The main event of this past weekend for me was finally getting to see the inside of Ford Field. Last year I got sick the weekend I was supposed to go. This year I felt just fine, but getting there wasn’t quite as straightforward as it should have been.
Before we bought tickets, Mr. Karen checked with his friend Eli to see if he wanted to come over from Chicago to see the game. Eli is the person who is responsible for turning Mr. Karen into a Vikings fan; they go way back together, farther than even Mr. Karen and I go back, which is saying something. Eli said he would come, so we bought him a ticket. So far so good. Since the game was so early in the season, the weather was likely to be good for tailgating, so Mr. Karen made plans with our friend Hank, his girlfriend, her son, and her son’s friend, as well as a couple he kayaks with who are Lions season ticket holders that we’ve gone to games with in the past. We’d all meet up at Hank’s house on game day and drive downtown to find a lot that allows tailgating. Excellent plan.
First sign of trouble with this plan came last Wednesday or Thursday, when Eli called to say he’d been offered a job Saturday night (he’s a d.j.). Since he was supposed to be at our house Saturday night so we could leave for Hank’s place by 9 on Sunday morning, this piece of news complicating things. Mr. Karen and Eli talked about possible scenarios, and Eli said he’d decide about the job and call back on Friday to let us know. He didn’t call on Friday. He didn’t answer his phone when Mr. Karen called him. Finally, Saturday afternoon, around the time Eli would have been leaving if he was planning to come as originally scheduled, Mr. Karen got a hold of him. Eli had decided to take the job that night and then drive straight to our house, arriving around 9:30 or 10 Sunday. Seemed like a crazy plan, but Eli does stuff like this rather regularly. So Mr. Karen called the other people involved and decided that they would all meet as scheduled and he’d call them once Eli got here and just drive downtown separately.
At around 8:30 Sunday morning, Mr. Karen called Eli to check on his whereabouts and found that rather than being an hour or so from our house, he’d just gotten into Michigan. Well, that wouldn’t work; he’d just barely get here in time to find the tailgating lot before kickoff. Mr. Karen had to make more calls to let people know what was going on. Since he was the link between the groups, we decided that he should go meet them while I waited for Eli.
All this change irritated me out of all proportion. I didn’t have to make the calls and rearrange everything; Mr. Karen did, so it wasn’t like I was really put upon or anything. But still, I got more and more miffed every time the plans changed. This despite the fact I know Eli is this way, that you can’t be quite sure what he’ll do until he does it. I had gotten very attached to my vision of how the weekend would go and seeing it messed with repeatedly was making me unhappy. I think this sort of reaction is related to the touch of social anxiety I either inherited or learned from my dad; I get about 1000 times more stressed about things that involve social events. It’s a wonder I have any friends at all sometimes.
Eli called a little before his most recent estimated time of arrival to tell me where he was, and thank me for waiting for him, which made me feel guilty about being miffed. About fifteen minutes after that, he actually arrived. We got his cat settled (yes, his cat; yes, I am allergic, and yes, cats are predators and guinea pigs prey, but I decided I’d have faith that this situation would work out and save the “my wife said no” credits for some other situation) and about ten minutes later I was behind the wheel of Mr. Karen’s truck (he’d taken my car up to meet our friends), ready to back out of the garage and finally get going to the game. Except the truck wouldn’t back up. The engine was fine, no problem there, but the parking brake seemed to be stuck. I checked to make sure I’d released it; I had. This has happened before when the truck has sat unused between trips, so I knew the solution was to drive forward a few inches before trying to back up. Except the truck wouldn’t go forward, either. Man, didn’t see that coming. Unexpected things do tend to happen when Eli is around, like the porcelain on a sink spontaneously delaminating or a hole getting punched in the living room ceiling by a cardboard gift wrap tube of all things, but I don’t remember any weird car problems before. That’s more my mom’s area of karma. Anyway, I tried rocking it a few more times and tried putting the brake on and releasing it a few times, and then Eli and I tried physically pushing back and then forward. It slid a bit across the concrete floor of the garage, but the wheels did not turn. At all. Rather than burn out the clutch or get a hernia, we elected to take Eli’s vehicle, which about 100,000 miles ago was our vehicle before we sold it to him with 140,000 miles on it. Hey, it had just made it all the way from Chicago, no reason to think it wouldn’t make it a little farther into Detroit.
I was so flustered by this really last minute change in plans that I left my purse– the one with the tickets to the game in it– behind when we finally hit the road, but at least I realized that before we even got to the end of the street. At this point, I was starting to think buying tickets in the family fun zone (no alcohol, no profanity) was a bad call, because I felt like I could really use a beer, and I don’t even like beer. Once we got going in the right direction, I started to relax a little even without beer.
Mr. Karen had left me two maps and had also called from tailgating to tell me exactly which lot they’d ended up in, so getting there shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I managed to get so distracted by talking to Eli that I missed a key exit and didn’t realize it until several miles later, which cost us valuable minutes. By the time we’d determined there was no space in the lot where the other folks had parked and found our own spot, the game had started. By the time we got into the stadium, the Lions were up 7-0. They scored three more points before the aura emanating from my Vikings-rific ensemble started to turn the tide. I don’t know if it was the jersey with Fran Tarkenton’s number on it or the purple earrings or the purple socks or the purple bra or the purple underwear, but after I got there, the Vikings started to do better. Perhaps it wasn’t my attire at all, but the mantras I chanted silently to myself: “Vikings-endzone-touchdown”, “Lions-turn-the-ball-over”, “Vikings-hold-the-line”, and such. I did not think to chant “Daunte stays healthy”, but I should have, because Mr. Culpepper had to leave the game in the second quarter after sustaining what the big screen later described as a lower back contusion. After that, “Go Gus-Vikings yardage” became my mantra, and the Vikings won 23-13. Now I would be happy to see the Lions go on and win their remaining division games, other than the one in Minnesota, because it would be great to have a team that lives up to the quality of the new stadium. Maybe next year I’ll even get to the game in time to explore the facility a bit.
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