I was still on a high from being at the Orange Bowl watching my beloved Huskers win a National Championship and I was headed for my first Photo Day. A typical August day in Nebraska, frickin' hot and humid did nothing to dissuade thousands from standing in a long line waiting to see our young warriors in the flesh. I brought my 15-year daughter and my youngest boys 11 and 10. They were there for the fun, the joy, the experience. Me? I was on a mission. I clutched several items to be signed (mostly Sports Illustrated mags) by Tommie, LP and T.O. Nothing would stop me.
The gates opened and the line moved forward and I began to enter the ‘zone' for the task at hand. Suddenly the field opened before me and I was walking on that emerald green turf, that hallowed ground, I fought off the urge to fall to my knees and kiss the ground….I was on a mission.. As we strode towards midfield my children looked up at me and with a flick of the wrist I released the hounds. They raced off in all directions with pens, pennants and cameras. I surveyed the field and honed in on Tommie and LP, hmmmmm they were seated together at one table. That's odd I thought, but no matter I'll get them to sign first and then go get Tom's. There were people starting to gather around the two so I quickened my pace, but I wasn't fast enough. I joined many others in a cluster in front of the table. I started to look around for a beginning and end to a line. I found none. Within minutes I found myself, a short swarthy man, surrounded 10 deep in all directions by large corn-fed humanoids. It didn't take me long to come to the conclusion that this was going to take a little longer than I hoped but nothing would discourage me. I was on a mission. That euphoria was short lived. We had become the human equivalent of flies on a last chance dunghill and it soon became a good news/bad news situation. The bad news was we were getting nowhere. The good news was we were getting there fast. After about 15 minutes of standing still with the heat of the turf and this girdle of humanity I wore I started to wonder what the hell was happening. I could sense people moving in and out, but no one around me was moving at all. 20 minutes later and I was ready for another plan. Sweltering, simmering, sweating flesh surrounded me. I thought, this must be what it's like to be caught in a rugby scrum with the French National team, only this was starting to smell worse. The area to my left had thinned considerably (where did they go?) and I could see my kids come by once and awhile, check on me, and race off. People in this ‘line' were hot and some were getting testy, and I didn't blame them. Who the hell planned this train wreck? This event was F.U.B.A.R.!!!! Why aren't we moving!!!
My attention was drawn to a little girl on my right, mostly because she happened to be standing on my foot. She was tugging her mom's blouse and whispering into her ear as she bent down. Poor little thing must be ready to pass out. Her mother then stood erect and glowered at me. "My daughter says you're trying to cut in front of her" she spat. This was a woman of uncommon size, one might describe her as Yehti-like (but not to her face). "Madam, I can assure you that is not the case as I have not moved my feet for 20 minutes" I offered. This set off a menacingly loud diatribe. Her voice was like one of those hand held mini-foghorns you hear at the stadiums. I could barely make out bits and pieces of her shrieking '….' we've been in this line just as long as you!!!!…" and "got some nerve cutting in front of a little girl!!!!" ...and "EVERYONE here has been in this line as long as you and …." (How did everyone get into this?) "C'mon lady none of us are moving how…"
I was cut short by once again by another remarkably shrill and long-winded verbal assault. As she was now leaning into me I could see past her flapping fleshy lips, past her brown teeth into the gaping maw of…of…. Gorgo the Gargantuan, make that Mrs. Gorgo the Gargantuan. I could no longer hear what she was saying as the emotions of the moment, the stifling heat, an unsettling spray of spittle and breath not unlike week old sewage settled into a suffocating orbit around my head. I was ready to swoon and my brain was reduced to dispensing thoughts in a William Shatner like fashion "Spock…..I……can't………. take it anymore" I regained my senses and prepared to do battle. If I could land one good shot to the chin I might take the behemoth down and then she was mine…but around the periphery I could see heads bobbing and necks craning to check out the disturbance. We had somehow drawn a crowd within a crowd. The spectators were at a boiling point and it showed in their faces. Oh they had that look, that look I'd seen in a hundred westerns. These townsfolk were ripe for a lynchin', they were muttering things under their breath and I was pretty sure Lucas McCain or the Cartwright's were not going to be there to save my butt. I eased back about a half step. I stood there for a while with my arms crossed looking as manly as possible and then slipped out of the herd with some of my dignity intact. God the air was fresher out of that pile. It didn't take long for my two sons to find me.
"Did you get em' signed???"
"Nah, I'll never get through that line" I was a beaten man. "Come on dad give us those magazines" And they split them up and one disappeared into the Frazier/Phillips mass before I could warn him. The other circled around the mass in a sprint and was gone. I looked around the field and saw my daughter getting her picture taken with Turner Gill. She's getting her picture taken with Turner and I've spent the last hour in an over crowded sauna with the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Excellent !!! I checked out the pile and found Ms Gorgo and a few townsfolk were still eyeballing me and muttering. ‘Don't make me come back in there' I thought…………quietly. No more than 10 minutes had gone by when both boys came running up to me with the magazines. Well they were smarter than their old man they gave up quick. They handed me the magazines "Here you go dad is that what you wanted?"
And damn if they weren't all signed, LP, Tommie and T.O.
"Where are we gonna eat dad?"
"Anywhere you want boys, anywhere you want"
My daughter joined us and they showed me the hundred or so autographs they had and told me of all the pictures they had taken. "Come on dad let's go get some more pictures" "Okay I'll catch up with you, I've got something to do first" And they were gone in a flash, where do they get the energy? I moved over to the pile again and stood where Gorgo and her henchman could see me, caught her eye and in an exaggerated pantomime that would make Marcel Marceau say "Get down wit' yo bad self!!!" I held up my magazines and pointed out the signatures. It was then and there I created a dance that would later be known as "The Cabbage Patch" only my name for it at that time was the "Up your's Gorgo!!!
I then exited stage left, smirking all the way. And I enjoyed the last 40 minutes of Photo Day.
Postscript: Later that winter I vacationed in Orlando and spent the day at Universal Studios where I was amazed to see them move a gazillion people thru lines making use of twisting mazes, video, mist blown by huge fans all making the experience almost enjoyable. At one point while standing in a long line a faux Xena the Princess Warrior wandered by. My kids coaxed me into getting a picture with this tall rather buxom beauty.
I stood next to her with my arm around her waist and hers around my shoulders. As my wife was about to take the shot Xena, with the skill of a young Vern Gagne, put me in a headlock and gave me a noogy as my loving family howled in apparent delight, CLICK another Kodak moment. Damn…I never have any luck in lines…………