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I didn’t hear it hit, though some neighbors did. What I heard was the incessant beeping of a car alarm, always unsettling, even more so in the middle of the night. It was 1 a.m. on the 4th of July.
I glanced out the bedroom window and could see my car lights blinking, signaling the piercing alarm was from my car, parked in the street in front of our house. I ran downstairs, grabbed my key ring and ran outside.
It quickly became clear why my car alarm was sounding. A huge oak tree in a neighbor’s front yard across the street had split apart and landed directly on top of the vehicle, crushing the roof and shattering all the glass windows.
I kept pushing buttons on the key fob until the alarm stopped.
I walked inside and said to my wife, who was still in bed, “You know how we’ve been talking about going down to one car?”
Actually, I didn’t say that. I don’t remember exactly what I did say, but I’m sure it lacked wit. Jeanan is much better in a crisis than I am. She refused to allow me to retreat into the fetal position under the bed. Instead she led me back outside and then called 911. In addition to destroying my car, the oak lay sprawled across the road, completely blocking traffic.
The police were there within minutes, and they summoned a crew from the forestry section of the City of Madison Parks Division.
I believe the forestry guys arrived within a half hour or so of my hearing the car alarm — long before dawn on the 4th of July. They calmly explained what would happen next: They would return when it got light, remove the fallen tree and make sure things were safe.
True to their word, they were back at 7:30 a.m. They cleared the street, pruned the splintered oak before removing it and helped get fallen limbs and glass out of our yard.
When I thanked them, one said, “People don’t always appreciate us.” I suppose that’s when, for safety reasons, they trim back trees that people don’t want to see trimmed. All I know is they shined on this day and the night before.
Because of the holiday, it took 48 hours or so for the tow service to come for the car. This resulted in numerous gawkers and my becoming a neighborhood celebrity: “That’s the one whose car got squashed.”
One mother who lives on our street brought her little boy by. He was scared. When I said nobody got hurt and everything was OK, he started smiling. He couldn’t stop staring at the car.
It’s an odd thing for which to become famous. I can only compare it to something that happened 50 years ago. I was in 7th grade at Van Hise Junior High, now Velma Hamilton Middle School. I was with about 100 of my classmates in a large room taking a basic skills test. It was right after lunch — a salient point.
The meal had not agreed with the fellow seated directly behind me. He could have leaned left or right, but he didn’t. He lost everything straight ahead, all over me. I was excused from the test and pointed out for days.
“That’s the one who got puked on,” they said.
It’s funny, I guess, to realize Jeanan and I had been talking about possibly downsizing to one car. I do much of my work at home. We’re across the street from the bike path. There’s a grocery store, library, bookstore, six restaurants and two gyms within a half-hour walk of our house. We decided to give it a try.
We went bicycle shopping. And then I got a smart phone. For interviews and other business meetings, there are going to be times I need to summon a taxi or ride share.
“Welcome to the 21st century,” the guy at the AT&T store said.
I like the new phone but hope I never become someone who can’t go five minutes without looking at it. I don’t think that will happen.
And while there may be bumps along the way on this new adventure, I know one thing: I’m not going to miss alternate side parking.
Doug Moe is a Madison writer. Read his monthly column, Person of Interest, in Madison Magazine.
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