The Pinto 2003
When you mention the words, “Ford Pinto” to most Americans old enough
to remember a time before remote controls and cell phones, they will think of
American corporate ethics at one of its low points. For those of you that do not
know, the Ford Pinto was on of America’s first lame attempts to compete
with the Japanese on the small car market. Small cars were becoming popular because
the price of gas was sky rocketing and we were supposed to run out of gas by 1984,
at which point we would all be metric. Neither of these things happened.
What happened that made Ford Motors as exhibit an in poor corporate ethics was
that one Model year of the Pinto had a minor design flaw. This created the unfortunate
side effect of exploding if the car was rear ended. Now this was easily fixed
by putting a cover on the gas tank but this would require a recall. Ford calculated
the cost of a recall compared to the cost of settling lawsuits due to the faulty
gas tanks and figured it was far cheaper to have a few of their customers burned
to death in a horrible explosion. Unfortunately for Ford this got out and created
a firestorm of public outrage towards the automaker. Based on this history I seriously
doubt that Ford will be reviving the Pinto model.
If you see a Ford Pinto on the road today (the car would now be close to thirty
years old), it makes a statement that the driver has not been a success in their
life or that they are eccentric and like spending time working on ancient low
end cars. In books and movies, Pintos are used as plot devices to state, this
person, the driver, is a loser.
But Ford Pintos have a special place in my heart. Those cars still running into
the 21st century brings me back to my youth. This story is about my family, the
Ford Pinto and me.
It all started in the early 1980’s when I was eleven years old. I had three
brothers and a sister. We lived in a place outside of Washington, DC known at
the counties. My hometown was one of those places that never required anyone to
parallel park. The house was a fairly nice suburban brick houses that sprouted
up everywhere in the late sixties. I had lived in that house my entire life. It
was on a quarter acre corner lot that was at one of the busiest intersections
of the growing neighborhood and located across the street from Albert Einstein
Middle School. It was one of those nameless suburbs that seemed from away from
anything. People from places like Tennessee were considered exotic and worldly.
My two older brothers (Charles III and William) were twins that were both out
of the house when we became a multiple Pinto family. Charles was a senior at Arizona
State, he was right handed and William, he is left-handed, was a minor league
baseball player somewhere in Mexico. Neither spoke Spanish. My sister, Emily,
was born the day JFK was shot in Dallas. My other brother, Norman, was born on
the same day as the twins five years later. He hated sharing the birthdays with
the twins. My mother owned a bakery with my best friend’s mother in the
nearby town. My Father, who was employed with the Department of Justice, had not
arrived home when this story starts.
It was one of those early 1980’s pre-VCR and pre-Cable Friday nights where
the family was forced to watch the Love Boat or some other awful show. The digital
clock showed it was eight o clock when my father (Charles II) came in and requested
all of the drivers to come with him. All of the drivers included my Mother, my
sister Emily and my Brother Norman. Neither me nor my three legged dog Lumpy was
needed at this point.
It turns out that my Father had spent the early evening at an automobile auction
and he purchased eight Pintos. With the four cars my family already had (not counting
cars owned by Charles III and William); we now had about two cars per driver.
That includes me and Lumpy even if I would not drive for another five years. Lumpy
would never learn how to drive, even if a car was available to her.
So all of the drivers in the family drove off into the warm summer Virginia evening
to pick up the rest of the cars from the auction. I was not along for this family
outing so I located the hidden book of National Lampoon jokes that was under the
television set. What struck me as odd is that I do not recall anyone asking my
Father, “Why did you buy so many Pintos and what were going to do with them”.
My Father had purchased the cars as if they were going out of style. In fact they
had already reached that point long before we became an eight Pinto family.
My hope was that my Father was going to build a demolition derby but that was
not the case. When I woke up the next morning I discovered that my family’s
quarter acre lot had been transformed into a used car lot that specialized in
As they were eight Pintos I should take some time in describing each of these
vehicles until I get to the one that is the main automobile character in this
coming of age tale. Many of the cars would simply be a blur in my mind as my father
quickly sold the cars to one of the neighbors (oddly many of his customers were
some of the teenaged hooligans that hung out behind Albert Einstein Middle School).
Teenagers are scary to most people under twelve or over thirty. The colors of
the cars that were sold quickly included orange, black and dark blue. All three
had racing stripes which he charged a premium for and which were popular among
The colors of the cars that were briefly driven by my family and then sold to
neighbors included another white one (without racing stripes), dark green and
Out of these three cars the light blue one was the only one to do anything of
My father never allowed bumper stickers to be placed on any cars driven by the
family as it made the cars look trashy. But if a car he purchased already came
with a bumper sticker in most cases he never made an effort to take it off. That
is where the second most notable of these eight cars came in. It was a gold Pinto
that had sort of glittery ghetto fabulous paint job that sparkled in the sign.
The handles of the door were shaped like some sort of pipe. On the back bumper
was a sticker of a plant with three leaves. No one in my family knew what the
plant was. My mother thought the car was owned by Canadians because of what she
thought was a maple leaf on the back bumper. My older brother Norman and I would
take a memorable journey in that gold plated Pinto with the maple leaf sticker
on the back bumper.
But the car that would always have a place in my heart would be the red Pinto
that arrived with the others. It did not have a racing stripe so no one thought
it was sporty enough to drive.
As our family leaved in a suburb, the transformation from suburban yard to used
car lot that hot August night did not go over well with the vast majority of the
neighbors. The Homeowner rules had made decisions about many things prior to my
family’s home metamorphosis but they had not thought of making used car
lots against the rules.
In addition to my fathers day job in the Department of Justice he was also the
head salesmen, mechanic and customer service department of a bustling suburban
used car lot. At this point in time the closes Chinese Restaurant was fifteen
miles away. The closest Pizza Place (owned by the same family that owned the Chinese
place) was only ten miles away. We did not even have a seven eleven or a fast
food place until another five years later. So in addition to selling cars he sold
sodas to the customers. If someone bought a car he was given a case of soda.
So the kindly neighbors that were against the used car lot felt that they should
voice their opinion not only to my father but also to other members of the family
as they saw fit. So as I walked Lumpy around Albert Einstein concerned parents
would pull over their station wagon to yell insults at me and my three legged
dog. In addition to this we would get the occasion anonymous threatening phone
call and a handful of death threats. None of which was followed up except one.
Earlier I had stated that one car that was quickly sold stuck out in my mind.
It was the light blue one that was sold to one of my fathers loudest critics for
his troubled teenaged son. The details of this event were sketchy but late one
night I heard some teenagers laughing then some tires squealing and loud crunching
news. The next morning we discovered that the teenagers had driven across the
yard (not hitting the inventory) and ran over our mailbox. It was the third time
that our mailbox was run over since the business opened. But the teenaged hooligans
left something behind. It was a license plate of the light blue Pinto. It did
not take Interpol to figure out that the culprit behind the reckless driving was
the troubled teenaged son of my Fathers harshest critic.
So when the police arrived they discovered a blue Pinto with a dented front missing
its front license plate. So it was away to Boys village for that troubled teenager.
My father enjoyed having the critic having to write the check to have the mailbox
replaced by his son’s reckless behavior. Years later the son would become
the fourth Principal of Albert Einstein Middle School.
When the inventory of Pintos fell below the number required that the yard was
no longer a showroom the ire of the community waned and they spent their energies
preventing 7-11 from expanding to our rural/suburban community.
The Pinto that stood out in my mind the second most was the gold one with the
mysterious leaf bumper sticker. That is because in the summer of 1983 my older
brother Norman and I were going on a trip to see our older brother play in a minor
league baseball game in Ocean City, Maryland. William had been having a breakout
year in the minor leagues. He was on his way to a brief, but notorious Major league
career. He was a left handed curve ball pitcher that could also hit for power.
Under normal circumstances it should take five hours to drive from Northern Virginia
to Ocean City, Maryland. It may take seven hours if you hit traffic and get lost.
It took my brother Norman and I thirteen hours to reach Ocean City, Maryland and
the car was not the problem.
To this day my brother states that I have a bad sense of direction based on the
debacle from all of those years ago but honestly, who would put a flighty twelve
year old in charge of navigation.
We were given a map by our older minor league ball player brother that showed
the route that we should take to get to Ocean City so we can see his team take
on the Ocean City Tidesox.
Now this trip was undertaken before the widespread use of cell phones and the
rise of those Internet direction sites. Either one of those advances would have
prevented this whole misadventure from occurring. But if this did not happen what
would have I remembered when “Every Breath You Take” was the top song
on the radio?
So we drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on our way to watch our older brother
play baseball and hopefully score with the ladies. At that point my game consisted
of running down the beach and falling down in front of my intended target. I would
claim that I had sand in my eye and had to use their towel to get it out. This
was not the most successful strategy ever devised. In fact I do not ever remember
The map only showed that we were supposed to make a right after the bridge. Not
being that experienced with driving or map reading I assumed that we were supposed
to make the first right after the bridge. Then we made the first left. Then I
assumed the map was incorrect as we were at a dead end.
So Norman and I spent the next several hours getting more and more lost in the
Eastern Shore of Maryland. For some reason we never pulled over to ask for directions
until after midnight. We had no idea about the time when the radio announcer stated
that we had listened to the midnight concert hour featuring Boston.
We stopped off at a state police barracks and we approached a Maryland State Trooper
to ask for directions. He then asked if either of us were dope smokers that were
turning ourselves in. I proudly told him that I listened to Nancy Reagan and just
said no! I had earlier written to the First Lady asking her to speak at Albert
Einstein. After hearing that the officer marched my brother and I into the station
as he had probable cause based on how lost we were and the way the golden Pinto
So it was after one in the morning and my brother and I were in a holding cell
pending the search of the Golden Pinto for contraband. Luckily the holding cell
was empty and my brother slept on the bench. He was sort of hoping he would be
able to use his wrestling moves on the other prisoners but we were the only ones.
They used drug-sniffing dogs but no contraband was found and we were allowed to
call both our brother and our parents. It turned out that our mother had already
called the Highway Patrol as our sojourn to Ocean City had already taken over
thirteen hours and we were still three hours away. That is how we learned that
the sticker on the back of the car was a pot leaf.
While my brother was napping in the holding cell of the Maryland State Police
barracks he had a dream. This dream would for a brief moment in time make the
combined paper net worth of my family well over a billion dollars.
Shortly after this epic journey the Golden Pinto was sold to a drifter but the
pot sticker remained on the back of the car. I was not quite sure where the drifter
came from but the neighborhood was near freight rail tracks so I guess he was
some sort of upwardly mobile hobo. He paid my father cash and was given the final
case of generic soda from the previous summer.
Now the car that meant the most to me was the Red Pinto. It was purchased by my
father when Reagan was in his first term and Cal Ripken was a rookie short stop
for the Baltimore Orioles. I drove that car until Clintons second term and close
to the end of Ripken's streak. When you grow up in the Washington area you always
know who the President is and how both the Redskins and Orioles are doing. No
one cares about the Wizards/Bullets as they always find a way to suck.
So the story fast forwards five years in the future to September of 1988. At this
point I was a senior in High School at a predominately black high school located
at the border of the District of Columbia. The name of the school was Len Bias
Senior High; named for the Maryland Basketball player that died of a drug overdose
the day after the Boston Celtics drafted him. The previous name of the school
until the spring of 1987 was Thomas Jefferson. The renaming of the school was
part of a larger effort to name many of the schools in the county after famous
local citizens that passed away. Since his death was recent it was fairly easy
to get enough signatures on a petition to honor the fallen Terrapin. Somehow money
was raised to erect a statue of the player many people thought was going to be
the next Michael Jordan. My experience at this school has given me empathy for
anyone who has had to be a minority. The reason behind attending this school was
that the county, in an effort to integrate one of the worst schools in the county,
placed an attractive science and tech program in the school. One class I would
be among the best and brightest on their way to MIT and the next class I would
be among no future USA on their way to a career in airline security. That career
would last until the federal government took over this function.
I was having a rough month as my best friend and companion since I was eight years
old, died. Lumpy had been having a tough time of it and one morning earlier in
the week she barely wanted to go on her walk around Albert Einstein. When I arrived
that evening after cross country practice both my parents and Lumpy were gone.
I knew Lumpy had gone to the great school yard in the sky. The next morning I
walked around the schoolyard with Lumpy’s leash.
One of the main features of having a Pinto was that its presence was its best
security. If you drove a Pinto, you may worry about the explosion resulting from
a rear end collision but you never had to worry about theft.
The most memorable incident from my miserable high school years came on a beautiful
September day. I walked outside after class to the parking lot to retrieve my
running stuff from the car. I could not locate my red 1978 Ford Pinto. I walked
around the parking lot several times. Eventually most of the other cars were gone
and I was still searching for the car. I turned to a female student and said,
“My car is gone”. She went on to explain that my car was not gone
because it was a Ford. I then went into the school and found the top-notch security
guard and told him that my car was stolen. He knew I drove a Pinto and told me
that the car could not have been stolen. I followed this up with a call to the
police and we had the following exchange,
911 Operator: 911
Me: I would like to report a stolen car
911: (Heard Laughing and the sound of speaker phone): Sir, please repeat yourself.
So, I waited outside of the school for the police to arrive. The policeman asked
me if I was the one who reported that my Pinto was stolen. He took the report
and when I asked if I would ever see my Pinto again he told me that he doubted
it. He also told me that this was the first time that he took a report on a stolen
Pinto and the guys at the station got a good laugh.
I called my Father at the Department of Justice and reported that the car had
been stolen. He then asked me how much I got for the car. His belief was that
I had entered the lucrative field of low-end car sales. I told him that I would
score a ride home.
So I got a ride home from one of my classmates. He was also in shocked that out
of all of the cars at Len Bias High, the thieves targeted a ten-year-old Ford
Pinto. Perhaps they were car thieves in training. Maybe they had some sort of
self esteem issue. To this day I have no idea why they stole the Pinto from the
parking lot of Len Bias High. When I went to my high school reunion I was sort
of hoping for a drunken classmate to confess the crime to me but this did not
happen. Maybe this mystery will be solved by the twentieth reunion.
I knew that solving this mystery was not at the top of the pile of crimes that
need to be solved by the county police. Doubted that I would be successful if
I tried to escalate the investigation to the FBI. If I even tried to cross the
street of the school I would be called into the Principals office but the crack
security team would not notice a car being stolen.
Luckily my family had other cars but I was still angry. I had a vague plan of
rear-ending the car if I happened to see my Red Ford Pinto being driven by the
masterminded criminals but remembered that the explosion feature was corrected
by the time the 1978 model had rolled around. The Red Pinto would have to be written
off and that would end a chapter in the history of my family.
But the story hardly ends with a car theft. The crime was partially solved when
the property was covered. It was not the tireless work of the county police but
my own luck in solving the crime. Was walking across the street from the school
with my girlfriend of the month when I saw a car that had been trashed in the
parking lot of a dying strip mall filled with vacant stores. Upon closer inspection
I discovered that the car was my beloved Ford Pinto. The windows were smashed
out. The 8-track player was stolen. The seats were cut up and they had relieved
themselves in the back seat of the car. They did leave my entire 8-track collection
untouched. I guess the thieves were not fans of either the Steve Miller Band,
Meat Loaf, Van Halen or any other Classic Rock standards that were playing on
those awful classic rock stations of the era.
Thinking that the car was set up as an elaborate bomb like in the first Godfather
movie I called my father to drive the car home after he inspected the car for
bombs. The Pinto was now recovered but the criminals are still free probably wrecking
Yogis or the other bottom five percent of automobiles on the road. Perhaps they
run a chop shop selling parts to the lucrative parts market for these types of
cars. When all of humanity’s injustice to humanity is ranked and catalogued,
the theft of my Red Pinto does not rank that high. Probably somewhere above the
theft of a Dig Dug Atari 2600 game and transmitting accounts of an NFL game with
only implied verbal consent.
The car was restored to its former glory and the 8-track player was replaced with
a tape deck. Even without a working 8-track I still held onto the tapes thinking
that a collector would have an interest and pay me handsomely. Perhaps that would
pay for a new car.
One of the good things about driving a Ford Pinto or any other low-end car is
that if you are with a female, then you know pretty well they are not with you
because of the car. All of the kids with cooler cars drove mid eighties Mustangs
or if they were really well off, supped up sub ten thousand dollar Korean cars
with gold trim. To this day I am see a car as nothing more than a tool to get
So I would finish my High School career still driving the Ford Pinto. In fact
I would continue driving the car for another eight years. Luckily I did not show
up to my high school re-union driving the same car. Perhaps for my twentieth re-union
I could buy a used Pinto from the classic cars market and show up with it. Maybe
that would draw out the thieves.
My performance academically at Len Bias High was neither horrible nor fantastic.
Among the gifted students in the gifted program I was completely mediocre in every
sense of the word, probably in the lower quarter. Among the general population
of the entire school I was easily in the top ten percent. When it came time to
choose a school I was not overly ambitious and did not choose to go from home,
as I would be driving the Red Ford Pinto. So I applied to a medium sized state
school located in the Eastern shore of Maryland whose business program revolved
That summer I would go to the beach several times to chase women. A few times
I would actually be successful. One of these instances came as I walked down the
beach at night like the video of an Air Supply song. I came across a female sitting
on the beach by herself that was about my age and was my type.
We hit it off and had one of the late teenage on the beach evenings where nothing
really happened. When it came time for her to return to her parents condo she
gave me her number. When I returned home I gave her a call and we made a date
to see some awful Tom Cruise movie where he was a bartending autistic racecar-driving
fighter pilot. When I pulled up to her parent’s upper class home the father
requested that pull out his Corvette from the garage and park the Pinto in the
garage so the neighbors do not see that his precious daughter is not dating a
Pinto driving carnival working loser. As I did not know how to drive a stick she
had to move the car and she drove to the theater. She drove one of those VW Convertibles
that are issued to attractive daughters of well off parents. Needless to say I
did not return for a second date.
At the end of the summer after my high school graduation I packed all of my worldly
belongings into my Red Ford Pinto. For the first time in my life I would be leaving
my childhood home for the dangers of dorm life. This time I had much better idea
on how to follow directions than six years earlier when my brother Norman and
I got really lost in the Eastern Shore. My mother cried but I think that is a
As my school was a full four hours away I stopped off at my sisters Kendra’s
home that was sort of along the way to my school. Kendra ran a successful dog
walking service for rich clients. The name of her service was “One Dog at
a Time”. Her theme song for the business was sang to the tune of “One
Day At a Time”. Norman, Kendra and I were polishing off a twelve pack of
beer practicing drinking games, which is a central focus of the college experience.
The evening ended with me getting sick in the sink of my sisters kitchen. This
would become common.
That trip in 1983 gave my brother the idea of a service where you could get the
directions between any two points delivered to your house a week before your trip.
He told me that he dreamed of directions magically appearing in the home while
he was sleeping in the holding cell in the Maryland State Police Barracks. He
thought he could charge fifty dollars for each set of directions. These directions
would not only include what streets to take, but how many miles you would be on
each road and would include a map highlighting your route. He was still a little
less than a decade away from making his dream of a customized map service a reality,
if only for a brief moment in time.
College kids across the country are always worried what their roommates would
be like. Sometimes you worry that your roommate will be a complete psychotic,
playing dungeons and dragons till the wee hours. Another different problem could
arise if the roommate is good looking and is always stealing the woman’s
attention. One common fear is that the roommate will be gay and will make passes
at you. This last one was the subject of a number of urban legends.
When I got to the dorm I thought it would be a good time to play a practical joke
on my roommate. I knew that everyone always checked your music selection so I
placed a Jermaine Jackson tape into the tape deck. I also carefully draped a set
of Miami Dolphin colored spandex running tights over my chair. He never said anything
but was happy when I would kick him out of the room when I had women over.
To make some extra money at school I got one of those awful retail jobs at the
mall. At least it gave me a chance to put the moves on all the female customers.
After about a week I met a dimwitted high school senior that quickly became my
girlfriend out of lack of other applicants.
One of our first dates we drove around the countryside in the Ford Pinto, as the
car was about to flip over the mileage. Back when American auto quality was not
high flipping the mileage over was both an occasion and an achievement. It was
not unusual for someone to pull the car over and dance a jig when the mileage
was turned over. Right around 99900 your awareness would rise that you would soon
be doing incredible. Perhaps you would make a special trip when it came close.
We had a camera to take photos of the point when the odometer would be turning
from 99999.9 to 00000.0. This was all very exciting. None of the pictures came
out but I did dance a gig. We broke up a brief time later because she was simply
On that same role of film that I took the photos of the mileage turning over I
took a picture of the overhead light for some unexplained reason. I told one of
my college friends, little brothers that the photo was that of a UFO. When you
are always playing jokes on various people eventually the tables would be turned.
My just deserts came when I was a sophomore the next fall. We had all been drinking
heavily as college kids all around the world are to do. Our school was known as
being the top of Playboys number one party school but outside of Brigham Young
and the Naval Academy I have never found a school that did not claim this elite
I was drinking especially heavy that evening and I am sure I was behaving in an
extremely charming manner at the party. We started with “Happies”
at one of our friends off campus apartments so we would already have a base level
drunk before we arrived at the party and the buzz would not wear off if the lines
were long. We would normally polish off a Coors party ball between seven or eight
of us before we arrived at the party. If we were feeling especially festive or
one of use came into a twenty then we would make Boil makers by adding whisky
to the beer. The evening in question we did have whisky with our beer.
Surprisingly none of us were successful with the ladies when we made boil makers.
But it was not for want of trying and I am sure that I had made a fool and a nuisance
of myself this evening. None of this has been recorded as I do not remember the
details but I am sure it played a part in the joke.
I went home, alone and went to bed. A few hours later I was woken by a loud knock
on the door. It was the Heat! It seemed that my car, the Red Pinto, had been driven
into the building and it was blocking entrance into the building. Judging from
my current state, it was a very real possibility that I had driven the car into
the building. But I had not driven that evening and I doubt I parked my car when
I came back from work earlier that evening. But the problem was that I could not
find my keys. The police were asking me how much I had drank, so I told them some
story how I had been in Canada drinking with my parents. Luckily the police were
either bad at geography or felt like giving me a break considering I was driving
a Pinto in the 1990’s. So with the help of some other guys at the dorm and
the police we moved the car by putting it in neutral and pushing it back into
a legal spot.
But I still had a ticket for twenty dollars for having my car parked in that precarious
position. Considering I did not have that sort of money to pay the fine I went
down to the station and came up with a story how a group of evil townies had moved
my car. I did not want to get my friends in trouble, as I probably deserved to
be a part of that prank.
The Pinto somehow ran all through my college years and was well over 150,000 miles
when I graduated. I somehow came up with the decision to move to Atlanta based
on a decision matrix based on the number of jobs and single women. Now the Pinto
did not have air conditioning. My father offered to go halves on installing air-conditioning
in the car, as Atlanta was hot. One of the stupidest things that I had ever done
is turning down that offer because Atlanta in the summer is hot. Anyone without
air conditioning is a fool.
So I moved to Atlanta and sublet the only non-air conditioned room in the entire
state of Georgia. I worked every miserable telemarketing job that summer as I
had no connections and no experience. I was a lowly telemarketer who made a living
out of harassing people at dinnertime to tell them that they won a free vacation.
When these poor souls came to claim their prize it would turn out they were given
the hard sell of marginal time-shares. At least I did not have a car payment to
At this point my older William was in his forth season in the major leagues as
a reliable middle reliever that could hit well above average for a pitcher. For
that reason National League teams were always far more interested in my brother.
That summer he was playing for the New York Mets. During the first road trip to
Atlanta of the season he was on the injured reserve and did not make the trip.
It was always fun going to a major league game if your brother pitches. During
college I made several trips to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to see my brother
play. I wished he had played in the American league so I could see him play against
the Orioles at Memorial Stadium.
It was the end of the season when the Mets would be coming to town to face the
Atlanta Braves in a final four game series. The Braves were three games ahead
of the Mets as the series began. This would be the end of my Brothers major league
career even though he would be a hero of one of the games. His twin identical
twin brother Charles III would be flying in to hang out with us.
I even had trouble telling Charles and William apart as they had been away from
home since I was a little kid. As a joke they swapped places for an autograph
session. No one seemed to notice that Charles was right handed.
Charles was famous in his own right as a writer for silly but popular movies.
Normally his movies were about explosions or talking crime solving Pandas. He
had written an amazing story while in college but since then he had written nothing
but highly successful commercial crap.
The first game the Mets blew away the Braves so my brother did not play. That
did not stop William from taking Charlie and I out on the town. For old times
sake he wanted to drive to Buckhead in the old Ford Pinto. He asked why I was
still driving that piece of crap Pinto but did not offer large amounts of cash
when I explained that I was broke. He did pay for all of the drinks and as we
took a Limo back to the fraternity house he paid for the impound fee on the Pinto
as we parked in front of a fire hydrant.
So the second game of the series and the Braves were two games in front of the
Mets. If the Braves win one game they win the division. It was that end of the
season series that mean everything to those that care about professional baseball.
It was the bottom of the eighth inning and the game was tied three to three. The
manager put my older brother in the game. His first six pitches were all strikes
and the seventh was a pop up that retired the side.
As I mentioned before my Brother always was an above average hitter among pitchers.
It was top of the ninth with two outs and a runner on second. Many managers would
pull the pitcher but not tonight. His first pitch was hit perfectly and he stretched
to a double and it batted in the runner at second.
The bottom of the ninth, my brother struck out the first two batters using only
eight pitches. The ninth pitch was another pop up and the Braves lead was cut
to one game with two remaining. William had both the win and the game-winning
run. For the next twenty-four hours he would be the toast of New York before he
would spend a lifetime being the item of scorn of Mets fans.
After the game my brother gave far more interviews than normal for a reliable
middle reliever but Billy was a hero for at least one night. We met my brother
outside of the visitor’s locker room and we drove into that Atlanta night
from Fulton County Stadium to Buckhead for a night of debauchery where discretion
was not in use.
Parking was tight so we just parked on the sidewalk for the car to be towed. My
brother, the major league hero of the evening would simply pay the $300 fine to
get the $200 car out of the impound lot for the second night in a row,
Partying at Bars when someone is else is far more fun when someone else is picking
up the tab. Under normal circumstances I would drink at home before I would go
out and then hit bars that were having some sort of drink specials. Then I would
drink beer because it was normally cheaper. Most of my experiences with hard spirits
had been of marginal quality and major quantities. That fateful we were at an
establishment called, “Lulu’s Bait Shake”, based on my recommendation.
We kept the wait staff busy ordering round after round of shots, mixed drinks
and those blue punch bowls with floating sharks. In addition many of the patrons,
despite being Braves fans were buying us shots. My brothers had their antics photographed
on more than a few occasions. When William got sick on the dance floor over a
Georgia Coed and then tried to sleep on the bar it was time to leave.
We got a cab as none of us could drive and the red Pinto had long ago been towed
away for the second night in a row. The cab driver recognized William as we pulled
away from the bar. He did a double take due to his twin brother.
The three of us went back to my rented room at the fraternity house. William got
sick again in the shared bathroom of the floor. I had gotten sick but it was not
a photo worthy event.
Late the next morning I woke up with a taste like a sour cotton field in my mouth
and my stomach was upset. My head felt like my skull was being cracked with knives.
At this point this was the worst hangover of my life but as everyone knows one
of the things that gets far worse with age is the hangover after a night of heavy
This theory was proven by the fact that my two older brothers were in far worse
shape than I was. At least I was able to get Charles up but William was simply
still too hung over to go to work today. The problem with his “sleeping
it off” was the fact that there was a major league baseball game that required
his attendance. For the moment this problem was solved by Williams idea of sending
Charles, his identical right handed, non-baseball playing brother in his place.
Under normal circumstances this would not have been a problem as William would
not have pitched having pitched the night before but this was not a normal game.
So Charles took Williams identification and we went to the impound lot to pick
up the Ford Pinto. He was wearing Williams Blue Sport jacket as the major leagues
has a dress code. This was not the first time they had swapped places but this
time would not work out well.
The game was one of those once in a lifetime masterpieces of pitching that becomes
a part of baseball legend. Neither team managed a run through the firs t nine
innings as both pitchers had a complete game shutout. In fact the Mets had only
managed a single walk in the second inning. Both teams used all of their pitchers
over the second nine innings and still neither team managed to score over the
first eighteen innings in this critical game. The manager turned to my brother
Charles and said, “William, get warmed up!” Charles was dreading pitching
in a critical major league game as he had never played baseball outside of the
side yard and that was with a hollow plastic ball. Even then he was not that good.
Charles had watched the other pitchers warm up and he simply stretched in the
bullpen. He was hoping that the game would end before he would have to pitch in
his brother’s place. The fact that he was still hung over did not help matters,
as he got sick in a trashcan in the corner of the bullpen. One of the pitching
coaches made a nervous crack that William looked like he had a rough night.
It was the bottom of the 18th inning with two outs with a runner on third base
that reached base by a walk and advanced from second and then to third by sacrifice
flies. Charles, the major league imposter had one pitch, if you want to call it
that. To make matters even more difficult the pitch was made using his left arm,
as Charles was a right-hander and as said before, not a pitcher. The ball fell
about ten feet and the runner on third took off scoring the winning run and the
Braves had won the division.
William had gone from the toast of New York to the goat but he was not even in
the game, in the stadium or even awake. I made my way down to outside of the visitor’s
locker room. Charles made a few mumbling interviews before he got away and we
drove back to the Fraternity house.
With the magnitude of the game rumors started to circulate that William was drunk
during the game causing him to throw one of the worst pitches in baseball history.
Then the photos of the previous night started to surface and speculation began
to rise that William was not even at the game and was replaced by his non-athletic
brother, the writer of bad but successful screenplays.
The New York Mets released William, that night and for about a week he was monologue
fodder on late night shows. He was also the subject of a skit on Saturday Night
Live. The tabloids started to publish the photos from the night in Buckhead. The
Pinto was in the Enquirer three weeks in a row. They even had an interview with
the tow truck driver that towed the same Pinto two nights in a row. No teams even
in the minor leagues would offer my brother a second chance. He was no Steve Howe.
That is how my brother became a disgraced former major league baseball player.
He would move to West Virginia and would stay out of the spotlight for the next
Things would get worse. I drove to my dreadful telemarketing job a few days later.
As we called the poor souls that were stupid enough to fill out those entry forms
at one of those Chili cook offs the police came running in and arrested most of
the management. One of those TV crews that feature better business stories that
covers stories about people who send all of there money to dubious money making
schemes was parked outside filming the whole scene. The police cars were parked
next to my Pinto so my car was featured on the nightly news.
It was the end of my time in Atlanta as I was sick being recognized by my car
and still being broke so I decided to return to the Washington area. On my last
night in Atlanta I parked my car in the normal spot across the street from the
fraternity house. I was woken at six in the morning by a loud sucking sound and
the room shook. The news had woken up many of the other neighbors as a sinkhole
had sucked in several cars in the parking lot. The car that was the first not
to be sucked into unexplainable oblivion was the Ford Pinto. One of the disadvantages
of living in Atlanta is that CNN over covers local news and tries to pass it off
as international events.
As my car was located next to a crater it was for the third time in three weeks
on the news. I enjoyed the indirect attention but many times fame does not come
with a paycheck so I left Atlanta once I was given access to my car once it was
removed away from the mysterious sinkhole in the parking lot.
Leaving Atlanta like the reverse of Midnight train to Georgia returning to Maryland
compared to returning to Georgia from California did not put an end to working
awful jobs. I spent the next few months as a management trainee at Enterprise
Rent a Car making less money than I was as a retail salesperson while in college
and having a lot less fun. One of the most sobering things about post college
is the fact that dollar pitcher night is a thing of the past and these insane
establishments expect you to pay three dollars for a single glass of beer and
they want a tip on top of that! Many weekends found me driving the Pinto back
to school as I could to afford to have a social life. Women after college often
have an issue being driven somewhere in a fifteen year old Ford Pinto.
As a management trainee at Enterprise you are rated in getting the poor fools
that rent from you to agree to pay more for insurance. If you have existing auto
coverage and/or you pay for the car using a credit card (which is required) then
the coverage is not needed and simply adds to the profits of the rental company.
One of the benefits of working for Enterprise was getting a slight discount on
one of the used rental cars that were for sale but the monthly payment was more
than my biweekly car payment and I did not see a 1993 Ford Escort that much of
an improvement. To this day when I rent from Enterprise I enjoy getting past the
thin smile to the misery when I chat with the management trainee about their experience
with Enterprise. Alls I have to do is simply ask them how they enjoy working for
Enterprise. They respond with a chipper speech about the opportunities with the
company. Then I say that I am a former employee and I know what it is like. Then
they become sad and start saying how much they hate their job. If you reach the
point of desperation in a job search that you consider the management-training
program at Enterprise you should consider homelessness as a more pleasant option.
One positive thing about working in misery is the thought that your future (either
unemployment or another job) will be more pleasant.
Norman was working as an accountant but he still talked about the custom map service.
Now instead of mailing in a request the service would be done over a computer
by having users sending in their request by calling into a BBS (Bulletin Board
System). Once the request was submitted then the user would call back in the next
day and find their directions in a personalized mailbox. He would charge his customers
twenty dollars each time they got directions. Based on that he would only need
to give directions to fifty thousand people before he would be a millionaire.
His model and the economy would be tweaked a bit but his project would be briefly
be worth quite a bit more than the million dollars that was his goal.
So after several miserable months working for slave wages at Enterprise I decided
that going to grad school was my path out of this ring of hell that was Enterprise.
So I went to those grad school fairs that are always popular when the job market
is horrible for those that want to sit out the job market.
I picked out several schools that I could get into without much effort but I learned
the truth about the less you say to your idiot coworkers the better. If I would
have known what I knew then what I know now and I knew the