Travel

Fine Margins

If they were to find joy, it would come from the margins.

From the jump, the wide areas were clearly there for the home team with promotion aspirations and, just before the halftime whistle, the back of the net was finally rippled.

Leeds United V Ipswich Elland Road Oct 2018

Hernandez had found himself in acres of Yorkshire green, made himself a cup of tea, and fired a cross into the box while it steeped. Kamar Roofe’s head met the ball 6 yards from goal and the South End erupted in song, claps, and hugs. Some even kept their shirts on. Amidst the din, Ben leaned into me and said in a whisper-shout that rose above the raucous, “fine margins.”

Leeds United V Ipswich Elland Road Oct 2018 from the Cheese Wedge

Pablo’s cross cleared the defender marking Roofe by an inch, maybe. It was football perfection. Fine margins, indeed.

THe Toyota Prius Saved My Life

The day before, nearing the Town of the team on the receiving end of Roofe’s goal (and a 90 minute beatdown) at Elland Road, every single airbag was deployed in the new, ominously-named, Blue Crush Metallic Toyota Prius tasked with zigzagging me across Great Britain. My front passenger side had just found the rear of a lorry with violent force a few miles from Ipswich Town’s Portman Road Stadium. That’s where I was heading next, to photograph another football ground, to peer inside for a looksee at another lush green pitch.

Ipswich Town Portman Road from the Train Station

I did get to see Portman Road, from the Ipswich Train Station after the ambulance guys so kindly dropped me off.

I had stopped for gas about 20 minutes prior to the accident. That needed to be a double dip of gasoline in case this petrol station, like the only other I had stopped at thus far, a Shell in Wales across from Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, didn’t take U.S. based signature credit cards. I had only so much paper money on me, you know, so I put in 10 pounds worth of the cheapest fuel on offer, and went it to try my card. [there is no paying at the pump in the U.K.]

It worked, hallelujah, so I returned to my Prius and filled it to the brim knowing a full tank in the hybrid would carry me another 600 miles or thereabouts. That’s a lot more football grounds, from Norwich to the Northeast. Back into the station I walked to pay again and to buy a candy bar I certainly didn’t need. Then I was on my way. Less than a half an hour later I was in an ambulance. The Prius destroyed. My trip derailed. My head scrambled.

What if I hadn’t stopped at that station that rejected my card in Wales?

What if I was then able to confidently fuel up in a single go at that station about 20 minutes south of Ipswich?

What if my bank didn’t ding me with a $5 foreign ATM fee, making me more willing to just get out more paper British pounds?

What if I was on the road 20 minutes earlier and was never behind that truck that stopped for reasons I’ll never know?

What if, what if, what if. Fine margins.

The Toyota Prius that saved my life in England

My boots had already been unlaced and were placed neatly beside the chest of drawers on the other side of the San Diego hotel room. My favorite sleepytime shirt, the faded Blue Hawaiian helicopter company tee, was on, phone charging bedside, eyeglasses folded and sitting atop my wallet on the desk like I like ’em at night, and the sheer curtains had been drawn to let in a muted version of the San Diego nightlife 7 floors below. Petco Park’s lights were still glowing across the street. Just then, her text and two voicemails pinged my phone. I was begged to join her and a small group of young ladies for a very late night of bar hopping in the Gaslamp Quarter. Oh for fuck’s sake. It was well after 1am Pacific Coast time, 4am to my internal eastern clock.

Earlier that day I had showered and dealt with a hyper sensitive faucet which oscillated between scolding hot and arctic shiver with the slightest of adjustment. I was in there, soaped up and freezing/burning/freezing/burning, thinking, “this is an annoying fine margins moment.” Hours later, with literally one foot in bed, I was presented with another.

Rarely do the fine margins of a decision reveal themselves before or even during their lifespan but as I played her voicemail on speakerphone and read the first and following up text message, it was as if I was holding a crystal ball. I looked into a very near future and could see things going poorly, life-alteringly so.

I was dressed and in the lobby 5 minutes later.

A friend said that if I was out of that gas station 10 minutes earlier, maybe I would have been in a worse accident, that maybe my actual scenario behind that truck on that stretch of Ipswich road at that exact time was my best possible outcome. That’s some fine margins M.C. Escher level shit that kept me awake and in a bit of a panic for a few weeks after that Tuesday in East Anglia.

The Toyota Prius Saved My Life

San Diego was fine. England ended up being fine. I am still alive, although the same possibly cannot be said of the life-saving Toyota Prius that ensured I’d be able to tell this story. Fine margins.

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3 Comments

  1. So glad your doing well physically but how are you mentally?
    It seems it took a bit to put this piece on paper.

  2. This was wonderful, scary and thoughtful all at once. I could practically see your thoughts racing as you considered all of the alternate scenarios that might have happened, had one or two moments turned out differently. Also, your use of the tea metaphor was perfect.

  3. …If not initially spelled perfectly 😉
    Thank you so much for the kind words and for taking the time to read this one, Aaron!

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