by Jeff Baker
The world went haywire just before the game was supposed to start.
I’d won the tickets and had driven all night from Albuquerque, sleeping in my old Woodie station wagon and was sitting in the upper deck at Candlestick there in San Francisco waiting for Game Three of the World Series to start. I’d just lost my job and didn’t have a lot to loose. Besides, my Mom’s Uncle had played for both teams a century ago when they’d been on the East Coast. The Philadelphia Athletics they’d been called back then. Now, the Giants were playing there in San Francisco and the Oakland A’s were just across the Bay.
Sleeping in the back of the Woodie wasn’t a bad deal. And I’d gotten a prime seat and could see the whole field.
I was shooting the breeze with a couple of guys in our section when I heard and felt the rumble like a bunch of people were stomping their feet on the floor of the upper deck. I looked around and was going to say something when I noticed the shaking and the swaying of some of the lights across the stadium. About that time, the message board displayed gibberish and then went blank.
Behind me, somebody yelled “Earthquake!”
Do tell, I thought.
It wasn’t even a minute when the shaking subsided and a big cheer went up from the crowd.
“This may not be anything to cheer about,” the guy sitting next to me said. He’d told me his name was Mitchell.
A few minutes later I got what he meant. They canceled the game and told everybody to leave “in a calm, orderly fashion.”
While we were waiting to get out of the stadium, the guy pointed up toward the top of the stadium.
“See?” He said. “I knew that felt pretty bad.”
There was smoke rising from beyond the stadium. Ar first I thought it was in the parking lot, but no.
We finally made it out to the parking lot and my Woodie. I remembered he’d said something about springing for a cab to the stadium, so I asked Mitchell if he needed a lift home.
“Sure,” he said. “Do you usually give rides to total strangers during earthquakes?”
“Only in October,” I said with a grin.
“I live a ways away from here,” he said. “Where are you staying in town?”
“Right here,” I said patting the Woodie. “I kind of bailed from everything to come here. No job anymore so I said what the hey?”
“I live over in Fremont,” Mitchell said. “You really want to drive that far?”
“I got no place else to go,” I said with a shrug.
It might not have been the smartest thing to do, driving someone I’d just met home but this was no ordinary night. While we waited to get out of the parking lot, we listened to the radio and heard more about the damage citywide and in Oakland. Bridges collapsed. People killed.
Needless to say, we stuck to the regular roads.
We saw a lot that night. Buildings in rubble, power out all over. People getting around using flashlights. A man, not a cop, directing traffic at an intersection where the lights were off and people following his instructions. People helping people like it was one big neighborhood.
We stopped to help a few places ourselves.
We did a lot of talking on the trip in the Woodie. A lot.
It was around One-thirty in the morning and dark when we arrived at Mitchell’s apartment. At least the lights were on in Fremont.
“Just let me stay out here in the parking lot,” I said.
“Parking lot, nothing!” Mitchell said. “I got a couch and some extra pillows. And a blanket.”
I nodded smiling.
He unlocked the apartment door, turned around and looked into my eyes. I came this close to kissing him.
I stayed on the couch that night. He slept in his bedroom.
But I did wind up staying in Fremont.
I guess that’s one way to meet a boyfriend!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The October 17, 1989 earthquake hit the Bay Area during game three of the World Series. The casualty list would have been a lot longer if people hadn’t been home watching the game or at the stadium instead of on the streets. My thanks to my friends who have shared their memories of that day. This story is for you.
This is such a charming story, Jeff! Out of disaster and chaos comes kindness and love.
Thank you! My Brother and I were in Kansas watching the game, not dreaming that the man I would meet and marry was there in the stands!