We're going interactive for the first time here at The Sweep. Today, we're going to play a little game called "Guess What Calamity Will Befall Andy's Rental Car This Weekend."
First, some history. In my first eight years as a professional goof-off -- I mean, sportswriter -- I never had an issue with a rental car. Sure, there were some close calls in the pouring rain on two-lane highways in rural Mississippi, but I always managed to keep it between the ditches. On my last two road trips, however, my rental hasn't made a round trip.
The first calamity took place Aug. 13 on Interstate 26 in Columbia, S.C., when some mysterious object fell out of the sky and smashed the windshield of the Mercury Milan I was driving at 60 mph. It took about two minutes before my brain rebooted. My first thought? I almost died back there. My second? I'd just written a column critical of Florida coach Urban Meyer for giving a walk-on spot to a former scholarship player who had been through a little legal scrape involving an AK-47, so I had to wonder. I mean, I know Tim Tebow is tight with the man upstairs, but does he have enough pull to actually have someone smote? Fortunately for me, the fine folks at Hertz were very understanding. They even replaced my Milan with a minivan with a Pimp My Ride-quality sound system.
The second calamity took place this past weekend in suburban Chicago. Trying to save the company a little coin during a trip to South Bend to cover Notre Dame-Michigan, I booked a hotel in the 'burbs rather than pay the jacked-up prices in South Bend. All went well until Sunday morning, when I walked down to the lobby, ready to demolish some biscuits at a nearby Cracker Barrel. I was greeted by a pair of firefighters, who suggested that if I wanted to get my car out of the lake that was the hotel parking lot, I'd better line up near the only dry spot and wait for a tow truck to pull me out. About 20 minutes into the wait, a firefighter appeared at my window. "No more towing," he said. "We're going to have to get you out of here by boat."
A major storm system hit Chicago last Thursday and dumped rain for three days. Then, sometime early Sunday morning, the remnants of Hurricane Ike joined the party. The rains flooded much of Chicagoland and turned the only road to my hotel into a five-foot-deep river.
The boat never came, so I wound up being evacuated atop the ladder of a fire engine. Ten hours and one $115 cab ride later, I made it to O'Hare -- five minutes after my flight took off. The car, meanwhile, remains stranded on the banks of Lake Courtyard By Marriott until the water recedes enough to drive it away. Fortunately for me, the fine folks at Enterprise were very understanding.
Now this is where you come in. I've tempted fate and rented another car to drive to Auburn, Ala., for Saturday's Auburn-LSU game. What's it going to be this time? A plague of locusts? A wayward pile from an overloaded manure truck?
The reader who responds below with the most creative calamity will receive a T-shirt from Toomer's, the Auburn institution that serves the best lemonade on the planet. So don't forget to include your T-shirt size with your answer. I'll pick the winner sometime Saturday afternoon, and I'll send you Fannation fan mail to get your info.
Good luck, and happy smiting.