The Yellow Kid had 27 actors, 200 slide projections, film, rolling scenery, a cat, two dogs, and a goat named Julia. The second act was so tightly choreographed that I couldn’t call cues from the script but had to mark them off elapsed time in the music. Twenty second light fades timed to images, sound, scene changes and stage action. Moments as beautiful as any I’ve ever seen. All this on a production budget of $1100 for a non-profit fringe theater with a $100K annual budget. Big cheap theater.
Sometime later, Kathie’s sister was visiting. We decided to drive the twelve hours and three mountain passes to their parent’s home in Montana.
My wife’s career evokes the phrase “odd jobs”: deck hand, national park employee, clown in a Japanese, Dutch theme park, congressional staffer and temp. Two days before we left, Kathie had a telemarketing injury. I don’t know if she was gesturing with the handset or so bored she was trying to escape through the mic holes. In any case, the receiver slipped and hit her eye so hard it bruised.
I was about to meet my future wife’s parents for the first time and it looked like I’d punched her in the face.
We headed off towards Snoqualmie Pass. Kathie’s car was a ten year old hatchback that had made the trip from Seattle to Montana many times. At the top of the pass (3022 ft) the car just stopped. I don’t know what an electronic control module is but when it fails a car turns into statue.
It was a spring afternoon and the weather was mild. I had a cell phone (a bit of a luxury in 1996 for a fringe theater dude with a day job) and a AAA membership. I called for help. I hear at this point my future sister-in-law decided I was a keeper. AAA warned me that the tow truck was only allowed to carry two passengers. I was polite, rule obeying, and conflict avoiding so I called my dad for a pickup.
The tow truck arrived. Of course the driver said he could squeeze me in but I’d already called my father. Seattle is 52 miles from the summit. Assuming I’d see my own ride within the hour, I sent my future wife, my future sister in-law, the dead car and my potential rescuer on their way.
I didn’t know it but I had interrupted my father while he was painting his porch. Afraid that stopping would wreck the paint job, he had decided to finish and clean up before heading up for me. As the tow truck pulled away, he was probably still on a ladder doing edge work.
So there I was. I waited. I waited some more. After a while I began to feel a little vulnerable. Sure, some crazy could pull over and use me for fixin’s. What really began to grind me was that I looked so stupid standing there that people would start pulling over out of pity. I looked like one of those people who just wander off. Like I’d gotten so fed up with my desk job that I’d just stood up and started walking East to – I don’t know – Walla Walla.
Embarrassment became the better part of valor. I noticed that if I crouched down at the side of the road I could see the cars with less chance that they’d see me. A great way for a thirty year old man to pass the time — hiding from traffic in a ditch at 3000 feet above sea level.
I waited there for over two hours before finally seeing my father’s car.
I rode back to Seattle relieved. Relieved Kathie and her sister were safe, relieved my father had finally picked me up and most of all relieved that the trip was canceled and I didn’t have to explain to my future in-laws why their daughter had a black eye.