IN THE YEARS AFTER finishing college I was really feeling adrift. I knew that I had talents, but I lacked skills. I knew that what I wanted to do, “when I grew up,” was to act, but fate and family took over.
In an effort to pick up some kind of marketable skills I signed up to take a course in Advertising Copy Writing that was offered by the Cleveland Advertising Club, which was a local professional association for those in the Advertising field. Cleveland had a surprisingly active Advertising world.
The course was taught by several working account managers from various agencies. I think they really did it as a way of unearthing some new talent for their agencies. That was OK by me. Any possible opportunity was a good one.
A story that I recall from the class was related by one of the instructors. His name I don’t remember but his story has stayed with me.
His agency had just landed a new account – Smucker’s Jams and Jellies. He was assigned to come up with some new and fresh ad copy to help sell the product. He labored trying to find some way to make the name Smucker’s memorable.
He moaned and bemoaned his fate being stuck with this client and as he tried to be original he complained to himself:”With a name like Smucker’s, they’d better be good.” It’s moments like that that can trigger just the right words. Today, Smucker’s is known for their slogan, “With a name like Smucker’s it has to be good.”
It was during the time that I was taking that class that I survived a close call when, by all rights and expectations, I should have been killed.
At that time I owned a little red MG convertible sports car. I loved that machine. It was fun to drive and was a serious “babe magnet.”
On the evening in question, I had left my regular “day job” and headed into downtown Cleveland to go to my class at the Ad Club. My route took me along several narrow streets in an effort to avoid as much rush hour traffic as possible. The streets were still crowded as I turned onto a less congested side street. It was still stop and go, but it was moving.
I was in my small two-seater, inching along. Outside my right window was a parked car. Beyond that was a large parking garage. It was the kind of concrete monolith where you would drive from level to level until you found an open space. That night there was fellow circling up to the fifth level and, seeing an open slot, pulled into the space. The estimate, after the fact, was that he was still going about 25 MPH when he rammed his car into the concrete wall. As fortune would have it, this knucklehead managed to slam into the wall directly at a fatal flaw in the concrete and the entire front of the building pulled away from the rest of the structure and, like an iceberg calving from a glacier, plunged down into the street. Large blocks of concrete, weighing several tons each, tumbled downward to where I was sitting.
I heard something that sounded like thunder, but it was a clear evening. Before I knew any better the car ahead of me started moving again and I was hoping to get to class on time. Then the world erupted around me.
The entire façade of the garage crashed into the street. The parked car outside my right window was flattened to the point of almost vanishing from view. Huge concrete boulders landed in front of me where, just moments before, a car had been. Other blocks crashed behind me and on the left side of my car. I was lost inside a cloud of dust.
When the world stopped moving and the dust subsided I was surrounded. Not knowing what else to do, I put the car into first gear and was able to weave my way around the fallen concrete and finish my commute.
When I parked my car and got out I could see that it was covered in white powdery dust and small concrete pebbles, but otherwise undamaged.
What I had just experienced did not immediately occur to me. That happened about a half-hour later when I was sitting in my class at the Ad Club trying to figure out a way to market freeze dried roses. It was then that it hit me that I had come within inches of being smashed into a wafer thin oblivion. It was then that I began to shake.
That night, after I got home and turned on the TV to watch the 11 o’clock news, I learned the full extent of my escape. The news story began with the words, “There is an incredibly lucky man in this city tonight….”
There were no fatalities. Not even any injuries. The clown on the fifth level of the garage was arrested for drunk driving and several parked cars were destroyed.
“There is an incredibly lucky man in this city tonight….” That man was me.