By Frank Aceto | Record Publishing Co.
A few years ago, I had to go to Woodridge High School for a football game.
It was my first trip to Peninsula in at least a few years and I think the Bulldogs played Southeast.
Anyway, I had to cover the game for the Record-Courier that night, so basically, I had to watch the game, get the stats and email the story and box score to the R-C sports staff that night.
Not surprisingly, my trip turned out to be, well, interesting.
I left for the game about 35 minutes before kickoff. I live in Stow, so my trip was about 15 minutes — not counting the usual delay for finding a parking spot.
As I got toward a certain traffic light, I made a left turn on State Road.
There was one problem with this scenario: I needed to make a right.
After I turned left, it took me about 30 seconds to realize that I was going in the wrong direction.
I finally turned around about a mile down the road and got to the stadium at 6:50. By the way, if you’ve ever gone to a high school football game that late, you’re not exactly going to find the best parking spot.
Anyway, I ended up parking a couple of blocks away from the stadium and I knew I had to hustle if I wanted to make it into the press box before kickoff.
As I got out of my car, I noticed it was parked right on the end of some street. To be honest, I wondered if I was allowed to park there.
I didn’t see anyone directing traffic and I saw no police cars around, so I thought, “What the heck.”
I sprinted over the hill, through the forest, around a lake (OK, I’m exaggerating a bit) and got inside the press box right as the National Anthem was playing.
To this day, I can’t remember who won that game, but I can tell you this: I know the events AFTER the game as if they happened yesterday.
Since I had a tablet and a bluetooth keyboard, my plan was to write the story from my car.
But there was one major glitch in this strategy.
I couldn’t find my car.
I walked ... and walked ... and walked ... and walked and saw no traces of an old, beat-up, rusting, blue Chevrolet Cavalier anywhere.
At that point, I was in a big-time bind.
Since I walked about 3.6 miles (well, maybe that’s a stretch, but it seemed like forever), I realized it was after 10 p.m. The R-C needed to put its Saturday paper to bed by 11:15, so I knew I was running out of time.
Fortunately, I happened to notice some people hanging out in the school. I banged on the door and informed the startled personnel people who I was and that I needed some place to write my story. I was so grateful that they let me in. I ended up typing my story as I was sitting on the floor (not terribly comfortable, but I simply had to suck it up).
Thankfully, I got the story done on time and was good to go.
I was on my way out without letting the people know my rather embarrassing “secret” when someone in my brain told me otherwise.
“Frank, you nitwit, tell them you can’t find your car!”
I let out a huge sigh and then admitted my problem to the small group of people.
“Uh, can I borrow your phone (yep you guessed it — I left my cell phone in the now “missing” car). I think my car got towed.”
I’m sure their inner selves were laughing their tails off at me, but if they were, they proved to be pretty decent actors and actresses.
“Really? Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry to hear that. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”
After waiting around for another several minutes, one of the Woodridge staff people, who I believe said he lived in Stow, decided to give me a ride home.
I wish I could remember his name and if that person happens to see this post, all I can say is, “THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!”
I don’t think I sat down when I got to my apartment. I immediately started checking for “towing” on the Internet and in the yellow pages of my phone book.
I found a couple of towing companies that seemed to be in my neighborhood and I repeated the same question as I talked to each person: “Did you tow a blue 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier?
I got the same response after each call: “No.”
I had a wide range of emotions at that point.
Did it get towed to Cleveland? Did someone steal it? Did it ... remain where I left it?
My heart suddenly jumped out of my stomach.
Believe it or not, it was the most comforting feeling I had the whole evening.
I soon came to the conclusion that my car was still somewhere in Peninsula. So that meant I had to go back to Woodridge and find my car.
And how was I going to do that?
I made another call to the office and tried to track down RPC weekly sports editor Michael Leonard.
I swallowed hard and told him my story.
Fortunately, Michael was the right person to talk to.
He immediately showed concern and was willing to do anything to help.
Of course, this was a highly unusual request.
“Hey Mike, uh .. uh ... could you take me to Woodridge and see if we can find my car?”
I’m sure any normal, rational person would tell me: “Haha. That’s a good one.” Or maybe ... “Are you serious, deal with your own problems!”
Michael, on the other hand, was a saint.
He picked me up at my apartment and drove me to my version of the Bermuda Triangle — Woodridge. Since I had no idea where I parked, I wasn’t a very helpful GPS.
We drove around a few blocks and finally, I spotted my Chevy down the road. I could see why I couldn’t find it. My car was practically in Richfield!
One I got in and started it up, I felt like a kid who just got the ultimate gift from Santa.
Looking back on this situation, some things have changed.
I ditched the Cavalier two years ago and I now have a laptop instead of my bluetooth and tablet. I also went to Woodridge last fall and — Hallelujah! — no such bizarre circumstances took place.
When I think about it now, I can’t help but reminded of a certain scene in the 1989 movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Sean Connery, who played Indiana Jones’ father, mentions a memorable quote to Indy about his close friend, Marcus Brody.
“Got lost in his own museum, eh?”
Yeah, I guess I can relate. Did I tell you that I lived on Wyoga Lake Road for five years? If you’re not familiar with that destination, I’ll give you a clue.
It’s pretty darn CLOSE to Woodridge High School!