On a recent trip to The Observer's hometown of St. Louis, we could not help but feel the building excitement of our beloved Cardinal nation. October is the season of hope for baseball fans — hope of another trip to the fall classic, the World Series. It is, of course, the season of discontent for the losers and the source of rivalries verging on blood feuds between fans of opposing teams. When The Observer was in high school, the Cardinals' chief nemesis was the New York Mets, who seemed to forever stand in the way of the Series. There is still nothing short of the threat of death that could get The Observer to root for those guys.
Due to the proximity of St. Louis and Chicago, and the fact that it's common for fans to travel to and from those two cities to see the Cardinals pound the Cubs, that rivalry goes back generations as well. In what seems another lifetime, our best friends' father would load up a group of us boys in his station wagon and drop us outside old Busch Stadium near the bleacher seat entrance. For less than $10 a head, we could all buy tickets, a box of popcorn, a hot dog and a soda, and go sit behind the Cub fans in the bleachers and throw popcorn and insults at them throughout the game. The Observer still occasionally does this in the privacy of his living room.
We admit that that soul-deep brand of hatred is irrational, and also transferable, as we now hate Los Angeles with all of our being, sometimes unashamedly hoping that the Dodgers suffer defeat in so humiliating a manner as to cause grown men to cry like small girls, live on TV, so The Observer can watch.
Perhaps no fan, however, is capable of the level of hatred and disdain as fans of the Boston Red Sox. In this year's American League Championship Series, a home run ball hit by the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park — a treasured item for fans the everywhere — was caught by a young woman, at which point the ball was wrenched from her hands and thrown back onto the field. Now THAT'S a fan.
The Observer and Junior witnessed a car accident on Monday morning, the first we've seen in awhile with our own eyes instead of just motoring past the smoking wreckage. We've been driving over 20 years now, and it's always sobering seeing it happen for real: slow-motion, like something out of a dream.
Waiting at the stoplight at Pine and Markham, heading into Hillcrest, the light turned green. The dust-colored Ford ahead of us began motoring across, and at that moment, a silver sedan sailed right through the red light, never seeming to slow, quick enough to make us shout in surprise, and T-boned him. The sideglass of the Ford exploded with a sigh and shriek of tires. Both cars lurched with the impact, the Ford spinning sideways in the intersection before coming to a stop.
When you consider we're all riding around in 2-ton boxes on wheels, the insides of them studded with knobs and dials and buttons and lights, it's probably a minor miracle that we don't run together more often than we do. Not even a minor one. Plain ol' miracle.
Junior was late, and help was rushing to the crash from all directions, phones pressed to ears all over, so The Observer turned down Markham, all the while asking Junior if he was OK until he finally said, with the delivery only a teenager can provide: "Dad, we WITNESSED an accident. We weren't IN an accident."
After we dropped him at school, The Observer came back, parked in the Walgreens parking lot across from the wreck, and sat there idling, looking at it all: the smoking cars and the people who came to help. The drivers were out by then, looking dazed but OK — a miracle of engineering this time: airbags and seatbelts and crumple zones. People were on their phones, including the drivers, letting folks know something had happened.
The Observer tends to make a mess of things when we try to help in a crisis, so we kept our distance. A woman in scrubs came up the sidewalk from the direction of UAMS, crossed against the light, and went to them. It was all beautiful, in a way: the crash, the violence, then people rushing to help. Human beings tend to run when there's an emergency, trying to preserve even those bare seconds it would take to walk. There's beauty in that too.
After a while, we dropped our own box full of distractions carefully into gear, then motored downtown, giving each greenlit intersection a wary glance before crossing.