Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It happened 25 years ago today.....

May 30, 1987.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. That evening I was going to attend a youth banquet sponsored by our church. Since we didn’t have to be to the downtown St Paul Radisson until 6:30 (and dinner wouldn’t be served until 7:30), a few us decided to meet at the Red Lobster in Maplewood. After enjoying a couple hours of food and fellowship we then got ready to head downtown. My buddy Scott had gotten a ride to the restaurant so he needed a lift to the Radisson. I was more than happy to oblige. My mom had lent me her 1985 Honda Accord for the evening. Since I was set to graduate from high school in less than a week I already had my official cap and gown. I took my “Class of 1987” tassel off of the cap and hung it on the rear view mirror of my Mom’s car (Of course, I didn’t do that until after I pulled out of the garage). Yes, I was looking forward to a fun evening.

I was following my friend, Todd, to the Radisson since I had never driven there on my own. As we were on 35E South a black, jacked-up Chevy Impala came flying up next to us. Since I didn’t want to let Todd out of my sight, I sped up so the Impala could get behind me. I didn’t want the guy to cut in front of me for fear I would lose sight of my friend. It was at that time that Scott started laughing at these guys in the Impala. Since Scott was a guy who knew so many people, I assumed the three guys in the big, black car were acquaintances. After a couple more minutes passed, I looked to my right to see three agitated occupants of the Impala, screaming obscenities and challenging us to fight. The guy in the back seat even showed us a baseball bat. At this point the driver was looking to plow us into the cement barrier which separated 35E North and South. I no longer worried about keeping up with Todd and starting concerning myself with ditching these lunatics. I deliberately did not exit off 10th Street since these guys would have easily caught us in the midst of downtown traffic. Instead, I veered off 35E South onto 94 West in an effort to ditch these guys. Seeing that, the Impala driver swerved over a couple lanes to get off the same exit and continue following us. Since I was not interested in causing an accident on the freeway, I got off the Rice St exit. As I drove north on Rice Street, I slowly pulled up to a green light figuring I would gun it through the intersection as soon as the light turned red. That way, the Impala would get caught in the traffic coming east-west through the intersection. No such luck, since there were no cars at this light.

As we continued north on Rice, we suddenly spotted a cop car in front of a café. Seeing the cop about to enter the café, I honked vigorously in an effort to get his attention but to no avail. This particular member of St Paul’s finest was safely inside. Within seconds after failing to flag down the cop, I heard a loud crash in the backseat of my car. The guy with the bat had just smashed in the rear windshield!! They then pulled up beside us with all three guys now challenging us to fight. They all had maniacal looks on their faces and were literally frothing at the mouth. I quickly took a right turn off of Rice and started heading east toward 35E. At some point, I exclaimed to Scott “What did you say to tick ‘em off??!!!” Scott said he was merely laughing at the guys. Since Scott was one of your more mischievous characters, I knew I wasn’t getting the whole story. Nevertheless, that wasn’t my immediate concern.

I was going dangerously close to 60 MPH down a side street but was still unsuccessful in shaking the Impala. In all of the chaos I came to my senses for a brief moment and told Scott to get the license plate number of the car that was again riding our bumper. Since we didn’t have a pen, he repeated it to himself over and over (“ABC 123”, “ABC 123”, “ABC 123…). That’s not the real plate number but I do in fact remember what it was, amazingly enough.

We finally got onto 35E North, and by this time we were going over 90 MPH… a Honda Accord!!! Unfortunately, we were no match for a muscle car with a V-8 engine. We were in the far left lane when the Impala pulled up beside us then in front of us. The Impala completely stopped (on the freeway, mind you), parked and the driver got out of his car and started running towards us. Absolutely petrified (good thing I was wearing a dark suit that night), I did what any scared-out-of-his-mind 18-year old would do: I put the car in reverse and started driving backwards….ON THE FRIGGIN’ FREEWAY!!! I was literally going 25-30 MPH in reverse with cars swerving to avoid me as they were driving north. After going in reverse for about 50 yards, I pulled onto the shoulder. I told Scott “We are not moving one inch until they drive away. If they want a piece of us they’ll have to come get us.”

After evading the lunatic driver, he and his two cohorts got back in the car and got off the Larpenteur Ave exit. I then got back on 35E north and went home to St Paul via 694. I didn’t want to take the chance of those maniacs finding us again driving on a side street.

I arrived back home trying to explain to my Mom what had happened. We then called the police, who came to our house to take our statement. Thankfully they were able to track down the perpetrators with the license plate number we gave to them. As it turned out, the three guys were brothers. Interesting gene pool, to say the least.

The following Monday, Scott was in school when one of his fellow students informed him that John Doe wanted to kick his butt. Scott was perplexed since he didn’t know John Doe. The other kid told Scott that Doe was looking for him because Scott was messing with him on the freeway over the weekend. Totally freaked out, Scott proceeded to run to the student parking lot and what do you suppose he found when he got there? You guessed it. That same black Chevy Impala. Since graduation was to take place at Scott’s school that week, he left that day and never went back. Scott even went so far to call “John” on the phone to try to reason with him. Apparently, John still hadn’t cooled down. Combine that with the fact that John’s old man came down pretty hard on him since he had to foot the bill for the broken windshield. Thankfully, Scott was able to avoid John and the certain retribution that was to come.

Out of curiosity, I decided to do a Google search on “John Doe” since I remembered his real name. Turns out, he’s married with two kids and is successful in the business world. Since he was merely a hot-headed dumb punk twenty five years ago, I won’t reveal his real name.

As for Scott, I haven’t seen him since the summer of 1999, shortly after the birth of his son. In his teens and 20s, Scott was one of those tragic figures. While he was the life of everyone’s party, a funny, talented showman, he could never avoid certain temptations in life. Things like drugs and sex always seemed to overtake Scott to the point where he would disappear from church for months at a time. I’d like to think that the birth of his son has caused him to walk the straight and narrow.

Despite the fact Scott and I didn’t hang out a whole lot in our younger years, we will be inextricably linked to a May evening in 1987.


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