It was poetic. It was...a sign.

I'm not a gambler, have zero interest in games of chance and indeed I view Las Vegas as the physical manifestation of a personal nightmare, but mamma didn't raise no fool. I immediately drove to the nearest convenience store, purchased a lottery ticket, went home and waited anxiously for that night's drawing...

Not one number. Not one stinkin' number. To hell with signs.

So now I'm left with a worthless lottery ticket and the knowledge ( Yes, you can put a price on knowledge. Mine cost me two bucks...) that random occurrences, however serendipitous, are just that. Reason and logic trump all.

Turkey season opened today, and I've learned my lesson. Henceforth I will be looking for no signs to help divine how it'll turn out...


  1. Great story.

    I've been through a number of auditory wastelands just like the one you describe. And I have often wished for such poetic police-attended justice on the highway.

    Thanks for the laughs.

  2. Oh man, last time I snickered at a driver who got her comeuppance, I was rewarded with a ticket of my own two days later - a really stupid one. But it's so hard not to smile in the face of instant karma.

  3. You may well have not won the lottery my good fellow but the picture you paint of that motor cycling idiots fate more than makes up for it. maybe the signs just point to a simple but happy life?

  4. Gallon of milk $3.25
    Lottery Ticket $1.00

    Idiot's $10,000 bike smeared into the asphalt...


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  5. Re: Auditory wastelands- NM had a really good AAA station for years that was located in Santa Fe and had translators in Abq and Las Vegas. It got bought by Clear Channel, then sold, then dropped the Abq translator, and now, while not bad, just isn't the same even if you can get the signal. Only thing worse than not having anything is having something and losing it.

    Too bad you didn't win, I'd really like to subscribe to your magazine.

  6. Just beginning to be able to breathe again after reading this piece. Thanks.

  7. You're certainly left with more than a worthless lottery ticket... you've got this wonderful tale, cautionary or otherwise.

    Nicely told! Really enjoyed it.

    By the way, an iPod is an excellent alternative to radio. I've got over 10 full days of music on mine, which is enough for any road trip I'll ever be taking. Of course, you'll need a new system in the truck to play it, but with the removeable stereo faceplates, and an iPod stowed in the glovebox you won't be quite the target for thieves.

  8. Thanks all. It really was beautiful. After all these years, a sign there really is karma...

  9. Just not when it comes to the lottery...

  10. I've been to Sturgis, he's an orthodontist.

  11. It just wasn't a sign for the lottery...

    Have you ever heard of the lottery described as a tax on people who don't know math?

    I occasionally succumb, myself.
    Ridiculous hope that we humans have - hope! the bane of all fishermen and hunters, as well as lottery ticket-buyers.

    Thank God it wasn't written that, "the greatest of these is hope." But the greatest of these surely graced your post on your kid ready for turkey season. Perhaps, that was the sign?