I don’t believe in stuff like that
“The problem with omens is that they never come with an illustrated pamphlet explaining what they mean.”— Dean Koontz, American author of suspense thrillers.
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Could it have been an omen? I’m thinking maybe more of a sign.
That one 9/16-inch box end wrench, my favorite, was nowhere to be found when I needed it Thanksgiving weekend. “See,” I said aloud. To myself. “If you had put away those tools after the last time you were out here … was it July 4th weekend? That wrench would have been right where it belongs. In the third drawer of the bottom cabinet. The big roll-around toolbox and tools I bought from Rick Hightower in about 1984.”
Never one to put stock in omens or signs, I laughed at superstitions, horoscopes, and good luck charms, too. But when Rick, Jess Fultz, and I decided to go racing one Saturday about the same time, give or take a year or two, that I bought the tools from Rick, well, let’s just say it made think about it.
That was during that mid-life crisis when I bought another race car. A former national record-holding drag racing Camaro. And though I could do everything I did when I was in my twenties.
The car had spent time in hibernation. About as long as it had been since my earlier days of traversing quarter mile tracks at insane speeds. But we were both in shape after a few weeks of freshening up for the car and some self-inflicted pep talks for me. And just like that, we were returning to the scene of my earlier racing crimes, I-20 Raceway near Tyler.
“If we can get out of Center by 3:30,” I told them, “We can be there when the gates open at 5 and get in some tuning and time trials before eliminations at 7.
And that’s the way it would have started except for the first omen: a bad tire on the hauler truck.
“Take the race car off the hauler and we’ll pull it on my trailer,” I said like a genius. That done, we were off to a late start. Rolling out of Center, headed north.
The trip was going well, and conversation was lively about the anticipated evening of racing when an ominous “thump” from the rear broke up the party.
The rear-view mirror confirmed omen number two. “We just had a flat on the trailer,” I announced. Stopping short of any confessions about how I’d been meaning to get a spare for that trailer.
A slow trip on the shoulder of the road got us into the tiny berg of Beckville (population 163 at that time … salute). The proprietor at the town’s only garage, a one-man operation, was still around cleaning up before closing. Maybe he was looking for his favorite 9/16ths too.
“Yep … should have a good used tire to fit that,” he drawled. His asking price would have been cheap at twice the price, and we were on the road again. To quote Willie.
Breezing into Longview, we turned west onto I-20 in the home stretch for our destination. “Time is going to be tight,” I said. “We’ll have about a half hour to unload and make a couple of practice passes on the track.”
As dusk was descending, omen number three appeared in the form of faulty trailer lights. Another roadside repair and one more delay. “We’ll still get there before the start of racing,” I whispered under my breath.
“It’s the Highway 155 exit,” announced our 1980s GPS counterpart: Jess with his Texaco road map. “We’re getting close.”
That was just before omen number four unfolded with drops of rain peppering the windshield.
“Anybody hungry,” I asked.
“Can’t say we didn’t try,” Rick added.
Signaling for a turn off the interstate in defeat, our plan was now a restaurant with a good meal in Longview. As the rain-soaked but race-ready rig rolled off the interstate highway less than five miles from the track, Rick said, “You would think with all that’s happened, it just wasn’t meant for us to go racing tonight.”
“Nah, I don’t believe in stuff like that,” I scoffed as we passed under the giant green lighted highway sign. The one clearly marking the exit we had just randomly taken.
“Highway 757 – Starville – Omen Road exit.”
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—Contact Leon Aldridge at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other Aldridge columns are archived at leonaldridge.com