2006.02.01 Don't go out that door!

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

It’s late in the fourth quarter of a girls basketball game at Pettisville. I begin to make my exit plan. I want to beat the crowd, get in the car and drive away.

I start to run it all through my head: I parked over there, I entered there, I walked in through that door and crossed over to here.

So, there’s my door. That’s the one I need to make my get-away.

This was my first visit to the Pettisville gymnasium. When driving up to the school in the dark, I first encountered a small parking lot that was full and I noticed cars parked along an adjacent street. I headed down there and parked nearly a block away.

Not good, but it would do. At least the car was pointed north, back to Michigan.

Then things got a little more confusing. I went in Door X and turned down Hallway Y and then made a turn to veer over to the ticket table. After that, a right turn into the gym followed by a walk to the other side for photos, and later a move to the other end of the gym for the second half.

So as I said earlier, I ran all of this through my head and decided the nearby exit would do. The other end of the gym would have been better, but a little walk along the side of the school would get me back to the side street.

I walked out and thought briefly about holding the door for a moment to prevent it from shutting behind me. Why did I do that? Well, I recalled two or three or maybe four gymnasiums in the past where the correct door was actually the wrong door.

I didn’t think about it long enough.

I let the door shut and took a couple of steps. It was completely dark. There was no parking lot. There was no road into the residential area. There was nothing but blackness.

I took a few steps and I could sense that I was going downhill. Soon, I saw a fence up ahead in the gloomy light. This was a dead end.

I turned, walked back past the closed door, and began the long trek around the school, hoping there were no more fences. Ah, the main parking lot came into view. I didn’t know about that one when I arrived. I walked through and eventually spotted the road where I first came in. Fans were pouring out of the gym.

This is the dilemma of a sports photographer visiting strange gymnasiums. I try to save a few seconds by making a quick exit and suddenly I’m...somewhere, nowhere.

It’s not just the Ohio locales. Earlier this season I walked out of the wrong door at Clinton. It should have been simple enough. I’ve been there before. But once again, I had this notion of which door would lead directly to the parking lot. I parked in the small lot on the west side and entered through a door where someone else was exiting.

When it was time to leave, I chose a door that must have been near the one where I entered the gym. Not the same door, but the same side. But I was wrong again and soon lost again. At least there were lights in the school yard.

The worst situation ever was somewhere else in Ohio. Stryker? North Central? I don’t know. I suppose I should have made note of it before it happens again.

I chose the “right” door and stepped out. As the door slammed shut, I discovered I was standing on about three feet of sidewalk, surrounded by nothing but snow. I tried to escape through one snow-covered field and was fenced in. I walked and walked the other way, but the parking lot was nowhere to be seen. Would I have to wait for daylight? How could everything disappear? When I finally made it back to the car, my first chore was to empty the snow from my shoes.

I think I know when this all began. Years and years ago we stayed in the Amway Grand Plaza hotel for the annual press association convention in Grand Rapids. I think my family was waiting for the elevator to arrive to take us down to dinner and I rushed down the stairwell to see if I could beat them to the bottom.

I reached ground level, burst out the door and I was suddenly standing outside on a very frigid January night, looking into the faces of the diners through the restaurant window.

Clank.

That was the sound of the door to nowhere closing.

– February 1, 2006
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    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
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