Sep. 20—Hello. Remember me? Probably not. It's been nearly a month since I wrote a Street Talk column.
Actually, that's not true. Last week, I wrote a good one. Oh, it was a riveting piece, with shocking violence, a fight for survival and a mystery so twisted and immense, Keith Morrison salivates just thinking about it.
This piece provided an inside view of a local crime so vicious and perplexing, it would have kept you up at night. Alas, there were some late developments, some unanswered questions and enough doubts raised about the narrative that the whole thing had to be scrapped, shut down and banished to the Island of Unpublished Columns, a bleak place just a few nautical miles from where all those misfit toys hang out.
Scrapping a column is a miserable experience. Here you are with a red-hot story to tell, and you're so excited to tell it, you hop up and down with energized glee like a boy who has to pee real bad. But when the moment of truth comes, you've lost your voice and now the world will never hear the brilliant tale you have composed. In the end, your poetry is lost to the wind.
Nah, I'm just kidding. It wasn't that good. Let's talk about Burger King, instead.
So last week, on Thursday night, things got weird over there at the BK in Auburn.
Over the police scanner (ironic that we still call it that since we can no longer hear police calls) the accident on Center Street didn't sound like much. Some cars had collided in the street and one of them had apparently spun all the way into the lot at Burger King. By itself, that's not much, and certainly no reason to go racing out off into the night.
But in the garbled rush of conversation between firefighters, medics and dispatchers, there WERE some hints that this was not your garden variety fender-bender on Center Street. Words like "overturned" and "into the building" and "upside down" began to come through and by golly, through their bland and professional jargon, those firefighters can really paint a picture sometimes.
I went out, parked in the lot of a pizza shop, and sprinted to the crash scene, coughing up bits of lung as I went because apparently I don't get to Pilates often enough.
When I got to Burger King, I came around the front of the building to get a view of the wreck from that angle. And when I first rounded the corner and laid eyes on the wreckage for the first time, I doubted what I saw — and not for just an instant, either. For a good span of seconds, I stood there frowning at the drive-thru lane, trying to make sense of it and getting nowhere. What I saw defied all logic. There seemed to be a car flipped up on its side directly in front of the drive-thru window. Weirder still, that overturned car was competing for space with a second vehicle, only the second vehicle was turned at an odd angle.
I honestly wonder how long I stood there, blinking in confusion at this mess.
By this point in my career, I've been to thousands of crash scenes and I sincerely can't recall one that caused me such mental difficulty. So, when I finally snapped out of the daze, I dashed over to a crowd of onlookers in hopes of gaining some clarity. I asked one of those questions that only seasoned journalists know how to ask.
"What the hell happened?" I demanded of nobody in particular.
To my great surprise and delight, three different people were able to describe how this mash of vehicles had come to be. More surprising still, their explanations were in line with the police investigation that came later. In essence: Two cars had collided on Center Street and one of them had been booking along so quickly that the impact caused his car to go airborne and to sail, like a discarded Junior Whopper wrapper, into a pair of cars lined up at the drive-thru window.
It makes perfect sense when you put it that way.
So, after collecting what I could at the crash scene, I sprinted back to my car, hawked up more lung fragments, and discovered that my phone battery had died. I also discovered, at that very same moment, that I could swear fluently in about nine different languages.
It's just sad how dependent I've become on that ##$! phone. All my interviews with witnesses were on there. Photos, too. Worse, I still needed to check in with the desk back at the paper and I wanted to give the PO-leece a call about the wreck.
I got the phone charged in short order, but there was still Facebook to consider.
Every day, I swear to myself that I'm going to ditch this wretched platform. Facebook is intrusive, manipulative, sneaky and annoying in about a hundred different ways.
But man, is it useful sometimes.
Before I wrote a single word of story about the BK crash, I put up a quick teaser on my Facebook page. "Strangest wreck I've ever seen, at Burger King in Auburn," I wrote. "Car flipped onto its side at the drive-thru window."
I posted this message specifically because I knew there were probably a hundred witnesses to this crash that I hadn't had a chance to speak to yet. And I knew that, with their adrenaline still pumping from the action, they'd probably want to talk about it.
It's like fishing, you know, with words instead of worms.
So, after filing a story about the mayhem at BK, I checked the messages on my Facebook page.
"My daughter was there and helped the kids in the car until rescue came," wrote one lady.
Ka-CHING, as they say in journalism school. Probably.
The lady in question, who did indeed help out at the crash scene, was so eloquent, so helpful and accommodating, I found myself hopping up and down like a boy who has to pee.
A short time later came a message from the man who had been in the very first car in the drive-thru lane; the car that had a literal front-row seat to the action.
"Give a call," that man wrote, "and I'll fill you in on the horror show."
More hopping up and down. Although this time, I really did have to pee.
So, the point is, as much as I detest Facebook and all their devious machinations, it would be darn difficult to get by without it at this phase of things. Facebook is like that crowded spot outside a good bar where everybody huddles to gossip. Or something. I'm getting tired. Is this column over yet?
In summary, the crash was notable in the fact that most bizarre occurrences of this nature happen at McDonald's. I mean, seriously, street drugs found in a Happy Meal? And that's just locally. The internet is littered with stories of weird things that have happened under the golden arches around the world. Burger King, on the other hand, is most noted for the creepy, grinning king that is its mascot. None of it concerns me very much, anyway.
I'm more of a Wendy's guy.